Category Archives: dragons

Review of AUDIOBOOK How To Fight A Dragon’s Fury – Book 12 of How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell #Brainfluffbookreview #HowToFightaDragon’s Fury

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So here it is… the very last book in the series, which I started with Frankie way back in 2014. I started reading the books to him, then he wanted to continue listening to them on audio and it wasn’t until the beginning of last year that I was able to access his Audible account and join in the joys of audiobooks, so I could continue listening to this series.

BLURB: The Doomsday of Yule has arrived, and the future of dragonkind lies in the hands of one boy with nothing to show but everything to fight for. Hiccup’s quest is clear…but can he end the rebellion? Can he prove himself to be king? Can he save the dragons? The stakes have never been higher, as the very fate of the Viking world hangs in the balance!

Whatever else happens, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of this delightful, quirky series – don’t start here. It is the culmination of a twelve-book series packed with all sorts of adventures as a small boy, the heir to the Chief of the Hooligan Tribe, struggles to survive and overcome insanely difficult odds. And this current crisis he’s facing is the most insurmountable of the lot. He is fighting for the survival of humanity and/or the dragons as they are set to fight each other to extinction, although given the firepower the dragons are capable of, the outcome is a foregone conclusion… That’s the situation at the beginning of the book – Cowell is better than anyone else I know at providing overwhelming odds and then fantastic ways for her embattled protagonist to beat them. But this time around, I couldn’t see any way that Hiccup and Toothless would survive the end of this adventure unscathed – and I was wary, because people who matter can die in this series.

While I had enjoyed reading the books, the advantage of listening is that David Tennant also sings the songs – and especially in this book, the songs matter. They provide a strong emotional backdrop to the ongoing action, which was every bit as gripping and exciting – more so as I realised this was the last time I’d hear of Hiccup battling the impossible.

Cowell has written an epic. The overarching themes she covers provide morals and mottos that youngsters listening can use as life lessons. I’m aware that some reviewers became a bit exasperated by the way she emphasises these throughout, but I didn’t have a problem with them. Now in my 60s, it’s handy to remind myself that second best is often good enough and loyalty to those you love is important.

And… that ending. Oh my word. I was sitting in the kitchen and weeping as I heard the final epilogue. Perhaps, because I am now coming to a stage of my life when I, too, am starting to consider what I’ve done and whether it’s been good enough, the words particularly resounded with me. And now I’m sad that it’s over, but so very elated and joyful that I’ve had the chance to read and hear it. Very highly recommended. An outstanding series.
10/10

My Outstanding Reads of 2019 #Brainfluffbookblogger #2019OutstandingReads

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Secret Chapter – Book 6 of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman #Brainfluffbookreview #TheSecretChapterbookreview

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I was delighted to be approved to read an arc of this latest slice in Irene’s adventures – see my review of the first book, The Invisible Library. The catch was that I needed to read the previous two books, The Lost Plot and The Mortal Word in something of a hurry so that I got to it in the right order. It turned out to be a blessing – everyday life last week was rather fraught with family illness and these quirky, well-written adventures where just what I needed as an escape. Would The Secret Chapter prove to be as entertaining?

BLURB: A Librarian’s work is never done, and once Irene has a quick rest after their latest adventure, she is summoned to the Library. The world where she grew up is in danger of veering deep into chaos, and she needs to obtain a particular book to stop this from happening. No copies of the book are available in the Library, so her only choice is to contact a mysterious Fae information broker and trader of rare objects: Mr. Nemo. Irene and Kai make their way to Mr. Nemo’s remote Caribbean island and are invited to dinner, which includes unlikely company. Mr. Nemo has an offer for everyone there: he wants them to steal a specific painting from a specific world. He swears that he will give each of them an item from his collection if they bring him the painting within the week.

This latest slice of Irene’s adventures is essentially a heist story. Irene and Kai find themselves having to work alongside a team of rather dodgy characters – something she is far too used to doing. However, this crew are every bit as dangerous as the task they have been set by the shadowy Mr Nemo. I love the way Cogman plays with stereotypes – imagine a James Bond villain, complete with the Caribbean island setting and hungry sharks lurking in a hidden tank beneath their feet.

I am not going into any details as it would be a real shame to spoil this entertaining, twisty story packed with incidents and surprises. Cogman is very adept at creating an action-packed adventure without losing the overall impetus of the story, which is a harder trick to pull off than she makes it look. Once again, we learn more about the closed world of dragon society and just how dangerous they can be when crossed. I love the way in which Cogman reveals extra details about the world in which she has set the Invisible Library with each successive book. It isn’t a new trick, as all good series do the same thing – but she is particularly good at delivering new facts that suddenly change the reader’s perception of what is going on. I love it when that happens.

I ended up reading the last three books in this series back to back, which is something I generally don’t do. And it is a testament to Cogman’s writing skill and mastery of plot development that by the end of The Secret Chapter I was still thoroughly entertained and sorry when the book came to an end.

This classy series just goes on delivering and is highly recommended for fans of good-quality portal fantasies. The ebook arc copy of The Secret Chapter was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

Sunday Post – 17th November, 2019 #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 a horrible week. Himself sustained a shoulder injury, and has been in a great deal of pain throughout the week, despite a visit to the doctor and two physio sessions. Looking back, I realised that he has increasingly been unable to fully move his neck for a while but because he wasn’t suffering any pain, I didn’t do anything more about it. I wish I had. He is signed off work until Wednesday but barring a miracle I can’t see him returning. I hate seeing him suffer so much despite heat packs, cold compresses, Voltarol rubs, arnica oil massages, exercises, painkillers and using the trusty TENS machine.

To add to the general fun, that wretched headache I’d suffered last Friday hung around until Wednesday, as welcome as a bad smell, leaving me still exhausted and drained. I’ve missed writing group, the monthly West Sussex Writers’ Club meeting, and had to cancel a one-day Poetry Day I was supposed to be running yesterday.

Last week I read:

The Mortal Word – Book 5 of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
A corrupt countess. A spy in danger. And an assassin at large.
Peace talks are always tricky . . . especially when a key diplomat gets stabbed. This murder rudely interrupts a top-secret summit between the warring dragons and Fae, so Librarian-spy Irene is summoned to investigate. In a version of 1890s Paris, Irene and her detective friend Vale must track down the killer – before either the peace negotiations or the city go up in flames. Accusations fly thick and fast. Irene soon finds herself in the seedy depths of the Parisian underworld on the trail of a notoriously warlike Fae, the Blood Countess. However, the evidence against the Countess is circumstantial. Could the assassin – or assassins – be closer than anyone suspects?
Cogman manages to successfully evoke the claustrophobic sense of closing timescales as problems multiply when deaths, kidnapping attempts and deadly attacks on the hotel holding the talks all stack up. I love the way we learn a little bit more about both the Fae and the dragon worlds with each book.

 

The Secret Chapter – Book 6 of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
As Irene tries to manage a fraught Fae–dragon truce and her overbearing parents, she’s given a hot new mission. The world where she grew up is in danger and only one book can save it. This is held by Mr Nemo, secretive Fae villain and antique dealer, so Irene and Kai travel to his Caribbean retreat to strike a deal. But in return for the book, they must steal a painting from twenty-first-century Vienna. They’ll join a team of dragons, Fae gamblers and thieves, so their greatest challenge may be one another. And some will kill to protect this painting, which hides an extraordinary secret from a past age.
Yet another full-on adventure in this excellent paranormal series. I love the varying settings this portal fantasy provides, with a sympathetic, clever protagonist and wonderful pacing. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Review of Sweep of the Blade – Book 4 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

Friday Faceoff featuring Robots and the Empire – Book 4 of the Robot series by Isaac Asimov

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Body Tourists series by Jane Rogers

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Starship Alchemon by Christopher Hinz

Teaser Tuesday featuring Mantivore Prey – Book 2 of The Arcadian Chronicles by S.J. Higbee

Review of Bright Shards – Book 2 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick

Sunday Post 10th November 2019

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

What happens when a bot writes your blog posts https://thisislitblog.com/2019/11/16/what-happens-when-a-bot-writes-your-blog-posts/ Shruti wondered whether she was replaceable as a blogger – the result is hilarious…

Linguistic Interventions (et tu Bayer?) https://writerunboxed.com/2019/11/15/this-is-not-why-we-scribe-bayer/ How much does the mangling of our language irritate you? Or don’t you care? Porter certainly does…

November 15th, “I Love to Write Day” https://literacyletters.wordpress.com/2019/11/15/november-15th-i-love-to-write-day/ Rae throws out the question – why do YOU love to write? Are you up for answering?

Non-Fiction November: Become an Expert… on Gender! https://rathertoofondofbooks.com/2019/11/11/non-fiction-november-become-the-expert-on-gender/ Hayley has decided to read a series of books on this complicated subject. What a cool way to investigate a tricky issue!

Ways to cope with a character death (and other unfortunate scenes) https://bookwyrmingthoughts.com/ways-to-cope-with-a-character-death-and-other-unfortunate-scenes/ Have you ever been traumatised by a character death? Sophia suggests ways of coping…

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

Sunday Post – 3rd November, 2019 #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.

Last week I was travelling home from Bristolcon and as our train was delayed and in order to avoid a bus trip for the last leg, Himself drove to Southhampton to pick us up, we got home later than we had planned and I was frankly too exhausted to sit down and write a post.
I won’t be saying too much about Bristolcon here, because I do want to write a separate post about it.

Mhairi stayed over for the week, which was a real treat and left on Friday to go on a writing retreat with some friends. We had plenty of time to catch up with what each other is doing, and acknowledge the fact that we badly miss each other’s support and advice on a day-to-day basis. I was still able to continue with Fitstep and Pilates and as luck would have it, it was half term here, so I didn’t have any lessons to eat into my time with Mhairi. It was just a shame about the weather as we had planned to go for walks along the beach in between the writing. It didn’t happen on account of the rain.

Last week I read:

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
A notorious anti-patent scientist who has styled herself as a Robin Hood heroine fighting to bring cheap drugs to the poor, Jack’s latest drug is leaving a trail of lethal overdoses across what used to be North America—a drug that compels people to become addicted to their work. On Jack’s trail are an unlikely pair: an emotionally shut-down military agent and his partner, Paladin, a young military robot, who fall in love against all expectations. Autonomous alternates between the activities of Jack and her co-conspirators, and Elias and Paladin, as they all race to stop a bizarre drug epidemic that is tearing apart lives, causing trains to crash, and flooding New York City.
This thought-provoking read raises some interesting issues regarding the dynamic of power both in society at large and more interestingly, at an individual level in relationships.

 

How To Betray a Dragon’s Hero – AUDIOBOOK 11 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
High up in the Treacherous mists of the Murderous Mountains, Hiccup and the Company of the Dragonmark are in hiding. The witch’s Vampire Spydragons are guarding the shores of Tomorrow — but Hiccup is determined to become King of the Wilderwest. Can Hiccup dodge the dragons and steal back the King’s Things from Alvin before the Doomsday of Yule? And is there a traitor in Hiccup’s camp who, in the end, will betray them all?
Annoyingly, I managed to skip this one before reaching the end of the series. But I didn’t want to miss out on any Hiccup goodness, so I’ve backtracked to listen to this slice of the adventure, in order to put off the inevitable heartache of admitting that I’ve finally come to the end of this marvellous, marvellous series.

 

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair
Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it. She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland. She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird. Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning… Until the past catches up with her.
After enjoying her blog and learning that she has a book recently published, I decided to check it out. It is an enchanting historical romance with a lovely, large-hearted protagonist, who nonetheless has a hard time of it… Review to follow.

 

Journaled to Death by Heather Redmond
Divorced single mom Mandy Meadows scrapes by working as a barista and receiving payments from her cousin, Ryan, who rents her basement apartment. At night, she and her teenage daughter Vellum run a successful home business creating journaling content on their popular social media channels. But Mandy’s carefully organized world is about to come crashing down. While filming their latest journaling tutorial, Mandy and Vellum hear a loud noise on the basement stairs, and Mandy makes a horrifying discovery…
I’ve tweaked the rather spoilery blurb to this rather twisty whodunit. I’m not sure I’d classify this one as a cosy murder mystery. While it isn’t drenched in gore or horrific action scenes, Mandy’s life is frankly a slog while she struggles to balance two jobs and the needs of a teenager, living a hand-to-mouth existence. I really enjoyed the overall story, though, and will be reviewing it.

My posts last week:

Review of Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Friday Faceoff featuring Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Review of The Mysterious Howling – Book 1 of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood

Teaser Tuesday featuring Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Review of Fall of Dragons – Book 5 of The Traitor Son by Miles Cameron

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

SciFi Month 2019: Plot Your Course https://onemore.org/2019/10/17/scifimonth-2019-plot-your-course/ This is running throughout November and as a big fan of science fiction, I’ve been reading and writing reviews I hope to feature during the month. And read plenty of other folks’ too😊

Jerpoint Abbey Tour https://inesemjphotography.com/2019/09/14/jerpoint-abbey-tour/ It’s always a treat when Inessa features another picture tour on her wonderful blog – and this one is just magical…

The Perils and Pitfalls of Research https://writerunboxed.com/2019/10/30/the-perils-and-pitfalls-of-research/ If you need to research some additional material before starting the novel – at what point do you decide you have enough? Some really good advice here…

The Best Poems for November https://interestingliterature.com/2019/10/30/the-best-poems-for-november/ As ever, another interesting article from this invaluable site – I would just add that the Thomas Hood poem ‘November’ has a longer form, vividly describing the seasonal smogs that regularly used to envelope the larger cities at this time of year.

The Evolution of Dragons in Western Literature: A History by Yvonne Shiau https://www.tor.com/2019/10/23/the-evolution-of-dragons-in-western-literature-a-history/ I stumbled across this article by accident and loved it. I hope you do, too…

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

Review of LIBRARY book The Fall of Dragons – Book 5 of The Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron #Brainfluffbookreview #TheFallofDragonsbookreview

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I’d read the previous books in this series and enjoyed them – see my review of The Dread Wyrm, The Red Knight and The Fell Sword – then somehow this one slipped through the cracks, so when I saw it on the library shelves, I scooped it up, despite blanching at the prospect of reading 600+ pages of reasonably small print…

BLURB: In the climax of the Traitor Son Cycle, the allied armies of the Wild and the Kingdoms of men and women must face Ash for control of the gates to the hermetical universe, and for control of their own destinies. But exhaustion, treachery and time may all prove deadlier enemies. In Alba, Queen Desiderata struggles to rebuild her kingdom wrecked by a year of civil war, even as the Autumn battles are fought in the west. In the Terra Antica, The Red Knight attempts to force his unwilling allies to finish the Necromancer instead of each other. But as the last battle nears, The Red Knight makes a horrifying discovery… all of this fighting may have happened before.

One of the reasons why I’d hesitated in getting hold of this one, was my concern that I would have forgotten too many details about the series that would make getting back into this world something of a struggle. In the event, that didn’t prove to be a problem. Cameron’s smooth writing and delivery ensured that I was quickly brought up to speed where necessary, and at no time did I flounder in trying to work out what was going on. This is a feat on his part, because just like in George RR Martin’s a Song of Ice and Fire series, the action takes place in a variety of locations and the viewpoint shifts between a wide cast of characters. I often find this structure to be annoying, as my preferred scenarios tend to play out in tightly confined backdrops featuring a small number of well-developed and highly nuanced characters to get the depth of story that I really appreciate.

Given that most of the book is concerned with an ongoing war, wherein an increasing number of skirmishes lead up to a large set-piece battle, this clearly wasn’t going to happen. Yet I was pulled into the book almost from the first page and found the pages turned themselves as I was swept along by the action, identifying with each character’s motives.

One of the reasons why this worked so well was Cameron’s mastery of the pacing. Just as I was beginning to wonder what would be filling the rest of the book, there was a sudden twist in the story that gave the whole world a completely different dimension. I’m not going to say more on the grounds that it would be a real spoiler, but it certainly worked well and added an extra layer of poignancy to the current struggle. One of my difficulties with epic fantasy is that it frequently lacks that layer of emotional connection that I particularly enjoy – hardly a surprise when the action is often the driving force in the narrative with each character playing a relatively small piece in the overarching battle plan. Cameron manages to make his characters matter to the extent that one of the reasons why those pages kept turning was that I really cared about a number of his cast and was keen to see what would happen to them. Inevitably, in this war scenario a number of them don’t make it – something else that I generally heartily dislike. And yet this time around I took a deep breath and just kept on reading.

Of course, the catch in this form of writing is that the final battle has to deliver with plenty of heart-stopping action and a huge climax that also packs an emotional punch sufficient to satisfy the reader who has slogged through the previous 600+ pages to get here. Again, Cameron triumphantly succeeds. I finished this book with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, feeling hollowed out by the resultant drama. This book is a marvellous end to a really high-quality series. Recommended for fans of epic and high fantasy.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Forgotten Palace: An adventure in Presadia by Luke Aylen #Brainfluffbookreview #TheForgottenPalacebookreview

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I can’t lie – once again it was the cover with that amazing dragon’s eye peering through the castle window that sucked me into requesting this one. Much to my surprise, this year I seem to have read a number of children’s books – would I enjoy this one?

BLURB: Deep in the heart of Presadia’s Great Forest lie many secrets, including the ancient ruins of a once-magnificent palace. A chance encounter with a bedraggled stranger and the discovery of broken shards of a magical mirror lead Antimony, an unusually tall dwarf, on a journey of discovery.

The blurb continues for another couple of paragraphs, busily letting drop a number of plotpoints I think would be better for the reader if they encountered them in the book, rather than waiting for them to happen. I like fourteen-year-old Luke, who is unusually tall for a dwarf with a flair for problem-solving and design and impatiently waiting for his beard to start growing. It was a refreshing change to find he comes from a close-knit community and has a loving mother who provides staunch support throughout, rather than the classic child protagonist without any positive adult in his life.

I did struggle a bit at the start of the book, even though I’m very used to being tipped sideways into adventures owing to my habit of crashing midway into series. Unhelpfully, neither Amazon, Goodreads, or the cover give any indication of the previous book The Mirror and the Mountain where we follow the fortunes of two children who have fallen through a portal into this medieval-type society. My advice would be to get hold of the first book before embarking on this one, as while I did sort out what was going on before it spoilt the story for me, I’m an experienced reader. It wouldn’t be fair to expect a youngster to pick their way through the various references to previous events and characters that they never meet.

Once I gathered exactly what was going on, I was able to relax into the story. Aylen writes an old-school epic fantasy, where Good and Evil are personified by the characters within the story and adventures are there to test their mettle.

I did like the way all the different races came together to rebuild the palace, despite the evident tensions between them. I would have liked a bit more discussion on how the task would provide all those toiling to rebuild it with protection and shelter, rather than focusing on how much the King wanted it rebuilt so he could fix the land. While this is clearly epic fantasy, there were times when the emphasis on the grand ambitions of peace and renewal gave this book a slightly old-fashioned feel and I’m intrigued to find out how today’s modern youngsters react to it.

That said, I enjoyed the characters and the story and would recommend it for independent readers from ten/eleven years old and upward – the battle scenes might be a bit too gory for younger readers. The ebook arc copy of The Forgotten Palace: An adventure in Presadia was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan #Brainfluffbookreview #TurningDarknessintoLightbookreview

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When I saw this spinoff novel in the world of the Memoirs of Lady Trent series, I immediately bought it, even though we’re officially broke. There are limits, after all… we can always exist on fresh air and sunshine for a couple of weeks – but to go without a book like this? Nope – can’t do it.

BLURB: As the renowned granddaughter of Isabella Camherst (Lady Trent, of the riveting and daring Draconic adventure memoirs) Audrey Camherst has always known she, too, would want to make her scholarly mark upon a chosen field of study. When Lord Gleinheigh recruits Audrey to decipher a series of ancient tablets holding the secrets of the ancient Draconean civilization, she has no idea that her research will plunge her into an intricate conspiracy, one meant to incite rebellion and invoke war. Alongside dearest childhood friend and fellow archeologist Kudshayn, must find proof of the conspiracy before it’s too late.

Despite claims that this would be a good entry point to the Lady Trent series, my firm advice would be – don’t touch it until you have read the complete series, apart from anything else, the book contains big spoilers to Within the Sanctuary of Wings and frankly, because of the nature of the narrative, I think you’d be floundering a great deal of the time if you tried plunging into this world via this book. As it has an epistolary structure, containing diary entries, letters, notes and translations of ancient Draconean tablets, I think you need to already have a good idea of the world and the political structure.

That said, I really loved this one. Brennan’s writing talent pings off the page as I quickly bonded with Audrey, brought up to disregard the rigid conventions of polite society, and passionate about the Draconean civilisation. She also happens to have been born into a family of high achievers – her grandmother, Lady Trent, blazed a trail with her insights into the life cycles of a variety of dragon species and her father is a world-famous translator of ancient languages. Audrey, notwithstanding her youth, is desperate to also make her mark – more particularly since she was robbed of a claim to fame by someone she’d trusted. This need drives her more than it should – and leads her into making some major mistakes. Cora, unloved and disregarded, is also someone I fell for in a big way, as well as dear, kindly Kudshayn, the draconian translator who helps Audrey with her huge task in translating these tablets.

The translations are beautifully done and the scholarly exploration of the ancient religion compared with the modern variant is perfectly achieved, with the mythological stories so well written, it was a struggle at times to remember they were a fantastic conceit nested within a novel. The initial pacing is leisurely, but once the enormity of what is going on began to emerge, I simply couldn’t put this one down. While the theme of prejudice and bigotry was all too evident, the theme that caught my attention, was the way that intellectual arrogance is also a snare that caught most of the main characters in some way.

I found this a fascinating read that crawled under my skin – I’m sure it will be one of those that stays with me and the only reason it isn’t getting a solid 10 from me, is that I did find myself skimming some of the myths, particularly at the beginning. Highly recommended for fans of the Lady Trent Memoirs series.
9/10

Review of AUDIOBOOK How To Seize a Dragon’s Jewel – Book 10 of How To Train a Dragon series by Cressida Cowell #Brainfluffbookreview #HowToSeizeaDragonsJewelbookreview

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I can’t claim that I haven’t been warned – David Tennant, the narrator of this series, has repeatedly told us at the start of the last few books that this series would be getting darker. Nevertheless, I am a bit shaken at just how bleak Hiccup’s outlook has become – suddenly the nasty bullying he received at the hands of Snotlout during Gobber’s pirating lessons seems cosy…

BLURB: The Dragon Rebellion has begun, bringing the Vikings’ darkest hour upon them. Hiccup has become an outcast, but that won’t stop him from going on the most harrowing and important quest of his life. He must find the Dragon’s Jewel in order to save his people… but where should he begin? Don’t miss Hiccup’s most dangerous adventure yet!

Hiccup is now thirteen years old, alone and living on his wits as he is being hunted by both Furious, the dragon leading the rebellion against the Vikings, and his arch-enemy Alvin the Treacherous. Well… he’s not entirely alone. Hiccup has his riding dragon, Windwalker, and of course, naughty little Toothless, his common-or-garden dragon and an ancient frail small dragon, who is currently trying to teach Toothless manners… Right now, the jokes that Toothless provides still had me chuckling aloud – but there were times, too, when I wanted to weep. I’m a granny whose read faaar too many books to be reduced to tears by a comedic coming-of-age series about Vikings and dragons, surely? Apparently not.

The characterisation, worldbuilding and above all – the plotting of this series is a masterclass in how it’s done. Cowell once more swept me up into Hiccup’s madcap, OTT world where every single character has a Dickensian immediacy that pings off the page. And in this book, for the first time, we get to meet Hiccup’s mother, Valhallarama. One of the things I love about this series is that while inevitably the children are the ones with agency, the adults aren’t unduly belittled. Hiccup’s relationship with both his parents is complicated – but particularly in this book, I loved the tenderness and genuine love that is depicted by both parents and the boy, even if they didn’t understand each other.

This one has left the story on a cliffhanger, but even so, I haven’t plunged immediately into the next book. Never mind that it’s a children’s book – I needed a break, albeit a short one, before once more immersing myself into Hiccup’s action-packed, emotional story.
10/10

Sunday Post – 7th September, 2019 #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.

This week was a hectic one, as I started back teaching Tim, and attended meetings with the other tutors and Sally to co-ordinate our approach over the coming year. On Monday evening, I met up with a group of ex-students and we caught up on each other and listened to each other’s writing, while enjoying Anita’s fabulous home-made apple crumble – yum! I also met up with Gill at the Look and Sea café on Tuesday morning, before we plunged back into our Pilates class on Wednesday, after the summer break – while I was okay on Thursday, I was hobbling around on Friday stiff and sore. On Wednesday evening, it was Writing Group again and I got to hear about Liz’s wedding in between everyone reading out our writing.

It was Himself’s birthday on Friday, but he was working, so we celebrated on Thursday, which he had off, instead. We visited the Weald and Downland Museum on a lovely sunny autumn day – it was idyllic as the pic shows… I’ll post more in a separate post. We felt quite smug as Friday turned out to be a rather chilly, windy day that we’d had such a fabulous time the previous day.

My sister and I went flat hunting again on Saturday afternoon. Two were a bust and one was definitely a contender – fingers crossed she is able to nail this one, as it is only up the road from where I live.
I’ve been editing, though it hasn’t gone as smoothly because so much was going on. I’m hoping that by the end of the coming week I can get right back into the writing groove again.

Last week I read:

Illuminae – Book 1 of The Illuminae series by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit. But their problems are just getting started…

I had heard so much about this dystopian YA science fiction adventure and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan
As the renowned granddaughter of Isabella Camherst (Lady Trent, of the riveting and daring Draconic adventure memoirs) Audrey Camherst has always known she, too, would want to make her scholarly mark upon a chosen field of study.

When Lord Gleinheigh recruits Audrey to decipher a series of ancient tablets holding the secrets of the ancient Draconean civilization, she has no idea that her research will plunge her into an intricate conspiracy, one meant to incite rebellion and invoke war. Alongside dearest childhood friend and fellow archaeologist Kudshayn, must find proof of the conspiracy before it’s too late.

This spinoff series, charting an adventure featuring Audrey, granddaughter of the famous scholar of dragon behaviour, starts slowly and then as it gathers pace, becomes impossible to put down. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Cut price science fiction offer…

Friday Faceoff featuring The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Killer in the Choir – Book 19 of The Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett

Mantivore Dreams – Book 1 of The Arcadian Chronicles now available

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Kingdom of Souls by Ren Barrron

Review of The Midnight Queen – Book 1 of the Noctis Magicae series by Sylvia Hunter

Sunday Post – 1st September 2019

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

On (Not) Defending Historical Fiction https://writerunboxed.com/2019/09/02/on-not-defending-historical-fiction/ I thoroughly enjoyed reading this intriguing article. While historical fiction hasn’t been my go-to genre for a while, it was a pleasure reading this intelligent response to ‘that’ question.

Brilliant Book Titles #301 https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2019/09/02/brilliant-book-titles-301/ I haven’t featured any of these offerings for a while – but this one caught my eye…

Group Hug… https://blogging807.wordpress.com/2019/09/02/group-hug/ You’re on your computer, working away – and it alllll goes wrong☹. I was in something of a state when I spotted this little gem, which made me laugh and gain perspective once again.

An Interesting Character Study: Prospero from The Tempest https://interestingliterature.com/2019/09/03/an-interesting-character-study-prospero-from-the-tempest/ Those who know me also know I’m obsessed with this play – so found this article well worth reading.

Chase Bookfest – Cannock Chase’s first book festival devoted to women’s popular fiction and thrillers – Saturday 21st September 2019 https://mychestnutreadingtree.wordpress.com/2019/09/05/chase-bookfest-cannock-chases-first-book-festival-devoted-to-womens-popular-fiction-and-thrillers-saturday-21st-september-2019/ A shoutout about a special event for keen readers who live in the area…

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