Category Archives: Kindle edition

Review of INDIE EBOOK Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick #Brainfluffbookreview #Ascendingbookreview

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Himself picked this one up – and recommended that I read it. After trudging through a couple of hefty fantasy reads, I was yearning for a sci fi space opera adventure and reached for this one…

Twenty-five years ago the Vardeshi came to Earth. Then they vanished without a trace. Graduate student Avery Alcott always knew they would return. When they do, she’s the only one who can speak their language. She’s quickly recruited to join the crew of an 11-man starship on a one-year mission into the depths of space.

What an impressive debut! I loved the character of Avery – bookish, quiet and introverted, which doesn’t stop her being driven and single-minded with hidden resources. Which she certainly needs… She is a linguistic student selected by a brilliant college professor to learn the Vardeshi language just in case they return. And then they do – and she is the only person of an eligible age who can speak their language.

The preparation for a mission where she will be travelling on a Vardeshi ship as a member of their crew as part of the cultural exchange is so very well depicted. I found this book hard to put down as Avery finds herself tackling hand to hand combat, learning how to send secret messages and cooking her own meals on portable equipment as no one knew whether alien foodstuffs would be poisonous to humans, or vice versa. I also loved her struggles to acclimatise – finding the lighting, slight gravity differences, the fact that everything around her isn’t designed for a human body – an issue that she has to cope with.

When things begin to escalate, I’ll admit my heart sank for a while, as I had a horrible feeling this was going to slide into a Hollywood scenario where the whole situation would become overblown and unrealistic, after it had started so strongly. Fortunately, I think Pechenick manages to avoid that one – the nightmarish situation Avery finds herself in is, after all, believable – as is the fallout.

I tore through this one, unable to put it down until I reached the end – when I was adrift with longing for more… I’m really looking forward to reading the next book in this series, Bright Shards which is coming out on 1st August – and we’ve pre-ordered it. Very highly recommended for fans of well written first contact adventures.
9/10

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Review of ARC Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow by Jennifer Lee Rossman #Brainfluffbookreview #JackJetstarksIntergalacticFreakshow

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At some stage I downloaded this arc in return for an honest review – and then forgot to transfer it from my computer file onto my Kindle. Thank goodness I’ve now found it, because I thoroughly enjoyed this quirky offering by Lee Rossman, whose writing I have already enjoyed in her novella Anachronism – see my review here.

Jack Jetstark travels the universe to seek out the descendants of superpowered freaks created long ago by VesCorp scientists. The vibrations encoded in a particular song transform the members of Jack’s crew into a firebreather and an angel, a wildman and telepathic conjoined triplets, so they hide the truth of who they really are with the theatrics of a carnival. The song plays every night through the receptor Jack carries with them, but when one night it has a different ending and their temporary powers become permanent, Jack believes the change is a signal from the woman who sent him on this quest in the first place. He and his freaks must navigate a universe at war to protect the love of his life. But does the ruler of VesCorp really need protecting?

This entertaining read is something of a mash-up – one of those where the science fiction explanation works well, but nonetheless has more than a slight fantasy feel. I thoroughly enjoyed the first person protagonist, Jack Jetstark, who is a sympathetic character with a lethal skillset, but nonetheless comes across as emotionally vulnerable. I enjoyed his steadfast love for his childhood sweetheart that could come across as naïve, but because of the pledge they’d made – he completely trusted her. I also like the care he demonstrates for the disparate family of genetic ‘freaks’ he travels with.

However, their constant journeying from one backward planet to another, putting on their small show comes to an abrupt end when the music changes and with it, so does everything else. From that moment on, this adventure changes gear and the pace picks up whirling us into an action adventure that buckets forward full tilt.

At this stage it would have been easy for the characters to become thinner as they become caught up in events, but Lee Rossman keeps a firm grip on the pacing and her main players, to the extent that I found that my thoughts were often with the antagonist and her motivations. Is she necessarily wrong in her approach? Will Jetstark’s intervention make a bad situation worse? I think this is the mark of an accomplished writer to be able to raise those important questions while all the mayhem is kicking off.

Highly recommended for fans of space opera adventure featuring strong characters.
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Hidden World – Book 3 of the Imperials series by Melinda M. Snodgrass #Brainfluffbookreview #TheHiddenWorldbookreview

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I’ve loved this series. It starts off with all the necessary elements expected to make an enjoyable space opera coming-of-age story in the first book, The High Ground – see my review here. But events suddenly takes a left turn and what I thought would be a romance between the two main protagonists – the tailor’s son and the princess – turns out to be anything but…

Fourteen years have passed and former military officer Thracius “Tracy” Belmanor has built a new life for himself. Living under an assumed name as the captain of a small trading vessel crewed primarily by aliens, he and his crew engage in both legal and illegal deals just under the radar of the Solar League authorities. At the other end of the social hierarchy, Princess Mercedes de Arango has her own problems. With rumors of a coup swirling around the throne, Mercedes makes the desperate decision to undertake a military campaign and gain her people’s allegiance through a victory – though things don’t go according to plan…

I have seriously doctored the blurting blurb so those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading the first two books in this delightful series won’t find your experience spoiled. Once more, I’ve enjoyed being able to examine this society by looking at both the highest level and someone bumping along reasonably near the bottom. The crew often are asked to leave eating places where aliens are not welcome to eat alongside humans.

Mercedes’ life isn’t any easier, despite her more high-end lifestyle. She has problems regarding the succession and her fraying relationship with her husband – so when a commander-in-chief is required for a major military sortie to deal with a major threat to humanity, she is the obvious choice. Indeed, she is delighted to get the chance to go…

Tracy is suitably grumpy and hard-edged, given he is somewhat bitter at the hand Life dealt him, which makes him less likeable than Mercedes. But his courage, ability to act effectively under fire and his own unshakeable moral compass have firmly put me on his side. While I always loved Mercedes and still find her really appealing, so I was sad to see her rather ground down by the passing years and a life that had nibbled away her sense of worth. So it was lovely to see her grow into the person she was always meant to be…

This space opera still has the necessary political plotting, space battles and tension required to tick the genre expectations – with the icing on the cake being the really grown-up characterisation that makes these two protagonists such a delight. However, I firmly recommend that you read this series in order – while you undoubtedly could work out what is going on and treat each one as a standalone, the overarching narrative running across the books is the engine that powers this series. Very highly recommended for space opera fans who enjoy nuanced, well depicted characters.
10/10

Running Out of Space is FREE for today and tomorrow!

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The Kindle edition of Running Out of Space – book 1 of The Sunblinded Trilogy is FREE for Friday 28th and Saturday 29th June.

BLURB: Lizzy Wright has yearned to serve on the space merchant ship Shooting Star for as long as she can remember – until one rash act changes everything…

Lizzy and her friends weren’t looking for trouble – all they’d wanted was to prove that fertile English girls could handle themselves when on shore leave without being accompanied by a sour-faced chaperone and armed guard. Looking back, maybe taking a jaunt off-limits on Space Station Hawking wasn’t the best idea – but no one could have foreseen the outcome. Or that the consequences of that single expedition would change the lives of all four girls, as well as that of the stranger who stepped in to save them.

Now Lizzy has more excitement and danger than she can handle, while confronting lethal shipboard politics, kidnapping, betrayal. And murder.

Running Out of Space is an excellent novel, with enough pace and plot to keep you reading, and enough subtext to keep you wondering.’ Mrs Vivienne Tuffnell – 5 stars

For fans who enjoy Lois McMaster Bujold and Elizabeth Moon

 CLICK on the COVER in the sidebar to take advantage of this offer – OR on this LINK here!

Review of Witch Slapped – Book 1 of Witchless in Seattle by Dakota Cassidy #Brainfluffbookreview #WitchSlappedbookreview

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I’d just finished a very intense, if riveting read and wanted something I could relax and have a giggle with, when I saw this one pop up on my Kindle…

What’s a girl to do when she’s a broke, shunned ex-witch with a very tiny, very hungry bat familiar named Belfry to feed? Hello. My name is Stevie Cartwright, and I’ve been witchless for thirty days. If only there was a support group for down-on-their-luck ex-witches who’ve had their powers slapped right out of them (literally). Just as I was licking my wounds after returning to my hometown of Ebenezer Falls, WA, and navigating my suddenly non-magical existence with the help of my familiar, the only friend I have left in the world–things got sticky.

Poor old Steve, who has a gift for helping ghosts adrift in the afterlife, got involved with helping a small scared boy with powerful angry parents, who didn’t want their domestic dirty linen to see the light of day. So she ends up witchless and down on her luck. While the writing is continually chirpy, the endless grind of struggling to make her dwindling savings go ever further came through very strongly. And if you were thinking ‘eww’ about the bat, frankly Belfry comes across more as a little ball of cotton than a nightmare creature with veined wings and repellently ugly face.

Then there’s the inevitable murder and Steve is discovered in the wrong place at the wrong time… Cassidy gets the pacing spot on in this short but perfectly formed whodunit. I like the fact there are two puzzles running alongside each other in this story – who killed poor Madame Zoltar and who – exactly – is Winterbottom? We find out by the end of this slice of the adventure why Madame Zoltar died and who was the murderer, but as for Winterbottom, Steve’s mysterious benefactor – nope. While there are a number of tantalising clues, we are left wondering exactly who he is and why he elected to assist Steve.

That’s fine, because it gives me an excuse to dive back into this entertaining series for more Steve Cartwright adventuring. Recommended for fans of paranormal cosy mysteries featuring a quirky, humorous protagonist.
8/10

Review of INDIE Ebook The Lost Gunboat Captain – Book 1 of the Jolo Vargas Space Opera series by J.D. Oppenheim #Brainfluffbookreview #TheLostGunboatCaptainbookreview

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This is one of the books Himself snagged when looking for yet more enthralling space opera adventures that we are both addicted to…

Alone in the cold black with 36 hours of oxygen. Jolo Vargas, Federation Gunboat Captain, is trapped in a runaway escape pod zooming towards Federation space. But will he be dead before he gets there? He’s in a tight spot. But he’s a war hero, just the type of man who could work his way out of this jam. But there’s just one little problem. He doesn’t remember who he is.

The beginning of this book rocks – I absolutely loved it as a confused protagonist tries to work out exactly where he is, who he is and what is going on. There was some debate as to whether he is actually alive… It gradually transforms into a more conventional space opera foot-to-the-floor adventure with an unusual protagonist – a protagonist who isn’t what he initially seems to be. Haunted by visions of a beautiful young crew member that he knows is in danger and that he needs to save, yet not sure of who he is, this protagonist only gradually begins to realise what is happening around him. However it soon transpires that whoever he is, he is certainly a disaster magnet and mayhem ensues wherever he goes as he continually dodges overwhelming odds in the form of unpleasant aliens and their pliant human allies. Fortunately, these aliens tend to rely far too much on their heavily armoured suits that protect their soft wormlike bodies and are unaccustomed to the kind of defiance they are suddenly facing.

I found the protagonist in this multi-viewpoint adventure an interesting mix – necessarily we need to bond with him, but there are aspects of his personality that we cannot know about so there is also a bit of necessary distance between the reader and the main character. Oppenheim deals with this tension very effectively as the story unspools towards an unexpected development surrounding that beautiful young woman that fills his thoughts. It’s nicely done and I enjoyed the world with the satisfyingly nasty aliens. I’m hoping to continue with this series during 2019.
8/10

Review of INDIE Ebook Broken Heart Attack – Book 2 of the Braxton Campus Mysteries series by James J. Cudney #Brainfluffbookreview #BrokenHeartAttackbookreview

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, Academic Curveball – see my review here, so when I realised the second book was already out, and given the major cliff-hanger ending, I got hold of this one.

When an extra ticket becomes available to attend the dress rehearsal of Braxton’s King Lear production, Kellan tags along with Nana D and her buddies, sisters-in-law Eustacia and Gwendolyn Paddington, to show support for the rest of the Paddington family. When one of them appears to have a heart attack in the middle of the second act, Nana D raises her suspicions and asks Kellan to investigate who killed her friend. Amidst family members suddenly in debt and a secret rendezvous between an unlikely pair, Kellan learns the Paddingtons might not be as clean-cut as everyone thinks. But did one of them commit murder for an inheritance?

Cudney’s smooth, readable style scooped me up and swiftly drew me back into life on Braxton campus. While you might initially flounder slightly if you hadn’t had the pleasure of reading Academic Curveball, Cudney ensures you’ll soon make sense of what is going on – and indeed, there’s plenty to keep poor Kellen on the back foot.

His main relationship is with his feisty, sharp-tongued grandmother, Nana D. I really like the intergenerational dynamic within the story. Kellen’s grandmother isn’t introduced just to give us a few smiles at his expense as her snarky replies leaves him waving in the wind, Nana D is important to the story as a character in her own right. I also like the fact that the victim is one of her elderly friends – and that her death is investigated with the same rigour as the hapless youngster in the previous book. Far too much casual ageism is exhibited within this genre, so encountering Cudney’s take on the older characters in his story is refreshing change.

The mystery is nicely twisty, with plenty of potential suspects. I also liked the character development moving forward through the series – while the Sheriff was extremely hostile towards Kellen’s involvement in the previous book, she becomes less so during this investigation, as Kellen proves his worth and gains her rather grudging trust. Once more, Cudney’s skill in handling the whodunit is apparent, while I had a couple of candidates in mind for the wicked deed – neither of them were responsible and yet the culprit had a solid motive.

Any niggles? Well, I was floored by the revelation at the end of the first book and very eager to find out exactly what had happened – to the extent of skimming the first few pages to discover the outcome. If I have a grizzle, it would be that this major plotpoint was slightly squeezed out of the story at the expense of the investigation. So I’m hoping the next book will put Kellen’s personal issues right in the centre of the story, because I’m very keen to see him finally face up to that cauldron of regret, anger and thwarted love…
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Within the Sanctuary of Wings – Book 5 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan #Brainfluffbookreview #WithintheSanctuaryofWingsbookreview #2019TheBacklistReaderChallenge

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It’s been far too long since I finished the fourth book in this series, In the Labyrinth of Drakes – and I realised that I had been putting off completing this series simply because I didn’t want all the fun to stop. However, all good things must come to an end…

After nearly five decades (and, indeed, the same number of volumes), one might think they were well-acquainted with the Lady Isabella Trent–dragon naturalist, scandalous explorer, and perhaps as infamous for her company and feats of daring as she is famous for her discoveries and additions to the scientific field. And yet–after her initial adventure in the mountains of Vystrana, and her exploits in the depths of war-torn Eriga, to the high seas aboard The Basilisk, and then to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia–the Lady Trent has captivated hearts along with fierce minds. This concluding volume will finally reveal the truths behind her most notorious adventure–scaling the tallest peak in the world, buried behind the territory of Scirland’s enemies–and what she discovered there, Within the Sanctuary of Wings.

The other issue, of course, is after whisking us around the world, where Lady Trent endured desert, biting cold and torrid jungle in her search for knowledge about the various species of dragons, would this latest adventure managed to measure up to the previous cracking reads? The answer is yes. Now at a stage in her career where her exploits have given her a worldwide reputation, Lady Trent still is not wholly accepted within the scientific circles of Scirland. So while she is constantly in touch with fellow academics, corresponding around the world on the subject of dragons and respected as a leading authority, she is also becoming increasingly restless. Those of you who have read any of these books won’t find it a huge surprise that when reports of the remains of a completely new species come to her attention, she quickly organises an expedition to travel to the inhospitable range of mountains where this frozen corpse was last seen.

I love Lady Trent. She is the embodiment of a host of plucky Victorian ladies who ventured across the globe in long skirts and boned stays on a variety of scientific expeditions that subsequently were often erased from history. Brennan, by now knows her heroine very well, so we can relax into the adventure that befalls her – Lady T is something of a disaster magnet – which also takes the whole series into a completely different direction.

Does this final adventure adequately bring this whole series to a satisfactory conclusion? Oh yes – I thought this culmination of Lady T’s eventful life of scientific exploration was very well handled. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading this delightful series and enjoy the opportunity to read a different sort of book about dragonkind, then this one comes highly recommended. Whatever you do, though, don’t start with this book – go back to the beginning of the series and pick up A Natural History of Dragons see my review here. I only wish that I was also able to turn the page and experience the pleasure of the first book for the first time, again.
10/10

Review of INDIE EBOOK Under Ordshaw – Book 1 of The Ordshaw series by Phil Williams #Brainfluffbookreview #UnderOrdshawbookreview

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I read this book as Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog recommended it and I very much liked the look of the cover. I was also in the mood for an entertaining urban fantasy with a twist.

Pax is one rent cheque away from the unforgiving streets of Ordshaw. After her stash is stolen, her hunt for the thief unearths a book of nightmares and a string of killers, and she stands to lose much more than her home. There’s something lurking under her city. Knowing it’s there could get you killed.
I’m not going to claim that the premise is anything particularly original – it isn’t. Ordshaw is a city with a dark underbelly where lethal creatures inhabit the network of tunnels hidden beneath the streets. Most people, particularly those who are out and about during the day, don’t have any inkling about the battle going on between the creatures and humanity – but those who are largely out at night have more of an idea that something isn’t quite right. Pax falls into this category, given she is a card player who spends most of her time working at night.

However, for me she isn’t the most interesting character in this book. Cano Casaria, an agent for the Ministry of Environmental Energy, in theory should be one of the good guys. In fact, the character seemed very familiar to me – driven by a desire to keep humanity safe; possessing a fanatical loathing of the terrible creatures wreaking havoc; determined to ensure that their agenda doesn’t prevail. In many other hands, Casaria would be the protagonist. But he’s not. While it’s his efforts that initially involve Pax in the whole business, his brutal methods characterised by the end absolutely justifying any means repel her, particularly after she encounters Letty the tiny fairy, whom Casaria cripples.

It is the interplay between these characters that had me turning the pages wanting to know what would happen next. While some of the monsters are definitely unpleasant and there is a great deal we don’t yet know about them, it wasn’t the battle between them and humanity that powered the story, but the rivalries and relationships formed between those who were trying to stop them.

In making this the focus of the story, Williams has succeeded in giving this urban fantasy a fresh twist so that while it started quite slowly, as it gathered pace I found it difficult to put down. Recommended for fans of well-written urban fantasy, who’d appreciate something a little different. While I obtained a review copy of Under Ordshaw from the author, the views I have expressed are my honest opinion of the book.
9/10

Review of INDIE Ebook Star Carrier – Book 3 of the Lost Colonies series by B.V. Larson #Brainfluffbookreview #StarCarrierbookreview

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I read the first book in this series, following the exploits of William Sparhawk in Battle Cruiser here for Sci Fi Month and I was hooked. In short order, I read Dreadnaught and now need to know what happens next…

The greatest warships ever constructed in known space rise up one by one, soon dominating our skies. They strike fear into the hearts of every citizen and rebel colonist alike. Captain William Sparhawk, the very man who convinced the secretive Council to build this terrifying fleet, now has doubts about the project. What is their exact mission? How could anyone have built these huge ships so quickly? And most puzzling of all, what’s happening out at the isolated laboratory complex on Phobos, Mars’ lop-sided moon?

I very much like William, which is important as this trilogy is told in first person viewpoint throughout through his point of view. Rather unbending and more than a bit socially awkward, William is partly cloned from his father’s genes, not that it means they get on – they don’t. And due to what happens during this event-filled foray, as William sets off on a mission he isn’t sure he’ll return from, he discovers the chilling reason why his father is so closed off.

There are plenty of ingredients vital to the success of a cracking series – a likeable protagonist with several character flaws that endear me to him; lots of action that has me turning the pages, providing plenty of excitement; sufficient worldbuilding that means I care about the stakes and situation putting the protagonist in peril and sufficient variety in the way in which our plucky character struggles so that it doesn’t become repetitive.

But what sets apart other series – including this one – is that as it progresses, situations and issues the character and reader thought were fact become something else. There are other layers underneath the apparent structure, which gives a completely different angle to what is actually going on. As a result, this is a series you really must read in the right order to get the very best out of it – and for my money, the best is very, very good.

I loved the dynamic that continued playing out at the end of Dreadnaught and continues on into this book that provides strong answers to all sorts of questions, such as – why is the political situation on Earth quite so stagnant? Why doesn’t the power structure morph and change into something else? Some of those answers are shocking.

I found it hard to put this one down as I was driven to discover how this plays out, hoping that the ending wouldn’t be a disappointment, after all the tension and adventure. I was enormously relieved – and sad – when Larson successfully tied up all the loose ends and brought the book and trilogy to a triumphant conclusion. Highly recommended.
10/10