Category Archives: contemporary

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Death of a Bean Counter – Book 12 of the Maggy Thorsen mysteries by Sandra Balzo #Brainfluffbookreview #DeathofaBeanCounterbookreview

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I was in the mood for another cosy mystery and this one caught my eye – the wordplay around the title – the protagonist owns a coffee shop – sounded fun and so I was delighted to receive an arc copy…

BLURB: Maggy Thorsen’s head is spinning thanks to partner Sarah Kingston’s latest idea – selling luxe espresso machines in their Wisconsin coffeehouse, Uncommon Grounds. But Maggy soon faces a far bigger problem when her fiance sheriff Jake Pavlik, makes an official call on the coffee house’s star barista, Amy Caprese. Amy’s wealthy new beau, investment adviser Kip Fargo, has been shot dead in his bed – and Amy is the last known person to see him alive…

That’s as much of the rather chatty blurb I’m willing to divulge, as the setup for this book should be read without any spoilery details that might encourage you to skim. Once again, I found I’d crashed midway into a series – this being the twelfth book – but didn’t have too much difficulty sorting out who did what to whom. While I’m sure if you read the previous eleven books, you’d know more about the characters, Balzo’s chatty style and strong first-person protagonist made it easy to read. The book zipped along with plenty of suspects and the small-town, gossipy dynamic that US cosy crime writers do so well set this whodunit up nicely.

Any grizzles? I did find Maggy’s nosiness and intrusive approach at times rather offputting. I liked the fact that she was no fresh-faced youngster, and her spiky relationship with her business partner, provided some nice snark. However, her determination to try and crack the case meant that she did crash in and at times, put her lovely Sherriff partner in a difficult position.

That said, the whodunit was well handled and while I had wondered about the murderer, due to the fact there were also a string of other likely culprits, I hadn’t guessed who it was. An entertaining, enjoyable read with a good spread of supporting characters within a well-established community. Recommended for fans of cosy mysteries. The ebook arc copy of Death of a Bean Counter was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10

Sunday Post – 29th March, 2020 #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.

Like most people, I’m staying at home, though Himself is still out driving trains. We’ve worked out a system whereby he puts his uniform into the washing machine before coming into the house and so far… so good.

Last Monday, on her second day in the new house, my daughter woke up with a temperature, joint and stomach pains and a cough. So she ended up being quarantined in the house without the children. She is now feeling a lot better, but it’s been a long week for her. Thank goodness she is recovering and the children don’t seem to have had any symptoms. Other than that, we keep in touch with family via Skype and Zoom. It was a huge relief to hear my brother-in-law caught one of the last flights from Melbourne and is now back home safely. And we go on praying none of the vulnerable members of the family go down with the illness…

Still enjoying Outlander – but mightily disappointed with that DREADFUL last episode of Picard, when it had been going so well. Thank goodness for marvellous books – I’m listening to Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light – so very, very good! And I’m working on my book on Characterisation, which is growing slowly but surely. It’s interesting how different my writing patterns are for non-fiction, as opposed to fiction.

Last week I read:
The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie
For centuries, the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by the god known as the Raven. He watches over his territory from atop a tower in the powerful port of Vastai. His will is enacted through the Raven’s Lease, a human ruler chosen by the god himself. His magic is sustained via the blood sacrifice that every Lease must offer. And under the Raven’s watch, the city flourishes. But the power of the Raven is weakening. A usurper has claimed the throne. The kingdom borders are tested by invaders who long for the prosperity that Vastai boasts. And they have made their own alliances with other gods. It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo–aide to Mawat, the true Lease–arrives. And in seeking to help Mawat reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven’s Tower holds a secret.
This fascinating story, told from an unusual viewpoint – using the second person (you) pov – caught me from the start. I loved the tension and Leckie’s handling of the perspective from a god who has lived a very long time.


The Clutter Corpse – Book 1 of the Decluttering Mysteries series by Simon Brett
Introducing an engaging new amateur sleuth, declutterer Ellen Curtis, in the first of a brilliant new mystery series.
That’s all the blurb there is – and this intriguing cosy mystery does just that – sets up Ellen as an engaging, competent protagonist with a doozy of a backstory. While I enjoyed the whodunit aspect, I was even more engrossed in Ellen as a fascinating protagonist and very much look forward to reading more about her. Review to follow.

 



Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother’s grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change. Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared.
I burned through this one, finding it impossible to put down. It’s an amazing read in many ways. For starters, the prose is absolutely beautiful and I enjoyed so much about this one… But for me, the pacing and narrative stuttered in the final stages, leaving me unhappy with the ending, both with its execution and the outcome.


The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey
A book of hope for uncertain times.
Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons. The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.
My lovely sister-in-law sent this to me and I absolutely love it – the beautiful drawings and the messages of truth and hope that shone off the pages. It had me weeping and laughing at the same time. It isn’t long, but I shall be returning to it regularly. Especially in the coming days and weeks…


My posts last week:

Friday Face-off featuring Circe by Madeline Miller

Review of A Season of Spells – Book 3 of the Noctis Magicae series by Sylvia Hunter

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of War of the Maps by Paul McAuley

Review of AUDIOBOOK A Hat Full of Sky – Book 32 of the Discworld series, Book 2 of the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett

Sunday Post – 22nd March 2020

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

Books That Made Me Smile, Laugh, Inspired Me & Gave Me Hope https://hookedonbookz.com/2020/03/26/books-that-made-me-smile-laugh-inspired-me-gave-me-hope/ A very useful list – that includes The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse…

Coping Tools https://randomactsofwriting.wordpress.com/2020/03/25/coping-tools/
Another useful and uplifting article that I really appreciated and thought others, too, might enjoy reading…

Book Tag – The Secret World of a Book Blogger https://comfortreadsbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/03/26/book-tag-secret-life-of-a-book-blogger/ I’m a nosy person – my excuse is that I’m a writer, but I couldn’t pass up this insight into a fellow book blogger’s process behind the articles…

House Arrest https://jaceybedford.wordpress.com/2020/03/24/house-arrest/ Another great insight into how successful sci fi/fantasy author is coping with self isolating…

Giving Up Oxford https://infjphd.org/2020/03/24/giving-up-oxford/ A beautiful homage to one of our loveliest cities and a thoughtful article about lost opportunities and curtailed plans due to the virus…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

Review of HARDBACK edition of Recursion by Blake Crouch #Brainfluffbookreview #Recursionbookreview

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I thoroughly enjoyed Crouch’s super-charged sci fi thriller Dark Matter – see my review – and so was keen to get hold of this one, as many folks whose opinion I respect said Recursion was better than Dark Matter. So I was absolutely delighted to discover that I’d won a beautiful hardback copy in a giveaway organised by Tammy of Books, Bones and Buffy.

BLURB: What if someone could rewrite your entire life?
‘My son has been erased.’
Those are the last words the woman tells Barry Sutton before she leaps from the Manhattan rooftop. Deeply unnerved, Barry begins to investigate her death only to learn that this wasn’t an isolated case. All across the country, people are waking up to lives different from the ones they fell asleep to. Are they suffering from False Memory Syndrome, a mysterious, new disease that afflicts people with vivid memories of a life they never lived? Or is something far more sinister behind the fracturing of reality all around him?

This one starts with a bang and doesn’t let up. Like Dark Matter, Crouch gives his sci fi premise a real contemporary thriller feel with the punchy pacing and driving narrative. The surprise-filled, twisting plot sucks you in and doesn’t let go until the last page, so that I read this one in two greedy gulps and judging from the comments of other reviewers, I’m not alone in being unable to put this one down until the end. One of Crouch’s strengths is that I really cared about the two main protagonists. Both Barry and Helena are good people, trying to do their best in increasingly dreadful circumstances and I held my breath, hoping against hope that – somehow – they’d prevail.

I was pleased to see that even the main antagonist had strong reasons for doing what he’d done, so that while I couldn’t condone his actions, I could at least understand them. I really liked the way the stakes around this huge discovery kept getting greater, until that terrible climactic scene in the middle of New York… I had to put the book down for a while at that point, as I needed to draw breath.

Of course, the catch with raising the stakes so very high, is that the denouement and ending have to be able to match them. While it hadn’t been a dealbreaker, I wasn’t wholly happy with the end of Dark Matter. However this time around, Crouch brings the story to a great conclusion, with plenty of poignancy and heartache along the way. Far too often, apocalyptic sci fi focuses on the geeky consequences of the catastrophe, leaving characters with all the charisma of cardboard cutouts – not so Crouch. I minded what happened to these people and felt very invested in their ultimate wellbeing. As I rather shakily closed this book for the last time, I took a couple of deep breaths, feeling very relieved that I wasn’t a character in one of Crouch’s worlds.
10/10







Sunday Post – 15th March, 2020 #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.

It’s been an up and down week. I’m still not fully recovered, so didn’t feel up to any fitness regime. We treated ourselves to a smart TV, so have been tucking into Picard, The Crossing, The Expanse and Outlander – all of which I’m loving. It seems a very good time to binge-watch escapist adventures, given how terrifyingly interesting Real Life is becoming. My thoughts go out to everyone, hoping you are all remaining safe and well…

On Wednesday, Himself and I went out for lunch at Haskins, enjoying the swathes of daffodils growing on the roadside and on Friday I drove to Brighton to spend the day with my daughter. It was a lovely sunny day and I thoroughly enjoyed watching my granddaughter having her swimming lesson – what a great age to become water confident. Only just walking, she is learning to enjoy putting her head under the water, splash about in the pool and hold onto the side. This morning, I met up with my sister and we had breakfast together at our favourite riverside café, putting the world to rights – which took some doing. I am making the most of getting out and about while I can and spending time with the people I love.

Last week I read:
AUDIOBOOK Longbourn by Jo Baker
In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.
I’m a bit torn by this one. While the worldbuilding was brilliantly done and I very much appreciated seeing the Bennet family through the lens of the servants, the pacing was too slow in places – and that ending…! Review to follow.



On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.
This was a reread, given I’ve started writing my own How-To book on Characterisation. It was just as enjoyably chatty and informative as I recalled, though some of the advice on how to get your work noticed is outdated.



Minimum Wage Magic – Book 1 of the DFZ series by Rachel Aaron
My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I’m a Cleaner: a freelance mage with an art history degree who’s employed by the DFZ to sort through the mountains of magical junk people leave behind. It’s not a pretty job, or a safe one—there’s a reason I wear bite-proof gloves—but when you’re deep in debt in a lawless city where gods are real, dragons are traffic hazards, and buildings move around on their own, you don’t get to be picky about where your money comes from. You just have to make it work, even when the only thing of value in your latest repossessed apartment is the dead body of the mage who used to live there.
This is a spinoff from the amazing Heartstriker series – though you don’t need to read one to appreciate the other. Seeing as I’m loving the quirky world Aaron has forged, I was happy to dive into this offering. Review to follow.



By the Pricking of Her Thumb – Book 2 of the Real-Town Murders series by Adam Roberts
Private Investigator Alma is caught up in another impossible murder. One of the world’s four richest people may be dead – but nobody is sure which one. Hired to discover the truth behind the increasingly bizarre behaviour of the ultra-rich, Alma must juggle treating her terminally ill lover with a case which may not have a victim.
Another gnarly case for the amazing Alma, set in a dystopian world. I loved the character and the mystery – but Roberts does drift away from the main plot to eulogise about Stanley Kubrick’s films and discuss theories on the role of money in society…

 




The Case of the Missing Servant – Book 1 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
The Case of the Missing Servant shows Puri (“Chubby” to his friends) and his wonderfully nicknamed employees (among them, Handbrake, Flush, and Handcream) hired for two investigations. The first is into the background of a man surprisingly willing to wed a woman her father considers unmarriageable, and the second is into the disappearance six months earlier of a servant to a prominent Punjabi lawyer, a young woman known only as Mary.
This book was part of my Valentine’s pressie from Himself – and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hall’s depiction of contemporary India is vivid, unflinching, yet without being overly bleak or judgemental. I fell in love with Chubby when I read The Case of the Reincarnated Client and this book has cemented my affection for him.


My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring WWW: Wake Book 1 of the WWW series by Robert Sawyer

February 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Winterbourn Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Murder Your Darlings – Book 3 of the Francis Meadowes series by Mark McCrum

Sunday Post – 7th March 2020

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

How To Overcome Self Doubt as a Writer https://lorraineambers.com/2020/01/16/how-to-overcome-self-doubt-as-a-writer/ Having taught Creative Writing for 10 years, and written for more years than I care to recall – I’m aware just how crippling self doubt can be…

Women Building Art! https://platformnumber4.com/2020/03/07/women-building-art/ A lovely good news story about women achieving the highest accolade in a largely male-dominated industry…

Paul Brady, Arty McGlynn, Matt Molloy: Crazy Dreams (Hail St Patrick 2) https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2020/03/11/paul-brady-arty-mcglynn-matt-molloy-crazy-dreams-hail-st-patrick-2/ A fabulous article on Irish music from the awesome Thom Hickey

Thursday Doors – Cavan County Museum 5 https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2020/03/09/thursday-doors-cavan-county-museum-5/ Jean takes us back into the past…

Coronavirus and Parenting: What You Need to Know https://www.npr.org/2020/03/13/814615866/coronavirus-and-parenting-what-you-need-to-know-now?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social Given the nature of this unfolding emergency, arming our children with the knowledge to help them without overwhelming or terrifying them is a challenge. I thought this article was very helpful…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

Sunday Post – 16th February, 2020 #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.

No Pilates or Fitstep this week, as our teaching is on a scuba diving holiday on the other side of the world – she surely picked a good time to go! On Tuesday, the Sleep Clinic contacted us to say that the sleep mask Himself had been waiting for had arrived, so we drove to Worthing hospital to pick it up. On the way back, we stopped at the Sea Lane Café and enjoyed a delicious vegan burger for lunch, looking out over the sea in lovely sunshine, though it was raining again by the time we got home.

On Friday, I travelled to Brighton to see Rebecca and little Eliza, who ran up to me – and went on going, past me, calling ‘Papa! Papa!’ She scrambled onto the settee to look out of the window and see if he was outside, ignoring me. And when we went over last week to babysit – did he play with her? Get her tea and feed her? Give her a bath and put her to bed? Nope, that was yours truly. Instead, he read his Kindle, looking up from time to time to acknowledge her chatter as she all but stood on her head to get his attention… Rebecca was in fits of laughter😊. That evening Himself made me a special meal for Valentine’s Day and you’ll be shocked to learn we exchanged books as presents to show how much we love each other…

Yesterday, I tackled the middle bedroom where Rob had put all the stuff he’d brought back from Cambridge, before flying out to LA, as we are expecting the children to stay during half term this coming week. By evening, Storm Dennis was howling around the house with rain lashing the windows, when I got a text from my sister to say that as she’d opened her back door, the wind took hold of it, swung it round and hit her in the face. She is now only ten minutes up the road, so driving through the height of the storm wasn’t too bad, though I wouldn’t have wanted to travel much further. She has a lump on her forehead the size of an egg, cuts across her nose and had bitten through her tongue. She is lucky to have escaped concussion and a broken nose, though she is developing two black eyes. Fortunately, although shocked and in a lot of pain, she was okay, however I stayed the night just in case. We had a cosy breakfast together, and I returned home mid-morning, though the pouring rain – though at least the wind has dropped. My thoughts are with all the poor souls who have suffered damage and flooding for the second weekend in a row…

Last week I read:
A Blight of Blackwings – Book 2 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearne
SOLDIER AND AVENGER
Daryck is from a city that was devastated by the war with the Bone Giants, and now he and a band of warriors seek revenge against the giants for the loved ones they lost. But will vengeance be enough to salve their grief?
DREAMER AND LEADER
Hanima is part of a new generation with extraordinary magical talents: She can speak to fantastical animals. But when this gift becomes a threat to the powers-that-be, Hanima becomes the leader of a movement to use this magic to bring power to the people.
SISTER AND SEEKER
Koesha is the captain of an all-female crew on a perilous voyage to explore unknown waters. Though Koesha’s crew is seeking a path around the globe, Koesha is also looking for her sister, lost at sea two years ago. But what lies beyond the edges of the map is far more dangerous than storms and sea monsters. . . .
I thoroughly enjoyed this epic fantasy sequel to A Plague of Giants with a nifty plot device which works really well.

AUDIOBOOK Salt Lane – Book 1 of the DS Alexandra Cupidi series by William Shaw
DS Alexandra Cupidi has done it again. She should have learnt to keep her big mouth shut, after the scandal that sent her packing – resentful teenager in tow – from the London Met to the lonely Kent coastline. Even murder looks different in this landscape of fens, ditches and stark beaches, shadowed by the towers of Dungeness power station. Murder looks a lot less pretty. The man drowned in the slurry pit had been herded there like an animal. He was North African, like many of the fruit pickers that work the fields. The more Cupidi discovers, the more she wants to ask – but these people are suspicious of questions. It will take an understanding of this strange place – its old ways and new crimes – to uncover the dark conspiracy behind the murder. Cupidi is not afraid to travel that road. But she should be. She should, by now, have learnt.
This is a well written, strongly plotted contemporary murder mystery set in the striking setting of Dungeness, which I loved listening to. Ideal for fans of Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series.

Sacred Bride – Book 3 of the Olympus trilogy by David Hair & Cath Mayo
Prince Odysseus and the daemon Bria must penetrate the haunted caverns beneath Dodona, seeking a way to save their doomed nation, Achaea, from the might of Troy. The startling revelation that follows will set Odysseus on his most daunting mission yet, as he seeks to reunite the divided Achaean kingdoms before the rapacious Trojans strike. His journey will pit him against wrathful gods and legendary heroes, in a deadly contest for the hand of Helen of Sparta, the daughter of Zeus, upon whose choice the fate of Achaea rests…
This is the third book in the series charting the adventures of Odysseus in the run-up to the Trojan War. I love Greek myth retellings. The characterisation, worldbuilding and explanation of how the gods work and the political and financial pressures all leading to the war is done exceptionally well. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Shoot for the Moon 2020

Friday Faceoff featuring Club Dead – Book 3 of the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of A Blight of Blackwings – Book 2 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearne

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Case of the Reincarnated Client – Book 5 of the Vish Puri series by Taquin Hall

Sunday Post 9th February 2020

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

#writerproblems #writingawesome #characterdesign in three sentences or less https://jeanleesworld.com/2020/02/02/writerproblems-writing-awesome-characterdesign-in-three-sentences-or-less/ Jean’s writing advice and discussions are always worth reading – but this one particularly chimed with me. So very true!

My Favorite Books of the Decade: 2009-2019 https://coffeeandcatsblog.wordpress.com/2020/02/12/my-favorite-books-of-the-decade-2009-2019/ I loved this list, and agreed with a couple of the choices – but then also started wondering which books I’d include on my own list. What about you?

An Interesting Character Study: Malvolio from Twelfth Night https://interestingliterature.com/2020/02/character-study-malvolio-twelfth-night/ 
I recall seeing Ken Dodd perform the final speech of Malvolio’s during a Variety performance and being transfixed at just how WELL he did it. This intriguing article explains what drew him to the character…

John Gorka: Semper Fi https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2020/02/09/john-gorka-semper-fi/ Once again, a warm, wonderful piece of writing that makes you think. Thom’s blog epitomises the best in blogging…

Thursday Photo Prompt #Choice #writephoto https://indishe.wordpress.com/2020/02/09/thursday-photo-promptchoicewritephoto/ These posts are always gold for writers seeking inspiration – and I love this one…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Case of the Reincarnated Client – Book 5 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall #Brainfluffbookreview #TheCaseoftheReincarnatedClientbookreview

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Well this was a delightful surprise! Once again, I went looking for another interesting murder mystery after a heavy SFF diet – and came across this one…

BLURB: When a young woman comes forward claiming to be the reincarnation of Riya Kaur, a wife and mother who vanished during the bloody 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Puri is dismissive. He’s busy enough dealing with an irate matrimonial client whose daughter is complaining about her groom’s thunderous snoring. Puri’s indomitable Mummy-ji however is adamant the client is genuine. How else could she so accurately describe under hypnosis Riya Kaur’s life and final hours? Driven by a sense of duty – the original case was his late father’s – Puri manages to acquire the police file only to find that someone powerful has orchestrated a cover-up. Forced into an alliance with his mother that tests his beliefs and high blood pressure as never before, it’s only by delving into the past the help of his reincarnated client that Puri can hope to unlock the truth.

I loved this one. Puri is a very busy and increasingly successful private investigator. But this isn’t the usual setting of somewhere in the US or UK – this is bustling India. It would have been so easy to have got this disastrously wrong and it’s a credit to the author and his in-depth knowledge of Indian society and its faultlines that it worked so well. I didn’t always like Puri. He is often impatient, argumentative, and horribly dismissive of his clearly very clever mother, but he’s also loyal, essentially kind-hearted and tenacious in trying to unravel wrongdoing in a society where corruption is deep-seated and people in the highest places often look the other way.

Despite the fact I crashed midway into this series – this is Book Five and I hadn’t read any of the previous offerings in this series – I didn’t at any stage find myself floundering. Hall has a deft writing style that focused on the setting and mystery so that I was swiftly caught up in Puri’s world and didn’t want to put this one down until I had finished it.

The worldbuilding is exceptional. Not only could I clearly visualise it all – I could taste and hear Puri’s surroundings, the pollution, the constant traffic and ceaseless churn of people struggling to earn a living. While Puri’s love of food gave me an insight into its role in Indian society, as well as succeeding in making my mouth water. All this was achieved without holding up the pace or getting in the way of the narrative arc – which is a whole lot harder to pull off than Hall makes it look. As for the two crimes, running side by side, they were brought to a satisfactory enjoyable conclusion without being too tidy. I absolutely loved this one – to the extent that Himself has gone out and bought me the first four books in the series as an early Valentine’s present – no wonder I love the man so much! Highly recommended for fans of murder mysteries in enjoyable and different settings. The ebook arc copy of The Case of the Reincarnated Client was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Journaled to Death by Heather Redmond #Brainfluffbookreview #JournaledtoDeathbookreview

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I was intrigued by the premise and deciding I needed a good murder mystery to leaven all the sci fi and fantasy goodness I’ve been immersed in recently, I requested it. It was a happy surprise to discover I’d been approved to read this one…

BLURB: Divorced single mom Mandy Meadows scrapes by working as a barista and receiving payments from her cousin, Ryan, who rents her basement apartment. At night, she and her teenage daughter Vellum run a successful home business creating journaling content on their popular social media channels. But Mandy’s carefully organized world is about to come crashing down. While filming their latest journaling tutorial, Mandy and Vellum hear a loud noise on the basement stairs, and Mandy is horrified by what she finds… I’ve cut short the rather chatty blurb, which then goes on to disclose what I consider to be the first big plot
point.

I really like the character of Mandy, who is in a hard place, through no fault of her own. She is a mother struggling to hold things together, after her shiftless husband has cheated on her, by holding down two jobs and caring for a teenage daughter, Vellum.

If you are looking for a no-holds-barred, action-filled adventure, then this one isn’t for you. After the first shocking discovery of the murder victim, this is a slow, steady accretion of clues and facts with a number of possible suspects being examined before being ruled out. However, if, like me, you really do like your whodunnit’s to be something of a mystery, then I do recommend this one. I obviously had guessed who the perpetrator was, before I discovered that I had got it completely wrong.

Apart from the well-handled murder mystery aspect, I was also engrossed in Mandy’s everyday life as a barista in a coffee shop at a local hospital, while also working on her online business. Redmond vividly depicts the struggle of so many people who are working in low-paid jobs with precious little security and a constant fear of losing their earnings. I was impressed that this wasn’t shown with any huge flourish or self pitying drama, but as a day-to-day struggle that needed to be endured – so much more realistic. Despite Mandy’s struggles, this isn’t a gloomy book. She is largely a strong, determined and optimistic character. However, I was glad to see that the victim’s death exacted a real toll on those around them. This isn’t a mystery where we really don’t care, and it was interesting to learn about the character after he’d died.

Any niggles? While I felt Mandy was very well portrayed and I loved the characterisation of nearly all the characters, I did feel that Vellum was just a little too good to be true as a fifteen-year-old with parents who had recently split up. But perhaps that was because she was also fully involved in her mother’s business with part of the responsibility of its success, which gave her a sense of agency, enabling her to behave in such a mature way.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and was impressed with the quality of the writing and the murder. I will be looking out for more books from this author. Highly recommended for fans of engrossing murder mysteries where there really is a real mystery. The ebook arc copy of Journaled to Death was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 15th January, 20202 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – The Apollo Deception by Mitch Silver

#crime #thriller #whodunit

After China announce a space mission to place their own flag next to the one US astronauts planted during the Apollo 11 mission, few people bat an eyelid. Shortly after this statement Charlie Stephens, a 81-year-old former filmmaker, is murdered. The incident is made to look like an accident, but why? Going through his father’s effects, Gary Stephens – a director of beer and yogurt ads – discovers seven cans of old 35mm film. Dated before the landing, they’re identical to the footage NASA claims was shot by the Apollo 11 crew. The US flag is not and has never been in the Sea of Tranquillity, and only Tricky Dick and a handful of others knew it. Why was the real nature of the Apollo 11 mission kept hidden? And what measures will be taken to keep the secret buried?

Just to make it absolutely clear, I am NOT of the school that believes the Apollo Moon missions were some elaborate hoax – but I thought this looked like a really cool premise for a high-stakes thriller.

Sunday Post – 5th January, 2020 #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.

While it has been a lot less hectic, the fun hasn’t stopped. Last Sunday, I went for a spa evening with Sally – we didn’t talk about work, but relaxed in the sauna and the jacuzzi putting the world to rights. It was bliss. New Year’s Eve was lovely – just Himself and I spending it together, which is more special than it sounds, as he frequently has to work, or go to bed early because of his shift pattern. We had lunch together at Haskins on New Year’s Day and afterwards, I spotted a Kipling handbag on sale – irrestistible!  We had a lovely lazy afternoon, lolling on the sofa watching films together, making the most of Himself’s last day of his winter leave.

My sister-in-law drove up to see me the following day – her birthday. So we had a walk along beach and then I took her for lunch at Haskins, which serves a baked potato with roasted vegetables as a tasty veggie lunch, plus cake of course. I hadn’t seen her since our writing retreat in Bexhill, so it was a wonderful treat. Yesterday, I met up with my sister and caught up on her life since Christmas Day when we last saw each other. Inevitably we went shopping together – I came away with two long-sleeved tops and a new pair of trousers in the sales and she got a lovely blouse.

Today is the last day of my Christmas break and we’re taking down the Christmas decorations – a chore I hate, as the house always looks so dreary afterwards. But all good things come to an end and I’ve had the best Christmas in years.

Last week I read:

AUDIOBOOK The Last Olympian – Book 5 of the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series by Rick Riordan
All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of victory are grim. Kronos’s army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan’s power only grows. While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it’s up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time.

I’ve enjoyed listening to this entertaining children’s series and was pleased that this concluding adventure wrapped up the narrative really successfully, as well as providing a cracking battle full of action and tension. Review to follow.

 

Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger duology by Marie Brennan
When a witch is born, a doppelganger is created. For the witch to master her powers, the twin must be killed. Until now…

Created by the merging of witch and doppelganger, Mirei is a unique being. Her extraordinary magic makes her the most poweful witch alive—and a notorious social outcast. While Satomi, the leader of the witches’ ruling Primes, hails Mirei as a miracle, rival Primes proclaim that Mirei is an evil abomination… and that those who champion her must be destroyed.

This has proved to be a delightful duology – I loved the first book and wanted to find out what would happen next. This offering wasn’t a disappointment as my first ebook read of the decade. Review to follow.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Rules of Magic – prequel to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Find your magic

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

I was expecting to be blown away by this one and I wasn’t. Nonetheless, the worldbuilding and atmospheric writing kept me listening to the excellent narration, despite my other issues with the book. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Review of AUDIOBOOK How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury – Book 12 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell

Friday Faceoff featuring The Wee Free Man – Book 1 of the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett

My 2019 Reading Year – the Statistics

My First Reads of the Decade – Welcome 2020!

My Outstanding Reads of 2019

Review of AUDIOBOOK To Say Nothing of the Dog – Book 2 of the Oxford Time Travel series by Connie Willis

Sunday Post 29th December 2019

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks over the Christmas break, in no particular order:

Gavin and Stacey: what that Christmas special cliffhanger ending means for future season https://www.stylist.co.uk/life/gavin-and-stacey-christmas-special-ending-spoilers-future-series-ruth-jones/339367?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=share&utm_campaign=share-buttons
And this one has been niggling at the back of my head since I watched it… I’m a HUGE fan and would LOVE more Gavin and Stacey goodness – but only if it is as marvellous and heartwarming and wonderful as the previous series. Please, please don’t mess it up…

10 Ways to Stay Healthy This Flu Season https://www.michellescrazybusylife.net/index.php/2020/01/03/2739/#.XhHkoPzgrb0 All very good advice, when we still have the coldest, dreariest part of winter still ahead of us…

Reading Challenges to Try in 2020 http://skolion.org/2019/10/06/reading-challenges-to-try-in-2020/ It’s that time of year again, when we all start thinking about the challenges we are going to set ourselves – and this article has some helpful suggestions.

My Personal “Yellow Brick Road” https://laurelrainsnow.wordpress.com/2019/12/22/my-personal-yellow-brick-road/ Laurel’s article highlighting mementoes that had significance for her had me wondering about the things that matter to me, too…

River to Skate Away On https://platformnumber4.com/2019/12/14/river-to-skate-away-on/ Becky’s recollections of childhood winters, complete with photos, brought back a former time.

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

My Outstanding Reads of 2019 #Brainfluffbookblogger #2019OutstandingReads

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I have had another stormingly good reading year. The highlight being my immediate love affair with audiobooks, once I got hold of a Kindle Fire which could cope with the selection I’d already bought my dyslexic grandson to encourage him to keep reading. Needless to say, I’ve added to that list…

During 2019 I read 168 books and wrote 129 full reviews, with 26 still to be published. In no particular order, these are the books that have stood out for me. It might be that I didn’t originally give a 10 – but something about these books has stayed with me and won’t let go, which is why they have made the cut. And none of this top ten rubbish – I can’t possibly whittle down my list any further.

 

Oracle’s War – Book 2 of The Olympus series by David Hair and Cath Mayo
I loved the layered characterisation of Odysseus and his complex relationships in this intelligent and politically aware retelling of events leading up to the Trojan War. This one has stayed in my memory and I’ve found myself often thinking about it. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones
I’d read this book before – but listening to the excellent narration by Jonathan Broadbent brought home the darker side of the story. It certainly isn’t a children’s read – as the exploitation of the magic kingdom takes some shocking turns, and while Wynne Jones doesn’t go into graphic detail, they are still there. Riveting and thought provoking. See my review.

 

Atlas Alone – Book 4 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
This has been one of the outstanding science fiction series of the last few years for me and this latest slice in the adventure held me to the end. Dee’s driven, edgy character is so compelling – Newman writes these tricky protagonists with amazing skill. See my review.

 

Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick
Alien first contact tales are a staple of science fiction, but rarely have they been covered with such skilled detail, featuring such a self-effacing protagonist as Avery. The second book is also an excellent read. See my review.

 

Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Wildest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer
I picked up this true tale of adventure by accident – and I’m so pleased I did. The author opted to take part on a whim and even at the beginning, was clearly not really prepared for what followed. This fascinating account stayed with me throughout the year. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK Mythos: the Greek Myths retold, written and narrated by Stephen Fry
Listening to this offering while decorating the bathroom sweetened hours of tedious work as Fry’s smooth, chatty manner belied the scholarship and rigor that has gone into this retelling. See my review.

 

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
This is probably the most quirky, extraordinary read of this year’s selection. A series of letters between two protagonists on either side of a savage war – think Romeo and Juliet with knobs on – drives the narrative in this beautiful, desperate book. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK A Room Full of Bones – Book 4 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths
This offering took me completely by surprise. In fact, I’d felt rather fed up with Ruth’s struggles in the previous book – but this story took all the ingredients and ramped up the tension to an unexpectedly heart-rending degree that I still think about… See my review.

 

Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence by James Lovelock
The second non-fiction book in this list, I found Lovelock’s take on our future absolutely fascinating and unexpectedly uplifting. Given he is now over a hundred years old and has been working in a variety of scientific fields until very recently, his opinion is worth reading. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Empty Grave – Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud
This was an unexpected treat. One of Frankie’s chosen series, I wasn’t prepared for the sheer quality of the characterisation and worldbuilding, although I should have been, after thoroughly enjoying the Bartimaeus Trilogy. This final book brought the outstanding series to a triumphant conclusion. It goes without saying that you MUST read the previous four books first. See my review.

 

Sweep of the Blade – Book 4 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
I find this quirky science fiction/fantasy mash-up just goes on getting better and better. I really suffered a profound book hangover after I finished this one – and that doesn’t happen to me all that often. See my review.

 

Circe by Madeline Miller
I’m conscious there is rather a strong Greek myth theme running through this list – but that just goes to show how well-written these books are. And this one is a total joy. The protagonist isn’t pretty or charismatic, so finetunes her magical skills in an effort to prevail alongside sneering relations. And then it all goes wrong… Fabulous, layered characterisation of a powerful woman who has endured a shedload of suffering without it being bleak or self-pitying. See my mini-review.

 

Akin by Emma Donoghue
In these days of serial monogamy and blended families, this interesting, unsentimental book drills down into what – exactly – makes up family. Brilliantly executed and thought provoking. See my review.

 

Lent by Jo Walton
This author is one of the finest, most talented writers in the SFF genre today, so I was thrilled when this one came out. Settling in to read it, I was happily engrossed in 15th century Florence – until a THING happens that changes the whole dynamic. Brilliantly written and completely engrossing, if you were to force me to choose a single outstanding read this year – you’d be a cruel beast for doing so and I’d probably never speak to you again – it would be this one. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK How To Fight a Dragon’s Fury – Book 12 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
While I’d read a number of these books to the grandchildren, for one reason or another, I’d never reached the end, so when I realised we had the complete series on Audible, I started listening to the wonderful David Tennant’s narration. And then came the end… I was listening to this one with tears pouring down my face, unable to complete my chores. Epic fantasy of this calibre, written for reluctant primary school readers, is a rarity. Review to follow.

 

AUDIOBOOK To Say Nothing of the Dog – Book 2 of the Oxford Time Travel series by Connie Willis
This quirky, humorous homage to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat is funny and completely engrossing – a thumping good listen. I loved it and though it isn’t quite as spectacular as her classic, Doomsday Book, that doesn’t prevent it making this list. See my review.

Have you read any of these offerings? What did you think of them? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these books! Wishing everyone a very happy, book-filled 2020…