Category Archives: fantasy

Sunday Post – 19th January, 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.

This week was one I’ve been looking forward to with really mixed feelings. On Monday, Himself drove up to Cambridge to collect up Robbie’s possessions and bring them back here, as he was moving out, so that when he travelled down on the train on Wednesday evening, he only had a light bag to carry. Thursday was spent sorting out Robbie’s clothes – what he was going to take with him, and what he was going to leave behind for the clothing bank or his nephews. But Friday morning pitched up far too fast, when came the time to load everything in the car, drive him up to Gatwick airport and see him off on his journey to L.A. I am so thrilled for him that he has found a lovely girl and his career is falling into place. But so sad that from now on, I can’t just hop on a train and get a fix of that huge personality of his…

Thank goodness I didn’t have time to brood – because that evening, I was off to Chichester Festival Theatre with my daughter and grandson to see Six, the hit musical about Henry VIII’s six wives. I can see what the fuss is about – it was absolutely brilliant. We were on our feet whooping and clapping till our hands stung at the end and as the show is about to embark on an international tour, I recommend you go and see it if you get the chance. Afterwards, we went for a meal together and agreed we must do this more often.

On Saturday, I was running a Poetry Day here at the house for a few folks, so we were both up early, flying around and getting the kitchen presentable – it frankly looked as though a bomb had hit it. And organising the casserole and apple pudding I was serving for lunch. It was a lovely day – wonderful to catch up with the five folks who attended, hear their work and immerse myself back into another world. Rob has arrived safely in L.A. and today we need to start dealing with the pile of stuff in the spare room, as I have Mhairi arriving tomorrow… Thank goodness for busyness. And the amazing rock in my life – Himself.

Last week I read:

Termination Shock – Book 1 of the Interstellar Enforcement Agency by Gillian Andrews
Ryler Mallivan’s comfortable life as an upstanding young freighter captain has just imploded. Avaraks are storming the training ship he is on and the bullets being fired are not blanks. Interstellar war has broken out and unless he moves fast they will all be as stone dead as the instructor lying at his feet. But this is one conflict they can never escape. The cause of the trouble is far closer than they know and will bring Mallivan and his ragbag fledgling crew under ferocious attack from all sides
I spotted this one on Netgalley, and wanted a bit of space opera goodness, so requested it. Great fun – full of action and an engaging protagonists – but also including a really annoying alien child… Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK Over Sea, Under Stone – Book 1 of The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper

On holiday in Cornwall, the three Drew children discover an ancient map in the attic of the house that they are staying in. They know immediately that it is special…
This classic fantasy adventure is one I never got around to reading as a child, but as it was on Frankie’s audiobook list, I gave it a go. While in places it showed its age, I nonetheless thoroughly enjoyed it, aided by the excellent narration.

 

The Last Smile in Sunder City – Book 1 of the Fetch Phillips Archives by Luke Arnold
I’m Fetch Phillips, just like it says on the window. There are a few things you should know before you hire me:
1. Sobriety costs extra.
2. My services are confidential – the cops can never make me talk.
3. I don’t work for humans.
It’s nothing personal – I’m human myself. But after what happened, Humans don’t need my help. Not like every other creature who had the magic ripped out of them when the Coda came…
I just want one real case. One chance to do something good.
Because it’s my fault the magic is never coming back.
I was attracted by the premise and quirky cover. I haven’t seen Black Sails, so the author’s other life as an actor wasn’t a factor in my picking this one up. The world didn’t disappoint – wonderfully described dystopian landscape where magic has abruptly disappeared. Review to follow.

A Longer Fall – Book 2 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris
Lizbeth Rose is hired onto a new crew for a seemingly easy protection job, transporting a crate into Dixie, just about the last part of the former United States of America she wants to visit. But what seemed like a straight-forward job turns into a massacre as the crate is stolen.
I really enjoyed my second visit to this dystopian world, following the twists and turns of the plot as Rose tries to find out why so many people had to die.

 

My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring Heavy Time – Book 4 of The Company Wars by C.J. Cherryh

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of A Longer Fall – Book 2 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Apollo Deception by Mitch Silver

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Rules of Magic – prequel to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Sunday Post 12th January 2020

 

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

10 of the Best and Most Famous Opening Lines in English Poetry https://interestingliterature.com/2020/01/famous-opening-lines-poetry/ There are some lovely examples here – but do you think a great opening line has been unfairly left out?

Thursday Doors – Boats https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2020/01/16/thursday-doors-boats/ Jean rings the changes – we get to see a number of boats, instead of doors. And you’ll NEVER guess what is growing on the cabin roof of one little motor cruiser…

Tidings from the Crew – galaxy quest (1999) movie review – old sci fi movies reviews continue! https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordpress.com/2020/01/15/tidings-from-the-crew-galaxy-quest-1999-movie-review-old-sci-fi-movie-reviews-continue/ This is a lovely, affectionate review of one of my all-time favourite films…

The brilliance of RUNNING UP THAT HILL by Meg Myers https://redpenofdoom.com/the-brilliance-of-running-up-that-hill-by-meg-myers/ I loved this tribute to both Kate Bush (whose work I ADORE) and this fabulous cover version – including the remarkable video to accompany it…

A Little Bit Like Grandpa https://writersite.org/2020/01/13/like-grandpa/ I really enjoyed this slice of family history, along with Luanne’s musings on her writing…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Rules of Magic – prequel to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman #Brainfluffbookreview #TheRulesofMagicbookreview

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I’ve heard so many good things about this series, so decided to treat myself to the Audible version of this Alice Hoffman book.

BLURB: For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk. From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

This is such a cool premise and I particularly loved the blurb. I started listening, all set to be blown away by the intensity of the situation, as this skilled, adept writer pulled me right into the middle of this appealing story. And it didn’t happen. Unfortunately, two aspects of Hoffman’s writing really caused me a problem. I am a tad allergic to reams of exposition, where the author sees fit to tell me her version of what is happening, rather than allowing the characters to define the circumstances and explain it through their eyes. The other dealbreaker for me is head hopping and this is also part of Hoffman’s style. In adult fiction, I find it both jarring and irritating as it invariably knocks me out of the story while I work out why I am listening to two viewpoints within the same scene.

Once I realised these traits would continue throughout the book, I had to decide whether my aggravation with the style would result in this book being a DNF – and it is a testament to Hoffman’s writing skill that this didn’t happen. As the excellent narration by Laurence Bouvard gradually pulled me further into the story, I found I wanted to know what happened to Vincent, Franny and Jet. While my enjoyment of the characters was compromised, I cannot fault the worldbuilding and sense of otherness Hoffman manages to evoke with her stylish prose. I particularly liked her continual referencing of the smells around her characters and how they changed depending on what was happening or about to happen – in fact, the richness and sensuality of the writing in general was a huge plus throughout.

The other strength of this interesting book was the narrative arc for each character. As I wasn’t particularly emotionally involved, there were occasions when listening, I wondered if I would ultimately regret my decision to continue with it. Right now, I am not in the mood to listen to an unfurling tragedy, wherein each of these protagonists was going to endure a life of constant loss and grief, and there were times when I thought that would be the case. However, while there are certainly a number of shocking and sad events that take place within the story, it is ultimately an uplifting book and I felt the ending was very well handled. Overall, I am glad I persevered. There is much to admire in this book – I just wish I could have loved it more.
7/10

Sunday Post – 12th January, 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.

This week I started back to work with Tim, who came for his lessons on Monday and Wednesday. As ever, teaching him was enjoyable – and the icing on the cake was that right at the end of his Monday lesson, Sally phoned to say that he’d passed his Functional Skills Level 2 English Reading exam – in fact, he didn’t only pass it, he smashed it by achieving 25/30! We are so proud of him – and ourselves, to be honest😊.

Wednesday evening was also our first Writing Group get-together since our Christmas meal – it was great to see everyone, except poor Katie who was smitten with a cold. I was also supposed to attend the West Sussex Writers’ meeting on Thursday evening, but to be honest, I was a bit shattered so I didn’t go. I haven’t been sleeping all that well as Himself’s sleep mask badly needed a service so was making a lot of noise (he suffers from sleep apnea). I can’t believe the difference – it’s so much easier to get to sleep since it’s been overhauled.

On Friday, I spent the day with my daughter and little Eliza. Poor Oscar was also at home as he wasn’t well, and while I want him feeling a lot better, it was a bonus to see him, too. Eliza is now starting to walk, and chatter. It was lovely playing with her and it was also great to catch up with Rebecca, too. On Saturday, Sally and I had an editing day together, where we worked on her manuscript. Today I want to get stuck into working on Mantivore Warrior – this coming week is going to be crazy-busy, so I need to push on with it!

Last week I read:

Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky
First, Denland’s revolutionaries assassinated their king, launching a wave of bloodshed after generations of peace. Next they clashed with Lascanne, their royalist neighbour, pitching war-machines against warlocks in a fiercely fought conflict. Genteel Emily Marshwic watched as the hostilities stole her family’s young men. But then came the call for yet more Lascanne soldiers in a ravaged kingdom with none left to give. Emily must join the ranks of conscripted women and march toward the front lines.
This one has been languishing on my TBR pile for far too long – and I’m delighted that I finally got around to reading it. This one has been absolutely marvellous – definitely the best book of the year so far… Review to follow.

Broken Flyght – Book 2 of The Flyght series by S.J. Pajonas
With her ship secure and her old boyfriend back in good graces, Vivian Kawabata only needs one thing to move forward: money. Money, though, is hard to come by when you’re an infamous disgraced heiress. Vivian’s only move is to enlist the help of her matchmaker, Marcelo, and find another wealthy man to add to her relationship network. He not only has to be a master in the bedroom, but he must be a pro with ships, too. Her ship needs a mechanic before they start taking on real clients for Flyght, the lucrative ship-sharing startup.
This was an eventful, enjoyable continuation of this entertaining space opera adventure with an intriguingly slow burn romance. I will definitely be getting my hands on the next book. Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK Dark Summer by Ali Sparkes
When Eddie discovers a secret passage in Wookey Hole caves, he just has to find out where it goes. But his amazement quickly turns to horror when he gets lost in the dark. He’s underground, on his own, and nobody knows where he is …Until a hand reaches out of the blackness. A strange, pale girl helps Eddie get back to the surface, but she can’t seem to leave the caves herself. Who is she? Or rather …what is she? And what other secrets is she hiding? Only one thing is certain – this is a summer Eddie will never forget.
I thoroughly enjoyed this children’s adventure by this entertaining, clever writer. See my review of Frozen in Time. I was gripped by the story and found the ending both moving and very satisfying. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring Have Space Suit – Will Travel by Robert Heinlein

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Bone Silence – Book 3 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton

Review of Indie Ebook Valkyrie Burning – Book 3 of the Hayden War Cycle series by Evan Currie

Sunday Post 5th January 2020

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks over the Christmas break, in no particular order:

Wordless Wednesday: Lovingly Lillian https://applegategenealogy.wordpress.com/2020/01/08/wordless-wednesday-lovingly-lillian/
Some pictures stay with you – this one is simply beautiful…

The Hard Truth & Sad Reality of Social Media – Devices That Consume Us https://talinorfali.wordpress.com/2020/01/07/the-hard-truth-sad-reality-of-social-media-devices-that-consume-us/ Talin writes a thoughtful article about her concerns about this aspect of modern life…

Hand in Hand https://storyshucker.wordpress.com/2020/01/07/hand-in-hand/ I loved this moving tribute Stuart wrote to his grandmother…

Tom Waits: What’s He Building? https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2020/01/07/tom-waits-whats-he-building/ If you love inspired writing and great music, then swing by this site – once again, Thom nails it.

12 Vegan Meals Made by a Complete Amateur https://weewritinglassie.home.blog/2020/01/06/12-vegan-meals-made-by-a-complete-amateur/ Given it is now Veganuary and you like the idea of trying out some vegan recipes – then this might inspire you.

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

Sunday Post – 5th January, 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.

While it has been a lot less hectic, the fun hasn’t stopped. Last Sunday, I went for a spa evening with Sally – we didn’t talk about work, but relaxed in the sauna and the jacuzzi putting the world to rights. It was bliss. New Year’s Eve was lovely – just Himself and I spending it together, which is more special than it sounds, as he frequently has to work, or go to bed early because of his shift pattern. We had lunch together at Haskins on New Year’s Day and afterwards, I spotted a Kipling handbag on sale – irrestistible!  We had a lovely lazy afternoon, lolling on the sofa watching films together, making the most of Himself’s last day of his winter leave.

My sister-in-law drove up to see me the following day – her birthday. So we had a walk along beach and then I took her for lunch at Haskins, which serves a baked potato with roasted vegetables as a tasty veggie lunch, plus cake of course. I hadn’t seen her since our writing retreat in Bexhill, so it was a wonderful treat. Yesterday, I met up with my sister and caught up on her life since Christmas Day when we last saw each other. Inevitably we went shopping together – I came away with two long-sleeved tops and a new pair of trousers in the sales and she got a lovely blouse.

Today is the last day of my Christmas break and we’re taking down the Christmas decorations – a chore I hate, as the house always looks so dreary afterwards. But all good things come to an end and I’ve had the best Christmas in years.

Last week I read:

AUDIOBOOK The Last Olympian – Book 5 of the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series by Rick Riordan
All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of victory are grim. Kronos’s army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan’s power only grows. While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it’s up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time.

I’ve enjoyed listening to this entertaining children’s series and was pleased that this concluding adventure wrapped up the narrative really successfully, as well as providing a cracking battle full of action and tension. Review to follow.

 

Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger duology by Marie Brennan
When a witch is born, a doppelganger is created. For the witch to master her powers, the twin must be killed. Until now…

Created by the merging of witch and doppelganger, Mirei is a unique being. Her extraordinary magic makes her the most poweful witch alive—and a notorious social outcast. While Satomi, the leader of the witches’ ruling Primes, hails Mirei as a miracle, rival Primes proclaim that Mirei is an evil abomination… and that those who champion her must be destroyed.

This has proved to be a delightful duology – I loved the first book and wanted to find out what would happen next. This offering wasn’t a disappointment as my first ebook read of the decade. Review to follow.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Rules of Magic – prequel to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Find your magic

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

I was expecting to be blown away by this one and I wasn’t. Nonetheless, the worldbuilding and atmospheric writing kept me listening to the excellent narration, despite my other issues with the book. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Review of AUDIOBOOK How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury – Book 12 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell

Friday Faceoff featuring The Wee Free Man – Book 1 of the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett

My 2019 Reading Year – the Statistics

My First Reads of the Decade – Welcome 2020!

My Outstanding Reads of 2019

Review of AUDIOBOOK To Say Nothing of the Dog – Book 2 of the Oxford Time Travel series by Connie Willis

Sunday Post 29th December 2019

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks over the Christmas break, in no particular order:

Gavin and Stacey: what that Christmas special cliffhanger ending means for future season https://www.stylist.co.uk/life/gavin-and-stacey-christmas-special-ending-spoilers-future-series-ruth-jones/339367?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=share&utm_campaign=share-buttons
And this one has been niggling at the back of my head since I watched it… I’m a HUGE fan and would LOVE more Gavin and Stacey goodness – but only if it is as marvellous and heartwarming and wonderful as the previous series. Please, please don’t mess it up…

10 Ways to Stay Healthy This Flu Season https://www.michellescrazybusylife.net/index.php/2020/01/03/2739/#.XhHkoPzgrb0 All very good advice, when we still have the coldest, dreariest part of winter still ahead of us…

Reading Challenges to Try in 2020 http://skolion.org/2019/10/06/reading-challenges-to-try-in-2020/ It’s that time of year again, when we all start thinking about the challenges we are going to set ourselves – and this article has some helpful suggestions.

My Personal “Yellow Brick Road” https://laurelrainsnow.wordpress.com/2019/12/22/my-personal-yellow-brick-road/ Laurel’s article highlighting mementoes that had significance for her had me wondering about the things that matter to me, too…

River to Skate Away On https://platformnumber4.com/2019/12/14/river-to-skate-away-on/ Becky’s recollections of childhood winters, complete with photos, brought back a former time.

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

Friday Faceoff – In the Beginning was the Word… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffnewbeginningscovers

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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 NEW BEGINNINGS. I’ve selected The Wee Free Men – Book 1 of the Tiffany Aching series and Book 30 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett – though it really is more of a spinoff series, you and don’t have to have read any of the other Discworld novels to thoroughly enjoy this one. Why this book? Because the Nac Mac Feegles provided all sorts of family catchwords for a while – ‘Crivens!’ being one – and this was the start of all that fun…

 

This edition was produced by HarperTrophy in 2004, featuring a stunned-looking sheep being swarmed by the Nac Mac Feegles. I really like this one, which earns a gold star from me for ensuring an incident from the book ends up on the cover. I am less thrilled with the very flat rendition of the artwork and rather blocky, charmless title and author font. However, overall I think this is an enjoyable cover that makes you stop and look twice at the book.

 

Published in April 2004 by Corgi Childrens, this one is my favourite. I love the overall effect of the massed Nac Mac Feegles and the beautiful purple tinge to the cover, along with all sorts of nice additional details that make sense to anyone who has read the book. I also like both fonts, which work really well with the artwork. It’s the most gloriously unfairylike cover of fairies I’ve ever seen.

 

This edition, published by Corgi Childrens in July 2010, is also a good effort. Again, we have the Nac Mac Feegles, but also Tiffany and Miss Tick. However, the way the artwork fades into the surrounding black makes this one feel a bit oppressive, rather than imbued with the marvellous energetic world created in this corner of the Discworld.

 

This edition, produced by HarperCollins in 2016 is, I think, the weakest of all the covers. I love that bright red – it really draws the eye and is a good strong colour for a strong, vivid story. But why, oh why did they just opt for a boringly generic shield and weapons, when they could have put a grumpy-looking Rob Anybody on the cover? Not even the addition of the blue butterflies can rescue it from looking far too ordinary.

 

This edition, published by Doubleday Childrens in July 2017 is a real contender. A fierce-looking Tiffany wielding her frying pan glowers out at us from the stark black background which is prevented from looking too gloomy by the really effective use of that lovely copper-coloured font, along with the stars sprinkling the corners. The contrast with the pale image of Tiffany against the black really pops – but the dealbreaker for me is that nasty round sticker announcing it has won the Carnegie medal. Which is your favourite?

My Outstanding Reads of 2019 #Brainfluffbookblogger #2019OutstandingReads

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I have had another stormingly good reading year. The highlight being my immediate love affair with audiobooks, once I got hold of a Kindle Fire which could cope with the selection I’d already bought my dyslexic grandson to encourage him to keep reading. Needless to say, I’ve added to that list…

During 2019 I read 168 books and wrote 129 full reviews, with 26 still to be published. In no particular order, these are the books that have stood out for me. It might be that I didn’t originally give a 10 – but something about these books has stayed with me and won’t let go, which is why they have made the cut. And none of this top ten rubbish – I can’t possibly whittle down my list any further.

 

Oracle’s War – Book 2 of The Olympus series by David Hair and Cath Mayo
I loved the layered characterisation of Odysseus and his complex relationships in this intelligent and politically aware retelling of events leading up to the Trojan War. This one has stayed in my memory and I’ve found myself often thinking about it. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones
I’d read this book before – but listening to the excellent narration by Jonathan Broadbent brought home the darker side of the story. It certainly isn’t a children’s read – as the exploitation of the magic kingdom takes some shocking turns, and while Wynne Jones doesn’t go into graphic detail, they are still there. Riveting and thought provoking. See my review.

 

Atlas Alone – Book 4 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
This has been one of the outstanding science fiction series of the last few years for me and this latest slice in the adventure held me to the end. Dee’s driven, edgy character is so compelling – Newman writes these tricky protagonists with amazing skill. See my review.

 

Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick
Alien first contact tales are a staple of science fiction, but rarely have they been covered with such skilled detail, featuring such a self-effacing protagonist as Avery. The second book is also an excellent read. See my review.

 

Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Wildest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer
I picked up this true tale of adventure by accident – and I’m so pleased I did. The author opted to take part on a whim and even at the beginning, was clearly not really prepared for what followed. This fascinating account stayed with me throughout the year. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK Mythos: the Greek Myths retold, written and narrated by Stephen Fry
Listening to this offering while decorating the bathroom sweetened hours of tedious work as Fry’s smooth, chatty manner belied the scholarship and rigor that has gone into this retelling. See my review.

 

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
This is probably the most quirky, extraordinary read of this year’s selection. A series of letters between two protagonists on either side of a savage war – think Romeo and Juliet with knobs on – drives the narrative in this beautiful, desperate book. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK A Room Full of Bones – Book 4 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths
This offering took me completely by surprise. In fact, I’d felt rather fed up with Ruth’s struggles in the previous book – but this story took all the ingredients and ramped up the tension to an unexpectedly heart-rending degree that I still think about… See my review.

 

Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence by James Lovelock
The second non-fiction book in this list, I found Lovelock’s take on our future absolutely fascinating and unexpectedly uplifting. Given he is now over a hundred years old and has been working in a variety of scientific fields until very recently, his opinion is worth reading. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Empty Grave – Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud
This was an unexpected treat. One of Frankie’s chosen series, I wasn’t prepared for the sheer quality of the characterisation and worldbuilding, although I should have been, after thoroughly enjoying the Bartimaeus Trilogy. This final book brought the outstanding series to a triumphant conclusion. It goes without saying that you MUST read the previous four books first. See my review.

 

Sweep of the Blade – Book 4 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
I find this quirky science fiction/fantasy mash-up just goes on getting better and better. I really suffered a profound book hangover after I finished this one – and that doesn’t happen to me all that often. See my review.

 

Circe by Madeline Miller
I’m conscious there is rather a strong Greek myth theme running through this list – but that just goes to show how well-written these books are. And this one is a total joy. The protagonist isn’t pretty or charismatic, so finetunes her magical skills in an effort to prevail alongside sneering relations. And then it all goes wrong… Fabulous, layered characterisation of a powerful woman who has endured a shedload of suffering without it being bleak or self-pitying. See my mini-review.

 

Akin by Emma Donoghue
In these days of serial monogamy and blended families, this interesting, unsentimental book drills down into what – exactly – makes up family. Brilliantly executed and thought provoking. See my review.

 

Lent by Jo Walton
This author is one of the finest, most talented writers in the SFF genre today, so I was thrilled when this one came out. Settling in to read it, I was happily engrossed in 15th century Florence – until a THING happens that changes the whole dynamic. Brilliantly written and completely engrossing, if you were to force me to choose a single outstanding read this year – you’d be a cruel beast for doing so and I’d probably never speak to you again – it would be this one. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK How To Fight a Dragon’s Fury – Book 12 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
While I’d read a number of these books to the grandchildren, for one reason or another, I’d never reached the end, so when I realised we had the complete series on Audible, I started listening to the wonderful David Tennant’s narration. And then came the end… I was listening to this one with tears pouring down my face, unable to complete my chores. Epic fantasy of this calibre, written for reluctant primary school readers, is a rarity. Review to follow.

 

AUDIOBOOK To Say Nothing of the Dog – Book 2 of the Oxford Time Travel series by Connie Willis
This quirky, humorous homage to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat is funny and completely engrossing – a thumping good listen. I loved it and though it isn’t quite as spectacular as her classic, Doomsday Book, that doesn’t prevent it making this list. See my review.

Have you read any of these offerings? What did you think of them? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these books! Wishing everyone a very happy, book-filled 2020…

MINI-REVIEWS: Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky; Circe by Madeline Miller; and The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman #Brainfluffbookmini-reviews

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These are books which I completed during a reading period when writing a full review wasn’t an option as I was too busy – but are still worthy of recommendation and notice.

Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky
This offering clearly demonstrates Tchaikovsky’s talent and ability to write in a variety of different styles as this bleak examination of an exhausted society essentially waiting for the planet to die, taking them with it, nonetheless is an engrossing read.

The first person protagonist is completely believable as an academic who has somehow managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and therefore undergo a whole series of dangerous adventures that he never intended to encounter. The worldbuilding is excellent and I loved how the very apt title ties into the overall arc of the book. Yet another accomplished offering by one of the major talents of his generation.
8/10

 

Circe by Madeline Miller
No wonder this one has garnered so much attention and so many awards. The characterisation of this awkward, neglected child in a society where men are prized for their strength and aggression and women are prized for their beauty, charisma and guile, is wonderful. A protagonist who isn’t particularly beautiful or cunning, so develops a skill with potions and witchcraft, instead…

Once more, I was struck at just what a raw deal women got in this very masculine world where might was a done deal and if a woman started running and shouting ‘no’ – she was regarded as a challenge to be chased down… This could have been a bleak, traumatic read, but it isn’t partly because of the beauty of the prose and partly because of the wonderful, layered first-person depiction of a complicated immortal living in a world in which she really doesn’t fit. I found her take on Odysseus absolutely fascinating.

One of my outstanding reads of the year.
10/10

 

Illuminae – Book 1 of the Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
I thoroughly enjoyed this roller-coaster dystopian space opera YA adventure, which started with a bang and simply didn’t let up. The epistolary structure worked well, although I did have to whack the font size right up for the text conversations and some of the reports, which for some reason had a miniscule font size.

The plot twists kept coming and the finale worked really well – especially that last surprise. A warning though – don’t get too attached to many of the characters in this adventure, as lots of folks die! Highly recommended for fans of mayhem in space featuring gutsy teens.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 10th December, 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:

Warrior – Book 1 of the Doppleganger series by Marie Brennan
67%  The ride was crazy. Miryo wondered whether being a Hunter was always like this – skulking about, climbing through windows, and leaving town in the dead of night. And whether being an Air witch was anything like it. If so, her life was going to be very hard on the nerves.

BLURB: When a witch is born, a doppelganger is created. For the witch to master her powers, the twin must be killed. But what happens when the doppelganger survives?

Mirage, a bounty hunter, lives by her wits and lethal fighting skills. She always gets her mark. But her new mission will take her into the shadowy world of witches, where her strength may not be a match against powerful magic.

Miryo is a witch who has just failed her initiation test. She now knows that there is someone in the world who looks like her, who is her: Mirage. To control her powers and become a full witch, Miryo has only one choice: to hunt the hunter and destroy her.

I’m thoroughly enjoying this interesting premise. The alternate viewpoints between Mirage and Miryo works really well and the story is racketing along at nice clip with a well depicted world, strong rules for the magic and lots of lovely, layered infighting. What’s not to love?

Review of AUDIOBOOK Fledgling – Book 2 of the Sorcery and Society series by Molly Harper #Brainfluffbookreview #Fledglingaudiobookreview

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I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series – see my review of Changeling – so was delighted when I saw this offering on Audible for a credit. Would I enjoy listening to this next book in the series as much?

BLURB: Days away from becoming completing her first year at Miss Castwell’s Institute for the Magical Instruction of Young Ladies, Changeling-born Sarah Smith might just get away with posing as an upper-class Guardian girl named Cassandra Reed. But strange visions of a Lightbourne destroyed by Miss Morton’s revenant army keep Sarah from enjoying her achievement. Plus, the Mother Book, Sarah’s one secret advantage and the ultimate entrée in Guardian society, suddenly stops revealing itself to her…putting her in a precarious position with the Guild.

On top of all that, her former lady’s maid left Miss Castwell’s, and the new hire is, well, taking some getting used to. If it weren’t for her two best friends, Alicia McCray and Ivy Cowel, who will do anything to protect her secret, Sarah doesn’t know if she’ll make it another year. When the three girls take summer holiday with Alicia’s family (chaperoned by an exacting and very disapproving Mrs. McCray), a relaxing vacation in Scotland is the last thing they’ll find…

That’s as much of the very chatty blurb I’m prepared to reveal and if you’re intending to read the book, my advice would be to give it a miss. Another piece of advice – read Changeling first. Because of the nature and progression of the story, it simply won’t make sense, otherwise.

Once again, I enjoyed Sarah’s first person pov. I’m aware some reviewers have been critical of her mature attitude, but given her very tricky upbringing and the difficulties she is currently operating under, I think she would have to grow up very fast. Having spent time with children who have coped in testing conditions, I’m often struck at their maturity compared to their more carefree peers. Initially, I enjoyed the progression of the story and the ongoing threat of Sarah’s enemies, who resent her position as Translator of the Mother Book, an ancient tome of lost magic that chooses its own magical human to communicate with.

The mayhem caused during the dancing lesson was both gripping and enjoyable and settled in to listen to more of the same as the scholars from Miss Castwell’s headed off for the summer break. This is where the pacing went awry, particularly when the plot took a sudden left turn and I wasn’t wholly convinced by Sarah’s actions, or the reactions of those around her. While I don’t mind if the overall pace of a story speeds up, it cannot be at the expense of the characterisation or in apparent opposition to what has gone before. And suddenly Sarah’s actions had me wondering if she really was as two-faced and scheming as she appeared, or if she’d been magically influenced in some way.

Harper did resolve the issue, but it was still a glitch that interfered with my enjoyment and I do agree with other reviewers who feel the ending was rushed. However, overall I liked the story and I am not deterred from reading the next slice of Sarah’s adventures.

Highly recommended for fans of school-based fantasy with a historical twist.
7/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Secret Chapter – Book 6 of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman #Brainfluffbookreview #TheSecretChapterbookreview

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I was delighted to be approved to read an arc of this latest slice in Irene’s adventures – see my review of the first book, The Invisible Library. The catch was that I needed to read the previous two books, The Lost Plot and The Mortal Word in something of a hurry so that I got to it in the right order. It turned out to be a blessing – everyday life last week was rather fraught with family illness and these quirky, well-written adventures where just what I needed as an escape. Would The Secret Chapter prove to be as entertaining?

BLURB: A Librarian’s work is never done, and once Irene has a quick rest after their latest adventure, she is summoned to the Library. The world where she grew up is in danger of veering deep into chaos, and she needs to obtain a particular book to stop this from happening. No copies of the book are available in the Library, so her only choice is to contact a mysterious Fae information broker and trader of rare objects: Mr. Nemo. Irene and Kai make their way to Mr. Nemo’s remote Caribbean island and are invited to dinner, which includes unlikely company. Mr. Nemo has an offer for everyone there: he wants them to steal a specific painting from a specific world. He swears that he will give each of them an item from his collection if they bring him the painting within the week.

This latest slice of Irene’s adventures is essentially a heist story. Irene and Kai find themselves having to work alongside a team of rather dodgy characters – something she is far too used to doing. However, this crew are every bit as dangerous as the task they have been set by the shadowy Mr Nemo. I love the way Cogman plays with stereotypes – imagine a James Bond villain, complete with the Caribbean island setting and hungry sharks lurking in a hidden tank beneath their feet.

I am not going into any details as it would be a real shame to spoil this entertaining, twisty story packed with incidents and surprises. Cogman is very adept at creating an action-packed adventure without losing the overall impetus of the story, which is a harder trick to pull off than she makes it look. Once again, we learn more about the closed world of dragon society and just how dangerous they can be when crossed. I love the way in which Cogman reveals extra details about the world in which she has set the Invisible Library with each successive book. It isn’t a new trick, as all good series do the same thing – but she is particularly good at delivering new facts that suddenly change the reader’s perception of what is going on. I love it when that happens.

I ended up reading the last three books in this series back to back, which is something I generally don’t do. And it is a testament to Cogman’s writing skill and mastery of plot development that by the end of The Secret Chapter I was still thoroughly entertained and sorry when the book came to an end.

This classy series just goes on delivering and is highly recommended for fans of good-quality portal fantasies. The ebook arc copy of The Secret Chapter was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10