Category Archives: library

Review of LIBRARY book Sparrow Falling – Book 2 of the Gears of Empire series by Gaie Sebold #Brainfluffbookreview #LoveYourLibrarychallenge #SciFiMonth2019

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series Shanghai Sparrow – see my review here – so when I spotted this one on the shelves, it was a no-brainer that I’d scoop it up. I am linking this review to SciFiMonth2019.

BLURB: Eveline Sparrow hopes to put her past experiences as a thief and con-artist to more legitimate use; which is why some of the girls at her Sparrow School receive private lessons in burglary, fakery, and other such underhand practices. But it’s hard to get honest work when few businesses will employ young ladies in the security professions. The duns are at the doorstep, her friend Liu the half-fox-spirit is in some sort of trouble, and the rivalries of the Folk are in danger of overspilling into the mundane world and forcing the Empire into a bloody and horrifying war. Can Eveline pull things out of the mire this time, or will the Sparrow’s wings be clipped once and for all?

Once I got into this entertaining steam punk adventure, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Evvie is a sympathetic protagonist, although I didn’t immediately reconnect with her as there didn’t seem to be a major bonding moment in the early stages of the novel. A strength of this series is the quality and depth of the supporting characters who are also depicted alongside Evvie Sparrow. One of my favourites is Ma Pether, the Fagin -like character who had scooped up Evvie off the streets and trained her to be a pickpocket and thief.

The other major character who I have more than a soft spot for is Liu, the half-Fae trickster who travels between the Fae courts and the human world in an attempt to impress his father. And save his own life… The two parallel narratives running alongside one another that power the narrative arc are equally engrossing, so I was never tempted to skim one in order to get back to the other. While it took some time for the book to hit its stride, once both storylines got going this was difficult to put down, and I thoroughly enjoyed the manner in which the resolution came about.

It is always a treat to think you know where a story is going, only to find it shoots off in another direction. I am hoping that Sebold is busy writing an addition to this entertaining series – surely Evvie’s talent for finding trouble has not yet been exhausted and I want more of Ma and Liu as well.

Recommended for fans of well-written steam punk.
8/10

Review of LIBRARY book Shadow Captain – Book 2 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds #Brainfluffbookreview #ShadowCaptainbookreview #SciFiMonth2019

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I’d read and enjoyed the dark, gothic Revenger – see my review – so was delighted when I spotted this one on the library shelf. I am linking this review to Sci Fi Month 2019.

BLURB: Adrana and Fura Ness have finally been reunited, but both have changed beyond recognition. Once desperate for adventure, now Adrana is haunted by her enslavement on the feared pirate Bosa Sennen’s ship. And rumors of Bosa Sennen’s hidden cache of treasure have ensnared her sister, Fura, into single-minded obsession. Neither is safe; because the galaxy wants Bosa Sennen dead and they don’t care if she’s already been killed. They’ll happily take whoever is flying her ship.

The lovely thing about spaceship thrillers is that you don’t have to make up complicated reasons why people don’t just wander off for a relaxing walk, or pop out to the shops – everyone is stuck. No one can leave. It gives a lovely claustrophobic sense of desperation when things are going wrong. Like… you’re not sure if you can trust your own sister, anymore. Or maybe several crew members are cracking under the strain. Or maybe – just maybe, you are being shadowed by another ship intent on exacting revenge upon the crazed manwoman who had formerly captained your vessel…

Ditto when you get to port. Again, no one can get very far away. Especially if said port is a space station that has seen far, far better days and is on the brink of financial ruin before it fell into the hands of the wrong sort of people. Another twist of tension-filled mayhem. Bring to it, Reynold’s gift for dark, brooding prose, complicated characters who don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves and I found this one equally unputdownable. It doesn’t have quite the violence level of the first book, which was brutal in parts, but that simmering threat had me on my toes all the same. As well as the knowledge that Reynolds is quite capable of killing off really nice characters that I liked a lot.

The pages more or less turned themselves as I read far into the night to discover what would happen next. And I was pleased to see that the current story arc was satisfactorily wrapped up, while leaving a couple of major plotpoints dangling, ready for the next slice of the adventure.

Highly recommended for those who like their space opera on the darker side…
9/10

Book review of LIBRARY book Castaway Planet – Book 4 of the Boundary series by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor #Brainfluffbookreview #CastawayPlanetbookreview #SciFiMonth2019

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I saw the familiar brightly coloured, retro Baen cover on the shelves and swooped upon this one – I generally enjoy science fiction adventures produced by this publisher – would I like this one? I have linked this review to Sci Fi Month 2019.

BLURB: Lost in the dark, half a year into their journey to the colony world of Tantalus, Sakura Kimei, her family, and her best friend, the alien “Bemmie” nicknamed Whips, are torn from the safety of their colony ship. In a crippled lifeboat, they had one chance to find a habitable world. But even then, they would find that their apparent salvation was a world of a thousand secrets.

Yes, yes – I know. Book 4… and I haven’t read any others in this series. But my foolish ways once more paid off – this is clearly a new entry point into this series, because due to the nature of this adventure, previous characters and actions simply didn’t matter. Think Swiss Family Robinson in space – this book has the same upbeat energy and painstaking attention to detail regarding their survival adventures I recall from that classic I read a lifetime ago. The planet they have landed on has some intriguing differences regarding the way the land and sea interact, which impacts on all the creatures they discover. While the climate and landmass is a lot more temperate and suited to humans and bemmies than it might have been, the eco-system throws up all sorts of hazards.

I loved this one. It took me back to the likes of Robinson Crusoe and one I enjoyed even more – Coral Island. The family dynamic worked well – though it was an improbably cosy and peaceable family where there were hardly any quarrels and the parents were invariably united and supportive of each other. But that’s okay – given it was the situation that powered the narrative, I was quite happy to accept the characters’ slightly unrealistic positivity for the sake of the storyline, which was brought to an entirely satisfactory conclusion. Highly recommended for fans of space colony adventures.
8/10

Review of LIBRARY book The Switch by Justina Robson #Brainfluffbookreview #TheSwitchbookreview #SciFiMonth2019

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I thoroughly enjoy Robson’s intelligent, layered fantasy – see my review of Salvation’s Fire: After the War – so I was delighted to find this offering on the shelves of my local library. I am also linking this review to the @SciFiMonth Challenge.

BLURB: In Harmony, only model citizens are welcome. A perfect society must be maintained. The defective must be eradicated. For orphans like Nico and Twostar, this means a life that’s brutal, regulated and short. But Nico and Twostar are survivors, and when they’re offered a way out of the slums, they take it. Unfortunately, no one told Nico the deal included being sentenced to death for the murder of one of Harmony’s most notorious gang leaders. Or that to gain his freedom, first he must lose his mind.

In many ways, this book follows a tried and tested trope guaranteed to pull readers in and make them care – two orphaned children in a horrible institution make a break to try their luck on the streets. And, yes, you’ve guessed it – the streets aren’t exactly brimming with nurturing kindness, either. They need to live on their wits and toughness, or die. Twostar is prodigiously clever with any tech that comes her way – so it’s Nico’s job to bring down any drones coming their way, enabling her to break them up for parts. Until they come to the attention of one of the local cartels…

The story is told in Nico’s first person viewpoint throughout, which is always my favourite pov when it’s done well. And because this is Robson, it’s fabulous. I love the depth and complexity she manages to bring to this complicated, tough, angry man without compromising the pace or tension. In fact, because I can connect so deeply with him and his innermost thoughts and fears, when he finds those thoughts no longer belong solely to him – I found I identified with the violation he felt. Again, it’s not an original theme within sci fi, but this time around I found I really, really minded alongside Nico when those upgrades he thought would provide him with abilities to pilot his way off the planet have added extras he wasn’t told about…

The other aspect of this book that isn’t immediately apparent, is that one of the reasons why both Twostar and Nico find themselves in the orphanage, is that they are faulty. Both of them are attracted to their own sex – an aberration that is regarded as unacceptable on Harmony. Unsurprisingly, Nico regards this aspect of his personality with some ambivalence, which Robson writes with compassion, insight and great tenderness. While the romance in this book isn’t a major component of story, especially in the beginning, I was extremely impressed at the intensity and beauty of the relationship that is featured. Though not surprised – this is, after all, Justina Robson…

This book is a standalone, apparently. And I am torn – I put it down with an unhappy sigh when I got to the end because I wanted to go on seeing the world through Nico’s eyes. But I’d hate to read a sequel that wasn’t as awesomely wonderful as this offering.
9/10

Review of LIBRARY book The Fall of Dragons – Book 5 of The Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron #Brainfluffbookreview #TheFallofDragonsbookreview

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I’d read the previous books in this series and enjoyed them – see my review of The Dread Wyrm, The Red Knight and The Fell Sword – then somehow this one slipped through the cracks, so when I saw it on the library shelves, I scooped it up, despite blanching at the prospect of reading 600+ pages of reasonably small print…

BLURB: In the climax of the Traitor Son Cycle, the allied armies of the Wild and the Kingdoms of men and women must face Ash for control of the gates to the hermetical universe, and for control of their own destinies. But exhaustion, treachery and time may all prove deadlier enemies. In Alba, Queen Desiderata struggles to rebuild her kingdom wrecked by a year of civil war, even as the Autumn battles are fought in the west. In the Terra Antica, The Red Knight attempts to force his unwilling allies to finish the Necromancer instead of each other. But as the last battle nears, The Red Knight makes a horrifying discovery… all of this fighting may have happened before.

One of the reasons why I’d hesitated in getting hold of this one, was my concern that I would have forgotten too many details about the series that would make getting back into this world something of a struggle. In the event, that didn’t prove to be a problem. Cameron’s smooth writing and delivery ensured that I was quickly brought up to speed where necessary, and at no time did I flounder in trying to work out what was going on. This is a feat on his part, because just like in George RR Martin’s a Song of Ice and Fire series, the action takes place in a variety of locations and the viewpoint shifts between a wide cast of characters. I often find this structure to be annoying, as my preferred scenarios tend to play out in tightly confined backdrops featuring a small number of well-developed and highly nuanced characters to get the depth of story that I really appreciate.

Given that most of the book is concerned with an ongoing war, wherein an increasing number of skirmishes lead up to a large set-piece battle, this clearly wasn’t going to happen. Yet I was pulled into the book almost from the first page and found the pages turned themselves as I was swept along by the action, identifying with each character’s motives.

One of the reasons why this worked so well was Cameron’s mastery of the pacing. Just as I was beginning to wonder what would be filling the rest of the book, there was a sudden twist in the story that gave the whole world a completely different dimension. I’m not going to say more on the grounds that it would be a real spoiler, but it certainly worked well and added an extra layer of poignancy to the current struggle. One of my difficulties with epic fantasy is that it frequently lacks that layer of emotional connection that I particularly enjoy – hardly a surprise when the action is often the driving force in the narrative with each character playing a relatively small piece in the overarching battle plan. Cameron manages to make his characters matter to the extent that one of the reasons why those pages kept turning was that I really cared about a number of his cast and was keen to see what would happen to them. Inevitably, in this war scenario a number of them don’t make it – something else that I generally heartily dislike. And yet this time around I took a deep breath and just kept on reading.

Of course, the catch in this form of writing is that the final battle has to deliver with plenty of heart-stopping action and a huge climax that also packs an emotional punch sufficient to satisfy the reader who has slogged through the previous 600+ pages to get here. Again, Cameron triumphantly succeeds. I finished this book with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, feeling hollowed out by the resultant drama. This book is a marvellous end to a really high-quality series. Recommended for fans of epic and high fantasy.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 22nd October, 2019 #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:

Shadow Captain – Book 2 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds
p. 269 It was late morning in Port Endless – well into what passed for day in this gloomy place. Perhaps one or two more sky facets had been turned on, or their brightness increased, so that the prevailing illumination was a fraction less sepulchral than the night before. The rains, too, had decreased. Parts of the sky were still emitting steam, but the former torrents were being held in moderate check. The streets below were still wet, though, and the puddles and drainage channels and sluices remained waterlogged, embedded in roads and alleys like little chips and slivers of highly reflective material.

BLURB: Adrana and Fura Ness have finally been reunited, but both have changed beyond recognition. Once desperate for adventure, now Adrana is haunted by her enslavement on the feared pirate Bosa Sennen’s ship. And rumors of Bosa Sennen’s hidden cache of treasure have ensnared her sister, Fura, into single-minded obsession.

Neither is safe; because the galaxy wants Bosa Sennen dead and they don’t care if she’s already been killed. They’ll happily take whoever is flying her ship.

I read the first book in the series – see my review of Revenger – which I very much enjoyed. I’m about two-thirds of the way through this tension-filled, twitchy sequel which is an engrossing read. And I’m so, so hoping that the two sisters don’t end up betraying each other… I’m also delighted to see that the third book, Bone Silence, is due out in January.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Liar in the Library – Book 18 of The Fethering mysteries by Simon Brett #Brainfluffbookreview #TheLiarintheLibrarybookreview

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When an author event at the local library ends in murder, Jude finds herself a suspect in the waspishly witty Fethering mystery. Having been booked to give a talk at Fethering Library, successful author Burton St Clair invites his old friend Jude to come along. Although they haven’t met for twenty years, Jude is not surprised to find that St Clair hasn’t changed, with his towering ego and somewhat shaky relationship with the truth. What Jude hadn’t been suspecting however was that the evening would end in sudden, violent death. More worrying, from Jude’s point of view, is the fact that the investigating police officers seem to be convinced that she herself was responsible for the crime. With the evidence stacking up against her, Jude enlists the help of her neighbour Carole not just to solve the murder but to prevent herself from being arrested for committing it.

Set in a small village literally a stone’s throw from where we live in Littlehampton, which is mentioned several times in the book, I’ll freely admit that one of the attractions with this entertaining whodunit is the fact that I recognise the towns they visit. It is rather fun to so clearly visualise the setting during the investigation, even if the village of Fethering is a construct. Of course, the book would be a downright trudge if that was the only thing going for it, so the fact that I really like Jude and her relationship with her rather prickly neighbour, Carole. It’s a bonus they are both retired and of a certain age – while I haven’t yet retired, I’m also well into middle age and it’s a solid pleasure to read a book with two female protagonists who reflect my own age-group. It doesn’t happen all that often…

Jude is a thoroughly likeable protagonist, who during the story becomes the chief suspect in the murder. These days, with our overloaded justice system, it’s all too believable to see a scenario where she could be imprisoned for perpetrating a crime she didn’t commit, so the stakes in this case are far higher than terminal boredom. What turns this readable adventure into pure delight, however, are the acidic observations Jude and Carole both have on the world and the characters around them. Brett doesn’t hold back from having a pop at the state of the publishing industry and the struggles rural libraries are having to keep going, amongst other aspects of life in modern England – as well as the protagonists’ observations about the other characters they come into contact while on the case. Several times I giggled aloud at a nicely pithy phrase.

I found the ending not only satisfying, but unexpectedly poignant. If you are looking for an entertaining cosy mystery with a thoroughly modern take on the genre, then go looking for this offering – it reminded me all over again why I enjoy Brett’s writing so much. While I obtained an arc of The Liar in the Library from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 28th May, 2019 #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:

The Switch by Justina Robson
p. 174 ‘Do you think that if Tecmaten had had more success with the ladies we wouldn’t be here now?’
‘Nico.’
‘I know, I know. Focus.’
‘No. I wanted to say I’m glad it’s not me going in there. I don’t have many dealings with Enclave people but I have friends in our offices there. I know what they’re like. Nobody feels safe, even at the top. Especially not at the top.’
‘Tecmaten paranoid about his successors?’
‘Wouldn’t you be if you were three hundred years old and showing it? Even with technology he’s not going to survive that much longer and surely the vultures have started to gather.’

BLURB: In Harmony, only model citizens are welcome. A perfect society must be maintained. The defective must be eradicated. For orphans like Nico and Twostar, this means a life that’s brutal, regulated and short. But Nico and Twostar are survivors, and when they’re offered a way out of the slums, they take it. Unfortunately, no one told Nico the deal included being sentenced to death for the murder of one of Harmony’s most notorious gang leaders.

Or that to gain his freedom, first he must lose his mind.

I was delighted to see this book on the library shelves as Robson is a favourite author of mine. And so far, I am loving it. Nico is a wonderful protagonist and while there is plenty of action and grittiness, there is also the sparking intelligence I’ve come to associate with Robson’s writing.

Sunday Post – 26th May, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s been a very, very busy week – as is evident by the fact that I haven’t had time to post anything on my blog since last Sunday – other than the Friday Faceoff. This week it’s been allll about work. As the academic year speeds towards the close, a number of meetings regarding Tim’s progress all converged on this particular week. It meant I haven’t seen much of Himself, either – as this week he had Wednesday and Thursday off. We have half term coming up and I am looking forward to having a few days off just to catch my breath – and have the grandchildren to stay, which is always fun. Though predictably, the wonderful weather we’ve been enjoying is now fast disappearing.

I have now completed the first draft of Mantivore Prey which is a relief. I am going to take a bit of a break from writing until the summer holidays to give myself some time to focus on a major clean and declutter, which is desperately overdue…

Last week I read:
Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson
American Fred Fredericks is making his first trip, his purpose to install a communications system for China’s Lunar Science Foundation. But hours after his arrival he witnesses a murder and is forced into hiding. It is also the first visit for celebrity travel reporter Ta Shu. He has contacts and influence, but he too will find that the moon can be a perilous place for any traveler. Finally, there is Chan Qi. She is the daughter of the Minister of Finance, and without doubt a person of interest to those in power. She is on the moon for reasons of her own, but when she attempts to return to China, in secret, the events that unfold will change everything – on the moon, and on Earth.
This entertaining near future space opera was mostly great fun, though I thought the ending was a tad off if this is a standalone.

 

The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection narrated by Stephen Fry
The death, quite suddenly, of Sir Charles Baskerville in mysterious circumstances is the trigger for one of the most extraordinary cases ever to challenge the brilliant analytical mind of Sherlock Holmes. As rumours of a legendary hound said to haunt the Baskerville family circulate, Holmes and Watson are asked to ensure the protection of Sir Charles’ only heir, Sir Henry – who has travelled all the way from America to reside at Baskerville Hall in Devon. And it is there, in an isolated mansion surrounded by mile after mile of wild moor, that Holmes and Watson come face to face with a terrifying evil that reaches out from centuries past . . .
This whole series has been a complete joy to listen to – I’m prolonging the pleasure by listening to other audio offerings in between each of the books.

 

The Liar in the Library – Book 18 of the Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett
Having been booked to give a talk at Fethering Library, successful author Burton St Clair invites his old friend Jude to come along. Although they haven’t met for twenty years, Jude is not surprised to find that St Clair hasn’t changed, with his towering ego and somewhat shaky relationship with the truth. What Jude hadn’t been suspecting however was that the evening would end in sudden, violent death. More worrying, from Jude’s point of view, is the fact that the investigating police officers seem to be convinced that she herself was responsible for the crime. With the evidence stacking up against her, Jude enlists the help of her neighbour Carole not just to solve the murder but to prevent herself from being arrested for committing it.
This delightful cosy mystery is great fun with an unexpectedly poignant ending. I love the fact that Brett has plenty to say about the state of middle England and library closures in amongst the murder and mayhem.

My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring A Discovery of Witches – Book 1 of the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

Sunday Post – 19th May 2019

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

Odyssey Theatre
https://twitter.com/OdysseyTheatre_/status/1131638482441572352 Yep – this is me in proud mama mode. My son, Robbie, is busy rehearsing for this production of Loot which is running from 8th June-10th August.

#writerproblems: #characterdeath in #storytelling (Part 2: melting shoes and raising stakes) https://jeanleesworld.com/2019/05/23/writerproblems-characterdeath-in-storytelling-part-2-melting-shoes-and-raising-stakes/ Once more, a cracking article from my friend Jean…

Why Starve Fish in Spas for Pedicures?
https://chechewinnie.com/why-starve-fish-in-spas-for-pedicure/ How depressing – these poor fish are starved to force them to eat the dead skin on people’s feet…

Game of Thrones: A Song of ‘I Literally Can’t Even’ https://authorkristenlamb.com/2019/05/game-of-thrones-storytelling-cautionary-tale/ Kristen Lamb jumps into the controversy on the final series of GoT – what do you think?

Protecting Your Creative Mindspace https://writerunboxed.com/2019/05/23/protecting-your-creative-mindspace/ This nifty article is very helpful if you are struggling with writers’ block.

Many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – I will catch up with you as soon as I can, so thank you also for your patience. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

Review of LIBRARY copy Chasing Embers – Book 1 of the Ben Garston series by James Bennett #Brainfluffbookreview #ChasingEmbersbookreview #LibraryLoveChallenge

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The cover snagged my attention, because… dragons! And so I was delighted when I saw a copy of this in my local library.

There’s nothing special about Ben Garston. He’s just a guy with an attitude in a beat-up leather jacket, drowning his sorrows in a downtown bar. Or so he’d have you believe. What Ben Garston can’t let you know is that he was once known as Red Ben. That the world of myth and legend isn’t just a fantasy, as we’ve been led to believe. And he certainly can’t let you know the secret of what’s hiding just beneath his skin…

The clue about this book actually was splashed across the front cover Not all stories are made up and unlike much front cover chatter, this short phrase actually was the key to understanding this book. James Bennett is a principally a storyteller. Yes – I know all writers exhale stories, but storytellers tell… And so while the world is a delightful mash-up, convincingly portrayed and Ben is suitably angst-ridden and vulnerable – what prevented me from completely losing my heart to this one, is that there are large sections written in semi-omniscient and omniscient viewpoint. That isn’t a bad thing – indeed, lots of readers love that way of depicting the action, however I found it slightly distanced me from both the character and the world as I prefer experiencing my reads from the inside out.

That said, I still thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of Red Ben and found the pages flew by as I wanted to know what happened next. This was a strong start to what looks to be an engaging series.
8/10