Category Archives: Kindle edition

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook A Longer Fall – Book 2 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris #Brainfluffbookreview #ALongerFallbookreview

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I loved An Easy Death, as Charlaine Harris has been a solid favourite of mine for years – see reviews of Grave Sight, Dead Reackoning, Shakespeare’s Landlord, Midnight Crossroad, Day Shift and Night Shift, so I was extremely excited to hear that A Longer Fall was due and Himself insisted that we pre-order it. I do love that man!

BLURB: Lizbeth Rose is hired onto a new crew for a seemingly easy protection job, transporting a crate into Dixie, just about the last part of the former United States of America she wants to visit. But what seemed like a straight-forward job turns into a massacre as the crate is stolen…

The blurb goes on for a bit longer, but you get the gist. I love Rose and the way we are right inside the character from the first page – Harris has a knack of drawing me right into the middle of her worlds in no time flat and this time around was no exception. This dystopian, alternate history where the Russian monarchy managed to flee before they were all massacred and are now living in a corner of a very different America, works really well. The magical element is also deftly introduced and I enjoy the tension and dislike that surrounds these magic-users, which makes complete sense.

I was hooked and read late into the night and early morning to discover what happened next. Rose teams up with a former colleague while plot twists come thick and fast as they fend off a variety of threats. In the meantime, there is also an interesting romantic thread running alongside the adventure which somewhat complicates things for Rose. One of the delights of this one, is that I simply didn’t know what was going to happen next.

However, I wasn’t completely won over by the MacGuffin that very abruptly stopped all the mayhem and violence. I recently had a rant about female protagonists in fantasy books who suddenly are riding into battle alongside the men, without there having been any real attempt to explain what dynamic has changed to make this possible. I felt in a similar fashion here, that a whole bunch of deep-seated, difficult issues in the small town of Sally were given a flimsy makeover in order to bring the story to a rather unsatisfying conclusion that didn’t convince me. It didn’t mean the book went flying across the room, and I still very much enjoyed Rose’s personal journey, which was brilliantly explored throughout the book – but I have knocked a point off for the way the main plot gets wrapped up. That doesn’t prevent this being an action-packed, western-flavoured fantasy adventure well worth picking up – and we’ll certainly be pre-ordering the next instalment.
8/10

Review of INDIE Ebook Valkyrie Burning – Book 3 of the Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie #Brainfluffbookreview #ValkyrieBurningbookreview

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I have read and enjoyed the two previous books in this series, particularly the first one, On Silver Wings – see my review here. So I was pleased to see that Himself had also picked this one up…

BLURB: The war that began on Hayden’s World years ago has blossomed into a brawl across the stars, and yet that single and otherwise largely unimportant colony continues to be a central point in the conflagration. Human forces have pushed outward, now taking enemy worlds in response to the attacks on their own, but they don’t have the numbers or the power to hold what they take. Now the alien Alliance shows a sliver of it’s true power, and the war for domination of the skies over Hayden burns brightly once more…

I have cut short the rather chatty blurb, but you do get the gist – this is a continuation of the military space opera adventure featuring Sorilla Aida as a super soldier who ends up back down on the planet Hayden, once again. Inevitably as this adventure has worn on, we get a wider number of characters pulled into the story as there are also sections from the viewpoint of the aliens who are attacking Hayden. They seem rather too similar in outlook and culture to the human commanders embroiled in this war, however this is not a dealbreaker.

Currie has a fluid writing style that whips the story along with plenty of pace and action. What I did miss from this slice of the adventure was enough of Sorilla who I fell in love with during On Silver Wings and I would have liked to have seen more of her – especially after that amazing stunt she pulls with the space tether. The outstanding aspect of this book are the space battles, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Currie has set out the rules by which his technology works and gives his reader a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the ships embroiled in his battles, which works really well. There was a shocking outcome which reminded me all over again that Currie is not afraid to kill off characters that I’ve grown to enjoy.

I found this an entertaining and readable adventure and look forward to more Hayden goodness in the future. Recommended for fans of military space opera.
8/10

My First Reads of the Decade – Welcome 2020! #Brainfluffbookblog #MyFirstReadsoftheDecade

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These days I read two books simultaneously – one ebook and one audiobook. So the two books I’m starting this year with are both fantasy and both dealing with witchcraft, but so very different:-

KINDLE Ebook Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger series by Marie Brennan
Created by the merging of witch and doppelganger, Mirei is a unique being. Her extraordinary magic makes her the most poweful witch alive—and a notorious social outcast. While Satomi, the leader of the witches’ ruling Primes, hails Mirei as a miracle, rival Primes proclaim that Mirei is an evil abomination… and that those who champion her must be destroyed.
I thoroughly enjoyed Warrior, the first book in this duology – but I’m finding this one even more engrossing. The fallout as Mirei’s very existence upends hundreds of years of custom is predictably hostile by certain factions. This gives an inventive, skilled author like Brennan all sorts of places to take this story – great fun! I will be reviewing both books in this duology in due course.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.
I’ll be honest – I don’t love this one as much as I thought I would. The prose is coolly elegant and each of the main protagonists are well drawn, but I feel rather distanced by the viewpoint and structure. There’s no risk of not finishing it, though – so hopefully I will reach a point when I suddenly find I’ve completely bonded with the world and the characters. Review to follow.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of INDIE arc Borderline – Book 4 of the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards #Brainfluffbookreview #Borderlinebookreview

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Janet Edwards, author of the successful Earth Girl series – see my reviews of Earth Girl, Earth Star and Earth Flight – is now one of my favourite science fiction authors. Her writing has a bounce and vividness that I thoroughly enjoy, while her young protagonists are invariably engaging and likeable. This intriguing crime-fighting series featuring Amber, who tracks down wrong-doers by reading their minds, is set in a far future where humans live in highly structured mega-cities underground. See my reviews of Telepath, Defender and Hurricane which are the previous books in the series. I was delighted when Edwards contacted me and asked if I’d like an arc copy of Borderline to read and review. This review is my honest opinion of the book and in no way affected by receipt of a copy by the author.

BLURB: Being a telepath means your greatest strength can also be your greatest weakness.
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 she must face multiple challenges.

The blurb continues for another paragraph, but to be honest, I don’t think the extra information is necessary. Amber is now established as one of the foremost telepaths in this huge hive city, but also increasingly under pressure as one of the other telepaths now needs to take a prolonged leave of absence while requiring urgent medical treatment. Edwards is very adept at communicating the rules for her world, without holding up the pace or indulging in info-dumps. The first-person narration works well, as Amber is at the heart of the story and we learn about the stresses on her, as touching minds full of violence and misery leave aftershocks that can destabilise her if they aren’t dealt with.

There is a strong supporting cast of well developed characters who operate as part of Amber’s team and I also love the shifting dynamic and growing amount of information we learn about the other, rather shadowy telepaths. It’s refreshing to see the stable, happy relationship between Amber and her partner – YA reads are notorious for providing lots of angst around the romance thread, but Edwards doesn’t choose to go down that route. I tucked into this one and the pages flew by as I was pulled along by Amber’s bouncy narrative and the action-packed story that held me right until the final sentence. And there was a doozy of a surprise near the end which I certainly didn’t see coming – I love it when that happens!

This one is very highly recommended for fans of sci fi crime and future worlds. Though this book can be enjoyed as a standalone, my advice would be to read the first three books first as this series is too good to read out of sequence.
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson #Brainfluffbookreview #Aurorabookreview

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I loved Robinson’s Mars series and have also enjoyed some of his subsequent work, as he is an ambitious writer, willing to push the envelope in what he does – see my review of 2312.

BLURB: Our voyage from Earth began generations ago. Now, we approach our new home. AURORA.

And that’s it – the blurb. How refreshingly short and to the point… As you may have gathered, this is a generational ship adventure in the closing stages of its long, long journey. I was impressed at the strength of the characterisation of the main protagonist, Freya, who is the daughter of the main engineer striving to keep Aurora, their ship, in one piece long enough for the arrival at Tau Ceti. Roberson writes on the harder side of science fiction, so there is a fair amount of technical detail regarding keeping the ship and all the systems running. I found a lot of the problems thrown up by trying to keep a small biome running really fascinating – of course, this is fiction rather than science, but many of the issues Robinson raises did sound scarily plausible.

While many of the problems around a generational ship were interesting, I am always all about the story and that means characters. There have been times when I have found Robinson’s characterisation a little thinner than I would have liked. Not so here. I loved Freya and I thought his depiction of her development from a young girl, through the main relationships throughout her life, until she is facing the historic events around the arrival at Tau Ceti absolutely convincing.

The other strength in this narrative is the way the plot twists kept coming. I simply didn’t predict the way events unspooled on the arrival to their longed-for destination, and was unable to put the book down as I was utterly engrossed in finding out what would happen next. That is about all I’m going to say about the plot as I would hate to provide any spoilers – this is one that needs to be read with the minimum amount of foreknowledge. That strong narrative kept me turning the pages, so that I read faaar into the night.

Any niggles? Robinson is fond of slowing the pace right back down at times, and there were long – and I mean long – passages where he muses about the philosophy surrounding the ship’s consciousness, which I felt tipped into self-indulgence. However, it wasn’t a dealbreaker. There is so much in this book that I loved and I know that Aurora will stay in my head for a long time to come. Highly recommended for fans of excellent generational ship adventures.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Navigating the Stars – Book 1 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy series by Maria V. Snyder #Brainfluffbookreview #NavigatingtheStarsbookreview

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I have enjoyed Snyder’s writing for a while – see my reviews of Poison Study, Scent of Magic and Taste of Darkness. This one somehow by-passed me completely, but when I saw the buzz about the second book in this YA science fiction series, I got hold of this one when it was one special offer…

BLURB: Seventeen-year-old Lyra Daniels can’t truly blame Einstein or her parents for their impending move across the Milky Way Galaxy. It’s all due to the invention of the Q-net, which made traveling the vast distances in space possible—with one big caveat: the time dilation. But that never stopped Lyra’s ancestors from exploring the Milky Way, searching for resources and exoplanets to colonize. What they didn’t expect to find is life-sized terracotta Warriors buried on twenty-one different exoplanets.
… Make that twenty-two. As the Galaxy’s leading experts on the Warriors, Lyra’s parents are thrilled by the new discovery, sending them—and her—fifty years into the future.

I shortened the rather chatty blurb, but you get a sense of the tone of the story at the beginning of this thoroughly entertaining, bouncy science fiction adventure. Lyra is an incredibly resilient character, whose initial grief at losing her friends when moving away with her parents, doesn’t stop her for long. Ultra-bright and with a low boredom threshold, she soon gets herself into some bother by illegally hacking (Snyder calls it worming) into the powerful information system, the Q-net. This has consequences… I will not go into further detail because I don’t want to spoil the plot.

I was thoroughly held by the eventful story that whipped along with plenty of pace and action, while providing interesting characterisation along the way. I love it when an author manages to achieve a cracking good tale peopled by solidly rounded characters. The romance is well handled with some sweet moments, yet doesn’t hijack the story with too much angst. And thank goodness there is no love triangle.

Any niggles? I do think that Lyra is verging on being a Mary Sue. It’s her Q-net skills that trigger some major investigations and she also is the only one that is able to see a hidden, lethal risk to those living on the planet. But while I registered this issue, it wasn’t a dealbreaker and I relaxed into Snyder’s pacey storytelling, thoroughly enjoying the ride. And I will be looking around for the next book in the series, given that while the initial story was satisfactorily, concluded those dangling plotpoints leave me wanting more.

Recommended for fans of YA science fiction adventure with plenty of incident and excitement.
8/10

MINI-REVIEWS: Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky; Circe by Madeline Miller; and The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman #Brainfluffbookmini-reviews

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These are books which I completed during a reading period when writing a full review wasn’t an option as I was too busy – but are still worthy of recommendation and notice.

Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky
This offering clearly demonstrates Tchaikovsky’s talent and ability to write in a variety of different styles as this bleak examination of an exhausted society essentially waiting for the planet to die, taking them with it, nonetheless is an engrossing read.

The first person protagonist is completely believable as an academic who has somehow managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and therefore undergo a whole series of dangerous adventures that he never intended to encounter. The worldbuilding is excellent and I loved how the very apt title ties into the overall arc of the book. Yet another accomplished offering by one of the major talents of his generation.
8/10

 

Circe by Madeline Miller
No wonder this one has garnered so much attention and so many awards. The characterisation of this awkward, neglected child in a society where men are prized for their strength and aggression and women are prized for their beauty, charisma and guile, is wonderful. A protagonist who isn’t particularly beautiful or cunning, so develops a skill with potions and witchcraft, instead…

Once more, I was struck at just what a raw deal women got in this very masculine world where might was a done deal and if a woman started running and shouting ‘no’ – she was regarded as a challenge to be chased down… This could have been a bleak, traumatic read, but it isn’t partly because of the beauty of the prose and partly because of the wonderful, layered first-person depiction of a complicated immortal living in a world in which she really doesn’t fit. I found her take on Odysseus absolutely fascinating.

One of my outstanding reads of the year.
10/10

 

Illuminae – Book 1 of the Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
I thoroughly enjoyed this roller-coaster dystopian space opera YA adventure, which started with a bang and simply didn’t let up. The epistolary structure worked well, although I did have to whack the font size right up for the text conversations and some of the reports, which for some reason had a miniscule font size.

The plot twists kept coming and the finale worked really well – especially that last surprise. A warning though – don’t get too attached to many of the characters in this adventure, as lots of folks die! Highly recommended for fans of mayhem in space featuring gutsy teens.
8/10

Review of INDIE Ebook Valkyrie Rising – Book 2 of The Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie #Brainfluffbookeview #ValkyrieRisingbookreview

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I read and enjoyed the first book in this entertaining military science fiction adventure, On Silver Wings so this was an obvious choice from my TBR pile when I yearned for more full-on action with some nasty aliens.

BLURB: Two years after the initial invasion of Hayden’s World, the newly reinforced Hayden Militia is in a state of stalemate with the remaining enemy forces but neither side is content to leave things at that. The alien alliance has dispatched their varsity to clean up the resistance on Hayden while the USF has officially activated Task Force V, the latest and most advanced combat ships built by humans. In the end there are some things you decide in the skies, but some can only be settled in the mud.

While I am sure you could pick up this one without having had the pleasure of reading On Silver Wings, my firm advice would be to read it first as I think you could slightly flounder at the start of the second book, otherwise. I was pleased that this book opened with my favourite character, the scary super-soldier Sorilla, who featured so memorably in the previous book. But this time, we see her gritting her teeth at the prospect of a series of invasive surgical procedures as her military wetware is being upgraded. I was pleased to see this, as authors often airily allude to these additions, but it is relatively rare to see our protagonists having to pay the price for all those awesome fighting skills.

However, while she is recuperating, all is not well. Those pesky aliens are still causing havoc, which causes the infighting amongst the human spacefaring nations to abruptly stop their feuding and frantically begin arming against this technically superior threat. Since the disastrous first encounters that have wiped out so many captains, many posts are now being filled by suitably experienced women, giving rise to the derisive nickname by some of the more chauvinist elements of the Valkyrie Force… Disappointing to see that sexism is still alive and well in Currie’s future universe – but all too realistic, I feel.

Military sci fi often requires a number of viewpoint characters in order to give the reader a ringside seat in a variety of settings as the action swings around. This time around, we find ourselves in the head of an alien fighting on jungle planet, Hayden, along with Sorilla, Admiral Nadine Brookes amongst others. Sorilla is still a solid favourite, but Nadine runs a close second.

While the first book is characterised by some cracking action scenes on the colony planet fighting a rearguard action after having been initially overrun, this book contains some excellent space battles. Currie writes the techie stuff well – sufficient detail so that I could follow what was going on without silting up the forward action by too much description. He is also good at keeping the viewpoint character and her reactions to the fore in the middle of all the high-stakes fighting.

This book took a bit longer to get going than the first book – but then, we needed to find out what was happening in order to understand what is at stake, but once the full situation is laid out, I was whisked up in the tension of an incipient alien invasion. This is a strong second book, taking the action on yet leaving some major questions open – particularly around the aliens and their motivations. Recommended for fans of engrossing military science fiction, I will be continuing this series.
8/10

Review of INDIE Ebook The Violent Fae – Book 3 of The Ordshaw series by Phil Williams #Brainfluffbookreview #TheViolentFaebookreview

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I have read and enjoyed the first two books in this entertaining series, see my reviews of Under Ordshaw and Blue Angel. So when I learnt the third book in the series was being released, I was looking forward to continuing the adventure.

BLURB: They hid among us, until she exposed them. They’ll destroy everything to be hidden again. Pax is discovering that the smallest mistakes can have the deadliest impact. To protect her city, she’s uncovered monstrous truths and involved terrible people. The consequences are coming for her. The Sunken City is unstable. The Fae are armed for war. Can Pax stop the coming disaster?

Firstly, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading at least one of the previous books, then my firm advice is to put this one back on the shelf and go and track down Under Ordshaw. This one hits the ground running and we are in the middle of a complicated situation within an urban fantasy landscape that is both layered and nuanced. You certainly won’t get an appreciation of the stakes involved if you try crashing midway into this series.

That said, it’s hard to overstate the hurdles facing both Pax and the fairy Letty. It looks as though those running the human and Fae factions are determined to lock horns over what is going on in the Sunken City and neither seem in the mood to listen to anyone else.

Due to the complicated scenario, this book does take a bit of time to get going. However, when it picks up the pace and we are back in the swing of the story, I was once again swept along with this cast of quirky and original characters. I enjoyed the fact that both Pax and Letty took centre stage in this slice of the adventure, along with Sam Ward and the man I loved to hate in the first book, Cano…

While there is a lot of action in this original urban fantasy series, I also like the fact that Management is clearly at a loss to know what to do in the face of all the paranormal events and once they are aware of how badly they have misread the situation, send in a colourful character as a fixer. I enjoyed that dynamic as it had a real ring of authenticity about it. I also like the fact that one of the characters who I loathed in the first book has had his come-uppance – to the extent that I genuinely felt quite sorry for him. Williams ably negotiates these nuances so that while his cast of characters ping off the page with their vivid eccentricity, they are also capable of change and growth.

Inevitably, I am not going to be able to say much about the plot, as this is the third book in the series, but what I will say is that the overall narrative arc is satisfactorily tied up and I felt happy with the way all the characters completed this particular journey. However, I am very much hoping that this series will continue as it is peopled by too many fascinating characters with intriguing relationships. I definitely want to know what happens to them next.

Highly recommended for fans of urban fantasy with a difference.
9/10

Review of The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair #Brainfluffbookreview #TheMermaidandtheBearbookreview

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I have enjoyed the lovely photos of Scotland posted by the author on her delightful blog, Ailish Sinclair and when I discovered she had recently had a book published, I tracked it down to read and review it.

BLURB: Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it. She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland. She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird. Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning… Until the past catches up with her.

Historical romance isn’t my go-to genre. But I was intrigued by the talk of faery castles and mermaids. Isabell is a delightful character who pings off the page. The first-person description of her struggles with seasickness is riveting and dramatic, establishing Sinclair as a talented writer with a flair for words. There is a lushness to the prose throughout, which could so easily have tipped into sentimentality, or just become a tad annoying. It doesn’t.

What Sinclair is able to do is write contentment and happiness with verve, making it engrossing in a way that is far harder to do than she makes it look. I had a hunch fairly early on the direction in which this story was going and at least for the first three quarters of the book, on many levels, it was not a surprise. Generally, that doesn’t endear me to a story as I like surprises and unpredictability, but the sheer quality of the writing, the level of detail in the world building and the cast of varied and interesting characters meant that I couldn’t put this down.

However, during the last part of the book I genuinely didn’t know where it was going. There is a core of grittiness at the heart of this book, which despite the celebration of strong love and friendship, also examines the consequences of bitter envy, greed and lust.

What happens when you become a victim of such people? How do you deal with the aftermath? These are gnarly questions that Sinclair didn’t sidestep for the sake of a cosy read and this beguiling, wonderful book is the richer for it. I will be looking out for this author – this is an accomplished story by a gifted storyteller and highly recommended.
9/10