Category Archives: dystopian fantasy

Review of KINDLE Ebook Six of Crows – Book 1 of the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo #Brainfluffbookreview #SixofCrowsbookreview

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Yeah – I know, I know… Everyone in the galaxy has read this book and most of them – except the aliens lurking on Io – absolutely loved it. So I hesitated – partly because I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it and partly because I wasn’t sure I’d have anything meaningful to say about it when I came to review it, given all those folks in the galaxy got there before me…

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

I’ll be honest – criminal underworld fantasy heist adventures aren’t my go-to genre. I’ve enjoyed the likes of Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastards Sequence – the first three and a bit, anyhow – and Daniel Polansky’s Low Town series is one of my all-time favourites – see my review of The Straight Razor Cure here. But I’ve begun too many books in this genre, only to abandon them when the filth, abject poverty and violence got too much. However, something about this one – including that amazing cover – was calling to me and I’m so very glad I gave in and eventually listened. It takes technical skill to keep this number of protagonists as viewpoint characters without one of them being skimmed, yet Bardugo pulls off this feat, so that we get to know each main member of the gang – why they’ve ended up as part of Ketterdam’s criminal underclass and what their particular role is supposed to be.

Inevitably, the plan put in place by the cold, calculating Kaz doesn’t run all that smoothly and under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have cared all that much, but I fell for Inej, or the Wraith, which is her gang nickname. I wanted her to be able to move on and resume a better life for herself. And then, once we are pulled right into the heart of the story, Bardugo reveals hidden layers of the main character in the middle of plot – ‘Dirtyhands’ Kaz, himself. It’s very well done. The character development throughout the story is masterfully handled – you only have to read a handful of reviews to realise these characters matter to readers.

And I haven’t even started on the plot, yet. Because for a book in this sub-genre to really work, we need to have a clear idea of what’s at stake, what the plan actually is, how it goes wrong and what happens next… There are any number of places where an author can slip up during the delivery of a novel in a criminal underworld fantasy adventure – and I’m not particularly forgiving of a lot of them. I don’t like it when the plot wanders, or one character takes over, or a romance blossoms right in the middle of what should be an action adventure story, or the major climax isn’t so major after all. So I regularly abandon books which have committed these crimes, unfinished and of course, unreviewed.

Six of Crows deftly skips around all these potential pitfalls as if they don’t exist. Every single requirement is triumphantly nailed such that this one became increasingly difficult to put down. And once I finally finished it, I suffered from book hangover so that I struggled to find something else I wanted to read – this hardly ever happens to me! So, at the risk of sounding like everyone else in the universe, except for those embittered, six-legged critters on Io, this is an excellent read and very highly recommended to… well – anyone with a pulse, really.
10/10

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Sunday Post – 20th January, 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 another very busy week and now that I’ve finally got around to setting myself a daily wordcount for the rewrite of Mantivore Prey, I turned around to discover that I’ve now written 5,000 words in the last eight days. It’s not brilliant – but it’s a great deal better than I’d been doing before Christmas. I also wrote and submitted the blurb, acknowledgements and dedication for Netted, my post-apocalyptic novel set in Maine which is being released by Grimbold Publishing. I also have received the edits for my Roman steampunk short story, ‘The Last Journey of Vulcan’s Breath’ which is appearing in an anthology due to be published sometime during the year.

I woke up on Thursday morning feeling rather sorry for myself – I’d a terrible sore throat and stiff neck and felt it wasn’t appropriate to hand whatever had smitten me onto Tim, who I was due to teach that afternoon, so I cancelled our lesson and spent the day dosing myself with lots of water and vitamin C.

It did the trick, which is just as well because I surfaced to my phone pinging. It was my daughter who’d been up all night with a stomach bug and was now worried about carrying the baby up and down the stairs, changing her nappy etc while feeling so sick and giddy. I arrived just after 10 am to find the baby wide awake alongside my sleeping daughter. As I quietly made friends with little Eliza, she beamed up at me. And that set the tone for the day. I was in sole charge of coping with all her needs, having to quickly brush up on my rather rusty babycare skills as I changed her nappies, sorted out lunch, amused her and put her down for her naps. She is now six months old, and the sunniest-natured baby I’ve ever encountered since her mother. She didn’t cry at all during the day, except when she let out a single bellow at being put back down in the buggy when she was expecting a feed, instead. Fortunately, Rebecca was able to get a few hours’ solid sleep and her partner did the school run, so that by the end of the day she was looking a lot better. I brought the two older children back with me for the weekend, which has been huge fun while I’ve caught up with all their doings since seeing them just before Christmas.

I’m quite stiff and sore after lifting and carrying Eliza around, but it was a joy getting to spend so much time with her. Today we took the children home as the weekend passed in a blur and hopefully, it won’t be so long before we see them again.

Last week I read:

Children of Blood and Bone – Book 1 of Legacy of Orïsha series by Tomi Adeyemi
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 an emotional and at times, a harrowing read. But the story of the struggle between those with and without magic is very well depicted, effectively showing both sides of the divide. I loved this adventure and look forward to reading the next slice of the adventure.

Witch Slapped – Book 1 of the Witchless in Seattle series by Dakota Cassidy
What’s a girl to do when she’s a broke, shunned ex-witch with a very tiny, very hungry bat familiar named Belfry to feed? Hello. My name is Stevie Cartwright, and I’ve been witchless for thirty days.
If only there was a support group for down-on-their-luck ex-witches who’ve had their powers slapped right out of them (literally). Just as I was licking my wounds after returning to my hometown of Ebenezer Falls, WA, and navigating my suddenly non-magical existence with the help of my familiar, the only friend I have left in the world–things got sticky. Enter an ex-spy and newly departed spirit named Winterbottom, who’s infiltrated my life with his sexy British accent and a couple of requests…
As you can tell, this cosy murder mystery is a far lighter read. I thoroughly enjoyed the nonsense and will be definitely looking out for more from this entertaining author. Thank you Laura for the recommendation!

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 13th January 2019

My Outstanding Reads of the Year – 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Gilded Wolves – Book 1 of The Gilded Wolves series by Roshani Chokshi

Review of An Easy Death – Book 1 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris

Friday Face-Off featuring The Story of the Amulet – Book 3 of the Five Children series by E. Nesbit

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
Do you trust bloggers who don’t post negative reviews? https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2019/01/16/do-you-trust-bloggers-who-dont-post-negative-reviews-bookblogger-bookbloggers-blogger-bloggers/ This is an ongoing debate that regularly surfaces – and I really liked Drew’s approach to it.

Writing tip: Using Wordle to highlight overused words https://jaceybedford.wordpress.com/2019/01/15/writing-tip-using-wordle-to-highlight-overused-words/ It’s always great to get a really useful writing tip I can pass along to my students – it’s even better when it comes from an author I like and admire.

‘My Last Duchess’: A Poem by Robert Browning https://interestingliterature.com/2019/01/15/my-last-duchess-a-poem-by-robert-browning/ This is a wonderful example of a dramatic monologue and reading the final section always makes me shiver.

Elvis Presley, Tom Jones (never forgetting Lonnie Donegan!): It Looks Like I’ll Never Fall in Love Again https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/01/15/elvis-presley-tom-jones-never-forgetting-lonnie-donegan-it-looks-like-ill-never-fall-in-love-again/ As ever, Thom gives us all sorts of interesting info nuggets, amongst videos of different performers singing this song – but whatever you do, don’t miss that last clip…

Appreciate A Dragon Day https://bookwyrmshoard.com/uncategorized/appreciate-a-dragon-day/ And now I dream of a lovely little dragon, whose forelegs curl protectively across the spine of one of my favourite books – I waaaaant one!

In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – have a wonderful week!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Fury – Book 3 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent #Brainfluffbookreview #Furybookreview

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1986: Rebecca Essig leaves a slumber party early but comes home to a massacre—committed by her own parents. Only one of her siblings has survived. But as the tragic event unfolds, she begins to realize that other than a small army of six-year-olds, she is among very few survivors of a nationwide slaughter. The Reaping has begun.

Present day: Pregnant and on the run with a small band of compatriots, Delilah Marlow is determined to bring her baby into the world safely and secretly. But she isn’t used to sitting back while others suffer, and she’s desperate to reunite Zyanya, the cheetah shifter, with her brother and children. To find a way for Lenore the siren to see her husband. To find Rommily’s missing Oracle sisters. To unify this adopted family of fellow cryptids she came to love and rely on in captivity. But Delilah is about to discover that her role in the human versus cryptid war is destined to be much larger—and more dangerous—than she ever could have imagined.

On realising that this was the third book in the series, I broke with my usual habit of crashing midway into a series and got hold of the first two book and read them first. I was quickly swept up in the dark, intense world of Delilah, who is imprisoned and stripped of all her rights as a human after an incident at a local fair reveals her to be a cryptid in Menagerie – see my review here. This book is structured differently, in that it is largely a dual narrative so that as well as following Delilah’s story in first person viewpoint, we also learn a lot more about The Reaping as we go back in time to the event that causes all the fae to be treated so appallingly and track the consequences and fallout through Rebecca’s viewpoint.

I really enjoyed this aspect – having read allusions to The Reaping throughout the previous two books, it was satisfying to learn more about what happened, particularly as these events increasingly begin to link with Delilah’s storyline. It wasn’t until I read this book that I realised just how unusual it is to have a pregnant protagonist, or one who is coping with a newborn baby in fantasy. It was a plus that the subject was really well done.

The new spin on the story prevented this series becoming predictable and repetitive – and I certainly didn’t see that ending coming. It’s been a while since I’ve been quite so poleaxed by the final denouement of a story, but it really works. I would emphasise, however, that this series and book is not suitable for younger teens and is not a YA read, despite the fact that Vincent has written successfully for that age-group. While I obtained an arc of Fury from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – Something wicked this way comes… #Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is HALLOWEEN, so I’ve selected Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

 

This edition was produced by Simon Schuster in October 2017. It certainly catches the eye and makes the fabulous title the attention-grabber. The bold graphics and bright red background is designed to look like the carnival posters of yesteryear and is also relying on the fame and respect this amazing book has garnered. While I love it, there isn’t much here that shouts HALLOWEEN…

 

Published in June 1999 by William Morrow, I love the conceit behind this cover – that of a headless carousel horse with unspeakable things emerging from the severed neck – and the skull floating above the mayhem. However, they then go and ruin it by slapping one of those award blobs right in the middle of the artwork which ruins it. It’s a real shame, as they also went to the trouble of producing a cracking font, too. The only snag is that this design doesn’t work as a thumbnail.

 

This edition, published by Gollancz in August 2008, is both simple and eye-catching. The lurid green works well against the black, with the back of the ringmaster matching the lettering. It works well as in thumbnail and again, effectively trades on the fame of this book by paring down the design. I really like this one – it’s my favourite.

 

Produced by Bookspan in January 2001, this is also an intriguing cover. The wafting title rising from the paved ground like an evil spell works really well, while dark closes in, threatening and full of unknown terrors… This is a cracking cover that looks awesome full-sized, but the title shrinks to something indecipherable in thumbnail. It is so nearly my favourite…

 

This edition, published by Gollancz in March 2006 for the Fantasy Masterworks series is fabulous. I love that threatening sky… the bolt of lightning… that long road stretching onwards towards the something wicked. And then they make the title as small and insignificant as they possibly can – even the textbox announcing this is a Fantasy Masterworks book is punchier than the actual title! What is the point of a book cover where the title is all but invisible? But never mind about me and my rantings – which one is your favourite cover?

Review of PAPERBOOK Strange the Dreamer – Book 1 in the Strange the Dreamer series by Laini Taylor #Brainfluffbookreview #StrangetheDreamerbookreview

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I loved Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series – I think she’s an extraordinary writer, who pushes the boundaries, so I was really excited to see Strange the Dreamer was due out. I treated myself to the paperback with my birthday money and then promptly became engulfed in a flood of Netgalley arcs that needed reading first. So I reckon I’m one of five people on the planet who haven’t yet got around to this one…

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

That’s as much of the rather chatty blurb that I’m prepared to share. I love, love, love Lazlo – his daydreaming as a child chimes with my own intense imaginary worlds I used as a refuge from a rather complicated childhood, though I hasten to add that’s where the resemblance ends. No one beat me for my imaginary adventures – unlike poor old Lazlo. But although he is bookish, he is also clever and unexpectedly courageous. Writing such a nuanced protagonist takes a lot of skill and talent, which Taylor possesses in shedloads.

As the story progresses, accounts of Lazlo’s life are interspersed by what is going on in the Citadel floating above the city of Weep, inhabited by five young people, who are the sole survivors of a savage attack that took place some fifteen years earlier. Their skins are bright blue and each one has a godlike talent, which they mostly use to eke out a difficult existence. Though one of them is determined to be revenged on the wicked humans below who stormed their stronghold and slaughtered everyone in the night…

As ever, Taylor takes an intriguing story and pushes it adrift from any comforting tethers where mercy or love prevent the worst atrocities happening. Yet she manages to do this while still keeping the book a thing of beauty and wonder by the lyrical quality of her prose and depth of characterisation. Even the antagonists have strong, plausible reasons for their behaviour. I was lost in this story, even dreaming of it, which doesn’t happen all that often these days. And despite the fact that Muse of Nightmares is more money than I’d usually pay for an ebook – when I came to the end of Strange the Dreamer, I bought it anyway, because I need to know what happens next.
10/10

Sunday Post – 16th September, 2018 #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 pulled a no-show here as I was staying with my daughter over the weekend and getting to know my adorable baby granddaughter. It was lovely touching base with all the grandchildren and chatting with my daughter until the wee small hours as she fed the baby. She has recommended a new comedy TV series, Upstart Crow, which she reckons is right up my street. I’m looking forward to catching up with William Shakespeare’s efforts to write his plays, in between his eventful commutes back to Stratford-Upon-Avon…

As for the rest of the week – I’ve now completed the course notes for my Creative Writing classes which are due to start tomorrow. I’m looking forward to seeing my students as it seems a very long time since we broke up for the summer. On Wednesday, I attended my Pilates class, but gave Fitstep a miss as I’ve been nursing a sore hip. I might alternate between the two, but right now until I’m a lot fitter, I think trying to do the two classes in one morning is simply beyond me. On Thursday, I started teaching Tim again and was delighted to hear that he is enjoying his Music course at Chichester college. Last night, we went to our favourite Chinese restaurant, The Dragon, for a meal, accompanied by my sister, to celebrate our twenty-third wedding anniversary – where does the time go? It certainly doesn’t feel as if we’ve been married for twenty-three years!

This week I have read:

The Poisoned Chalice Murder – Book 2 of the Black and Dods mystery series by Diane Janes
Tom Dod’s Aunt Hetty is worried – three sudden deaths have occurred in the sleepy village of Durley Dean. They might seem like tragic accidents, but Aunt Hetty isn’t so sure. After all, all three took a stand against Reverend Pinder, the new vicar of St Agnes Church, whose controversial changes have divided the congregation. But is there really a killer among the parishioners? And while Fran leaps at the chance to spend a weekend at Aunt Hetty’s sleuthing with Tom, could the trip prove to be a poisoned chalice in more ways than one?
I loved the first book, The Magic Chair Mystery, and this follow-up didn’t disappoint. Fran, the protagonist is intelligent and sympathetic, while the mystery, set in the 1920s had plenty of period detail. Review to follow.

 

Immortal Creators – Book 2 of the Immortal Writers series by Jill Bowers
Sixteen-year-old author Scott Beck never wanted to be an Immortal Writer—not after his father was killed on a mission attempting to dispatch his own villain. Scott blames Shakespeare and the Writers for his father’s untimely demise, but no amount of hatred will prevent the oncoming alien attack, which has come over to reality straight from Scott’s book.
Scott is forced to collect his characters—an Air Force colonel, two of the best pilots on Earth, and an alien enthusiast from the year 2134—and defeat the alien king before Earth is obliterated by his ships. But an odd sickness Scott calls his Writing Fever might just kill him before the aliens have the chance.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Scott is convincing as a very reluctant protagonist, who has to face up to the fact that he is the only person able to save Earth. I will be reviewing this in due course.

 

Spinning Thorns by Anna Sheehan
Sleeping Beauty has woken. The world has been renewed. Everyone is living happily ever after . . . Almost.

Sharp, blood-seeking thorns still surround the castle. A feud remains between those who wield magic and those who were subjected to it. And while the kingdom is divided against itself, nothing can thrive. A rebellion may be needed – and that’s where Sleeping Beauty’s daughter comes in . . .
This fairytale retelling is a delight, mashing up elements from Sleeping Beauty and Rumplestiltskin in a clever, convincing way. I posted my mini-review of this one on Amazon UK and Goodreads.

 

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Salvation’s Fire: After the War – Book 2 of the After the War series by Justina Robson

Teaser Tuesday featuring Immortal Creators – Book 2 of the Immortal Writers series by Jill Bowers

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Nyxia – Book 1 of The Nyxia Triad by Scott Reintgen

Review of The Watchmaker’s Daughter – Book 1 of the Glass and Steele series by C.J. Archer

Friday Faceoff – A wolf doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of sheep… featuring Wolf Brother – Book 1 of the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver

I N T E R S T E L L A R – Instafreebie Giveaway featuring some of the 54 books available

Authoring Annals – Writing in Heaven and Plunging into Uncertainty Hell

 

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

Off to North Wales for a writers’ week. Meantime a writerly warning. http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=2972 Hybrid author Juliet McKenna spells out how to spot the vanity publishers leeching off unwary writers

Bob Dylan: Forever Young https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2018/09/06/bob-dylan-forever-young/ Thom’s marvellous site is always worth visiting if you enjoy passionate, beautifully written articles about a range of popular music – but this one dedicated to the birth of his granddaughter struck a particular chord with me…

The Five Mistakes the Caused Me Not to Write my Column This Month https://writerunboxed.com/2018/09/15/the-five-mistakes-that-caused-me-to-not-write-my-column-this-month/ Bill Ferris and his writing advice is another firm favourite – and this hilarious offering reminds me of the excuses I make on my blog when I have to confess why I’ve missed posting yet another article.

My Passion for Reading https://literacyletters.wordpress.com/2018/09/01/my-passion-for-reading/ Rae is one of the remarkable, interesting people I have met through my blog and this short article about her love of books and reading is an inspiration.

NASA Wins an Emmy Award https://earthianhivemind.net/2018/09/09/nasa-win-emmys-awards/ Steph has highlighted this achievement by including a video of NASA’s activities. It’s worth watching.

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Menagerie – Book 1 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent #Brainfluffbookreview #Menageriebookreview

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I like this author – see my review of Pride which also has something to say about the modern world within her escapist fantasy story. So when I saw the third book in this series featured on Netgalley, I requested it and when I was approved and realised that this wasn’t one I could crash into – I got hold of the previous two books in the series.

When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus big-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town. But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other “attractions”—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she’ll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed.

And there you have it. Creatures which are not fully human are rounded up, stripped of any rights, caged and put on display for the public. Other than the direct, uncomfortable example of what we often do to the animals we share this planet with – what I kept thinking about was those who are trafficked and sold into slavery. The justification for this treatment is an event called the Reaping, where thousands of children were slaughtered by their parents under some mysterious compulsion that has never been fully explained – except that it is believed to be by a creature with non-human powers.

This dystopian, alternative history is well established and I thoroughly believed in Delilah, an apparently ordinary twenty-five-year-old bank teller who reluctantly goes along to one of these carnivals with her friends and fiancé. The ensuing incident sees her stripped of any of her human rights and put in a cage right along the other specimens on display. I really enjoyed following her journey – it was engrossing and horrifying. Though it did jar with me when we were occasionally yanked out of her first-person viewpoint, finding ourselves in the point of view of one of the supporting characters. It didn’t happen sufficiently often with the same characters for it feel anything other than a bit random.

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Delilah makes a convincing protagonist and I enjoyed how many of the imprisoned exhibits looked after each other. The pace is well judged, as you’d expect from a writer of her experience and I gobbled this one up in two sittings. Recommended for fans of character-led, darker fantasy and no romance.
9/10

Sunday Post – 2nd September, 2018 #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.

Apologies for having gone dark on the blog, but I was staying with my sister-in-law in Bexhill, who booked a flat with a sea view while she grappled with her thesis and invited me to join her last week. In doing so, I ticked off one of my bucket list wishes – writing in a round room with views of the sea from every window… It was glorious. I kept looking up and pinching myself to check I actually was there. The cherry on top was that the weather was lovely except for one rainy morning and Celia and I get along really well together and found writing together helped both of us.

As a result, in the three days I was staying there I managed to write over 16,000 words of Mantivore Preys, the second book in my series about telepathic alien, Vrox. I returned from the writing break feeling more refreshed and relaxed than I’ve felt for months. It was lovely to see Himself again – especially as he met me in Brighton to help me negotiate my very heavy cases on and off the train home.

Mhairi spent the day with me yesterday as we discussed all things writing and poked the Marketing dragon with a sharp stick. I hope you have all had a great week and I look forward to catching up with everyone during the week.

This week I have read:

A Muddle of Magic – Book 2 of the Fledgling Magic series by Alexandra Rushe
What’s a nice Southern girl doing in a place like this?

Whisked from humdrum Alabama to the fantastical land of Tandara by a mage who won’t take no for an answer, Raine Stewart finds herself tangled in a muddle of magic. A Dark Wizard is out for her blood, a demonic golem has orders to dispatch her . . . and she stinks at magic. Being a wizard, even a baby wizard, is harder than Raine thought.
I regularly crash into the middle of series and don’t find it a problem, but I think I would have benefitted from having read the first book in this series. That said, I found Raine an enjoyable, sympathetic protagonist and the various adventures engrossing. The outstanding feature of this book was the variety of the magical monsters on offer, along with the excellent scene-setting.

The Zero Blessing – Book 1 of The Zero Enigma by Christopher G. Nuttell
Caitlyn Aguirre should have been a magician. Her family certainly expected her to be a magician. But by the time she reached her twelfth birthday, Caitlyn hadn’t even managed to cast a single spell! In desperation, her parents send her – and her magical sisters – to Jude’s Sorcerous Academy, her last best chance to discover her powers.

But as she struggles to survive her classes without a single spell to her name, Caitlyn starts to uncover an ancient mystery that may prove the key to her true powers … If she lives long enough to find it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. School-based stories are a weakness of mine, anyway. But Nuttell really nails the sympathetic young protagonist in this engrossing children’s book that is too good to leave to the youngsters. Ideal for fans of Harry Potter…

Fury – Book 3 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent
1986: Rebecca Essig leaves a slumber party early but comes home to a massacre—committed by her own parents. Only one of her siblings has survived. But as the tragic event unfolds, she begins to realize that other than a small army of six-year-olds, she is among very few survivors of a nationwide slaughter.

The Reaping has begun.

Present day: Pregnant and on the run with a small band of compatriots, Delilah Marlow is determined to bring her baby into the world safely and secretly. But she isn’t used to sitting back while others suffer, and she’s desperate to reunite Zyanya, the cheetah shifter, with her brother and children. To find a way for Lenore the siren to see her husband. To find Rommily’s missing Oracle sisters. To unify this adopted family of fellow cryptids she came to love and rely on in captivity.

But Delilah is about to discover that her role in the human versus cryptid war is destined to be much larger—and more dangerous—than she ever could have imagined.
This is the final book in this disturbing dystopian fantasy in an alternative world where supernatural creatures used to live alongside humans peacefully – until the Reaping. I was sort of expecting more of the same gritted struggle to stay hidden by this small band, who are desperate not to be caught again. I hadn’t expected to also get a ringside seat at the Reaping, the defining event which led to the persecution of all supernatural races. This gripping final instalment answers all sorts of questions raised in the previous two books and successfully brought the series to an amazing and emotional climax.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 27th August 2018

Review of Nolander – Book 1 of the Emanations series by Becca Mills

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Nyxia – Book 1 of The Nyxia Triad by Scott Reintgen

Review of The Zero Blessing – Book 1 of The Zero Enigma by Christopher G. Nuttall

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister

Apologies but this week I am unable to feature other articles and blogs as I normally do, because I haven’t been browsing online – I’ve been writing, instead. Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

#Sunday Post – 27th August, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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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 have been busy this week writing the course notes for this term’s Creative Writing course which starts on 17th September, which sounds a while away, but I know from experience that it isn’t. I managed to get all but the final handout written, which I’m pleased about. The regular admin and lesson plans still need to be written, but at least I’ve done the hard part.

On Monday I met up with one of my students who has missed a couple of terms through illness. It was lovely to see her again, looking so much better as we caught up on each other’s lives. I had lunch with my sister on Tuesday and we went shopping together on Friday, though I resisted the temptation to buy anything major – which was a feat we celebrated by having a very leisurely chat over a looong cup of tea together. On Saturday, I travelled up to Cambridge to catch up with my son who I hadn’t seen since Christmas – far too long! We visited the Anthony Gormley exhibition, which was marvellous – and then he treated me to a trip on the river. It was so much fun watching him windmill the pole as he punted me up the river that the rain simply didn’t matter.

During this coming week, I will not be commenting or replying on my blog as I shall be on a writing retreat and I’m not sure about the wifi connection – parts of the country aren’t very well served. But I will catch up once I get back.

This week I have read:

Menagerie – Book 1 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent
When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus big-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town.
I rapidly became engrossed in Delilah’s plight, unable to forget the numbers of youngsters imprisoned and trapped by illegal trafficking, though this book can also be read as a piece of escapist fiction.

 

Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister
A kidnap attempt outside the school gates in broad daylight convinces Gabriel Ash that his renegade wife is trying to steal their sons from him. Only the intervention of his friend Constable Hazel Best kept them safe. It’s a simple if alarming explanation, but is it the truth? Hazel uncovers disturbing information about another crime, the repercussions of which are still threatening innocent lives seventeen years later. Once again Hazel finds herself at loggerheads with her superiors. Did they really conspire to protect a murderer? And this time she isn’t getting the support she needs from Ash. She’d thought they were kindred spirits: now she’s not sure what his motives are.
I was overdue an enjoyable cosy mystery and this one certainly ticked the box. Enjoyable, likeable protagonists and a gripping situation that steadily builds into a major mystery with an exciting denouement.

 

Spectacle – Book 2 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent
The Savage Spectacle is a private collection of “exotic wildlife.” Specializing in ruthless cryptid cage matches, safari-style creature hunts and living party favors, the Spectacle’s owner, Willem Vandekamp, caters to the forbidden fetishes of the wealthy and powerful. At the Spectacle, any wish can be granted—for the right price. But a number of new exhibits not only create more opportunities for making money, they also pose risks Willem hasn’t yet encountered.
This next slice of the adventures featuring Delilah, a shape-shifting human with disturbing powers was just as engrossing as the first book – and I’m looking forward to reading the final book in the trilogy, which is the Netgalley arc I will be reviewing in due course.

 

Fifty-One by Chris Barnham
Jacob Wesson is a timecop from 2040, sent back to WWII London to stop the assassination of Britain’s war leader. The assignment plays out with apparent ease, but the jump home goes wrong, leading to a series of events that not only puts in jeopardy the outcome of WWII, but all history…
This intelligent, well written time travelling adventure is not only a thumping good read, but raises some interesting questions on the nature of time travelling that I’ve never seen so fully explored. I was also very impressed with Barnham’s depiction of war-torn London in 1940 and the 2040 equivalent.

 

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 19th August 2018

Teaser Tuesday featuring Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Fury – Book 3 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Foundryside – Book 1 of the Founders series by Robert Jackson Bennett

Friday Face-off – Myths and Legends… featuring Myths and Legends by Anthony Horowitz

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

Thursday Doors https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2018/08/24/thursday-doors-110/ Regulars will know this quirky series is a firm favourite – but these walkways are just lovely… you can imagine all sorts of magical adventures occurring in these surroundings.

…my dream dinner guests list… prob’ly change again by next week!… https://seumasgallacher.com/2018/08/24/my-dream-dinner-guests-list-probly-change-again-by-next-week/ Seumas has fun playing this game – this is a dinner party I’d love to attend. What about you – who would you invite to your dream dinner?

#writerproblems: catching #characters with a coda of giveaway #countdown https://jeanleesworld.com/2018/08/23/writerproblems-catching-characters-with-a-coda-of-giveaway-countdown/ Jean gives her take on integrating family life with that of a working writer – and reminds us of a fabulous opportunity to get hold of her marvellous debut novel. I’ve been lucky to read the arc and will be reviewing it in due course. In the meantime, do keep a lookout for it – it’s a wonderful, quirky read…

Spraoi 2018 – Scotch is back! https://inesemjphotography.com/2018/08/24/spraoi-2018-scotch-is-back/ No – we’re not talking the drink, we’re talking a Dutch band playing at a free street festival in Waterford, Ireland. These photos sum up the joy and passion of live music for both the participants and those watching…

Do you Reread? https://emeraldcitybookreview.com/2018/08/do-you-re-read-2.html This is an interesting question – if you get down as far as the comments, you’ll find my views on this subject there. But I am always intrigued to know if readers go back to books they love…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and have a great week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Foundryside – Book 1 of the Founders series by Robert Jackson Bennett #Brainfluffbookreview #Foundrysidebookreview

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I spotted this one on several book blogging sites I respect, but when Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog featured it as one of her upcoming reads, I scampered across to Netgalley and managed to get approved for it. And we agreed to buddy read it…

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle. But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims. Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them…

Part of the rather chatty blurb above makes it clear the magic system is complex with a long, involved history. Back at the height of a lost civilisation, the ancients were able to wield magic to do unimaginable things and it is the discovery of some of their magical objects that has allowed the brightest minds to work out how to rekindle magical power, albeit in a bastardised form. It is the discovery of this magic powering the rise of the four merchanting families, who have a stranglehold on Tevanne. Furthermore, those who are not born into the service of these houses, or are thrown away after they have outlived their usefulness, scrabble for survival in the Commons. And there’s Sancia, whose backstory is different again…

I loved the premise and the world. It seems entirely plausible that a capitalist system would reward those with the magical skills and artefacts, while neglecting those who aren’t so fortunate. Sancia is a brilliant protagonist – one of the best I have read this year. Gritted, determined and focused on surviving, with a special ability that she would love to lose, she is a thief. Bennett writes her ability brilliantly and I found myself engrossed in her plight.

So I was more than a tad fed up when the action scenes were halted by chunks of explanation of how the magic works in omniscient point of view. The most egregious example occurs about halfway through the book during a fight – where the courageous hero is left hanging in mid-realisation that his attackers are flying, while we break off for a detailed explanation as to why flying is technically a really tricky business and therefore illegal… It was the only sheer quality of the writing and characters saved the book from flying across the room at this point. I would prefer an appendix where the magic system is explained in detail for those who like drilling into such details of the worldbuilding, rather than crashing across the story so intrusively.

Rant aside, this book is a joy. Fortunately the info-dumps decrease significantly in the second half of the book, allowing the pace to pick up. The world is well described and the characters gripped me – I like the fact that despite the patriarchy running Tevanne, there are plenty of strong, not necessarily likeable female characters who punch through the institutional obstacles in their path. But the character who shines through all of this is Sancia – I dreamt of her… Damaged, scarred and struggling with mental issues, she is still battling to move forward and strive for something better. The climax works brilliantly and I liked the ending, which nicely sets this one up for the sequel, which I look forward to reading.

Highly recommended for those who enjoy detailed, urban fantasy tales peopled with awesome characters – if that appendix was in place this book would have scored a 10. While I obtained an arc of Foundryside from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10