Category Archives: humour

The Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag #Brainfluffbookreview #TheMidYearFreakOutBookTag

Standard


I’ve recently thoroughly enjoyed reading this book tag on a number of sites – but the first one was Maddalena, at Space and Sorcery, one of my favourite book bloggers on account of the steady stream of thoughtful, quality reviews that she produces. So I decided to also join in the fun…

Best Book You’ve Read So Far This Year
Ancestral Night – Book 1 of the White Space series by Elizabeth Bear
Haimey Dz thinks she knows what she wants. She thinks she knows who she is. She is wrong. A routine salvage mission uncovers evidence of a terrible crime and relics of powerful ancient technology. Haimey and her small crew run afoul of pirates at the outer limits of the Milky Way, and find themselves on the run and in possession of universe-changing information.

When authorities prove corrupt, Haimey realizes that she is the only one who can protect her galaxy-spanning civilization from the implications of this ancient technology—and the revolutionaries who want to use it for terror and war. Her quest will take her careening from the event horizon of the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s core to the infinite, empty spaces at its edge.

I found this layered, character-led exploration of a future human, who relies on technology not available to us in order to keep functional, absolutely riveting.

Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far This Year
Stranger Still – Book 3 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik
Telepathy, along with sundry other odd abilities, have landed Stella more than once, in situations at best controversial, at worst life-threatening. But she’s always known; you have to fight your own corner as best you can, no point beating yourself up about it.

Now though, times have changed, different priorities. She’s married, with a baby on the way and a flourishing business. She simply has to deal with a couple of worrying issues and then all should be smooth sailing. But, isn’t it a fact; just when you think you’ve got all your ducks in a row, life can turn right around and bite you on the bottom?

This series is an absolute gem. I love the quirky, humorous tone coupled with the often dark, twisty plot. It should be grim and angsty, but it isn’t. Messik is a wonderful writer and definitely my discovery of the year so far…

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Want To
Unconquerable Sun – Book 1 of The Sun Chronicles by Kate Elliott
GENDER-SWAPPED ALEXANDER THE GREAT ON AN INTERSTELLAR SCALE
Princess Sun has finally come of age. Growing up in the shadow of her mother, Eirene, has been no easy task. The legendary queen-marshal did what everyone thought impossible: expel the invaders and build Chaonia into a magnificent republic, one to be respected—and feared.

But the cutthroat ambassador corps and conniving noble houses have never ceased to scheme—and they have plans that need Sun to be removed as heir, or better yet, dead. To survive, the princess must rely on her wits and companions: her biggest rival, her secret lover, and a dangerous prisoner of war.

A retelling of Alexander the Great set in space with a princess as the protagonist – with the great Kate Elliott telling the story… It makes me go weak with longing just thinking about it.

Most Anticipated Release For the Second Half of the Year
A Deadly Education – Book 1 of the Scholomance series by Naomi Novik
A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere. El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.
I love a great school story and have read one book from another
cracking series this year – so am really looking forward to tucking into this one.

Biggest Disappointment
Q by Christina Dalcher
Every child’s potential is regularly determined by a standardized measurement: their quotient (Q). Score high enough, and attend a top tier school with a golden future. Score too low, and it’s off to a federal boarding school with limited prospects afterwards. The purpose? An improved society where education costs drop, teachers focus on the more promising students, and parents are happy.

Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s elite schools. When her nine-year-old daughter bombs a monthly test and her Q score drops to a disastrously low level, she is immediately forced to leave her top school for a federal institution hundreds of miles away. As a teacher, Elena thought she understood the tiered educational system, but as a mother whose child is now gone, Elena’s perspective is changed forever. She just wants her daughter back.

Elena has to be the nastiest protagonist I’ve encountered this year. I kept reading, because I was convinced that at some stage she was going to redeem herself. She didn’t. Check out my review.

Biggest Surprise
You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce
Cassandra Tipp is dead…or is she? After all, the notorious recluse and eccentric bestselling novelist has always been prone to flights of fancy–everyone in town remembers the shocking events leading up to Cassie’s infamous trial (she may have been acquitted, but the insanity defense only stretches so far).
Cassandra Tipp has left behind no body–just her massive fortune, and one final manuscript.

Then again, there are enough bodies in her past–her husband Tommy Tipp, whose mysterious disembowelment has never been solved, and a few years later, the shocking murder-suicide of her father and brother.

This unsettling tale is both horrific and beautiful and has lodged in my memory since I read it early in the year. Fabulous debut novel that makes this author One To Watch. Here is my review.

Favourite New Author
Marilyn Messik
I just wish she would write faster… I suffered terrible book hangover pangs after completing the Strange series! This is my review of Relatively Strange.

Newest Fictional Crush
Hm. Don’t really like the term crush – I’m a very happily married woman. But I rather fell in love with Trouble Dog from Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell. This sentient ship doesn’t know when to quit…

Newest Favourite Character
Stella from the Strange series by Marilyn Messik. Yes, I know it seems that I’ve only read a handful of books this first half of 2020, given the fact that Messik’s books keep surfacing in this roundup, but I was obsessed by Stella – even dreamt about her… That doesn’t happen all that often, these days.

Book That Made You Cry
The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel
England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen before Jane dies giving birth to the male heir he most craves.

Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to the breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?

This was a heartbreaking ending to Cromwell’s long journey from being a brutal, brutalised teenager on the way to becoming part of his father’s criminal gang, to being the most powerful man in England, next to the King. The King who finally killed him… I wept while listening to Cromwell’s death, which was beautifully done.

Book That Made You Happy
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

A book of hope for uncertain times.
Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons.

The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.

A fabulous, uplifting book that appears to be very simple, but is so much more. It’s by my side at my computer where I work in these difficult times.

Favourite Book to Film adaptation
Sanditon by Jane Austen
Loved this one – and then got to the end… and – oh my word! THAT was a shock…

Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year
Underland by Robert MacFarlane
In this highly anticipated sequel to his international bestseller The Old Ways, Macfarlane takes us on an extraordinary journey into our relationship with darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface of both place and mind. Traveling through “deep time”—the dizzying expanses of geologic time that stretch away from the present—he moves from the birth of the universe to a post-human future, from the prehistoric art of Norwegian sea caves to the blue depths of the Greenland ice cap, from Bronze Age funeral chambers to the catacomb labyrinth below Paris, and from the underground fungal networks through which trees communicate to a deep-sunk “hiding place” where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years to come. Woven through Macfarlane’s own travels are the unforgettable stories of descents into the underland made across history by explorers, artists, cavers, divers, mourners, dreamers, and murderers, all of whom have been drawn for different reasons to seek what Cormac McCarthy calls “the awful darkness within the world.”
This was a present from my lovely sister-in-law. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of tucking into this one – but I fully intend to by the end of the year. That cover is to die for – and the writing is gorgeous. Have you read it?

What Book Do You Need To Read by the End of the Year?
As many as I can – so that I can be thrilled by favourite authors, who go on delivering the goods, and delighted by talented writers I haven’t previously had the pleasure of reading…

Castellan the Black and his Wise Draconic Musings #BrainfluffCastellantheBlack #WiseDragonicMusings #LookingAfterGrandchildren #PickyEaters

Standard

Make sure all young dragons perform full abasement when necessary. Make sure it’s always necessary.

Castellan the Black, mighty dragon warrior, or Casta the Grey as he used to be known as, features in my short story Picky Eaters, written to provide a humorous escape from all the stuff that isn’t happening on Wyvern Peak… All proceeds for the duration of its publishing life are donated to mental health charities.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The House on Widow’s Hill – Book 9 of the Ishmael Jones mysteries by Simon R. Green #BrainfluffNetgalleybookreview #TheHouseonWidowsHillbookreview

Standard


Anyone who has followed my blog will know that this series is a solid favourite – see my reviews of The Dark Side of the Road, Till Sudden Death Do Us Part, Murder in the Dark, Into the Thinnest of Air, Death Shall Come, Very Important Corpses and Night Train to Murder. So I was delighted to see this latest addition to this paranormal murder mystery series.

BLURB: “That house is a bad place. Bad things happen there . . .”
Set high on top of Widows Hill, Harrow House has remained empty for years. Now, on behalf of an anonymous prospective buyer, Ishmael and Penny are spending a night there in order to investigate the rumours of strange lights, mysterious voices, unexplained disappearances, and establish whether the house is really haunted. What really happened at Harrow House all those years ago? Joined by a celebrity psychic, a professional ghost-hunter, a local historian and a newspaper reporter, it becomes clear that each member of ‘Team Ghost’ has their own pet theory as to the cause of the alleged haunting.


REVIEW: As ever, we have our usual fix of creepy shenanigans going on, as Ishmael and Penny find themselves spending the night in a haunted house. This book follows directly on from Night Train to Murder, so if you haven’t read that one, do be aware – especially at the beginning – there will be some references to events outside the story. I was interested to see this one build more slowly than usual, but given that Green does it well and I know and trust his pacing, I appreciated the general ratcheting up of the tension. It doesn’t hurt that there are the usual dollops of humour that help lighten the tension in the dark, brooding house.

Though the death and denouement rather knocked me for six. I’m still pondering as to whether Green has managed to pull this one off, as it stretched the bounds of my credulity rather. However, I think on balance, I’ll give him a pass. I certainly was never in any danger of putting the book down before getting to the end. All in all, this is an entertaining, page-turning addition to this quirky series.

Recommended for fans of paranormal murder mysteries that doesn’t take itself too seriously. While I obtained an arc of The House of Widow’s Hill from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10


PICKY EATERS is now available! #PickyEatersshortstory #Moodboostingshortstory #PickyEaters4thebattleagainstmentalillness

Standard


And here it is! Picky Eaters is now available as an ebook and in print. Click on the cover below or in the sidebar to be linked to your nearest Amazon store.

As lockdown clamped across my life, along with everyone else, I wanted to do something to help. But all I do these days is write… So I dusted off one of my favourite characters, Casta the Grey. He’d got into a real pickle looking after those pesky grandchildren of his, but what happened next? I decided to find out – and that’s how this longer version came into being. It’s funny and quirky and hopefully will take you away from some of the big, scary stuff going on around us for a while. And I am donating all proceeds from Picky Eaters for the duration of its publication to mental health charities.

Click on cover to take you to your nearest Amazon store

BLURB: This tale about family life, dragon-style, is escapist fun for adults. All proceeds to go to mental health charities.

Castellan the Black, now better known as Casta the Grey, has led an eventful life, but these days he’s content to live alone in his mountaintop lair, fending off occasional attacks from the food and waiting to die. At least, that’s what he tells himself.

Babysitting his young grandchildren is definitely not on his to do list. Sammy Jo doesn’t care that the world used to cower before Casta’s wrath. She doesn’t want barbecued knight in armour – it’s tinned food – and that’s that. Sadly, her little brother Billy Bob is more inclined to follow her lead than his grandfather’s, and what’s a grumpy old dragon to do with two such intransigent youngsters?

Things go from bad to worse when he wakes up from a nap to find they’ve been hunting for more appealing treats. Organic, free-range lunch was exactly what they needed, according to a very proud Sammy Jo. He’s never seen the food so upset, and now it’s coming up the hill, armed with spears and bows, hell bent on revenge.

Things go from bad to worse when he has to move in with the rest of the family. Whoever said family life was boring hasn’t lived alongside these two pesky lizards. Keeping his grandkids out of trouble might be more of a challenge than this over the mountain warrior can handle.

Hayley of Far too Fond of Books says: I don’t normally read fantasy but this short story is so lovely. The descriptions of the dragons are fab and it reminded me of books I loved when I was a child and made me wonder why I never reach for the genre anymore. 5 stars

Sneak peek…
He came to with a sudden awareness that he must have dozed off, which was happening more often these days. Still, no harm done… He stretched and yawned, choosing to ignore the patter of dirt falling from his crusted scales. Only as he started to curl up, ready to turn the nap into a proper mid-morning snooze, did he recall he was supposed to be babysitting his pesky grandchildren. Where’d they got to?
Once he located the youngsters huddled in the corner, he decided Billy Bob and Sammy Jo were up to something, so he tip-taloned across the cavern, before whispering, “What are you doing?” in Billy Bob’s ear.
The small dragon shot straight into the air with a shrill squeal, while his sister crouched lower over whatever-it-was in the gloom, gobbling it up in a couple of hurried gulps.
An irritated wisp of smoke leaked from his nostrils. “And why are you eating between meals?”
“’Um unngree…” she mumbled, still chewing.
The delicious whiff of a meaty something didn’t improve his temper. “If you’d eaten all your breakfast, you wouldn’t be wanting something, now!”
“Sorry, Granddad,” Billy Bob whimpered, his wings drooping submissively.
But young Sammy Jo was made of sterner stuff. Her wings remained neatly folded across her back as she announced, “Didn’t like breakfast.”
Impudent little piece! Why, when he was a dragonet, if he’d spoken to a lord so insolently, he’d have been walking around with singed scales for a month. Smoke now was trickling steadily from his nostrils, as he growled, “And what does like have to do with anything? Answer that one, miss! There’s sub-Saharan dragons who’d give their wings for a tasty morsel like the one I picked out for you.”
“They can have it, then,” Sammy Jo said sulkily. “It tasted funny.”
The rank ingratitude! His temper flared, and a gout of flame belched out of his mouth with his roar, “Ahh!”
She dodged his fiery blast with ease. “You can’t singe us, Granddad. It’s not allowed.” Sammy Jo stretched her neck in an unmistakeably female way. “If we’ve been bad, we have to sit on the naughty crag and think about what we’ve done wrong and how to make a-mends.”
He regarded her with smouldering annoyance. “You sound just like your grandmother.”



Review of HARDBACK The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey #Brainfluffbookreview, #TheBoytheMoletheFoxandtheHorsebookreview #Moodboostingbook

Standard

This book arrived in the post from my lovely sister-in-law, who took me to Bexhill last year for a writing retreat, while she got on with her thesis on medieval attitudes to depression and depressive illness.

BLURB: A book of hope for uncertain times.
Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons. The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.

This is a solid delight. It is an apparently very simple book. The drawings are apparently very basic – but it takes real skill to turn a dozen or so squiggly lines into a vulnerable-looking little boy, a small mole, an alert little fox and a horse… Hm – that horse. Such a hard creature to draw really well. If I’d any doubts as to Macksey’s real talent as an artist, it is the drawing of the horse – especially when we come to the climax of the book and the drawings stop being squiggly lines and turn into something awesome and magical that brought tears to my eyes…

So we have lovely pictures on each page, but it’s the prose that turns this book from being a winsome little gem into a book with sufficient heft to want it close to me throughout the day, so I can open it when I’m feeling wobbly. The conversations the boy has with the mole, and the horse, in particular, have given me so much comfort with their truth. The one that has stayed with me the most is this quote:

“What is the bravest thing you ever said?” asked the boy.
“Help,” said the horse.

There is so much profound truth in those two lines. How often do we reach the end of our tether, completely in despair – simply because we lack the resources to help ourselves and paralysed with fear to ask others for help? I could have saved myself such misery as a young woman if I’d taken on board that life lesson…

There are profound things about the role of cake in our lives, too, that mole shares with us… It took about ten minutes to read the book from cover to cover and in the space of that time I laughed aloud and I wept – I’m finding myself a tad more emotional, these days. But I stand by the fact that any book which can make me do both in such a short timespan is remarkable. There is no preaching or judgement – just kindness, acceptance in a chat between a small boy and his animal companions.

And this book is right by my side for the duration. Very highly recommended for anyone who feels a tad overwhelmed or frightened right now…
10/10



Review of INDIE Ebook Relatively Strange – Book 1 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik #Brainfluffbookreview #RelativelyStrangebookreview

Standard

I suffered a real book hangover after reading Witch Dust – see my review – so I was delighted when I discovered this paranormal psi-fi adventure. And right now I had no problem in bouncing it right to the stop of my very long TBR list…

BLURB: “I was five when I discovered I could fly, sixteen when I killed a man.
Both events were unsettling in their own way.”

It’s hard to know what’s normal, if you’re not, and it takes Stella a while to realise she’s in the definitely ‘not’ drawer. But we are who we are and we make adjustments to fit in – most of the time – and it’s only when she finds she’s not quite as unique as she thought, that things begin to acquire a whole new dimension. Forced to call on resources she didn’t know she possessed and thrust headlong into the violence of a situation for which nothing could have prepared her, Stella is suddenly face to face with the stark reality of medical experimentation and its horrifying consequences.

REVIEW: As in Witch Dust, it is the strong first-person narrative voice that beguiled me from the first line and held me throughout. It doesn’t hurt that Messik also had the pacing nailed and took us through the very conventional timeline of her infancy, youth and into her early adulthood with a mixture of anecdotes, scenes and humorous asides that pulled me right into her world. This story could have been presented with the emotional tone dialled up to the max, full of angst and pain – Stella has plenty of scary moments that had the capacity to knock her endways, after all. But that gutsy, determined toughness that characterised her grandmother and her great-aunts and their eccentricities has given her resilience and a self-belief nourished by her parents. I completely believed that her family successfully managed to keep her abilities shielded from prying eyes, while persuading her to keep them hidden, without overly daunting her.

The unfolding story of how she discovers that there are those who are far too interested into her and her abilities kept me turning the pages. Stella is a baby-boomer, born in the 1950s, and I completely believed the worldbuilding and historical era – and I’d have known if there had been any false notes, as I was also born just a few years later. The other characters who people this gripping adventure are vividly drawn. And although there are some shocking events, Stella’s narrative voice both manages to effectively depict the seriousness of what happens, yet offer a sense of hope – which I really need in my reading matter, these days.

I also like her trick of producing a number of plot twists that change up the stakes and pull Stella into a rescue mission that will place her in danger to the extent that she is exposed to a fate worse than death. And no – we’re not talking about any kind of sexual encounter – we’re talking about a real fate that would be worse than dying… Hamlet the dog is also awesome, by the way. I’m conscious that in my determination not to provide any kind of Spoiler, I have sold this book short, but the pacing, narrative voice and twisty plot provided one of the most satisfying reads of the year to date – and I’m delighted that I have two more books in this series waiting for me on my Kindle. Highly recommended.
10/10

The Book Character Quarantine Tag #Brainfluffbookblog #TheBookCharacterQuarantineTag

Standard

I saw this tag on Maddalena’s blog Space and Sorcery last week – and absolutely loved it, so decided to take up her generous general invitation to join in the fun…

Winne the Pooh by A.A. Milne
So… I know exactly what would happen to Pooh Bear if he found himself in a lockdown situation, as it happens several times in his adventures. He would retire to a suitably comfy spot with as many jars of honey as he could manage and emerge some time later, rather plumper and very sticky. I tried to replicate this behaviour with salt and vinegar crisps for the first few weeks of lockdown – and while I, too, became noticeably plumper, I also ended up with a rather sore tongue…

Pooh Bear would definitely be tubbier by the end of lockdown…


Captain Vimes from the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett
Assuming COVID-19 was brave enough to try and gain a foothold in Ankh-Morpok – I’m sure there are viruses and bacteria there far older and more terrible that could swallow it whole – our brave Captain Vimes of the City Watch might well harness Lady Sibyl’s little dragons and use them to sterilise the streets with FLAMES. After all, you wouldn’t want to use water from the River Ankh to wash anything – apart from anything else, it’s something of a hassle to cut through the crust of filth and pollution to actually get to the liquid below.

Sam Vimes wouldn’t let a little COVID-19 mess with his City…


Kvothe from The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss
I think finding himself in lockdown might well be the making of Kvothe. After all, he’s got a memoir to complete. He’s made a great start – The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear are highly readable and gripping accounts of his adventures. He just needs to stop wandering through the forest, counting leaves on the trees, or chopping down a small plantation for firewood, or visiting every alehouse in the kingdom – and knuckle down to finish the tale. Maybe being quarantined will be the nudge he’s looking for. Quick – ink and parchment for Master Kvothe!


Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Hm. Well no one will go hungry if they are sharing lockdown with Katniss – and you won’t need to queue at Tesco’s or sit up half the night waiting for a spot to open up for online shopping, either. Not while she’s here with her trusty bow and arrow. Just be prepared for a few less squirrels visiting your bird table…

Mark Watney of The Martian by Andy Weir
Highly trained and extraordinarily resourceful, I’m thinking that you won’t have a dull moment if you’re sharing lockdown with Mark. For starters, there’ll be a steady stream of jokes – some funnier than others. And he’ll be growing produce in no time flat, as well as organising everyone on a strict rota so that your household – no make that the street – will all be self sufficient within the first month. Which is probably the time it will take him to invent a vaccine for COVID-19, though be prepared for that to include quantities of poo and potatoes…

Be prepared to be VERY organised…

Review of NETGALLEY arc Hostile Takeover – Book 1 of the Vale Investigation series by Cristell Comby #BrainfluffNetgalleybookreview #HostileTakeoverbookreview

Standard


I was looking for more fantasy crime goodness, when this striking cover caught my eye, so I was delighted when I was approved to read it…

BLURB: He’s done a deal with Death herself. But unless he can send beasts back to the Otherworld, losing his life will be the least of his worries… PI Bellamy Vale’s near-immortality doesn’t give him a moment to rest. Completely worn down as Death’s supernatural detective, he’s starting to think he got the short-end of his do-or-die deal. So when a string of savage attacks grip the city, Vale abandons all hope of sleep and sets out to discover who let the Otherworld beast free…

REVIEW: I have cut the rather chatty blurb, because I think the above nicely sums up where things stand at the start of this entertaining whodunit. Bellamy Vale, known as Bell to his friends, is a sympathetic protagonist, with a nice line in humour which goes over well in the middle of his various adventures. He is an agent for Lady McDeath, who issues him with tasks and gives him suitable magical protections to carry them out.

It was an enjoyable read – Cold City is an interesting place with plenty of corruption going on behind the scenes. There are a number of scary antagonists, while Bell has his own set of friends to help – my favourite characters were computer geek Zian, who also happens to be Greek god Hermes’ son. And Hermes is very protective of him, to the extent that Bell is left in no doubt that he’ll die an agonising death, should anything nasty happen to Zian. Given that Bell is given highly dangerous jobs by his immortal patron, this is an ongoing problem for him.

The plot was well constructed. I didn’t see the solution – and to be honest, for me this one was all about the journey, anyway. While the trope and setup is very familiar, the story is peopled with a host of memorable, quirky characters brimming with personality so that I turned the pages to find out who would pitch up next. The book ended with an interesting development about to happen and fortunately, Himself, who is a gem, had already got hold of the second book in this series, so I don’t have to wait too long to find out what happens next. Recommended for fans of enjoyable urban fantasy. While I obtained an arc of Hostile Takeover from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10


*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson #BrainfluffNetgalleybookreview #SetMyHeartToFivebookreview

Standard


I was rather taken by both the quirky cover and the even more quirky blurb at a time when reading about anything remotely similar to what is going on around us was unbearable. So I was really pleased to be approved to read this one.

BLURB: 10/10 Jared does not have friends.
Because friends are a function of feelings.
Therefore friends are just one more human obligation that Jared never has to worry about.
But Jared is worrying. Which is worrying. He’s also started watching old films. And inexplicably crying in them. And even his Feelings Wheel (given to him by Dr Glundenstein, who definitely is not a friend) cannot guide him through the emotional minefield he now finds himself in.

REVIEW: The blurb rambles on for a bit longer – but to be honest, I don’t think it is particularly helpful as it manages to omit the bit that is important. Jared is a bot, built and designed to be a dentist – a job the humans in our future society don’t particularly want to do. This is set in the near future, where bot labour does most of the dangerous, difficult tasks. But most bots are encased within fast-growing human bodies and able to communicate fluently and reasonably naturally. The big difference is that they don’t have any feelings – don’t experience boredom, loneliness or unhappiness, or love, friendship and delight. As they are programmed to put human lives above their own, they are ideal as construction workers, firefighters and… dentists. While humans concentrate on creative and artistic pursuits, rather than the soul-sapping jobs they used to do.
Except that Jared starts to feel emotions… The story is told in first-person viewpoint and I absolutely loved the quirky voice of the bot, which I found absolutely enchanting. Though I’m aware it is something of a risk, because if that highly individual voice annoys a prospective reader, it would be impossible to get through this one. As it happens, I fell in love with it.

Naturally, Jared finds the world around him becomes quite a different place, as he learns to navigate the odd sensations assailing him, using the Feelings Wheel that Dr Glundenstein, his sympathetic human friend and neighbour gives him. Dr Glundenstein advises him to go the movies and watch films – not the modern rubbish which is all about killer bots on the rampage – but older films which get shown in small, shabby little cinemas. One of the ongoing delights is trying to identify classic films from Jared’s quirky descriptions throughout this story. As I cared about Jared, I quickly became invested in his story.

It won’t be a huge surprise that this book is actually an exploration of what makes us human, as well as what happens when we start to regard other folks living among us as less than human. While this is an oft-trodden favourite science fiction trope, I thought this particular take on the whole subject interesting and immersive. And while I was grinning through a lot of the book – there were also moments of great tenderness and sadness, with moments of lovely poetic beauty. All in all, this is a real gem and one of my favourite reads of the year so far. Highly recommended for fans of well-told A.I. tales. The ebook arc copy of Set My Heart to Five was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

Sunday Post – 7th June, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

Standard

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

Apologies for the grotty appearance of this post. Unless I pay £147 a year, I can no longer use WordPress Classic editor. I am exploring other options, as having to struggle to this degree to get even this unsatisfactory result isn’t feasible – I’ve better things to do with my time…

We’re now into flaming June and our summer weather has abruptly departed. I would be happy to report that we’ve got rain – we haven’t. Gale force winds are savaging the garden and drying it out still further. Oh well.

It has been a busy week as I have been getting Picky Eaters ready to see the light of day – and I’m thrilled at the wonderful cover my mate Mhairi Simpson has produced. Many thanks to her for donating her time to this project. Other than that, more editing and working on Mantivore Warrior. Tonight there is another Zoom family gamesnight which we’re looking forward to joining – hopefully I won’t be smitten with another headache!

Last week I read:

The Obsidian Tower – Book 1 of the Rooks and Ruin series by Melissa Caruso
The mage-marked granddaughter of a ruler of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige at the top of Vaskandran society. But her magic is broken; all she can do is uncontrollably drain the life from everything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers. Then, one night, two terrible accidents befall Ryx, bringing far too much unwanted attention to this small, but strategically vital country – all centred on an ominous ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle…
I loved the Swords and Fire series – see my review of The Defiant Mage and found the unfolding situation at the start of this gripping tale immediately pulled me into the story. A great start to this spinoff series.

AUDIOBOOK The Naturalist – Book 1 of The Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne
Professor Theo Cray is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. So when mutilated bodies found deep in the Montana woods leave the cops searching blindly for clues, Theo sees something they missed. Something unnatural. Something only he can stop. As a computational biologist, Theo is more familiar with digital code and microbes than the dark arts of forensic sleuthing. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students.
This was great fun – though there were various plot holes large enough to haul a grizzly through, it was well narrated and I really liked Theo Cray, so was happy to go along for the ride.

Hostile Takeover – Book 1 of the Vale Investigation series by Cristelle Comby
PI Bellamy Vale’s near-immortality doesn’t give him a moment to rest. Completely worn down as Death’s supernatural detective, he’s starting to think he got the short-end of his do-or-die deal. So when a string of savage attacks grip the city, Vale abandons all hope of sleep and sets out to discover who let the Otherworld beast free…
This was an intriguing dynamic, where poor old Bell finds himself indentured to Lady McDeath, who sends him to sort out the most dangerous and messy tasks popping up around Cold City. I’m glad I have the second book on my Kindle, ready to read when I get the time. Review to follow.

The House on Widows Hill – Book 9 of the Ishmael Jones mysteries by Simon R. Green
Set high on top of Widows Hill, Harrow House has remained empty for years. Now, on behalf of an anonymous prospective buyer, Ishmael and Penny are spending a night there in order to investigate the rumours of strange lights, mysterious voices, unexplained disappearances, and establish whether the house is really haunted. What really happened at Harrow House all those years ago? Joined by a celebrity psychic, a professional ghost-hunter, a local historian and a newspaper reporter, it becomes clear that each member of ‘Team Ghost’ has their own pet theory as to the cause of the alleged haunting.
Yet another quirky paranormal murder mystery – it’s been something of a theme this week – I enjoyed this addition to this entertaining series and will be reviewing it in due course.


My posts last week:

PICKY EATERS – Cover reveal

Friday Face-off featuring Searching for Dragons – Book 2 of the Enchanted Forest series by Patricia C. Wrede

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Obsidian Tower – Book 1 of the Rooks and Ruin series by Melissa Caruso

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

May 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL * Review of The Clutter Corpse – Book 1 of The Decluttering Mysteries by Simon Brett

Sunday Post – 31st May 2020


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

Tips to Photograph Bees https://wanderingambivert.com/2020/06/03/tips-to-photograph-bees/ Given that a lot of us are still in lockdown, wandering around the garden, or going for walks might give you the opportunity to take a pic of bees, here is some advice on how to do it well…

A Teacher’s Story #1 https://jenniefitzkee.com/2020/06/03/a-teachers-story-1/ What an inspirational tale…

Talking with Kids about Racism https://platformnumber4.com/2020/05/30/talking-with-kids-about-racism/ Many thanks to Becky for posting this really useful resource. I very highly recommend the article ‘What White Children Need to Know About Race’…

The Last Video Store on Earth https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2020/06/04/guest-post-the-last-video-store-on-earth/ I loved this article…

Kvetch – 22 https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2020/06/03/kvetch-22/ And if you’re in need of a laugh, or two…

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