Category Archives: epic science fiction

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Eyes of the Void – Book 2 of The Final Architecture series by Adrian Tchaikovsky #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #EyesoftheVoidbookreview

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I read and really enjoyed Shards of Earth – the first book in this epic space opera adventure, in which Tchaikovsky explores the dynamic of family and the nature of being alien. So I was delighted when I saw this second book pop up on Netgalley.

BLURB: After eighty years of fragile peace, the Architects are back, wreaking havoc as they consume entire planets. In the past, Originator artefacts – vestiges of a long-vanished civilization – could save a world from annihilation. This time, the Architects have discovered a way to circumvent these protective relics. Suddenly, no planet is safe.

Facing impending extinction, the Human Colonies are in turmoil. While some believe a unified front is the only way to stop the Architects, others insist humanity should fight alone. And there are those who would seek to benefit from the fractured politics of war – even as the Architects loom ever closer.

Idris, who has spent decades running from the horrors of his past, finds himself thrust back onto the battlefront. As an Intermediary, he could be one of the few to turn the tide of war. With a handful of allies, he searches for a weapon that could push back the Architects and save the galaxy. But to do so, he must return to the nightmarish unspace, where his mind was broken and remade. What Idris discovers there will change everything.

REVIEW: If you have come across Eyes of the Void without having first had the pleasure of reading Shards of Earth, my firm advice is to put this one back on the shelf and head for the first book. This is a fast-paced, epic adventure where events are unspooling in various locations and features other main characters alongside hapless Idris. Even with the helpful Story So Far and list of Key Characters at the beginning, along with the excellent Timeline of Events at the end – I still think you’d flounder a tad. Apart from anything else, it would be a real shame to miss out on a chunk of this intriguing, layered examination of what it means to be alien.

As a young man, Idris volunteered to become an Intermediary in the face of the planet-wrecking Architects – and was key to stopping them during the terrible battle for survival. Now they are back and this time around, the protection given by mysterious artefacts left behind by Originators no longer work. And when Idris manages to make a connection to the Architect rampaging through the system – he discovers that it isn’t destroying the worlds on some whim, it is being ordered to do so. Which means that unlike the last time, his own pleas go unregarded.

As the situation falls away into a desperate scramble for survival, the precarious peace between the major factions splinters. I loved this particular aspect of the book, which absolutely rings true. I enjoy epic space opera when done well – but it’s difficult to pull off. Inevitably, characters can’t be written with the depth of protagonists featured in smaller settings. So writers have to know and understand all their main characters profoundly well to be able to convey that complexity with a shorter word count – and understandably, that doesn’t always happen. Not so with Tchaikovsky. His writing in this story effortlessly expands in breadth and heft to encompass the big questions hovering behind the adrenaline-fuelled action – exactly what defines difference? Is it the engineered human whose brain now functions so differently? Or is it the vat-grown women warriors designed to protect Earth, whose culture now seems so threatening? Surely, it must be the Architects with their terrifying ability to rework planets… asteroids… space station… into twisted, lifeless caricatures of what they once were? And the mysterious Originators, who appear to have designed the passages through unspace, allowing FTL travel – they are the ultimate aliens, aren’t they? He also examines the nature of family and identity. As worlds fall and humanity faces extinction, how do we ultimately define ourselves when facing our own ending?

While these questions are raised, an epic story of tragedy and ruin, rescue and compassion pulled me in and held me throughout. Though, due to my own fragile health and shaky wellbeing, I needed to take several breaks from the intensity and immensity of the story which is in no way a reflection on the writing. Highly recommended for fans of well-written epic space operas. While I obtained an arc of Eyes of the Void from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #15

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This is my update on how I’m coping with Long Covid now it’s been fourteen months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.

It’s been a bit of a torrid time for our family. Poor little Eliza when down with chicken pox so badly she ended up in A & E twice last week with complications. It doesn’t help that she also suffers with severe asthma and is only three years old. Huge kudos to the doctor at the A & E dept at Worthing Hospital who went the extra mile, ringing around the local pharmacies and tracking down the necessary medication to alleviate her pain and discomfort. After nursing Eliza through such a traumatic time my daughter, unsurprisingly, then went down with a kidney infection that needed yet another trip to hospital. Fortunately she didn’t need to stay, but ended up on a course of very strong antibiotics. The upshot was that we ended up looking after our middle grandchild, Oscar, for much longer than originally planned. He went home, then returned to us, Twice. So we called him our Boomerang Boy. In the middle of all this, he started a new school much closer to home, so we also ended up buying the new school uniform, which brought back all sorts of memories. And I saw him off on his first two days, setting the alarm to drag myself out of bed, then crawling back after the taxi came to take him to school.

It was lovely having him to stay. He is a superstar – unfailingly helpful and good tempered – he introduced me to Wordle and we played together most days he was with us. But it did take a bit of a toll on my energy. I unexpectedly hit a wall after climbing the stairs in M & S on our school-shoe buying expedition. No sweating, or being particularly breathless, I just felt that I was wading through treacle and got steadily slower. Then my legs folded under me and I ended up on the floor, after announcing that I needed to sit down. I felt a bit of a fool, but everyone was extremely kind. When Oscar finally went home on Wednesday, the house was sad and quiet without him.

I’ve been struggling with my sleep again and so I’m turning off the TV and computer at least 45 minutes before bedtime and doing a relaxing meditation. I have already noticed a difference to my Deep Sleep scores, which is important as that’s the healing sleep. If only I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night and then struggle to go back to sleep before dawn, I’d be golden😊.

On Friday, Himself met up with his sister and brother and visited his father’s grave, as it was the first year anniversary of my father-in-law’s death. It was a bright sunny day, however I wasn’t able to go as it’s too far away. But in the afternoon, after he returned home, I travelled with him and the children to meet up with my daughter’s former partner and do the handover for the two younger grandchildren. It was the first time since my relapse in August that I’ve managed such a long car journey. So I am making steady progress.

I didn’t read much during Oscar’s stay, so I haven’t managed to get through quite so many books.

This week I’ve read:-

AUDIOBOOK Alexander X – Book 1 of The Battle for Forever series by Edward Savio
Alexander Grant is about to take his 3000th history test. You know how you feel like you’ve been going to school for a thousand years? Well, he actually has. Although he looks like a normal teenager, no one knows he’s actually 1500 years old. Not the girl he likes. Not his best friend. No one.

That is until someone tries to kidnap Alexander and use him as bait to catch his father, the only man capable of stopping a plan that would change humanity forever. And the start of an journey that will take him far from the sleepy town he’s been hiding out in. Ingenious storytelling. Screenwriter and novelist Edward Savio’s ongoing epic adventure is fresh, funny, and thought-provoking.
This YA teen action adventure, narrated by Wil Wheaton was a welcome contrast to some of the tension-filled science fiction political thrillers I’ve been listening to recently. Lots of action and excitement! Full review to follow. 8/10

AUDIOBOOK Chosen For Power – Book 4 of the Dragon’s Gate series by Lindsay Buroker
Jak and his allies venture through the portal in search of the longevity plant their king demands, but all Jak wants is to find the elder dragons. Some say they’re extinct. Some say they’re in hiding.

If he can’t locate them, there won’t be anyone to teach his hatchling how to fly. Or to protect the dragon eggs preserved within a glacier on another world. Or to help him free his people from the tyrannical rule of the wizards. Jak has no choice. He must find the dragons.
But some ancient secrets were buried for a reason. What he discovers may jeopardize not only Jak and his allies—the survival of the entire species of dragons may be at stake.
I love this adventure about Jak and his scientist mother, who put all these events in motion with their discovery of the portal way back in the first book. As ever, a detailed and interesting world and a plot full of unexpected twists and action, as well as dollops of humour in amongst the ever-present danger. Buroker also writes most satisfyingly nasty villains. The next book hasn’t yet been released as an audiobook – but these stories make such wonderful listening, they are worth the wait. 9/10

Eyes of the Void – Book 2 of The Final Architecture series by Adrian Tchaikovsky
After eighty years of fragile peace, the Architects are back, wreaking havoc as they consume entire planets. In the past, Originator artefacts – vestiges of a long-vanished civilization – could save a world from annihilation. This time, the Architects have discovered a way to circumvent these protective relics. Suddenly, no planet is safe.

Facing impending extinction, the Human Colonies are in turmoil. While some believe a unified front is the only way to stop the Architects, others insist humanity should fight alone. And there are those who would seek to benefit from the fractured politics of war – even as the Architects loom ever closer.

Idris, who has spent decades running from the horrors of his past, finds himself thrust back onto the battlefront. As an Intermediary, he could be one of the few to turn the tide of war. With a handful of allies, he searches for a weapon that could push back the Architects and save the galaxy. But to do so, he must return to the nightmarish unspace, where his mind was broken and remade. What Idris discovers there will change everything.
I loved the first book in this epic space opera series about a lethal, world-killing alien, Shards of Earth. So I was delighted when the arc for this one became available and thrilled to be approved to read it. Tchaikovsky brilliantly charts the ongoing reactions by various groups within humanity and some of the aliens to the dire threat posed by the Architects. I very much appreciated his list of characters and timeline leading up to the events covered by the story, which helped me keep tabs on who was doing what to whom. Full review to follow.

Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons – Book 1 of A Miss Percy Guide series by Quenby Olsen
Miss Mildred Percy inherits a dragon.

Ah, but we’ve already got ahead of ourselves…

Miss Mildred Percy is a spinster. She does not dance, she has long stopped dreaming, and she certainly does not have adventures. That is, until her great uncle has the audacity to leave her an inheritance, one that includes a dragon’s egg.

The egg – as eggs are wont to do – decides to hatch, and Miss Mildred Percy is suddenly thrust out of the role of “spinster and general wallflower” and into the unprecedented position of “spinster and keeper of dragons.” But England has not seen a dragon since… well, ever. And now Mildred must contend with raising a dragon (that should not exist), kindling a romance (with a humble vicar), and embarking on an adventure she never thought could be hers for the taking.
I tucked into this one when the enormity of Tchaikovsky’s alien threat felt a bit overwhelming – which is all about my mindset and in no way a reflection on the writing. I was rooting for Mildred all the way. However, the reader starts this one knowing exactly what the peculiar rock is – there is a picture of him on the cover. So I found the pacing rather slow in places, as the protagonist evidently doesn’t have a clue as to what the peculiar rock is and takes a long time deciding what he is after the hatching. There are times when the author breaks the fourth wall, which I also found a bit jarring. However, overall it’s a charming, enjoyable read with nice shafts of humour throughout. 8/10

This week I have posted:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Prison of Sleep by Tim Pratt

Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Artifact Space by Miles Cameron #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #ArtifactSpacebookreview

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I’m a fan of Cameron’s writing – I loved the Traitor Son series – see my reviews of The Red Knight, The Fell Sword, The Dread Wyrm and The Fall of Dragons – so I was delighted to see this offering on Netgalley. And of course I applied for a copy, as the combination of Cameron writing space opera sounded fabulous. It made my day when I acquired a copy – and it wasn’t too long before I tucked into it… Question is, was all that anticipation justified?

BLURB: Out in the darkness of space, something is targeting the Greatships. With their vast cargo holds and a crew that could fill a city, the Greatships are the lifeblood of human occupied space, transporting an unimaginable volume – and value – of goods from City, the greatest human orbital, all the way to Tradepoint at the other, to trade for xenoglas with an unknowable alien species.

It has always been Marca Nbaro’s dream to achieve the near-impossible: escape her upbringing and venture into space. All it took, to make her way onto the crew of the Greatship Athens was thousands of hours in simulators, dedication, and pawning or selling every scrap of her old life in order to forge a new one. But though she’s made her way onboard with faked papers, leaving her old life – and scandals – behind isn’t so easy.

She may have just combined all the dangers of her former life, with all the perils of the new…

REVIEW: This is one of my reading highlights of the year so far – and I can safely say that this one is definitely going to make my Outstanding Reads List of 2021. Marca is an engaging, sympathetic protagonist, who has had a tough time of it and makes a desperate break for a chance at a decent life. With help from someone else whose chances have already been ruined…

I also liked the world. The merchanting ship Athens and the dynamic with the crew and the wider world holds together in a credible, diverse world that I believed in. There is an upbeat vibe to this world, despite the dangers they undergo, which reminded me, at times, of Nathan Lowell’s enjoyable series The Golden Age of the Solar Clipper. What I especially enjoyed was learning about the onboard politics and rhythms, so that when the Athens is threatened, I very much cared. It was difficult to put the book down as I wanted them all to survive. And that concern and tension was sharpened when some of the crew don’t make it.

Overall, it was an engrossing memorable read that had me very sorry to reach the end – and hopeful that the second book in this series won’t take too long to hit the shelves. Very highly recommended to fans of well written space opera adventures. While I obtained an arc of Artifact Space from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Shards of Earth – Book 1 of The Final Architects series by Adrian Tchaikovsky #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #ShardsofEarthbookreview

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Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes on my blog will know that I’m a huge fan of Tchaikovsky’s writing. I’m always impressed with his sheer range and creativity, as well as his dry humour and interesting characters. If you’d like a sense of his writing, check out my reviews of Children of Time, Children of Ruin, The Expert System’s Brother, Ironclads, Dogs of War, The Doors of Eden, Firewalkers, The Expert System’s Champion and Bear Head. Though if you put his name into the SEARCH box on the right, you’ll also find more reviews of his fantasy writing. So when I saw that he had an epic space opera adventure in the works – my favourite genre – I was delighted.

BLURB: Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity’s heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers. After earth was destroyed, mankind created a fighting elite to save their species, enhanced humans such as Idris. In the silence of space they could communicate, mind-to-mind, with the enemy. Then their alien aggressors, the Architects, simply disappeared – and Idris and his kind became obsolete.

Now, fifty years later, Idris and his crew have discovered something strange abandoned in space. It’s clearly the work of the Architects – but are they returning? And if so, why? Hunted by gangsters, cults and governments, Idris and his crew race across the galaxy hunting for answers. For they now possess something of incalculable value, that many would kill to obtain.

REVIEW: Idris is a fascinating character – one of those so challenged by his previous experiences that he is difficult to relate to. I don’t normally enjoy these types of characters, but Tchaikovsky’s writing skill comes into play so even though I didn’t exactly warm to him, I could empathise with him. I also completely understood why those around him want to give him a wide berth…

This book hits many of the classic tropes within the genre – segments of humanity amongst the diaspora scattered throughout the galaxy, now separated by generations in different cultures and environments… an interesting mix of aliens… a great big nasty threat looming over everything else… But this being Tchaikovsky, he puts his own spin on these plot devices which sets this epic adventure apart, making it memorable. As well as poor old sleepless Idris, we have Solace, who is a vat-born warrior designed and raised in a female-only society in reaction to the atrocities carried out against women in a number of the differing societies emerging across different worlds. Needless to say, they aren’t universally welcomed or trusted by the Council of Human Interests, who govern the surviving human colonies after the fall of Earth.

While Tchaikovsky is very good at writing slow-burn, tension-filled stories, this isn’t one of them. There is plenty of rich characterisation and vivid and varied backdrops, and in addition we are treated to lots of action and battle scenes, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s always a blast to be able to visualise exactly what is happening to whom as it all kicks off. Especially as the Big Bad in this story is absolutely terrifying – huge moon-sized aliens who tear apart and sculpt planets, moons and space stations into entirely different shapes. Unfortunately the hapless creatures inhabiting those places don’t survive the process, as inevitably the shapes are complex. And the Architects only ever select planets, moons, asteroids, space station – even ships – if they contain life…

This was a fast-paced read covering a detailed, complicated galaxy so I had to pay attention and slow down, or I would have floundered. Tchaikovsky has provided an extensive character and species list at the back of the book, in addition to a fascinating timeline of events leading up to the action in the story. I wish I’d known about it at the start, as I would have liked to refer to it at times along the way. Presumably it will be in the final Contents page, which wasn’t available in the arc.

I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining, well written space opera adventure and look forward to reading the next book in the series. Highly recommended for fans of space opera on a grand scale. While I obtained an arc of Shards of Earth from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Friday Faceoff –Each man should frame his life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffframecovers

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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 covers with FRAMES. I’ve selected the first book in the mighty series – The Many-Colored Land – Book 1 of the Pliocene Saga by Julian May.


Del Rey 1985

This offering was produced by Del Rey in January 1985. This is full of drama and colour, featuring one of the powerful alien women, accompanied by a human torc-wearer. The stormy sky denotes the time tunnel that links the Pliocene era with modern Earth, allowing people to make the one-way journey into the past. While I like the cover design and am a fan of striking title fonts – the vivid fuchsia clashes with the colour palette in the rest of the cover and unbalances it visually, rather spoiling the overall effect.

Del Rey 1983

Published in June 1983, by Del Rey, I think this cover is more successful. I really like the punchy colours and clever design. The horse-riding warrior apparently riding out across a modern cityscape with a space ship in the background raises interesting questions that would make me want to pick up this book. I also like the title and author fonts, both their design and the colours, which work well with the rest of the cover. However, I don’t like all that chatter crammed across the top of the cover which detracts from the awesome image.

Fawcett Books 1982

This edition, published in March 1982 by Fawcett Books is beautiful. I love the stylised landscape, with those volcanic mountains disappearing into the distance – clearly in the other timezone. And that amazing time tunnel wending its way across the world, apparently floating there. And yes… I know there is a black textbox chopping off the fabulous image across the bottom of the cover AND there is too much chatter at the top. But there is also a really funky sci fi font that looks awesome and adds to the sense of science fiction otherness of the whole design. This is my favourite.

Houghton Mifflin 1981

This edition, published in January 1981 by Houghton Mifflin, is also a strong contender. We have a stream of people from across a variety of times trekking towards the tunnel. We can see the other version of Earth in space, beyond where everyone has congregated ready for their new lives. The title and author fonts do the job – but I very much like how the textboxes have been left transparent, so we can still appreciate the cover design, while the title and author are suitably visually set apart from the action.

La máquina que hace PING! 2019

This Spanish edition, published by La máquina que hace PING! in September 2019, is a close contender. I love the haughty look on the beautiful woman’s face and the odd mixture of clothing she is wearing. I also like the backdrop – presumably the entrance to the tunnel on the other side in the Pliocene era, judging by the luxuriant ferns. The coloration and strong design make this an eye-catching cover that has me wondering what is going on. What about you – which is your favourite?


Sunday Post – 17th 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.

It’s been a lot colder and cloudier, but we only had a bit of rain last Sunday and since then, despite high winds, it’s been dry. The garden is desperate for some rain… Himself managed to cut back the shrubs – a job we normally do much earlier in the year. The escalonia is now in full bloom, along with the pretty little fuschia. I love the bright yellow leaves contrasting with the deep pink flowers. My bronze fennel is sprouting, and those echiums just keep growing and blooming. The bees love the flowers so much, you can hear their hum from across the garden.

Last weekend’s writing retreat went really well. I am now in touching distance of the end of my How-To book, which is good, because I want to start editing Mantivore Warrior this coming week.

The other success last weekend was the family’s Sunday get-together to celebrate my sister’s birthday. It went so well, my nephews are organising an online games session for next Saturday night via Zoom – something to really look forward to. I might even dress up!


Last week I read:
The Physicians of Vilnoc – Book 8 of the Penric and Desdemona NOVELLA series by Lois McMaster Bujold
When a mysterious plague breaks out in the army fort guarding Vilnoc, the port capital of the duchy of Orbas, Temple sorcerer Penric and his demon Desdemona are called upon by General Arisaydia to resurrect Penric’s medical skills and solve its lethal riddle. In the grueling days that follow, Pen will find that even his magic is not enough to meet the challenges without help from dedicated new colleagues—and the god of mischance.
The series is always a high spot for us – and this latest addition was no exception. Although I had my doubts when I saw it was all about a mysterious plague. But I needn’t have worried – this author handled the whole subject really well.



Relatively Strange – Book 1 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik
“I was five when I discovered I could fly, sixteen when I killed a man.
Both events were unsettling in their own way.”

It’s hard to know what’s normal, if you’re not, and it takes Stella a while to realise she’s in the definitely ‘not’ drawer. But we are who we are and we make adjustments to fit in – most of the time – and it’s only when she finds she’s not quite as unique as she thought, that things begin to acquire a whole new dimension.
That’s only part of the very chatty blurb. But this one blew me away. There are some authors I just fall for – hook, line and sinker… it doesn’t happen very often. But Marilyn Messik is one of them. I will recall May 2020 through the prism of this series. Review to follow.



AUDIOBOOK Starsight – Book 2 of the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson
All her life, Spensa has dreamed of becoming a pilot. Of proving she’s a hero like her father. She made it to the sky, but the truths she learned about her father were crushing. Spensa is sure there’s more to the story. And she’s sure that whatever happened to her father in his starship could happen to her. When she made it outside the protective shell of her planet, she heard the stars–and it was terrifying. Everything Spensa has been taught about her world is a lie. But Spensa also discovered a few other things about herself–and she’ll travel to the end of the galaxy to save humankind if she needs to.
This second book in this entertaining space opera series took the initial premise and world and then gave it a good shaking and changed it up. I am very much looking forward to reading the next book in the series.


The Valhalla Call – Book 4 of the Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie
Newly minted Lieutenant Sorilla Aida has a new mission and new allies, gear, and support as she is tasked with a job that could ensure that the human race stands a chance of reaching a technical parity with the mysterious alien alliance. Humans and SOLCOM are not the only ones making moves, however, and the Alliance has brought up their varsity to end the little side war before it gets out of hand. Are they really interested in humanity or human worlds, however, or is something more at play?
Currie has nailed battles in space – nobody does it better. And this addition to the series brought some game-changing twists I’m keen to find out about. Review to follow.



Even Stranger – Book 2 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik
With the swinging sixties staggering, shamefaced and flustered, into the slightly staider seventies, life for Stella, isn’t going as smoothly as she’d like. As an ordinary person, who happens to have some extraordinary abilities, it’s frustrating to find that something as simple as holding down a job, throws up unexpected hurdles. She’d be a darn sight better off if she could ditch the conviction she knows best which, together with a chronic inability to keep her mouth shut and her nose out of other people’s business, has led her more than once off the straight and narrow into the dodgy and dangerous. Plans for a safer future, include setting herself up in business, squashing her over-active conscience and steering clear of risky and unpleasant. Unfortunately, the best laid plans can lead to the darkest places.
Yes – I broke my rule of never reading a series too close together. I was pining for more Marilyn Messik goodness, and this adventure alongside my new best friend, Stella, didn’t disappoint. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Physicians of Vilnoc – Book 8 of the Penric and Desdemona NOVELLA series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Friday Face-off featuring Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

April 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging…

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Ghost Ups Her Game – Book 9 of the Bailey Ruth series by Carolyn G. Hart

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Firewalkers by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Sunday Post – 10th May 2020

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

Top 5 Writing Hacks to Distract You From the Nightmare of Your Daily Life https://writerunboxed.com/2020/05/16/top-writing-hacks-to-distract-you-from-the-nightmare-of-your-daily-life/ Bill Ferris always worth reading – but his humour is especially welcome in the current situation…

Fantastic Find at the Bookstore #9: Sewing Up Memories https://platformnumber4.com/2020/05/09/fantastic-find-at-the-bookstore-9-sewing-up-memories/ Becky once again has nailed it with this lovely trip into the past…

Liars, manipulators, tyrants, misogynists… top worst rulers… in books! Top 5 Tuesday http://bewareofthereader.com/liars-manipulators-tyrants-misogynistics-top-worst-rulers-in-books-top-5-tuesday/ I loved this one! So… who would be your worst rulers? In books, of course… let’s keep it escapist, people!

FRIDAY SMILES https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2020/05/08/friday-smiles/ We all need more smiles in our lives…

Ten of the Best Twentieth Century Books Everyone Should Read https://interestingliterature.com/2020/05/twentieth-century-novels/ This is a list all readers probably have an opinion on. Do you agree with it? Personally, I’m not big on everyone HAVING to read anything – I think we should all read what we love to read. And there’s a couple missing from here, as far as I’m concerned…

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

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 The Last Emperox – Book 3 of the Interdependency series by John Scalzi #Brainfluffbookreview #TheLastEmperoxbookreview

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I’m a real fan of Scalzi’s writing – I enjoyed his Old Man’s War series and absolutely love the Lock In series, which has redefined crime fiction, by putting a futuristic spin on it, so that crimes are committed and solved in ways that right now are impossible – see my review of Lock In and Head On. So I pounced on this epic space opera series – see my reviews of the first two book in this trilogy – The Collapsing Empire, and The Consuming Fire. Has this third and final book in this interesting trilogy managed to bring this ambitious adventure to a satisfactory end?

BLURB: The collapse of The Flow, the interstellar pathway between the planets of the Interdependency, has accelerated. Entire star systems—and billions of people—are becoming cut off from the rest of human civilization. This collapse was foretold through scientific prediction… and yet, even as the evidence is obvious and insurmountable, many still try to rationalize, delay and profit from, these final days of one of the greatest empires humanity has ever known. Emperox Grayland II has finally wrested control of her empire from those who oppose her and who deny the reality of this collapse. But “control” is a slippery thing, and even as Grayland strives to save as many of her people from impoverished isolation, the forces opposing her rule will make a final, desperate push to topple her from her throne and power, by any means necessary. Grayland and her thinning list of allies must use every tool at their disposal to save themselves, and all of humanity. And yet it may not be enough. Will Grayland become the savior of her civilization… or the last emperox to wear the crown?

Unusually I’ve included the complete blurb, because you need to understand the extent of Scalzi’s ambition in depicting this world. The Interdependency has existed for a thousand years, after a series of wars that nearly snuffed out humanity – and Rachela, the very first Emperox, put in place a system on which each planet or colony outpost needs supplies and raw material from elsewhere in order to exist. So the Interdependency continues to thrive on mutual dependence – which has worked well enough, until now, when the space pathways that allow ftl travel are starting to collapse…

There is a really nifty Prologue with nicely reminded me of the situation and the main characters in the frame, without feeling like an info-dump, and once more I was scooped up into the middle of the infighting and social shark tank that is Grayland II’s court. Though despite this helpful update, I would strongly advise that if you’ve picked this one up without having read the previous two books, then put it down again and go hunting for them first. This book is essentially a continuation of the overarching story, so if you don’t actually flounder, you’ll be missing far too much of the backstory to be able to fully appreciate the scope of what is going on.

There is an interesting dynamic, wherein Scalzi has ticked all the boxes for writing an epic space opera adventure, but at the same time has included the kind of snark and edged humour more commonly encountered in urban fantasy. There are a couple of characters who are very sweary, so if you are offended by liberal use of the f-word, among others, then you’d be better off giving this one a miss. But dear Emperox Grayland II isn’t one of them and I love her principled stand, refusing to take the easy way out by saving just the nobility, but attempting to ensure the billions of her subjects also stand a chance, too.

This one buckets along at a fair clip, with some major plot twists that I simply didn’t see coming and left me reeling. To be honest, I’m still trying to process the ending… because it really, really isn’t the conclusion I was looking for, or wanted. Yet, as it was explained, I have to accept that realistically speaking – it was the only possible outcome. Does it work? Oh yes. It’s also really clever. But, even so… 

That said – I don’t feel I’ve been cheated, or short-changed in any way and I certainly don’t regret having dived into the rambunctious world of the Interdependency, even if I’ve surfaced a tad dazed and battered. Recommended for fans of enjoyable, well-written epic space opera. The ebook arc copy of The Last Emperox was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10


Sunday Post – 5th 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.

It’s been another quiet week, although I did manage to teach Tim via Skype on Monday and have our fortnightly Writing Group meeting on Zoom. Himself is still driving trains, although he finds it an eerie experience as formerly busy stations are deserted.

On Wednesday, I took a pair of scissors to my hair – and I’m really pleased with the result, but to be honest I was so sick of the tousle-haired old bat staring back at me in the mirror I’d got past caring. I hadn’t been out of the house since driving down to see our parents for Mothering Sunday a fortnight ago, so we went for a walk along the seafront yesterday morning. As you can see, it was deserted despite the lovely weather so it was easy to be mindful of the social distancing.

We have now discovered The Amazing Mrs Maisel – and loved the first two episodes, so will be watching more. I’m finding it difficult to face The Expanse or The Crossing at present, with what is going on day after day… As for my How-To book, I think I’m about half-way through and really enjoying writing it.

Last week I read:

A Dragon of a Different Colour – Book 4 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron
To save his family from his tyrannical mother, Julius had to step on a lot of tails. That doesn’t win a Nice Dragon many friends, but just when he thinks he’s starting to make progress, a new threat arrives. Turns out, things can get worse. Heartstriker hasn’t begun to pay for its secrets, and the dragons of China are here to collect. When the Golden Emperor demands his surrender, Julius will have to choose between loyalty to the sister who’s always watched over him and preserving the clan he gave everything to protect.
I love this series – it just goes on delivering. The worldbuilding is exceptional and the magic system complicated and engrossing, while the characters are nuanced and charismatic. I’m dreading reading the final book, as I don’t want the fun to end…



The Book of Koli – Book 1 of the Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey
Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies an unrecognizable world. A world where overgrown forests are filled with choker trees and deadly vines and seeds that will kill you where you stand. And if they don’t get you, one of the dangerous shunned men will.
Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He knows the first rule of survival is that you don’t venture beyond the walls. What he doesn’t know is – what happens when you aren’t given a choice?
This one is a solid joy. Carey absolutely nails the first-person POV and I fell in love with Koli – though he is in danger of being upstaged by the delightful, funny Monono, one of the most enegaging sidekicks I’ve encountered in a while. Review to follow.



The Last Emperox – Book 3 of the Interdependency series by John Scalzi
The collapse of The Flow, the interstellar pathway between the planets of the Interdependency, has accelerated. Entire star systems—and billions of people—are becoming cut off from the rest of human civilization. This collapse was foretold through scientific prediction… and yet, even as the evidence is obvious and insurmountable, many still try to rationalize, delay and profit from, these final days of one of the greatest empires humanity has ever known. Emperox Grayland II has finally wrested control of her empire from those who oppose her and who deny the reality of this collapse. But “control” is a slippery thing, and even as Grayland strives to save as many of her people from impoverished isolation, the forces opposing her rule will make a final, desperate push to topple her from her throne and power, by any means necessary. Grayland and her thinning list of allies must use every tool at their disposal to save themselves, and all of humanity. And yet it may not be enough. Will Grayland become the savior of her civilization… or the last emperox to wear the crown?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series – Scalzi manages to provide a classic epic space opera scenario with an urban fantasy vibe. His characters are sharp, often funny and in amongst the grim risk of an apocalyptic end of civilisation looming over everyone, there is also a swashbuckling energy. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

March 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging…

Friday Face-off featuring The Whisper Man by Alex North

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Last Protector – Book 4 of the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor

Review of AUDIOBOOK Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and Adventures written and narrated by Stephen Fry

Review of KINDLE Ebook Warrior – Book 1 of the Doppleganger duology by Marie Brennan

Sunday Post – 29th March 2020

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

Music video – Surreal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2sfsE8KVPs&feature=youtu.be This is the song my student, Tim, has composed about the coronavirus…

Productivity vs Chaos: How to Hit a Balance https://writerunboxed.com/2020/04/03/productivity-vs-chaos-how-to-hit-a-balance/ I really like this article for its compassionate, non-judgemental stance… It seems to me we are all dealing with this crisis as best we can in our own way.

Updates: a new resource on sports and games in science fiction https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2020/04/03/updates-a-new-resource-on-sports-and-games-in-science-fiction/ For those among you who might be immersing yourselves into other universes and worlds for the duration…

Wordless Wednesday: Hairdo(n’t) https://applegategenealogy.wordpress.com/2020/04/01/wordless-wednesday-hairdont/ I was sorely tempted to write the conversation this couple might have had once he had a chance to see the pic…

It’s Camp NaNoWriMo Time! https://comfortreadsbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/03/31/its-camp-nanowrimo-time/ For those of you who are considering working on your writing projects – but would like some companionship along the way…

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

Kindle Unlimited Sci Fi/Fantasy Event – Book Funnel Promotion #Brainfluffbookblog

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This Book Funnel promotion is featuring science fiction and fantasy books available to read in Kindle Unlimited, alongside my own two books, Running Out of Space and Mantivore Dreams. So given it’s Sci Fi Month 2019, I thought I’d feature a selection of the science fiction offerings that have caught my eye. Click on the header to find out more…

The Approach – Book 1 of the Courage Colony series by Holly Ice
When nanites consumed our solar system, they killed every human they infected. Only one ship escaped. They named it Courage. Errai Avila is the biological child of her parents, and shunned for it. She’s an unwelcome anomaly on a generation ship approaching its final destination. All she wants is to escape notice, but when Captain Rima Jabir calls for volunteers to explore their new home, Errai must make a choice. Will she continue to hide in the food hall kitchen, or will she cast off anonymity to finally gain respect?

 

Project Charon: Re-entry by Morton Blake
Forcefully retired from a top-secret military project. Can she save humanity from itself?
On the backwater world of Cayelle, Tina Freeman runs a shop with her son Rex: fifteen years old, half-human, half-android with a massive chip on his shoulder about having been born without arms or legs. The shop makes a modest profit, but when a creditor turns up wanting his money back, everything goes pear-shaped.
She needs money, and needs it fast. Another creditor is impossible to find. That leaves her one option: to return to the world she fled fifteen years ago and Kelso Space Station, where her spaceship has languished for over fifteen years, and finally sells the thing.

 

Discovery by Paul Rix
Mars! Mankind’s next step in space exploration and colonization. Landing is the easy
part. Survival? Well that’s another matter.
Mission specialist Georgia Pyke came to Mars with grand ideas to establish a legacy. Instead, she must face her personal demons and rely on Captain Winter to survive from one day to the next. Has she condemned herself to a lingering death on Mars? As if inhospitable Mars isn’t a sufficient adversary for the astronauts, one of their own has been holding a grudge for six years. How far is that person prepared to go to exact their revenge?

 

Ziegfeld Zagger, Quantum Detective & the Dirty Rotten, Sarcastic Multiverse by Greg Montego
Man plans, the Multiverse laughs!
“Not only is this case stranger than we imagine, it’s stranger than we can imagine.” –Ziegfeld Zaggar
“Anyone who thinks they understand quantum theory, should think again, preferably without thinking.” — Ziegfeld Zaggar
No other detective is quite like Dr. Ziegfeld Zaggar, Quantum Detective — and that’s probably for the best. Zaggar and his reluctant, obsessively linear-thinking sidekick, Jack Robbins, investigate the murder of high-tech industrialist, Roger Mason, a death they realize may lead to far more inconvenient consequences– the accelerated entropy of the Multiverse that will end in…. well the end of everything.
Along the way, they’ll hook up with the ravishing (how could she not be?) agent from the CIA’s Quantum Division, Irene Adler (who else did you expect?)), interrogate a variety of unusual suspects (to say the least!), track down the elusive Mr. Anansi at the even more elusive Magic Theater — where Zaggar is a persona non grata, due to past infractions — and navigate through strange and perilous parallel universes, where it seems like something of immense power is obstructing their progress. For the Multiverse is a dirty rotten, sarcastic trickster, and that has made someone a little bit crazy — and very, very angry.

 

Terminus Cycle – Book 1 of the Andlios series by Dave Walsh
They were humanity’s last hope…
…but would they survive the abyss?

Now, after two generations lived and died aboard the ship, their new home planet looms on the horizon. Jonah just needs to let the mystery of an object in space and the tale of a lost cosmonaut lie and everything will go according to plan. But that meant ignoring the truth: the dark secrets of their mission. Sometimes risking everything for the truth is the only way forward, especially for someone like Jonah. Especially with the lives of 50,000 people hanging in the balance.

 

Riwenne & the Mechanical Beasts – Book 1 of the Divine Warriors series by Kristen S. Walker
When the gods came calling, she was the only one who answered. In a utopian floating city, Riwenne dreams of serving the gods as a priestess. Then she gets a message from the sea goddess urging her to become a warrior. Mechanical beasts are attacking innocent people on the streets at night. Armed with the power of the goddess, Riwenne must learn to fight. But if she wants to save the city, she will need to decide who is a friend and who is an enemy-and the wrong choice could have deadly consequences.