Category Archives: Kindle edition

Deja vu Review of KINDLE EBOOK The Crossing Places – Book 1 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths

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This review was originally posted on April 4, 2014 and I am still working my way through the series, finding each book an enjoyable addition to Ruth’s ongoing story…

This series was recommended by Himself and my mother, so it was with some anticipation that I started reading the ebook.

BLURB: When a child’s bones are found on a desolate Norfolk beach, Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson calls in forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway. Nelson thinks he has found the remains of Lucy Downey, a little girl who went missing ten years ago. Since her disappearance he has been receiving bizarre letters about her, letters with references to witchcraft, ritual and sacrifice. Ruth is soon drawn into the Lucy Downey case and into the mind of the letter writer, who seems to have both archaeological knowledge and eerie psychic powers.

REVIEW: Ruth Galloway is a forty-something archaeologist who lives on her own at the edge of Saltmarsh in an isolated cottage with a couple of cats. I found her character immediately appealing and realistic. Her concerns about her weight and her single status struck a chord with me – and I suspect many other female crime fans. This series is evidently going to be something of a partnership between Ruth and Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson. So did I also feel an affinity with the other main character? Yes. Nelson is clearly a complicated personality and – unlike Ruth and many other detectives in other series – he is a family man with two daughters and an attractive wife. I am looking forward to seeing how this all plays out during the series. The other powerful factor in this book is the stunning backdrop – the salt marshes. Griffiths evidently knows and loves this landscape and has it bouncing off the page as a character in its own right, particularly during the climactic scenes where the dangerous surroundings heighten the drama and tension during the denouement in a classic showdown that manages to provide plenty of surprises.

Of course, while a sympathetic protagonist is obviously important – this is a whodunit, so what really matters is how Griffiths handles the plot. Do we know exactly who did it halfway through the story, or does it all come as a complete surprise? I’m not noted for my skill in spotting the culprit, but I thoroughly enjoyed Griffiths’ ability to provide plenty of twists and turns, without completely losing the day to day realism that a contemporary crime thriller needs. It’s a trickier balance to achieve than Griffiths makes it look. And another potential bear pit she manages to deftly sidestep is the fact that her victim is a child.

Obviously when a child goes missing, our protective instincts are instantly aroused – whatever the circumstances, a child is never anything other than an innocent victim. However, when a story highlights this scenario there are also distressed parents to portray and possible cross-questioning of other upset children… It can turn into a mess – I’ve discarded more than one whodunit halfway through either because of the casual manner in which the parents’ grief is depicted, or it’s simply too harrowing. I wasn’t tempted to do put this book down – Griffiths treats the disappearance of a child with sufficient seriousness, yet neither was the situation overwhelmingly grim.

Small wonder that this book created the buzz it did when it first hit the bookshelves, back in 2010 – and I’m delighted that I now have another well-written, edgy crime series to read. In the meantime, if you haven’t yet sampled Elly Griffiths’ world, track down The Crossing Places – you’ll be thanking me if you do.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of INDIE Ebook Kept From Cages – Book 1 of the Ikiri duology by Phil Williams #Brainfluffbookreview #KeptFromCagesbookreview

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Last year, I read and thoroughly enjoyed Phil’s Ordshaw series – see my reviews of Under Ordshaw, Blue Angel and The Violent Fae – so when he contacted me and asked if I’d like the opportunity to read and review his latest book, I jumped at the chance.

BLURB: Reece’s gang of criminal jazz musicians have taken shelter in the wrong house. There’s a girl with red eyes bound to a chair. The locals call her a devil – but Reece sees a kid that needs protecting. He’s more right than he knows. Chased by a shadowy swordsman and an unnatural beast, the gang flee across the Deep South with the kid in tow. She won’t say where she’s from or who exactly her scary father is, but she’s got powers they can’t understand. How much will Reece risk to save her?

On the other side of the world, Agent Sean Tasker’s asking similar questions. With an entire village massacred and no trace of the killers, he’s convinced Duvcorp’s esoteric experiments are responsible. His only ally is an unstable female assassin, and their only lead is Ikiri – a black-site in the Congo, which no one leaves alive. How far is Tasker prepared to go for answers?

REVIEW: While this book is a spinoff from the Ordshaw series and set in the same world – it deals with a separate threat. So you don’t have to have read any of Phil’s previous books to enjoy this one. There are two main narrative threads – those of the Cutjaw gang, who encounter Zip while on the run from successfully pulling off a heist; and the exploits of Sean Tasker, who teams up with unhinged desperado Katryzna while trying to find answers to a series of horrible and mysterious killings taking place across the globe. While I enjoyed Phil’s Ordshaw series, this one impressed me with the sheer intensity and skill of the writing.

It starts with a bang and doesn’t let up. Normally action-led adventures tend to be a tad lighter on scene setting and characterisation, which is fair enough, given that a narrative that powers forward at full tilt simply cannot hang around for too much description or nuanced, complex characters. Not so in this case. Reece, Leigh-Anne and Zip ping off the page, full of personality. As for Sean and Katryzna – those of us who have had the pleasure of reading the Ordshaw series can see definite similarities between Katryzna and the psychotic fairy Lettie… Phil writes damaged characters with tenderness and passion so that folks whose behaviour would normally repel me, instead pull me in and make me care. It’s harder to achieve than Phil makes it look. The same dynamic applies to the scene setting – it was a pleasure to be taken across the US, or a certain village in Norway and then into the swamps of Louisiana and the jungle of the Congo.

But what really impressed me was the gothic slant that Phil gave to a mill in the heart of the English countryside. It should have been a quaint, cosy setting – and proved to be nothing of the sort. While this story isn’t full-on horror, it is definitely on the dark side of urban fantasy and once again, Williams gives it his particular spin. I’m delighted there is more to come with these characters – they get under the skin and won’t let go. Recommended for fans of high-octane, contemporary fantasy with strong characters and a swift-moving story.
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker #Brainfluffbookreview #TheSilenceoftheGirlsbookreview

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Obviously I have heard Pat Barker’s name, but when I saw this offering last year I couldn’t resist it. And after having read Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achillessee my review, I recalled I also had this one in my TBR, so dived in and retrieved it. I’m so glad I did…

BLURB: The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman: Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman watches and waits for the war’s outcome: Briseis. She was queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms until Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles’s concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army.

When Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks. Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose ground to their Trojan opponents. Keenly observant and coolly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself in an unprecedented position to observe the two men driving the Greek forces in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate, not only of Briseis’s people, but also of the ancient world at large.

REVIEW: Before I go any further, there are trigger warnings for rape and violence against women – although neither are depicted in any great detail, the writing is powerful and moving. I was gripped from the very first sentence.

Rather stupidly, I started reading this late one night, intending to get into the story and then put it down after the first chapter. No chance. When I’d finally got to the stage where my Kindle kept falling out of my hands because I was so tired, it was in the wee small hours and I was halfway through the book. Told in first person POV, Briseis tells the story of how she became a pivotal part of the siege of Troy. Having only recently read Miller’s book, her name was immediately familiar and it was interesting to compare that cosier version of Briseis’s fate to the harder, bleaker narrative told by Barker.

She spends years in the Greek camp outside Troy’s walls as a slave girl to Achilles. She is then caught up in a quarrel between Achilles and the commander of the Greek armies, Agamemnon, when he demands her as a prize. I am not giving away too much of the plot, given this is also mentioned in Homer’s, The Iliad. There is, however, an interesting departure from The Iliad, whereby Agamemnon swears upon the god Zeus that he has left her untouched. Her version of events is quite different – but then she is a mere woman and no one wants to hear what they have to say.

I have been reading quite a lot of Greek retellings recently, as well as Stephen Fry’s excellent Mythos and Heroessee my review. I have come to the conclusion that a large part of the misogyny embedded within our Western culture directly stems from the Greeks, who probably prized a good warhorse above most of the women in their household. I would love to treat Barker’s tale as a slice of history that has no relevance in modern times. I would love to be able to claim that girls around the world were no longer experiencing the treatment meted out to Briseis on a daily basis. And of course, I can’t. In all the versions of the Greek myths I’ve read and heard, that there isn’t a single one told by the women being chased, harried and routinely raped. For the Greeks prized silence in their women, apparently. Thank goodness we have Circe by Madeline Miller – see my mini-review – and The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, along with other feminist retellings of the ancient Greek myths. Highly recommended for anyone who is interested in reading a different version of this era.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Green Man’s Silence – Book 3 of The Green Man series by Juliet E. McKenna #Brainfluffbookreview #GreenMansSilencebookreview

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I’m a fan of McKenna’s work – see my reviews of Dangerous Waters – Book 1 of the Hadrumal Crisis, Darkening Skies – Book 2 of the Hadrumal Crisis, Irons in the Fire – Book 1 of the Lescari Revolution, Blood in the Water – Book 2 of the Lescari Revolution, Banners in the Wind – Book 3 of the Lescari Revolution, The Green Man’s Heir – Book 1 of the Green Man series, The Green Man’s Foe – Book 2 of the Green Man series and the Cover Love feature I did of her canon of work to date. So I was extremely excited to get my hands on The Green Man’s Silence the latest book in this delightfully original series.

BLURB: Daniel Mackmain has always been a loner. As a dryad’s son, he can see the supernatural alongside everyday reality, and that’s not something he can easily share. Perhaps visiting East Anglia to stay with Finele Wicken and her family will be different. They have their own ties to the uncanny. But something is amiss in the depths of the Fens. Creatures Dan has never encountered outside folk tales are growing uneasy, even hostile. He soon learns they have good reason. Can he help them before they retaliate and disaster strikes the unsuspecting locals? Can the Green Man help Dan in a landscape dominated by water for centuries, where the oaks were cut down aeons ago?

A modern fantasy rooted in the ancient myths and folklore of the British Isles.

REVIEW: This further set of adventures takes Dan right out of his comfort zone – not much in the way of forests and trees out on the Fens. And he’s staying over with Fin’s family – people he doesn’t want to let down, particularly as he isn’t completely sure about where his ongoing relationship with her is going. To complicate things further, the Green Man isn’t saying much about the emerging crisis, either.

McKenna has been clever in moving Dan away from his usual haunts, where we already know he has a certain amount of power. Now, both personally and as half-Fae, he is out of his depth. It was enjoyable to learn more about Fin and her background – seeing her within her own family and contrasting her sense of belonging, in comparison to Dan’s sense of isolation, brought home why he is quite so wary. It also nicely raised the stakes when recalling his criminal record, so that when problems get sufficiently out of hand to come to the attention of the police, Dan is at an immediate, major disadvantage. This further compromises him, as he deals with an entitled, arrogant character very sure of his own place in the scheme of things.

Once again, the fae characters ping off the page with their sense of otherness and evident threat – the hobs and their unnerving powers, and those sylphs… Who knew that creatures of the air could be so lethal? McKenna further flexes her skill in writing action with a particularly dramatic fight scene in the middle of a storm that had me holding my breath when Dan and his landrover take a beating. It makes a doozy of a climax.

While The Green Man’s Silence can be read as a standalone, I recommend you get hold of at least one of the other books in the series first, in order to get the best out of this outstanding book. Highly recommended for fantasy fans who are looking for well-written fae adventures with a difference.
10/10


*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Deadly Waters by Dot Hutchison #Brainfluffbookreview #DeadlyWatersbookreview

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Himself acquired this ebook through Amazon First and suggested I read it due to the premise and rather clever manipulation of the viewpoint, throughout. I’m glad I did…

BLURB: Florida journalism undergrad Rebecca Sorley is like any other college student. She tries to keep up with her studies, her friends, and her hot-tempered roommate, Ellie, who regularly courts trouble with the law.

When a male student’s remains are found in alligator-infested waters, the university warns students to stay away from the reptiles. But then a second body shows up, and the link is undeniable. Both men belonged to the same fraternity and had a reputation for preying on and hurting women.

Ellie has previously threatened to kill men who don’t take no for an answer. Rebecca and her friends thought Ellie was kidding. But now a vigilante killer is roaming campus—someone who knows how to dispose of rapists. Someone determined to save female students from horrible crimes…

REVIEW: One of the major reasons I don’t read more murder mysteries, is that I dislike the casual way in which pretty young girls are horribly murdered, often after being raped or assaulted. I’m aware this is a dynamic in reality – but there are books where I find the reliance on beautiful female victims plain unpleasant. So this one really intrigued me.

The situation at this particular university, due to a nasty ongoing challenge running at one of the frat houses, is toxic. After one of their friends falls victim to an assault that leaves her in a coma, the protagonist and her friends ensure they don’t walk around the grounds unaccompanied – and even then they are liable to be harassed. And yes, I’ll freely admit that it’s an extreme premise, but no more so than some others I’ve read, recently – think of The Naturalist, for example. So I was a bit taken aback to read a string of complaining reviews accusing it of being a man-hating book, because I didn’t think men in general were Hutchison’s target. I thought it was those entitled articles who objectify women, particularly young pretty ones, and because they find them desirable, think that gives them the right to act on those urges. Having spent far too much time – from the age of twelve years old – fending off that sort of attention until I thankfully became too old, I read this one with huge enjoyment. And no, I’m not a man-hater, but I did hate it when I was busy shopping/travelling on public transport/working/walking on the beach and some stranger would intrude to tell me how beautiful I was. Or just grab.

I also enjoyed the strong supportive relationship between the young women in the book – far nearer my own experiences of female friendships than those poisonous, backstabbing instances thrillers and murder mysteries are fond of portraying. The nifty way we are given access to the murderer’s viewpoint also works well. And while I’d more or less worked out who it was by the end, I loved the clever manner in which the reveal is handled. Overall, I found this an entertaining read – and I’ll be tracking down more books by this author. Recommended for fans of murder mysteries with a bit of a difference.
9/10


*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Ink & Sigil – Book 1 of the Ink & Sigil series by Kevin Hearne #Brainfluffbookreview #Ink&Sigilbookreview

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We don’t do it all that often – we can’t afford it – but we pre-ordered this one as soon as we heard it was coming out. We are both solid fans of Kevin Hearne’s writing – see my review of Hounded – Book 1 of the Iron Druid series, which I read all the way through and have been quietly mourning its loss since it ended. Life has just been a tad emptier since Atticus and his hound Oberon stopped their adventures. Though I also thoroughly enjoyed the clever and ambitious Seven Kennings series – see my review of A Plague of Giants. So would I also enjoy this spinoff from the Iron Druid series?

BLURB: Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails – and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae.

But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse.

But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective – while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.

REVIEW: Let’s get one issue out the way – you don’t have to know anything at all about the Iron Druid series, or have first read the books to enjoy this one. It’s an essentially a standalone, with a specific scene added for those of us pining for Atticus and Oberon. So don’t let that consideration get in the way of you acquiring this one.

It’s a packet of fun. I loved the fact that Al is in his mid-sixties and a widower. I am aware that the average hero and heroine are fit young things, full of vim and vigour – but I hadn’t realised just how much that affected their worldview, until I plunged into this adventure alongside dear old Al. He is thoroughly likeable protagonist with plenty of quirks and eccentricities, but the amount of fun between him and a certain naughty hobgoblin is great and helps to leaven the rather sombre subject of kidnapping and trafficking. Humour is always a hit and miss affair, and mostly I chuckled my way through this book – though for some reason, I got a bit fed up with Al’s hacker friend insisting on being called Saxon Codpiece…

Overall, I really enjoyed the story which was well paced, full of action and yet not too full-on to skimp on effectively establishing the main characters – a balance that is harder to achieve than Hearne makes it look. I also loved the magic system, where human Al is given leave to help the Fae by use of magical sigils that are achieved by the spells being sealed through specific inks. It worked well – and this being Hearne, there was also some humour to be had with some of those inks, too. Overall, this was a solid delight and I’m very much looking forward to reading more about Al and his adventures – particularly that curse he’s afflicted with… Highly recommended for fans of quirky urban fantasy adventures featuring eccentric characters.
8/10

Mantivore Warrior is published today! #MantivoreWarriorpublication #TheArcadianChroniclescompleted

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I’m delighted to announce the Mantivore Warrior is published today – thus completing The Arcadian Chronicles trilogy about my telepathic alien, Vrox.

To celebrate the completion of my SECOND trilogy – I’ve decided to make Running Out of Space, the first book in my FIRST trilogy free from today MONDAY 31st August until WEDNESDAY 2nd September! Just click on the cover in the sidebar, which will take you to your nearest Amazon store to claim your copy.

For those of you who have been following Vrox’s journey, this book features a different protagonist – Jessob, so it gives an entry point into the story. I’m really excited to have finished Vrox’s adventures, because the first draft of Mantivore Dreams is one I wrote a long time ago, when it was different in many ways – except for Vrox, who has more or less stayed unchanged.

BLURB for MANTIVORE WARRIOR
Setting out to cross The Arids is always dangerous – but this time, when the survival of an ancient sentient species hangs in the balance – it could be lethal…

Jessob Jolanzo, raised within the most powerful and remote mantivore lair on the planet, has roamed The Arids since he was knee-high to a hen. Having succeeded in his seemingly impossible mission, he and his companions are returning with a message of hope to the beleaguered mantivore community. But the way things are going, they’ll need a huge helping of luck to return them safely to the hidden mantivore enclave.

Vrox, apex predator and telepath, holds in his head ancient secrets many powerful humans in Gloriosa Prime would rather keep hidden. And his lifelong captivity leaves him unprepared him for this brutal journey.

Mistress Felina Keeper, former village Storekeeper, is now MindLinked with Vrox and accompanying him on this trek. Resourceful and possessed of formidable mental strength, her presence should help. But Jessob is discovering that while middle-aged mantivores become ever tougher and stronger – the same isn’t true of ageing humans.

And when an attacker strikes from a completely unexpected quarter, it isn’t only future of the mantivore race in peril – Jessob risks losing his mind…

Mantivore Warrior is now available at Amazon – and here is a sneak peek…

CHAPTER ONE

It’s nearly my favourite place in all the world, sitting by a campfire after a long night’s trek. Though my pleasure was dented when Mistress Felina’s face crunched into the scowl I’d grown to dread. “Roaching lizards, again?”
“When roasted till crunchy, there’s nothing tastier.” I put the bundle of lizards down onto the rock beside her, having already gutted an’ beheaded them, after she’d grumbled about that. “Vroxy won’t—”
“I got the ringside seat to Vrox’s kill, thank-you kindly. And to him gobbling it up,” she snapped. “Still trying to wipe it outta my mind so’s I can think of supper without wanting to puke. And then you show up with a bunch of headless lizards!”
Vrox whickers pleadingly. Can Lordling ease our Queen’s aches, so Vrox can return to a peaceful fireside and warm his chilled scales?
It will be done, Vroxy. I’ll need more HealDrool from you when you get back, though, I Sent. Sorting through my pack, I found the right phial, unwrapped it an’ placed it beside me.
While stacking the kindling, Mistress Felina looked across, face-scrunching again as she spotted the phial. “Don’t need that. Not now, Jessob! I’m busy.”
You’re hoed flat an’ hurting. An’ busy proving that you aren’t a cripped old woman Vroxy an’ me should leave behind. Which we won’t cos you’re tired an’ sore, but we might if you go on being such a drab-scaled misery. I grinned at her, hoping to soften her mood.
Vrox squeals, horrified at Lordling’s slack-crested incivility to his Queen and wants her to know he’d no such thoughts.
Mistress Felina chuckled, a throaty, terracotta sound full of comfort an’ warmth, before putting the lizards in a pouch hanging from Leggsie’s round metal body. Leaving anything dead lying around in The Arids for more than a handful of heartbeats was asking for trouble.
I sucked in a deep breath, tasting the multi-coloured scents of the campfire, Leggsie’s blue, metallic tang an’ Mistress Felina’s musky ochre humanity. Staring up at the vast star-spattered sky vaulting overhead, I wondered what Dorn was doing… Is he part of a night-time reccie? Probably not. Probably LoveDrooled up to his neck crest an’ twining tongues with Gristor. Not an image I wanted to linger on.
I shifted across to the boulder next to Mistress Felina. “C’mon then. Let’s have them. The right one, first. That’s the one hurting most.”
Mistress Felina lifted her right foot with a wince, grumbling, “And that’s the trouble with this MindLinking flamdoodle. Some roaching teener starts telling you which foot is giving you the keenest grief.”
I propped her foot on my knees, unbuckled her boot an’ eased her swollen foot free. Squeezing out a tiny amount of HealDrool, I worked it into the roughened sole, marvelling at the way human elderly skin wrinkled an’ folded, so unlike mantivore hide. I made sure to gently knead extra across the purplish lump sticking out by her big toe joint, which ached most of all. I caught the name of it from her thoughts… A bunion. Sounds nasty an’ sore. “There’s nothing to stop you riding a hover-trolley, for a spell.”
“Don’t you start treating me like some lamed liability!” she snapped, yellow fear-notes threading through her voice. “I’ve been trudging through the roaching Arids before you were a kiss on your papa’s lips.”
“Aye, I know.” I lowered my voice an’ raised my mental shields so Vroxy couldn’t listen in – him still tending to MindSnoop. Even though we’d had plenty of talks on why he shouldn’t. “Thing is, Vroxy gets his scales in a swirl when you’re sore, or stenched. Or both. An’ we need him to track those stray vores nice an’ calmlike. He goes in remotely stirred up, that lord will reckon he’s trying to move in on his queen an’ cubs.”
Mistress Felina swapped over feet, already more relaxed as the HealDrool started doing its stuff. “Hm. That’s a thing I hadn’t considered.”
Mistress Felina accepting she might be wrong? That only happens once in a purple tide… Meanwhile I was coping with her relief from the pain, along with a giddying rainbow surge of pleasure as I applied the rest of the HealDrool. “Try raising your shields.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Hoeing you flat with my mind fluff, am I?”
“You’re loud.” So very, very loud. I pushed down my panic at the havoc her untrained Sendings could have on new-borns, cub-starved queenlings an’ mood-scurfed lords once we arrived at the Much-Tribute Horde. The Queen’s coterie will likely scoop her up an’ protect her, seeing as she tastes so powerfully of an old mantivore Queen full of wisdom. Won’t they?
She shut her eyes, breathing deeply.
I surfaced from the swamp of her pleasure at having no more aching feet, now I’d finished applying the HealDrool.
“How’s that?” she demanded, opening her eyes again. “Cos I’m all but rupturing my sorry self keeping my thoughts locked down.”
An’ you might as well not be bothering.

Review of INDIE Ebook No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished – Book 3 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron Brainfluffbookreview #NoGoodDragonGoesUnpunishedbookreview

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I’m a fan of Rachel Aaron’s writing – see my review of Fortune’s Pawn under her penname Rachel Bach, as well my review of the first two book in this Heartstriker series – Nice Dragons Finish Last and One Good Dragon Deserves Another and Garrison Girl, as part of the Attack on Titans! series. I always enjoy strong urban fantasy in an intriguing world – and this one has it all. A fascinating blend of near-future apocalypse leading to an infusion of magic into the world, along with a very dysfunctional dragon clan…

BLURB: When Julius overthrew his mother and took control of his clan, he thought he was doing right by everyone. But sharing power isn’t part of any proper dragon’s vocabulary, and with one seat still open on the new ruling Council, all of Heartstriker is ready to do whatever it takes to get their claws on it, including killing the Nice Dragon who got them into this mess in the first place…

REVIEW: One of my hobbies is crashing midway into established series, so take my word for it when I say that if you pick this one up before you’ve read the first two books – put it right back on the shelf again and go hunting for Nice Dragons Finish Last and One Good Dragon Deserves Another instead. This is more of a continual story sliced into book-sized episodes, rather than stand-alone narratives linked by the world and characters. That said, each story arc is brought to a satisfactory conclusion at the end of each action-filled adventure, though once again, I found there were more intriguing questions raised at the end of this one, to which I wanted answers. Thank goodness I have the next book on my Kindle, so that I won’t have to wait too long.

While I love the world, it’s the characters that keep me reading – dear Julius, a Nice Dragon, who has always been the runt of his clutch and as such, continually bullied by Bethseda, who should have some sort of award for being the worst mother in fiction. We’ve watched him develop over the last three books from being the under-dragon of all time, to gradually winning round far more powerful and influential dragons to start taking him seriously. Apart from anything else, in a genre that generally features powerful protagonists who use might, albeit sparingly and when there is no other choice – it is a refreshing change to come across a hero who refuses to resort to violence. And if he does, regards it as a defeat.

I have also grown fond of Chelsie, Justin, Ian and Bob – a few of his siblings who have also made the journey so far with him, more or less. At least a couple of the above have also made determined efforts to kill Julius, too. And then, there’s the mortal girl he’s teamed up with, Marci and her ghost cat called… Ghost. We’ve had the impression that Ghost is a bit more than he first seemed, particularly in the last book – and this is where we get a further glimpse of who he is and what the consequences are for Marci, as she continues as his friend and ally. Though there was a shock at the end of this book that had me reeling – I won’t be waiting all that long before I dive into the next one, A Dragon of a Different Color, as I am desperate to discover what happens next. As ever, Aaron’s characters have drawn me into this world and won’t let go. This is one of my favourite urban fantasy series for a very long time. Highly recommended.
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Guns of the Dawn By Adrian Tchaikovsky #Brainfluffbookreview #GunsoftheDawnbookreview

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As any regular visitor of this site will know, I’m a huge fan of this author – see my reviews of Children of Time, Children of Ruin – Book 2 of the Children of Time series, The Tiger and the Wolf – Book 1 of the Echoes of the Fall series, The Bear and the Serpent – Book 2 of the Echoes of the Fall series, The Hyena and the Hawk – Book 3 of the Echoes of the Fall series, Redemption’s Blade: After the War, The Expert System’s Brother, Ironclads, Dogs of War, The Doors of Eden, Firewalkers, Cage of Souls and Spiderlight. So it’s a puzzle to me and Himself as to why I haven’t tucked into this one sooner, as it’s been lurking on my TBR pile was some time now. I’m so glad I finally saw sense and picked it up.

BLURB: The first casualty of war is truth . . .
First, Denland’s revolutionaries assassinated their king, launching a wave of bloodshed after generations of peace. Next they clashed with Lascanne, their royalist neighbour, pitching war-machines against warlocks in a fiercely fought conflict. Genteel Emily Marshwic watched as the hostilities stole her family’s young men. But then came the call for yet more Lascanne soldiers in a ravaged kingdom with none left to give. Emily must join the ranks of conscripted women and march toward the front lines…

REVIEW: This is a really interesting book and one I think will stay with me for quite a while to come. Emily’s family have fallen on hard times since her father’s abrupt suicide, caused by a ruthless business rival who set out to ruin him. As the eldest child, it has fallen to Emily to try and hold everything together in increasingly straitened circumstances while trying to keep up appearances. You won’t be surprised to learn the war only makes a bad situation a whole lot worse.

By the time Emily becomes involved in the fighting, we are already solidly on her side and know her to be courageous, intelligent and thoughtful. The opening section put me in mind of Terry Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment without the sardonic humour, but once Emily arrives at the front that abruptly changes. Tchaikovsky is masterful at slowly developing a character who is under immense pressure without them coming across as unduly whiny or implausibly brave – it’s harder to do than he makes it look. Emily’s steady progress in a nightmarish situation makes absolutely gripping reading so that I burned through this 658-page tome far more quickly than usual.

Because that is Tchaikovsky’s other superpower – his ability to throw a curved ball right into the middle of a scenario, abruptly changing the whole dynamic of where you thought the plot was going, and turning it into something else completely. It’s one reason why I love reading him so much. He manages to do this on several occasions without ever making me feel that I am being unduly manipulated and the resultant story is a joy. And that ending… oh my goodness! I didn’t see THAT coming. Once again, Tchaikovsky delivers a thought-provoking yet thoroughly entertaining read that gripped me throughout and leaves me pondering it with a slight sinking feeling, because I’ve now finished it and am no longer in the world. Very highly recommended for fans of good action fantasy, featuring a likeable heroine.
10/10

Review of The Calculating Stars – Book 1 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal #Brainfluffbookreview #TheCalculatingStarsbookreview

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I was intrigued by the premise – and my attention was sharpened when I read glowing reviews from the likes of The Cap from Captain’s Quarters, so I bought myself this one as a birthday pressie from me to me.

BLURB: On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process. Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too. Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.

REVIEW: What a delightful premise – an alternate history that forces humanity to engage with space travel because of a serious meteor strike. Given this was the event that did for the dinosaurs and we’re overdue another one, this is all too chillingly plausible. Kowal’s engaging protagonist drew me right into the story – I love Elma. Her geeky cleverness, horribly dented by enduring years of social ostracization, nevertheless shines without managing to make her sound unduly entitled or smug. Her ongoing anxiety in certain situations is also completely understandable and gives her character sufficient vulnerability, so that she doesn’t end up being implausibly and insufferably perfect.

Kowal’s description of the institutional racism and sexism is also all too realistic. The weary resignation of many of the black characters over the fact that all the highest status jobs were out of their reach made my heart hurt. As for the determined devaluation of women when they excelled at anything regarded as within a man’s province – that was something I recall as still being firmly in place during the 1970s. I thought the ongoing Space Programme worked well, taking into account the limits of the technology of the time and I enjoyed the occasional news items that provided an effective insight into how the effects of the meteor strike on the climate were playing out around the world. It was nicely judged – much more, and it would have impacted on the pacing and narrative arc.

All in all, this is a classy, well written alternative history where Humanity’s effort to reach the stars has been given much greater impetus. I will be getting hold of the second book in the series in short order, especially as the third book, The Relentless Moon is due to be released later this summer. Highly recommended for fans of intelligent, well written science fiction.
9/10