Category Archives: daily life

Review of Indie Ebook Removed – Book 1 of the Nogiku series by S.J. Pajonas #Brainfluffbookreview #Removedbookreview

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I enjoyed Crash Land on Kurai so wanted more of this interesting world where most of the survivors of the human race happen to be Japanese and go back to their ancient customs and roots in a post-apocalyptic world.

Can she piece together the truth before Earth’s last city tears itself apart? It’s easy for Sanaa to ignore the first signs of trouble. After all, she’s living her dream with a job and life she loves. But when she’s reassigned as a data analyst for a mysterious, well-connected man, she starts to piece together the alarming reality. Corrupt clans vie for control of the city, desperate for a ticket off the dying planet.

I really liked this one. Sanaa is a hard-working youngster, driven to try and help alleviate many of the problems holding up humanity’s flight to the stars, while living in the last large underground city. However, time is running out. The Earth’s crust is breaking up and the climate is steadily deteriorating. Sanaa has always assumed that she would continue to pursue her studies, having worked very hard to distinguish herself. And then one day it all changes. She is yanked away from her friends and the job she loves and told she needs to pursue a different path – while not really understanding what that path is. This could have been a really hard sell – that our lively, intelligent protagonist is completely derailed from her life’s ambitions and yet somehow goes along with the flow without creating too many waves. However, Pajonas has been clever in setting up the world where she is an orphan living with her aunt and her lover – a world where obedience and doing your best is highly prized in a society teetering on the edge of obliteration.

In many ways, this story is comfortingly familiar to anyone who reads this genre in that we have a youngster immersed in what they believe to be their life’s ambition, often with the difficult start, and doing very well. At some stage, everything suddenly falls apart as they are forced into embracing a far more difficult, often darker occupation and in following this path, on the advice of some mysterious mentor, they encounter romance.

What I think makes this one stand out, is the complexity of the characterisation and the layers of society and sheer detail we get of Sanaa’s everyday life. This gives us a greater understanding of not only her actions, but her thoughts and her doubts. While the romance was predictable, I was relieved there were no major quarrels or upsets and it is genuinely sweet. One interesting difference was that Sanaa had previously experienced two very unsatisfactory love affairs and talks quite frankly about them – which is atypical in this kind of story.

However, I don’t want you to go away with the idea that this is all about the romance – it isn’t and if it had been I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did. This book does what all good science fiction achieves – takes me to a different place and a different time and immerses me in a completely different culture, leaving me wondering what I’d do if it were me. Recommended for fans of character-led, adventure science fiction.
9/10

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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?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc novella Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia #Brainfluffbookreview #PrimeMeridianbookreview

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I read and thoroughly enjoyed The Beautiful Ones by Moreno-Garcia – see my review here – so when I caught sight of this novella on Netgalley, it was a no-brainer.

Amelia dreams of Mars. The Mars of the movies and the imagination, an endless bastion of opportunities for a colonist with some guts. But she’s trapped in Mexico City, enduring the drudgery of an unkind metropolis, working as a rent-a-friend, selling her blood to old folks with money who hope to rejuvenate themselves with it, enacting a fractured love story. And yet there’s Mars, at the edge of the silver screen, of life. It awaits her.

I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting – but it wasn’t this. Less escapist space opera and far more dystopian, very-near-future, this novella packed a punch. I’ll be honest – given what else was going in my life, this was not the read I would have chosen to pick up. But I’m glad I did.

Amelia has edges – and quite right, too. So would I if I’d endured the lack of opportunity and dead-end options facing her. She has fixated on going to Mars – right from the time she was old enough to be ambitious and despite having had a series of unlucky breaks, she still is determined to get there. It’s the only thing that really matters… so it is painful to read of her constant struggles that seem to go nowhere. She is constantly angry and hostile to those around her – not ideal when one of her hard-scrabble jobs is to sell her companionship in response to an app.

The world is richly depicted – which seems to be Moreno-Garcia’s trademark, along with indepth characterisation that doesn’t impede the storyline. She nearly has the pacing nailed, but I did feel the ending was a tad hurried in comparison to the rest of the story. Having said that, novellas are fiendishly difficult to get right.

I enjoyed the story and the awkward dynamic between Amelia and the rest of the characters. The times when she is most at peace with herself and those around her, are when thinking of Mars, or watching the movies with an ageing actress who employs her to listen to her past. And if you think that sounds rather poignant, you’d be right.

I would love to read a sequel to this thought-provoking story as I find myself wondering about the character and what happens next. Recommended for fans of literary fiction. While I obtained an arc of Prime Meridian from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Hardback Edition #Still Me by #Jojo Moyes #bookreview #bookblogreview #Brainfluffbookreview

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I loved the first book in the series, Me Before You – see my review here – and when I mentioned to my lovely mother that I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of reading this offering, she sent it to me as a present.

Lou Clark knows too many things . . . She knows how many miles lie between her new home in New York and her new boyfriend Sam in London. She knows her employer is a good man and she knows his wife is keeping a secret from him. What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to meet someone who’s going to turn her whole life upside down. Because Josh will remind her so much of a man she used to know that it’ll hurt. Lou won’t know what to do next, but she knows that whatever she chooses is going to change everything.

I enjoyed the previous two books in this series – particularly that first amazing book, so does this one live up to the dazzlingly high bar set by the worldwide success, Me Before You? Frankly, no. But that doesn’t mean to say that it isn’t a thoroughly enjoyable, worthwhile read anyway. Let’s face it, Me Before You is an extraordinary tour de force and it’s unreasonable to expect many of those to the pound from a writer even as talented as Moyes.

Lou, as ever, leaps off the page in all her quirky oddness, working in New York as an assistant, waiting hand, foot and finger on Agnes, the second wife of Leonard Gopnik, an insanely rich banker. It was a fascinating ringside seat into the world of the super-rich as Lou scurries around to smooth Agnes’s way as she struggles to negotiate the social scene where wealthy wives are expected to spend their days attending charity events. As you may expect, given this is Lou, the job and her long-distance relationship with the gorgeous Sam doesn’t go according to plan…

Once again, I found this remarkably difficult to put down as Moyes provides a warm-hearted insight into the faultlines of modern life – this time on the other side of the Pond – without any sentimentality. Indeed, her observations on social injustice and the inherent indignity of growing old in a society where youth and beauty are highly prized, are sharply pointed. Lou once more finds herself thrown back on her own resources when it all hits the fan and her plans fall in a heap. One of the refreshing aspects of this series is the strength and comfort that Lou’s family provides, even when they are unable to support her materially in any way.

As for the romance threading through the story, it is both funny and touching by turns as you’d expect from Moyes. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I’m hoping that in due course, Moyes gives us another instalment from Lou Clarke’s life. Recommended for fans of contemporary life and romance.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Ashes of London – Book 1 of the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor

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I requested this one after being attracted by the eye-catching cover and reading the premise, which was very intriguing.

London, September 1666. The Great Fire rages through the city, consuming everything in its path. Even the impregnable cathedral of St. Paul’s is engulfed in flames and reduced to ruins. Among the crowds watching its destruction is James Marwood, son of a disgraced printer, and reluctant government informer. In the aftermath of the fire, a semi-mummified body is discovered in the ashes of St. Paul’s, in a tomb that should have been empty. The man’s body has been mutilated and his thumbs have been tied behind his back. Under orders from the government, Marwood is tasked with hunting down the killer across the devastated city. But at a time of dangerous internal dissent and the threat of foreign invasion, Marwood finds his investigation leads him into treacherous waters

So did this live up to my expectations? Oh yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it. As to be expected with a story that starts in the middle of the Great Fire of London, this one starts with a bang. James Marwood watches the destruction of St Pauls Cathedral, with a vivid description of the heat and violence as the fire ripped through the interior and then destroyed the quantities of stationery and books that was stored in the crypt, in the belief that they would be safe.

Taylor has clearly done his research – there is a wealth of historical detail here woven into the everyday lives of the people caught up in the drama and terror. I was interested to learn that the official version – that there was a surprisingly small loss of life, given the ferocity and speed of the flames – is contradicted in this book. As the fire storms across tenements at a speed faster than a man can run, there is a general acceptance that whole families and communities were immolated. The reason why there is no official recognition of this loss of life is simply that the destruction was so thorough, nothing is left of the poor souls caught up in the conflagration but ashes.

That said, most of the action takes place in the days, weeks and months after the fire. I really liked this. That single event has caused havoc in the capital, which is nicely reflected in the political turbulence that is still being played out after the Civil War. Once Charles II regains his throne, one of his missions is to track down the handful of people responsible for executing his father. The young protagonist is caught up in this business – as are a number of other people in the story, even though they were either children or not yet born when the execution occurred.

I am conscious that I have managed to make this book sound as if it is some sort of historical account of the aftermath of both the Civil War and the great Fire of London, when of course, it’s nothing of the sort – it is a murder mystery adventure. That said, after the initial drama, the pace necessarily slows down. We are not in an era of fast car chases, or fast anything for that matter. This mystery reflects the fact that most people walk everywhere and the majority of tasks are still done by hand. So this mystery spools out over a period of time, which gives the denouement an extra kick as it takes place among the shattered remains of St Paul’s Cathedral. There were a number of intriguing twists, with one in particular I certainly didn’t see coming. I am delighted that this is the start of a series featuring James Marwell and I shall certainly be getting hold of the next book. Recommended for fans of historical murder mysteries. While I obtained an arc of The Ashes of London from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 18th April, 2018

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

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 Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan

#fiction #death #grief

Masha is drowning.

Once a spirited, independent woman with a rebellious streak, her life has been forever changed by a tragic event twelve years ago. Unable to let go of her grief, she finds solace in the silent company of the souls of her local Victorian cemetery and at the town’s lido, where she seeks refuge underwater – safe from the noise and the pain. But a chance encounter with two extraordinary women – the fabulous and wise Kitty Muriel, a convent girl-turned-magician’s wife-turned-seventy-something-roller-disco-fanatic, and the mysterious Sally Red Shoes, a bag lady with a prodigious voice – opens up a new world of possibilities, and the chance to start living again.

Until the fateful day when the past comes roaring back…

I really enjoyed The Keeper of Lost Things so when I saw this one was available, I immediately requested it – and was delighted to be approved to receive an arc. I am really looking forward to diving back into Hogan’s quirky, emotional writing.