Category Archives: contemporary

Interview with JEAN LEE – Author of Fallen Princeborn: STOLEN #Brainfluffauthorinterview #JeanLeeauthorinterview

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I’d like to welcome Jean Lee, author of the recently released Fallen Princeborn: STOLEN which blew me away – see my review here. I’ve been reading Jean’s amazing blog for a while now and it’s always a pleasure so I was delighted to have a chance to chat to her about her writing.

How does Wisconsin inspire you as a writer?

Wisconsin breeds the fantastic.

We are home to peculiar, toothsome beasts like the Hodag, devourer of all-white bulldogs.

We are home to unique, word-some writers like Neil Gaiman: “There’s that tiny off-kilter nature in the Midwest that’s in the details,” he says when asked about writing…

Neil Gaiman says ‘American Gods’ is

rooted in Minnesota-Wisconsin weirdness

The writer found a strange quality in the Midwest that fuels his “American Gods.”

We are home to hidden towns, small growths of community where railroads and highways meet, places that no one finds unless they mean to find it. Picturesque, perhaps? Plainfield was indeed picturesque once—until Ed Gein was arrested in November of 1957. You may know the rest. Basically, Gein inspired many of the fictional horror icons we know today: Norman Bates, Leatherface, and Buffalo Bill are all rooted in the reality of Ed Gein.
We drove through the wild patches between the hidden towns often when I was a child. I never tried to occupy myself with books or toys in the car. There was too much to see, out there in those scattered homesteads, too much to wonder about. What happened inside that dying barn? Why is that gravel drive roped off, and where does it lead? Where are all the people for those rusted cars littering the field?

This is the Wisconsin I live in now. The land dips and rises in unexpected places. The trees may crowd a rural highway so much you can lose yourself driving, only to have the tunnel burst open to sunshine and a white-crested river running beneath a bridge you’d swear had never seen a car before. In the small farming town of my youth, I could stand on the lone highway through town and hear snowflakes land beneath the orange street lights.

Wisconsin is filled with hidden towns, small growths of community where railroads and highways meet, places that no one finds unless they mean to find it. Rock Springs was a town of 600 when I was a child, a little grain-fill stop for the railroad. We didn’t even have a gas station until I turned 5, and our library, a small portion of the town’s community center, could fit in a utility closet (it probably was a utility closet at one point). Farms and wild wood filled the gaps between towns. Unless, of course, you went towards Wisconsin Dells, where the wilderness is trimmed and prepped and ready for its mandatory close-up before the tourist rushes to the proper civilization of water parks and casinos.

We drove through those wild patches often. I never tried to occupy myself with books or toys in the car. There was too much to see, out there in those scattered homesteads, too much to wonder about. What happened inside that dying barn? Why is that gravel drive roped off, and where does it lead? Where are all the people for those rusted cars littering the field?

This is the Wisconsin I live in now. The land dips and rises in unexpected places. The trees may crowd a rural highway so much you can lose yourself driving, only to have the tunnel burst open to sunshine and a white-crested river running beneath a bridge you’d swear had never seen a car before. In Rock Springs, one could stand on the lone highway through town and hear snowflakes land beneath the orange street lights.

Both Charlotte and Liam, the Fallen Prince, are strong, nuanced characters – when you first started writing this book whose story did you most want to tell?

At the outset, the story was all about Charlotte. It was strictly in her point of view, the story opened with more of Charlotte and her sister’s life before boarding the bus, and so on. I wanted Charlotte to escape her wretched life and fly. But once I got her into River Vine, I began to see an ensemble take shape, a family of characters bearing their own shames and despairs, all struggling to free themselves and find hope in the future.

Liam wasn’t much to me at the outset–just a pompous artist who had some growing up to do. It was Arlen, the teacher, that got me to slow down and see what he saw: a kind heart that had been brutalized so often it had forgotten what it meant to feel. The more I drafted, the more I came to see Liam’s inner struggle to grow beyond his cage.

When did you start writing Fallen Princeborn: Stolen?

2010. Yup, that’s a while ago, but life tends to fill the years, and in my case, I had just become a mom. Postpartum depression hit hard. Very, very hard. I felt very cut-off from life. I couldn’t feel the joy of motherhood. I found myself often staring out a window, trapped in walls yet somehow exiled outside of feeling. I’d look upon my sleeping baby and feel nothing but guilt because I couldn’t feel complete with motherhood. Then a friend introduced me to the awesome challenge that is National Novel Writing Month. From November 1st-30th, you are to write 50,000 words of a story not yet started (that’s cheating. Outlines are permissible, though.). The story may need more than 50K words, but what matters is that you reach that length in thirty days.

I swung it that year, and felt AMAZING. I was escaping the trap, driven to feel with characters outside of this world. I couldn’t just sit and dwell on individual lines or plot points—I had to keep going, and because I had to march on in the narrative, I found myself marching on in real life, too. I wasn’t staring out the window waiting for minutes to pass. I was…I was back, you know?

I felt a part of life again, enjoying the touch of my daughter’s tiny hands around my finger and her boundless grey-blue eyes. I reveled in these things. I felt…complete.

How did you figure out the names of your characters?

Charlotte’s name came from a baby book in the long, long, LONG process of choosing a name for our firstborn. After weeks of highlighting and crossing out names, we had narrowed ourselves down to Charlotte and ____. Well, we went with ____ for our kid, so I kept the name Charlotte for my heroine. I’d grown attached to the name over those weeks. It carries both feminine and masculine traits, both delicacy and strength. A perfect fit.

Nature was ripe for names, since this small society has been cut off from the rest of the world for centuries. From this I uprooted names like Poppy, Ember, and even Campion (it’s a kind of rose). Many of the other names I chose after studying The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook. I loved having this broad overview of names across various cultures. It’s through this book I discovered names that fit some aspect of my characters’ nature, such as Dorjan—“Dark Man” and Liam—“strong-willed warrior.” It’s important to have names that matter. Be it the history, the meaning, or because my child almost carried it—the name needs to matter.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing’s a must. When I write, I channel the depression away from my family and into a universe where my characters can fight it.

It’s never completely gone, you know, depression. We can slay it, burn it, bury it—but it never dies. Only by spinning stories can I transplant some of that darkness into villains, heroes, and worlds. From the darkness grows the adventure and the hope.

What has it been like – juggling writing, teaching and three kids?

Three years ago, you may as well have asked what it’s like to juggle three bowling pins with spikes on fire. Back when I was trying to write in bedlam, I stole whatever time I could before dawn. The television usually bought me at least an hour in the day to outline, draft dialogue, or keep up with my blog. The children’s naptime never felt long enough, but I made due.

Once the boys began preschool, I could at least promise myself one hour of writing time a day. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? But that’s the thing about writing and keeping a job and running a household: every minute to write’s a blessing. Sometimes those days crash and burn. Other times—like when the boys didn’t have school—we found other ways to be creative.

Now that Blondie, Biff, and Bash are in school all day, I always have time for writing, be it for the blog, editing, drafting, etc. Granted, summer’s still a trial, but because I didn’t give up on writing when time was scarce, I have many stories to share here in the daylight hours.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Research can feel like a big time-suck, but when it comes to publishing, DO YOUR RESEARCH! There are so many scammers out there with their “author services” and “exclusive anthologies.” They’re going to talk you up, make you feel amazing, and before you know it you’ve paid four digits for lousy editing on a slap-dash affair no one’s going to see. Scope out the small presses. Join author groups online to gather recommendations for editors, book designers, and cover artists. Your story deserves to be seen, but when it’s ready.

Yes, an author platform really does help. Don’t think of it as yet another time suck; rather, treat it as the regimented prose exercise. Reading countless other voices, writing tight posts on a regular basis—all helps the craft, not hinders it. No, it’s not the novel you dream hitting the best-seller list, but making a website, commenting on social media—these simple actions give your name an author’s history. Other writers/publishers/agents/readers can trace your name back to studies, comments, and whatever else you write. You build that platform, you build a writer’s resume for the publishing business to see.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

When my sons’ principal calls. Nothing f***s over the creative mindset when you have to come and talk about one son, or the other, or both. Again.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I do write under a pseudonym, actually. When you’re a preacher’s kid, all your actions and talents are scrutinized—“you play piano just like your mom!” “You sing just like your dad!” “You write just like your father.” “You should be just like your mom and become a teacher.”

There comes a time when you get sick of all the comparisons, and just want to be known for something YOU do, not what your parents do. So when I started my site Jean Lee’s World, I wanted to see who’d like my writing for my writing, NOT because of who I am or whomever I’m related to. Writing under another name’s also allowed me to work through past traumas and current depressions without bringing any family members under fire, which is important to me. These are my demons, not theirs.

How did you begin writing the short stories that accompany your novel?
The short stories began as a writing experiment last year. My husband had been listening to John Carpenter’s Lost Themes, and a story began to shape in my head of a child dying at the hands of a cuddly creature before a dark skulking thing gets involved. When I showed the short story to my publishers, they encouraged me to write more short stories as little introductions to the universe of Charlotte and these imprisoned shapeshifters. Thus Tales of the River Vine was born, with stories following both antagonists and protagonists across the years.

The challenge with such “prequels,” as they are, was to find emotional centers without chipping away at the emotional arc of Fallen Princeborn: Stolen. Take the last story of the collection, “Tattered Rhapsody.” Originally I intended the story to be called “Dirty Charlie,” featuring Charlotte the Wise-Ass taking on some gang members at her high school for profit. Girl’s got to earn bus money somehow, right?

But the story felt wrong. I couldn’t pin it at first. Charlotte’s there, she’s showing her strength, her protective instincts for her kid sister. And yet, the story felt…heartless.
Then it hit me: Charlotte’s heart doesn’t speak with her fists. It speaks with her music.
And just like that, the story’s heart found a pulse, a rhythm both despairing yet defiant. Just like Charlotte.

I hope you enjoy reading “Tattered Rhapsody” and the other Tales of the River Vine and telling me what you think. They’re all FREE on Kindle, Nook, and other publishing platforms!

 

 

 

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Fallen Princeborn: STOLEN by Jean Lee #Brainfluffbookreview #FallenPrinceborn:STOLENbookreview

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Jean Lee writes excellent articles on her blog – slices of her family and writing life that leap off the page. So when she asked me if I would be interested in reviewing her first full-length fantasy book, I jumped at the opportunity. I will be posting her fantastic interview on Monday…

In rural Wisconsin, an old stone wall is all that separates the world of magic from the world of man—a wall that keeps the shifters inside. When something gets out, people disappear. Completely.

Escaping from an abusive uncle, eighteen-year-old Charlotte is running away with her younger sister Anna. Together they board a bus. Little do they know that they’re bound for River Vine—a shrouded hinterland where dark magic devours and ancient shapeshifters feed, and where the seed of love sets root among the ashes of the dying.

This one starts with a bang. I love Lee’s immersive style as we immediately are caught up in Charlotte’s concerns once the bus comes to a stop and the passengers spill out. As well as keeping a firm eye on Anna, her rebellious teenage sister, Charlotte is busy checking out the reason why they’ve broken down… their fellow passengers… their surroundings… the odd behaviour of the local wildlife, particularly a certain raven… It’s clear she has a heightened sense of smell – and that while she is alert and apprehensive, she isn’t afraid. Lee does a masterful job of establishing Charlotte’s difference and concerns from the very first line. I loved her.

The worldbuilding is brilliant. Lee’s snappy prose style gives us a real sense of the surroundings – and thanks to Charlotte’s enhanced olfactory abilities, we not only get to see the world, we get to smell it, too. Once the turning point in the book occurs, Charlotte finds herself in a completely different place with different rules. We get to see her propensity to act first and consider later, even if she isn’t always sure that’s the best strategy. During her troubled and often violent past, this has proved to be successful and it also provides her with release for the simmering anger that drives her. I loved watching her progression as she very slowly starts to let her guard down – only for all her suspicions surge once more when she becomes convinced that she is being double-crossed.

The other main protagonist is Liam, the Bloody Prince, who makes a dramatic entrance thanks to Charlotte’s intervention. He is also an interesting mixture. Imbued with a great deal of innate power, his abilities have been compromised over the years by his tendency to use them for his own baser ends. I really liked this aspect – far too often protagonists pitch up with major abilities they have only used for the greater good, with only the baddies who give in to the darker side… But what if a main character’s upbringing is sufficiently skewed to lead him down some dark paths? Can he pull themselves free of such a compromised past and redeem himself? This is one of the main questions Jean asks.

And the clash of cultures between entitled, mesmerising Liam and embattled, bitter Charlotte ensures that plenty of sparks fly. His assumption that he can schmooze her with his usual mix of flattery and mind-power elicits her contemptuous fury, beginning to make him reconsider what he is doing.

He isn’t the only nuanced, interesting character – all the supporting cast have their own tales. I particularly love Arlen, who had the thankless task of raising Liam and his own gifted and powerful nephew and is still trying to hold everything together.

Those violet-eyed, murdering creatures are also fascinating, with their own tragic stories. Like the grief-stricken, trapped fae who has seen his children blown apart, and is intent on slaughtering any human he can get hold of. While he clearly shouldn’t prevail, I liked knowing why his behaviour is so savage. How refreshing to be sympathetic to the antagonists, especially given what they have done and what they are planning to do to humanity.

After the initial tension-filled opening and flurry of action, the pace eases up as we are given a ringside seat into Charlotte’s struggle to acclimatise and discover exactly what is going on. I didn’t mind – I was hooked. Once the story picked up again, gathering momentum for the final denouement I simply didn’t bother to put this one down. Lee’s spin on some of the classical mythical tropes, such as the Tree of Life and a usurped prince, is beautifully handled. There are a couple of short story collections set in this world, but I am hoping for another full-length book of more adventures in this savage, strange place.

Highly recommended for fans of quality, character-led fantasy.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Kindle EBOOK Lethal White Book 4 of the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith #Brainfluffbookreview #LethalWhitebookreview

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I didn’t enjoy Career of Evil – see my review here – as much as the previous two books and was a bit worried that this was a series that would be sliding further down into the gritty grunge of the murder mystery spectrum, as it’s not what I prefer to read. However this time around, I absolutely loved this one – it’s my favourite so far…

“I seen a kid killed…He strangled it, up by the horse.”
When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic. Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott—once his assistant, now a partner in the agency—set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

This story spans the full range of the social class system in England – from a mentally ill young man, clearly unable to adequately look after himself to a Minister of the State with a complicated family life. Cormoran Strike, dogged private investigator, cannot shake the feeling that Billy wasn’t hallucinating about the horrific murder he described.

As part of the investigation, Robin goes undercover in the Houses of Parliament as an intern and that made for fascinating reading, given that Rowling got access to the overcrowded, shabby offices where most of the admin work is carried out. The murder mystery part of the book twists in all sorts of directions, until the crime-fighting duo finally pull enough clues together to work out what was going on. Which is when that title really comes into its own…

This long book isn’t solely about the murder mystery element – at least half the book is given over to Cormoran and Robin’s complicated private lives. In fact the book starts with a major event in Robin’s life that also impacts upon Cormoran – and if you have crashed midway into this series, you’ll be forgiven for wondering if you’ve somehow ended up with a romance. Though there isn’t all that much that is happy or romantic in this book. Both Cormoran and Robin are finding it difficult to keep their partners happy, given the demands the Agency is making upon their time. While Cormoran frequently finds the inevitable walking and standing he has to do creates real problems with his artificial leg, Robin is also battling with panics attacks caused by the last case where she was attacked and injured. I really like the fact that these protagonists aren’t Teflon-coated – they are brave and both crave adventure, but also have to deal with the fallout when an incident becomes terrifying and life-threatening.

This is a long book, but at no time did I feel I was trudging through it. The final denouement was a genuine shock – I hadn’t guessed who the culprit was – and the book managed to tie up all the loose ends, leaving me wanting more…
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Select Few – Book 2 of the Select series by Marit Weisenberg #Brainfluffbookreview #SelectFewbookreview

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I really enjoyed this first book in this YA paranormal series, Select – read my review here – so when I saw the second book was available, I immediately requested it and was delighted to be accepted.

After rejecting the cult-like influence of her father’s family, Julia moves into a fancy hotel in downtown Austin. But she finds herself alone except for her boyfriend, John–and her fears. The FBI is also keeping a close eye on Julia hoping she can lead them to her father, Novak, as he’s wanted for questioning in his former assistant’s death. Will she ever be able to blend into normal society without being traced by her father? Will the FBI ever leave her alone? Can she ever find happiness?

I have once again made major changes to the very chatty blurb, and my advice is – don’t read it before picking up the book. The first book ended on something of a cliffhanger with a sudden revelation right at the very end, which turned everything on its head and had Julia making a snap decision not to join her family in their flight to a new life. So the start of Select Few has Julia coming to terms with that decision, after realising the enormity of her loss. She now has to make her way without her sister, whom she loves and misses and her overbearing authoritarian father. While at times she has revelled in her new freedom, she has also discovered that freedom is often accompanied by loneliness. Her relationship with John is also problematical, given that revelation at the end of the first book, so while her feelings for him are a comfort, he is often at a loss to understand her behaviour.

The reason I can discuss John’s feelings with such authority is that this book is a dual narrative with Julia’s first-person viewpoint telling most of the story, interleaved with John’s observations, addressed directly to Julia in the form of some kind of journal. If you haven’t read Select I recommend you do so if you are not feeling particularly bonded with the main characters, or you cannot work out what is going on. Given the first slice of the story is taken up with what is happening, I think this is one of those series where you really can’t crash midway in the series without floundering – and that would be a shame as I found the early part of the book particularly gripping while I tried to work out where it would go next.

Of course, if you are held at the start, the build-up has to really lead something – we’ve all read books which start with a bang and simply can’t sustain the momentum. Fortunately, Weisenberg has sufficient story and drive that the climax and final stages bring the book to a satisfying and convincing end.

I wasn’t as fed up with the inevitable love triangle as I usually am, and to be honest, I’m not sure why. But perhaps it was because I was sufficiently caught up in the main story and found the road trip also helped Julia comes to terms with some important issues along the way. Recommended for fans of paranormal coming-of-age books. While I obtained an arc of Select Few from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – I spy with my little eye… #Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is EYES. I’ve selected The Host by Stephenie Meyer.

 

This edition was produced by Little, Brown and Company in May 2008. This is the definitive cover you see everywhere. It is surprisingly effective, that single eye staring out with such intensity – with the infamous silver line around the iris that glows eerily on the cover itself. This one is my favourite.

 

Published in January 2013 by Black Bay Books, this cover misses the whole point, while highlighting the love triangle in the book, which for me was the weakest part of the story. Still, I suppose it depends on whether you read it as a romance with a bit of science fiction thrown in, or an alien invasion with an added love story.

 

This German edition, published by Ullstein in 2011, features a butterfly. I’m not sure why. It makes for a lovely cover, though. I do feel the title is rather too curly, in fact this whole design makes me think fantasy, rather than science fiction alien invasion.

 

This Serbian edition, produced by Evro Giunti in 2009, is the failed version of the first cover. For starters, she is wearing far too much mascara and the light in her eye is entirely normal. So… is this our protagonist before the aliens got to her? In which case, why is the eye being specifically featured? I get the sense that they decided to rip off the really popular cover of this bestseller without reading the book, though I’m sure that didn’t happen. Did it?

 

This Italian edition, published in February 2013 by Rizzoli is a far better effort than the previous offering. The face is far better, though I think the silvering in the eye looks too heavy-handed. I do like the title font, which works well as it glows out of the gloom and stands out well in thumbnail size. This is a close second for me. What do you think? Do you agree with me?

Teaser Tuesday – 11th September, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Immortal Creators – Book 2 in the Immortal Writers series by Jill Bowers

40% “Have you read her books?” Dylan challenged.
“No,” Scott admitted, “but I don’t have to. I’ve met her, and that was plenty of insight into her head for me. The last thing I want is to let her talk at me for eighty thousand words uninterrupted.” He shuddered at the thought.

BLURB: Sixteen-year-old author Scott Beck never wanted to be an Immortal Writer—not after his father was killed on a mission attempting to dispatch his own villain. Scott blames Shakespeare and the Writers for his father’s untimely demise, but no amount of hatred will prevent the oncoming alien attack, which has come over to reality straight from Scott’s book.

Scott is forced to collect his characters—an Air Force colonel, two of the best pilots on Earth, and an alien enthusiast from the year 2134—and defeat the alien king before Earth is obliterated by his ships. But an odd sickness Scott calls his Writing Fever might just kill him before the aliens have the chance.

This one starts with a bang as Scott finds he is an Immortal Writer and that the lethal alien armada featured in his book is on the point of actually invading Earth… So far, this is proving to be an eventful, enjoyable YA read.

Sunday Post – 2nd September, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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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.

Apologies for having gone dark on the blog, but I was staying with my sister-in-law in Bexhill, who booked a flat with a sea view while she grappled with her thesis and invited me to join her last week. In doing so, I ticked off one of my bucket list wishes – writing in a round room with views of the sea from every window… It was glorious. I kept looking up and pinching myself to check I actually was there. The cherry on top was that the weather was lovely except for one rainy morning and Celia and I get along really well together and found writing together helped both of us.

As a result, in the three days I was staying there I managed to write over 16,000 words of Mantivore Preys, the second book in my series about telepathic alien, Vrox. I returned from the writing break feeling more refreshed and relaxed than I’ve felt for months. It was lovely to see Himself again – especially as he met me in Brighton to help me negotiate my very heavy cases on and off the train home.

Mhairi spent the day with me yesterday as we discussed all things writing and poked the Marketing dragon with a sharp stick. I hope you have all had a great week and I look forward to catching up with everyone during the week.

This week I have read:

A Muddle of Magic – Book 2 of the Fledgling Magic series by Alexandra Rushe
What’s a nice Southern girl doing in a place like this?

Whisked from humdrum Alabama to the fantastical land of Tandara by a mage who won’t take no for an answer, Raine Stewart finds herself tangled in a muddle of magic. A Dark Wizard is out for her blood, a demonic golem has orders to dispatch her . . . and she stinks at magic. Being a wizard, even a baby wizard, is harder than Raine thought.
I regularly crash into the middle of series and don’t find it a problem, but I think I would have benefitted from having read the first book in this series. That said, I found Raine an enjoyable, sympathetic protagonist and the various adventures engrossing. The outstanding feature of this book was the variety of the magical monsters on offer, along with the excellent scene-setting.

The Zero Blessing – Book 1 of The Zero Enigma by Christopher G. Nuttell
Caitlyn Aguirre should have been a magician. Her family certainly expected her to be a magician. But by the time she reached her twelfth birthday, Caitlyn hadn’t even managed to cast a single spell! In desperation, her parents send her – and her magical sisters – to Jude’s Sorcerous Academy, her last best chance to discover her powers.

But as she struggles to survive her classes without a single spell to her name, Caitlyn starts to uncover an ancient mystery that may prove the key to her true powers … If she lives long enough to find it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. School-based stories are a weakness of mine, anyway. But Nuttell really nails the sympathetic young protagonist in this engrossing children’s book that is too good to leave to the youngsters. Ideal for fans of Harry Potter…

Fury – Book 3 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent
1986: Rebecca Essig leaves a slumber party early but comes home to a massacre—committed by her own parents. Only one of her siblings has survived. But as the tragic event unfolds, she begins to realize that other than a small army of six-year-olds, she is among very few survivors of a nationwide slaughter.

The Reaping has begun.

Present day: Pregnant and on the run with a small band of compatriots, Delilah Marlow is determined to bring her baby into the world safely and secretly. But she isn’t used to sitting back while others suffer, and she’s desperate to reunite Zyanya, the cheetah shifter, with her brother and children. To find a way for Lenore the siren to see her husband. To find Rommily’s missing Oracle sisters. To unify this adopted family of fellow cryptids she came to love and rely on in captivity.

But Delilah is about to discover that her role in the human versus cryptid war is destined to be much larger—and more dangerous—than she ever could have imagined.
This is the final book in this disturbing dystopian fantasy in an alternative world where supernatural creatures used to live alongside humans peacefully – until the Reaping. I was sort of expecting more of the same gritted struggle to stay hidden by this small band, who are desperate not to be caught again. I hadn’t expected to also get a ringside seat at the Reaping, the defining event which led to the persecution of all supernatural races. This gripping final instalment answers all sorts of questions raised in the previous two books and successfully brought the series to an amazing and emotional climax.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 27th August 2018

Review of Nolander – Book 1 of the Emanations series by Becca Mills

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Nyxia – Book 1 of The Nyxia Triad by Scott Reintgen

Review of The Zero Blessing – Book 1 of The Zero Enigma by Christopher G. Nuttall

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister

Apologies but this week I am unable to feature other articles and blogs as I normally do, because I haven’t been browsing online – I’ve been writing, instead. Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister #Brainfluffbookreview #KindredSpiritbookreview

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I wanted a break from my usual diet of SFF reads and this cover caught my eye. I requested it, as I generally like the output from Severn House Publishing, who release a steady stream of well written and well edited crime and adventure fiction.

A kidnap attempt outside the school gates in broad daylight convinces Gabriel Ash that his renegade wife is trying to steal their sons from him. Only the intervention of his friend Constable Hazel Best kept them safe. It’s a simple if alarming explanation, but is it the truth? Hazel uncovers disturbing information about another crime, the repercussions of which are still threatening innocent lives seventeen years later.

That is half the blurb, but it gives you a good idea of what is going on. And no… I haven’t read any of the previous four books in the series – I did my usual trick of crashing midway into this series and once again, got away with it. Bannister drops in any details about the protagonists’ backstory that impacts on the action and characterisation without resorting to any info dumps. It helps that both characters are good people striving to do their best under tricky conditions. Gabriel Ash has clearly had a torrid time of it in previous books and is busy putting his life together as a single father running a book shop. Clever, sensitive and rather battered, he also has a dog who communicates telepathically with him… he thinks.

Hazel Best is a bright, determined woman whose police career has been compromised by previous shenanigans earlier in the series. One of the few people who now give her the time of day, other than a rather busy Gabriel, is Dave Gorman, her superior. When she gets a bee in her bonnet about exactly who was the target in the attempted kidnapping outside the school, events take off.

This well-written police procedural rolls forward at a reasonable clip, with a good mix of possible suspects. My one grizzle is the dog’s role in unravelling the mystery – given that everything else is so very much set in the world of fact, the dog chatting to Gabriel didn’t convince me. I would have preferred it if this had been left more open so that while Gabriel thinks it’s down to the dog, the rest of us could see another option – and if Bannister intended it to read like that, she didn’t quite succeed.

However, that isn’t a dealbreaker. I would happily pick up another book in this series and it is recommended for fans of cosy crime, particularly dog lovers. While I obtained an arc of Kindred Spirit from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Nolander – Book 1 of the Emanations series by Becca Mills #Brainfluffbookreview #Nolanderbookreview

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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…

And that’s the intriguing premise for this quirky and unusual urban fantasy set in a small town in America, where almost everyone knows who you are and your business. That can be a comfort and support – or a something else a lot less helpful if you happen to fall outside normal expectations. If you are afflicted with disabling panic attacks, for instance… I was particularly interested in this one, because for a while in my twenties, I was prone to panic attacks – they always happened in busy, crowded places – on a bus or a plane, for instance… They took away my prospects for promotion to any kind of responsible job – until I pinpointed the cause. But I know only too well the wretched feeling as one would start building and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it – Mills manages to very effectively portray that feeling of helplessness.

The story spiralled off into a portal world for an extended part of the book – both unexpected and yet absolutely engrossing. I like the fact that Mills has a habit of taking the plot in unexpected directions, so that I ended up reading something quite different from what I thought I was getting. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey and am really looking forward to discovering where this unusual story goes next.

Recommended for fantasy fans who enjoy quirky writing.
8/10

#Sunday Post – 27th August, 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.

I have been busy this week writing the course notes for this term’s Creative Writing course which starts on 17th September, which sounds a while away, but I know from experience that it isn’t. I managed to get all but the final handout written, which I’m pleased about. The regular admin and lesson plans still need to be written, but at least I’ve done the hard part.

On Monday I met up with one of my students who has missed a couple of terms through illness. It was lovely to see her again, looking so much better as we caught up on each other’s lives. I had lunch with my sister on Tuesday and we went shopping together on Friday, though I resisted the temptation to buy anything major – which was a feat we celebrated by having a very leisurely chat over a looong cup of tea together. On Saturday, I travelled up to Cambridge to catch up with my son who I hadn’t seen since Christmas – far too long! We visited the Anthony Gormley exhibition, which was marvellous – and then he treated me to a trip on the river. It was so much fun watching him windmill the pole as he punted me up the river that the rain simply didn’t matter.

During this coming week, I will not be commenting or replying on my blog as I shall be on a writing retreat and I’m not sure about the wifi connection – parts of the country aren’t very well served. But I will catch up once I get back.

This week I have read:

Menagerie – Book 1 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent
When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus big-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town.
I rapidly became engrossed in Delilah’s plight, unable to forget the numbers of youngsters imprisoned and trapped by illegal trafficking, though this book can also be read as a piece of escapist fiction.

 

Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister
A kidnap attempt outside the school gates in broad daylight convinces Gabriel Ash that his renegade wife is trying to steal their sons from him. Only the intervention of his friend Constable Hazel Best kept them safe. It’s a simple if alarming explanation, but is it the truth? Hazel uncovers disturbing information about another crime, the repercussions of which are still threatening innocent lives seventeen years later. Once again Hazel finds herself at loggerheads with her superiors. Did they really conspire to protect a murderer? And this time she isn’t getting the support she needs from Ash. She’d thought they were kindred spirits: now she’s not sure what his motives are.
I was overdue an enjoyable cosy mystery and this one certainly ticked the box. Enjoyable, likeable protagonists and a gripping situation that steadily builds into a major mystery with an exciting denouement.

 

Spectacle – Book 2 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent
The Savage Spectacle is a private collection of “exotic wildlife.” Specializing in ruthless cryptid cage matches, safari-style creature hunts and living party favors, the Spectacle’s owner, Willem Vandekamp, caters to the forbidden fetishes of the wealthy and powerful. At the Spectacle, any wish can be granted—for the right price. But a number of new exhibits not only create more opportunities for making money, they also pose risks Willem hasn’t yet encountered.
This next slice of the adventures featuring Delilah, a shape-shifting human with disturbing powers was just as engrossing as the first book – and I’m looking forward to reading the final book in the trilogy, which is the Netgalley arc I will be reviewing in due course.

 

Fifty-One by Chris Barnham
Jacob Wesson is a timecop from 2040, sent back to WWII London to stop the assassination of Britain’s war leader. The assignment plays out with apparent ease, but the jump home goes wrong, leading to a series of events that not only puts in jeopardy the outcome of WWII, but all history…
This intelligent, well written time travelling adventure is not only a thumping good read, but raises some interesting questions on the nature of time travelling that I’ve never seen so fully explored. I was also very impressed with Barnham’s depiction of war-torn London in 1940 and the 2040 equivalent.

 

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 19th August 2018

Teaser Tuesday featuring Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Fury – Book 3 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Foundryside – Book 1 of the Founders series by Robert Jackson Bennett

Friday Face-off – Myths and Legends… featuring Myths and Legends by Anthony Horowitz

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

Thursday Doors https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2018/08/24/thursday-doors-110/ Regulars will know this quirky series is a firm favourite – but these walkways are just lovely… you can imagine all sorts of magical adventures occurring in these surroundings.

…my dream dinner guests list… prob’ly change again by next week!… https://seumasgallacher.com/2018/08/24/my-dream-dinner-guests-list-probly-change-again-by-next-week/ Seumas has fun playing this game – this is a dinner party I’d love to attend. What about you – who would you invite to your dream dinner?

#writerproblems: catching #characters with a coda of giveaway #countdown https://jeanleesworld.com/2018/08/23/writerproblems-catching-characters-with-a-coda-of-giveaway-countdown/ Jean gives her take on integrating family life with that of a working writer – and reminds us of a fabulous opportunity to get hold of her marvellous debut novel. I’ve been lucky to read the arc and will be reviewing it in due course. In the meantime, do keep a lookout for it – it’s a wonderful, quirky read…

Spraoi 2018 – Scotch is back! https://inesemjphotography.com/2018/08/24/spraoi-2018-scotch-is-back/ No – we’re not talking the drink, we’re talking a Dutch band playing at a free street festival in Waterford, Ireland. These photos sum up the joy and passion of live music for both the participants and those watching…

Do you Reread? https://emeraldcitybookreview.com/2018/08/do-you-re-read-2.html This is an interesting question – if you get down as far as the comments, you’ll find my views on this subject there. But I am always intrigued to know if readers go back to books they love…

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