Category Archives: historical

Review of KINDLE Ebook A Season of Spells – Book 3 of the Noctis Magicae series by Sylvia Hunter #Brainfluffbookreview #ASeasonsofSpellsbookreview

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I’d read and enjoyed the previous two books in this series, The Midnight Queen and Lady of Magick, so was pleased to see this third one was available – I love the depth of this enchanting world, where Christianity didn’t sweep through and wipe out all the pagan religions, which now exist in this Regency era alternate history.

BLURB: Three years after taking up residence at the University of Din Edin, Sophie and Gray return to London, escorting the heiress of Alba to meet the British prince to whom she is betrothed. Sparks fail to fly between the pragmatic Lucia of Alba and the romantic Prince Roland, and the marriage alliance is cast into further doubt when the men who tried to poison King Henry are discovered to have escaped from prison…

And that’s as much of the chatty blurb I’m prepared to include. I firmly advise you to read the previous two books in this series before attempting this one. The world where the UK and France are still fractured into a number of states, where the Roman and pagan gods exist side by side, which provides a complex backdrop to the action.

Things have moved on for Sophie and Gray and in this book, there is far more in the viewpoint of Joanna, Sophie’s feisty younger sister and her very close friend and the love of her life, Gwendolyn. I really liked their relationship, which is sparky as they also have to negotiate the social norms of the time, which does not approve of, or acknowledge their love.

What worked really well for me was how Lucia and Roland’s relationship had to unfold. It’s an arranged marriage, providing peace, stability and more prosperity for the population of two kingdoms and it’s unthinkable that it won’t go ahead. But when they meet, Roland in particular, is underwhelmed at Lucia’s attitude. Reading how they had to negotiate this issue, I was aware that it isn’t often an arranged union is looked upon as anything other than a bad thing in fantasy novels. I also was delighted just to once more sink into this unique world Hunter has created and which I really love, given the care and detail she provides in her magic-making and the political strains that a fractured kingdom causes – nicely done.

Any niggles? I’ll own to being a tad frustrated that poor old Gray and Sophie were once more wrenched apart – I do enjoy seeing them together. Though it did underline just what danger everyone is facing when the threat from the continent becomes clear, that he is sent on such a hazardous mission. I also found the pacing towards the end of the story a tad uneven, in that the build-up was brimful of tension and the denouement did wrap everything up rather rapidly. However, it wasn’t a dealbreaker. And if Hunter decides to turn this trilogy into a quartet, I’ll happily read the next one, too. I just love the world she has created. Recommended for those who enjoy interesting alternate historical settings with their fantasy adventures.
8/10

Sunday Post – 15th March, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

It’s been an up and down week. I’m still not fully recovered, so didn’t feel up to any fitness regime. We treated ourselves to a smart TV, so have been tucking into Picard, The Crossing, The Expanse and Outlander – all of which I’m loving. It seems a very good time to binge-watch escapist adventures, given how terrifyingly interesting Real Life is becoming. My thoughts go out to everyone, hoping you are all remaining safe and well…

On Wednesday, Himself and I went out for lunch at Haskins, enjoying the swathes of daffodils growing on the roadside and on Friday I drove to Brighton to spend the day with my daughter. It was a lovely sunny day and I thoroughly enjoyed watching my granddaughter having her swimming lesson – what a great age to become water confident. Only just walking, she is learning to enjoy putting her head under the water, splash about in the pool and hold onto the side. This morning, I met up with my sister and we had breakfast together at our favourite riverside café, putting the world to rights – which took some doing. I am making the most of getting out and about while I can and spending time with the people I love.

Last week I read:
AUDIOBOOK Longbourn by Jo Baker
In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.
I’m a bit torn by this one. While the worldbuilding was brilliantly done and I very much appreciated seeing the Bennet family through the lens of the servants, the pacing was too slow in places – and that ending…! Review to follow.



On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.
This was a reread, given I’ve started writing my own How-To book on Characterisation. It was just as enjoyably chatty and informative as I recalled, though some of the advice on how to get your work noticed is outdated.



Minimum Wage Magic – Book 1 of the DFZ series by Rachel Aaron
My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I’m a Cleaner: a freelance mage with an art history degree who’s employed by the DFZ to sort through the mountains of magical junk people leave behind. It’s not a pretty job, or a safe one—there’s a reason I wear bite-proof gloves—but when you’re deep in debt in a lawless city where gods are real, dragons are traffic hazards, and buildings move around on their own, you don’t get to be picky about where your money comes from. You just have to make it work, even when the only thing of value in your latest repossessed apartment is the dead body of the mage who used to live there.
This is a spinoff from the amazing Heartstriker series – though you don’t need to read one to appreciate the other. Seeing as I’m loving the quirky world Aaron has forged, I was happy to dive into this offering. Review to follow.



By the Pricking of Her Thumb – Book 2 of the Real-Town Murders series by Adam Roberts
Private Investigator Alma is caught up in another impossible murder. One of the world’s four richest people may be dead – but nobody is sure which one. Hired to discover the truth behind the increasingly bizarre behaviour of the ultra-rich, Alma must juggle treating her terminally ill lover with a case which may not have a victim.
Another gnarly case for the amazing Alma, set in a dystopian world. I loved the character and the mystery – but Roberts does drift away from the main plot to eulogise about Stanley Kubrick’s films and discuss theories on the role of money in society…

 




The Case of the Missing Servant – Book 1 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
The Case of the Missing Servant shows Puri (“Chubby” to his friends) and his wonderfully nicknamed employees (among them, Handbrake, Flush, and Handcream) hired for two investigations. The first is into the background of a man surprisingly willing to wed a woman her father considers unmarriageable, and the second is into the disappearance six months earlier of a servant to a prominent Punjabi lawyer, a young woman known only as Mary.
This book was part of my Valentine’s pressie from Himself – and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hall’s depiction of contemporary India is vivid, unflinching, yet without being overly bleak or judgemental. I fell in love with Chubby when I read The Case of the Reincarnated Client and this book has cemented my affection for him.


My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring WWW: Wake Book 1 of the WWW series by Robert Sawyer

February 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Winterbourn Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Murder Your Darlings – Book 3 of the Francis Meadowes series by Mark McCrum

Sunday Post – 7th March 2020

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

How To Overcome Self Doubt as a Writer https://lorraineambers.com/2020/01/16/how-to-overcome-self-doubt-as-a-writer/ Having taught Creative Writing for 10 years, and written for more years than I care to recall – I’m aware just how crippling self doubt can be…

Women Building Art! https://platformnumber4.com/2020/03/07/women-building-art/ A lovely good news story about women achieving the highest accolade in a largely male-dominated industry…

Paul Brady, Arty McGlynn, Matt Molloy: Crazy Dreams (Hail St Patrick 2) https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2020/03/11/paul-brady-arty-mcglynn-matt-molloy-crazy-dreams-hail-st-patrick-2/ A fabulous article on Irish music from the awesome Thom Hickey

Thursday Doors – Cavan County Museum 5 https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2020/03/09/thursday-doors-cavan-county-museum-5/ Jean takes us back into the past…

Coronavirus and Parenting: What You Need to Know https://www.npr.org/2020/03/13/814615866/coronavirus-and-parenting-what-you-need-to-know-now?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social Given the nature of this unfolding emergency, arming our children with the knowledge to help them without overwhelming or terrifying them is a challenge. I thought this article was very helpful…

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

Sunday Post – 7th March, 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.

I was AWOL last week – as I was ill and in a rather dark place, I didn’t have much to report, other than a dreary recital of my misery. Fortunately, I am now recovering and fit once more for civilised company. I have finally completed Mantivore Warrior which has contributed to feeling so bleak – I always struggle once I’ve finished writing a book and as this is the end of the series, it’s a double whammy. But at the same time, I’m also glad to see it done.

Himself is also recovering from a heavy cold. The weather has mirrored our mood – February proved to be the wettest on record, and after day after day of pelting rain and grey skies felt neverending. Daffodils and primulas now flowering in the garden are brave splinters of sunshine in the winter gloom…

Last week I read:
Death of a Bean Counter – Book 12 of the Maggy Thorsen mysteries by Sandra Balzo
Maggy Thorsen’s head is spinning thanks to partner Sarah Kingston’s latest idea – selling luxe espresso machines in their Wisconsin coffeehouse, Uncommon Grounds. But Maggy soon faces a far bigger problem when her fiancé, sheriff Jake Pavlik, makes an official call on the coffeehouse’s star barista, Amy Caprese. Amy’s wealthy new beau, investment adviser Kip Fargo, has been shot dead in his bed – and Amy is the last known person to see him alive…
This is an entertaining whodunit featuring official nosy-parker Maggy, who decides to unofficially discover who killed Kip, despite being engaged to the local sheriff. Review to follow.


AUDIOBOOK Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess…
I was blown away by Circe last year. So treated myself to the Audible version of this one and I wasn’t disappointed. The writing is lyrically beautiful without losing pace or compromising the nuanced characterisation. And despite knowing the ending, I was gripped throughout. Review to follow.


Feathertide by Beth Cartwright
Marea was born to be different – a girl born covered in the feathers of a bird, and kept hidden in a crumbling house full of secrets. When her new tutor, the Professor, arrives with his books, maps and magical stories, he reveals a world waiting outside the window and her curiosity is woken. Caught in the desire to discover her identity and find out why she has feathers fluttering down her back like golden thistledown, she leaves everything she has ever known and goes in search of the father she has never met.
The writing is lyrically beautiful and the setting and worldbuilding is wonderful, but I did feel the pacing and narrative needed more work. Review to follow.


The Last Protector – Book 4 of the Lovett and Marwood series by Andrew Taylor
Brother against brother. Father against son. Friends turned into enemies. No one in England wants a return to the bloody days of the Civil War. But Oliver Cromwell’s son, Richard, has abandoned his exile and slipped back into England. The consequences could be catastrophic.
James Marwood, a traitor’s son turned government agent, is tasked with uncovering Cromwell’s motives. But his assignment is complicated by his friend – the regicide’s daughter, Cat Lovett – who knew the Cromwells as a child, and who now seems to be hiding a secret of her own about the family.
I read the stormingly good first book in this series, Ashes of London – see my review – and so was thrilled to see this one appear on Netgalley – and be approved to read it. I inhaled it, finding it impossible to put down. Review to follow.


A Dying Fall – Book 5 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths
Ruth’s old friend Dan Golding dies in a house fire. But before he died Dan wrote to Ruth telling her that he had made a ground-breaking archaeological discovery. Could this find be linked to his death and who are the sinister neo-Nazi group who were threatening Dan? Ruth makes the trip to Blackpool to investigate, wary of encroaching on DCI Harry Nelson’s home ground. Soon Ruth is embroiled in a mystery that involves the Pendle Witches, King Arthur and – scariest of all – Nelson’s mother.
This series is one of my favourite whodunits – see my reviews of The Crossing Places, The Janus Stone and A Room Full of Bonesyet again, Griffiths provided an excellent adventure, while continuing the fascinating dynamic between her main characters. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce

Friday Faceoff featuring Skeleton Crew by Stephen King

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Night Train to Murder – Book 8 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Greene

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

Friday Faceoff – The lion will lay down with the lamb, but every morning they’ll have to provide a new lamb… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceofflioncovers

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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 LIONS. I’ve selected The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay.

 

This edition was produced by Voyager in March 2012 and is an excellent effort. I love the embossed, highly stylised lion in gold against the lush red background. My main reason in not making this my favourite is that I think the author font is rather overbearing and unbalances the cover. I get that Kay’s name is the selling point on the cover, but I do feel the size and heft of it, in comparison to the title and design is too much.

 

Published in June 2005 by Harper Voyager, this cover is another attractive offering, with a pleasing feel of historical adventure. I really like the warm tones of this cover and I think the artwork and design is appropriate and eyecatching – that pattern works well. While the author font clearly denotes this is the reader magnet, I think the balance between the title and author name is far better than the previous cover. I could have done without the title textbox taking up nearly a third of the cover, though.

 

This edition, published by HarperCollins in May 1996 is also a strong contender. I like the strong nod to the Middle Ages in the artwork, which is striking and attractive and I particularly love the title font. And for once, I don’t mind the textboxes… In trying to work out why they don’t irritate me with this book design, I’ve come to the conclusion that the artwork is exactly the right dimension for the design and subject, therefore I don’t resent the fact it isn’t larger.

 

This edition, produced by Viking Canada, is the least effective of all the covers, which is a shame, because that artwork is absolutely beautiful. I love the fact the characters are all looking at something we can’t see. But this one doesn’t work all that well in thumbprint, as it is rather dark. And despite loving some of the detail of the font used in both the title and author font, it is too faint against the strong colours of the artwork.

 

This French edition, published by J’ai Lu in 2005 is my favourite. I love the whole design with that fabulous lion profile against the marvellous medieval Spanish building in the background, looking very like the Alhambra Palace in Granada. While the title and author fonts are a mess – not remotely suitable for the genre, or the right size and design – I’ll overlook that sin for once. Which is your favourite?

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

My First Reads of the Decade – Welcome 2020! #Brainfluffbookblog #MyFirstReadsoftheDecade

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These days I read two books simultaneously – one ebook and one audiobook. So the two books I’m starting this year with are both fantasy and both dealing with witchcraft, but so very different:-

KINDLE Ebook Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger series by Marie Brennan
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.
I thoroughly enjoyed Warrior, the first book in this duology – but I’m finding this one even more engrossing. The fallout as Mirei’s very existence upends hundreds of years of custom is predictably hostile by certain factions. This gives an inventive, skilled author like Brennan all sorts of places to take this story – great fun! I will be reviewing both books in this duology in due course.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
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’ll be honest – I don’t love this one as much as I thought I would. The prose is coolly elegant and each of the main protagonists are well drawn, but I feel rather distanced by the viewpoint and structure. There’s no risk of not finishing it, though – so hopefully I will reach a point when I suddenly find I’ve completely bonded with the world and the characters. Review to follow.

Sunday Post – 29th December, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

It’s been madly busy and great fun… Yes – I know I used that line last week, but it also nicely sums up this last week. Himself was working until 10 pm on Christmas Eve, so it was something of a blur to get presents wrapped and all the cooking done. My son arrived on Christmas Eve, just in time to start tucking into the homemade vegan mince pies and we had a lovely natter together. Christmas morning was spent cooking – Himself was in charge, despite struggling with a terrible cold. My sister and nephew joined us for lunch and stayed for the evening. We had a lovely time – Rob and Michael hadn’t seen each other for far too long, so were able to have a good catch up. After lunch was eaten and cleared away, we opened presents and played a couple of cracking games – Ticket to Ride and Scotland Yard.

On Boxing Day, we were due to drive over to my daughter’s for the afternoon to play yet more games, when she phoned me to say the conditions on the A27 were horrendous and she didn’t want me driving over. So they bundled into their all-weather terrain jalopy and came to us, instead. She then made a meal for eight in my kitchen before we played the Present Game and I subjected the family to my Christmas Quiz. So much laughter – the walls rang with it…

We have been taking it easy since, while Himself is trying to recover from his cold. He is off work until New Year’s Day, which is a real treat. Rob went back to Cambridge yesterday evening, so the house is a lot quieter… I can’t quite believe it’s all over.

Last week I read:

The Zig Zag Girl – Book 1 of the Stephens and Mephisto mystery series by Elly Griffiths
Brighton, 1950.

When the body of a girl is found, cut into three, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is reminded of a magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl. The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old friend of Edgar’s. They served together in the war as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men. Max is still on the circuit, touring seaside towns in the company of ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. Changing times mean that variety is not what it once was, yet Max is reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate. But when the dead girl turns out to be known to him, Max changes his mind.

I’ve enjoyed reading some of the Ruth Galloway series by this author, so was intrigued by this series set in a city I know quite well. This entertaining, historical whodunit did not disappoint. Review to follow.

 

Recursion by Blake Crouch
‘My son has been erased.’
Those are the last words the woman tells Barry Sutton before she leaps from the Manhattan rooftop. Deeply unnerved, Barry begins to investigate her death only to learn that this wasn’t an isolated case. All across the country, people are waking up to lives different from the ones they fell asleep to. Are they suffering from False Memory Syndrome, a mysterious, new disease that afflicts people with vivid memories of a life they never lived? Or is something far more sinister behind the fracturing of reality all around him?

I was lucky enough to win this lovely hardcover edition from Tammy of Books, Bones and Buffy in one of her international giveaways. I tucked into it as a Christmas treat and despite not having all that much time, once I opened it, I couldn’t put it down. It truly is an addictive page-turner… Review to follow.

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Borderline – Book 4 of the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards

Friday Faceoff featuring Across the Universe – Book 1 of the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis

Christmas Trivia 2019

Christmas has come early – thank you so much, Tammy!

Sunday Post 22nd December 2019

Huge apologies – with all the festivities and my son staying over, I simply haven’t been online enough to interact, comment or be able to recommend any articles. Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

Teaser Tuesday – 17th 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:

Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton

30% It was Banna Mora’s wedding day, and she was supposed to be praying.

Long rays of sunlight pulled across the high walls of the rose courtyard at the Summer Seat. Like most of Innis Lear, the courtyard was two things at once: from the outside it appears isolated and dark, built of black stone blocks streaked by years of salt spray, but inside it revealed itself to be bright and welcoming.

BLURB: Inspired by Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Lady Hotspur continues the saga of Innis Lear, centuries later, as revolution, love, and a betrayal corrupt the descendants of two warring kingdoms.

Hal was once a knight, carefree and joyous, sworn to protect her future queen Banna Mora. But after a rebellion led by her own mother, Caleda, Hal is now the prince of Lionis, heir to the throne. The pressure of her crown and bloody memories of war plague her, as well as a need to shape her own destiny, no matter the cost.

Lady Hotspur, known as the Wolf of Aremoria for her temper and warcraft, never expected to be more than a weapon. She certainly never expected to fall in love with the fiery Hal or be blindsided by an angry Queen’s promise to remake the whole world in her own image—a plan Hotspur knows will lead to tragedy.

Banna Mora kept her life, but not her throne. Fleeing to Innis Lear to heal her heart and plot revenge, the stars and roots of Innis Lear will teach her that the only way to survive a burning world is to learn to breathe fire.

These three women, together or apart, are the ones who have the power to bring the once-powerful Aremoria back to life—or destroy it forever.

It took me a while to get into this one, but I’m now thoroughly enjoying the dynamic between the three women and can see some parallels with the Shakespearean storyline – though there is a whole lot that is also very different. I am now at the stage where I don’t want it to end too quickly, because it is a highly satisfying, engrossing read…

Friday Faceoff – Feed your Faith and your fears will starve to death… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffreligiouscovers

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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 RELIGIOUS ICONS/CHURCH OR TEMPLE. I’ve selected Dissolution – Book 1 of the Matthew Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom.

 

This edition was produced by Pan in 2004. While I like the idea and the overall design, I think the execution ultimately lets it down. For some reason, this cover looks very washed out. The font is the strongest aspect – that lovely olden-style font nicely pops against the darker background. However that chatter both detracts from the design by cluttering it up and is difficult to read, as it is white against a light background. Both visually annoying and unsuccessful, it really spoils this one for me.

 

Published in April 2004 by Penguin Books, I think this image of a praying monk is a great improvement. Ideally, I would have liked the image to be just a little less gloomy – Sansom’s Tudor thriller is full of vivid description and tension, while his protagonist pings off the page. This cover doesn’t give an inkling of that – other than that ghastly bright red sticker they’ve plonked onto the artwork, which is a dealbreaker for me…

 

This edition, published by Macmillan in June 2003 is the best effort so far. I prefer the lighter colour palette and find that scene of the monks processing through the hall pulls me into the scene. The ornate title works well and while I’m not thrilled about the chatter near the bottom of the cover, at least it isn’t too intrusive. This is a real contender – I so nearly went for this one…

 

This edition, produced by Penguin in 2004, has gone for the split design. This rarely works well in thumbnail and I don’t think this example is all that effective when full sized, either. It feels as if two designers couldn’t make up their minds as to which image to go for – so decided to add both. I find the top image annoying anyway. The monastery buildings were generally repurposed during and after the Dissolution and only ended up looking like that a great deal later – so it isn’t even historically accurate.

 

This Dutch edition, published by De Fontein in November 2011 is my favourite. I love the ruddy light reflected off the monastery wall – there is clearly a fire nearby. And that sounds all too plausible, judging by accounts of how the monasteries were looted once Cromwell’s men got to work. And in the foreground, an elderly monk is praying… Though I’m dismayed to see even the Dutch insist on plastering their covers with chatter that by rights should be on the back cover. Which is your favourite?

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