Category Archives: family relationships

MANTIVORE DREAMS Cover Reveal and available ARCS #MantivoreDreams #GriffinwingPublishingbooks

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I am delighted to announce that I am about to release the first book in a new series, Mantivore Dreams. The Arcadian Chronicles follows the fortunes of a forgotten human colony and what happens to the aliens already living there.

Again, the cover has been designed by my awesome buddy Mhairi Simpson and I think she’s done a fabulous job. While continuing the branded look she has created for me, this design also gives a clear idea of the story with Vrox’s mantivore eyes lurking behind young Kyrillia.

I am also offering review copies for anyone who would like to read and review this book – there are currently 15 arcs available and here is the link where you can download a copy:
https://booksprout.co/arc/19092/mantivore-dreams

As I am offering it through Booksprout, there is a final date by which the review has to be posted, which is 10th September on Amazon – it doesn’t have to be more than a few lines.

I know many of my readers have fallen in love with Lizzy, so I am hoping that some of you will also find a place in your heart for Kyrillia and grumpy old Vrox, who I personally care about far too much. I’ve included the blurb and the opening scene to give you some idea of whether this one will tick your box…

BLURB: Seventeen-year-old Kyrillia Brarian has an imaginary friend, a kindly mantivore called Vrox. She can’t recall a time when he wasn’t there. And over the years, Vrox has been her main source of comfort and strength as she drudged for her mother and nursed her brain-damaged uncle, so she’s never given much thought as to how he got there. Of course, he can’t be real. But when only three or four other people in her dusty village even smile at her, Kyrillia isn’t about to turn her back on the happy, warm images crowding her mind.

Until a family quarrel spirals into something darker – and Kyrillia is forced to wonder if Vrox is imaginary, or even friendly…

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.
Onice stood up. “Got to get back. Just wanted to make sure you were alright.”
She’s worried I might follow that poor girl into the river. So she dropped all her chores and came after me. I let go of the reed and hugged her. Hard. “Thanks for coming.” I struggled for a solid way to show my gratitude. “If you’re working late, I’ll come by and lend a hand.”
She shook her head, laughing. “Well if I’m working late, you’ll be slogging even later, you crip-wit!”
“S’pose so.” I shakily joined in the laughter, before she left to face certain punishment from her parents, who didn’t like me.

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Teaser Tuesday – 20th August, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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

This is my choice of the day:

Sweep of the Blade – Book 4 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
81% A moment passed.

Another.

The sticky coffee slid down her neck, dripping from her hair.

Another.

Seveline bared her fangs in a vicious grimace, spun on her heel, and stomped off. The door hissed shut behind her.

Maud sat very still. This could still go bad. If they came at her now, her best bet would be to jump out the window. It was a thirty-foot fall to the ledge below, but she could survive it.

Kavaline opened her mouth. Every pair of eyes watched her.

“My lady, we are dreadfully sorry. I do not know what came over her.”

“Clearly,” Maud said, her tone dry, “some people just can’t handle their coffee.”

BLURB: Maud Demille is a daughter of Innkeepers—a special group who provide ‘lodging’ to other-planetary visitors—so she knows that a simple life isn’t in the cards. But even Maud could never have anticipated what Fate would throw at her.

Once a wife to a powerful vampire knight, Maud and her young daughter, Helen, were exiled with him for his treachery to the desolate, savage planet of Karhari. Karhari killed her husband, and Maud—completely abandoned by his family—has spent over a year avenging his debts. Rescued by her sister Dina, she’s sworn off all things vampire.

Except… In helping Dina save the world, she met Arland, the Marshal of House Krahr, one of the most powerful vampire houses. One thing led to another and he asked for her hand in marriage. She declined. Arland is not used to hearing the word ‘no;’ and try as she might, Maud can’t just walk away from Arland…

I love this world. I love the characters… the adventures… the non-stop action and excitement… and the humour. I was so excited when I realised there was another book in the series and promised it to myself as a treat when the rewrite to Mantivore Prey was finished. So – here I am, treating myself:).

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman #Brainfluffbookreview #TheHeartoftheCirclebookreview

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

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

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

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

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

NETTED Cover Reveal!

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My near-future science fiction adventure, Netted, set in post-apocalyptic Maine is due to be released on 1st October by Grimbold Publishing – and here is the cover! My super-friend Mhairi, who designed it, has done a fabulous job. I particularly love the title font…

 

BLURB: In post-apocalyptic Maine, safety is the highest priority. Every citizen is Netted, their thoughts monitored for homicidal, lawless impulses. But being Netted can cause as many problems as it solves.

Years after everyone thought they’d died, a young family are discovered, safe and sound,
living in the wilderness. As their delighted relations race to pick them up, Boyce is
overwhelmed with relief that the daily battle to keep their small son, Hardy, safe has been
lifted from his shoulders.

His wife, Kris, dreads returning to the settlement where she was born and raised. Her mental
powers make living among others difficult, even dangerous, but even she is unprepared for
the catastrophic events that follow.
Safety comes at a price.

Below is the opening section of the book to give you an idea of whether it’s your kind of read – if you would like a review copy, let me know in the comment section below. I have EPUB and MOBI versions available.

CHAPTER ONE
Kris
‘This is the way we stamp on our clothes…’ We sang the usual washing song.

Well, I sang it. Hardy bawled the words at the top of his voice.

We were having a lot of fun, so why was I thinking of Cora and Raif? In a flyer. Looking drawn and sad. Raif, in particular, was dreading the moment they’d arrive at the cabin and start the task of clearing out the place. Still guilt-reamed. Still uselessly wishing he’d done it differently. If only I’d kept my cave-sized mouth shut. If only I hadn’t suggested Boyce take Kris to the cabin, they’d be alive today. And we wouldn’t be here…

I froze, tingling with shock. They’re on their way. Here. Now.

Hardy jerked my hands. ‘Mama, Mama, dance. Again.’

I stared down at my waterbaby. Your whole life is about to change. Every single thing in it will be different from this day forward. And there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

Because right on the heels of the knowledge that we were about to be rescued, was the sharp-edged realisation that I didn’t want to return to Sebago Hold.

Before I had time to absorb this info-bomb, Boyce’s excitement fizzed across my mind like a glowing firework. For sure, Kris – they’re really coming? We’ve done it! Kept Hardy alive and well. All these years… His relief and joy was so intense I could taste it.

My skin heated with his emotion, while my own reaction shrank to a cold ball in the pit of my stomach as I scooped up a protesting Hardy and made for the cabin. Being naked when I met my in-laws for the first time in four years wasn’t an option. I jigged Hardy in my arms as I ran up the path, stilling his yells over our interrupted water play, wishing I could shield him from all the change about to cascade around him.
Boyce sprinted along the lake path, his delight pulsing through me.

Has he really hated it out here so much? It was a hurtful thought. I watched the muscles flex beneath his tanned skin, his sunbleached hair streaming behind him, aware I wouldn’t see him like this again for a long time. If ever… Back in the cabin, I hauled on some clothes, then rushed around tidying up so Raif and Cora wouldn’t think I hadn’t been looking after things.

While Boyce pulled on a pair of trousers, I heard him mentally debating whether to suggest that it wouldn’t matter to his parents if the table was cluttered with breakfast things. So I felt better when he joined in my frantic efforts to make the place look more suitable for visitors.

Visitors. Here in the cabin. It felt plain wrong.

Boyce looked across at Hardy, who’d retreated under the table with his sticks and stones. Should you get him dressed?

Hardy was going through a phase of not wanting to wear clothes, and I hadn’t bothered to butt heads with him about it. Who was around to care? In this humid summer heat, I couldn’t blame him. I reconsidered – should I put him in a shirt? I shuddered at the thought of his screams while he ripped it off as soon as he could. Not the best way to meet his grandparents for the first time, that was for sure.
I sensed Boyce’s agreement, along with an undercurrent of anxiety that they’d approve of Hardy.

Another hurtful thought. It’s not their business. They haven’t the right to judge us. No one else knows what it’s been like, raising a child out here. But even as I railed against it, I knew that everyone would be watching our son, drawing their own conclusions over his behaviour. I stopped ramming the dirty crocks in the solar steriliser and shut my eyes. This is just some weird dream. Please…

Boyce folded me in his arms. It’ll be fine. You’ll see. I understand why you’re afraid – but things will be better.

I tried to smile up at him. But that was the problem with being NetLinked. He knew just how I felt. And the fact that we saw this business so differently wasn’t helping one bit.

Which was when we heard the flyer. Boyce sped down to the beach, frantically rushing around with stones and bits of stick. Hardy emerged from under the table and scampered off to join him. Hardy majorly related to sticks and stones. I shoved more stuff under the bed and cursed my decision to skip indoor chores in favour of washing the blankets. And I tried – very hard – to feel excited at the prospect of returning to Sebago.

Friday Faceoff – Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffpiratecovers

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is PIRATES. I’ve selected How to Be a Pirate – Book 2 of How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, which is one of my favourite children’s series ever…

Yes, for the second week in a row I’m featuring a children’s book. This year I seem to be reading rather a lot of them – just as I’d given up on making children’s fiction part of my reading challenge as I’d failed to read a reasonable number for the past three years in a row…

 

This edition was produced by Brown, Little and Company in May 2005. It is suitably quirky with a Viking-cum-pirate character clearly somewhat intellectually challenged as the main image on the cover. I like the background of planked wood, the quirky font and – unusually for me – I love the textbox looking like a treasure chest’s key plate and the dagger for the author name. However, that main image is rather unwhelming, I feel.

 

Published in February 2010 by Brown, Little and Company, I think this cover is more visually appealing, while keeping a lot of the successful aspects of the previous cover. I love the more eye-catching teal background colour and the fact that the textboxes are still enjoyably part of the overall design. However that image in the middle actually features a boat, a worried-looking Hiccup and a threatening dragon emerging from the waves… We get a sense that this is a proper adventure as well as being very funny.

 

This edition, published by Hodder Children’s Books in June 2017 was all set to be my favourite. I love the scaled background, the way the Viking longship bursts from the middle of the cover on a surfing wave – so clever and eye-chatching. And then I paused to take in the actual wording of the quirky font. And changed my mind… I’ve been listening to the series recently and frankly, it’s doing my head in. There are twelve books – and not one of the modern covers sees fit to inform the reader where in the series they come. In fact, the actual title of the book is dwarfed by the series name emblazoned across the top – very annoying! It’s a dealbreaker for me – so this isn’t my favourite, after all.

 

This Spanish edition, produced by SM in August 2006, demonstrates what a huge impact changing the backdrop can have. This cover features the same main design of the first cover – but what a difference. I don’t much care for it – that interlinking pattern doesn’t shout Viking to me and tends to give the whole cover a rather cluttered feel, which isn’t a good look for a children’s cover.

 

This German edition, published in June 2014, has decided to feature the dragon – I love that fantastic image of those two dragon eyes, snout and fangs peering out at a small Viking boy, presumably Hiccup. BUT that large title across the top of the cover is the series title – and once again there is no indication that this is Book 2. Without these issues, this would be my favourite alongside the Hodder edition – but this is such a major omission, I am going to have to plump for that second cover, which gives all the necessary details for a reader. Which is your favourite? Do you mind if a cover doesn’t provide all these details, so long as it looks good? I’d love to get your opinion on this issue!

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

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

This is my choice of the day:

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

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

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

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

Friday Faceoff – Adults are just outdated children… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is CHILDREN. I’ve selected Frozen in Time by Ali Sparkes, which is one of my favourite children’s books ever…

 

This edition was produced by Oxford University Press in January 2009 and is my favourite. I love the halo of supernatural light as the four children emerge from the underground bunker. If you look closely at the three children you can see clearly, you’ll see that two of them are dressed quite differently from the middle boy. I really like the fact that the artist has taken the trouble to depict the difference in their clothing, given it features so much in this timeslip adventure. I think it is plain from the cover that this is a science fiction adventure – another pluspoint for this polished, classy offering. It doesn’t hurt that this is the cover that I recall features on the audiobook, either.

 

Published in June 2013 by Oxford University Press, this retread isn’t quite so successful. While I like the artwork – I think it’s a real shame that over a third of the cover is given over to that intrusive, ugly text box. That marvellous font could easily have stood out against the forest canopy and looked more contemporary and interesting as a result.

 

This US edition, published by EgmontUSA in May 2010, so very nearly became my favourite. I love the fact that this one depicts the dramatic scene where the modern pair encounter their great aunt and uncle in suspended animation… But it’s a daft expression on Freddy’s face as he slowly surfaces in the chamber that ruins it for me. Other than that, I love the funky font and the marvellous artwork. This is definitely a contender…

 

This German edition, produced by Fischer KJB in November 2012, seems to have got their genres muddled. While there are some genuinely creepy moments in this fast-moving adventure, it is not a horror story – it is definitely a science fiction timeslip adventure with generous dollops of humour and some interesting things to say about how life has changed for children over the last fifty years. And this cover doesn’t give a hint of that.

 

This French edition, published in December 2016 by Bayard Jeunesse, has the feel of the old Enid Blyton books, which given the age of a couple of the children is more relevant than it might seem. What worries me is that I’m not sure this cover would attract modern independent readers as there is no sense of the smart, funny, thought-provoking writing in the artwork. Which is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of INDIE Ebook Whom Shall I Fear? by Anne Clare #Brainfluffbookreview #WhomShallIFearbookreview

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I know Anne Clare as a book blogger and when – belatedly – I realised her debut novel had been released, I nicked across to Amazon to pick up a copy, especially after reading Jean Lee’s excellent interview when I discovered Clare had written about the WWII Italian campaign. My grandfather had also endured the fighting at Monte Casino…

All that Sergeant James Milburn wants is to heal. Sent to finish his convalescence in a lonely village in the north of England, the friends he’s lost haunt his dreams. If he can only be declared fit for active service again, perhaps he can rejoin his surviving mates in the fight across Sicily and either protect them or die alongside them.

All that Evie Worther wants is purpose. War has reduced her family to an elderly matriarch and Charles, her controlling cousin, both determined to keep her safely tucked away in their family home. If she can somehow balance her sense of obligation to family with her desperate need to be of use, perhaps she can discover how she fits into her tumultuous world.

All that Charles Heatherington wants is his due. Since his brother’s death, he is positioned to be the family’s heir with only one step left to make his future secure. If only he can keep the family matriarch happy, he can finally start living the easy life he is certain he deserves. However, when James’s, Evie’s and Charles’s paths collide, a dark secret of the past is forced into the light, and everything that they have hoped and striven for is thrown into doubt.

Yes… it’s a rather long blurb – but for once I haven’t been forced to tweak or cut it – kudos to Clare for keeping it spoiler-free. What it does do is give you a feel for the three main characters and their priorities. This is an interesting book – set during WWII, the unfolding romance powers some of the narrative, but I hesitate to call it a wartime romance. While I think the love story is well handled and I was convinced by the growing feelings between the two characters, it is the depiction of the desperate fighting that lodges in my memory. Clare gets right under the skin of her main character and gives us a ringside seat into his reaction as he is pushed right to the edge of his emotional and physical limits during the brutal campaign.

There is also an unfolding situation back at home with Evie, so we aren’t given any opportunity to relax when we are in her viewpoint, either. I felt that Clare caught the earnestness and strong faith many women of the time used to get through such a tough time. Evie could have easily become a two-dimensional little mouse, given her sheltered upbringing and her domineering aunt’s insistence that she stay close – and it is a testament to Clare’s writing skill that she doesn’t.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this one, which had me staying up later than I should have to see what happens during that dramatic climax. Highly recommended for fans of books with WWII setting and a strong domestic drama.
9/10

Review of AUDIOBOOK Truckers – Book 1 of the Bromeliad trilogy by Terry Pratchett and and narrated by Stephen Briggs #Brainfluffaudiobookreview #Truckersaudiobookreview

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I read a print version of this book longer ago than I care to think, so when I encountered the audiobook edition that I’d bought for my granddaughter three years ago, I tucked in…

“Outside! What’s it like?” Masklin looked blank. “Well,” he said. “It’s sort of big.”

To the thousands of tiny nomes who live under the floorboards of a large department store, there is no outside. Things like day and night, sun and rain are just daft old legends. Then a devastating piece of news shatters their existence and it’s up to Masklin, one of the last nomes to come into the Store, to mastermind an unbelievable escape plan that will – somehow – ensure the nomes’ safety…

I have taken liberties with this very chatty blurb – because once again, it revealed far too many plotpoints. But it does feature the main protagonist, Masklin, who struggles to keep his small group fed and I fell in love with him all over again. Pratchett, at his best, specialises in struggling protagonists who are filled with self-doubt, although it’s apparent to the reader and most other characters that they are someone rather special – and so it is with Masklin. He has a wonderful supporting cast, including Torlin, who is in charge of The Thing; Grimma – the harassed female equivalent of Masklin, maybe more so as she spends her time cooking and cleaning for the old folks – including Granny Morky…

As well as the enjoyable relationships between the nomes and Masklin’s delightfully sharp-edged commentary about the people and places they encounter – we also have an ongoing insight into what the nomes have recorded in the Book of Nome. Without being remotely preachy, Pratchett explores prejudice, the way myths, culture and lore accretes over long periods of time – and I’ll be honest, I’ll be mightily impressed if the children who read and enjoy this story actually register and absorb this aspect of Pratchett’s writing. However, it’s a delightful bonus for the adults who encounter this gem – and like all Pratchett’s writing, I loved it. I particularly appreciate the way this fantasy story morphs into a science fiction adventure along the way.

Stephen Briggs’ masterly narration pulled me into the story and I found the utterances from the Book of Nome hilarious in a way that I don’t recall them being that funny as I read the print edition. All in all, this was a real treat and has only confirmed my ongoing love affair with audiobooks, which make all the boring household chores far more palatable. Highly recommended for fans of quirky adventure stories with a difference.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia #Brainfluffbookreview #GodsofJadeandShadowbookreview

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This was a no-brainer for me as I love Moreno-Garcia’s writing – see my review of Certain Dark Things, which also gives the links for my reviews of The Beautiful Ones and Prime Meridian.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own. Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room – and opens it…

I have yet again shortened and tweaked the rather chatty blurb as the story arc is far too well crafted to be spoilt by prior knowledge of one of the main plotpoints. Suffice to say that once more, this remarkable writer has pulled me into her colourful world. I really liked and sympathised with Casiopea, who is the Cinderella-type character – however, don’t go away with the impression that she is anything like the Disneyfied saccharine character who coos over mice and trills to birds. Casiopea is much too coolly self-possessed to do such a girly thing. Indeed, it is her unspoken defiance and evident intelligence that nettles her unpleasant cousin, Martin – how dare the poverty-stricken drudge be their grandfather’s favourite? He is only too aware that if she’d been born a boy, she would have inherited the family fortune and even now, she forgets her place to answer back when he taunts her. So when a particular event takes place after she opens the box and she is offered a new life away from the family home, Casiopea is happy to leave without a backward look.

The character who she follows requires really good writing to portray effectively – he isn’t innately sympathetic, being aloof, cold and not particularly concerned with humanity, other than how the species can best serve him. He certainly isn’t someone I would generally care about – but then it is all about context. Moreno-Garcia is clever in setting him and his interests in opposition to someone much, much worse.

But one of the strengths of Moreno-Garcia’s writing – and one of the main themes she explores throughout this delightful adventure, is one of change. Casiopea and her companion affect each other. She is less angry and bitter away from the long list of dead-end chores she was forced to perform and finds a softer, kinder version of herself who isn’t afraid to intervene to stop someone being harmed. She also finds herself experiencing the world in ways she could only have dreamt of, which forces her to examine what she actually wants, as opposed to what she doesn’t want.

As for her companion, this remote, icily hostile character is shocked to find himself increasingly drawn to the girl, her mortal charm and her kindness, even though he is aware that his evident attraction to her is a sign that all is not well. The other character who undergoes a major change throughout the book is obnoxious Martin. I’m a fan of writers who give us a real insight into what makes their baddies behave so nastily – and Moreno-Garcia gives us a ringside seat to Martin’s plight when he is sent out by his grandfather to coax Casiopea to return home.

The Mexican setting, the 1920s era and above all, the increasingly dangerous tasks faced by these two mortals unwittingly caught up in a power struggle between two immortals who hate each other with a passion only reserved for sibling rivalry. I was fascinated as to how it was going to play out – and I have to say that the ending worked really well. I have found myself thinking about this one since I finished it – always the mark of a book that has sunk its claws into me.

Just a quick word, however – this retelling is a sophisticated, nuanced read designed for adults and is not suitable for youngsters, a detail that Moreno-Garcia is keen to make clear as it has been advertised as a YA read in certain quarters. Very highly recommended for fans of well written fantasy adventure. The ebook arc copy of Gods of Jade and Shadow was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10