Category Archives: Indie ebook

Review of INDIE Ebook The Sculpted Ship by K.M. O’Brien #Brainfluffbookreview #TheSculptedShipbookreview #SciFiMonth2020

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Himself recommended this one – he’d read it and thought I would enjoy how different it was, and he was right. Because, being the shallow sort, I would never have picked it up as I don’t like the cover. I’m linking this review with #Sci Fi Month 2020.

BLURB: Starship engineer Anailu Xindar dreamed of owning her own ship, but she didn’t find the courage to actually go for it until she was forced out of her safe, comfortable job. She goes shopping for a cheap, practical freighter, but she ends up buying a rare, beautiful, but crippled luxury ship. Getting it into space will take more than her technical skills. She’ll have to go way outside her comfort zone to brave the dangers of safaris, formal dinners, a rude professor, and worst of all, a fashion designer. She may even have to make some friends… and enemies.

REVIEW: This is charming and after reading a fair number of foot-to-the-floor, non-stop action space opera adventures (I’m looking at you, Seven Devils and The Unconquerable Sun) it was a real pleasure to tuck into something far more sedately paced.

Anailu is a young engineer, who suddenly finds herself no longer part of a ship’s crew when she refuses to sign the new Contract that her corporate employer wants to lock her into. So with her savings, she decides to find a suitable ship and start up her own cargo business. This book charts her adventures along the way. And I found myself turning the pages and reading far later into the night than I’d planned to discover what happened next.

There is a charm and bounce to this book. I liked the world and the fact that most of the characters we encounter are largely decent folks, who are trying to get along the best way they know how – and if they can lend someone else a helping hand, they do so. Which is quite a contrast to the tone of many books in this genre. The feel reminded me, in places, of Becky Chambers’ books – although the writing isn’t as fluid or accomplished.

Nonetheless, I was completely won over by Anailu and enjoyed learning more about her and her remarkable ship. This book is clearly the start of a series, though I note that as yet a sequel hasn’t appeared. I’ll be keeping an eye out, though. I have really enjoyed this one and was very sorry to get to the end of this entertaining adventure. Highly recommended for space opera fans who also appreciate their space opera a little more low key and upbeat.
8/10

Castellan the Black and his Wise Draconic Tips on Looking After Grandchildren #BrainfluffCastellanthe Black #WiseDragonicTipsonChildcare #PickyEaters

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When taking the dragonets fishing, don’t use them as bait – even if they pester you to do so. Their parents simply won’t understand that they were perfectly safe, even if you manage to scrub the toothmarks off their scales.


Castellan the Black, mighty dragon warrior, 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.

Two SCI FI Mini-reviews: Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell, and Ribbonworld by Richard Dee #Brainfluffbookscifimini-reviews #EmbersofWarmini-review #Ribbonworldmini-review #SciFiMonth2020

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Here are two mini-reviews of two enjoyable space opera adventures I read earlier in the year – I’ve linked this post to #Sci Fi Month 2020.

Embers of War – Book 1 of the Embers of War series by Gareth L. Powell
BLURB: The warship Trouble Dog was built and bred for calculating violence, yet following a brutal war, she finds herself disgusted by conflict and her role in a possible war crime. Seeking to atone, she joins the House of Reclamation, an organisation dedicated to rescuing ships in distress. But, stripped of her weaponry and emptied of her officers, she struggles in the new role she’s chosen for herself. When a ship goes missing in a disputed system, Trouble Dog and her new crew of misfits and loners, captained by Sal Konstanz, an ex-captain of a medical frigate who once fought against Trouble Dog, are assigned to investigate and save whoever they can.

Meanwhile, light years away, intelligence officer Ashton Childe is tasked with locating and saving the poet, Ona Sudak, who was aboard the missing ship, whatever the cost. In order to do this, he must reach out to the only person he considers a friend, even if he’s not sure she can be trusted. What Childe doesn’t know is that Sudak is not the person she appears to be. Quickly, what appears to be a straightforward rescue mission turns into something far more dangerous, as Trouble Dog, Konstanz and Childe, find themselves at the centre of a potential new conflict that could engulf not just mankind but the entire galaxy. If she is to survive and save her crew, Trouble Dog is going to have to remember how to fight.

This was great fun. I have previously enjoyed Powell’s quirky humour – see my reviews of Ack-Ack Macaque and Hive Monkey. I loved the name Trouble Dog for starters – and the fact this sentient ship is part of the Carnivore class. While Konstanz is a feisty heroine who tries her best when captaining Trouble Dog, I was intrigued that during the amazing space battles, it was Trouble Dog who took the initiative. In fact, I thought Trouble Dog took centre stage during this adventure, which I absolutely loved. Small wonder that this book has proved to be so popular – highly recommended for fans of entertaining space opera.
9/10

Ribbonworld – Book 1 of the Balcom Dynasty series by Richard Dee
BLURB: Miles Goram has a problem. All the down-on-his-luck journalist planned on doing was writing a hotel review and now there’s a body in his bathroom. Far from home on a strange planet, Miles must deal with the fact that somebody wants him dead. Welcome to Reevis, a planet without days or nights where life is only possible under a vast pressure dome. It is on this airless wasteland that Miles finds himself caught up in a mystery involving a huge interplanetary corporation, a powerful man and his ambitious PA, and a beautiful young heiress who has been missing for years.

Crossing the galaxy in search of answers, Miles begins to uncover a web of deceit that stretches further than anyone could have imagined. With his life becoming at greater and greater risk, he realises that there is no one he can trust. Will he discover the truth and finally come to terms with his past? And, if he does, will it be enough to save his future…?

A thoroughly entertaining space adventure with a sympathetic protagonist and a large corporation up to no good. So far, so enjoyable and very familiar – this is a dynamic that regularly plays out in space opera. What makes this one stand out from the crowd is that ribbonworld Reevis… The fabulous descriptions of the human habitation perched in the narrow strip between freezing cold and volcanically hot were riveting and added an exciting dimension that Dee uses to the full extent in the action sequences. Highly recommended for fans of space opera who enjoy excellent worldbuilding.
8/10


Castellan the Black and his Wise Draconic Tips on Food and Drink #BrainfluffCastellanthe Black #WiseDragonicTipsonFood andDrink #PickyEaters

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Of course dragons can be vegetarian – we call them fruit bats.

Castellan the Black, mighty dragon warrior, 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.

Review of INDIE Ebook Perilous Hunt – Book 7 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker #Brainfluffbookreview #PerilousHuntbookreview #SciFiMonth2020

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I have been enjoying the adventures of Alisa and the disparate collection of people she has accumulated during her search for her daughter. Filled with action and excitement, I’ve been impressed at the variety of scenarios Buroker has managed to provide to prevent this series becoming remotely repetitive. See my reviews of Star Normad, Honor’s Flight and Cleon Moon. So where would this penultimate book take us? I have linked this post to #Sci Fi Month 2020.

BLURB: After failing to catch up with her daughter Jelena so many times, Alisa’s optimism is battered, but her determination has never waned. She, Leonidas, and their eclectic crew are hunting down a Starseer research station in the heart of the Kir Asteroid belt—Jelena’s supposed location. Alisa vows that she will find her daughter if she has to search a million asteroids to do so. But Jelena and her close friend, Prince Thorian, have attracted the interest of many factions, and the Star Nomad isn’t the only ship on the hunt…

REVIEW: My ongoing criticism of this series has been that Alisa’s search for her daughter has seemed somewhat leisurely, missing the edge of desperation that I felt should have been there. It has been a minor niggle, rather than a major grumble – but this book fixed that issue, as Alisa confronts her guilt for leaving her family in the first place to join the Alliance as a pilot. Those creepy Starseers, who can see into people’s minds, are no less threatening this time around and the pace and action scenes acquired extra energy as this book.

There is also progress in the relationship between Alisa and her cyborg hunk, Leonidas, which has been stalled by a major impediment that prevented them getting any closer. I was pleased to see Alisa conflicted between her sense of responsibility towards her young daughter – feeling guilty that in amongst all of that, she has also been pursuing her own happiness. Yep – welcome to the world of motherhood! I am conscious that I have been giving the impression that this book has been mired in some fairly angsty topics, which is the case. But that hasn’t prevented large dollops of humour surfacing, as Alisa tends to inappropriate drollery when things get difficult or dangerous. And once again, there have been difficulties and danger in spades, which didn’t stop me sniggering at the interchanges between Alisa and her spiky engineer Mica, who keeps threatening to leave – but somehow doesn’t quite get around to it.

Throughout this book is a sense that everything is winding up towards the final denouement – and like all thoroughly enjoyable series, that leaves me feeling quite torn. On one hand, I’m looking forward to Alisa getting back her daughter and perhaps a bit of respite from all the ongoing problems besetting her – on the other hand, I’m not looking forward coming to the end of spending time alongside an entertaining cast of characters who have provided a lot of escapist pleasure over the last two years. Highly recommended – but do read the other books first, or you’ll miss out on far too much of the story.
9/10

Review of INDIE Ebook The Valhalla Call – Book 4 of the Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie #Brainfluffbookreview #TheValhallaCallbookreview #SciFiMonth2020

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I really enjoy Currie’s writing – see my reviews of the first two book in The Scourwind Legacy series – Heirs of Empire and An Empire Asunder. But during the last year, I’ve chosen to follow his military sci fi series, featuring super-soldier Aida Sorilla, given it’s light years away from our current worries. See my reviews of On Silver Wings, Valkyrie Rising, and Valkyrie Burning. I am linking this review to #Sci Fi Month 2020.

BLURB: Lieutenant Sorilla Aida has a new mission and new allies, gear, and support as she is tasked with a job that could ensure that the human race stands a chance of reaching a technical parity with the mysterious alien alliance. Humans and SOLCOM are not the only ones making moves, however, and the Alliance has brought up their varsity to end the little side war before it gets out of hand. Are they really interested in humanity or human worlds, however, or is something more at play?

REVIEW: If you have encountered this offering before reading any of the previous books in this series, my firm advice would be to park it and then go and get hold of On Silver Wings, the first book in the series. This is essentially one long story broken up into smaller sections, despite the time lapses between each adventure. So you will be missing far too much of the context and by the time you are able to pick up sufficient knowledge of who is doing what to whom, the chances are you won’t be in a position to fully appreciate what is going on anyway.

I appreciated getting more of Sorilla and her new challenges with her latest piece of tech. As she was the principal protagonist in the first couple of books, it has been something of an adjustment as the focus of the story shifts into a more epic narrative with viewpoints from both human and alien commanders. The science is very well handled, with sufficient detail to satisfy the nerd in me yet without being overwhelming or silting up the narrative pace. And I don’t think that anyone does space battles better than Currie, including the build-up and making sure his readers are aware of the stakes. It is this superpower of his that makes me happy to overlook the fact that some of his aliens think and act uncannily like their human counterparts. The only other niggle is that this book could do with a bit more editing, as there are too many misspelt words. But it wasn’t a dealbreaker, as years of reading arcs with shocking formatting issues has trained me to cope with such glitches without throwing up my hands.

Overall, this is a cracking addition to an enjoyable adventure and I am happy to report that you can ignore the comments about this being the final book in the series – it isn’t. Which is just as well, as it does leave everything on something of a cliffhanger ending. I am also happy to report that I have the next book in the series already lined up on my Kindle, waiting to be read. Recommended for fans of enjoyable military science fiction.
8/10

Castellan the Black and his Wise Draconic Tips on Life in General #BrainfluffCastellanthe Black #WiseDragonicTipsonLife #PickyEaters

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When perching on a stony outcrop to serenade a beautiful young queen, whatever you do, don’t land on a sleeping stone troll. When he wakes up, he’ll really wreck the romantic mood.


Castellan the Black, mighty dragon warrior, 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.

Review of INDIE Ebook Even Stranger – Book 2 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik #Brainfluffbookreview #EvenStrangerbookreview #SciFiMonth2020

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There is just something about this author’s writing that gets right under my skin. I feel so miserable when I finish reading one of her books – that I’ve broken one of my rules. I’ve gone straight from this book onto reading the next one in the series – read my review of Relatively Strange. I’m linking this review to #Sci Fi Month 2020, as this quirky series is one of my reading highlights of the year and deserves to be FAR better known. And I want to spread the joy…

BLURB: With the swinging sixties staggering, shamefaced and flustered, into the slightly staider seventies, life for Stella, isn’t going as smoothly as she’d like. As an ordinary person, who happens to have some extraordinary abilities, it’s frustrating to find that something as simple as holding down a job, throws up unexpected hurdles. She’d be a darn sight better off if she could ditch the conviction she knows best which, together with a chronic inability to keep her mouth shut and her nose out of other people’s business, has led her more than once off the straight and narrow into the dodgy and dangerous. Plans for a safer future, include setting herself up in business, squashing her over-active conscience and steering clear of risky and unpleasant. Unfortunately, the best laid plans can lead to the darkest places.

REVIEW: I just love Stella. The depiction of this bossy, short-fused, and unwilling telepath is absolutely gripping, as well as being both funny and terrifying by turns. Messik has managed to produce one of the most compelling protagonists I’ve read in a long time and I can’t get enough of her. In addition, I find the prose absolutely addictive, which is a real shame because I am inhaling this series, far too fast. I want to know there are more books due to be published – because by the time I finished the next one in this series I am going to come down so hard, I’m liable to crack my reading glasses.

The writer in me is still scrambling to work out just why these books have got me in their thrall. No doubt the sparky, clever first person narrative has drawn me in; the series of hair raising adventures that teeter between farce and danger certainly kept me turning the pages right through into the early morning; and it’s also got to have something to do with the fact that the 1960s and 70s are portrayed with pin sharp accuracy. There is also a lovely group of supporting characters – it’s a pleasant change to find a character with such unusual powers surrounded by a very tight-knit, loving family and friends, who completely accept her for what she is, even if most of them aren’t aware of exactly what she is. No wonder she has such a strong sense of her own worth – and quite right too.

As ever, when confronted with such a wholly delightful reading experience, I’m conscious that anything I say here won’t fully convey the full measure of my emotional response. I’m not going to claim that these books are high literature – they aren’t. But they are a thumping good read that has completely transported me away from my own issues and into Stella’s world. Highly recommended.
10/10

Castellan the Black and his Wise Draconic Tips on Food and Drink #BrainfluffCastellanthe Black #WiseDragonicTipsonFoodandDrink #PickyEaters

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If your stored meat is looking a bit green, adding molten gold sauce generally improves the flavour.


Castellan the Black, mighty dragon warrior, 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 NOVELLA Masquerade in Lodi – Book 9 in the Penric and Desdemona series by Lois McMaster Bujold #Brainfluffbookreview #MasqueradeinLodibookreview

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We loved the groundbreaking Miles Vorkosigan series that took science fiction and shook it firmly, so that it didn’t quite go back the same way, again – see my review of Cryoburn. So we were delighted when Bujold started self-publishing this delightful fantasy series, featuring a young man possessed by demons, set in her World of the Five Gods series. See my reviews of Penric’s Demon, Penric and the Shaman, Penric’s Mission, Mira’s Last Dance, Penric’s Fox, The Prisoner of Limnos, and The Orphans of Raspay and The Physicians of Vilnoc. And it was a wonderful treat to discover that this year, there was to be another offering.

BLURB: Bastard’s Eve is a night of celebration for most residents in the canal city of Lodi — but not for sorcerer Learned Penric and his Temple demon Desdemona, who find themselves caught up in the affairs of a shiplost madman, a dangerous ascendant demon, and a very unexpected saint of the fifth god.

This novella falls between “Penric’s Fox” and “Penric’s Mission” in the internal chronology of the Penric & Desdemona tales.

REVIEW: As ever, Penric is an enjoyable protagonist. It was interesting to go back to a time when he isn’t so self assured and mature in his judgements. Bujold has a habit of dotting around, so the publishing chronology isn’t the same as the internal chronology. But while it’s worth knowing, so that the characterisation is consistent, other than that, I don’t find it too much of a problem.

Bujold is an experienced author, with a smooth, readable style and while I did enjoy this one, I was aware that there wasn’t quite the same depth of plotting, this time around. We get told that Penric is reeling from some personal losses, but I would have preferred to have had this demonstrated.

I also felt that the pacing was slightly off – the main part of the plot didn’t feel quite substantial enough to sustain the story for its length. It didn’t help that I guessed early who the culprit was – and this time around I was right. It didn’t mean that the adventure dragged – Bujold is too good a writer to let that happen, but it wasn’t as intense and fulfilling a read as usual. Which means that it was good, rather than outstanding. I’ll take that. Writers who can work at Bujold’s level consistently are rare – and an 8 is perfectly respectable.

I’ve been reading for far too long to be arrogant enough to ‘expect’ a 10 every time from any author. Because, let’s face it, a 10 is a gift of a reading experience. Something magical and mind-altering. And the day I start ‘expecting’ that is probably the day that I’ll give up reading, as I will have become far too jaded and entitled.

Recommended for fans of the series – but if you have just picked this one up, I do recommend that you go back to the beginning and start from there. Though if you do, I suggest you follow Bujold’s internal chronology, rather than the publishing one.
8/10