Category Archives: landscape

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Green Man’s Challenge – Book 4 of The Green Man series by Juliet E. McKenna #Brainfluffbookreview #TheGreenMansChallengebookreview

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I’m a huge fan of this series. I’ve always enjoyed McKenna’s writing – 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. But I think The Green Man series is something really special – see my reviews of The Green Man’s Heir, The Green Man’s Foe and The Green Man’s Silence.

BLURB: A while back, Daniel Mackmain’s life took an unexpected turn. Now the Green Man expects him to resolve clashes between those dwelling unseen in wild places and the ordinary people who have no idea what’s out there. Dan’s father is human and his mother’s a dryad, so he sees what’s happening in both these worlds.

Once upon a time, giants walked this land. So says everyone from Geoffrey of Monmouth to William Blake. This ancient threat is stirring in the Wiltshire twilight, up on the chalk downs. Can Dan meet this new challenge when he can only find half-forgotten fairy tales to guide him? Will the other local supernatural inhabitants see him – or the giant – as friend or foe?

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

REVIEW: I often omit the final strapline of blurbs that describe the book as frankly, a lot of them aren’t particularly helpful. But this time around – that final line exactly describes this series of books, which is why they are so very special. We’re up to our necks in a rich, varied folklore in Britain, with all sorts of stories about faery creatures. And many of these have disappeared because oral traditions waned as regions have become more accessible and people move around more. But in this instalment of Dan’s adventures, McKenna has brilliantly utilised the likes of the giant figures cut into chalk hillsides and some of the numerous folk stories around hares to add to her intriguing Brit rural fantasy tale.

I really like Dan – his somewhat blokey persona rings true. He’s rough around the edges, but his heart’s in the right place and I also enjoy his growing relationship with Fin. If you like fantasy stories, yet have got a bit fed up with a continual diet of werewolves and vampires, then give this series a spin. You can pick up this book without having read the previous ones and quickly get into the groove of the story. However, in order to fully appreciate the full awesomeness of McKenna’s world, I’d advise that you first go back to the first book – The Green Man’s Heir.

Any niggles? Well, I for one didn’t feel the extra story at the back was necessary and frankly, I wish I hadn’t read it. The shift in viewpoint was jarring and I felt the explanation of what happened within the main narrative was sufficient. But it certainly isn’t a dealbreaker – and surely it’s better to have too much information than too little. I very much hope that there are more books featuring Dan and this wonderful, layered world embedded within old British folklore, as there simply isn’t anything else quite like it. Very highly recommended.
9/10

Tuesday Treasures – 19 #Brainfluffbookblog #LightintheLockdown

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In this week’s Tuesday Treasures, I’m back to Bexhill, where I was on a writing retreat with my sister in law at the end of September/beginning of October. These were a number of pictures I took throughout our stay. And in the final morning, before we started packing to leave, we had breakfast on the balcony, watching the sunrise as a final farewell from Bexhill to us…

The rosa ragosa is part of the planting scheme – just look at the hips on them…
And these sedums also are part of the plants growing behind the benches on the sea front.
This flock of starlings roosted on our roof – the numbers are too small to be a full murmuration – but watching them wheel together was always a delight
I was struck at just how well this young seagull blended into the shingle beach
Our last morning and the final gift from Bexhill…
The blaze of light is the reflection of the rising sun on the windows of the art deco De La Warr Pavillion


Friday Faceoff – Let’s take our hearts for a walk in the woods… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffforestcovers

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with FORESTS OR JUNGLES. I’ve selected Hatchet – Book 1 in the Brian’s Saga series by Gary Paulsen.

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, April 2000

This offering was produced by Atheneum Books for Young Readers in April 2000, but as it is one of the default covers for this successful book, over the years a number of publishers have used this design. I can see why – the young protagonist is featured on the cover with the thick Canadian wilderness in the background and the hatchet featured as an overlay. The blocky treatment of the artwork ensures that it stays eye-catching even when in thumbnail and the blue title font is still readable. That said, I don’t particularly love it – and it isn’t the cover that induced me to buy the book for my son, when he was a struggling reader and I was trying to encourage him to persevere.

Simon Schuster Books, December 2006

Published in December 2006 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, this is the cover that came to mind when I saw this week’s FF theme. And the one on the cover of the book I bought my son all those years ago, as this is the other default cover. I love the forested landscape with the hatchet superimposed across it. It gives a sense of the scale of poor Brian’s plight in a way I don’t think the other one does. I also prefer the punchy title and author font. What I don’t like is that nasty silver blob that detracts from the overall design. Just look at the two covers without the blob and you can see the entirety of the designs and much better they look. This one is so nearly my favourite.

Simon Pulse, December 2006

This edition, published in December 2006 by Simon Pulse books, has flipped the previous design into night-time mode – and what a difference it makes to the tone and mood of the book. I love it and think it is beautiful – but that’s why this one isn’t getting my vote. This cover sings out paranormal shapeshifter to me – which is completely the wrong genre.

Macmillan Children’s Books, 1996

This edition, published in 1996 by Macmillan Children’s Books, is a stunning cover. The hatchet isn’t being used to chop wood, or build shelters – a desperate Brian is using the hatchet to make fire… I love this one. It’s eye-catching, beautiful and absolutely sums up the struggle for survival. The notch in this blade is apparently designed for a ‘hardcore survivalist hatchet, underlining that this is probably the different between life and death for Brian. This one is my favourite.

Pan Macmillan UK, March 2017

This 30th Anniversary edition, published by Pan Macmillan UK in March 2017, is another fabulous cover. The huge grizzly, with the isolated landscape and the small plane flying against a setting sun is stunningly beautiful. I don’t like to nitpick – though I’m going to anyway – but I don’t recall this book being allll about a grizzly bear called Hatchet. And I think that’s the impression you might come away with, when you see this cover. Or perhaps, because it’s the anniversary edition of a much-loved book, the publishers figured most people buying it would know the basic story. But I don’t think that’s an assumption publishers can afford to make. What do you think?


Tuesday Treasures – 17 #Brainfluffbookblog #LightintheLockdown

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In this week’s Tuesday Treasures, I’m back to Bexhill, where I was on a writing retreat with my sister in law. We’d been writing hard all day, when there had been a number of showers. And in the late afternoon, it brightened up so we decided to go for a walk. And this is what I found… And yes, those are rocks that have been sculpted by the sea. They are covered at high tide. On the return journey, the sun was starting to sink in the sky and that is why the statue is tinged pink – it isn’t that my camera is on the blink!


Review of KINDLE EbookThe Ruthless – Book 2 of The Deathless series by Peter Newman #Brainfluffbookreview #TheRuthlessbookreview

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I loved the strange, rich world that Newman evoked in his first book The Deathless and when I realised that I’d somehow missed the release of this second one, I scooped it up. As luck would have it – the third book The Boundless has recently been released.

BLURB: The Rebel.
For years, Vasin Sapphire has been waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Now, as other Deathless families come under constant assault from the monsters that roam the Wild, that time has come.
The Ruthless.
In the floating castle of Rochant Sapphire, loyal subjects await the ceremony to return their rule to his rightful place. But the child raised to give up his body to Lord Rochant is no ordinary servant. Strange and savage, he will stop at nothing to escape his gilded prison.
And The Returned…
Far below, another child yearns to see the human world. Raised by a creature of the Wild, he knows its secrets better than any other. As he enters into the struggle between the Deathless houses, he may be the key to protecting their power or destroying it completely.
THE WILD HAS BEGUN TO RISE.

REVIEW: Yep. That’s the blurb – and unless you have read the first book, it will read as absolute gobbledygook for the very good reason that this is one of those series where you MUST read the first book to make sense of what is happening. While you might get the gist of the story – you will not be able to fully comprehend the stakes or what exactly is going on.

I thoroughly enjoyed this second foray into this weird, difficult world fraught with hidden dangers – and not-so hidden lethal creatures, ready to prey on any human who has the bad luck to end up in The Wild. And it didn’t take me very long to recall what had happened in the first book and who was doing what to whom – which is just as well, because all sorts of nefarious plots and double dealing naughtiness are going on. That isn’t good news for the long-term survival of the God road, or those perched above the Wild in their famous floating castles.

Newman has a cast of vivid characters – many of them not necessarily all that likeable, but there are one or two I have given my heart to – I so want Sa-at to find some peace and happiness, and dear Chandri who has had the thankless task of raising her bratty son, Satyendra all these years. And I also loved the reckless, rule-breaking Lady Pari and her desperate attempt to help her brother, while trying to figure out what is exactly going on with Lord Rochant, her former lover. Hm – and what is going on with Lord Rochant? It all seems to hinge on who he actually is and what he’s up to…

With a twisty plot, a marvellous, atmospheric world that is well established without screeds of decription and a cast of charismatic characters, this is an engrossing read that held me throughout. Any niggles? Well, I’m not a fan of cliffhanger endings – and this is one. While the story has definitely been progressed and we now know a lot more about some of the more mysterious machinations that power this world – I would have appreciated at least one storyline to have been brought to some sort of close. Which means I’m really looking forward to getting hold of the final book in this trilogy, The Boundless. Highly recommended for fans of strong, character-based fantasy set in a vividly depicted world.
9/10

Tuesday Treasures – 13 #Brainfluffbookblog #LightintheLockdown

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Himself and I haven’t been away together for any kind of holiday since 2018, and were determined to get away for a few days to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, especially as a family party was impossible. So we were delighted to find vacancies at a good hotel in Ashdown Forest of Winnie the Pooh fame.

View from our bedroom window
The back of our hotel – one of the windows on the 2nd floor is ours…
The fish are clearly used to being fed from this small pier


Tuesday Treasures – 11 #Brainfluffbookblog #LightintheLockdown

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This week on Tuesday Treasures, I am featuring the pics I took on our walk along Littlehampton beach on Sunday morning. And this time around, the tide was in. Some of the photos were taken on the small pier at the mouth of the River Arun – we were lucky with the sunshine, after a rainy, stormy week. And evidence of the storms is the seaweed strewn across the beach.

Me on Littlehampton pier
View looking up the River Arun towards Littlehampton
Looking straight down from the pier onto the breaking waves
Littlehampton lighthouse
Part of the longest bench in the world which runs the length of the beach
This teak groyn was flung up onto the beach in the last storm – and it’s HEAVY


Tuesday Treasures – 10 #Brainfluffbookblog #LightintheLockdown

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This week on Tuesday Treasures, I am featuring the pics I took on our walk along Littlehampton beach on Sunday morning. As you can see, the tide was out a long way…

Himself joining me on my walk
Patterns of different coloured sand made by the retreating tide
We were lucky with the weather – the rain didn’t come until we got home
Barnacles growing on one of the groyns
The seaweed looks so ordinary until you get close – and realise how pretty it is…
The sand is broken up by heaps of flints that appeared after the work on the sea defences
There are now rockpools and seaweed growing on these piles
I loved the way the sun was reflected in one of the rockpools
Seaweed is unfurled and beautiful in rockpools, rather than sodden heaps on the sand










Review of KINDLE Ebook The City of Brass – Book 1 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty #Brainfluffbookreview #TheCityofBrassbookreview

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I have already read The Kingdom of Copper, the second book in this classy sand and sorcery series, which is good enough that I wanted to backtrack and get hold of this one, before reading the final book, in order to do real justice to the series. I’m so glad I did…

BLURB: Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles. But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.


REVIEW: I thoroughly enjoyed Nahri as the main protagonist when I encountered her in The Kingdom of Copper, but discovering how she became that wary, stifled consort was a gripping journey that had me reading way into the early morning. I am a real sucker for this sub-genre, which tends to have a lethal set of magic around djinns and ghouls, a fast-paced story that often encompasses poetic descriptions of the desert and the fabulous cities that exist by life-giving rivers. Chakraborty hits every one of those necessary tropes and knocks them out of the field, by giving her own spin on the world, including a bloody backstory and long-lived demons with longer memories, who aren’t inclined to forgive and forget.

Who, or what, Nahri is becomes a major focus of the story. Yep – that trope, again… But there is nothing remotely clichéd or tired in Charkaborty’s treatment of this enjoyable, chippy character. I quickly bonded with her and found the ensuing adventure across the desert with Dara entertaining, though I did feel they should have arrived at the city just a bit sooner than they did. The steady growth of their relationship felt realistic and I was pleased the romantic thread wasn’t the driving force in this story.

I did find myself initially skimming some of the palace scenes with Ali, the conflicted younger brother, who is unhappy at having to witness the daily injustices inflicted on the half-human population in Daevabad. Idealistic and inexperienced, we realise that he is being manipulated by those around him, while still in his viewpoint, which is a tricky thing to pull off.

CONCLUSION: As I read on, I become more invested in the politics in Daevabad and once Nahri arrived, the pace picked up again and so did the momentum of the story. I didn’t see that ending though… And am now rereading The Kingdom of Copper, before I pick up The Empire of Gold – highly recommended for those who enjoy their epic fantasy gritty with sand and suffused with djinn magic.
9/10



*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Firewalkers by Adrian Tchaikovsky #Brainfluffbookreview #Firewalkersbookreview

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I am a 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, and Spiderlight. So I was delighted to have the chance to read and review this offering.

BLURB: Firewalkers are brave. Firewalkers are resourceful. Firewalkers are expendable.
The Earth is burning. Nothing can survive at the Anchor; not without water and power. But the ultra-rich, waiting for their ride off the dying Earth? They can buy water. And as for power? Well, someone has to repair the solar panels, down in the deserts below. Kids like Mao, and Lupé, and Hotep; kids with brains and guts but no hope. The Firewalkers.

I won’t deny that initially I struggled a bit with this one. This setting is brilliantly portrayed and therefore rather on the bleak side. Tchaikovsky’s depiction of a parched, dying world where not even heat-adapted animals and vegetation can any longer survive is very well done. As ever, he manages to weave in Mao’s back story in with the ongoing action so that I quickly bonded with this gutsy, capable youngster, struggling to keep himself and his family fed and watered in this harsh environment. The science is well done, again, without holding up the pace with chunks of indigestible information. And soon enough, I was caught up in the adventure as the three youngsters set off into the heat discover why the power from the solar panels isn’t getting back to Anchor.

I couldn’t see how this was going to end in anything other than a rather downbeat, grim message about what we were doing to the planet – and though I won’t deny that is wrapped up within the story – Tchaikovsky also manages to deliver an ending with plenty of hope, after a tale packed full of incident and well executed story twists. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure and it comes highly recommended for fans of clif fi and coming-of-age stories in challenging settings. The ebook arc copy of Firewalkers was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10