Category Archives: contemporary

My Top Ten Favourite Reads of 2018 So Far… #Brainfluffbookblog

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Now that we are more than halfway through 2018, what are my standout reads? So far this year, I’ve read 73 books and in no particular order, my top 10 favourites of the year so far are:-

The Stone Sky – Book 3 of The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
This whole series blew me away. The extraordinary viewpoint and the worldbuilding that takes a science fiction premise and pushes it right to the edge. It has an epic fantasy feel with a strong family dynamic and remarkable characters – and perhaps most important, concluded this series with sufficient drama and conviction.

 

 

The Hyperspace Trap by Christopher G. Nuttall
This space opera adventure, set on an intergalactic cruise-ship liner, was an unusual and riveting setting for this alien encounter. I liked the fact that the protagonists came from both the crew and passengers and enjoyed the growing tension as things slid away into a major emergency.

 

 

Blunt Force Magic by Lawrence Davis
I loved this one. A half-trained apprentice with loads of ability and no finesse finds himself having to stand against formidable antagonists. The chippy narrator and gritty take on this well-trodden path made this a memorably enjoyable read.

 

 

The Bitter Twins – Book 2 of The Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams
I’ve been a fan of Williams’ vibrant, energetic prose since I picked up The Copper Promise, but this one is an awesome braiding of both science fiction and fantasy. No mid-book slump here!

 

 

 

The Cold Between – Book 1 of the Central Corps novels by Elizabeth Bonesteel
This space opera focuses on the characters with ferocious intensity and we get a ringside seat as layered, plausible people grapple with their own lives in amongst the stars. Needless to say, there is also politics, greed and the need for revenge and love blended to make this one unputdownable once I’d started.

 

 

The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet McKenna
This is one of the reading highlights of the year so far. Set in England and steeped in the myths and folklore of this ancient land, the story follows the fortunes of a half-dryad man trying to trace his lineage. Needless to say, he is pitchforked into the middle of something dangerous and old…

 

 

 

Head On – Book 2 of the Lock In series by John Scalzi
I loved the first book in this futuristic crime series, Lock In, where victims of a terrible illness leaving them completely paralysed are able to upload their consciousness into robotic bodies. Our protagonist is now working for the police, investigating the murder of a sporting star, who plays a savage version of American football. Mayhem and action all the way…

 

 

 

Before Mars – Book 3 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
I’ve loved every one of these stories – and this one charting the fortunes of a woman newly arrived on a Martian outpost is another riveting read. It’s rare that motherhood is examined with any depth in science fiction stories – yet the protagonist has left a baby behind and is grappling with feelings of guilt and inadequacy. There is a terrible twist that those who have read the previous two books are waiting for…

 

Child I by Steve Tasane
You won’t have read anything quite like this one. The cover alone tells you it is something different – and yet I plunged into it, thinking it was set on a near-future, post-apocalyptic Earth. I was devastated to learn it is set right now and based on the testimonies of children alive today…

 

 

 

All Systems Red – Book 1 of the Murderbot Diaries novella series by Martha Wells
Hard enough to write a well-paced novella – writing convincingly as a security robot assigned to keep scientific teams out of harm is far more difficult. Yet Wells triumphantly pulls it off. A marvellous read – I just wish I could afford to read the rest of the series…

 

 

There were other near misses it hurts to omit – Isha Crowe’s quirky Gwithyas: Door to the Void, L.E. Modesitt’s Outcasts of Order and Children of the Shaman by Jessica Rydill to name but three. What about you – what are your favourite reads of the year, so far?

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Review of KINDLE Ebook Witch at Heart – Book 1 of the Jinx Hamilton Mystery series by Juliette Harper #Brainfluffbookreview #WitchatHeartbookreview

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Himself had got hold of this one at some stage, so when I was recovering from a stress migraine headache, it looked an ideal world to get lost in…

Jinx Hamilton has been minding her own business working as a waitress at Tom’s Cafe and keeping up with her four cats. Then she inherits her Aunt Fiona’s store in neighboring Briar Hollow, North Carolina and learns that her aunt has willed her some special “powers” as well. They say admitting you have a problem is the first step and Jinx has a major problem. She’s a brand new witch with no earthly clue what that means. Throw in a few homeless ghosts, a potential serial killer, and a resident rat and Jinx is almost at her wit’s end. Thankfully she has the unfailing support of her life-long BFF, Tori and it doesn’t hurt that there’s a hot guy living right next door.

Like a lot of urban fantasy whodunits, this one has a perky, enjoyable protagonist who I immediately liked. Jinx is a kindly, uncomplicated soul, who works alongside her best friend as a waitress and lives at home – until her Aunt Fiona dies. There are some appealing moments of humour and a chirpy upbeat mood, with the cats also contributing to the general cosy sense of small community and peacefulness.

While there is a hint of romance, the overriding relationship that powers this book is the friendship between Jinx and her friend Tori, which I really appreciated. It makes a nice change for the love pervading a book to be one between best friends, which can be every bit as powerful as any other kind, I think.

However, this is also a murder mystery. It’s a balance, isn’t it? Cosy mysteries evidently aren’t going to be the gritted, gory type where there are body parts featured in profusion, or the backdrop is going to be the bleak, hopeless cityscape. And yet, any murder is tackling the business of one person wilfully taking the life of another. If the idea of deliberately killing someone isn’t to be devalued, there has to be a sense of shock over the event.

It isa balancing act to successfully negotiate between these two extremes – and Harper manages it very well. While I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Jinx’s adventures in coping with the new store, the introduction of a murdered ghost who doesn’t know who she is gave a poignant edge to the story. I gobbled up this readable, engaging adventure in two greedy gulps and while the puzzle surrounding the displaced waif is very satisfactorily tied up, there are sufficient ongoing plotpoints that will encourage me to revisit this enjoyable world. Recommended for fans of cosy urban fantasy murder mysteries.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook A Trail Through Time – Book 4 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor #Brainfluffbookrevew #ATrailThroughTimebookreview

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I’ve read and enjoyed some of the books in this rollicking time travelling adventure tale and wanted more of Max’s escapades after reading a particularly intense YA dystopian tale.

Max and Leon are re-united and looking forward to a peaceful lifetime together. But, sadly, they don’t even make it to lunchtime. The action races from 17th century London to Ancient Egypt and from Pompeii to 14th century Southwark as they’re pursued up and down the timeline, playing a perilous game of hide and seek until they’re finally forced to take refuge at St Mary’s – where new dangers await them. As usual, there are plenty of moments of humour, but the final, desperate, Battle of St Mary’s is in grim earnest. Overwhelmed and outnumbered and with the building crashing down around them, how can St Mary’s possibly survive? So, make sure the tea’s good and strong…

Once again Taylor weaves her magic with this entertaining and uniquely Brit take on time travelling adventure. Very loosely inspired by Bletchley, the institution of St Mary’s investigates specific times in history for a shadowy organisation that we feel are a covert part of the government. Consequently, there is a lot of make do and mend as there is not much money in the kitty. This time around, Max discovers a new threat which not only endangers her and Leon, but also threatens the very existence of St Mary’s itself.

As ever, threading through the overarching threat posed, are a number of entertaining episodes set at intriguing times in history, as Max and Leon desperately try to evade their pursuers. These include struggling to evade Nile crocodiles in ancient Egypt, and dodging burning projectiles and smothering ash during the eruption that wipes out Pompeii. All this is told through the viewpoint of Max. She is an adrenaline-junkie with a troubled past and the desert-dry sense of humour that pervades the stories she tells. I love her character, the magnificent understatements regarding some of the madcap adventures she is describing, which makes the tragedy that inevitably accompanies some of the more dangerous exploits, even more poignant. This is indeed a book where I laughed out loud and a few pages later had a lump in my throat – Taylor is an author always manages to produce that reaction in me when I’m reading her books. The battle is a magnificent climax and, as ever, the book ends just in the right place. Thank goodness I have the next one on my Kindle, ready for me to tuck into…

Recommended for fans of time travelling adventure. Though whatever you do, start with the first book in the series, Just One Damned Thing After Another – see my review here – as otherwise, you simply won’t appreciate all the goodness that is layered within The Chronicles of St Mary’s series.
9/10

#Sunday Post – 17th June, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #BrainfluffSundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Again, I’m really sorry… I STILL haven’t caught up with comments and blog visits after my walk in the wilderness, when I was cast adrift from the internet for nearly a fortnight. It’s been a rather busy week…

On Monday, it was my last teaching session of the year with Tim – and yet we couldn’t take it easy as he had his Functional Skills Level 2 Writing exam on Thursday. It’s been a momentous year in every sense of the word, having successfully filmed his musical comedy adventure film with a cast of 23, in nine different locations. He has also succeeded in passing his CoPE project, as well as the Composition and Performance strands of his GCSE Music exam – we’re just waiting to hear if he has managed to pass the Theory element. Even more importantly, he is also a delightful, articulate young man, who is a joy to teach and is increasingly confident in branching out in his learning.

I was teaching Creative Writing on Monday and Tuesday evenings, then on Wednesday we had the Northbrook Information Evening, which I always look forward to as a chance to meet up with my fellow tutors. I was lucky enough to be invited for tea with Sarah and her family, before we had our fortnightly writing group – a treat as she is a fantastic cook. On Thursday, I drove Tim and his mother to school for his exam, which has now become something of a ritual – he came out happy that he answered both questions to the best of his ability, which is all we can ask for. I was supposed to go out to West Sussex Writers’ talk on Thursday evening, but fell asleep and when I woke up – the meeting was half over. So I slummocked on the sofa, instead, watching the final of Britain’s Best Home Cook.

On Friday, I had lunch with my sister at the Look and Sea café and we spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and catching up with each other’s lives – it is such a joy having her so close! Then yesterday, my writing buddy came over for the day and we discussed all things writing and dived into the whirlpool that is Marketing. Today is my stepfather’s birthday party designed to coincide with Father’s Day, so there is a great gathering of the clan at my sister’s house at Arlesford. It was a lovely party hosted by my lovely sister and brother in law, who were marvellous hosts and it was great fun catching up with family members I don’t see very often.

This week I have read:

Crossways – Book 2of the Psi-Tech series by Jacey Bedford
Ben Benjamin, psi-tech Navigator, and Cara Carlinni, Telepath, can never go home again. To the Trust and Alphacorp alike, they are wanted criminals. Murder, terrorism, armed insurrection, hijacking, grand theft, and kidnapping are just the top of a long list of charges they’ll face if they’re caught. So they better not get caught…

I picked up this one at Forbidden Planet back in February – and I’m so glad I did – I’m also glad that I have the final book in this trilogy, Nimbus which I’m really looking forward to tucking into.

 

All Systems Red – Book 1 of the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety. But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

This novella is a fabulous colony-based adventure with the android as the protagonist – I loved this one and can see why there’s so much hype about it.

 

Nolander – Book 1 of the Emanations series by Becca Mills
Beth Ryder knows she’s different. In a tiny rural town, being an orphaned and perpetually single amateur photographer crippled by panic disorder is pretty much guaranteed to make you stick out like a sore thumb. But Beth doesn’t understand just how different she really is.

One day, strange things start cropping up in her photos. Things that don’t look human. Impossible things. Monstrosities. Beth thinks her hateful sister-in-law, Justine, has tampered with her pictures to play a cruel joke, but rather than admitting or denying it, Justine up and vanishes, leaving the family in disarray. Beth’s search for Justine plunges her into a world she never knew existed, one filled with ancient and terrifying creatures.

I thoroughly enjoyed this unusual urban fantasy offering, featuring a protagonist suffering from constant panic attacks – to the extent that she cannot escape the small town she grew up in and attend college. This one immediately drew me in – I will be reviewing it in due course.

My posts during the last week:

Sunday Post – 10th June 2018

Review of Gwithyas: Door to the Void by Isha Crowe

Teaser Tuesday featuring Crossways – Book 2 of the Psi-Tech series by Jacey Bedford

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Child I by Steve Tasane

Review of Remnants of Trust – Book 2 of the Central Corps series by Elizabeth Bonesteel

Friday Face-off featuring Green Rider – Book 1 of the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain

Review of Netgalley arc novella Time Was by Ian McDonald

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

New DIY MFA Post on Revenge as a Literary Theme (Plus, Looking for Your Help with this Year’s Blogoversary https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2018/06/13/diy-mfa-revenge-theme-blogoversary/ Sara discusses how the theme of revenge has been used – and asks for suggestions on how she could best celebrate her 10th anniversary of blogging…

Mark your calendars for the Indian Lit Readathon! https://thisislitblog.com/2018/06/16/mark-your-calendars-for-the-indian-lit-readathon/ Shruti is very excited about this one – quite right too. So dust off your books written by Indian authors and join in…

Rocks and Light: Natural Art https://writersite.org/2018/06/11/rocks-and-light-on-canvas/ This article is not only interesting and well written – but includes the most fabulous photos…

#lessons learned from @HollyBlack: Start the #storytelling with #writing the departure from the #characters normal https://jeanleesworld.com/2018/06/07/lessons-learned-from-hollyblack-start-the-storytelling-with-writing-the-departure-from-the-characters-normal/ Another cracking and highly readable article giving readers and writers alike insights in the craft of writing…

The Skincare Bible by Dr Anjali Mahto https://onereadersthoughts.com/2018/06/11/the-skincare-bible-by-dr-anjali-mahto/ I don’t normally include reviews – but this delightful book sounds like an ideal present (HINT – my birthday is coming up VERY soon…) for myself and other family members!

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site – and I promise to get back to you as soon as I can!

Review of NOVELLA NETGALLEY arc Time Was by Ian McDonald #Brainfluffbookreview #TimeWasbookreview

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I was delighted when I saw this offering on NetGalley – and even more delighted when I was approved to read it. I enjoy McDonald’s writing and was particularly impressed with his lunar duology – read my review of Luna: New Moon here.

Struggling second-hand book dealer, Emmet, is trying to survive in the increasingly difficult financial climate – and then comes across a small poetry collection called Time Was which includes a love letter from Tom to Ben, set in WWII. It sets him out on an astonishing search to discover who Tom and Ben are – a search that takes him to a tucked-away corner of England where odd stories abound about the seas catching fire…

And no… You won’t find that blurb anywhere else, as I wrote it myself. I feel the official version is highly misleading and yet somehow also manages to reveal some of the major plot points. I’m very glad I didn’t read it before I picked up the book, because I would have approached it expecting something completely different.

The main protagonist is gripped by the need to track down the fate of the two young men caught up in WWII and more or less abandons his everyday life to do it. In contrast to the lyrical, slightly highflown prose produced by Tom when in his viewpoint, Emmet is far more down-to-earth with a dry, sarky humour that I thoroughly enjoyed and stopped this turning into a treacly read. In fact, Emmett isn’t a particularly likeable character – and that was okay, too.

Tom and Ben were the people in the story that snagged my sympathy and attention – and I think that is exactly how I was meant to feel, in effect, shadowing the main protagonist in his attempts to find out more about these two people. But history and historical research is inherently messy – it never delivers exactly what you want, in the way that you want it. And there are two major surprises at the end of this bittersweet story that summed up that premise.

Overall, I think this is a haunting, really well written novella with a misleading blurb that isn’t doing it any favours whatsoever. Take my advice – skip the blurb and instead pick up this short story without any prior expectation and let the plot unfold around you.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of #Child I by #Steve Tasane #Brainfluffbookreview #bookreview

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This isn’t a very long book – I read it in one sitting. But it certainly packs a punch…

Today the mud is dry and crusted and blowing in my eyes. Today is also my birthday. I think today is my birthday. I asked on of the grown-ups what is today’s date.
‘Is it July third?’ I asked.
‘Something like that,’ they said.
July third is the date of my birthday. I think it is that date of my birthday.
I’m sure it is. I’ll be ten. I am ten. I am certain.

And that’s the blurb – I think. That’s actually what is on the cover of the book in lieu of any kind of cover art, which is on the back… Back to front. Slightly wrong. Which actually fits with this amazing little book quite well.

Being me, I initially thought this was a post-apocalyptic tale of climate disaster and a child living in a dystopian near-future camp. It isn’t. This is the story of a child living right now in a refugee camp. His experiences are taken from the lives of real children living across a number of camps and can be corroborated with pictures and video footage, according to the author. He is called Child I, because with no family or papers – which were stolen from him – the authorities have given him a letter, instead of his name.

What is both uplifting and heartbreaking is that Child I isn’t the sad-faced victim with tears welling in his eyes that we see on our TV sets during appeals from various charities – he is a typical ten-year-old boy. Those of us who have spent any time with children of this age will instantly recognise him – endlessly curious, energetic, playful and wanting to reach out to those around him. He tells us about his surroundings. The condition of the mud that rules their lives – where he sleeps, what the weather is like, what he can find to eat – he is constantly hungry as the unaccompanied children seem to be the ones that fall between the cracks when it comes to being looked after in refugee camps. But above all, he tells us of the games he plays and the adventures he has and who joins in…

The writing could so easily have tipped into sentimentality, portraying Child I as a victim, but it doesn’t. The voice is absolutely authentic. I can hear his earnest voice explaining what is going on – and managing to write as an adult portraying a child protagonist is a tricky business. Tasane succeeds in bringing Child I’s life to us in wrenching detail in this simple short book. It is both shocking and uplifting. It should be required reading for politicians around the world – and I’m donating my copy to a local school. Other children, luckier than Child I need to read what is happening in other parts of the world. Read it. It won’t take up much of your time, I promise, but if we don’t know – how can we all try to fix it so that Child I gets a name and home?
10/10

Review of #Gwithyas: Door to the Void by Isha Crowe #Brainfluffbookreview #book review

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This is another offering from Grimbold Publishers – a quirky, YA fantasy, featuring hapless Zircon Gwithyas, who is the main protagonist.

Zircon Gwithyas just wants to be a normal teenager, preferably one with a girlfriend. If you’re a spotty nerd with glasses as thick as jam jars, that isn’t easy. It’s even harder when you live in a derelict manor on a haunted hill with a bunch of spooky eccentrics for a family, and the object of your affection is an irritable sword-wielding college student. It becomes virtually impossible when you are dragged into a dark, chaotic semi-reality where your moderately-deceased ancestors expect you to save the world from a horde of grotesque demons with a fondness for torture…

I love this one. Zircon’s exasperated view of his life puts an amusing spin on this Gothic tale of overweening ambition, pride, as the terrible consequences reverberate down the generations of this afflicted family. I really like the fact that Zircon is gawky, physically unappealing and unfailingly bad at interacting effectively with the people around him. He doesn’t even want to be a Guardian – in fact, he didn’t realise this was his fate, until circumstances give him a hefty nudge.

Crowe has played with the classic Hero’s Journey, so beloved of screenwriters and SFF authors, by including many of the necessary ingredients, such as the Call to Action as the initial emergency engulfs the family – his initial resistance to said Call is entirely according to the script. But the wise Mentor, whose counsel is supposed to help Zircon on his way, becomes otherwise engaged and Zircon’s trusty sidekick, Joanna, thoroughly despises his physical ineptitude and evident terror. In the end, of course, he tackles the monsters, or there wouldn’t be a story. But it isn’t until well into the book, the reader begins to appreciate exactly what has been going on – and realises just how cleverly Crowe has played with our expectations.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, (no internet!) I’ve been unable to post my review when I scheduled to do so, therefore it’s been a while since I read this one. But it won’t leave my head. I find myself thinking of Zircon rather a lot at times when I should be thinking of something else – it’s special when a book gets under my skin to that degree. Highly recommended for fans of fantasy – this one is a gem.
9/10

#Sunday Post – 3rd June, 2018 #Sky’sservicesucks #Brainfluffbookblog

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It should have been a relaxing, but productive half-term week and started so well with the grandchildren staying over until Sunday night – but on Monday we had a massive thunderstorm. The thunder cracked above us, shaking the house, accompanied by a bright flickering light that was gone in microseconds with the smell of burning air and an odd noise coming from the surge protectors. It was disorientating and frightening. Though the TV didn’t work, once we replaced the fuse, it was back to normal. But our internet was down… and it’s still down. Sky have been as useful as a concrete hanky. When we reported the problem, their diagnostics said they needed to send an engineer, but somehow the bloke on the other end decided a new router would fix the problem. He said it probably would be with us on Wednesday, given it was Bank Holiday Monday. It finally arrived yesterday (Saturday) after two more VERY expensive phone calls and once we set it all up – the internet is still not working and the engineer isn’t able to come out until Wednesday.

My dinky little laptop perched at the end of my sister’s dining room table frankly isn’t up to the job. It’s slooow and I’m used to my powerful desktop that pretty much does what I want when I want it… So I’m not commenting or posting much and I promise to catch up once I’m back online. Other than that, I have been trying to relax a bit – I’m conscious of feeling profoundly tired… We saw Solo on Wednesday and though the performances were great, I am disappointed that the story tends to up the stakes over issues that we know are resolved – lots of time with The Millennium Falcon being chased or under attack, when we already know she survives as the ship features in other films. I feel the script writers could have been smarter in creating tension for folks who have followed the whole franchise to date. I also had some book tokens and hit Smiths and Waterstones, coming away with an armful of books I’ve been lusting over for a while, which rounded off a lovely day out with Himself in an otherwise rather stressful week.

So grovelling apologies for not having been in touch much. I hope that normal services will shortly be resumed, though given Sky’s dire performance so far, I’m not holding my breath…

This week I have read:

A Quill Ladder – Book 2 of the Derivatives of Displacement series by Jennifer Ellis
Abbey Sinclair would just like to return to her physics textbooks, but the witches who just moved in across the street seem to be up to something, and one of them has offered to give her lessons in witchcraft. She also has to decide what to do with the instructions on how to save the world that seem to have come from her future self.

This enjoyable YA time travelling series continues to gallop forward at a real clip, with a very involved, twisting plot full of incident that doesn’t feel designed for a younger audience, despite the age of the protagonists. I’m thoroughly enjoying this series and looking forward to reading other books in the series.

 

 

Breach of Containment – Book 3 of the Central Corps series by Elizabeth Bonesteel
When hostilities between factions threaten to explode into a shooting war on the moon of Yakutsk, the two major galactic military powers, Central Corps and PSI, send ships to defuse the situation. But when a strange artifact is discovered, events are set in motion that threaten the entire colonized galaxy—including former Central Corps Commander Elena Shaw.

This is another excellent space opera adventure featuring characters I have grown very fond of during the previous two books. And it takes the story forward with lots of action and a dollop of emotional heft. Bonesteel’s characters really do ping off the page…

 

 

Drifter’s Alliance – Book 1 of the Drifter’s Alliance series by Elle Casey
One hand of cards and it’s all over but the crying…

Cass Kennedy finally gets what she’s been dreaming of for the past ten years: a drifter ship to call her own. All the sim time and battle training is going to pay off in spades as she sets her course for the future. She’ll be living on her own terms, not those of her father.

This space opera story is a strong start to what promises to be an entertaining, enjoyable adventure featuring a gutsy nineteen-year-old with more experience than she should have.

 

 

Child I by Steve Tasane
A group of undocumented children with letters for names, are stuck living in a refugee camp, with stories to tell but no papers to prove them. As they try to forge a new family amongst themselves, they also long to keep memories of their old identities alive.
Will they be heard and believed? And what will happen to them if they aren’t?

I initially thought this was a post-apocalyptic tale – and when I realised it was something far closer to home, it turned this adventure into a far more uncomfortable read, with a vital message. Required reading for all politicians everywhere. It won’t take long, as this is a short book with lots of easy words – and a difficult message that haunts me and will go on doing so…

 

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 27th May 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Flowers of Vashnoi – Book 14.1 of The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

Teaser Tuesday featuring Breach of Containment – Book 3 of the Central Corps series by Elizabeth Bonesteel

Friday Face-off – Clinging and invasive… featuring Forest Mage – Book 2 of The Soldier’s Son series by Robin Hobb

Sorry there are no blogs or articles to feature – but I haven’t had the luxury of browsing and visiting other sites… Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site – and I promise to get back to you as soon as I can!

#Sunday Post – 27th May, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

This week has been good, but busy. Tim is working well towards his writing exam – I am so impressed at how well he rises to each occasion. We have been also discussing the Star Wars films as he has recently become a big fan and we are both eagerly anticipating Solo.

The Creative Writing courses are going well, as my students are producing a marvellous range of favourite pieces of writing, both poetry and prose, to present to the rest of the group, in addition to their own work. On Thursday, Mhairi, my writing buddy and marketing guru came over and ensured that I am now GDPR compliant – she is a wonder! This weekend, the grandchildren have come to stay – and unusually, the weather stayed absolutely fabulous. On Saturday evening, my sister came over to have a roast dinner and while Himself toiled in the kitchen, we sat on the garden swing, watching the children playing a lively game of boules and basking in the sun, admiring the swaying mass of aquilegia – or grannybonnets, which is their country name.

This morning, I’m taking them over to the local leisure centre, along with Tim, for a clip’n climb session. We’ll be returning them home this evening – the weekend has zipped by far too fast as they are such good company. I hope you all have a great week and for those of you also enjoying half term, let’s hope the hot spell lasts…

This week I have read:

Furyborn – Book 1 of the Empirium series by Claire Legrand
When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first. A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.
This epic fantasy caught my eye – first due to that amazing cover – and then when I realised that the main protagonists were women. It is an enjoyable, well written tale, full of incident and emotion – along with a nice leavening of humour.

 

The Watchmaker’s Daughter – Book 1 of the Glass and Steele series by C.J. Archer
India Steele is desperate. Her father is dead, her fiancé took her inheritance, and no one will employ her, despite years working for her watchmaker father. Indeed, the other London watchmakers seem frightened of her. Alone, poor, and at the end of her tether, India takes employment with the only person who’ll accept her – an enigmatic and mysterious man from America. A man who possesses a strange watch…
This entertaining romantic historical fantasy has one of the best opening scenes I’ve encountered in a long while – both humorous and desperate. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, despite not being a huge fan of romance. I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

 

Gwithyas: Door to the Void by Isha Crowe
Zircon Gwithyas just wants to be a normal teenager, preferably one with a girlfriend. If you’re a spotty nerd with glasses as thick as jam jars, that isn’t easy. It’s even harder when you live in a derelict manor on a haunted hill with a bunch of spooky eccentrics for a family, and the object of your affection is an irritable sword-wielding college student. It becomes virtually impossible when you are dragged into a dark, chaotic semi-reality where your moderately-deceased ancestors expect you to save the world from a horde of grotesque demons with a fondness for torture…
This YA fantasy is both dark and funny. Zircon makes a wonderful protagonist and I’m hoping that Crowe produces more in this world – it is a joy. I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 20th May 2018

Review of A Pair of Docks – Book 1 of The Derivatives of Displacement series by Jennifer Ellis

Teaser Tuesday featuring Gwithyas: Door to the Void by Isha Crowe

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Drop by Drop – Book 1 of the Step by Step by Morgan Llewelyn

Buddyread Review of Willnot by James Sallis

Friday Face-off – Just put one foot in front of the other and keep going… featuring Feet of Clay – Book 19 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Furyborn – Book 1 of the Empirium series by Claire Legrand

 

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Steve Earle, Patty Loveless, The Proclaimers & Eddi Reader – My Old Friend The Blues https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2018/05/10/steve-earle-patty-loveless-the-proclaimers-eddi-reader-my-old-friend-the-blues/ Thom’s wonderful blog is a must-visit experience for anyone who enjoys music and this article is another gem…

Monday Funnies… https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2018/05/21/monday-funnies-4/ It doesn’t have to be Monday to have a laugh.

Kathpulis or puppets show https://historyofkingpanwars.wordpress.com/2018/05/22/kathputlis-or-puppets-show/ I loved this article about something I knew nothing about…

Conducting Informational Interview for Story Research https://writershelpingwriters.net/2018/05/conducting-informational-interviews-for-story-research/ A wonderful, informative article about how to go about this by my great writing friend, Sara Letourneau…

What times we’ve lived through. https://jaceybedford.wordpress.com/2018/05/23/what-times-weve-lived-through/ Jacey Bedford describes how her investigation into her past also informs and enriches her writing as well as her life…

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

Review of KINDLE Ebook #Willnot by James Sallis #buddyread #bookreview #bookblog #bookblogger

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My book blogging friend Emma Littlefield and I decided to teamread a book recommended by the other – and as James Sallis is a favourite author of Emma’s, we started off by reading Willnot.

Did you pick this book up thinking it was going to be a murder mystery?
No. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. Having read quite a few Sallis books now, one thing I like about his stories is that they never quite end up where I think they might. A number of his trilogies have detectives or private investigators as central characters and they do investigate murders but it’s never the be all and end all of everything. Sometimes, they don’t even get solved. It’s more about the journey’s the characters take and that’s what I like.

Is this book a classic example of James Sallis’s writing?
Yes, I would say so. I always end up describing it to people as quite sparse as there isn’t a word wasted. Some people I’ve recommend him to say that nothing happens in the books but I disagree, I think a lot happens to the characters it’s just it tends to be small things that build up to big changes.

When you finished the book were you elated and blown away, or just the tiniest bit disappointed?
I was very happy. The last Sallis book I read (The Killer is Dying) is actually the first one I haven’t enjoyed and I was a bit worried I had burnt out on the author. I was also a bit worried that he’d lost his writing way. This had all the elements I love in his work and, while it wasn’t the best of the books I’ve read, it was by no means the worst. Content is maybe the best way to describe it.

How does this rate alongside other books by this author?
I would say it’s probably right in the middle (maybe high middle). My favourite books are Drive and Driven and his Turner Trilogy because I just feel in love with his characters in these books.

As you can see from her answers, Emma is a thoughtful, intelligent reader whose opinions I value – you can pop over to her blog here to read her questions to me along with her review of Willnot. And here is my review…

In the woods outside the town of Willnot, the remains of several people have suddenly been discovered, unnerving the community and unsettling Hale, the town’s all-purpose general practitioner, surgeon, and town conscience. At the same time, Bobby Lowndes–his military records disappeared, being followed by the FBI–mysteriously reappears in his hometown, at Hale’s door. Over the ensuing months, the daily dramas Hale faces as he tends to his town and to his partner, Richard, collide with the inexplicable vagaries of life in Willnot.

I love the writing style. Sallis builds up a vivid picture of daily life in this small, US community with a wealth of everyday occurrences, delivering them with pace and a vividness that pulled me into the book. Hale, his protagonist, is a thoroughly nice chap who is one of those lynchpins that all communities need. His duties as the town’s doctor, surgeon and coroner put him right in the centre of all the major events in Willnot in a manner that appears completely unforced and realistic.

Sallis’s smooth, accomplished prose has a lovely rhythm that evokes Hale’s character and the setting without ever putting a foot wrong – there is so much about this book that is an absolute delight… However, if you’re sensing a but – you’d be right. My quibble isn’t with the writing, or the characterisation, or even the plot progression and storyline – all that works beautifully. What wrongfooted me was after reading the blurb, I was expecting a murder mystery – a whodunit where this busy, responsible man takes it upon himself to solve the puzzle of those bodies discovered right at the beginning of the story and clearly rock the small town, where daily life is generally quieter and more peaceful.

But that wasn’t where the focus or impact of this story lay – and while appreciating all the strengths that I’ve already enumerated about this book, I kept turning the pages, waiting for the denouement and drama surrounding this mystery. Or any mystery… While there is some drama and an unexpected shooting, the overall plot didn’t seem to be about that at all, which is absolutely fine – apart for my expectations.

Would I read another James Sallis novel? Oh yes – he’s evidently a fine writer and I really enjoyed being introduced to him – thank you, Emma!
8/10