Category Archives: Indie ebook

Review of INDIE EBOOK Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick #Brainfluffbookreview #Ascendingbookreview

Standard

Himself picked this one up – and recommended that I read it. After trudging through a couple of hefty fantasy reads, I was yearning for a sci fi space opera adventure and reached for this one…

Twenty-five years ago the Vardeshi came to Earth. Then they vanished without a trace. Graduate student Avery Alcott always knew they would return. When they do, she’s the only one who can speak their language. She’s quickly recruited to join the crew of an 11-man starship on a one-year mission into the depths of space.

What an impressive debut! I loved the character of Avery – bookish, quiet and introverted, which doesn’t stop her being driven and single-minded with hidden resources. Which she certainly needs… She is a linguistic student selected by a brilliant college professor to learn the Vardeshi language just in case they return. And then they do – and she is the only person of an eligible age who can speak their language.

The preparation for a mission where she will be travelling on a Vardeshi ship as a member of their crew as part of the cultural exchange is so very well depicted. I found this book hard to put down as Avery finds herself tackling hand to hand combat, learning how to send secret messages and cooking her own meals on portable equipment as no one knew whether alien foodstuffs would be poisonous to humans, or vice versa. I also loved her struggles to acclimatise – finding the lighting, slight gravity differences, the fact that everything around her isn’t designed for a human body – an issue that she has to cope with.

When things begin to escalate, I’ll admit my heart sank for a while, as I had a horrible feeling this was going to slide into a Hollywood scenario where the whole situation would become overblown and unrealistic, after it had started so strongly. Fortunately, I think Pechenick manages to avoid that one – the nightmarish situation Avery finds herself in is, after all, believable – as is the fallout.

I tore through this one, unable to put it down until I reached the end – when I was adrift with longing for more… I’m really looking forward to reading the next book in this series, Bright Shards which is coming out on 1st August – and we’ve pre-ordered it. Very highly recommended for fans of well written first contact adventures.
9/10

Advertisements

Review of ARC Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow by Jennifer Lee Rossman #Brainfluffbookreview #JackJetstarksIntergalacticFreakshow

Standard

At some stage I downloaded this arc in return for an honest review – and then forgot to transfer it from my computer file onto my Kindle. Thank goodness I’ve now found it, because I thoroughly enjoyed this quirky offering by Lee Rossman, whose writing I have already enjoyed in her novella Anachronism – see my review here.

Jack Jetstark travels the universe to seek out the descendants of superpowered freaks created long ago by VesCorp scientists. The vibrations encoded in a particular song transform the members of Jack’s crew into a firebreather and an angel, a wildman and telepathic conjoined triplets, so they hide the truth of who they really are with the theatrics of a carnival. The song plays every night through the receptor Jack carries with them, but when one night it has a different ending and their temporary powers become permanent, Jack believes the change is a signal from the woman who sent him on this quest in the first place. He and his freaks must navigate a universe at war to protect the love of his life. But does the ruler of VesCorp really need protecting?

This entertaining read is something of a mash-up – one of those where the science fiction explanation works well, but nonetheless has more than a slight fantasy feel. I thoroughly enjoyed the first person protagonist, Jack Jetstark, who is a sympathetic character with a lethal skillset, but nonetheless comes across as emotionally vulnerable. I enjoyed his steadfast love for his childhood sweetheart that could come across as naïve, but because of the pledge they’d made – he completely trusted her. I also like the care he demonstrates for the disparate family of genetic ‘freaks’ he travels with.

However, their constant journeying from one backward planet to another, putting on their small show comes to an abrupt end when the music changes and with it, so does everything else. From that moment on, this adventure changes gear and the pace picks up whirling us into an action adventure that buckets forward full tilt.

At this stage it would have been easy for the characters to become thinner as they become caught up in events, but Lee Rossman keeps a firm grip on the pacing and her main players, to the extent that I found that my thoughts were often with the antagonist and her motivations. Is she necessarily wrong in her approach? Will Jetstark’s intervention make a bad situation worse? I think this is the mark of an accomplished writer to be able to raise those important questions while all the mayhem is kicking off.

Highly recommended for fans of space opera adventure featuring strong characters.
9/10

Review of INDIE Ebook Scavenger Blood – Book 2 of the Scavenger Exodus series by Janet Edwards #Brainfluffbookreview #ScavengerBloodbookreview

Standard

I received an arc from the author as I read and thoroughly enjoyed Scavenger Alliance – see my review here – and my firm advice is to track down this first book in the series, before embarking on this sequel.

2408. Humanity has travelled to the stars through interstellar portals, but the rebels and criminals were left behind on a ruined Earth. Eighteen-year-old Blaze is one of the last seven hundred people scavenging a living in an increasingly lethal New York infested by alien predators. Forced to step into the spotlight to help her father defeat a leadership challenge by her old enemy Cage, she’s now adjusting to being deputy leader of the uneasy alliance between the remnants of the Earth Resistance and the old criminal gangs.

Scavenger Blood is the second book in the Scavenger Exodus series. This is set in the same future timeline as the Earth Girl trilogy, but takes place several centuries earlier, and one of the protagonists featured is an ancestor of the trilogy’s main character, Jarra.

Edwards writes young women learning to cope in difficult situations very well. I thoroughly enjoyed the excellent Earth Girl series featuring young Jarra, as the scenario of portal travel off-world leaving Earth virtually uninhabited works really well. While reading the Earth Girl series may give you the historical backstory, this spinoff series effectively stands alone as Edwards gives an insight into the outlaw remnants scratching a living amongst the ruins of New York. A terrible fate awaits them if they continue to stay in the city – but while a vengeful killer is on the loose with a hidden gang of supporters within the community, they cannot consider safely moving everyone out of the city, either…

I was soon fully back in the world and alongside Blaze as she has to negotiate the tensions within competing factions, in addition to coping with everyday danger such as nasty aliens who have developed a taste for the humans hiding amongst the ruins. The pace and tension steadily ramped up in this dangerous world where death is a daily occurrence. Blaze is a sympathetic protagonist, who struggles to overcome insecurities caused by a tough upbringing. This progression is really well handled by Edwards, leaving Blaze in quite a different place at the end from where she was at the start of the book.

The only major grizzle I have is that now I’ve finished this one, I would love to find out what happens next – right now! I’m looking forward to the next phase of this story, as there are bound to be all sorts of adventures in store for these embattled people, many of whom are only guilty of having been born to folks on the wrong side of the law. This series is highly recommended for science fiction fans who enjoy a well-written dystopian scenario featuring a feisty young female protagonist.
9/10

Running Out of Space is FREE for today and tomorrow!

Standard

The Kindle edition of Running Out of Space – book 1 of The Sunblinded Trilogy is FREE for Friday 28th and Saturday 29th June.

BLURB: Lizzy Wright has yearned to serve on the space merchant ship Shooting Star for as long as she can remember – until one rash act changes everything…

Lizzy and her friends weren’t looking for trouble – all they’d wanted was to prove that fertile English girls could handle themselves when on shore leave without being accompanied by a sour-faced chaperone and armed guard. Looking back, maybe taking a jaunt off-limits on Space Station Hawking wasn’t the best idea – but no one could have foreseen the outcome. Or that the consequences of that single expedition would change the lives of all four girls, as well as that of the stranger who stepped in to save them.

Now Lizzy has more excitement and danger than she can handle, while confronting lethal shipboard politics, kidnapping, betrayal. And murder.

Running Out of Space is an excellent novel, with enough pace and plot to keep you reading, and enough subtext to keep you wondering.’ Mrs Vivienne Tuffnell – 5 stars

For fans who enjoy Lois McMaster Bujold and Elizabeth Moon

 CLICK on the COVER in the sidebar to take advantage of this offer – OR on this LINK here!

Review of INDIE Ebook The Lost Gunboat Captain – Book 1 of the Jolo Vargas Space Opera series by J.D. Oppenheim #Brainfluffbookreview #TheLostGunboatCaptainbookreview

Standard

This is one of the books Himself snagged when looking for yet more enthralling space opera adventures that we are both addicted to…

Alone in the cold black with 36 hours of oxygen. Jolo Vargas, Federation Gunboat Captain, is trapped in a runaway escape pod zooming towards Federation space. But will he be dead before he gets there? He’s in a tight spot. But he’s a war hero, just the type of man who could work his way out of this jam. But there’s just one little problem. He doesn’t remember who he is.

The beginning of this book rocks – I absolutely loved it as a confused protagonist tries to work out exactly where he is, who he is and what is going on. There was some debate as to whether he is actually alive… It gradually transforms into a more conventional space opera foot-to-the-floor adventure with an unusual protagonist – a protagonist who isn’t what he initially seems to be. Haunted by visions of a beautiful young crew member that he knows is in danger and that he needs to save, yet not sure of who he is, this protagonist only gradually begins to realise what is happening around him. However it soon transpires that whoever he is, he is certainly a disaster magnet and mayhem ensues wherever he goes as he continually dodges overwhelming odds in the form of unpleasant aliens and their pliant human allies. Fortunately, these aliens tend to rely far too much on their heavily armoured suits that protect their soft wormlike bodies and are unaccustomed to the kind of defiance they are suddenly facing.

I found the protagonist in this multi-viewpoint adventure an interesting mix – necessarily we need to bond with him, but there are aspects of his personality that we cannot know about so there is also a bit of necessary distance between the reader and the main character. Oppenheim deals with this tension very effectively as the story unspools towards an unexpected development surrounding that beautiful young woman that fills his thoughts. It’s nicely done and I enjoyed the world with the satisfyingly nasty aliens. I’m hoping to continue with this series during 2019.
8/10

Review of INDIE Ebook Broken Heart Attack – Book 2 of the Braxton Campus Mysteries series by James J. Cudney #Brainfluffbookreview #BrokenHeartAttackbookreview

Standard

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, Academic Curveball – see my review here, so when I realised the second book was already out, and given the major cliff-hanger ending, I got hold of this one.

When an extra ticket becomes available to attend the dress rehearsal of Braxton’s King Lear production, Kellan tags along with Nana D and her buddies, sisters-in-law Eustacia and Gwendolyn Paddington, to show support for the rest of the Paddington family. When one of them appears to have a heart attack in the middle of the second act, Nana D raises her suspicions and asks Kellan to investigate who killed her friend. Amidst family members suddenly in debt and a secret rendezvous between an unlikely pair, Kellan learns the Paddingtons might not be as clean-cut as everyone thinks. But did one of them commit murder for an inheritance?

Cudney’s smooth, readable style scooped me up and swiftly drew me back into life on Braxton campus. While you might initially flounder slightly if you hadn’t had the pleasure of reading Academic Curveball, Cudney ensures you’ll soon make sense of what is going on – and indeed, there’s plenty to keep poor Kellen on the back foot.

His main relationship is with his feisty, sharp-tongued grandmother, Nana D. I really like the intergenerational dynamic within the story. Kellen’s grandmother isn’t introduced just to give us a few smiles at his expense as her snarky replies leaves him waving in the wind, Nana D is important to the story as a character in her own right. I also like the fact that the victim is one of her elderly friends – and that her death is investigated with the same rigour as the hapless youngster in the previous book. Far too much casual ageism is exhibited within this genre, so encountering Cudney’s take on the older characters in his story is refreshing change.

The mystery is nicely twisty, with plenty of potential suspects. I also liked the character development moving forward through the series – while the Sheriff was extremely hostile towards Kellen’s involvement in the previous book, she becomes less so during this investigation, as Kellen proves his worth and gains her rather grudging trust. Once more, Cudney’s skill in handling the whodunit is apparent, while I had a couple of candidates in mind for the wicked deed – neither of them were responsible and yet the culprit had a solid motive.

Any niggles? Well, I was floored by the revelation at the end of the first book and very eager to find out exactly what had happened – to the extent of skimming the first few pages to discover the outcome. If I have a grizzle, it would be that this major plotpoint was slightly squeezed out of the story at the expense of the investigation. So I’m hoping the next book will put Kellen’s personal issues right in the centre of the story, because I’m very keen to see him finally face up to that cauldron of regret, anger and thwarted love…
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook In Evil Times – Book 2 of the Imperials series by Melinda Snodgrass #Brainfluffbookreview #InEvilTimesbookreview

Standard

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, The High Ground – see my review here – which I read in response to Sci Fi Month and as we had the second book already, I tucked in.

Thracius Tracy Belmanor and the Infanta Mercedes de Arango have graduated from The High Ground and have become officers in the Orden de la Estrella. Tracy’s posting aboard a battleship leads him to further doubt the intentions of the Solar League, as he and his comrades are required to assimilate the settlers of a Hidden World. Meanwhile, Mercedes’ own posting and her difficult marriage to Beauregard Boho Cullen, made to assure her succession of the throne, divides her loyalties. In a society where most humans and all aliens are second-class citizens, the two young officers have difficult choices to make…

As in the first book, the storyline focuses on these two young people who became very close during the first book, even though it was clear their relationship would never be able to go any further. I had sort of assumed that during this book, love would somehow find a way – because that’s what happens in amongst the action and mayhem in most space opera. So I was more than a tad gobsmacked when events took a completely different turn.

I had become very attached to both characters in the first book, but found Tracy harder to like this time around. He is eaten up with anger and bitterness, making no attempt to compromise and foster friendships in amongst the other young officers. That said, even though there were times when I wanted to shake him until his teeth rattled, I admired his gritted courage and his determination to do the right thing. His tactical ability and leadership skills are not utilised sufficiently, but when he is called upon to act, he does so with flair.

However, my favourite character by a long country mile is Mercedes. Her life is allll about compromise – she marries the man who she likes rather than loves to secure her family’s grip on the imperial throne. She fills the role of Infanta, rather than continue her career as a fighter pilot, even though she is exceptionally good at it – and all without becoming embittered and angry, in stark contrast to Tracy’s attitude.

The action in the book highlights some of the trickier moral actions the underpin the social structure. When a human colony is discovered illegally operating outside the Imperial League, the consequences are shocking. Its economy is hi-jacked and resources given over to the League, the population brought under control – and all the children under ten years old are taken away to be adopted or fostered by loyal families on other worlds, which means the population are assimilated within a generation. This issue is explored within the story in a manner that had me wondering both about the justification and the long-term effects.

The entitled nobility, who advance by dint of their birth rather than their ability, have a casually dismissive attitude towards the rest of the human population, which is the attitude typifying the huge majority of humans towards all the alien species who are employed as servants or indentured labourers. I really enjoyed this interesting exploration of the society through the lens of two major protagonists, while finding the unexpected plot twists prevented me from putting this one down. I read it in two greedy gulps and surfaced wanting more, so immediately went looking for the third book, The Hidden World – something I hardly ever do.

Recommended for fans of grown-up space opera that takes the characters and story arc outside the confines of the usual genre conventions.
10/10

Sunday Post – 19th May, 2019 #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.

Last week my sister and I spent the weekend at the Chewton Glen hotel having a series of spa treatments to celebrate her 60th birthday. And yes… it was every bit as fabulous as it sounds!

This week, I didn’t have much time to muse on my wonderful experience as Monday and Tuesday was taken up with teaching at Northbrook and catching up with admin, while on Tuesday night, writing buddy Mhairi made the five-hour drive up from Lincolnshire to stay over until Thursday. Once again, it was lovely seeing her and catching up on her writing progress – and I was pleased to be able to mention that so far this month I have written over 18,000 words towards Mantivore Prey and am now working on the penultimate chapter. The days flew by so that no sooner had I hugged her hello, then I seemed to be hugging her good-bye again. However, it is only temporary as she will soon be coming down again – and in July I will be travelling up to stay with her as we fill in our tax returns together.

I attended a funeral on Friday – a terribly sad affair where a sudden death out of the blue leaves two young sons without a father and a wife suddenly widowed. On Saturday, I was asked along as a number of my sister’s friends arranged a surprise birthday party for her. It was a lovely, relaxed affair, full of jokes, laughter and affection. I’m so glad and proud of her for battling through her serious illness and a long, unhappy relationship, to be able to get to this stage – she is a star!

I keep waiting for the boring middle age I was promised – surely Life is supposed to slow down and get more tedious as I get older, rather than ever more varied and demanding?

 

 

Last week I read:
Cleon Moon – Book 5 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
Now that she’s retrieved the Staff of Lore, Captain Alisa Marchenko can finally dedicate herself and her ship to finding her kidnapped daughter. Her scant clues lead her to Cleon Moon. Unfortunately, since the fall of the empire, mafia clans have taken over the domed cities on the harsh moon, and exploring there isn’t easy. Even with the cyborg Leonidas at her side, Alisa struggles to survive vengeful mafia clans, rogue Starseers, and genetically engineered predators. If Alisa can’t navigate the moon’s chaos, she may lose her only chance to catch up with her daughter.
This is yet another entertaining episode in this enjoyable, action-packed space opera series. I’m looking forward to getting hold of the next book in the series… Review to follow.

 

Across the Void by S.K. Vaughn
It’s Christmas Day, 2067. Silent Night drifts across the ruins of a wrecked spaceship, listing helplessly in the black. A sole woman, May, stirs within – the last person left alive of a disastrous first manned mission to Europe, a moon of Saturn.There is only one person who can help her – her ex-husband Stephen, a NASA scientist who was heading up the mission back on Earth. Until, that is, she broke his heart and he left both her and the mission.
Rarely has a book reduced me to such fury – and yes, I completed it and have written a thoroughly ranty review as a result.

 

 

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd
Lauren Pailing is a teenager in the eighties, becomes a Londoner in the nineties. And each time she dies, new lives begin for the people who loved her – while Lauren enters a brand new life, too. But in each of Lauren’s lives, a man called Peter Stanning disappears. And, in each of her lives, Lauren sets out to find him.
In stark contrast to the previous book, this one turned out to be a delightful surprise – both at the quality of the writing and the effective way in which Rudd evokes the 70s and 80s. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Porpoise by Mark Haddon

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Poison Song – Book 3 of The Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams

Friday Faceoff featuring The Red Knight – Book 1 of The Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Children of Ruin – Book 2 of the Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

 

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

Trees and Insecurity
https://chechewinnie.com/forests-and-insecurity/ This apparently innocuous title hides a gripping and shocking tale of survival because of trees – please read it. It will put your own problems into perspective…

Why Read Women Writers? An Interview with Bill Wolfe https://www.janefriedman.com/why-read-women-writers-bill-wolfe/ I thoroughly enjoyed this thoughtful review by the great Jane Friedman…

The Best Examples of Metaphysical Poetry in English Literature https://interestingliterature.com/2019/05/15/the-best-examples-of-metaphysical-poetry-in-english-literature/ Once more, this enjoyable information site delivers the goods…

The Power of Writerly Kindness https://writerunboxed.com/2019/05/15/the-power-of-writerly-kindness/ We so often hear of writers being envious of each other – it’s always a tonic to hear the other side of the story…

Top 5 Wednesday – BFFs in Fantasy (plus musings about intimacy, society expectations, and friendships in western vs eastern media) https://pagesbelowvaultedsky.wordpress.com/2019/05/15/top-5-wednedsay-bffs-in-fantasy-plus-musings-about-intimacy-societal-expectations-and-friendships-in-western-vs-eastern-media/ And yes… this excellent article is every bit as interesting as it sounds.

Many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – I will catch up with you as soon as I can, so thank you also for your patience. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

Review of INDIE EBOOK Under Ordshaw – Book 1 of The Ordshaw series by Phil Williams #Brainfluffbookreview #UnderOrdshawbookreview

Standard

I read this book as Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog recommended it and I very much liked the look of the cover. I was also in the mood for an entertaining urban fantasy with a twist.

Pax is one rent cheque away from the unforgiving streets of Ordshaw. After her stash is stolen, her hunt for the thief unearths a book of nightmares and a string of killers, and she stands to lose much more than her home. There’s something lurking under her city. Knowing it’s there could get you killed.
I’m not going to claim that the premise is anything particularly original – it isn’t. Ordshaw is a city with a dark underbelly where lethal creatures inhabit the network of tunnels hidden beneath the streets. Most people, particularly those who are out and about during the day, don’t have any inkling about the battle going on between the creatures and humanity – but those who are largely out at night have more of an idea that something isn’t quite right. Pax falls into this category, given she is a card player who spends most of her time working at night.

However, for me she isn’t the most interesting character in this book. Cano Casaria, an agent for the Ministry of Environmental Energy, in theory should be one of the good guys. In fact, the character seemed very familiar to me – driven by a desire to keep humanity safe; possessing a fanatical loathing of the terrible creatures wreaking havoc; determined to ensure that their agenda doesn’t prevail. In many other hands, Casaria would be the protagonist. But he’s not. While it’s his efforts that initially involve Pax in the whole business, his brutal methods characterised by the end absolutely justifying any means repel her, particularly after she encounters Letty the tiny fairy, whom Casaria cripples.

It is the interplay between these characters that had me turning the pages wanting to know what would happen next. While some of the monsters are definitely unpleasant and there is a great deal we don’t yet know about them, it wasn’t the battle between them and humanity that powered the story, but the rivalries and relationships formed between those who were trying to stop them.

In making this the focus of the story, Williams has succeeded in giving this urban fantasy a fresh twist so that while it started quite slowly, as it gathered pace I found it difficult to put down. Recommended for fans of well-written urban fantasy, who’d appreciate something a little different. While I obtained a review copy of Under Ordshaw from the author, the views I have expressed are my honest opinion of the book.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Day 115 on an Alien Planet – Book 1 of the Settler Chronicles series by Jeanette Bedard #Brainfluffbookreview #Day115onanAlienPlanetbookreview

Standard

It was the cover that caught my eye on this one – and the very nifty title. It didn’t hurt that the author is an indie writer, as I know what a struggle it is to gain sufficient reviews to garner any kind of attention in the ocean that is Amazon.

A dishonourable discharge left Margo unable to find honest work on Earth. Signing onto a colonizing mission heading to a new world promised a fresh start. Or at least that’s what she’d thought. Strapped into a crashing colony ship, she realized how wrong she’d been. They hit the ground and the straight forward colonizing mission becomes a scramble for survival.

As you gather from the slightly shortened blurb, this is a colony world adventure where said colonisation plans have gone very badly wrong from the word go. I’m a sucker for these kinds of tales of survival – basically because it gives the author so much scope to take the story in all sorts of interesting directions. Bedard doesn’t disappoint with her vivid evocation of this bleak, airless environment, which nonetheless has been selected as suitable for this plucky group of pioneers to establish a foothold for humanity. The description and world building is believable and effective in producing a strong sense of reality without holding up the pace.

I really liked Margo as a protagonist. While having a troubled and eventful background, she is not too full of angst to be able to respond effectively in the challenging circumstances around her. There was a particular event that happened about a third of the way into the book that absolutely floored me – to the extent that I nearly stopped reading. However, I had an instinct that if I did, so I’d always wonder what happened next and I’m glad I continued. In the interests of providing a spoiler-free review. I’m not going to say more than that, but if you do happen to pick this one up, do be mindful that this is not the place to stop reading in disgust.

Any niggles? Well, there is just one. Part of the story is told through Margo’s journals, which I found more than a bit confusing because at no time did the viewpoint switch to 1st person and she isn’t the sort of character who would talk or think of herself in the third person. This did bother me for a while but as the tale was so genuinely engrossing and the stakes continued to become ever higher, it wasn’t a dealbreaker.

Of course, the difficulty in raising said stakes is that the climax has to give the reader sufficient reward or having stuck by the story in the expectation that the denouement is going to be worth it. I’m glad to say that Bedard managed to pull it off. This one has stayed with me since I finished reading it and I am keen to return to this isolated outpost of humanity to find out what happens next. So I shall certainly be tracking down the second book in the series. Recommended for fans of science fiction murder mysteries in dangerous settings. While I obtained an arc of Day 115 on an Alien Planet from the author via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10