Category Archives: historical

SUNDAY POST – 22nd January, 2023 #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 they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.

Well, that’s a shocker! I knew it had been a while since I’d taken part in the Sunday Post – but I’d no idea it had been so long… So – Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and a Happy New to all those of you who celebrate thus. I hope your start to 2023 has been a lot kinder than ours.

So far this year, we have had two water leaks and Oscar has been struggling with a series of severe headaches that ended up with him being hospitalised, while they tried to get to the bottom of what is going on. Fortunately, the water leaks didn’t cause the kitchen ceiling to collapse or any major damage. Though the flooring in the bathroom and the bath panel were damaged when the plumbers came in to deal with the leaks, which means we will need to redecorate. Right now – it’ll have to wait until the weather is better. As for Oscar, the good news is that the MRI scan didn’t find anything nasty – and I cannot speak highly enough of the staff at Worthing Hospital who gave him wonderful care and were constantly kind and upbeat, although they were insanely busy. The not so good news is that Oscar is still battling the headaches and we’re no nearer finding the cause. We have cut out dairy cheese and peanuts from his diet, cut down his screen time and made his bedtime earlier – I’m hoping he isn’t growing into migraine headaches, which do run in the family☹.

On a happier note, we had a lovely Christmas Day, which now seems a lifetime away instead of just under a month ago – as my sister and nephew joined us and after a wonderful meal cooked by Himself, we all settled in for games. Another happier note – despite all the stress of having a poorly youngster to look after, I haven’t had a Long Covid relapse preventing me from getting out of bed since the middle of November. That is huge. It’s the longest time I’ve gone without a major setback since I got sick in March 2021. Though my physical strength is pathetic, ditto my stamina – so that I regularly feel very tired, it isn’t on the same scale as the bone-deep exhaustion that regularly used to fell me. Yay😊.

Another happy note – all the universities that Ethan has applied for have come back wanting to either interview him, or see his portfolio, which is a wonderful achievement. And once again, he gained a Distinction for his latest college Assignment. We’re so very proud of him – his determination and sheer hard work bodes well for his future career. Given what’s been going on, you won’t be surprised to learn that I haven’t been reading all that much, recently. Certainly not when compared to what I was getting through last year. Still, I’ve been very happy with the overall quality of my reads – and that’s the important thing.

Last week I read:-

AUDIOBOOK – The Bullet That Missed – Book 3 of The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
It is an ordinary Thursday, and things should finally be returning to normal.

Except trouble is never far away where the Thursday Murder Club are concerned. A local news legend is on the hunt for a sensational headline, and soon the gang are hot on the trail of two murders, ten years apart.

To make matters worse, a new nemesis pays Elizabeth a visit, presenting her with a deadly mission: kill or be killed… While Elizabeth grapples with her conscience (and a gun), the gang and their unlikely new friends (including TV stars, money launderers and ex-KGB colonels) unravel a new mystery. But can they catch the culprit and save Elizabeth before the murderer strikes again?
This is a joy. I quite liked the first book, especially the deft and clever ending. But it was the second book in this entertaining series, The Man Who Died Twice, which really stole my heart, as well as making me laugh aloud. And this offering took up where that one ended. Osman knows how to write movingly and humorously about the very old without coming across as either sentimental or patronising – which is harder to do than he makes it look. In addition, he also delivers a cracking story with plenty of plot twists and a wonderfully satisfying ending. 10/10

City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky
There has always been a darkness to Ilmar, but never more so than now. The city chafes under the heavy hand of the Palleseen occupation, the choke-hold of its criminal underworld, the boot of its factory owners, the weight of its wretched poor and the burden of its ancient curse.
What will be the spark that lights the conflagration?
Despite the city’s refugees, wanderers, murderers, madmen, fanatics and thieves, the catalyst, as always, will be the Anchorwood – that dark grove of trees, that primeval remnant, that portal, when the moon is full, to strange and distant shores. Ilmar, some say, is the worst place in the world and the gateway to a thousand worse places.

Ilmar,
City of Long Shadows.
City of Bad Decisions.
City of Last Chances.
This is an ambitious book, where the city is actually the main protagonist, portrayed by a cast of not very admirable characters as they desperately scrabble to survive. And Tchaikovsky triumphantly succeeds in making this work, providing an engrossing and thought-provoking read that I will remember for a long time. 10/10

Courting Dragons – Book 1 of The King’s Fool Mystery series by Jeri Westerson
1529, London. Jester Will Somers enjoys an enviable position at the court of Henry VIII. As the king’s entertainer, chief gossip-monger, spy and loyal adviser, he knows all of the king’s secrets – and almost everyone else’s within the walls of Greenwich Palace.

But when Will discovers the body of Spanish count Don Gonzalo while walking his trusted sidekick Nosewise in the courtyard gardens, and a blackmail note arrives soon after demanding information about the king, is one of his own closely guarded secrets about to be exposed? Trouble is afoot at the palace. Are the king’s enemies plotting a move against him? Will must draw on all his wit and ingenuity to get to the bottom of the treacherous and deadly goings-on at the court before further tragedy strikes . . .
I love historical whodunits – and getting hold of a murder mystery set in the court of Henry VIII was a real treat. Will Somers is based on a real jester, who served all the Tudors, but was particularly close to Henry. And Westerson’s depiction of their relationship was fascinating and convincing. Review to follow. 9/10

My posts during the month to date:

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK The Windweaver’s Storm – Book 2 of T.J. and the Orishas series by Antoine Bandele

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Waste of a Life – Book 3 of the Decluttering Mysteries by Simon Brett

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Tread of Angels NOVELLA by Rebecca Roanhorse

Wishing you all a happy, healthy week😊.

Review of NETGALLEY arc Deadly Spirits – Book 3 of the Maddie Pastore Mystery series by Mary Miley #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #DeadlySpiritsbookreview

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I’ve become a solid fan of this series – see my reviews of The Mystic’s Accomplice and Spirits and Smoke – so I was delighted when I saw this offering pop up on Netgalley. I’ve been reading a lot of historical murder mysteries recently – and this one encompasses one of my favourite eras – the 1920s.

BLURB: Summer, 1924. Young widow Maddie Pastore has been working for fraudulent spiritual medium Madame Carlotta for nearly a year – if ‘work’ you could call it. Investigating Carlotta’s clients, and attending seances as her shill, keeps Maddie and her young son Tommy fed and clothed, and she’s grown to love the kind, well-meaning spiritualist like family.

Still, Maddie – estranged from her abusive parents for over a decade – can’t help but wonder what fates befell her brothers and sisters. So when she lucks into two free tickets to a glamorous Chicago speakeasy and recognizes the star performer as her pretty little sister Sophie, she’s beyond delighted. But before Maddie can meet with Sophie again, the telephone rings. It’s Sophie’s husband, calling in a panic to tell her that his wife is locked in the Cook County jail, charged with first-degree murder . . .

REVIEW: I was thrilled to once more spend time with one of my favourite protagonists, Maddie Pastore. Widowed just weeks before giving birth to her son, Maddie has had a busy year keeping herself and baby Tommy from starving in 1920s Chicago at the height of Prohibition. She lives with spiritual medium Madam Carlotta and in return for bed and board, Maddie discovers details about Madam Carlotta’s clients before they attend her seances that she can use to convince them she’s the real deal. Endearingly, Madam Carlotta knows she is genuine and feels called to help the bereaved by relaying comforting messages from their dead departed – and very occasionally, those messages do seem to come from the other side. However, more often that isn’t the case, so Maddie and young Freddie resort to tricks to keep Madam Carlotta’s clientele happy.

Maddie isn’t particularly proud of what she does, but is fond of Madam Carlotta and grateful for having a place to stay where she and her baby are looked after and well fed. This being Chicago during a very violent time, it isn’t surprising that in her line of work, Maddie comes across occasional unsolved murders. And one that becomes her priority is a case in which her talented younger sister has been entangled. Far too many details don’t make sense – but the police aren’t willing to look any further when a young woman holding the murder weapon is conveniently placed at the murder scene.

This page-turning whodunit held me from the first page until the last, providing several satisfying surprises along the way. I certainly didn’t peg the murderer until all was revealed and once again, having gangsters like Al Capone make an appearance added extra tension to the story. I love Maddie’s can-do practicality and the way Miley also weaves real historical figures into her murder mysteries. While this is the third book in the series and I strongly recommend you read them all – they are far too good to pass up – you wouldn’t unduly flounder if you haven’t had the pleasure of tucking into the previous adventures. Highly recommended for fans of historical murder mysteries, particularly those set during the Prohibition era. While I obtained an arc of Deadly Spirits from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

SUNDAY POST – 30th October, 2022 #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 they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.

It’s been a rather torrid fortnight… Firstly, the good stuff. The celebration meal with my parents was wonderful – it was lovely to see them again. And the pics above are of us with them. My lovely parents are in the middle, the boys are on either side of them in the left photo, while in the right photo my sister is on the left and I’m on the right. It helped that the weather was warm, if a tad cloudy and the food at the Arun View was great. We are now in the tail-end of half term week, which has been a welcome break in amongst the daily routine of school runs and pickups from the station for college. We managed to spend a lovely afternoon at the Wetland and Wildfowl Trust during another amazingly warm October afternoon. And those are the pics below…

But in amongst all of that, my sister needed to go to A & E with terrifically high blood pressure – I’ve never seen a machine flash red warning lights and bleep before… We got to the hospital at 4 pm and finally returned home at 3 am, so it was a real marathon. She was actually seen really quickly, but needed blood tests, a thorough examination and then a brain scan to check for microbleeds. And of course we had to wait for the results. I cannot praise the staff highly enough. Everyone was professional, unfailingly patient and kind. There was also a great vibe amongst the people in our corner of the waiting room, where people were also patient and good humoured, despite a number being in pain and worried about their condition. I felt proud of being a Brit and deeply grateful for our hard-pressed NHS. It turns out my sister is suffering from severe stress and has since seen a doctor and is signed off work for a fortnight – I’m not surprised. Her pharmacy is hugely busy and they have lost 2 part-time and one full-time staff member and only replaced the full-timer. I am shocked at the level of abuse she has to endure on a daily basis by people waiting for prescriptions and underwhelmed by the support she gets from the management. Small wonder that she is ill, having worked flat out through the pandemic and still finding there is no let-up.

Unfortunately, I spent the next two days in bed with exhaustion. I was back on my feet just in time for my covid booster jab, which once more floored me… And Himself was also feeling dreadful with the effects of the jab – fortunately he was on a long weekend, otherwise he would have had to go sick. The good news is that apparently, the fact we felt so ill means that we will have produced a nice lot of antibodies to that strain of covid, which should provide good protection if we fall ill with it.

Poor Oscar has been nursing a shoulder strain, so wasn’t able to go the gym for the last fortnight, which he really missed. But this week he was able to resume his training schedule and also went back to football practice, which he is also enjoying. And Ethan managed to hand in his college assignment for the term with no problems and has been busy revising for his Maths exams, which he goes back to this coming week as he starts his second term at college.

This last week I read:-

Mindwalker by Kate Dylan
Eighteen-year-old Sil Sarrah is determined to die a legend. In the ten years she’s been rescuing imperilled field agents for the Syntex Corporation—by commandeering their minds from afar and leading them to safety—Sil hasn’t lost a single life. And she’s not about to start now.

She’s got twelve months left on the clock before the supercomputer grafted to her brain kills her, and she’s hell-bent on using that time to cement her legacy. Sil’s going to be the only Mindwalker to ever pitch a perfect game—even despite the debilitating glitches she’s experiencing. But when a critical mission goes south, Sil is forced to flee the very company she once called home. Desperate to prove she’s no traitor, Sil infiltrates the Analog Army, an activist faction working to bring Syntex down. Her plan is to win back her employer’s trust by destroying the group from within. Instead, she and the Army’s reckless leader, Ryder, uncover a horrifying truth that threatens to undo all the good Sil’s ever done. With her tech rapidly degrading and her new ally keeping dangerous secrets of his own, Sil must find a way to stop Syntex in order to save her friends, her reputation—and maybe even herself.
I really liked the sound of Sil having to race against her upcoming death at the ripe old age of 19. The whole cybertech part of the book was well handled and I really bonded with the gutsy protagonist. Being a YA read meant the emotion and romance featured heavily, but it certainly didn’t overshadow the main narrative arc. Enjoyable read. 8/10

The Deep End – Book 1 of The Country Club Murders series by Julie Mulhern
Swimming into the lifeless body of her husband’s mistress tends to ruin a woman’s day, but becoming a murder suspect can ruin her whole life.

It’s 1974 and Ellison Russell’s life revolves around her daughter and her art. She’s long since stopped caring about her cheating husband, Henry, and the women with whom he entertains himself. That is, until she becomes a suspect in Madeline Harper’s death. The murder forces Ellison to confront her husband’s proclivities and his crimes—kinky sex, petty cruelties and blackmail.

As the body count approaches par on the seventh hole, Ellison knows she has to catch a killer. But with an interfering mother, an adoring father, a teenage daughter, and a cadre of well-meaning friends demanding her attention, can Ellison find the killer before he finds her?
Laura at Through Raspberry Colored Glasses was talking about this series and I liked the sound of it sufficiently to look out the first book. And then, because I was in the mood, I then read it and thoroughly enjoyed the 1970’s vibe and lovely dry humour. The plotting was also nicely twisty, with a satisfyingly long list of possible suspects – no wonder the series is still going strong with such a successful start. 9/10

The Green Man’s Gift – Book 5 of The Green Man series by Juliet E. McKenna
A teenage boy has turned up in Snowdonia, barely conscious and babbling about beautiful women and fairy feasts. The authorities blame magic mushrooms. The wise women say different and they want dryad’s son, Daniel Mackmain, to investigate. He needs to watch his step in the mountains. Those who live in the hollow hills mask their secrets and intentions with sly half-truths.

Far from the woods he knows, Dan needs help from the allies he has made in past adventures. But he’s a loner at heart. As the true power of his adversary becomes clear, he must decide if he’s willing to see those he cares for put themselves in danger.
Himself saw this one and immediately bought it – quite right too. This series is one of our favourites and this particular adventure, set in the Welsh hills, didn’t disappoint. As ever, McKenna’s strong descriptive writing, clever pacing and charismatic and entirely believable protagonist meant the pages simply turned themselves until I reached the end with that familiar sense of happiness and sorrow that only comes when completing a thumping good read. 10/10

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

If he can’t locate them, there won’t be anyone to teach his hatchling how to fly. Or to protect the dragon eggs preserved within a glacier on another world. Or to help him free his people from the tyrannical rule of the wizards. Jak has no choice. He must find the dragons. But some ancient secrets were buried for a reason. What he discovers may jeopardize not only Jak and his allies—the survival of the entire species of dragons may be at stake.
I decided to reread this slice of this entertaining epic fantasy adventure as I’ve recently got hold of the next audiobook in the series and I wanted to ensure that I didn’t miss any of the plot points. It was a solid pleasure to follow Jak and his intrepid mother again as they once more are forced to risk their lives to follow King Uthari’s whims. I’m loving this adventure, which confirms Buroker as one of my all-time favourite authors. 9/10

Blood Will Tell – Book 6 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow
At the request of her grandmother, a matriarch of her Aleut clan, Kate Shugak travels to Anchorage to investigate the mysterious deaths of several Council members just before a crucial meeting to determine the fate of some disputed tribal lands.

I completed Breakup before realising that I’d somehow missed reading this one in the right order. As ever, the politics raging over the beautiful, fragile Alaskan eco-system is brilliantly depicted without turning into a moralistic rant. Shugak is a riveting heroine and I found the ending of this one immensely powerful and moving. 10/10

My posts last week:

Review of NETGALLEY arc Unraveller by Frances Hardinge

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring AUDIOBOOK Orbs of Wisdom – Book 6 of the Dragon Gate series by Lindsay Buroker

Wishing you all a happy, health week😊.

SUNDAY POST – 16th October, 2022 #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 they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.

I did wonder if I was tempting Fate by writing about my experiences with Long Covid, given the up and down nature of the illness. But though I’d been feeling rather tired recently, I hadn’t had a proper relapse since August. Until this week, when I went to get out of bed on Thursday morning and the minute I put my foot to the floor, the world spun, my stomach roiled and I knew I wouldn’t be going anywhere for the rest of the day except back to bed. And so it proved. I felt too ill to shower or change my clothes, though I did manage to stagger downstairs and have tea with the family. Meanwhile Himself was having to look after me, on top of doing the school run. Fortunately, it was his day off – but it wasn’t remotely restful. In the meantime, I dosed and slept. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was reading or listening to books, feeling too tired to watch TV. I woke up on Friday, feeling much the same – though as the day wore on, I did feel well enough to have a shower.

Then suddenly, at about 10.30 pm, I felt better. As if a huge muffling blanket had been lifted away from me. I’m writing this on Saturday, having got up, showered and dressed. I still feel a little groggy and I don’t have all that much stamina, but the nausea has gone. I think I need to face the fact that I will have to keep managing my energy for the foreseeable future. One of the issues is that I haven’t been getting enough sleep, as years of being an insomniac makes it difficult to wind down and go to bed at a reasonable time. And while I’m doing better than I used to – it’s still not good enough for my body’s needs. I average between five and six hours of sleep a night and I reckon that these days, I need more than that.

The boys have stepped up and helped out, as they always do when I’m ill. Both have had a busy week and today Ethan is out meeting up with friends, while Oscar is recovering from a very hectic football practice. Tomorrow (Sunday) we are meeting up with my parents, who are taking us out for a meal to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary. It’s actually a little early – their anniversary is near the end of next month, but Dad isn’t all that keen on doing the drive home in the dark, which it will be by then as the day length continues to shorten. I am so very excited – I haven’t seen Mum since September 2020 and I cannot recall when the boys last saw her. So it will be a very special reunion for us and my sister, who is joining us.

Last week I read:-

The First Binding – Book 1 of the Tales of Tremaine series by R.R. Virdi
All legends are born of truths. And just as much lies. These are mine. Judge me for what you will. But you will hear my story first.

I buried the village of Ampur under a mountain of ice and snow. Then I killed their god. I’ve stolen old magics and been cursed for it. I started a war with those that walked before mankind and lost the princess I loved, and wanted to save. I’ve called lightning and bound fire. I am legend. And I am a monster. My name is Ari. And this is the story of how I let loose the first evil.
And if this blurb makes you think of The Name of the Wind, then you’re absolutely right – it definitely has a feel of that fantasy classic. It’s also a hefty size, being 800+ pages. That said, while it took me a while to get through it, at no time was I tempted to break off and read something else instead. Review to follow.

Unraveller by Frances Hardinge
Kellen and Nettle live in a world where anyone can create a life-destroying curse, but only one person has the power to unravel them. But not everyone is happy he can do so and, suddenly, he’s in a race to save both himself and all those who have been touched by magic…

I love Hardinge’s writing – see my review of Deeplight. So I immediately requested this arc and was thrilled to receive a copy. And my instincts were spot on – it’s a cracking read. Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK – The Elf Tangent by Lindsay Buroker
As a princess in the impoverished kingdom of Delantria, it’s Aldari’s job to look pretty, speak little, and marry a prince. Studying mathematics and writing papers on economic theory in an effort to fix her people’s financial woes? Her father has forbidden it. With war on the horizon, they must focus on the immediate threat.

Reluctantly, Aldari agrees to marry a prince in a neighboring kingdom to secure an alliance her people desperately need. All is going to plan until the handsome elven mercenary captain hired to guard her marriage caravan turns into her kidnapper. His people are in trouble, and he believes she has the knowledge to help.

But with an invasion force approaching Delantria, Aldari’s own people need her. She must do everything in her power to escape the elves and make it to her wedding in time. Never mind that her kidnapper is witty, clever, and offers her a challenge that intrigues her mind even as his easy smile intrigues her heart… Aldari can’t let herself develop feelings for him. To fall in love and walk away from her wedding would mean the end of her kingdom and everyone she cares about.
I’ve read the ebook, but when I had the opportunity to get hold of an audiobook of this engaging fantasy adventure with a splash of romance, I couldn’t resist it. I really enjoy Buroker’s characters and this particular story was lovely to listen to at a time when I needed an escapist read. 9/10

What Song the Sirens Sang – Book 3 of the Gideon Sable series by Simon R. Green
You can find everything you’ve ever dreamed of in the strange, old magical shop known as Old Harry’s Place. The problem is, not all dreams are kind.

Gideon Sable – legendary master thief, conman and well-dressed rogue – and his partner in crime Annie Anybody don’t want to be shopkeepers, but when the enigmatic Harry decides to retire, he blackmails the pair into taking the store on.

Before the grand reopening can happen, however, a menacing stranger arrives – with a rare and deadly item for them to appraise. A small piece of rock, with an unnerving aura, which ‘Smith’ claims contains the last echoes of the legendary sirens’ song. Before they can find out more, however, Smith vanishes . . . leaving only the stone. Some valuables are more trouble than they’re worth. But before Gideon and Annie can work out if they’ve been set up, the stone is stolen from its impregnable hiding place. How? And why? Gideon only knows one thing for certain: no one steals from him and gets away with it . . .
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this entertaining fantasy heist series – and this next slice of the adventure manages to give yet another twist, without getting steadily darker, as so often happens in ongoing series. Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK – Murder by Other Means – Book 2 of The Dispatcher series by John Scalzi
In the world of the Dispatchers, a natural or accidental death is an endpoint; a murder pushes the do-over button and 99.99% of the time the victim comes back to life. Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher who’s been taking shadier and shadier gigs in financial tough times, and after witnessing a crime gone wrong, he finds people around him permanently dying in a way that implicates him. He has to solve the mystery of these deaths to save the lives of others–and keep himself out of trouble with the law.

I loved Scalzi’s Lock In series – it’s one of the best sci fi murder mystery series I’ve read. So when I saw this Audible exclusive, I scooped up a copy and thoroughly enjoyed it. It isn’t all that long, but the pacing and voice are perfect and there are twists and action throughout. I will be looking out for more in The Dispatcher series for sure. 9/10

Bryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher
Bryony and her sisters have come down in the world. Their merchant father died trying to reclaim his fortune and left them to eke out a living in a village far from their home in the city.

But when Bryony is caught in a snowstorm and takes refuge in an abandoned manor, she stumbles into a house full of dark enchantments. Is the Beast that lives there her captor, or a fellow prisoner? Is the house her enemy or her ally? And why are roses blooming out of season in the courtyard?

Armed only with gardening shears and her wits, Bryony must untangle the secrets of the house before she—or the Beast—are swallowed by them.
This is an intriguing retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a tougher heroine than poor Beauty. Bryony is a gardener, who has already had a far too interesting life to date, which has made her resilient and resourceful. Which is just as well, because she’s up against a terrifying magical opponent. This is a cracking read that had me turning the pages until I came to the end. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – Persuasion by Jane Austen
At twenty-seven, Anne Elliot is no longer young and has few romantic prospects. Eight years earlier, she had been persuaded by her friend Lady Russell to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a handsome naval captain with neither fortune nor rank. What happens when they encounter each other again is movingly told in Jane Austen’s last completed novel. Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, but, above all, it is a love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities.

This is one of my favourite Austen novels – and listening to the version produced by the partly dramatised Jane Austen Collection was a real treat. I love Austen’s take on Bath society and her depiction of Lyme Regis, somewhere I used to know very well. The second-chance romance is beautifully done and while Anne is clearly beset by an uncaring family, she manages not to be too victimised. 9/10

My posts last week:

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Edge of Catastrophe: Terraforming Mars by Jane Killick

Sunday Post – 9th October, 2022

Wishing you all a happy, health week😊.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK Death Among the Diamonds – Book 1 of the Cressida Fawcett Mystery series by Fliss Chester #BrainfluffNETGALLEYAUDIOBOOKreview #DeathAmongtheDiamondsaudiobookreview

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I have a real weakness for 1920s era cosy mysteries, so I was delighted when this one popped up on the Netgalley dashboard – and I was even more chuffed when I was approved to listen to it.

BLURB: Everyone in 1920s London knows the Honourable Cressida Fawcett: fiercely independent (though never apart from her little pug Ruby), lover of martinis and interior designer extraordinaire. She’s solved many crimes of fashion… so how about murder?

Cressida Fawcett is heading to the English countryside for a weekend of cocktails and partying at her friend’s glamorous mansion, the location of a recent diamond heist. But just hours after her arrival, Cressida is woken by an almighty scream. Rushing to the landing, she looks down into the great hall to find a trembling maid standing next to the body of Harry, the friendly young chandelier cleaner…

REVIEW: I’ve cut the rather chatty blurb short, as it gives away too much of the storyline. I was expecting an enjoyable slice of country house life in a glamorous era that I recall hearing a lot about when I was young, as my grandmother had been a flapper. What I hadn’t been expecting was quite such a twisty plot, full of events and all sorts of shenanigans. At one point, I was getting a bit fed up – as I knew exactly where the diamonds were hidden and was irritated that Cressida hadn’t put it together. Until it transpired that they weren’t there after all… I do love it when that happens!

Cressida is a feisty, headstrong young woman with an independent income and a nice life with no intention of spoiling it all by becoming someone’s wife. Her loving companion is her little pug dog, Ruby, who accompanies her in all her adventures and often is helpful in unravelling clues. I liked the fact that in amongst all the action, Ruby is never forgotten or overlooked, which can happen at times to fictional pets. And I’m also prepared to bet that Chester has owned or owns a little pug, as her descriptions of Ruby’s behaviour and appearance are always spot on.

I liked Cressida’s impulsiveness and constant curiosity. She is an adventurous soul who got into a number of scrapes at school and has been known to cut loose in memorable ways at certain London nightclubs, when the champagne cocktails are flowing. I enjoyed Chester’s habit of never spelling out exactly what she gets up to, giving the reader the opportunity to fill in the gaps. She is also innately kind with a strong sense of justice, despite a blithe disregard for authority if it doesn’t suit her. Daphne Kouma’s excellent narration brought her vividly to life, along with all the goings-on at a house party memorable for all the wrong reasons.

The denouement works well, making absolute sense – which isn’t always the case in whodunits where more than one murder has occurred – and bringing the whole affair to a satisfactory conclusion. All in all, this is a thoroughly entertaining country house whodunit featuring a pleasing protagonist and her loyal canine companion. Recommended for fans of 1920’s murder mysteries. While I obtained an audiobook arc of Death Among the Diamonds from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheMonstersWeDefybookreview

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It was the cover of this offering that caught my eye – it’s just so very attractive. But then I read the blurb and knew I wanted to read it. I’m a sucker for the 1920s era – and I loved the spiritualist element of this fantasy heist adventure.

BLURB: Washington D. C., 1925

Clara Johnson talks to spirits, a gift that saved her during her darkest moments in a Washington D. C. jail. Now a curse that’s left her indebted to the cunning spirit world. So, when the Empress, the powerful spirit who holds her debt, offers her an opportunity to gain her freedom, a desperate Clara seizes the chance. The task: steal a magical ring from the wealthiest woman in the District.

Clara can’t pull off this daring heist alone. She’ll need help from an unlikely team, from a jazz musician capable of hypnotizing with a melody to an aging vaudeville actor who can change his face, to pull off the impossible. But as they encounter increasingly difficult obstacles, a dangerous spirit interferes at every turn. Conflict in the spirit world is leaking into the human one and along D.C’.s legendary Black Broadway, a mystery unfolds—one that not only has repercussions for Clara but all of the city’s residents.

REVIEW: This is a cracking read. I thoroughly enjoyed Clara’s spiky character. She is short-fused and in the habit of pushing away people, though that doesn’t stop her from helping those who seek her out. Given her gift, she could so easily have been portrayed as a noble, self-sacrificing heroine, brimful of the desire to help her fellows. While that is what she does – because she is so crotchety about it, I found her far more appealing. Especially when those around her make it their business to break through the façade she has erected – and we are shown just how vulnerable she actually is.

As well as Clara being a thoroughly sympathetic protagonist, the pacing was pretty much perfect. In any historical adventure, there is always a balance between giving the reader sufficient period details to make the background believable and ensuring the narrative moves along at a reasonable clip. Penelope nailed it, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve read several books recently featuring a POC protagonist and this was right up there with the best in portraying the casual and unthinking racism that was rife at that time. Indeed, it is part of the ongoing difficulty stacking up against Clara and her associates that a black person finds it hazardous to try and travel to certain parts of the city. Not only does this aid the narrative in upping the stakes – it is a visceral reminder of the extra burden the black community were coping with in their daily lives just because of the colour of their skin. I’d love to think such attitudes were consigned to history – but sadly, daily racist crime shows this isn’t the case, so reading entertaining, well-written fiction that highlights the issue can only help.

The spirit world was also well portrayed. There is a real sense of menace around those who want agency within the mortal world in order to steal human destinies. I liked the way Penelope gradually revealed the enormity of the threat, making this one of those reads that was very difficult to put down. All in all, this was a thoroughly engrossing tale that had me reading far later than I should. Highly recommended for those who like their fantasy within a compelling historical setting. While I obtained an arc of The Monsters We Defy from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #22

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

As we now have our grandsons staying with us, it’s been another full-on week. Ethan’s summer job has become a lot busier as the back-to-school rush for uniforms hits its peak. He is coping really well with long days serving fraught parents and their miserable children. I can’t quite believe that the summer holidays have slipped by so fast and he is about to begin his final week before he starts back at college for the second year of his animation course. We took Oscar to the Wetland and Wildfowl Trust last Tuesday on a rainy day. Another year and I would be moaning about the weather – but after weeks of blistering heat, it was delightful to wander around in the misty drizzle and watch the birds enjoying themselves – as you can see from the pics.

Other than that, I’ve been up in the mornings to ensure Ethan has a good breakfast and give him a lift to work. Initially we’d thought he could walk it – but given the brutal heat, we took the decision to drive him to work. And although it’s now cooler, I am reluctant to make him walk over a mile there and back on top of working full shifts when he hasn’t had a chance to be acclimatised to it.

I am feeling more energetic than I did last week, although there are still good and bad days. I’m pleased to see I’ve started losing some of the weight I put on while spending so much time bedridden and exhausted and I can now wear some of my jeans. I’ve still got quite a way to go before I can get into most of my clothes, but right now that isn’t a priority as I’m still not sufficiently recovered to consider a full reconditioning and fitness programme. I am looking forward to the time when I can go swimming at the local leisure centre while Boomerang Boy is hitting the gym, instead of spending my time sitting in their very uncomfortable chairs reading a book. He’s very pleased to see some muscle development since he started attending at the start of the summer holidays and we’re hoping to continue attending once he returns to school. He has also grown more than an inch since we measured him in the second week of August.

While my writing progress has been hit and miss throughout the summer, I have made some progress on the third book of Castellan’s adventures, Problems With Power. I thought I’d discovered a plot hole near the end of the previous book, Trouble With Dwarves, but Himself pointed out that I was overthinking the issue and suggested that I sort it out with a suitable conversation, instead of several major scene changes and a whole new sub-plot. I’ll be taking his advice and adding said conversation in the coming week – full of relief that I won’t have to administer major surgery to the ongoing narrative!

I’ve recently read:-

Her Majesty’s Warlord – Book 2 of the Stuck in Magic series by Christopher G. Nuttall
After being trapped in a very strange world, Elliot Richardson found his footing and led the forces of Damansara to victory, only to find himself under threat from jealous and resentful city fathers who thought he was on the verge of overthrowing their rule and taking their power for himself.

Isolated and alone, Elliot accepted an offer of employment from Princess Helen of Johor and finds himself travelling to the heart of her kingdom, to a city caught between the stagnant past, the hope of a better future and factions threatening to burn the world down rather than risk letting it be saved. And, as Elliot goes to work, he finds himself threatened by powerful enemies who will stop at nothing to see him brought down…
This is a spin-off from the gripping Schooled in Magic series that I’ve been working through during the last year – and I’m now following Elliot’s progress as he struggles to cope in a world where magic is the ultimate power, rather than technology. However, it’s also a world riven by social discontent as the agrarian culture, relying on peasants and downtrodden serfs to produce the food, is beset by sudden change. Once again, Nuttall has produced an action-packed read, full of plot twists and action that I thoroughly enjoyed. And being an indie book, it is also excellent value for money😊. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – Emma by Jane Austen, narrated by Emma Thompson
Emma Woodhouse is one of Austen’s most captivating and vivid characters. Beautiful, spoilt, vain and irrepressibly witty, Emma organizes the lives of the inhabitants of her sleepy little village and plays matchmaker with devastating effect.

I’m working my way through the collected novels of Jane Austen and I hadn’t particularly been looking forward to reaching Emma, as the last time I read the book I decided that Mr Knightly was a priggish misery. This time around, listening to the fabulous Emma Thompson, I didn’t find him such a pain. The humour of listening to both Emma and Mr K. being eaten up with jealousy without necessarily realising their feelings for each other was also more apparent. All in all, this was far more fun than I was expecting and turned out to be really enjoyable. However, I could do without all the music in this production. 8/10

The Half Killed – Book 1 of The Sundered Veil series by Quenby Olson
Dorothea Hawes has no wish to renew contact with what lies beyond the veil. After an attempt to take her own life, she has retired into seclusion, but as the wounds on her body heal, she is drawn back into a world she wants nothing more than to avoid.

She is sought out by Julian Chissick, a former man of God who wants her help in discovering who is behind the gruesome murder of a young woman. But the manner of death is all too familiar to Dorothea, and she begins to fear that something even more terrible is about to unleash itself on London.

And so Dorothea risks her life and her sanity in order to save people who are oblivious to the threat that hovers over them. It is a task that forces her into a confrontation with her own lurid past, and tests her ability to shape events frighteningly beyond her control.
I had read Olson’s entertaining romp about a dragon’s egg surfacing in a small village and it in no way prepared me for the intensity of this fantasy thriller. The writing is rich and layered, giving a vivid evocation of London during a savage heatwave in a time when people’s clothing was all about keeping them sufficiently warm. I loved the world and the steadily escalating tension in this classy read, rooting for Dorothea all the way. 10/10

AUDIOBOOK – Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany
Babel-17 is all about the power of language. Humanity, which has spread throughout the universe, is involved in a war with the Invaders, who have been covertly assassinating officials and sabotaging spaceships. The only clues humanity has to go on are strange alien messages that have been intercepted in space. Poet and linguist Rydra Wong is determined to understand the language and stop the alien threat.

I’m generally not all that impressed with the classic sci fi reads from this era – far too often it’s all about the lantern-jawed hero with female characters providing bed partners and/or requiring to be rescued just to show the protagonist off as courageous and tough. Not so this one – the protag is a well-written, nuanced heroine, who engaged me throughout with her intelligence and resilience. I also enjoyed the diverse ethnic range of characters throughout, showing that Delany was well ahead of his time. The ideas raised regarding language aren’t new – not when considering books such as Nineteen Eighty-Four and Embassytown – but I enjoyed the way Delany explores the subject. The only reason this one didn’t get a 10 was that the end felt a bit rushed and was weak and ordinary when compared with the quality of the rest of the book. 9/10

The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope
Washington D. C., 1925

Clara Johnson talks to spirits, a gift that saved her during her darkest moments in a Washington D. C. jail. Now a curse that’s left her indebted to the cunning spirit world. So, when the Empress, the powerful spirit who holds her debt, offers her an opportunity to gain her freedom, a desperate Clara seizes the chance. The task: steal a magical ring from the wealthiest woman in the District.

Clara can’t pull off this daring heist alone. She’ll need help from an unlikely team, from a jazz musician capable of hypnotizing with a melody to an aging vaudeville actor who can change his face, to pull off the impossible. But as they encounter increasingly difficult obstacles, a dangerous spirit interferes at every turn. Conflict in the spirit world is leaking into the human one and along D.C’.s legendary Black Broadway, a mystery unfolds—one that not only has repercussions for Clara but all of the city’s residents.
This one is a gripping read. Clara is a sympathetic heroine, full of anger at how her life has been twisted by the gift bestowed upon her. The story also throws into relief the extra hardship being black is in Washington in the 1920s in a very matter-of-fact way, which gave me – a white middle-class Brit woman – a better appreciation of the unremitting harshness of being instantly judged by the colour of your skin. Review to follow.

A Date With Death – #0.5 of the Conjuring a Coroner series by S.C. Stokes
Whoever said blood is thicker than water hasn’t met the Harrington family. New York royalty, the Harrington family are old money with magic coursing through their entitled veins, and the only thing the Harringtons care less about than each other…is the law.

When Lester dies unexpectedly, his considerable estate is set to pass to his surviving heirs. But the coroner, Kasey Chase, has ruled Lester’s death a homicide, sparking a family feud that sees the Harrington heirs turn on each other in a lethal struggle where the only prize for second place is death.

With unlimited resources and a callous disregard for human life, the Harrington’s have to be stopped before the city pays the price for their petty war. Caught in the middle, Kasey is left fighting for her life. Fortunately, she’s been hiding a secret of her own. Kasey is a witch.
Kasey is an appealing heroine – and I liked how reluctant she is initially to get sucked into such a potentially tricky situation. I get a tad tired of protagonists who happily run towards danger the rest of us would instinctively back away from. And when this one finally kicked off – the action rolled forward and didn’t let up until the end. I’ll definitely be reading more Kasey goodness as this urban fantasy adventure is a page-turning read. 8/10

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

Review of NETGALLEY AUDIO arc A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting by Sophie Irwin #BrainfluffNETGALLEYaudiobookreview #ALadysGuidetoFortune-Huntingbookreview

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I have read a number of Regency romances over the last seventeen months in a strong desire for enjoyable escapism, so when I saw this one on Netgalley I immediately requested it and was delighted to be approved.

BLURB: Kitty Talbot needs a fortune. Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. Left with her father’s massive debts, she has only twelve weeks to save her family from ruin. Kitty has never been one to back down from a challenge, so she leaves home and heads toward the most dangerous battleground in all of England: the London season.

Kitty may be neither accomplished nor especially genteel—but she is utterly single-minded; imbued with cunning and ingenuity, she knows that risk is just part of the game. The only thing she doesn’t anticipate is Lord Radcliffe. The worldly Radcliffe sees Kitty for the mercenary fortune-hunter that she really is and is determined to scotch her plans at all costs, until their parrying takes a completely different turn…

REVIEW: This is huge fun. I immediately bonded with dear Kitty, whose parents recently died leaving her and her four sisters with a mountain of debt that will shortly see them homeless, if she can’t very quickly find a rich husband. I’ve read a number of Regency romances over the years – and what made this one stand out from the crowd is Kitty’s unabashed approach to the whole business. She is under no illusion that she needs to make a match with a wealthy man and resorts to all sorts of ploys to ensure she gets introduced to prospective husbands, ranging from dropping her kerchief, shedding a shoe and feigning an injury right through to the tried and tested tactic of fainting at his feet. Indeed, had Kitty been written into a Jane Austen romance, she would have been described with lip-curling disapproval and thoroughly cut down to size by a series of Austenesque humorous comments on her clothes and pushy manners. But she’s desperate. Determined not to see her family on the streets, Kitty will go to almost any lengths to ensure their future is secure – even if it is at the expense of her own future happiness.

I really enjoyed the tension and increased stakes swinging on the end of this entertaining romance. After all, this dynamic is always there in Austen’s work, too – think of Charlotte Lucas and her explanation to Lizzie when she accepts Mr Collins’ proposal in Pride and Prejudice. But I’ve not seen it stated quite so baldly before and I think Irwin makes it work really effectively. It doesn’t hurt that Eleanor Tomlinson’s narration is excellent.

Indeed, I would have given this one a 10, if it hadn’t been for a couple of anomalies – one in particular irritated me. Apparently, although she is literate and educated, Irwin represents Kitty as not being acquainted with the Bible – and given the historical era in which this is set, that’s nonsense. While her parents were clearly unorthodox, they had settled in a country district and were regarded as respectable by the local gentry, which means they must have regularly attended the local church along with their family. The other slip I noticed was a mention of Kitty packing her suitcase – an item which didn’t appear until the later stages of the 19th century. Other than those mistakes, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and it comes highly recommended for those who enjoy Regency romances featuring a strong-minded, feisty heroine. While I obtained the audiobook arc of A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Daughter of Dr Moreau By Silvia Moreno Garcia #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheDaughterofDrMoreaubookreview

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I am a fan of Moreno-Garcia’s writing – see my reviews of Mexican Gothic, Gods of Jade and Shadow, Certain Dark Things, The Beautiful Ones, Prime Meridian and Velvet Was the Night. So when I saw this one appear on Netgalley, I immediately requested it and was delighted to be approved.

BLURB: Carlota Moreau: a young woman, growing up in a distant and luxuriant estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán peninsula. The only daughter of either a genius, or a madman.

Montgomery Laughton: a melancholic overseer with a tragic past and a propensity for alcohol. An outcast who assists Dr. Moreau with his scientific experiments, which are financed by the Lizaldes, owners of magnificent haciendas and plentiful coffers.

The hybrids: the fruits of the Doctor’s labor, destined to blindly obey their creator and remain in the shadows. A motley group of part human, part animal monstrosities.

All of them living in a perfectly balanced and static world, which is jolted by the abrupt arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the charming and careless son of Doctor Moreau’s patron, who will unwittingly begin a dangerous chain reaction. For Moreau keeps secrets, Carlota has questions, and in the sweltering heat of the jungle, passions may ignite.

REVIEW: Silvia Moreno-Garcia is very comfortable writing across an impressive range of genres and styles. The one common theme throughout all her books is that they either feature Mexican protagonists, or they are set in or around Mexico – and this one is no exception. While the original story by H.G. Wells is set on an island, this version is set on the Yucatán Peninsula on an isolated estate well off the beaten track. Moreno-Garcia is masterful at scene-setting and the world-building in this story is no exception. Through both protagonists, we get a vivid sense of the intense, humid heat, vegetation and creatures inhabiting the estate – particularly when in Carlota’s viewpoint as she loves the place with a deep-seated abiding sense of belonging. And as the story progresses, we begin understand just why she is so very comfortable living in the heart of the wilderness.

Those who have come to Moreno-Garcia’s writing after having read Mexican Gothic or Certain Dark Things might have found this a slightly frustrating read. While readers who have also read Velvet Was the Night or Prime Meridian will be aware that the author is equally capable of delivering a slow-burn story full of pent tension and an increasing sense of wrongness as she is of providing full-on action. That said, there is action – an explosion of violence that I found all the more shocking due to the slow build-up. I enjoyed the manner in which the climax also provides answers regarding Dr Moreau, which expose him for the real monster in this story.

The characterisation of both main protagonists is pitch perfect. Each of them is flawed and trapped. I was rooting for both of them to find a way out of the murky wrongness caused by Moreau’s poisonous influence – and was also relieved that Moreno-Garcia didn’t go down the predictable route that I feared she would. Their relationship is beautifully nuanced, complicated and utterly believable. As ever, the pages turned themselves in this lush, memorable read and is highly recommended for those who like their historical science fiction adventures finely written in a vivid setting shot through with tension. While I obtained an arc of The Daughter of Dr Moreau from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK The Gilded Wolves – Book 1 of The Gilded Wolves series by Roshani Chokshi #Brainfluffbookreview #TheGildedWolvesbookreview

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I was delighted to see this offering in Netgalley’s audio section, as I’d read the ebook and really enjoyed it – see my review. So I expected to be completely engrossed in the audiobook.

BLURB: Paris, 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: an engineer with a debt to pay; a historian banished from his home; a dancer with a sinister past; and a brother in arms if not blood.

Together they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history—but only if they can stay alive.

REVIEW: I knew exactly what I was getting with this one and expected to tuck right into it. But I hit an unexpected snag with this fantasy heist adventure – I found narrator P.J. Ochlan’s narration rather difficult to listen to. While his command of the various character voices is excellent, his delivery of the text tended to fall into a slightly sing-song cadence that I found very irritating. While there were times when it worked for me – for instance when I felt it matched the rhythm of the writing. But particularly during some of the descriptive passages, I felt Ochlan’s delivery diminished the lushness of Chokshi’s prose. This led me to limit the length of time I listened to the story, especially in the early stages when there is a significant amount of scene-setting and description. Fortunately as the book progressed, this issue became less of a problem due to the gathering pace of the story and the heightened tension as the stakes grew ever larger. Once again, I was struck by Chokshi’s deft characterisation as each one of the gang was well drawn, with both strengths and weaknesses that were highlighted throughout the story.

I would mention that this story definitely falls within the YA genre – the young protagonists are still struggling to discover who they are within the wider world. Emotions within the team are ramped up as they also are trying to work out how they feel about each other. Interestingly, listening to this story had me far less sympathetic to Séverin than when I read it. In fact, I wanted to shake him until his teeth rattled to snap him out of his self-pitying fugue, whereby he seemed to think it was fine to hurt others around because he was also in pain.

However, despite my issues with one of the narrators, I still became caught up in the twisting plot and enjoyed the vivid depiction of a fantastical Paris where magic and a decadent pursuit of pleasure collide to produce a bright world, full of colour and enchantment. Now I have once again been drawn into the story, I want to discover what happens next to this disparate group. Recommended for those who enjoy a richly depicted fantastical world and a magical heist adventure full of twists and turns. While I obtained an audiobook arc of The Gilded Wolves from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10