Category Archives: Kindle edition

Review of KINDLE Ebook Menagerie – Book 1 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent #Brainfluffbookreview #Menageriebookreview

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I like this author – see my review of Pride which also has something to say about the modern world within her escapist fantasy story. So when I saw the third book in this series featured on Netgalley, I requested it and when I was approved and realised that this wasn’t one I could crash into – I got hold of the previous two books in the series.

When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus big-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town. But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other “attractions”—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she’ll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed.

And there you have it. Creatures which are not fully human are rounded up, stripped of any rights, caged and put on display for the public. Other than the direct, uncomfortable example of what we often do to the animals we share this planet with – what I kept thinking about was those who are trafficked and sold into slavery. The justification for this treatment is an event called the Reaping, where thousands of children were slaughtered by their parents under some mysterious compulsion that has never been fully explained – except that it is believed to be by a creature with non-human powers.

This dystopian, alternative history is well established and I thoroughly believed in Delilah, an apparently ordinary twenty-five-year-old bank teller who reluctantly goes along to one of these carnivals with her friends and fiancé. The ensuing incident sees her stripped of any of her human rights and put in a cage right along the other specimens on display. I really enjoyed following her journey – it was engrossing and horrifying. Though it did jar with me when we were occasionally yanked out of her first-person viewpoint, finding ourselves in the point of view of one of the supporting characters. It didn’t happen sufficiently often with the same characters for it feel anything other than a bit random.

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Delilah makes a convincing protagonist and I enjoyed how many of the imprisoned exhibits looked after each other. The pace is well judged, as you’d expect from a writer of her experience and I gobbled this one up in two sittings. Recommended for fans of character-led, darker fantasy and no romance.
9/10

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Review of Indie KINDLE Ebook The Zero Blessing – Book 1 of The Zero Enigma by Christopher G. Nuttall #Brainfluffbookreview #TheZeroBlessingbookreview

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Himself has added this to our towering TBR and given I have a real weakness for school-based adventures, I snagged this one for a recent train journey.

Caitlyn Aguirre should have been a magician. Her family certainly expected her to be a magician. But by the time she reached her twelfth birthday, Caitlyn hadn’t even managed to cast a single spell! In desperation, her parents send her – and her magical sisters – to Jude’s Sorcerous Academy, her last best chance to discover her powers. But as she struggles to survive her classes without a single spell to her name, Caitlyn starts to uncover an ancient mystery that may prove the key to her true powers. If she lives long enough to find it.

Caitlyn is an endearing protagonist. She comes from a magical talented family and is one of triplets. In magical circles, this is regarded as a boon because twins and triplets often have complimentary powers, making them an especially powerful unit – a necessary advantage if the Aguirre family are to keep their position as one of the leading magical families. But while both sisters are extremely gifted, Caitlyn cannot summon a single thing. Not that her parents are prepared to give up and accept the situation. Magic is part of everyday life. Everyone has some sort of magical ability – even the servants and lower orders use magic in their everyday lives. Except Caitlyn.

It means she is at the mercy of her sisters’ pranks and while her parents occasionally step in to prevent her being killed, from the time she is seven, Caitlyn is routinely turned into frogs, dogs and mice, hexed so she behaves in stupid ways, magically frozen, stuck to the floor and even blinded… Of course, it all eventually wears off. But she, with her zero ability, has nothing to fight back with.

Her only recourse is to study as hard as she can, in the hope that eventually, she will grow into her magic, as her father keeps promising. But by the time she is twelve, she has all but given up. Which is when she receives the worst news of all. She will be accompanying her sisters to the magical academy, St Jude’s. She is half convinced that she won’t survive the first term – because students are mostly supervised by older prefects, who are desperately studying for their magical finals. So it’s left to the juniors to sort themselves out – it’s no good Caitlyn running to sharp-tongued Sandy for help when one of the girls in her dorm targets her.

I loved the dynamic – it was all too plausible that this would go on in a magical establishment. I also liked the fact that Caitlyn’s only friend is a peasant girl on a scholarship who is naturally extremely magically giftedbut with no grounding in theory or how to mix with the higher orders. Nuttall’s magical system is also interestingly complex and the rules are well covered within the story as Caitlyn struggles through some magical lessons and manages to cope better in others by virtue of her constant studying.
Her plight is both believable and engrossing, so that I gobbled up this book in two sittings. I’m delighted to see there are other books in this series, which I’ll definitely be tracking down. Recommended for fans of magical school stories.
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Nolander – Book 1 of the Emanations series by Becca Mills #Brainfluffbookreview #Nolanderbookreview

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Beth Ryder knows she’s different. In a tiny rural town, being an orphaned and perpetually single amateur photographer crippled by panic disorder is pretty much guaranteed to make you stick out like a sore thumb. But Beth doesn’t understand just how different she really is.

One day, strange things start cropping up in her photos. Things that don’t look human. Impossible things. Monstrosities. Beth thinks her hateful sister-in-law, Justine, has tampered with her pictures to play a cruel joke, but rather than admitting or denying it, Justine up and vanishes, leaving the family in disarray. Beth’s search for Justine plunges her into a world she never knew existed, one filled with ancient and terrifying creatures…

And that’s the intriguing premise for this quirky and unusual urban fantasy set in a small town in America, where almost everyone knows who you are and your business. That can be a comfort and support – or a something else a lot less helpful if you happen to fall outside normal expectations. If you are afflicted with disabling panic attacks, for instance… I was particularly interested in this one, because for a while in my twenties, I was prone to panic attacks – they always happened in busy, crowded places – on a bus or a plane, for instance… They took away my prospects for promotion to any kind of responsible job – until I pinpointed the cause. But I know only too well the wretched feeling as one would start building and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it – Mills manages to very effectively portray that feeling of helplessness.

The story spiralled off into a portal world for an extended part of the book – both unexpected and yet absolutely engrossing. I like the fact that Mills has a habit of taking the plot in unexpected directions, so that I ended up reading something quite different from what I thought I was getting. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey and am really looking forward to discovering where this unusual story goes next.

Recommended for fantasy fans who enjoy quirky writing.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Drifters’ Alliance – Book 1 of the Drifters’ Alliance series by Elle Casey #Brainfluffbookreview DriftersAlliancebookreview

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I was looking for more space opera goodness, when I noticed this offering on my Kindle, courtesy of Himself, so I opened it up and dived in…

One hand of cards and it’s all over but the crying… Cass Kennedy finally gets what she’s been dreaming of for the past ten years: a drifter ship to call her own. All the sim time and battle training is going to pay off in spades as she sets her course for the future. She’ll be living on her own terms, not those of her father. But drifting through deep space with a crew of nutty strangers on the DS Anarchy carries a lot more surprises than she bargained for. Nobody told her that her ship is falling apart, that dead chickens are something you really want to hang on to, and that the OSG has big plans for the universe that don’t necessarily jibe with her plans for herself.

This book plunges straight into a card game with the highest stakes – a nineteen-year-old girl betting her virginity against a ship. I’m not giving too much away when I reveal that she wins. And thus starts this space opera adventure, full of action and excitement as Cass gets to grips with her unusual crew, the quirks of an elderly ship not in the best condition and a very angry ex-captain, intent on retrieving his ship.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Cass makes an engaging protagonist and whilst my eyebrows were initially raised at the idea of a nineteen-year-old having the sheer life experience and street smarts to be able to walk into such a post – Casey ensures we realise that her background uniquely qualifies her. The first person narrative bounces along as Cass’s energetic, can-do personality drives the story forward – and that certainly chimes with her age. All too often, young protagonists are far too cagey and world-weary, more reflecting the experiences of their older, warier authors than the youngsters who they are supposed to portray. Not so in this case. While she has had a harsh, abusive childhood, Cass has the sheer bravado that comes with simply being young and hungry.

There is also a very scary major antagonist in the background, the more so as he doesn’t make an appearance in this book… but one of his underlings does. In amongst all the action and mayhem, there is also a generous dollop of humour. This isn’t a clench-jawed thriller – more of a rollicking adventure, full of incident and quirky characters. Which is not to say there aren’t some moments of high drama – the scene where they are attempting to extract ice to top up their water tanks under the noses of the overbearing intergalactic force, who have just slapped a tax on all water sources, crackles with tension.

All in all, this is a strong start to what promises to be an exciting, entertaining space opera series and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the next book, Drifters’ Alliance – Book 2.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Pirate Nemesis – Book 1 of the Telepathic Space Pirates series by Carysa Locke #Brainfluffbookreview #PirateNemesisbookreview

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I got hold of this one on the recommendation of Lola at Lola’s Reviews – and I’m very glad I did.

Killers. Thieves. Pirates. Family. Mercy Kincaid is a fugitive from her own family. Her dangerous telepathic gifts make her a target. So is anyone she gets close to. When her best friend is captured and tortured, Mercy’s only hope is to reunite with the family that tried to murder her as a child. She trusts few among her blood relatives, but finds herself intrigued by an enigmatic and dangerous killer.

Reaper has spent a lifetime watching his people die. He’s vowed to kill anyone who jeopardizes their survival. Mercy’s gifts are the biggest threat they’ve faced in eleven years, since a biological weapon nearly annihilated the pirate colonies. But Reaper realizes her talents can either destroy them, or save them. He must decide if he’s fallen victim to her power, or if he can truly trust the beautiful woman and her compelling abilities. If he makes the wrong choice, everyone dies.

This one starts with a wallop. I love the fact that we are quickly on Mercy’s side as we watch her struggling against a thoroughly unpleasant antagonist. She is brave, twitchy and ultra-suspicious – and quite right too. She has spent her life on the run from her own family and when she finally is confronted by the whole clan, it’s small wonder that she’s overwhelmed.

I liked the fact that despite what Mercy is and represents, she doesn’t turn into a Mary Sue, where all goes before her. That there is damage and mayhem on the way. I also like the fact that we learn the bloodsoaked history of Mercy’s family and why she was being hunted from the time she was a tiny child throughout the book, instead of a large info-dump.

Reaper is the other main character and again, his personality is skilfully handled as his prime instincts to seek out the weakness in everyone he meets – just in case he has to kill them – is convincingly portrayed.
The story moves along at a fair clip towards a chilling climax. I really liked the denouement and am delighted that Himself has got the next book in the series – I’ll definitely be reading it!

Recommended for fans of character-led space opera adventure, with a side order of romance.
8/10

Review of Ebook NOVELLA Anachronism by Jennifer Lee Rossman #Brainfluffbookreview #Anachronismbookreview

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I obtained an advanced reader copy of this novella from the author on the understanding I would provide an honest review. This is another of those quirky offerings from the award-winning Grimbold stable – they certainly have an eye for intriguing reads…

It’s the same old story: Time traveler meets girl, time traveler tells girl she’s the future president, time traveler and girl go on a road trip to prevent a war…

Petra Vincent is at the end of her rope – or rather, the edge of a bridge. Her world is falling apart around her and she sees no way out of the meaningless existence the future has in store. But when stranded time traveler Moses Morgan tells her that she will one day lead the country out of the rubble of a nuclear civil war as President of the United States, she’s intrigued – and when another time traveler starts trying to preemptively assassinate her, she realizes Moses might be telling the truth…

So this is an action-packed story where the main protagonist, Petra, finds her life turned upside down by an encounter with Moses, just at a point in her life where everything is going wrong. I found Petra sympathetic as her problems were immediately believable and contemporary and I also liked the fact that it took her some time and a frightening encounter before she began to accept that he might be back from the future with a very important message.

Unfortunately, his appearance draws down other attention, which is far less welcome. Davenport was a convincing villain and I was really rooting for Petra to survive so that she could become the great leader Moses knows from his history books. As she goes on a desperate road trip to meet her estranged father, this turns into a classic chase. What I hadn’t expected, was the ultimate twist at the end – I certainly didn’t see it coming and it was a doozy. I went back and reread the start just to ensure that Rossman hadn’t cheated in any way – she hadn’t. It’s really clever and memorable and turns the book into something else altogether.

This is an entertaining, well-written take on the time travelling trope and if you enjoy those types of stories and want a fast-paced read, then I highly recommend this one.
10/10

Review of INDIE EBOOK The Backworlds by M. Pax #Brainfluffbookreview #TheBackworldsbookreview

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The Backworlds is one of the 52 books on offer during the Instafeebie LEGION – Women Authors of Sci-Fi giveaway, which I had the pleasure of reading a while ago. This is my review. Running Out of Space is also part of this giveaway, if you haven’t already got hold of a copy and would like to give it a try.

In the far future, humanity settles the stars, bioengineering its descendents to survive in a harsh universe. After the war with the Foreworlders, Backworlders scatter across the planets left. Competition is fierce and pickings are scant. Scant enough that Craze’s father decides to improve his fortunes by destroying his son. Cut off from family and friends with little money and even less knowledge of the worlds beyond his own, Craze heads into an uncertain future. Boarding the transport to Elstwhere, he vows to make his father regret this day.

The initial couple of chapters pack a real punch – Craze’s hurt and amazement at his father’s double-cross is believable and immediately had me rooting for him. Pax shows her experience in the slick handling of her protagonist – too much fury and resistance would have unduly slowed the pace, while a mere defeated shrug would have still had the reader convinced that his father was a complete ratbag, but would not necessarily have engendered quite as much sympathy for the main character.

After his unpleasant ejection from his village, the story follows a familiar pattern – an inexperienced youngster having to make his way in an innately hostile and uncaring world. This time around, the worlds are hostile with knobs on. In the aftermath of an interplanetary war, no one is particularly welcoming – except for the two aviarmen he encounters on his first journey offworld… And immediately the three of them spin off into an adventure, while trying to find a foothold somewhere to make their fortunes.

The writing is pacy, direct and very readable. Pax knows how to write an interesting, detailed character, provide an entertaining and believable backdrop, while keeping the action coming. I was swept along with the action and particularly enjoyed the colourful dialogue.
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Tethered Mage – Book 1 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso #Brainfluffbookreview #TheTetheredMagebookreview

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I had some tokens and after reading a number of really enthusiastic reviews about this one, I decided to get hold of it. The marvellous cover influenced me, too…

Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire. Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations. But fate has bound the heir and the mage.

Amalia Cornaro lives in the shadow of her powerful, politically effective parent – and for a change, said parent is La Contessa. We don’t hear very much about Amalie’s father – it’s all about her trying to live up to her mother’s expectations. As the only child, those expectations weigh heavily. Especially as Amalia is more comfortable studying the art of magic and how to manufacture spells, even though she isn’t mage-touched. Because if she were, she wouldn’t be living in her mother’s palace – she would be residing in the fortified Mews with other magically-gifted individuals, wearing a small bracelet which would allow an ungifted companion to control her magical ability – her Falconer.

The story is about one such gifted individual, Zaira, whose magical gift is the ability to create balefire – a blue-flamed conflagration which feeds on the flesh of its victims and very quickly turns into a firestorm. Most balefire mages don’t make it past childhood without killing themselves. But Zaira has managed to eke out a living in the Tallows, the slums of Raverra – until an attempted kidnap draws her to the attention of the authorities running the Mews and she finds herself braceleted and carted off to live in luxury. The only catch being, she’s not free…

This approach to the whole issue of magic-users is a really intriguing one. I love the idea that they either run amok, becoming the entitled, despotic overlords – or the tools of the state, working for the greater good, while being magically tethered by their bracelets, or jesse. It’s a clever term, with its overtones of falconry, where the birds of prey are shackled by leather straps called a jesse.

I haven’t mentioned the story, or the plotting or even said much about the characters. And I should – because it’s a cracking tale, full of incident and adventure, narrated by Amalia, who is an engaging protagonist. While I enjoyed her character, my attention was inevitably drawn to Zaira – I thought it was a bold touch to have the main protagonist the less charismatic, gifted character, and it works very well. I also liked the fact that this world has a number of powerful women, alongside the men, who have agency.

I’m delighted I bought this one and look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Defiant Heir. Highly recommended for fantasy fans.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 24th July, 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:

Like a Boss – Book 2 of the Windswept series by Adam Rakunas

p. 150. Saarien walked right up to me. “If you’re going to hit me again, please don’t hit me in the face.”
“I’m not going to hit you again. Though I hope you don’t give me a reason to.”
He nodded. “I heard what happened. I’m so glad you’re all right.”
“I’ll bet.” The goons formed a cordon around us, pushing him way too close to me.

BLURB: After buying her favourite rum distillery and settling down, she thought she’d heard the last of her arch nemesis, Evanrute Saarien. But Saarien, fresh out of prison for his misdeeds in Windswept, has just fabricated a new religion, positioning himself as its holy leader. He’s telling his congregation to go on strike, to fight the system. And unfortunately, they’re listening to him.

This doesn’t have the same breathless energy of the first book and has taken me a while to get into it. But I am enjoying the investigation into the economic and political aspects of this colony world – normally it’s a subject more lightly dealt with, rather than being the engine that drives the action. So I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes…

Review of Indie Ebook Removed – Book 1 of the Nogiku series by S.J. Pajonas #Brainfluffbookreview #Removedbookreview

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I enjoyed Crash Land on Kurai so wanted more of this interesting world where most of the survivors of the human race happen to be Japanese and go back to their ancient customs and roots in a post-apocalyptic world.

Can she piece together the truth before Earth’s last city tears itself apart? It’s easy for Sanaa to ignore the first signs of trouble. After all, she’s living her dream with a job and life she loves. But when she’s reassigned as a data analyst for a mysterious, well-connected man, she starts to piece together the alarming reality. Corrupt clans vie for control of the city, desperate for a ticket off the dying planet.

I really liked this one. Sanaa is a hard-working youngster, driven to try and help alleviate many of the problems holding up humanity’s flight to the stars, while living in the last large underground city. However, time is running out. The Earth’s crust is breaking up and the climate is steadily deteriorating. Sanaa has always assumed that she would continue to pursue her studies, having worked very hard to distinguish herself. And then one day it all changes. She is yanked away from her friends and the job she loves and told she needs to pursue a different path – while not really understanding what that path is. This could have been a really hard sell – that our lively, intelligent protagonist is completely derailed from her life’s ambitions and yet somehow goes along with the flow without creating too many waves. However, Pajonas has been clever in setting up the world where she is an orphan living with her aunt and her lover – a world where obedience and doing your best is highly prized in a society teetering on the edge of obliteration.

In many ways, this story is comfortingly familiar to anyone who reads this genre in that we have a youngster immersed in what they believe to be their life’s ambition, often with the difficult start, and doing very well. At some stage, everything suddenly falls apart as they are forced into embracing a far more difficult, often darker occupation and in following this path, on the advice of some mysterious mentor, they encounter romance.

What I think makes this one stand out, is the complexity of the characterisation and the layers of society and sheer detail we get of Sanaa’s everyday life. This gives us a greater understanding of not only her actions, but her thoughts and her doubts. While the romance was predictable, I was relieved there were no major quarrels or upsets and it is genuinely sweet. One interesting difference was that Sanaa had previously experienced two very unsatisfactory love affairs and talks quite frankly about them – which is atypical in this kind of story.

However, I don’t want you to go away with the idea that this is all about the romance – it isn’t and if it had been I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did. This book does what all good science fiction achieves – takes me to a different place and a different time and immerses me in a completely different culture, leaving me wondering what I’d do if it were me. Recommended for fans of character-led, adventure science fiction.
9/10