Category Archives: crime

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Murder Takes a Turn – Book 5 of the Langham and Dupré Mystery series by Eric Brown #Brainfluffbookreview #MurderTakesaTurnbookreview

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I picked this one up because the author is one I enjoy – as well as writing this historical murder mystery series, he also has written a number of successful science fiction novels. Indeed, Engineman, has one of the most memorable backdrops I’ve encountered in science fiction, outside a C.J. Cherryh novel.

When Langham’s literary agent receives a cryptic letter inviting him to spend the weekend at the grand Cornish home of successful novelist Denbigh Connaught, Charles Elder seems reluctant to attend. What really happened between Elder and Connaught during the summer of 1917, nearly forty years before – and why has it had such a devastating effect on Charles? Accompanying his agent to Connaught House, Langham and his wife Maria discover that Charles is not the only one to have received a letter. But why has Denbigh Connaught gathered together a group of people who each bear him a grudge? When a body is discovered in Connaught’s study, the ensuing investigation uncovers dark secrets that haunt the past of each and every guest – including Charles Elder himself …

And if the cover and tone of the blurb remind you of an Agatha Christie novel, you’re absolutely right. The way the book unfolds is clearly a nod in the direction of the Grand Dame of Crime. I liked the main protagonists – it’s a refreshing change to have a dear old chap like Charles Elder right in the middle of things and his business partner Maria and her husband Donald are the couple who doing the sleuthing on this case. The location – a country house in an isolated part of Cornwall – is classically cosy mystery and the method in which the unfortunate victim dies is suitably macabre.

This is an ideal summer holiday read, which plenty of twists and turns and an entertaining variety of possible suspects. I did guess the identity of the murderer before the final big reveal – but only because I read all Agatha Christie’s novels longer ago than I care to think. That said, it didn’t put a huge dent in my enjoyment, because this was more about being bathed in the experience of revisiting an imagined past that I’m sure never existed – although I wished it had. Recommended for fans of well written historical cosy mysteries.
8/10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Post – 1st July, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #BrainfluffSundayPost

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

Sorry this is late – whether it’s the weather or the news below – I woke up with a dreadful headache and felt grim throughout the day, so I didn’t work at the computer screen for obvious reasons…

A momentous week! On Saturday evening, the latest member of the family joined us – my daughter gave birth to little Eliza. Mother and baby are both well. Needless to say, I’m thrilled and relieved that poor Rebecca is no longer so heavily pregnant in this heat and that Eliza has arrived safely. I’m looking forward to meeting her on Wednesday.

Other news – on Tuesday, I started my Poetry Workshop, which went really well – a relief. It was also my birthday, though the celebration went on hold as Himself was on late shift this week and it is so hot, we haven’t felt much like going out for the planned meal. On Wednesday, I met up with my sister who gave me her presents and we went shopping together. I also attended Petworth Festival with our writing group, where Geoff Alnutt was performing his poems as a homage to Dr Seuss. He was supported by two other great performers – Audi Masarati and Steve Tasane, author of the amazing Child I. On a wonderful sunny evening, we heard a marvellous variety of quality performance poetry. Mhairi came over on Friday as we monitored sales figures and planned the upcoming launch for Breathing Space which will be published on 8th July. And here is the cover – I’m delighted with it as I think it works really well with the rest of the trilogy.

This week I have read:

The Privilege of Peace – Book 3 of the Peacemaker’s trilogy by Tanya Huff
Warden Torin Kerr has put her past behind her and built a life away from the war and everything that meant. From the good, from the bad. From the heroics, from the betrayal. She’s created a place and purpose for others like her, a way to use their training for the good of the Confederation. She has friends, family, purpose. Unfortunately, her past refuses to grant her the same absolution. Big Yellow, the ship form of the plastic aliens responsible for the war, returns. The Silsviss test the strength of the Confederation. Torin has to be Gunnery Sergeant Kerr once again and find a way to keep the peace.
I was delighted when this one popped up on my Kindle, as Himself had pre–ordered it. Huff is one of our must-have authors… And this book brims with action and adventure, bringing this excellent military science fiction series to a triumphant conclusion.

 

Murder Takes a Turn – Book 5 of the Langham and Dupré by Eric Brown
When Langham’s literary agent receives a cryptic letter inviting him to spend the weekend at the grand Cornish home of successful novelist Denbigh Connaught, Charles Elder seems reluctant to attend. What really happened between Elder and Connaught during the summer of 1917, nearly forty years before – and why has it had such a devastating effect on Charles?

Accompanying his agent to Connaught House, Langham and his wife Maria discover that Charles is not the only one to have received a letter. But why has Denbigh Connaught gathered together a group of people who each bear him a grudge? When a body is discovered in Connaught’s study, the ensuing investigation uncovers dark secrets that haunt the past of each and every guest – including Charles Elder himself …
If this one sounds as if it has a resemblance to Agatha Christie’s mysteries, you’re right – it does. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the backstory behind the murder mystery.

 

Truth Sister by Phil Gilvin
The year is 2149. The Women’s Republic of Anglia seeks to harness forgotten technologies from the time when men ruled the world. Naturals are second-class citizens, while women born through cloning are the true children of the Republic. When Clara Perdue graduates from the prestigious Academy, she is ready to do her part to support the Republic and bring about a better future for all.

But when she stumbles on information that the Republic has tried to keep hidden, she begins to realise that the society she has been taught to believe in and trained to defend is not all that it seems. A secret from Clara’s past puts herself, her family, and her friends in danger, and Clara must choose between subservience and rebellion.
This Brit-based near-future dystopian adventure is an engrossing read that takes Clara from a  priggish, narrow-minded bigot to someone who is convinced that men also have a right to live in the new Republic. This is a gritty read with plenty of adventure and food for thought.

 

My posts during the last week:

Sunday Post – 24th June 2018

Review of Windswept by Adam Rakunas

Teaser Tuesday featuring Murder Takes a Turn – Book 5 of the Langham and Dupré series by Eric Brown

Can’t Wait Wednesday featuring Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Drop by Drop – Book 1 of the Step by Step series by Morgan Llewelyn

Friday Face-off featuring Red Rising – Book 1 of the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Privilege of Peace – Book 3 of the Peacekeeprs trilogy by Tanya Huff

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

Thursday Doors – Irish Bears https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2018/06/29/thursday-doors-irish-bears/ This is a must-see article – those underground pics are amazing…

For the love of libraries http://writerunboxed.com/2018/06/26/for-the-love-of-libraries/ Like a lot of people, libraries hold a special place in my heart…

Recap post – …if yeez had a good pair of fitba’ boots, Jesus wanted yeez for a sunbeam… https://seumasgallacher.com/2018/06/26/a-recap-post-if-yeez-had-a-good-pair-of-fitba-boots-jesus-wanted-yeez-for-a-sunbeam/ Successful thriller writer, Seumas Gallacher has dusted off his memories of playing footy a lifetime ago in honour of a certain tournament going on somewhere…

Stop Lying! Everyone Knows You’re a Complete Fraud https://authorkristenlamb.com/2018/06/stop-lying-fraud-impostor/ Kristen Lamb’s confession rang a few bells with yours truly…

Worldbuilding – Creating your alien life http://earthianhivemind.net/2018/06/27/wordbuilding-creating-alien-life/ Those of you who know my writing will understand why I’m particularly drawn to this one!

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

Teaser Tuesday – 26th June, 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:

Murder Takes a Turn – Book 5 of the Langham and Dupré Mystery series by Eric Brown

64% Greaves said, ‘I’ve had everyone gather in the library, sir.’
‘Very good.’ Mallory consulted his notebook. ‘Let’s have Lady Cecilia Albrighton along first, shall we?’
Greaves left the room and closed the door behind him.

BLURB: A country house weekend in rural Cornwall ends in murder and mayhem for crime-writer sleuth Donald Langham and his wife Maria.

When Langham’s literary agent receives a cryptic letter inviting him to spend the weekend at the grand Cornish home of successful novelist Denbigh Connaught, Charles Elder seems reluctant to attend. What really happened between Elder and Connaught during the summer of 1917, nearly forty years before – and why has it had such a devastating effect on Charles?

Accompanying his agent to Connaught House, Langham and his wife Maria discover that Charles is not the only one to have received a letter. But why has Denbigh Connaught gathered together a group of people who each bear him a grudge?

When a body is discovered in Connaught’s study, the ensuing investigation uncovers dark secrets that haunt the past of each and every guest – including Charles Elder himself …

I picked the Netgalley arc up on a whim, wanting a bit more murder mystery in my life – and so far have thoroughly enjoyed this trip into the past, where murders occur in lovely houses where a number of people have gathered who don’t know or like each other very much…

Friday Faceoff – Murder Most Foul… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFace-off

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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, at present this meme is being nurtured by Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog. This week the theme is a cover featuring a murder scene, so I’ve selected A Cold Day for Murder – Book 1 of the Kate Shugak mysteries by Dana Stabenow, see my review here.

 

This edition was produced by Gere Donovan Press in December 2012 and it’s apparent from the design and emphasis on the author font and title, that this is already an established, successful series. That said, while I very much like the chilly landscape, I wonder if that ugly red blob announcing this is the first book in the series really has to be there.

 

 

Published in February 2011 by Poisoned Pen Press, this is my favourite. The snowscape is effectively bleak, while that pool of blood provides a real visual shock – so effective against the stark white snow. I also like the way the red is also introduced into the title font, mirroring the artwork. The overall effect is both eye-catching and eerie – just what you want with a murder mystery set in Alaska.

 

This edition, published by Gene Donovan Books in March 2011, is frankly a mess. Those ugly blocks top and bottom overlaying the artwork merely have me peering through them to try and work out what is going on underneath, thus ignoring the vital author and title font. And when I do focus on the narrow strip in the middle – it’s not even a coherent image. There is a bisected face of the protagonist chopped in half to make way for a vista of a snowy mountain landscape. It seems they are trying to cram onto the cover far too much without executing any of the elements with much thought or care.

 

This Italian edition, produced by Newton Compton in 2011, is certainly a lot better than the previous effort, but has evidently decided to play upon the popularity of the CSI franchise on TV. That would be a smart move if this book was a police procedural with a heavy emphasis on the forensic details of the crime – but it’s nothing of the sort. Instead it focuses on Kate Shugak, an Innuit ex-police officer struggling to cope after a traumatic incident left her professional career in tatters… As a result all that emphasis on CSI merely gives readers the wrong impression about this enjoyable, well-written whodunit. At least the image is suitably eye-catching and effective.

 

This edition, published in December 1998 by Book on Tapes Inc., is my second favourite. I love the simplicity of the cover, which nonetheless conveys the stark setting and Kate Shugak’s isolation really effectively. The font is well designed to be part of the overall artwork and as a result, looks stylishly classy and eye-catching. Which is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc #Furyborn – Book 1 of the Empirium series by #Claire Legrand #Brainfluffbookreview #bookreview

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It was the cover that grabbed my attention – and when I read enough of the blurb to realise it was an epic fantasy allll about two powerful women, I wanted to read on…

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

The blurb above gives a quick overview of the two main protagonists in this fast-paced epic fantasy, full of drama and emotion. Told in third person viewpoint with Rielle and Eliana featuring in alternate chapters, we build up a strong picture of how events lead to the shocking and bloody scene at the start of the story. I am still in two minds as to whether that works. Himself read a couple of chapters and once he realised who exactly Rielle was, he broke off announcing that it wasn’t worth slogging through a whole book when he already knew what had happened to one of the main characters. While I take his point, I am glad that I got swept up into this violent, difficult journey. I found the contrast between both of main characters intriguing. Eliana is definitely the more damaged of the two at the beginning of the book having been trained as an assassin and committed a series of bloody murders to keep her family safe. She is angry and cynical – and at times very funny.

This book would have been a lot less readable without the shafts of humour peppered throughout. At the beginning, Rielle is clearly the softer character, although she has had a tragic start in life by losing her mother in terrible circumstances, when only five years old. But circumstances and destiny push these two young women such, that by the end of the book, it is Rielle, who is the desperate, violent character driven by circumstances beyond her control and Eliana, whose cynical veneer is being stripped away in a desperate hunt to save those she loves.

Legrand can certainly write with the brakes off – an accomplishment that is harder than she makes it look. It would be all too easy to keep writing at full throttle, so that the light and shade is lost in amongst all that heightened emotion. She avoids that by peopling the world with strong supporting characters, so that we see these frightening women at their most vulnerable, as well as in ferocious attack mode. I also appreciated the world, which she effectively filters through the perceptions and knowledge of our main characters without resorting to boring info dumps.

All in all, this is an accomplished, full-on epic fantasy dealing with the themes of power and its corrupting influence, and what makes us human. It is a strong start to what promises to be a gripping series. Highly recommended for all fans of this genre. While I obtained an arc of Furyborn from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review of KINDLE Ebook A Pair of Docks – Book 1 of the Derivatives of Displacement by Jennifer Ellis

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I’ll be honest – I’m not quite sure how this book ended up on my Kindle. I have a hunch Himself bought it, but however it got there, I’m really pleased it did.

Fourteen-year-old Abbey Sinclair likes to spend her afternoons in the physics lab learning about momentum and gravitational pull. But her practical scientific mind is put to the test when her older brother, Simon, discovers a mysterious path of stones that allows them, along with Abbey’s twin, Caleb, to travel back and forth between their world and what appears to be…the future. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones who know about the stones, and they soon realize their lives are in danger from a man known only as Mantis. Abbey, Caleb, and Simon must follow a twisting trail of clues that will lead them from their autistic neighbor, Mark, to a strange professor who claims to know the rules of the stones, and to multiple futures—some of whose inhabitants don’t want to stay put.

This book is categorised as a Children’s book, but please don’t let that put you off. Given the complexity of the story, the layering of the characters and the pacing, it feels far more like a YA offering to me. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The time travel element has been done very well, with the initial hook pulling the reader into the story and then learning the very rich backstory as the adventure continues. The story progression and overall pacing are deftly handled.

Abbey is one of twins, and I enjoyed the fact that the siblings – along with their older brother – get together to try and sort out what is happening. Given they have very busy parents, they are quite a tight-knit unit, although that doesn’t prevent there being strains in their relationship. Ellis has provided a strong protagonist. Nerdy and very clever, Abbey is also observant and people-smart. I did enjoy her awareness, as I have become just a little tired of young protagonists who seem to do nothing but lurch from one major mistake to another.

There is an atmosphere of quiet menace pervading this book, which works very well and had me turning the pages long after I should have put the light out and gone to sleep. As for the antagonists, it was also refreshing to have nuanced, clever villains who are convinced they are doing nothing terribly wrong. In fact, it seemed to me that this book could quite as easily have been written from the viewpoint of at least one of them, desperately trying to search for a lost relative, and have us all terribly sympathetic with him.

The ending was suitably climactic, but left some important questions unanswered, and I am delighted that I have the sequel also on my Kindle as this is a world that won’t leave me alone. Highly recommended for fans of time travel adventures.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NEGALLEY arc #Obscura by #Joe Hart #Brainfluffbookreview #book review

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I am a sucker for near future crime and recently there’s been so many excellent examples – so when I read the premise for this offering, I immediately requested it. I’m so glad I did…

In the near future, an aggressive and terrifying new form of dementia is affecting victims of all ages. The cause is unknown, and the symptoms are disturbing. Dr. Gillian Ryan is on the cutting edge of research and desperately determined to find a cure. She’s already lost her husband to the disease, and now her young daughter is slowly succumbing as well. After losing her funding, she is given the unique opportunity to expand her research. She will travel with a NASA team to a space station where the crew has been stricken with symptoms of a similar inexplicable psychosis—memory loss, trances, and violent, uncontrollable impulses.

That’s as much of the chatty blurb as I’m prepared to reveal, but the brilliant thing about nefarious scheming on a space ship or station on a planet like Mars – everyone is trapped. Gillian is a brilliant, likeable woman with some profound emotional scars after the tragedy that overwhelmed her family – and unlike most of the others on the ship, she isn’t keen to be in space for a moment longer than is necessary. She takes the decision to stay awake and continue working through the voyage to Mars as she is running out of time to find a solution – when she realises that something isn’t right…

She teeters on the edge of meltdown, as the loneliness, her longing to be back with her sick daughter – and her addiction to the medicine she was taking during her recovery from a serious car crash – all take their toll. So when she begins to feel that someone else is also on the ship, she has to accept the fact that she is losing her mind.

Often, when the intense atmosphere is built up in these types of psychological thrillers, once we learn the reason why our protagonist is in such a lather, the whole episode falls rather flat. It’s why this sub-genre isn’t one my favourites – I’ve been disappointed too often. However, that’s not the case in this tightly constructed, beautifully plotted gem. I loved the whole story arc – including the climactic, action-filled denouement. Plus that final amazing twist… I haven’t read any of Hart’s work before – but I’ll be reading more of it in the future if this is an indication of his writing talent. Highly recommended for fans of futuristic murder mystery thrillers. While I obtained an arc of Obscura from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10