Category Archives: dystopian fantasy

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook A Longer Fall – Book 2 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris #Brainfluffbookreview #ALongerFallbookreview

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I loved An Easy Death, as Charlaine Harris has been a solid favourite of mine for years – see reviews of Grave Sight, Dead Reackoning, Shakespeare’s Landlord, Midnight Crossroad, Day Shift and Night Shift, so I was extremely excited to hear that A Longer Fall was due and Himself insisted that we pre-order it. I do love that man!

BLURB: Lizbeth Rose is hired onto a new crew for a seemingly easy protection job, transporting a crate into Dixie, just about the last part of the former United States of America she wants to visit. But what seemed like a straight-forward job turns into a massacre as the crate is stolen…

The blurb goes on for a bit longer, but you get the gist. I love Rose and the way we are right inside the character from the first page – Harris has a knack of drawing me right into the middle of her worlds in no time flat and this time around was no exception. This dystopian, alternate history where the Russian monarchy managed to flee before they were all massacred and are now living in a corner of a very different America, works really well. The magical element is also deftly introduced and I enjoy the tension and dislike that surrounds these magic-users, which makes complete sense.

I was hooked and read late into the night and early morning to discover what happened next. Rose teams up with a former colleague while plot twists come thick and fast as they fend off a variety of threats. In the meantime, there is also an interesting romantic thread running alongside the adventure which somewhat complicates things for Rose. One of the delights of this one, is that I simply didn’t know what was going to happen next.

However, I wasn’t completely won over by the MacGuffin that very abruptly stopped all the mayhem and violence. I recently had a rant about female protagonists in fantasy books who suddenly are riding into battle alongside the men, without there having been any real attempt to explain what dynamic has changed to make this possible. I felt in a similar fashion here, that a whole bunch of deep-seated, difficult issues in the small town of Sally were given a flimsy makeover in order to bring the story to a rather unsatisfying conclusion that didn’t convince me. It didn’t mean the book went flying across the room, and I still very much enjoyed Rose’s personal journey, which was brilliantly explored throughout the book – but I have knocked a point off for the way the main plot gets wrapped up. That doesn’t prevent this being an action-packed, western-flavoured fantasy adventure well worth picking up – and we’ll certainly be pre-ordering the next instalment.
8/10

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 The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman #Brainfluffbookreview #TheHeartoftheCirclebookreview

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This one was recommended by one of my book blogging friends, so I scampered across to Netgalley and requested it. I’m so sorry I can’t recall who exactly it was who suggested it – but do please let me know and claim the glory – so I can heartily thank you…

Throughout human history there have always been sorcerers, once idolised and now exploited for their powers. In Israel, the Sons of Simeon, a group of religious extremists, persecute sorcerers while the government turns a blind eye. After a march for equal rights ends in brutal murder, empath, moodifier and reluctant waiter Reed becomes the next target. While his sorcerous and normie friends seek out his future killers, Reed complicates everything by falling hopelessly in love. As the battle for survival grows ever more personal, can Reed protect himself and his friends as the Sons of Simeon close in around them?

This book is set in Tel Aviv – Landsman is an Israeli author – and the different setting is just one of a range of aspects that sets this book apart. It is set in an alternate dystopian setting where magic-users around the world face a variety of measures designed to limit their freedom. In the US, they are forced to live in ghettos and while apparently Israeli society is more liberal, it doesn’t prevent many attacks on sorcerers, with most police turning a blind eye to such crimes. Reed is one of those fighting for equal rights for the magical community, putting himself at risk as he serves in a coffee bar. I found his edgy character, with his ability to read and diffuse people’s moods, appealing and sympathetic – even when he was being a bit of a prat, which is when you know the author has nailed her protagonist.

There is also a strong cast of supporting characters, notably his flatmate, Daphne, who is a seer. I like the gritty detail that people who can see into the future or become assailed with other people’s strong emotions are prone to depression and mental illness with a high suicide rate among them – it makes sense. I felt that Landsman had thought through carefully what would be the ongoing consequences for someone cursed with such a gift. In the middle of all this turbulence, Reed falls desperately, helplessly in love with another empath. His same-sex relationship with Lee, an American, grows steadily more intense throughout the book and described with passion and tenderness and while this isn’t principally a romance, this relationship plays a pivotal role in the narrative.

I burned through this book in just over two days, staying awake faaar too long to find out what happens next. I like Landsman’s layered characterisation and trick of writing a situation from the inside out – and would happily read anything else she has written. This is one of my favourite reads of the year so far and is highly recommended for anyone who likes reading about magical worlds with a difference. The ebook arc copy of The Heart of the Circle was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

Sunday Post – 11th August, 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.

I was AWOL last week, recovering from a big family wedding. my sister and nephew came to lunch. It was wonderful seeing my nephew – formerly a confirmed bachelor – walk up the aisle with someone so well suited – their happiness shone through. I had the privilege of giving one of the readings at the lovely service at Bournemouth Town Hall, followed by an enjoyable reception in Christchurch, where catching up with family was the bonus to celebrating this fabulous couple’s happiness. The only downside was the car journey there and back which made it a long day. Then last Sunday I finally finished working on Sally’s book – it was a gruelling five-hour session, but we both felt on a high at the end. On Monday, my sister and my other nephew – who’d been best man at the wedding – came over for a meal with us. It was a wonderful treat as I hadn’t had a chance to catch up with Michael for some time and he is excellent company.

On Tuesday, Himself and I relaxed, after doing the main shop and treated ourselves to lunch out. It was another hot, sunny day and we were also able to enjoy sitting in the garden as I played hooky from work. On Thursday, Frankie came to stay – Oscar stayed behind as his dad managed to get tickets for the Everton match this Saturday. So Friday saw us shopping till we dropped, swinging by Hobbycraft for art supplies as Frankie draws and paints and generally catching up. It seems a long time since I’ve seen him.

Last night we attended a performance of Fiddler on the Roof at the Alexandra Theatre in Bognor, braving stormforce winds to do so. It was worth it, especially as Tim was appearing. We thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful performances, haunting music and impressive production standard. Today we are planning to go up to Forbidden Planet in London so Frankie can check out their selection of manga books.

Last week I read:

The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman
Throughout human history there have always been sorcerers, once idolised and now exploited for their powers. In Israel, the Sons of Simeon, a group of religious extremists, persecute sorcerers while the government turns a blind eye. After a march for equal rights ends in brutal murder, empath, moodifier and reluctant waiter Reed becomes the next target. While his sorcerous and normie friends seek out his future killers, Reed complicates everything by falling hopelessly in love. As the battle for survival grows ever more personal, can Reed protect himself and his friends as the Sons of Simeon close in around them?
I thoroughly enjoyed this Netgalley arc – it’s always a joy when a book exceeds expectations and this one turned out to be an engrossing read unlike anything else I’ve read this year.

 

Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and Adventures – Book 2 of Stephen Fry’s Great Mythology series
Few mere mortals have ever embarked on such bold and heart-stirring adventures, overcome myriad monstrous perils, or outwitted scheming vengeful gods, quite as stylishly and triumphantly as Greek heroes. In this companion to his bestselling Mythos, Stephen Fry brilliantly retells these dramatic, funny, tragic and timeless tales. Join Jason aboard the Argo as he quests for the Golden Fleece. See Atalanta – who was raised by bears – outrun any man before being tricked with golden apples. Witness wily Oedipus solve the riddle of the Sphinx and discover how Bellerophon captures the winged horse Pegasus to help him slay the monster Chimera.
This enjoyable account of the Greek heroes who stepped up to rid the world of some of the monsters is a delight to listen to – every bit as good as Mythos

 

Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence by James Lovelock
James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia hypothesis and the greatest environmental thinker of our time, has produced an astounding new theory about future of life on Earth. He argues that the anthropocene – the age in which humans acquired planetary-scale technologies – is, after 300 years, coming to an end. A new age – the novacene – has already begun.
This short book covers a lot of ground and gives a heady insight into the vision of one of the greatest thinkers of our age. Review to follow…

 

My posts last week:

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Dark Lord of Derkholm – Book 1 of the Derkholm series by Diana Wynne Jones

Friday Faceoff featuring How To Be a Pirate – Book 2 of the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell

Kindle Unlimited Promotion

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman

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

Favourite Fives – My Favourite Five Agatha Christie mysteries https://iwishilivedinalibrary.blogspot.com/2019/08/friday-fives-my-five-favorite-agatha.html?spref=tw This is an enjoyable meme, but what caught my eye was that some of Katherine’s selection were stories that I hadn’t read – what about you?

…a Writer’s work is never done… thankfully!… https://seumasgallacher.com/2019/08/09/a-writers-work-is-never-done-thankfully/ Successful indie author demonstrates the work ethic that has made helped him self publish a string of gripping Jack Calder thrillers.

Short story review: FIRE IN THE BONE by Ray Nayler https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2019/08/06/short-story-review-fire-in-the-bone-by-ray-nayler/ There is a link to this story – and since I’ve read it, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head… what a treat.

#AuthorInterview: #SFF #writer #AdrianTchaikovskydiscusses #writing #openinglines, #worldbuilding, and other bits of #writinglife. Thanks @aptshadow! https://jeanleesworld.com/2019/08/08/authorinterview-sff-writer-adriantchaikovsky-discusses-writing-openinglines-worldbuilding-and-other-bits-of-the-writinglife-thanks-aptshadow/ Top-notch interviewer Jean Lee quizzes talented SFF author Adrian Tchaikovsky on all things writing…

Thursday Doors – Goodbye Dublin https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2019/08/08/thursday-doors-goodbye-dublin/ I just love this quirky series – how does Jean find such a variety of wonderful doors?

Science Fiction in Kindle Unlimited https://books.bookfunnel.com/scifi-in-ku/4tecpf2y60 This is a book funnel promo I’m part of – if you are considering some sci fi goodness this summer, why not check out this selection?

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

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Dark Lord of Derkholm – Book 1 of the Derkholm series by Diana Wynne Jones #Brainfluffbookreview #TheDarkLordofDerkholmaudiobookreview

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I had bought this one for my dyslexic grandson back in the day when he relied on his Audible reads to keep in touch with the world of books – but I didn’t have a kindle back then that could cope with audiobooks. I have now…

Everyone – wizards, soldiers, farmers, elves, dragons, kings and queens alike – is fed up with Mr Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties: groups of tourists from the world next door who descend en masse every year to take the Grand Tour. What they expect are all the trappings of a grand fantasy adventure, including the Evil Enchantress, Wizard Guides, the Dark Lord, Winged Minions, and all. And every year different people are chosen to play these parts. But now they’ve had enough: Mr Chesney may be backed by a very powerful demon, but the Oracles have spoken. Now it’s up to the Wizard Derk and his son Blade, this year’s Dark Lord and Wizard Guide, not to mention Blade’s griffin brothers and sisters, to save the world from Mr Chesney’s depredations.

I know this one is advertised as a children’s read – but it certainly didn’t feel that way to me. Mr Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties are portalled in from another, non-magical world (which sounds very much like our own…) where the pilgrims are promised – and expect – the full fantasy experience. Each group has a wizard guide as they are ushered around to take part in various skirmishes with pirates, avian monsters and a final full-scale battle against the forces of the Dark Lord, who they help overthrow. However, all these tours are taking their toll on the fabric and people exposed to this series of tourist incursions. While this is characterised as hilarious, and I found it both clever and witty – I wasn’t all that amused. I kept thinking of how the locals must feel on the Greek islands when they are overrun by hordes of British youngsters looking for loud music and drunken revelry… And they don’t have a Derk to deliver them from the constant, ongoing invasion. That’s only one example – I’m also aware of places like Indonesia where alongside five-star hotels are staff working long, thankless hours for a pittance as most of the income is hoovered up by the large multinational companies exploiting the natural beauty of the location.

Derk struggles to deal with numerous nit-picking organisational problems and as I continued painting the bathroom, I listened to the unfolding muddle, excellently narrated by Jonathan Broadbent. It was yet another joy – I am so enjoying my audiobook experience! This one is very highly recommended for anyone who enjoys intelligent fantasy adventures – but I shan’t be introducing it to my younger nine-year-old grandson, yet. Clever and precocious though he is, he simply won’t be able to fully appreciate the issues Wynne Jones is addressing in this clever, thoughtful book for another of handful of years.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 6th August, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman
52% I shrugged. “All I’ve been hearing is ‘Reed’s going to die according to their plan so that…’” And I stopped. They had chosen me because I wasn’t significant enough, and yet I wasn’t just a random choice. I was someone who put himself in the line of fire, like Sherry said, but only for friends. Or for a worthy cause. And someone on the Sons of Simeon’s side knew this and intended to take advantage of it.

BLURB: Throughout human history there have always been sorcerers, once idolised and now exploited for their powers. In Israel, the Sons of Simeon, a group of religious extremists, persecute sorcerers while the government turns a blind eye. After a march for equal rights ends in brutal murder, empath, moodifier and reluctant waiter Reed becomes the next target. While his sorcerous and normie friends seek out his future killers, Reed complicates everything by falling hopelessly in love. As the battle for survival grows ever more personal, can Reed protect himself and his friends as the Sons of Simeon close in around them?

I am absolutely loving this one! I THINK someone recommended it – and me, having the memory of a goldfish cannot recall who. But if you did – let me know and I’ll happily let you take the credit.

Because unless it all slides away in the second half – this is set to be one of my favourite reads of the year so far. Clever, layered characterisation, a grimly convincing world and growing tension as Reed becomes aware that the risk to his ending up a shredded ruin after being blown up by terrorists is getting ever greater… All the more poignant as he also is falling in love with Lee, his ex’s ex.

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North #Brainfluffbookreview #TheSuddenAppearanceofHopebookreview

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My name is Hope Arden, and you won’t know who I am. We’ve met before – a thousand times. But I am the girl the world forgets. It started when I was sixteen years old. A slow declining, an isolation, one piece at a time. A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A teacher who forgets to chase my missing homework. A friend who looks straight through me and sees a stranger. No matter what I do, the words I say, the people I hurt, the crimes I commit – you will never remember who I am. That makes my life tricky. But it also makes me dangerous . . .

And that’s the premise – yes, I know. Absolutely fantastic idea. I thought that I was in for another adventure along the lines of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. The character is telling us the story from the inside out in first person viewpoint, which is always a plus for me and, as ever, North extends the situation so that I had a visceral experience of what it is to be completely forgotten. After a moment. The heartbreak of having your own family no longer recognising you, losing all your friends and unable to progress within school or hold down a job because you don’t have the paperwork is well explored.

There is also an excellent plot around the amazing new app called Perfection, which helps users to maximise their happiness and abilities to succeed in today’s modern world – however, there’s a catch… I was on my way to giving this book a solid 10 out of 10 about three-quarters of the way in. And then somehow I was having difficulty in keeping focused on the writing. Now, it might well be me – but I really don’t think so. I like North’s writing, and I’m used to her pacing, which is definitely on the leisurely side, but somehow I became slightly disconnected with the story and couldn’t quite fully re-bond with it again.

That said, I don’t want you to go away with the idea that this isn’t a good read. After all, I have given it an eight. And if I had the choice to go back and pick this one up again – I would do it in a heartbeat. Recommended for fans of intelligent, nuanced near future adventures peopled with three-dimensional characters.
8/10

Sunday Post – 2nd June, 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 half term. I had the children to stay for the first three days, which was a treat as I haven’t had them for a while. It’s always enjoyable to be able to touch base with them and catch up on their doings. Sadly Himself was working throughout, but my sister and I took them out for a meal at our favourite Chinese restaurant. Other than that, they weren’t keen to go out and about, but seemed to enjoy relaxing in their rooms and reading.

I’ve also been catching up on a backlog of reviews and some paperwork. I also submitted my short story ‘How Vine Leaves Stuffed Nemesis’ to an anthology called Fight Like a Girl about battling women, after getting valuable feedback from my Writing Group on Thursday evening. Yesterday, Sally and I spent the day editing her book – we are now nearing the end of the first volume, which is exciting. Today, Himself and I will be tackling the garden…

Last week I read:
The Janus Stone – Book 2 of the Ruth Galloway mysteries by Elly Griffiths
It’s been only a few months since archaeologist Ruth Galloway found herself entangled in a missing persons case, barely escaping with her life. But when construction workers demolishing a large old house in Norwich uncover the bones of a child beneath a doorway—minus its skull—Ruth is once again called upon to investigate. Is it a Roman-era ritual sacrifice, or is the killer closer at hand?
This is one of those series that I’ve always promised myself that I’d tuck into – I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and am looking forward to the next one.

 

The Switch by Justina Robson
In Harmony, only model citizens are welcome. A perfect society must be maintained. The defective must be eradicated. For orphans like Nico and Twostar, this means a life that’s brutal, regulated and short. But Nico and Twostar are survivors, and when they’re offered a way out of the slums, they take it. Unfortunately, no one told Nico the deal included being sentenced to death for the murder of one of Harmony’s most notorious gang leaders. Or that to gain his freedom, first he must lose his mind.
This was a delightful surprise that I found nestling amongst the library shelves, so scooped it up. I’m so glad I did!

 

The Whispering Skull AUDIOBOOK – Book 2 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud
In the six months since Anthony, Lucy, and George survived a night in the most haunted house in England, Lockwood & Co. hasn’t made much progress. Quill Kipps and his team of Fittes agents keep swooping in on Lockwood’s investigations. Finally, in a fit of anger, Anthony challenges his rival to a contest: the next time the two agencies compete on a job, the losing side will have to admit defeat in the Times newspaper. Things look up when a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co. to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who reportedly tried to communicate with the dead. Saunders needs the coffin sealed with silver to prevent any supernatural trouble. All goes well-until George’s curiosity attracts a horrible phantom.
The wonderful, creepy world invented by Stroud is just a joy – and though this is supposedly written for children, I am absolutely loving the quality of the writing and the layered characterisation.

The Art of Noticing: Rediscover What Really Matters To You by Rob Walker
Distracted? Overwhelmed? Feel like your attention is constantly being pulled in different directions? Learn how to steal it back. Accessible and inspiring, this book features 131 surprising and innovative exercises to help you tune out white noise, get unstuck from your screen and manage daily distractions. Make small yet impactful changes and bring focus to the things and people that are most important to you.
I look forward to having a go at some of these exercises during the summer holidays, when Life eases up a little…

 

 

Rough Magic: Riding the world’s wildest horse race by Lara Prior-Palmer
The Mongol Derby is the world’s toughest horse race. An outrageous feat of endurance across the vast Mongolian plains once traversed by the army of Genghis Khan, the Derby sees competitors ride 25 horses across 1000km, and it’s rare that more than half of the riders make it to the finish line. In 2013 Lara Prior-Palmer – nineteen, wildly underprepared and in search of the great unknown – decided to enter the race. Finding on the wild Mongolian steppe strength and self-knowledge she didn’t know she possessed, even whilst caught in biblical storms and lost in the mountains, Lara tore through the field with her motley crew of horses. She didn’t just complete the race: in one of the Derby’s most unexpected results, she won, becoming the youngest-ever competitor to conquer the course.
This gripping account of a young woman struggling to discover who she is while in the middle of a major test of endurance and courage kept me up and turning the pages far later than I should have.

Fields’ Guide to Abduction – Book 1 of the Poppy Fields’ adventures by Julie Mulhern
Poppy Fields, Hollywood IT girl extraordinaire, agreed to a week at the newest, most luxurious resort in Cabo. After all, what’s better than the beach when a girl is feeling blue? When Poppy is abducted, she’ll need all her smarts, all her charm, and a killer Chihuahua, to save herself in this new series from the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Country Club Murders.
Dead body #1 found in bed, with me. That was a shock.
Dead body #2 found in bed, not with me. That was a relief.
Dead body #3 died telling me I’m a lousy actress. I already knew that.
Dead body #4 died trying to kill me.
Dead body #5 died kidnapping me.
Dead body #6 died guarding me.
Dead body #7 was a really bad man.
Dead body #8 was an even worse man.
That’s a lot of dead bodies for a girl looking for a week’s relaxation in Cabo. And, I’m probably leaving a few out—math isn’t my thing. Unless I can escape the cartel, I might be the next dead body.
Poppy is a wonderful protagonist. Sparky and funny, with some battle scars of her own that make her sympathetic – and unexpectedly good in a crisis. I really enjoyed blowing through this one in one sitting…

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Art of Noticing: Rediscover What Really Matters To You by Rob Walker

Friday Faceoff featuring The Green Rider series by Kristen Britain

Review of Children of Blood and Bone – Book 1 of Legacy of Orïsha series by Tomi Adeyemi

Review of Within the Sanctuary of Wings – Book 5 of the Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan

Tuesday Teaser featuring The Switch by Justina Robson

Review of In Evil Times – Book 2 of the Imperials series by Melinda Snodgrass

Sunday Post – 26th May 2019

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

BRIGHTON FRINGE: An Adult Dr Seuss – The Warren: The Nest https://www.thereviewshub.com/brighton-fringe-an-adult-dr-seuss-the-warren-the-nest/
Circumstances conspired so that I was unable to watch this enjoyable show by Geoff, who is a member of my critique writing group – but I did have the pleasure of watching the dress rehearsal and loved it…

10 of the Best Poems about Women https://interestingliterature.com/2019/06/01/10-of-the-best-poems-about-women/ This is an interesting and eclectic mix…

When Your Story Hits Too Close to Home https://writerunboxed.com/2019/05/30/when-you-story-hits-too-close-to-home/ Interestingly, I was grappling with some of these issues when editing my friend’s memoir yesterday…

OTT: All the ways I will kill you if you dare to interrupt my reading https://thisislitblog.com/2019/05/30/ott-all-the-ways-i-will-kill-you-if-you-dare-to-interrupt-my-reading/ This is hilarious – I’d like to say that I wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing – but when I’ve got to a good bit in the book and you decide to crash in…

#Creative #Children #Writing #Friends, and a New #Publishing #Adventure https://jeanleesworld.com/2019/05/30/creative-children-writing-friends-and-a-new-publishing-adventure/ Such are the obstacles and roadblocks in the life of a writer – I am awed at the resilience and strength of writing colleague Jean Lee…

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

Review of Children of Blood and Bone – Book 1 of Legacy of Orïsha series by Tomi Adeyemi #Brainfluffbookreview #ChildrenofBloodandBonebookreview

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Everyone was talking about this book when it first came out – while I was snagged by the stunning cover. When I had some book tokens to spend and saw it on the shelf, I scooped it up – and then didn’t get around to reading it until now…

They killed my mother. They took our magic. They tried to bury us. Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

This is a book about injustice, oppression and prejudice wrapped around a tale of magic, using the power to try and carve out a better future for those afflicted with the white hair of the maji. Told in multiple first person viewpoint, we see the story unfold through the eyes of two sets of siblings from opposite sides of the conflict – Prince Inan and Princess Amari, whose father is responsible for the oppression, as he battles to expunge magic from the world after it caused the death of his family; and Zélie and Tzain, whose mother is brutally murdered by the king’s guards.

I was interested in the fact that the story isn’t straightforward – while the systemic degradation of a people is clearly wrong, Adeyemi doesn’t hide the fact that once magic is unleashed, its power to kill and maim large numbers indiscriminately is terrifying. Indeed, one of the main protagonists accidentally kills someone they are fond of and respects when their magic slips beyond their control. The king’s argument is that he takes no pleasure in supressing, torturing and murdering maggots, as he calls magic-users, but it’s for the good of the kingdom. It’s clear he regards them as sub-human.

But we also see at very close quarters the grief of a girl who has done nothing wrong, except to be born to a woman with a strong talent for magic. Over the years, she hasn’t only seen her mother murdered, but suffered daily humiliation at the hands of brutalised guards and been constantly afraid. When there seems to be an opportunity for the hundreds of orphaned children scattered across the kingdom to once again regain their magical heritage, Zélie and Tzain set off on a quest to gather the necessary artefacts and be at the right place at the right time to perform the ritual.

The book covers that journey. Along the way, they encounter the prince and princess – and I love how Adeyemi plays with reader expectations as to how that will play out. Gripping, action-packed and highly emotional, this is a book that at times I had to put down because I needed to surface from the intensity – at other times a crowbar wouldn’t have levered it out of my hands. I’d love to see this book become a classroom text for young teens, given the moral questions it raises. What do you do when a slice of the population is perceived as a threat to the rest? How do you responsibly neutralise that threat? Is it ever justifiable to ostracise a people because a very small number of them are exceptionally dangerous?

It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to see that these are questions very relevant to our current political situation – but in certain areas of the country, any discussion of that situation may well be seen as not only controversial, but inflammatory. So using Children of Blood and Bone would be immensely helpful in raising these issues to tease out the moral implications. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys a gripping fantasy adventure with unsettling echoes in our modern world.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Deathless – Book 1 of The Deathless series by Peter Newman #Brainfluffbookreview #TheDeathlessbookreview

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I had seen this one on Netgalley and then was invited to review it – and accepted. I liked the premise and assumed he’d be a solidly good writer, after all, he’s married to the great Emma Newman…

The demons… In the endless forests of the Wild, humanity scratches a living by the side of the great Godroads, paths of crystal that provide safe passage and hold back the infernal tide. Creatures lurk within the trees, watching, and plucking those who stray too far from safety.
The Deathless… In crystal castles held aloft on magical currents, seven timeless royal families reign, protecting humanity from the spread of the Wild and its demons. Born and reborn into flawless bodies, the Deathless are as immortal as the precious stones from which they take their names. For generations a fragile balance has held.
And the damned… House Sapphire, one of the ancient Deathless families, is riven by suspicion and madness. Whole villages are disappearing as the hunting expeditions holding the Wild at bay begin to fail.

Newman tips us right in the middle of the action – to the extent that at one point, I flipped back to ensure I was reading the first book in the series. But that’s okay – seeing as one of my hobbies is crashing midway into series, this approach works for me. I certainly prefer it to those stories that take forever to wind up into anything approximating an adventure. The world is overrun with demonic creatures who attack humanity – even the vegetation in the wild forests exact a price to keep them from attacking those desperate enough to seek refuge within such a lethal landscape. What stops the world from being completely overrun are the immortals who live in floating castles powered by crystalline power and the godroads, also crystal-enhanced which attacks and repels all demon-touched flora and fauna.

There are seven main dynasties who maintain their borders and keep all within them safe by their regular hunting expeditions. Until one House doesn’t and a village goes under… The House Sapphire is a mess after one of its most important representatives is accused of consorting with The Wild and is disgraced, before being driven out to fend for herself. Even more devastatingly, the vessel that houses her immortal soul is broken, so that once her current life ends – that’s it – she won’t be reborn into a young, healthy body, again.

The worldbuilding is fabulous – Newman manages to evoke a real sense of tension and menace once outside the castle walls, while providing an insight into what it’s like to live within the castle. I also liked the progression of the story and the pacing, which is really well-handled. The only problem I had was that while there were multiple viewpoints – only one of those characters really appealed, and that was Lady Pari, who is brave and sufficiently wilful to break the rules so she can be with her lover.

I appreciate the characters are not all good or bad – but most of the scions of the crystal families seem to be selfish and vengeful. They certainly seem to have forgotten that their primary vocation is to keep the wild safe for the mortals not fortunate enough to live in a floating castle. But as the adventure unspools, people are pushed to their limits outside their comfort zones and we get to see what they are made of.

I became increasingly absorbed in the story as it wore on and by the end, I was thoroughly engrossed – and I’m keen to read the next slice of the adventure. Because, as things stand – I have no idea where Newman will next take it. While I obtained an arc of The Deathless from the author via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. Recommended for fans of well written, fantasy with a strong, unusual world.
8/10