Category Archives: dystopian science fiction

Sunday Post – 5th July, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Another week has slipped by. Himself is on annual leave and we had a list of chores planned, mostly around painting jobs in the garden, but the weather hasn’t been good enough. The highlight of the week was little Eliza’s birthday party on Tuesday. She was so excited and rushed around shouting, “Two! Twoooo!” We were glad to be able to be there.

Other than that, I’ve been editing and reading, while Himself has been watching motor racing and cricket and wishing they weren’t repeats. We haven’t any plans to go to restaurants, pubs or cafes just yet. For starters, they’ll be far too busy – and not enough folks are being careful.

The pics this week are from a walk we managed along the sea front at Littlehampton on Friday and though it was blowing a hoolie, it wasn’t raining. Here’s hoping you have a peaceful week and stay safe.

Last week I read:

The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi
Can you uncover the truth when you’re forbidden from speaking it?
A Sin Eater’s duty is a necessary evil: she hears the final private confessions of the dying, eats their sins as a funeral rite, and so guarantees their souls access to heaven. It is always women who eat sins – since it was Eve who first ate the Forbidden Fruit – and every town has at least one, not that they are publicly acknowledged. Stained by the sins they are obliged to consume, the Sin Eater is shunned and silenced, doomed to live in exile at the edge of town. Recently orphaned May Owens is just fourteen, and has never considered what it might be like to be so ostracized; she’s more concerned with where her next meal is coming from. When she’s arrested for stealing a loaf of bread, however, and subsequently sentenced to become a Sin Eater, finding food is suddenly the last of her worries.
Once I relaxed into the world, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. May is very well depicted – a sympathetic and plausible heroine, who develops throughout the story, which became a gripping mystery. Review to follow.


The Fated Sky – Book 2 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Fated Sky continued the grand sweep of alternate history begun in The Calculating Stars. It is 1961, and the International Aerospace Coalition has established a colony on the moon. Elma York, the noted Lady Astronaut, is working on rotation, flying shuttles on the moon and returning regularly to Earth. But humanity must get a foothold on Mars. The first exploratory mission is being planned, and none of the women astronauts is on the crew list. The international Aerospace Coalition has grave reservations about sending their “Lady Astronauts” on such a dangerous mission…
I loved this one. I have grown very fond of Elma and found this second book in The Lady Astronaut adventure even more gripping than the first one. I loved the progression of the characters and this was one of my outstanding reads of the month. Review to follow.

Ghost Ups Her Game – Book 9 of the Bailey Ruth mysteries by Carolyn Hart
After a busy morning dispatching emissaries from Heaven’s Department of Good Intentions to those in need, Bailey Ruth Raeburn is feeling flush with success. So when an urgent call for help comes through from her old hometown, she can’t resist taking on the mission herself. After all, what could go wrong? With the shouted warning of her boss, Wiggins – “Irregular! Problematic!” – ringing in her ears, she arrives to face a shocking scene: Professor Iris Gallagher leaning over the corpse of her colleague Matt Lambert, the murder weapon clutched in her hand. Bailey Ruth is only sent to help the innocent, but things are looking very black for Iris. With Wiggins breathing down her neck, and her old friend Police Chief Sam Cobb casting doubt on her every theory, Bailey Ruth must uncover the truth – or this could be the last trip to earth she’s ever allowed to make.
A cosy mystery with a difference – the investigator is a ghost on a mission to clear someone wrongly charged. This was an entertaining read that never lost sight of the fact that a murder had been committed, which I appreciated. The murder mystery was well handled and denouement was suitably satisfying. Review to follow.


Embers of War – Book 1 of the Embers of War series by Gareth L. Powell
The warship Trouble Dog was built and bred for calculating violence, yet following a brutal war, she finds herself disgusted by conflict and her role in a possible war crime. Seeking to atone, she joins the House of Reclamation, an organisation dedicated to rescuing ships in distress.

But, stripped of her weaponry and emptied of her officers, she struggles in the new role she’s chosen for herself. When a ship goes missing in a disputed system, Trouble Dog and her new crew of misfits and loners, captained by Sal Konstanz, an ex-captain of a medical frigate who once fought against Trouble Dog, are assigned to investigate and save whoever they can.
This excellent space opera adventure had all the ingredients that I love – but the star has to be Trouble Dog. I just loved that grumpy, clever ship who won’t back down even when faced with overwhelming odds.


The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
Reasons Cara has died:
The emperor of the wasteland wanted to make an example of her mother and started with her
– One of her mother’s boyfriends wanted to cover up what he did to her
– She was born addicted and her lungs didn’t develop
– She was left alone, and a stranger came along
– The runners came for a neighbour and she was in the way
– The runners came for her mother and she was in the way
– The runners came for her boyfriend and she was in the way
– The runners came for no one, serving nothing but chaos and fear, and she was what they found
– Her mother left her alone in a shed while she worked or got high and she fell asleep alone and hungry and forever


Reasons Cara has lived:
– She doesn’t know but there are 8.

The multiverse business is booming, but there’s just one catch: no one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive.
Enter Cara. Of the 382 realities that have been unlocked, Cara is dead in all but eight. But on this earth, she survived. Born in the wastelands where if a basic lack of resources didn’t kill you, violence would, Cara is happy to reap the benefits of a job and a safe place in the city to call home.
But when one of her eight remaining doppelgangers dies under mysterious circumstances, Cara is plunged into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and future in ways she never could have imagined – and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.
I know! Isn’t that a doozy of a blurb?? This proved to be a gem of a read. I enjoyed the tension humming through this gritty, dystopian science fiction multiverse adventure and found it hard to put down until I’d finished. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

June Roundup 2020 – Reading, Writing and Blogging…

Friday Face-off featuring Kraken by China Miéville

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The House on Widows Hill – Book 9 of the Ishmael Jones by Simon R. Green

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Peace Talks – Book 16 of the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Tuesday Treasures – 2

Review of TUYO – Book 1 of the Tuyo series by Rachel Neumeier

Sunday Post – 28th June 2020


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

TBR and Beyond’s July and August 2020 Challenge https://confessionsofayareader.wordpress.com/2020/07/02/tbr-and-beyonds-july-and-august-2020-challenge/ For those of you who like reading challenges, this is a board game you might like to have a go at…

Thursday Doors – Cottage https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2020/07/02/thursday-doors-cottage/ Another escape into the beauty of old buildings…

Funny of the Week https://blogging807.wordpress.com/2020/07/02/funny-of-the-week-2/ For the sheer random weirdness of this one – we were try to figure out ANY circumstance in which this would be possible…

Dancing Duet https://cindyknoke.com/2020/06/27/dancing-duet/ I didn’t know anything about these birds, but the way they sing in concert is magical…

On the Way to Jerusalem https://writerunboxed.com/2020/07/02/on-the-way-to-jerusalem/ While this article is aimed at writers, it seemed to me that many of us can also apply this journey to the progress of our lives.

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Gravity is Heartless – Book 1 of the Heartless series by Sarah Lahey #Brainfluffbookreview #GravityisHeartlessbookreview

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I’ll be honest – it was the cover that drew my attention to this offering, as it looked so quirky and space-age, though that is rather ironic, given that it is set on Earth in the near future…

BLURB: The year is 2050: automated cities, vehicles, and homes are now standard, artificial Intelligence, CRISPR gene editing, and quantum computing have become a reality, and climate change is in full swing―sea levels are rising, clouds have disappeared, and the planet is heating up. Quinn Buyers is a climate scientist who’d rather be studying the clouds than getting ready for her wedding day. But when an unexpected tragedy causes her to lose everything, including her famous scientist mother, she embarks upon a quest for answers that takes her across the globe―and she uncovers friends, loss and love in the most unexpected of places along the way.

It took me a little while to get into this one, which is set only thirty years into the future. Now, I’m aware that writing near-future sci fi is incredibly difficult, but I did feel that the world changing beyond all recognition in such a radical manner was rather a big ask. I was also not wholly convinced by the characterisation – all the cast, including Quinn, felt a bit unnatural. However, I was sufficiently intrigued by the premise and that initial catastrophe to want to read on.

This wasn’t a difficult book to read, as the action never lets up. While it is mostly in Quinn’s viewpoint, I didn’t ever fully bond with her. It’s always a tricky business, writing socially awkward protagonists, because there is a higher likelihood they won’t click with the reader. I was particularly repelled by her unpleasant treatment of the merecat, whose programming meant it was powerless to do anything other than respond in a kindly and positive manner and she effectively bullied and belittled it. I wasn’t all that convinced by the ‘love’ story, either, as it was essentially more about lust than anything else. However, at no stage was I tempted to put this one down, as the plotting was suitably action-filled and unpredictable and I was happy to see where the story went.

But that is the major problem for me – there isn’t a single plotpoint completed within this story. Every important element is left hanging, and every single character we encounter who has any impact on the action is facing a major change or challenge by the end of the story. While I appreciate that in a series, you do want to leave a few dangling plot points – I came away feeling a tad short-changed, as the point of this whole book is to set up the ongoing narrative. So while it is a reasonably entertaining read, overall I also found it a rather frustrating experience. Recommended for readers who enjoy action-led, near-future adventures and ongoing stories. The ebook arc copy of Gravity is Heartless was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10
28.5.20

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 3rd June, 20202 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson – release date, 4th August, 2020

#science fiction #multiverse adventure #feisty heroine


BLURB: The multiverse business is booming, but there’s just one catch: no one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive.

Enter Cara. Of the 382 realities that have been unlocked, Cara is dead in all but eight

But on this earth, she survived. Born in the wastelands where if a basic lack of resources didn’t kill you, violence would, Cara is happy to reap the benefits of a job and a safe place in the city to call home.

But when one of her eight remaining doppelgangers dies under mysterious circumstances, Cara is plunged into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and future in ways she never could have imagined – and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.


I love multiverse adventures and this one looks as if it has taken a different approach to the whole subject. I’m really looking forward to tucking into this one as the premise sounds both intriguing and gripping. It doesn’t hurt that the cover is also really cool, too. And the big bonus is – this one couldn’t be further from our current difficulties if it tried…

Sunday Post – 31st May, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Mantivore Dreams is free for today and tomorrow – just click on the cover in the sidebar, which will take you to your local Amazon outlet to claim a copy…

The weather feels like high summer – long, sunny days and no rain. Except for a bit of a nip in the air. So Himself is still trudging around with the watering can. The bronze and pink bed is looking fabulous and my cordyline has started flowering – the scent is amazing, intense and lily-like. And now my yarrow is looking beautiful.

I have now finished my first major edit of Mantivore Warrior and I’m really pleased and excited at how that is going. Wyrd and Wonder 2020 has just finished and I thoroughly enjoyed taking part. Many thanks to Imyril @ There’s Always Room for Another, Lisa @ Dear Geek Place and Jorie Loves a Story for all their hard work in making the event such a success.

A lot less happily – I had a go at the WordPress block editor option which is about to engulf those of us who haven’t yet switched across during the week and it was a complete car crash. It won’t successfully wrap text around images, the way I’ve doing for years and I don’t find it remotely intuitive. I managed to flip back to Classic, but I know that eventually I’ll have to get to grips with it and I’m dreading it☹. I wasn’t impressed with the quality of the help provided – while the assistant was very friendly, the instructional videos wouldn’t load, the graphic how-to clips moved far too fast for me to follow. And at one point when trying to load yet another non-functioning link they provided – my trusty desktop fizzled to a stop – it never does that! Which was when I broke off asking for help… So my blogging in the coming weeks might be a bit sporadic while I grapple with the misery ahead of me.


Last week I read:
Less than usual, because I started off rereading Mantivore Prey, the second book in my Arcadian Chronicles series, before starting the edit of Mantivore Warrior – but I don’t count that in my reading listings, as it comes under the heading of Editing!

Night’s Tooth NOVELLA by Jean Lee
Mississippi River Valley, 1870s. The white man wields rails and guns to bring law to the land. But there are more than wild animals hiding in the territories, and it will take more than guns to bring them down. Sumac the bounty hunter needs no guns to hunt any bandit with a price on his head, even one as legendary and mysterious as Night’s Tooth. But Sumac didn’t count on other bounty hunters coming along as competition, nor did he expect hunters sharing his own magical gifts. It’s one man against a gang and a mystery, all to protect a train that must cross the territories at all costs…

I love Jean Lee’s immersive, punchy writing style and she completely nailed this gripping shapeshifter Western fanatasy story. Review to follow.


Gravity is Heartless – Book 1 of the Heartless series by Sarah Lahey
The year is 2050: automated cities, vehicles, and homes are now standard, artificial Intelligence, CRISPR gene editing, and quantum computing have become a reality, and climate change is in full swing―sea levels are rising, clouds have disappeared, and the planet is heating up. Quinn Buyers is a climate scientist who’d rather be studying the clouds than getting ready for her wedding day. But when an unexpected tragedy causes her to lose everything, including her famous scientist mother, she embarks upon a quest for answers that takes her across the globe―and she uncovers friends, loss and love in the most unexpected of places along the way. Gravity Is Heartless is bold, speculative fiction that sheds a hard light on the treatment of our planet even as it offers a breathtaking sense of hope for the future.

This was an entertaining action-filled near future adventure that left everything on rather a cliffhanger. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

Three AUDIBLE mini-reviews – How To Betray a Dragon’s Hero; The Lost Plot; Uprooted

Friday Face-off featuring Dark Lord of Derkholm – Book 1 of the Derkholm series by Diana Wynne Jones

Mantivore Dreams – Book 1 of The Arcadian Chronicles is FREE!

Review of Sacred Bride – Book 3 of the Olympus trilogy by David Hair & Cath Mayo

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Grave Secrets: the Lavington Windsor Mysteries – Book 1 by Alice James

Get to Know the Fantasy Reader tag – Wyrd and Wonder 2020

Review of The Zero Curse – Book 2 of The Zero Enigma by Christopher G. Nuttall

Sunday Post – 24th May 2020

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

My Own Sorrow https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2020/05/27/my-own-sorrow/ Some of you might know Drew as an outspoken book blogger, whose forthright views often include rather sweary language – but he also produces poems of wrenching sadness…

It’s Never Too Late: 10 Writers and Artists That Were Late Bloomers https://leighhecking.com/2017/04/04/its-never-too-late-10-writers-artists-that-were-late-bloomers/ As someone who won’t see 60 again, I found this article very encouraging…

10 of the Most Beautiful Poems in the English Language https://interestingliterature.com/2020/05/beautiful-poems-english-language/ Regulars to my Sunday Post will know I’m a fan of this site – but this is a VERY big claim to make. I wholeheartedly agreed with one of these choices and thought a couple more were maybes – what do you think?

Breaking Through Writer’s Block https://writerunboxed.com/2020/05/27/breaking-through-writers-block/ This is a subject that fascinates me, particularly after watching several talented students wrestle with this distressing problem…

Thursday Doors – Castle Saunderson https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2020/05/21/thursday-doors-castle-saunderson/ Somehow I’ve missed out on Jean’s posts recently, so I was delighted to catch with this magical offering…

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

Mantivore Dreams – Book 1 of The Arcadian Chronicles is now FREE!

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From today and throughout the weekend, Mantivore Dreams is FREE. Just click on the cover below, or the cover in the sidebar and it will take you to your Amazon outlet.



BLURB: On a colony planet, in a hot, dusty village where no one wants to live, is someone who was exiled there a long time ago. Someone who stole something so precious, others are prepared to lie, kidnap and murder to get it back.

Drawn into this web of deceit is Kyrillia, a teenager who dreams of running the village’s branch of the Node, the planetwide organic information system, but instead drudges for her mother…

Seth, member of the disgraced Priest family who can read and write, but instead toils as a day labourer on the smelliest, most thankless jobs in the village, in exchange for scraps of food and temporary shelter…

And Vrox, an ancient, sentient alien who lives only in Kyrillia’s imagination, or so she thinks…

When Kyrillia sneaks into the Node and opens up a forbidden site, she triggers a chain of events that not only rips through her own life, but affects those living thousands of miles away in the capital. For when something so precious goes missing, others will stop at nothing to get it back.

What inspired me to write this series were a couple of ideas that I wanted to explore. I have always been interested in the concept of power – who wants it; who thinks they have it; and who actually has it. Most stories are about power, I think. This time, I wanted to put it right at the forefront of the narrative, because it is often disguised as something else.

Another notion that fascinates me is what defines an alien – and the answer ultimately has to be their difference. But what if they aren’t quite as different as we all thought they were? Particularly if that alien species is telepathic and can lock onto human thoughts under special circumstances, especially those of young children. And what if a vulnerable child comes to rely on the comfort and love provided by an elderly alien who lives half a world away? What if she grows up as a Cinderella figure? And her Prince Charming isn’t someone who can whisk her away from the drudgery and shield her from the danger, because he, too, has fallen through the cracks that are supposed to keep youngsters safe.

So that is the dynamic I started with, which is why this story is something of a mash-up. It’s not a classic alien story, but neither does the romance power the narrative – it’s about someone powerful hunting for something they want. However the answer is far more complicated and tricky than they know. Than anyone knows…


Below is a sneak peek at the beginning of CHAPTER ONE…

I held my breath. At last! I’d begun to think I’d never track down this music site. A picklist unfolded and I gawked at the strange words. Classical. Youth Cultures. Popular Cultures. Devotional. Ethnic.
What did they mean? Surely music was just a dance tune, or a song? I jabbed at the first one. Yet another picklist unpeeled onto the mat. Much longer. The words tasted strange as I sounded the musicians’ names aloud. “Beethave- no -hoven… Mozz-art…Ta-ch— simply don’t have the time to sound that one out.” I went for a short name – Bach. What did his Family do, to earn a Name like that?
My eyes slid down the picklist of his tunes and found a piece about organs with something about a minor D. Probably a comedy. I hoped so – I could do with a laugh.
“Play.” I breathed in the thick, sweet smell, storing up the sensation of Facs-mining on the Node – something I didn’t do nearly enough. Looking across at the bubbling organi-packs glowing in their transparent tanks, I wished I could spend more time here, rather than snatch these forbidden stints when Mother was away.
The sound pealed out. What was the instrument? The notes seemed to stop, then to stack up on each other as they roared around the room, making Mother’s flower vases buzz on the stone floor. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard. Torrents of melody attacked, drowning me in a rush of yearning. Everything seemed bright, and achingly beautiful.
The final crashing chord faded into silence.
Vrox sways, crooning with delight…
“Again.” I closed my eyes as the monumental music thundered around me. I was Tranced by Vrox’s joy as his emotion rolled through me, swept along by the reverberating climax—
I was stunned by a hard blow. And another. My hurt-hot ear rang with the impact. My cheek felt numb and heavy; my mouth filled with blood.
Vrox rears up, startled – sorry he hadn’t noticed her approach…
“Turn it off! Turn it off!” Mother shrieked over the music. Her distorted face shivered in my vision for a shock-stalled eternity. Snatches of her rant filtered through Bach’s bone-buzzing crescendo, making her fury seem even worse, “…-icked girl… -ways think you know best… –dare to override my passwor…” The organ tune stopped abruptly, just as she screamed, “…ate you! I hate you…
Her words echoed horribly in the small room.
I jerked to my feet. She’s finally admitted it. Axe-sharp hurt immediately snuffed out the flicker of relief, that I’d been right all these years. “Think I don’t know?” My voice shook, on the edge of tears. But grown girls of seventeen shouldn’t cry in front of their mothers. I spun round, stumbling over a vase, and ran. Out into the hot sunlight. Past the stable, whose sharp smell reminded me I still hadn’t mucked out the camel stall or goat pens. I scrabbled at the keycode on the sidegate, my shaking fingers making a hash of it.
She ran after me, yelling my name. Her panting echoed between the house and high fence, getting closer. Finally, as Vrox focused, I got the sequence right. The gate snicked open as she grabbed for my arm. I twisted away, the burn of her nails raking my skin. Skidding through the gate, I slammed it shut in her face. I sprinted across the front yard and past the first startled Node enquirer of the day, over the village courtyard, heading for Westgate. Heat settled like a greasy coat as I raced down Main Street, dust clotting my nose and throat.
At Westgate, Cupert Peaceman, the village security guard, dodged out of the way. Just as well, because I wasn’t stopping for him, or anyone else. Ignoring several calls, driven by the need to get away, I finally slowed, winded and hurting, on the open road where the verges were widened to discourage hostile wildlife. The sun beat down in a suffocating sheet.
Haven’t got a sunscreen – better find some shade. I tottered along on chewed-string legs, coughing up dust. Mother would say it was my punishment. The thought of her pushed me on.
Turning onto Mantivore Way was a relief. The palm tree clumps offered shade and the smell of the water strengthened my legs. I pushed through the shoulder-high reeds, which used to swish over my head, swallowing me whole. Moist leaves slapped against my sore legs. I broke off a brown-brittled stem, whipping it around and stamping noisily to frighten off any lone jaspers or nemmets sheltering from the sun. River silt seeped through my sandals, soothing my feet as I paddled in the murky water. Reaching my sanctuary – a stranded treetrunk – I sat down and rested my eyes on the river.
Sunslit water glitters through the swaying stalks. Scents of river ooze and crushed leaves tickle Vrox’s nostrils. Wind rocks the reeds with a sighing rattle…
See? I was right. She really hates me… For once Vrox, my imaginary childhood companion, was wrong. He reckoned mothers found their daughters annoying, but that, deep down, they cared.
Vrox croons comfort noises, his vari-colour scales flickering in shades of green and blue.
His image flashed on my inscape, while his sympathy finally broke my resolve not to cry. I buried my face in my hands and sobbed until no more tears would come, while the mantivore paced and huffed his sympathy. Finally, I wiped my eyes, blew my nose and stared across the river, where a cargo boat laden with olives throbbed downstream, headed for Reseda. I watched it disappear around the bend, wishing I was on the deck. But then I’d forfeit my right to be Brarian. Waste Uncle Osmar’s painful effort. Besides, I wanted the job – the Node was the only place I felt truly happy. Other than this place. I stared hungrily at the peaceful patterning of light and water. If I came here more often maybe life would seem worth the effort it takes to breathe.
Vrox churrs a strong agreement…
A swishing of reeds warned me, so he faded from my consciousness before I heard the voice. “Kyrillia?”
I relaxed. “Here, Onice.”
“You braced?”
“I’ve been better.”
She high-stepped into the small space surrounding the treetrunk, and carefully sat on the trunk, lifting her skirts clear of the muddy water. “Saw you pelting down the road, so I figured you’d be here.” Handing me a sunscreen, she added, “You’d better borrow this.”
Typical of Onice to worry about me getting fried to a greasy spot. “Oh! Many thanks. I’ll get it back to you tomorrow.”
“She on to you, again?” Onice’s forehead creased in concern.
Grabbing at a reed stem, I rolled it between my fingers.
I hate you… Mother’s wrath-reddened face blazed through my mind as I opened my mouth to frame the words. And closed it. What could I say? I’d watched Onice bask in her parents’ affection with shocked envy ever since I’d been old enough to understand it. She knew that Mother and I fought – she regularly tangled with her own father. But she’d never make sense of Mother’s loathing for me.
And if she did, maybe she’d realise I wasn’t worth her friendship. I stared at the river. “Found that Music site on the Node and played a song. That was when she caught me.”
Onice clicked her tongue. “Bet what had her steaming was you breaking through her passwords and sneaking onto the Node. Again.”
“Hm.” The reed stem mashed to a papery pulp between my fingers. Onice never understood why I persisted in using the Node, despite Mother’s strict ban. But then, I hadn’t told her about Vrox and his constant longing for the Node, either.
“There’s talk about restarting an inter-village apprentice network, Da says. Some girl drowned herself last month in Pistacia cos of her family’s beatings. Maybe you could get yourself signed up for it.” So Onice figures I’ve angered Mother to breaking point.
I hate you… I pushed the memory away, trying to think straight.
“And if I get apprenticed away from here, what happens to Uncle Osmar? She wouldn’t take proper care of him.” I tore at another reed stem.
Onice shrugged. “You got to live your own life. Your Uncle’s had his chances.”
I sighed. It seemed a hard way to treat the old man, especially after all he’d taught me. But it was a sharp-edged situation and if there’d been an easy option I’d already have taken it.

Friday Faceoff – Pink isn’t just a colour – it’s an attitude, too… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffdogcovers

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring PINK covers. I’ve selected Borne by Jeff VanderMeer – see my review.



This offering was produced by Macmillan in April 2017. This is the default cover for this book – and is… extraordinary. You keep looking at it and seeing something else every time. I think this has to be one of the weirdest designs I’ve ever featured – and not remotely like any other PINK book cover I’ve encountered. I love this one – it’s so clever and original.

 

Published in April 2017, by the publisher Fourth Estate, this cover is a bit more traditional. It is also beautiful. The rainbow-coloured background is lovely and I love how dear little Borne is wriggling through the title font. Another creative, clever design that grabs your attention and makes you want to pick this one up.

 

This Italian edition, published by Einaudi in February 2018, is another amazing offering, though I can make sense of this one. This is Borne, as he is found in amongst the fur of the bear, Mord. I love that beautiful iridescent eye and the lovely glowing colours punching out of the dark grey. And yes, I know the title and author fonts are rather underwhelming, but I do love this one. It is my favourite.

 

This Russian edition, published in January 2018 by Эксмо: fanzon, is another unusual offering. We have Borne in all his odd glory staring out at the reader. This one is enjoyably quirky and the colour glows against the dark brown background – presumably against Mord’s bulk. I really like the treatment of the title and author font on this one.

 

This Dutch edition (I think!) published by Bezige Bij b.v., Uitgeverij De in July 2018, once again depicts Borne living in Mord’s coat. This time we get to see the ruined city in the background through the thick, pink haze of the toxic pollution, which is disturbingly pretty. I love the elegant simplicity of the design and how the lettering is white against Mord’s fur and black against the pink air. That bee is just a lovely little detail, as it Borne himself becoming the O of the title. This one was so nearly a contender – in fact this week I found it very hard to choose. Which is your favourite?


April 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffApril2020Roundup

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I’m conscious that I’ve never experienced a month like it in the whole of my life – and I’m not sure I ever will again… Or perhaps I will. Perhaps May and June will continue being in social isolation with lots of handwashing and staying at home. But what has kept my head straight is my love of reading and writing – thank goodness for both! I’ve also loved the wonderful sunny weather – it’s been a joy being able to sit in the garden and watch Spring springing… I’m conscious that I am very blessed. And given that none of us can guarantee if we will survive this, I’ve determined to be as thankful for every coming day as I can be. So despite everything, this has been a very precious April.

Reading
I read eighteen books in April, which isn’t quite as marvellous as it sounds, as one of those was a short story and another was a novella. This is the list:

The Book of Koli – Book 1 of the Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey
The Last Emperox – Book 3 of the Interdependency series by John Scalzi
Shorefall – Book 2 of The Founders Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett
Scythe – Dimension Drift prequel NOVELLA #1 by Christina Bauer
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. This is my EBOOK read of the month
Dead Eye – Book 1 of the Tiger’s Eye Mystery series by Alyssa Day
Arkadian Skies – Book 6 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
Q by Christina Dalcher
The Hedgeway SHORT STORY by Vivienne Tuffnell
A Little Bit Witchy – Book 1 of the Riddler’s Edge series by A.A. Albright
The Dark Side of the Road – Book 1 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
Firewalkers by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel. This is my AUDIOBOOK read of the month
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing – Book 2 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
The Palm Tree Messiah by Sarah Palmer – manuscript read
Witch Dust – Book 1 of the Witch series by Marilyn Messik
Girls of Paper and Fire – Book 1 of Girls of Paper and Fire series by Natasha Ngan
After Seth by Caron Garrod

Writing
I continued working on my Creative Writing How-To Book on Characterisation and I’m pleased with the progress, but I woke up on 11th April with an epiphany about some issues that had been niggling me with Mantivore Warrior – so I dropped my How-To book and immediately dived back into the manuscript to fix it. I’ve learnt from hard experience not to ever put those kinds of moments off – otherwise they pass and I forget!

I have also been working on another project that I’m hoping to be able to discuss in another couple of weeks. I don’t normally flit between so many different writing projects – but right now everything is extraordinary. So it makes sense that my writing patterns would suddenly go AWOL, too… Overall, I wrote just over 43,000 words in April, with just under 17,000 words on my blog and just under 25,500 words going towards my writing projects, which brings my yearly total to just under 180,000 words so far.

Blogging
I have found keeping up with my blog such a source of comfort and encouragement – I know social media can be responsible for some dark acts, but I happen to be fortunate enough to inhabit a really lovely corner, where I meet some of the nicest people on the planet. But that’s not a surprise, because they are readers, or writers, or both. I hope May is a good month for you and that you stay safe. Take care.xxx






*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Firewalkers by Adrian Tchaikovsky #Brainfluffbookreview #Firewalkersbookreview

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I am a fan of this author – see my reviews of Children of Time, Children of Ruin – Book 2 of the Children of Time series, The Tiger and the Wolf – Book 1 of the Echoes of the Fall series, The Bear and the Serpent – Book 2 of the Echoes of the Fall series, The Hyena and the Hawk – Book 3 of the Echoes of the Fall series, Redemption’s Blade: After the War, The Expert System’s Brother, Ironclads, Dogs of War, and Spiderlight. So I was delighted to have the chance to read and review this offering.

BLURB: Firewalkers are brave. Firewalkers are resourceful. Firewalkers are expendable.
The Earth is burning. Nothing can survive at the Anchor; not without water and power. But the ultra-rich, waiting for their ride off the dying Earth? They can buy water. And as for power? Well, someone has to repair the solar panels, down in the deserts below. Kids like Mao, and Lupé, and Hotep; kids with brains and guts but no hope. The Firewalkers.

I won’t deny that initially I struggled a bit with this one. This setting is brilliantly portrayed and therefore rather on the bleak side. Tchaikovsky’s depiction of a parched, dying world where not even heat-adapted animals and vegetation can any longer survive is very well done. As ever, he manages to weave in Mao’s back story in with the ongoing action so that I quickly bonded with this gutsy, capable youngster, struggling to keep himself and his family fed and watered in this harsh environment. The science is well done, again, without holding up the pace with chunks of indigestible information. And soon enough, I was caught up in the adventure as the three youngsters set off into the heat discover why the power from the solar panels isn’t getting back to Anchor.

I couldn’t see how this was going to end in anything other than a rather downbeat, grim message about what we were doing to the planet – and though I won’t deny that is wrapped up within the story – Tchaikovsky also manages to deliver an ending with plenty of hope, after a tale packed full of incident and well executed story twists. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure and it comes highly recommended for fans of clif fi and coming-of-age stories in challenging settings. The ebook arc copy of Firewalkers was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Q by Christina Dalcher #Brainfluffbookreview #Qbookreview

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As a teacher with a keen interest – and concern – on the growing trend to test children and teachers almost constantly, this one caught my eye. How could I pass by the opportunity to read a near-future take on the situation, and see where it plausibly might end up?

BLURB: Every child’s potential is regularly determined by a standardized measurement: their quotient (Q). Score high enough, and attend a top tier school with a golden future. Score too low, and it’s off to a federal boarding school with limited prospects afterwards. The purpose? An improved society where education costs drop, teachers focus on the more promising students, and parents are happy.

Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s elite schools. When her nine-year-old daughter bombs a monthly test and her Q score drops to a disastrously low level, she is immediately forced to leave her top school for a federal institution hundreds of miles away. As a teacher, Elena thought she understood the tiered educational system, but as a mother whose child is now gone, Elena’s perspective is changed forever. She just wants her daughter back. And she will do the unthinkable to make it happen.

Well… where to start? This is written in first-person viewpoint, so we see the world through the eyes of Elena, a high-achieving, successful teacher with two lovely daughters and a brilliant, successful husband. Though it soon becomes clear, in the middle of the huge info-dump that comprises the first section of the book, that she isn’t happily married. When a book is written in first-person POV throughout, especially when it is a classic fall from grace narrative, it’s important that the reader can bond and sympathise with the protagonist.

Initially, despite the rather indigestible lump of information about the way the educational testing worked, I was reasonably sympathetic. Elena had been a studious girl, who was slighted and overlooked by the cheerleaders. However, as the book went on, my first feelings rapidly faded, to be replaced by incredulity at her vengefulness, because she got her own back on them! And then I was shocked at her willingness to go along with the status quo, when the Family First movement started to turn ugly – and then I just disliked and despised her. Elena was perfectly happy to merely tut under her breath and shake her head, when A-grade students went missing from her class and her daughter’s best friend disappears. It also turns out she was a horrible bully at school. She was willing to turn her back on the love of her life, in return for material comfort – and I’m supposed to sympathise? I don’t think the wretched woman made an intelligent choice in her life and her reaction to her daughter’s test score is absolutely nonsensical, given her own status. As for the outcome and ending… I felt it verged on the ridiculous.

It is such a shame! This is an important subject, deserving of an intelligent examination with a likeable protagonist, rather than a cold-hearted, self-serving materialist with the instincts of a hormonal teenager. Because the scenario Dalcher depicts is all too plausible. The ebook arc copy of Q was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
5/10

Sunday Post – 26th April, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Another lockdown week. The weather continues to be freakishly fabulous, so I’m enjoying many tea and coffee breaks in the garden. I’ve posted the choisya blossom, which is fabulous and the amber bedding plant last year, that I left in the garden and has turned into a perennial. I love it when that happens. And the echiums are now starting to bloom!

Non-gardening news: I am missing family horribly, but my daughter and I have had a couple of marathon phone calls, which meant on Friday night I didn’t get to bed until the early hours. I’m so filled with admiration at how she has organised the home-schooling routine for her 15-year-old and 10-year-old, so that it still makes time for little Eliza, who is also struggling with lockdown. Rebecca was telling me how she was calling out to another toddler in a shopping trolley, who was shouting back at her, as she went around the supermarket and they were both stretching towards each other, desperate to make contact. It must be so hard on that age-group who developmentally need socialisation, when you can’t even explain to them what is going on.

I had the pleasure of judging a poetry competition organised to coincide with the Littlehampton V.E. celebrations. Though the celebrations were cancelled, the competition went ahead and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the entries, all submitted online. I’ve been working on another writing project, which hopefully I will be talking about in more detail in the next few weeks.

Last week I read:

Q by Christina Dalcher
Every child’s potential is regularly determined by a standardized measurement: their quotient (Q). Score high enough, and attend a top tier school with a golden future. Score too low, and it’s off to a federal boarding school with limited prospects afterwards. The purpose? An improved society where education costs drop, teachers focus on the more promising students, and parents are happy.

Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s elite schools. When her nine-year-old daughter bombs a monthly test and her Q score drops to a disastrously low level, she is immediately forced to leave her top school for a federal institution hundreds of miles away. As a teacher, Elena thought she understood the tiered educational system, but as a mother whose child is now gone, Elena’s perspective is changed forever. She just wants her daughter back.
It’s a long time since I’ve read a protagonist I really hated as much as I loathed Elena. Review to follow.


The Hedgeway – short story by Vivienne Tuffnell
Leading from the overgrown grass and thicket of brambles were the distinct signs of feet passing: small, bare human feet.
A child had walked here, breaking the crisp coating of hoar frost, and had stood only yards from the kitchen window.
Cathy thought: They’re only footprints, so why do I suddenly feel so scared?
Daniel’s grandmother’s house seems only a few years from becoming a ruin but the roof is still sound and unlike his rented accommodation, the whole place is his. It seems the perfect time to ask girlfriend Cathy to move in with him and together they plan to renovate the house. But the old house has secrets that it wants to share with them whether they want to know or not.
(This is a longer short story of around 17,000 words)
After getting through Q I was yearning for a read that I knew would be excellently written and provide a complete contrast, so I turned to an author who I knew would deliver the goods.



A Little Bit Witchy – Book 1 of the Riddler’s Edge series by A.A. Albright
Aisling Smith is about to try out for a new job – a job writing for a paper she’s never heard of. But seeing as she’s currently writing classified ads and obituaries, it would be foolish not to give it a shot. Riddler’s Edge might be a small town, but it’s definitely not boring. The train hasn’t even pulled into the station, and already a woman has been murdered.
This is one that has been lurking on my TBR pile for far too long. Enjoyable and nicely escapist, I’m glad to have found a new series to dive back into when I’ve completed more series.



The Dark Side of the Road – Book 1 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
Ishmael Jones is someone who can’t afford to be noticed, someone who lives under the radar, who drives on the dark side of the road. He’s employed to search out secrets, investigate mysteries and shine a light in dark places. Sometimes he kills people. Invited by his employer, the enigmatic Colonel, to join him and his family for Christmas, Ishmael arrives at the grand but isolated Belcourt Manor in the midst of a blizzard to find that the Colonel has mysteriously disappeared. As he questions his fellow guests, Ishmael concludes that at least one of them not least Ishmael himself – is harbouring a dangerous secret, and that beneath the veneer of festive cheer lurk passion, jealousy, resentment and betrayal. As a storm sets in, sealing off the Manor from the rest of the world, Ishmael must unmask a ruthless murderer they strike again.
This is the first book in this thoroughly enjoyable series, so I jumped at the chance to discover more about the mysterious Ishmael Jones and was quickly engrossed in this entertaining paranormal whodunit. Review to follow.



Firewalkers by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Earth is burning. Nothing can survive at the Anchor; not without water and power. But the ultra-rich, waiting for their ride off the dying Earth? They can buy water. And as for power? Well, someone has to repair the solar panels, down in the deserts below. Kids like Mao, and Lupé, and Hotep; kids with brains and guts but no hope. The Firewalkers.
This cli fi adventure drew me in from the start. Once again, Tchaikovsky didn’t disappoint – review to follow.

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NOVELLA Scythe – Book 1 of the Dimension Drift prequels by Christina Bauer

Friday Face-off featuring The Fell Sword – Book 2 of The Traitor Son series by Miles Cameron

Review of AUDIOBOOK Poirot’s Finest Cases: Eight Full-Cast BBC Radio Dramatisations based on the books by Agatha Christie

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Mother Code by Carol Stivers

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Shorefall – Book 2 of The Founders Trilogy – by Robert Bennett Jackson

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Last Emperox – Book 3 of the Interdependency series by John Scalzi

Sunday Post – 19th April 2020

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

7 Eco-Friendly Actions for Kids during the Pandemic: from EARTHDAY. ORG https://platformnumber4.com/2020/04/19/7-eco-friendly-actions-for-kids-during-the-pandemic-from-earthday-org/ These practical suggestions look really useful…

Your Own Flying Rainbows https://cindyknoke.com/2020/04/19/your-own-flying-rainbows/ Aren’t they adorable?

National Bookmobile Day https://coffeeandcatsblog.wordpress.com/2020/04/22/national-bookmobile-day-2/ I loved this article by Loreen in tribute to Mr Riggs. Let’s take a moment to remember that person who understood and honoured our love for books when we were too young to get hold of them ourselves…

Book Recommendations: If You Liked… You Might Also Like… https://bookwindowcom.wordpress.com/2020/04/16/book-recommendations-if-you-liked-you-might-also-like/ I haven’t encountered this really useful blog post before – so I thought I’d share it.

Caturday funnies – coronapocalypse edition https://bluebirdofbitterness.com/2020/04/25/caturday-funnies-coronapocalypse-edition/ Some much-needed laughter…

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