Category Archives: family life

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY Arc Like Never and Always by Anne Aguirre #Brainfluffbookreview #LikeNeverandAlwaysbookreview

Standard

I was looking for something just a bit different, when I read of this premise during Can’t-Wait Wednesday (thank you who recommended it – and sorry for not name-checking you, but I simply cannot remember). So I was delighted when I was approved for the Netgalley arc.

On a hot summer night, a screech of brakes and shattering glass changes two lives forever. Liv wakes in the hospital, confused when they call her Morgan. She assumes it’s a case of mistaken identity, yet when the bandages come off, it’s not her face in the mirror anymore. It’s her best friend Morgan’s. Morgan always seemed to have the perfect life, yet Liv must navigate endlessly disturbing secrets of the criminal and murderous variety—and a romance that feels like a betrayal. Torn between the boy she loved as Liv and the boy she’s grown to love as Morgan, Liv still has to survive Morgan’s last request.

It’s an interesting premise – and that intriguing title comes from a Pablo Neruda poem. So does this YA thriller live up to the promise of a cracking read? Oh yes. I enjoy Aguirre’s writing, particularly her excellent space opera adventure featuring adrenaline-junkie pilot Sirantha Jax – see my review of Grimspace. The dramatic beginning hooked me in and I slummucked in bed, reading this offering in one greedy gulp. Liv’s first-person narrative is well realised. Although she suffers serious physical injuries and keeps encountering nasty discoveries of the knee-buckling sort, Aguirre manages to avoid her becoming some put-upon victim. Given the nature of some of the secrets that float to the surface, as she continues investigating Morgan’s life, that is harder to pull off than you might think.

I found myself rooting for Liv throughout and was even able to endure the dreaded love triangle. In fact, it actually made sense within the story’s premise. The character progression also works well and I was also pleased to see that while Liv initially dreads getting any kind of professional counselling, when it becomes crucial she does avail herself of it. I would have liked to see her make more use of it – and have her still attending some ongoing counselling sessions for the foreseeable future.

Other than that quibble, I thoroughly enjoyed this YA adventure, which had me turning the pages to find out what happens next. It’s an entertaining thriller that delivers plenty of surprises featuring a well-realised, sympathetic protagonist. Recommended for fans of family-based mystery thrillers. While I obtained an arc of Like Never and Always from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Advertisements

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Wild Dead – Book 2 of The Bannerless Saga by Carrie Vaughn #Brainfluffbookreview #TheWildDeadbookreview

Standard

I loved Vaughn’s YA space opera adventure Martians Abroad – see my review here – so when this one popped up on Netgalley, I immediately requested it and I’m so very glad I did…

A century after environmental and economic collapse, the people of the Coast Road have rebuilt their own sort of civilization, striving not to make the mistakes their ancestors did. They strictly ration and manage resources, including the ability to have children. Enid of Haven is an investigator, who with her new partner, Teeg, is called on to mediate a dispute over an old building in a far-flung settlement at the edge of Coast Road territory. The investigators’ decision seems straightforward — and then the body of a young woman turns up in the nearby marshland. Almost more shocking than that, she’s not from the Coast Road, but from one of the outsider camps belonging to the nomads and wild folk who live outside the Coast Road communities. Now one of them is dead, and Enid wants to find out who killed her, even as Teeg argues that the murder isn’t their problem. In a dystopian future of isolated communities, can our moral sense survive the worst hard times?

Post-apocalyptic society is slowly recovering, though with far less resources. As far-flung communities live hard-scrabbled lives by scavenging and living off the land, law and order is imposed by travelling investigators. Enid is one such investigator, paired with a newbie and on a straightforward assignment that should have her returning home for the birth of a longed-for baby. And then, just as they are in the process of wrapping up the issue that brought them to Estuary, a dead body is found, washed up on the mud flats…

The world is beautifully depicted through Enid’s first person viewpoint. I felt the humidity, the reek of the mud and got to know the shocked, cagey characters living there. They were already wary of investigators due to a twenty-year-old scandal involving one of the women cutting out her birth control implant – a major infraction in a society where resources are so very scarce and birth rates are rigidly controlled to ensure no one starves. Even after all this time, Neeve is still ostracised by her neighbours and banished to Far House, where she lives with others who don’t really fit in. So no one is freely talking the investigators and Enid is left with a sense that there is something else going on…

This is a cracking whodunit. Enid is a sympathetic, capable protagonist with years of experience behind her and yet yearning to return home in time to be there at the birth of the baby – a baby that her efforts have helped to bring into being by earning the banner that allows her family to reproduce. She is further hampered by her raw new partner, who pounces on a pet theory and won’t let it go. The tension rises, along with the stakes, as Enid is determined to discover who the unknown young woman is and why she has been murdered. I picked this one up and couldn’t put it down until I reached the end. Though I had guessed part of the puzzle, I was still shocked to discover the perpetrator. Highly recommended for fans of science fiction murder mysteries. While I obtained an arc of The Wild Dead from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Outcasts of Order – Book 20 of the Saga of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. #Brainfluffbookreview #OutcastsofOrderbookreview

Standard

And if you’re blanching at the prospect of ploughing through nineteen other books to get to this point – I’m here to tell you that isn’t necessary. This is actually the second in a spinoff series charting the adventure of Beltur. His adventures started in the previous book, The Mongrel Mage – see my review – and these continue in this adventure…

Modesitt continues his bestselling Saga of Recluce with his 20th book in the long-running series. Beltur began his journey in The Mongrel Mage and continues with Outcasts of Order, the next book of his story arc in the Saga of Recluce.

Beltur, an Order mage, discovers he possesses frightening powers not seen for hundreds of years. With his new abilities, he survives the war in Elparta and saves the lives of all. However, victory comes with a price. His fellow mages now see him as a threat to be destroyed, and the local merchants want to exploit his power.

This book does more or less pick up where the previous book left off, and we find Beltur recovering from the effects of his previous adventure and mourning the loss of one of his friends. He is a refugee in a new city, struggling to establish himself and earn as much as he can, as he wishes to settle down with a special someone. However, there are obstacles to his ambition…

If you are in the mood for a foot-to-the-floor adventure, where it is all kicking off at a breathless rate, then this one isn’t for you. Modesitt doesn’t write like that – he slowly builds the world by taking you through his protagonist’s daily routine in every little detail. We learn what Beltur thinks about the worsening weather conditions; how he feels about working at the forge and the Healing House; what he wears; what he likes to eat and drink; who he trusts; what he thinks about having to get up early in the mornings… I’ll be honest, while I enjoy the accretion of all these daily details, there were times when in this book I felt that the pacing had become just a bit a too stuck in the daily rhythm. There are also places where Modesitt’s normally smooth prose is a little rough around the edges. While I’m aware this is an arc and there are liable to be changes, I do hope some of the missing words and repetitions are sorted out before the publication date. That said, it wasn’t sufficient to blunt my engagement with the story and most of the time, I relished once more being immersed in this richly depicted world.

What all that detail means is that when it does kick off – there is a real sense of shock at the violence and the consequences that occur in its wake. I like Beltur and the people around him, although there are times when I’d like to see him a little more grumpy and not so unfailingly good. As a result, the person who I really bonded with, is the healer and emerging mage, Jessyla. I do like the fact she can be quite snarky, at times.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one – though I recommend that you start with The Mongrel Mage and I’m delighted there is to be a third book in this series. Recommended for fans of epic fantasy. While I obtained an arc of Outcasts of Order from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

#Sunday Post – 27th May, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

Standard

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

This week has been good, but busy. Tim is working well towards his writing exam – I am so impressed at how well he rises to each occasion. We have been also discussing the Star Wars films as he has recently become a big fan and we are both eagerly anticipating Solo.

The Creative Writing courses are going well, as my students are producing a marvellous range of favourite pieces of writing, both poetry and prose, to present to the rest of the group, in addition to their own work. On Thursday, Mhairi, my writing buddy and marketing guru came over and ensured that I am now GDPR compliant – she is a wonder! This weekend, the grandchildren have come to stay – and unusually, the weather stayed absolutely fabulous. On Saturday evening, my sister came over to have a roast dinner and while Himself toiled in the kitchen, we sat on the garden swing, watching the children playing a lively game of boules and basking in the sun, admiring the swaying mass of aquilegia – or grannybonnets, which is their country name.

This morning, I’m taking them over to the local leisure centre, along with Tim, for a clip’n climb session. We’ll be returning them home this evening – the weekend has zipped by far too fast as they are such good company. I hope you all have a great week and for those of you also enjoying half term, let’s hope the hot spell lasts…

This week I have read:

Furyborn – Book 1 of the Empirium series by Claire Legrand
When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first. A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.
This epic fantasy caught my eye – first due to that amazing cover – and then when I realised that the main protagonists were women. It is an enjoyable, well written tale, full of incident and emotion – along with a nice leavening of humour.

 

The Watchmaker’s Daughter – Book 1 of the Glass and Steele series by C.J. Archer
India Steele is desperate. Her father is dead, her fiancé took her inheritance, and no one will employ her, despite years working for her watchmaker father. Indeed, the other London watchmakers seem frightened of her. Alone, poor, and at the end of her tether, India takes employment with the only person who’ll accept her – an enigmatic and mysterious man from America. A man who possesses a strange watch…
This entertaining romantic historical fantasy has one of the best opening scenes I’ve encountered in a long while – both humorous and desperate. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, despite not being a huge fan of romance. I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

 

Gwithyas: Door to the Void by Isha Crowe
Zircon Gwithyas just wants to be a normal teenager, preferably one with a girlfriend. If you’re a spotty nerd with glasses as thick as jam jars, that isn’t easy. It’s even harder when you live in a derelict manor on a haunted hill with a bunch of spooky eccentrics for a family, and the object of your affection is an irritable sword-wielding college student. It becomes virtually impossible when you are dragged into a dark, chaotic semi-reality where your moderately-deceased ancestors expect you to save the world from a horde of grotesque demons with a fondness for torture…
This YA fantasy is both dark and funny. Zircon makes a wonderful protagonist and I’m hoping that Crowe produces more in this world – it is a joy. I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 20th May 2018

Review of A Pair of Docks – Book 1 of The Derivatives of Displacement series by Jennifer Ellis

Teaser Tuesday featuring Gwithyas: Door to the Void by Isha Crowe

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Drop by Drop – Book 1 of the Step by Step by Morgan Llewelyn

Buddyread Review of Willnot by James Sallis

Friday Face-off – Just put one foot in front of the other and keep going… featuring Feet of Clay – Book 19 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Furyborn – Book 1 of the Empirium series by Claire Legrand

 

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

Steve Earle, Patty Loveless, The Proclaimers & Eddi Reader – My Old Friend The Blues https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2018/05/10/steve-earle-patty-loveless-the-proclaimers-eddi-reader-my-old-friend-the-blues/ Thom’s wonderful blog is a must-visit experience for anyone who enjoys music and this article is another gem…

Monday Funnies… https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2018/05/21/monday-funnies-4/ It doesn’t have to be Monday to have a laugh.

Kathpulis or puppets show https://historyofkingpanwars.wordpress.com/2018/05/22/kathputlis-or-puppets-show/ I loved this article about something I knew nothing about…

Conducting Informational Interview for Story Research https://writershelpingwriters.net/2018/05/conducting-informational-interviews-for-story-research/ A wonderful, informative article about how to go about this by my great writing friend, Sara Letourneau…

What times we’ve lived through. https://jaceybedford.wordpress.com/2018/05/23/what-times-weve-lived-through/ Jacey Bedford describes how her investigation into her past also informs and enriches her writing as well as her life…

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

Review of KINDLE Ebook #Willnot by James Sallis #buddyread #bookreview #bookblog #bookblogger

Standard

My book blogging friend Emma Littlefield and I decided to teamread a book recommended by the other – and as James Sallis is a favourite author of Emma’s, we started off by reading Willnot.

Did you pick this book up thinking it was going to be a murder mystery?
No. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. Having read quite a few Sallis books now, one thing I like about his stories is that they never quite end up where I think they might. A number of his trilogies have detectives or private investigators as central characters and they do investigate murders but it’s never the be all and end all of everything. Sometimes, they don’t even get solved. It’s more about the journey’s the characters take and that’s what I like.

Is this book a classic example of James Sallis’s writing?
Yes, I would say so. I always end up describing it to people as quite sparse as there isn’t a word wasted. Some people I’ve recommend him to say that nothing happens in the books but I disagree, I think a lot happens to the characters it’s just it tends to be small things that build up to big changes.

When you finished the book were you elated and blown away, or just the tiniest bit disappointed?
I was very happy. The last Sallis book I read (The Killer is Dying) is actually the first one I haven’t enjoyed and I was a bit worried I had burnt out on the author. I was also a bit worried that he’d lost his writing way. This had all the elements I love in his work and, while it wasn’t the best of the books I’ve read, it was by no means the worst. Content is maybe the best way to describe it.

How does this rate alongside other books by this author?
I would say it’s probably right in the middle (maybe high middle). My favourite books are Drive and Driven and his Turner Trilogy because I just feel in love with his characters in these books.

As you can see from her answers, Emma is a thoughtful, intelligent reader whose opinions I value – you can pop over to her blog here to read her questions to me along with her review of Willnot. And here is my review…

In the woods outside the town of Willnot, the remains of several people have suddenly been discovered, unnerving the community and unsettling Hale, the town’s all-purpose general practitioner, surgeon, and town conscience. At the same time, Bobby Lowndes–his military records disappeared, being followed by the FBI–mysteriously reappears in his hometown, at Hale’s door. Over the ensuing months, the daily dramas Hale faces as he tends to his town and to his partner, Richard, collide with the inexplicable vagaries of life in Willnot.

I love the writing style. Sallis builds up a vivid picture of daily life in this small, US community with a wealth of everyday occurrences, delivering them with pace and a vividness that pulled me into the book. Hale, his protagonist, is a thoroughly nice chap who is one of those lynchpins that all communities need. His duties as the town’s doctor, surgeon and coroner put him right in the centre of all the major events in Willnot in a manner that appears completely unforced and realistic.

Sallis’s smooth, accomplished prose has a lovely rhythm that evokes Hale’s character and the setting without ever putting a foot wrong – there is so much about this book that is an absolute delight… However, if you’re sensing a but – you’d be right. My quibble isn’t with the writing, or the characterisation, or even the plot progression and storyline – all that works beautifully. What wrongfooted me was after reading the blurb, I was expecting a murder mystery – a whodunit where this busy, responsible man takes it upon himself to solve the puzzle of those bodies discovered right at the beginning of the story and clearly rock the small town, where daily life is generally quieter and more peaceful.

But that wasn’t where the focus or impact of this story lay – and while appreciating all the strengths that I’ve already enumerated about this book, I kept turning the pages, waiting for the denouement and drama surrounding this mystery. Or any mystery… While there is some drama and an unexpected shooting, the overall plot didn’t seem to be about that at all, which is absolutely fine – apart for my expectations.

Would I read another James Sallis novel? Oh yes – he’s evidently a fine writer and I really enjoyed being introduced to him – thank you, Emma!
8/10

Friday Faceoff – It’s a family affair…

Standard

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 week the theme is a cover featuring a family, so I’ve selected The Rolling Stones by Robert Heinlein.

 

This audio edition was produced by Full Cast Audio in February 2005. It’s a spacescape so I really like it – the character in the forefront being upside down is nicely dramatic. However, she looks rather bored by the whole business and as they are clearly performing some sort of maintenance task on the outside of the ship, I doubt if she would ever get to a stage where it would be quite so tedious to be floating at the end of a tether outside the ship. And I loathe the nasty strip along the bottom of the cover which is completely unnecessary, given this is a relatively modern design.

 

Published in February 1978 by Del Rey Books, I much prefer this version. There is plenty of drama as the twins are rushing around the spaceship, trying to gather up all these tribble-like creatures. I also think the font is rather funky and attractive, contrasting well with the bright interior of their ship. This one is my favourite, though I don’t like all the chatter cluttering up the author and title.

 

This edition, published by Baen in March 2009, has by contrast a rather generic feel. It is clearly part of the house style, with the classic Baen fonts for the title and author, along with the obligatory spacescape. The trouble is that this scene could be any old ship with a couple of suited figures, who don’t particularly look as though they are part of a family unit.

 

This edition, produced by Ace in November 1970 definitely has a retro feel – that rocket and those suits are more reminiscent of the 1950s, when this book first hit the shelves. However, there is no sense that the crew are a family. While the orange font certainly pops, it is rather flat, again underlining the period feel of this cover. There is rather too much chat, again, spoiling the effect.

 

This Czech cover was published in 2003. I have a really soft spot for this one. The angle of the ship with the two suited figures working on it draws the eye onto the attractive and eye-catching title font. I also love the touch of having the title on the ship. This is a close contender for the top spot for me – but what about you? Which is your favourite?

Review of Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew P. Walker

Standard

Given my husband’s diagnosis of severe sleep apnea and the difference the treatment from the sleep clinic has made to all aspects of his life, when I saw this book was available on NetGalley, I immediately requested it.

Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, and longevity. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don’t sleep. Compared to the other basic drives in life—eating, drinking, and reproducing—the purpose of sleep remained elusive. An explosion of scientific discoveries in the last twenty years has shed new light on this fundamental aspect of our lives. Now, preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker gives us a new understanding of the vital importance of sleep and dreaming. Within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Dreaming mollifies painful memories and creates a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge to inspire creativity.

Walker answers important questions about sleep: how do caffeine and alcohol affect sleep? What really happens during REM sleep? Why do our sleep patterns change across a lifetime? How do common sleep aids affect us and can they do long-term damage? Charting cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and synthesizing decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels; regulate hormones; prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; slow the effects of aging; increase longevity; enhance the education and lifespan of our children, and boost the efficiency, success, and productivity of our businesses. Clear-eyed, fascinating, and accessible, Why We Sleep is a crucial and illuminating book.

Normally I don’t include all the blurb, as it tends to give too much away. However, in this case I feel it nicely sums up exactly what this book is about. This was not a comfortable read. My husband’s snoring used to be epic – not only was it shredding his ability to sleep deeply, it also properly mucked up my sleep, too. It is still a mess and has been for a number of years. I have become accustomed to living reasonably happily on somewhere between four and five hours of sleep a night, and therefore it came as a very nasty shock to discover that I am probably compromising my immune system as well, as increasing my risk factor of incurring a range of nasty illnesses including Alzheimer’s and cancer.

However, the good news is that in addition to providing the scientific reasons why sleep is so important to us, Walker also provides a range of suggestions and tips so that those of us with really poor sleep hygiene have a chance to sort ourselves out. If you are a snorer, or sleep next one, find it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep for the recommended eight to nine hours a night, then you need to read this book.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 20th February, 2018

Standard

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

This is my choice of the day:
Into the Fire – Book 2 of Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon

18% “Pods aren’t equal,” Ky said, scowling at the tiny figures in the drawings then back to the descriptive text. “And there’s another level. Look—the ground-level rooms have the nice beds and so on … the upper one, the rooms are smaller, thicker-walled, no windows. Described as ‘treatment rooms for more severe conditions.’”
“Perfect for isolating problem people,” Rodney said.

BLURB: When Admiral Kylara Vatta and a ship full of strangers were marooned on an inhospitable arctic island, they uncovered secrets that someone on Ky’s planet was ready to kill to keep hidden. Now, the existence of the mysterious arctic base has been revealed, but the organisation behind it still lurks in the shadows, doing all it can to silence her.

I loved the first book, Cold Welcome, in this spinoff series from Moon’s successful Vatta’s War series and so far, I’m thoroughly engrossed in this one, too. Though I do think if you haven’t read the first series, you could probably be struggling with the raft of characters that hadn’t made an appearance in Cold Welcome.

Friday Faceoff – Groovy baby…

Standard

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 week the theme is featuring a retro cover, so I’ve gone with Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory.

 

This cover, produced by Knopf in June 2017, is quirky and clearly harking back to another time with the silhouetted profiles of the main protagonists – the Telemachus family. I have mixed feelings about this. I like the clean look and the attractive font used for the title and author name, but I really don’t like the black silhouette pictures as this art form was particularly popular during the Victorian era, which I think is confusing, given we do not go back to Victorian times in this accomplished, memorable novel.

 

This edition was produced by riverrun in June 2017. I prefer this one to the first offering. The clunky TV with the smiling family has a real retro feel, along with that hard blue colour that I recall from my early childhood. The font and author name looks attractive and while I like the strapline along the bottom, I think it’s a shame they saw fit to cram that clutter in the top left of the cover.

 

Published in February 2018 by Eichborn, this German edition is the most effective cover in my opinion. That wonderful orange swirling wallpaper gives a lovely retro feel and I love the photos, particularly that of the mother who died before her time. It is her death that shatters the family. I love the sadness on her face – and that classic hairstyle. A clever, eye-catching cover that relates directly to the content, this is my favourite but which is yours?

New Cover for Dying for Space – Book 2 of the Sunblinded trilogy

Standard

I have recently been lucky enough to have a shiny new cover for Dying for Space produced by superfriend Mhairi, who agreed with me that the original covers for the series weren’t hitting the spot – and announced that she could make me something more genre-specific. So she did…

It’s great, isn’t it? I love the fact that Mhairi used images of the same girl on both covers in the series. Dying for Space is available at Amazon.com for $2.78 and at Amazon.co.uk for £1.99.

And in case you missed it, this is the cover for Running Out of Space. I think they look really good together. Running Out of Space is available at Amazon.com for $1.37 and at Amazon.co.uk for £0.99.