Category Archives: crime

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.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc War of the Maps by Paul McAuley #Brainfluffbookreview #WaroftheMapsbookreview

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I was delighted to see this offering on Netgalley, as Paul McAuley is always worth reading – I thoroughly enjoyed his cli-fi thriller Austral and the first book in his sci fi series The Quiet War.

BLURB: On a giant artificial world surrounding an artificial sun, one man – a lucidor, a keeper of the peace, a policeman – is on the hunt. His target was responsible for an atrocity, but is too valuable to the government to be truly punished. Instead he has been sent to the frontlines of the war, to use his unique talents on the enemy. So the lucidor has ignored orders, deserted from his job, left his home and thrown his life away, in order to finally claim justice.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The worldbuilding, as ever with McAuley, was both detailed and plausible. But what I liked most of all about this story was that we mostly stayed in the viewpoint of the lawman, known as a lucidor, who is determined to track down a truly horrible antagonist – a murderer who casually commits atrocities, and enjoying watching his victims suffer. Unfortunately, he is also one of the foremost scientific thinkers on the planet who is able to help fight the influx of mutated creatures engulfing villages, countryside and towns, slaughtering humanity, domestic animals and wildlife alike. There are some gripping passages of the ruined landscape where no birds or insects break the silence…

So, who is right – the dogged lucidor who is convinced that Remfrey He should account for the lives he has torn apart? Or the authorities who feel that, in this extremely unusual case, Remfrey He should be allowed to atone for his misdeeds by travelling to the site of the suffering land to assist in beating back the alter women? These grotesque mutations have a social structure resembling ants and gather everything in their path to tear up and reuse it for their own purposes – including people.

Remfrey He is one of the most satisfyingly nasty characters I’ve encountered in a while, and by contrast, I grew to love the lucidor, whose name we hardly ever see. He has adopted his birth name, Thorn, after he retired from his profession of tracking down lawbreakers, when he was known as Lucidor Kyl. He is elderly, tough, resourceful and trusts no one and we’re in his head for a large chunk of the narrative. This story starts off as one man tracking another through an increasingly dangerous landscape, and broadens out as the lucidor is sucked into some of the upheavals caused by the dangerous mutations.

One of the intriguing details is that some people are gifted with particular talents, such as scrying. As well as being brilliant and resourceful, Remfrey He is a silvertongue, with the gift of persuading most people to become his disciples. And the reason why the lucidor was sent after him, is that his gift nullifies the talents of those in close proximity. I liked how that played out, because the consequence is that other people who might be able to successfully apprehend Remfrey He don’t want to work with the lucidor, as he sucks their gift dry.

This isn’t a fast-paced book. McAuley’s habit of writing dense description about every step of the way ensures that we see the world through the lucidor’s eyes and his days of plunging headlong into adventures are well and truly over. But I not only could see the world, I could taste and hear it, as this book swallowed me up and had me engrossed until right up to the end. It’s a gem that deserves to be far better known than it is. Highly recommended by fans of well-written intelligent colony world adventures and epic fantasy. The ebook arc copy of War of the Maps was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

Sunday Post – 22nd 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 everyone else, I’m reeling at how my world has changed. So far we are keeping well, as are the family, but we both have elderly parents. Mothering Sunday is something we have always celebrated and when we discovered that the Interflora service simply isn’t able to deliver flowers to my mother and mother-in-law – Himself insisted that we deliver them. Fortunately it’s doable, as both sets of parents live within a mile of each other. It’s a bit of a journey, though we made good time as the roads were a lot quieter than usual. We sat in the car and spoke on the phone, facing them through their windows as they opened their cards and admired the flowers. And we were able to blow kisses and tell our mothers how much we honour and love them, looking forward to the time when we can hug them again…

On Friday, my daughter and the family were moving, so Himself and I went to help. It was my job to keep little Eliza entertained in the front room, while furniture and bags of clothes and possessions were being loaded into the van. She is such a sunshine soul, and we had loads of fun together, but towards the end of the day, she was increasingly unhappy at the strangeness of it all – it’s so hard when you can’t explain what is going on. Himself was helping to carry furniture – fortunately they are only moving a short distance away – and reassemble bunk beds, etc. We staggered home around 8 pm, feeling a bit shattered – it’s times like these I realise I’m getting older… Fortunately, I heard from my daughter this morning and they are settling in. Eliza’s first night in the new home went reasonably well, too.

Last week I read:

AUDIOBOOK The Sword of Summer – Book 1 of the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series by Rick Riordan
Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers. One day, he’s tracked down by an uncle he barely knows—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. Uncle Randolph tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.
Rick Riordan does this so very well… Magnus is an engaging protagonist – brave, principled and often very funny. The retelling of the pantheon of Norse gods through the lens of a modern, streetwise teenager is entertaining and engrossing, seeing as Riordan’s superpower is also handling excellent action scenes. I’m so glad I’ve more of these books on my Kindle.




No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished – Book 3 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron
When Julius overthrew his mother and took control of his clan, he thought he was doing right by everyone. But sharing power isn’t part of any proper dragon’s vocabulary, and with one seat still open on the new ruling Council, all of Heartstriker is ready to do whatever it takes to get their claws on it, including killing the Nice Dragon who got them into this mess in the first place. To keep his clan together and his skin intact, Julius is going to have to find a way to make his bloodthirsty siblings play fair.
This is shaping up to be one of my very favourite urban fantasy series in a long time… It doesn’t hurt that it features dragons, of course. But I love the progression, whereby at the end of each book some important new questions are raised, while the current story is being wrapped up. Thank goodness there is more Heartstriker awesomeness to dive into.




Interdicted Space – Book 2 of the Interstellar Enforcement Agency by Gillian Andrews
The universe needs saving, but is this makeshift crew really the stuff of superheroes?
Nivala’s first interstellar patrol is interrupted by extremely unwelcome visitors. Mallivan may have to take them on board; he doesn’t have to like it. His vociferous crewmembers certainly don’t. He is right to be concerned. The youngest member of the team is in imminent, grave danger…
While I enjoyed the first book, I loved this one. The story really took off with loads of exciting, well written action featuring characters I cared about. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this series, is that Humanity isn’t behaving at all well – and Mallivan is regarded in some quarters as a traitor to his species…




War of the Maps by Paul McAuley
On a giant artificial world surrounding an artificial sun, one man – a lucidor, a keeper of the peace, a policeman – is on the hunt. His target was responsible for an atrocity, but is too valuable to the government to be truly punished. Instead he has been sent to the frontlines of the war, to use his unique talents on the enemy. So the lucidor has ignored orders, deserted from his job, left his home and thrown his life away, in order to finally claim justice.
I saw this one on Netgalley and immediately requested to read it – McAuley is one of my favourite authors. And this has been a solid joy. The world is under attack from a variety of horribly mutated creatures – and one of the few people who can make inroads on this terrible invasion is also a murdering monster. Do you overlook his crimes and discount his victims for the sake of enlisting his help in a desperate struggle for survival? Which is one of the fascinating issues addressed in this beautifully written, engrossing adventure which deserves a LOT more attention than it’s currently receiving. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

Review of NETGALLEY arc Interdicted Space – Book 2 of the Interstellar Enforcement Agency series by Gillian Andrews

Friday Face-off featuring The Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne

Review of Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Review of HARDBACK Recursion by Blake Crouch

Sunday Post – 15th March 2020

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

#Lifeathome with #children during #Selfquarantine: more excellent #online and #handsonactivities for #reading, #geography, #science, and #art courtesy of @anneclairewriter https://jeanleesworld.com/2020/03/20/lifeathome-with-children-during-selfquarantine-more-excellent-online-and-handsonactivities-for-reading-geography-science-and-art-courtesy-of-anneclarewriter/ Jean is letting us into her life via her fabulous blog as she has to adjust her daily routine – teaching online, as well as educating and occupying a set of lively twin boys and a clever daughter…

Deadly Companions: a reading list for the pandemic https://earthianhivemind.net/2020/03/20/deadly-companions-a-reading-list-for-the-pandemic/ My personal response is to dive into escapist adventures and shut it all out – but this is for those of you who would like to confront the whole business headon and see what history and excellent fiction has to offer in the way of lessons…

The Ballad of the Dunny Roll https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ia0bfWbOLjY If you want a drop of humour to leaven the misery – this Aussie skit on our inexplicable lust for more toilet paper than we’ll ever need is hilarious…

A shoutout to women over forty! https://rantingalong.blog/2020/03/20/a-shout-out-to-women-over-forty/ This tribute to those of us no longer in the first bloom of youth makes for an enjoyable read, too…

All those deleted drafts. Let’s discuss. https://feedyourfictionaddiction.com/2020/03/all-those-deleted-drafts-lets-discuss.html For the bloggers – does this chime with your experiences?

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

Friday Faceoff – And all addictions were brown. Coffee, chocolate and his eyes… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffbrowncovers

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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 being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring BROWN covers. I’ve selected The Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne. I haven’t yet read any of the books, though the first one is on my TBR…

 

The Naturalist was published by Thomas & Mercer in October 2017. It’s rare I want to reach out and STROKE a cover, but that is exactly what I want to do with this one. I also very much like that the font is given sufficient attention. It might be relatively white and plain – but just look at the way it pops against that rich brown. I get the sense the colour choice is deliberate rather than because nobody could be bothered to consider anything else. I love the way the title and author fonts appear to be sinking into that luxuriant coat. This is so nearly my favourite…

 

Published in March 2018 by Thomas & Mercer, they’ve nailed the cover of this second book in the series, too. It is apparently such a simple design, but I cannot take my eyes off it. The richness of the fallen leaves half covering bones… the fact we cannot quite make out exactly what they are is tantalising, adding to the sense of mystery. And again, the title and author fonts have been masterfully handled. I love the clean uncluttered look of this classy offering. This is how covers should look, people! Not that I’m ranting. At all. And in case you hadn’t already guessed – this one is my favourite.

 

Murder Theory, the third book in The Naturalist series, was published in February 2019 by Thomas & Mercer and once again, features an eye-catching natural scene that mesmerises. The fractured wood with the spatters of blood flicking across the title and author fonts is so very clever and telling. And no chatter or blurb to detract from the power of that design. Another lovely, well crafted cover that makes me want to pick this one up…

 

Thomas & Mercer published Dark Pattern in October 2019 – clearly going for a quick-release strategy to keep readers keen to continue to follow the story. It doesn’t hurt that they also have produced stormingly good covers to help with the marketing. I love that stick, which also looks a bit like a snake with an open mouth. The way the fern encroaches on the font adds to the pleasing detail. I really love all these covers – and just wish that more books had the same classy look. Thomas & Mercer rock! Which is your favourite?






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.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter #Brainfluffbookreview #WinterborneHomeforVengeanceandValorbookreview

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It was the title of this one that caught my eye – and the thought that it might appeal to my rather picky grandson, given his love of the Lemony Snickett series. But I was also keen to tuck into this rather gothic-sounding children’s adventure…

BLURB: April didn’t mean to start the fire. She wasn’t even the one who broke the vase. She had absolutely no intention of becoming the only person who knows that Gabriel Winterborne, the missing-and-presumed-dead billionaire, is neither missing nor dead and is actually living in the basement of Winterborne House, sharpening his swords and looking for vengeance. Now that April knows Gabriel Winterborne is alive, it’s up to her to keep him that way. But there’s only so much a twelve-year-old girl can do, so April must turn to the other orphans for help. Together, they’ll have to unravel the riddle of a missing heir and a creepy legend, and find a secret key, before the only home they’ve ever known is lost to them forever.

This book starts with a bang as April finds herself caught up in a museum fire, giving us a good opportunity to bond with the main protagonist. I found April to be very engaging – she’s an orphan who has bounced around the highly unsatisfactory care system and been with a number of foster-families. She could so easily have been a victim, but is far too tough and wary – although her dogged belief that her mother will, one day, come for her is a poignant reminder of her vulnerability.

After finding herself living in the Winterborne House with the lovely, generous Ms Nelson and a group of other orphans, April becomes aware that all is not what it seems – and the adventure takes off from there. Fast-paced and occasionally taking the children’s ingenuity and stamina beyond the bounds of belief, I nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed the rollicking story.

However, my main grizzle is that this story was left on something of a cliffhanger ending, and neither Goodreads nor Amazon have indicated that this is the first in a series. Obviously Carter is assuming there will be another book, but it would be nice if her young readers had some reassurance of that fact, too. And yes… I have knocked a point off, as I happen to think it’s important. The ebook arc copy of Winterborne House for Vengeance and Valor was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Murder Your Darlings – Book 3 of the Francis Meadowes mysteries by Mark McCrum #Brainfluffbookreview #MurderYourDarlingsbookreview

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I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, The Festival Murders – see my review here, so was delighted to be approved to read this third book charting Francis Meadowes’ adventures…

BLURB: Francis Meadowes is soaking up the late summer sun in Italy, running a creative writing course at the beautiful Villa Giulia, deep in the remote Umbrian countryside. Recruited by the villa’s owners, Stephanie and Gerry, Francis’s students include snooty, irritating Poppy and her ex-ambassador husband Duncan, eccentric Northern Irishman Liam, quirky, self-styled ‘Hampstead Jewess’ Zoe, bossy Scottish Diana, kooky young American Sasha, mysterious ‘spy’ Tony and restless civil servant Roz. But what should be a magical week under the Italian sun turns into something far more sinister when one of the group is found dead, and the local police quickly turn to Francis for help. Uncovering betrayal, lies, secrets and old scores to be settled, Francis soon realizes something very dark is lurking beneath the genteel and civilized veneer . . .

If you are looking for a foot-to-the-floor, non-stop action adventure, then this one isn’t for you. McCrum wonderfully conveys the glorious scenery and magical surroundings of this creative writing course by the steady accretion of details and description. His prose style is readable and accomplished, as Francis finds himself unwillingly sucked into the horrible murder. As in the first book, I found Francis to be a really attractive protagonist, and it was easy to empathise with his rather detached interest in everyone around him. Writers tend to be a bit vampiric about their own lives, always wondering if they can use what happens around them as material for another book… McCrum uses this side of Francis’ character to very good effect. I thought the crafting of the whodunit was also exceptionally well done – there were a raft of suspects, most with plausible reasons why they should want the victim done away with. But I couldn’t work out who was the murderer until the denouement, though flipping back, the clues were clearly there. Nicely done – and not always the case in cosy mysteries.

Francis’ own involvement was both bizarre and yet believable – and I very much liked the fact we weren’t allowed to forget that someone had died. Particularly with the second death, there was a real sense of shock and loss at the wicked waste of life, which not only upped the stakes, but made it matter that the perpetrator was caught. Overall, this was a classy effort and I shall certainly be following these mysteries and reading more. Highly recommended. The ebook arc copy of Murder Your Darlings was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10


Sunday Post – 7th 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.

I was AWOL last week – as I was ill and in a rather dark place, I didn’t have much to report, other than a dreary recital of my misery. Fortunately, I am now recovering and fit once more for civilised company. I have finally completed Mantivore Warrior which has contributed to feeling so bleak – I always struggle once I’ve finished writing a book and as this is the end of the series, it’s a double whammy. But at the same time, I’m also glad to see it done.

Himself is also recovering from a heavy cold. The weather has mirrored our mood – February proved to be the wettest on record, and after day after day of pelting rain and grey skies felt neverending. Daffodils and primulas now flowering in the garden are brave splinters of sunshine in the winter gloom…

Last week I read:
Death of a Bean Counter – Book 12 of the Maggy Thorsen mysteries by Sandra Balzo
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 fiancé, sheriff Jake Pavlik, makes an official call on the coffeehouse’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…
This is an entertaining whodunit featuring official nosy-parker Maggy, who decides to unofficially discover who killed Kip, despite being engaged to the local sheriff. Review to follow.


AUDIOBOOK Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess…
I was blown away by Circe last year. So treated myself to the Audible version of this one and I wasn’t disappointed. The writing is lyrically beautiful without losing pace or compromising the nuanced characterisation. And despite knowing the ending, I was gripped throughout. Review to follow.


Feathertide by Beth Cartwright
Marea was born to be different – a girl born covered in the feathers of a bird, and kept hidden in a crumbling house full of secrets. When her new tutor, the Professor, arrives with his books, maps and magical stories, he reveals a world waiting outside the window and her curiosity is woken. Caught in the desire to discover her identity and find out why she has feathers fluttering down her back like golden thistledown, she leaves everything she has ever known and goes in search of the father she has never met.
The writing is lyrically beautiful and the setting and worldbuilding is wonderful, but I did feel the pacing and narrative needed more work. Review to follow.


The Last Protector – Book 4 of the Lovett and Marwood series by Andrew Taylor
Brother against brother. Father against son. Friends turned into enemies. No one in England wants a return to the bloody days of the Civil War. But Oliver Cromwell’s son, Richard, has abandoned his exile and slipped back into England. The consequences could be catastrophic.
James Marwood, a traitor’s son turned government agent, is tasked with uncovering Cromwell’s motives. But his assignment is complicated by his friend – the regicide’s daughter, Cat Lovett – who knew the Cromwells as a child, and who now seems to be hiding a secret of her own about the family.
I read the stormingly good first book in this series, Ashes of London – see my review – and so was thrilled to see this one appear on Netgalley – and be approved to read it. I inhaled it, finding it impossible to put down. Review to follow.


A Dying Fall – Book 5 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths
Ruth’s old friend Dan Golding dies in a house fire. But before he died Dan wrote to Ruth telling her that he had made a ground-breaking archaeological discovery. Could this find be linked to his death and who are the sinister neo-Nazi group who were threatening Dan? Ruth makes the trip to Blackpool to investigate, wary of encroaching on DCI Harry Nelson’s home ground. Soon Ruth is embroiled in a mystery that involves the Pendle Witches, King Arthur and – scariest of all – Nelson’s mother.
This series is one of my favourite whodunits – see my reviews of The Crossing Places, The Janus Stone and A Room Full of Bonesyet again, Griffiths provided an excellent adventure, while continuing the fascinating dynamic between her main characters. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce

Friday Faceoff featuring Skeleton Crew by Stephen King

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Night Train to Murder – Book 8 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Greene

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Night Train to Murder – Book 8 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green #Brainfluffbookreview #NightTraintoMurderbookreview

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I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this witty paranormal murder mystery romp – see my reviews of Till Sudden Death Do Us Part, Murder in the Dark, Into the Thinnest of Air, Death Shall Come, and Very Important Corpses so was delighted when I saw another addition to this series was about to be published and immediately requested the Netgalley arc.

BLURB: When Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny are asked to escort a VIP on the late-night train to Bath, it would appear to be a routine case. The Organisation has acquired intelligence that an attempt is to be made on Sir Dennis Gregson’s life as he travels to Bath to take up his new position as Head of the British Psychic Weapons Division. Ishmael’s mission is to ensure that Sir Dennis arrives safely. How could anyone orchestrate a murder in a crowded railway carriage without being noticed and with no obvious means of escape?

I’ve truncated the rather spoilery blurb and my advice would be that you avoid it to get the greatest enjoyment out of this read. I would also add that if this one appeals, don’t be put off by it being the eighth book in the series. Green structures his books so they can be read as stand-alones and although there is an overarching narrative, it isn’t one packed with lots of incident so that you can dip in and out of this series with relative ease.

Green specialises in locked room murder mysteries. This one was a doozy, although I had guessed the culprit well before the denouement. That said, it really didn’t matter all that much as far as I was concerned. I have grown very fond of Jones and Penny and I was also intrigued by the sudden appearance of the psychics and their impact on the espionage industry Jones is so heavily immersed in. I’d like to think that Mr Nemo will be making a reappearance in a later book.

These stories are firmly tongue-in-cheek, and while there wasn’t quite so much humour in this one, there were still a couple of moments when I laughed out loud. I enjoyed the grilling of the suspects and the claustrophobic atmosphere that Green is so good at developing. But for me, the highlight came right at the end when there is a sudden, almighty reveal that is a game-changer for this series and I am hoping very much that Green won’t be waiting too long before he produces book nine. I have to know what’s going to happen next!

Highly recommended for fans of paranormal murder mysteries that don’t take themselves too seriously. The ebook arc copy of Night Train to Murder was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook P is for Pluto – Book 3 of the Molly Marbles mystery by Jackie Kingon #Brainfluffbookreview #PisforPlutobookreview

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This is the third offering in this quirky series, – see my reviews of Chocolate, Chocolate Moons and Sherlock Mars. The author contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in reading a review copy of P is for Pluto. I was intrigued to see where she’d take this story, after reading the previous books, so happily agreed…

BLURB: Molly is heading to Pluto. Send in the clones…
Molly’s Bistro is opening a new branch of the famous Martian restaurant on Pluto. But the opening is delayed when their chef is murdered. With the Pluto Police taking a relaxed approach to crime, Molly heads to Pluto to help crack the case and get the restaurant back on track. But she will have to face clone confusion, kidnapping chocolatiers, and the spice mafia if she is to solve this mystery.

Don’t let the fact that you haven’t read the previous two books in the series worry you – they are only very loosely linked and some time has gone by since the previous case, anyway, so you shouldn’t flounder if you crash midway into this series. I read quite a lot – but I can safely say that Kingon’s quirky mix of humour and space opera sci fi is completely original. To be honest, while the investigation bubbles along and is clearly the narrative drive for the story, it is more of a reason why Molly and eventually her family pitch up on Pluto. I didn’t really care all that much about who killed Herb Tarragon, although the denouement and explanation for the crime is well handled and it concludes entirely satisfactorily.

For me, the draw of this book and the reason why I kept turning the pages, was to find out what Molly and her two sidekicks, Trenton and Jersey would get up to, next. It’s an oddly uneven book. The characterisation is sketchy, as there are times when I would have liked to know more about Molly’s thoughts, particularly when she is in danger, which is frequently. There are random time jumps when days pass and we have no idea what the characters are doing – the sort of detail the picky editor in me notices and normally would make me seriously consider tossing the book aside in disgust. But I don’t. Because Kingon’s superpower is the weird blend she achieves when scene setting, managing to deliver a layered world and a lot of facts about it, wrapped up with some humorous asides including a fair dollop of science – often with a punning joke. Likewise, her world has entertainment, with stars and personalities, who are alluded to, along with historical details which are often comically wrong. I am struck by how much lighter her humorous touch is in this offering, which occasionally had me laughing out loud.

Molly is a foodie and while there are plenty of chocolate moments – there is nonetheless a slight bite to the writing which I really enjoyed. Molly’s friends, who often accompany her, are clearly loyal and concerned for her safety – but that doesn’t stop them freeloading wherever possible. Her twin daughters are very vain and her husband is a workaholic, but that’s alright, because so is Molly… Recommended for fans of quirky cosy mysteries set in space. The author provided me with a review copy, in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10