Category Archives: Indie ebook

My Outstanding Reads of the Year – 2018 #Brainfluffbookblogger #MyOutstandingReadsoftheYear2018

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It’s been another great reading year with loads of choice within my favourite genres, so I ended up reading 162 books with 125 reviews published and another 23 in hand. In no particular order, these are the books that have stood out from the rest in the best way. Some of them might not even have garnered a 10 from me at the time – but all those included have lodged in my head and won’t go away. And none of this nonsense about a top 10 – I can’t possibly cope with a limit like that.

The Stone Sky – Book 3 The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
The whole trilogy is an extraordinary read – a mash-up between fantasy and science fiction and sections of it written in second person pov. It shouldn’t work, but it does because her imagination and prose fuses together to make this more than a sum of its parts. See my review.

 

Hyperspace Trap by Christopher G. Nuttall
I like this author’s writing anyway and I’m a sucker for a well-told space opera adventure, so I read a fair few. However, something about this one has stuck – I often find myself thinking about those passengers on the space liner and the crew looking after them, while marooned by a malign presence. See my review.

 

The Cold Between – A Central Corps novel by Elizabeth Bonesteel
This is the start of a gripping space opera adventure with interestingly nuanced characters, whose reactions to the unfolding situation around them just bounces off the page. I love it when space opera gets all intelligent and grown-up… See my review.

 

The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet E. McKenna
This fantasy adventure is set in contemporary Britain with the protagonist very much hampered by his fae ancestry and trying to discover more about that side of his family. It gripped me from the first page and wouldn’t let go until the end, when I sulked for days afterwards because I wanted more. See my review.

 

Head On – Book 2 of the Lock In series by John Scalzi
This is such a smart, clever premise. The paralysed young protagonist is able to live a nearly-normal life because his consciousness is uploaded into a robot, when he pursues a career fighting crime. Science fiction murder mysteries are one of my favourite genres, when it’s done well – and this is a great example. See my review.

 

Before Mars – Book 3 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
This has been an outstanding series – and this tight-wound thriller is no exception. I love the fact that Newman tackles the subject of motherhood, which isn’t a subject that comes up all that often in science fiction. See my review.

 

Child I by Steve Tasane
I’ve been haunted by this book ever since I read it. It’s not long and the language is very simple. The little boy telling the story is bright and funny and not remotely self pitying. When I started reading it, I assumed it was set in a post-apocalyptic future – and then discovered that it was set right now and is the distilled experience of children from all over the world. And I wept. See my review.

 

The Wild Dead – Book 2 of The Bannerless Saga by Carrie Vaughn
This was the most delightful surprise. This is another murder mystery set in the future – this time in post-apocalyptic America once law and order has been re-established. I loved the atmosphere, the society and the above all, I fell in love with Enid, the no-nonsense, practical lawgiver sent to sort out the puzzle of a body of a girl that nobody appears to know. See my review.

 

The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah
As well as being a story of a family, this is also a homage to Alaska and a time when it was a wilder, less organised place. It isn’t one of my normal reads, but my mother sent me this one as she thought I’d love it – and, being my mum, she was right. See my review.

 

Fallen Princeborn: Stolen by Jean Lee
I’ve come to know the author from her amazing blog and was happy to read a review copy of her book – what I wasn’t prepared for was the way her powerful, immersive style sucked me right into the skin of the main character. This contemporary fantasy is sharp-edged, punchy and very memorable. See my review.

 

Eye Can Write: a memoir of a child’s silent soul emerging by Jonathan Bryan
This is another amazing read, courtesy of my lovely mum. And again, she was right. This is a non-fiction book, partly written by Jonathan’s mother and partly written by Jonathan himself, whose severe cerebral palsy locked him into his body, until he found a way to communicate with the outside world using one letter at a time. See my review.

 

Windhaven by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle
This remarkable colony world adventure is about a girl yearning to break into the closed community of flyers – and what happens when she does. I love a book all about unintended consequences and this intelligent, thought-provoking read thoroughly explores the problems, as well as the advantages of throwing open this elite corps to others. See my review.

 

Strange the Dreamer – Book 1 of Strange the Dreamer duology by Laini Taylor
I loved her first trilogy – but this particular book has her writing coming of age. The lyrical quality of her prose and her amazing imagination has her odd protagonist pinging off the page. See my review.

 

Battle Cruiser – Book 1 of the Lost Colonies series by B.V. Larson
This is just such fun. William Sparhawk is a rigidly proper young captain trying to make his way in the face of enmity from his superiors due to his family connections, when he’s pitchforked right into the middle of a ‘situation’ and after that, the tale takes off and buckets along with all sorts of twists and turns that has William becoming less rigid and proper… See my review.

 

Certain Dark Things by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia
That this author is a huge talent is a given – and what she does with a tale about a vampire on the run in a city that has declared it is a no-go area for the destructive creatures is extraordinary. Review to follow.

 

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
I’ll be honest – I liked and appreciated the skill of this book as I read it, but I didn’t love it. The characters were too flawed and unappealing. But it won’t leave me alone. I find myself thinking about the premise and the consequences – and just how right the setup is. And a book that goes on doing that has to make the list, because it doesn’t happen all that often. Review to follow.

Are there any books here that you’ve read? And if so, do you agree with me? What are your outstanding reads for last year?

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Sunday Post – 6th January, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

Happy New Year! We were lucky this year that Himself had an early shift on New Year’s Eve, so he was able to join my sister and me seeing in 2019. We played games, nibbled nibbles and drank mulled apple and ginger juice (which is delicious, by the way). It was a peaceful, enjoyable way to see in 2019 and the following morning, we walked along the beach to watch the first sunrise of 2019, which was stunning – then adjourned to the Sea Lane Café for breakfast.

Since then, I have been busy completing work on this term’s Creative Writing course. Mhairi and I met up on Thursday, had lunch together at Haskins, before returning home where she helped me load the box set of The Sunblinded Trilogy on Amazon. Himself and I had a lovely meal over at my sister’s house last night – the first time we’ve been there for a while, given she was poorly for quite a while and then as she was recovering, I was ill and too exhausted to go out in the evening unless I had to. It was wonderful to get together over well-cooked food and indulge in the usual silliness the three of us get up to – there was a long conversation as to whether the deserted Paris scenes on the placemats were down to a zombie apocalypse or a Prussian invasion – even Google was consulted…

Today, we took down the Christmas decorations and returned them to the loft – a chore I always dread, so we nipped across to the local supermarket to cheer ourselves up with one of their delicious cupcakes after we finished. I start back at Northbrook tomorrow and am looking forward to seeing my students again.

Last week I read:
The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
In 1967, four female scientists worked together to build the world’s first time machine. But just as they are about to debut their creation, one of them suffers a breakdown, putting the whole project—and future of time travel—in jeopardy. To protect their invention, one member is exiled from the team—erasing her contributions from history. Fifty years later, time travel is a big business. Twenty-something Ruby Rebello knows her beloved grandmother, Granny Bee, was one of the pioneers, though no one will tell her more. But when Bee receives a mysterious newspaper clipping from the future reporting the murder of an unidentified woman, Ruby becomes obsessed: could it be Bee? Who would want her dead? And most importantly of all: can her murder be stopped?
This is an intelligently written, well-crafted book which takes a unique approach to the topic of time travel. I’m extremely impressed by the quality of the writing and look forward to reading more from this author. Review to follow.

The Lost Gunboat Captain – Book 1 of the Jolo Vargas Space Opera series by J.D. Oppenheim
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.
This was great fun, particularly that gripping opening which I thoroughly enjoyed. After that, there was plenty of foot-to-the-floor action with an entertaining supporting character cast.

 

 

The Gilded Wolves – Book 1 of The Gilded Wolves series by Roshani Chokshi
Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance. To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much. Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.
This crime adventure where exotic magical artefacts feature had me turning the pages in this tense thriller far too late into the night. I loved this change of direction by Chokshi, who is always worth reading.

My posts last week:

Shoot for the Moon 2018 – How Did I Do?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Hurricane – Book 3 of the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards

Friday Face-Off featuring Windhaven by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle

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

What is Contemporary Fantasy? https://shadowsinmind.net/2018/06/27/what-is-contemporary-fantasy/ The sub-genres can cause some confusion, particularly for those who don’t regularly read SFF, so this is a useful discussion.

Thursday Doors – New Doors, New Year https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2019/01/03/thursday-doors-new-door-new-year/ This is one of my perennial favourites and such a fitting way to beginning this year…

If somebody asked me what to read https://readerwitch.com/2019/01/03/book-recommendations/ Alexandra has a delightful selection of books for anyone asking the question at the start of the new year.

Getting Rid of Books – How To Decide When It’s Time To Part Ways https://thebookishlibra.com/2018/12/29/getting-rid-of-books-how-to-decide-when-its-time-to-part-ways/ This is a vexed question that all keen readers have to address – particularly at this time of year…

50 Most Anticipated SFF Book of 2019 https://fantasy-hive.co.uk/2018/12/50-most-anticipated-sff-books-of-2019/ A must-read for all SFF fans – I’ve bookmarked this one to return to in the coming months…

In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – and have a wonderful 2019!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of INDIE Ebook Hurricane Book 3 for the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards #Brainfluffbookblog #Hurricanebookreview

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Regular visitors to this site will know that I am a fan of Edwards’ writing. She has written several entertaining YA science fiction series – the best-known being the Earth Girl series, see my review of Earth Girl. The Hive Mind series, featuring the adventures of telepath Amber – see my review of the first book, Telepath – has also become a solid favourite, so I was delighted when the author contacted me and asked me to read a review copy of Hurricane in return for an honest opinion of the book.

Eighteen-year-old Amber is the youngest of the five telepaths who protect the hundred million citizens of one of the great hive cities of twenty-sixth century Earth. Her job is hunting down criminals before they commit their crimes, but this time a simple case leads on to something far bigger. This is a case where Amber’s team have to face the unknown and break all the rules they usually follow, while Amber has extra burdens she can’t share with anyone. She has a personal mystery to solve, and questions she wants answered, but curiosity is a dangerous trait in a telepath.

As with all Edwards’ books, we see the world through the viewpoint of the young protagonist, so we only know what she knows, therefore I was delighted that Hurricane gives us more information about the worldbuilding. It appears – this will doubtless come as a great shock to you – that the leaders of the Hive aren’t completely honest with their citizens and keep secret some important details about how the society functions.

In this interesting instalment, Amber and her team find themselves solving a major crime outside the Hive where she learns a lot more about a hitherto hidden aspect of the workings of the Hive. Obviously, I’m not going to reveal those aspects as I’d be straying into Spoiler territory, but a lot more things made sense regarding the longterm viability of the society which wasn’t bothering me, but had concerned Himself. Alongside my increased understanding of this intriguing post-apocalyptic setup, Edwards also delivers another tension-filled crime adventure featuring a series of malicious attacks that trip into something far darker and more harmful. It is Amber’s task to discover who the murderer is by reading the culprit’s intention – far harder when everyone’s mental landscape differs so markedly from what she’s used to. And there are potentially dire consequences if she cannot find the perpetrator, so there’s plenty at stake.

I’ve enjoyed following Amber’s story from the beginning and though it is only eight months since the events of the first book, she has significantly matured – hardly surprising given the responsibility she is shouldering. There is also an intriguing sub-plot surrounding one of the other telepaths, which gives us an insight into what can happen when things go wrong.

This society is under enormous pressure, given that the population density is very high and the authorities are keen for everyone to feel a reasonable degree of happiness – if they didn’t, then mayhem would quickly ensue. I’ve found myself thinking a lot about this book since I’ve finished reading it – always a sure sign that it’s something a bit special that’s delivered above and beyond the engrossing story that held me throughout. Highly recommended for fans of enjoyable YA science fiction, this is the best of the series so far.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 18th December, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Hurricane – Book 3 in the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards

42% I pulled back into my own head, and opened my eyes to look out of the window. No, this was no hallucination, but shocking reality. The beach had some similarities to one of the Hive beaches, but the sight of the sea devastated me.

This sea was nothing like the ones on Hive beaches. This sea was a powerful, menacing grey, with giant waves that threw themselves at the beach in anger, and the far cliffs…

There were no far cliffs. There were no supporting pillars either. The sea stretched on unbroken into the distance, as if it reached to the end of eternity.

BLURB: Eighteen-year-old Amber is the youngest of the five telepaths who protect the hundred million citizens of one of the great hive cities of twenty-sixth century Earth. Her job is hunting down criminals before they commit their crimes, but this time a simple case leads on to something far bigger.

This is a case where Amber’s team have to face the unknown and break all the rules they usually follow, while Amber has extra burdens she can’t share with anyone. She has a personal mystery to solve, and questions she wants answered, but curiosity is a dangerous trait in a telepath.

I really enjoy Janet Edwards’ writing – see my review of the first book in the series Telepath. This near-future world has most of the population living in close quarters underground and once again, I’m enjoying the adventures of this likeable protagonist. She is growing up fast with the huge responsibility resting on her shoulders – and circumstances are stacking up to crisis that only she can solve – with catastrophic consequences if she doesn’t… I’m finding it hard to put this one down!

Review of INDIE Ebook Academic Curveball – Book 1 of the Braxton Campus Mysteries by James J. Cudney #Brainfluffbookreview #AcademicCurveballbookreview

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I have heard good things about Cudney’s writing from a number of book blogging friends, particularly Rae Longest, so when I got the Goodreads invitation to read his latest release, I was delighted to accept. This is my honest, unbiased opinion of the book.

When Kellan Ayrwick, a thirty-two-year-old single father, is forced to return home for his father’s retirement from Braxton College, he finds the dead body of a professor in Diamond Hall’s stairwell. Unfortunately, Kellan has a connection to the victim, and so do several members of his family. Could one of them be guilty of murder?

I really enjoyed this one. Kellan has had some tragedy in his past life and now is attempting to bring up his daughter alone and establish a career in Hollywood, dealing with an obstructive boss. But that doesn’t prevent him being a chippy character, who isn’t thrilled at returning to the family home, yet again, leaving his young daughter in the care of his in-laws. His father is a rather distant workaholic and his mother seems very wrapped up in her career, while his nan is full of snark and never happier than when she’s feuding with someone, including her frenemy. It’s intriguing to have a murder mystery where a whole family is involved, including Kellan’s sister.

But as is often the case in cosy murder mysteries, this is a closed community. So we get to know a fair number of the characters, including Kellan’s former best friend, who is now the security officer on the campus and the grumpy sheriff who has the responsibility for solving this one. Kellen is busy trying to work out if any of the cast of suspects were actually responsible for the murder, while keeping on the right side of those who are officially attempting to solve the crime. It means this plot is twistier than a corkscrew, while the stakes go on getting steadily higher. There is plenty of snark and attitude as the sheriff is determinedly dismissive of Kellen’s efforts, while his nan is busy trying to find him a girlfriend.

With all this going on, it could have been so easy for the plot to descend into a morass of pointless clues, confused characters and dodgy pacing. However Cudney keeps absolute control of the narrative throughout and the result is a delightfully intricate bit of plotting – I certainly didn’t work out whodunit, and once I did, it made absolute sense. Highly recommended for fans of quality cosy mysteries.
9/10

#Sci Fi Month – The Ones That Got Away…

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I’ve loved Sci Fi Month – huge thanks to Lisa and the team for organising this fabulous event. As you’ll have realised, I got a tad carried away… In fact, I got even more carried away than is apparent on the blog – because I ran out of November with still a stack of science fiction goodness all reviewed and ready to go. So here is a quick rundown of the books that missed out:

Black Holiday – Book 2 of The Black Chronicles by J.M. Anjewierden
Morgan has finally made it, earning an officer’s slot on S.T.E.V.E., the ancient flagship of the Takiyama Merchant House. She’s survived so much to get here, and isn’t about to let lingering nightmares over those events stop her now. That said, even the toughest mechanics need down time. Grudgingly taking some shore leave, Morgan goes to visit the estate of her friend Emily, Baroness Novan – and gets caught up in trouble that, for once, isn’t of her own making…
I reviewed the first book in this entertaining series here – so was keen to jump in and see what happens next to Morgan – which was something of a shock… I really enjoyed this offering and am looking forward to reading the next one when it is released.

 

Dreadnought – Book 2 of the Lost Colonies series by B.V. Larson
Captain William Sparhawk flies Earth’s single starship on a voyage of exploration. His crew of veteran spacers begins the mission with high hopes and the best of intentions, but the universe has other plans. Instead of space merchants and potential allies, they discover Earth’s impending doom. Sparhawk must decide whether to hunt down enemy scouts to keep Earth’s new starship a secret, or to head home to warn Star Guard of the danger. Either way, he’s ignited an interstellar war.
I’ve become a solid fan of Captain William Sparhawk – see my review of Battle Cruiser – and this stagnating, dystopian society – there is a real shock at the end of this book which is a gamechanger for the next one, such that I can’t wait to jump in and discover what happens next…

 

Nimbus – Book 3 of the Psi-Tech series by Jacey Bedford
In a galaxy where the super-powers are the megacorporations, and ambitious executives play fast and loose with ethics in order to secure resources, where can good people turn for help? The megacorps control the jump gates and trade routes. They use psi-techs, implant-enhanced operatives with psionic abilities, who are bound by unbreakable contracts.
But something alien is stirring in the depths of foldspace. Something bigger than the squabbles between megacorporations and independents. Foldspace visions are supposed to be a figment of the imagination. At least, that’s what they teach in flight school. Ben Benjamin knows it’s not true. Meeting a void dragon was bad enough, but now there’s the Nimbus to contend with. Are the two connected? Why do some ships transit the Folds safely and others disappear without a trace?
I’ve loved this entertaining series from a writer I thoroughly respect – see my review of Empire of Dust here. It was her talk on how to organise submissions to agents and small publishers and fired me up so that I persevered, getting a contract with the awesome folks at Grimbold Publishing in the process. It was a blast reading this final slice of the Psi-Tech series and I’ll be reviewing it shortly.

 

The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky
After an unfortunate accident, Handry is forced to wander a world he doesn’t understand, searching for meaning. He soon discovers that the life he thought he knew is far stranger than he could even possibly imagine. Can an unlikely saviour provide the answers to the questions he barely comprehends?
I love Adrian Tchaikovsky’s writing – see my review of Children of Time here. This intriguing novella is another treat, where an unfortunate incident has unforeseen consequences – this writer is fond of those. While part of this colony world adventure was reassuringly familiar, Tchaikovsky does his trick of taking genre conventions by the scruff of their neck and giving them a good shake.

 

Satellite by Nick Lake
He’s going to a place he’s never been before: home. Moon 2 is a space station that orbits approximately 250 miles above Earth. It travels 17,500 miles an hour, making one full orbit every ninety minutes. It’s also the only home that fifteen-year-old Leo and two other teens have ever known. Born and raised on Moon 2, Leo and the twins, Orion and Libra, are finally old enough and strong enough to endure the dangerous trip to Earth. They’ve been “parented” by teams of astronauts since birth and have run countless drills to ready themselves for every conceivable difficulty they might face on the flight.
This was an intriguing read, given it was written in text-prose. While I understand a number of readers simply couldn’t get through it, I think the fact this was a paperback actually helped. The story itself is thoroughly enjoyable, apart from a set piece that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Hollywood film, but rather let the book down. Other than that, I found the questions this book raised were both uncomfortable and pertinent for our near-future expansion into space.

 

The Boy on the Bridge – Book 2 of The Girl With All the Gifts series by M.R. Carey
Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy. The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world. To where the monsters lived.
If you haven’t read The Girl With All the Gifts yet want to plunge into this offering, feel free to do so – while it is set in the same world, the links between the two books are tenuous and don’t add all that much to the overall story. I found this zombie apocalypse reworking a heartbreak of missed opportunities and bungled decisions – but oh so very believable. And if zombies aren’t your thing, don’t dismiss this one – they aren’t my thing either, but Carey’s a master storyteller and this is a masterful story.

So… these are the books I read and reviewed for Sci Fi Month, before I realised that November only had 30 days – and there are a number of others I haven’t yet written the reviews for. As I said, I did get a tad carried away. What about you – are there any here that have taken your eye? What did you read for Sci Fi Month?

#Sci Fi Month Review of INDIE Ebook Into the Dark – Book 1 of the Alexis Carew series by J.A. Sutherland #Brainfluffbookreview #IntotheDarkbookreview

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I had asked Himself for recommendations for more military space opera in honour of Sci Fi Month and he immediately suggested this one…

At fifteen, Alexis Carew has to face an age old problem – she’s a girl, and only a boy can inherit the family’s vast holdings. Her options are few. She must marry and watch a stranger run the lands, or become a penniless tenant and see the lands she so dearly loves sold off. Yet there may be another option, one that involves becoming a midshipman on a shorthanded spaceship with no other women.

This is essentially Hornblower in space – and very well done, too. Sutherland has taken the idea of solar sails and provides some vivid space battles that are reminiscent of the 17th and 18th century man o’war tactics. To be honest, some suspension of disbelief is required – I happily believed that the solar sails were useful and that they needed human crews rather than robot labour, but there were a few touches that stretched my credulity.

However, the plight Alexis faces if she stays on the planet is inescapable – she will be forced to marry someone she hates and despises. She is a tough energetic girl, caught up with the day to day running of the holding and takes to the rigour of life in the Navy like a space duckling takes to zero gravity. I like her straightforward character and the fact that Sutherland is mindful not to make her too much of a Mary Sue – she struggles badly with navigation.

What she has in spades is plenty of physical energy, the ability to think quickly on her feet and a fundamentally nice disposition without it becoming sickly, which is harder to do than Sutherland makes it look. Did I believe in her ability to handle the situations that she is confronted with? Yes – she is raised in a tough, colonial environment. As a historian, I have read accounts of what young men and women achieved when homesteading in the States, or working on a small farm in the UK and their physical fortitude and strength puts us all to shame. Nothing to say that can’t happen again…

I very much liked the story development and overall the worldbuilding – though I do find it difficult to believe that flogging would still be a thing in a futuristic setting, given that we know the faultlines that ran through the Royal Navy of the time and why they needed to use such extreme brutality. It was a reflection of the harsh social situation for most people at the time – I’m not sure I’m so convinced that prevails to the same extent in this particular future world.

It doesn’t stop me being keen to pick up the second book in this entertaining series as I want to know what happens next to Alexis, given there is a real twist right at the end of the book.
8/10

#Sci Fi Month – Review of INDIE Ebook The Scent of Metal – Book 1 of the Argonauts of Space series by Sabrina Chase #Brainfluffbookreview #TheScentofMetalbookreview

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Himself reads a lot more than I do – and when I asked him for more science fiction adventures to read in order to celebrate Sci Fi Month, he recommended this book, and given that it’s by the author who has written the enjoyable Sequoyah trilogy – see my review of The Long Way Home here, it was a no-brainer that I’d tuck into this offering.

The expedition ship Kepler races to Pluto, intent on uncovering the secrets of the alien structure recently discovered under the ice. Computer scientist Lea Santorin can’t wait to figure out the alien technology. Instead, she wakes it up … and it continues its long-interrupted journey across the galaxy, taking Lea and Kepler with it.

I really liked Lea, which is important as she is the character that we are connected to throughout this adventure. Chase does a good job of thoroughly establishing Lea’s personality in the opening stages of this book, which I increasingly appreciated as stuff became seriously weird. Lea somehow becomes linked to the alien entity which is Pluto, and there is a nicely creepy section where we are unsure exactly what is going to happen next. I do enjoy space opera adventure when it goes down this path, however, the catch with upping the stakes so that we are increasingly invested in discovering what is going on is that the reveal has to be worth the journey. I’ve read far too many of these types of books where it wasn’t. Fortunately Chase is too experienced and skilful to fall into that trap, so that as the adventure progresses and we get to know more about what is going on, she keeps providing sufficient twists and turns. I love her explanation for why Neanderthals disappeared so abruptly from our planet…

There is also another plotline involving the military detail assigned to look after Lea and the other scientists investigating Kepler, which also gives this adventure more of a military sci-fi feel. The two plotlines merge nicely towards the end and I definitely want to know what happens next, given the rather chilling threat that is revealed at the end of the book.

Chase provides plenty of thrills, spills and nicely nuanced characterisation that held me until the end and definitely makes me want to read on – in short, all the ingredients that make me such a fan of modern space opera. Highly recommended for fans of the genre.
8/10

#Sci Fi Month – Review of INDIE Ebook Star Nomad – Book 1 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsey Buroker #Brainfluffbookreview #StarNomadbookreview

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In honour of Sci Fi Month, I asked Himself for recommendations and this was one series he mentioned – he really is a keeper…

The Alliance has toppled the tyrannical empire. It should be a time for celebration, but not for fighter pilot Captain Alisa Marchenko. After barely surviving a crash in the final battle for freedom, she’s stranded on a dustball of a planet, billions of miles from her young daughter. She has no money or resources, and there are no transports heading to Perun, her former home and the last imperial stronghold. But she has a plan…

I love it that the reason driving our gutsy heroine is a desperate drive to be reunited to her daughter, now living with her sister-in-law. Once more I’m enjoying that it is family relationships pushing the plot forward in this space opera adventure. It immediately made me sympathetic to her mission, especially in that fabulous opening sequence in the feral scrapyard, inhabited by all sorts of nasty critters – including rats the size of small dogs, as well as the more unpleasant two-legged scavengers.

Alisa isn’t alone, though. Her partner is fellow soldier and brilliant engineer, Mica – and next to Alisa, Mica is my favourite sidekick. Her snarky, deadpan take on the world is both funny and insightful – while being unswervingly loyal to Alisa, even though she often doesn’t agree with some of Alisa’s riskier moves. Because one of Alisa’s early decisions in this book is to throw her luck in with the cyber-soldier who has taken up residence in the abandoned spacecraft, where she left it after her mother’s death.

Leonidas, the name the cyber-soldier eventually gives Alisa, was part on a lethal, elite unit who fought for the Empire, against Alisa and the Alliance. He clearly still isn’t happy to have been on the losing side and Alisa regrets having him on board as a passenger. You won’t be shocked to learn that their travel plans don’t work out. The research laboratory where Leonidas wants to be dropped off presents some unexpected, unwelcome surprises and the action was well-handled to the extent that I couldn’t put this one down. I haven’t read anything by Buroker before, but obviously I’ve heard of this prolific writer – and I now know why she is so popular.

I’ve been reading a shedload of sci fi, space opera during the last few weeks, but this one stands out for all the right reasons and I’m very much looking forward to reading the next one in this series. Very highly recommended for those who love good quality, character-led space opera adventure with plenty of humour.
10/10

#Sci Fi Month – Review of INDIE Ebook Battle Cruiser – Book 1 of the Lost Colonies series by B.V. Larson #Brainfluffbookreview #BattleCruiserbookreview

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I spotted this one on my Kindle while looking for a good sci fi read and dived in. I’m so glad I did – and I’ll be linking it up with this month’s reading challenge – Sci Fi Month

A century ago our star erupted, destroying Earth’s wormhole network and closing off trade with her colonized planets. After being out of contact with the younger worlds for so many years, Humanity is shocked when a huge ship appears at the edge of the Solar System. Our outdated navy investigates, both curious and fearful.

This is fun! William Sparhawk is an interesting protagonist. Rigid and an unbending follower of the rules, he isn’t your average swashbuckling rebel – or is he? When you put him into the context of a stagnating society with his father the head of one of the main political parties who are arguing hard to cut back on the Star Guard who patrol the solar system. William is expected to serve as his father’s intern, ready to position himself as his father’s successor – after all, he had been partly cloned from his father’s genes. Instead, he joins up the Guard, persisting in serving despite the obvious and continued hostility from his superior officers who are convinced he is spying on behalf of his famous father. However, he isn’t – he genuinely believes in the values and purpose of the Guard and the obstacles placed in his way only harden his resolve to continue serving.

And then a particular mission takes a left turn into the weird… Larson is an experienced, skilled writer and it shows. The pacing, character progression and blending of action and explanation of the world works really well. To be honest, for those who like their worldbuilding detailed, this one will feel a bit fractured as we only see it from William’s viewpoint. But I’m fine with that – this is, after all, a trilogy so there is clearly more to come.

The action sequences in space work really well and as the classic fight against all overwhelming odds kicks off, Larson makes it both believable and gripping. I was genuinely relieved when some of the supporting characters also made it through, as I have a hunch that Larson won’t mind too much if a couple of said characters don’t make it through. As for the romance – I wasn’t quite so invested in it as I didn’t particularly warm to the object of William’s affections. However, that may well be intentional. I’ll find out in the next book – because I’m definitely going to be tracking down the next book in this entertaining series.
9/10