Category Archives: Long Covid

SUNDAY POST – 29th January, 2023 #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 they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.

I really should know better… Last week I was celebrating the fact that I’d not had a Long Covid relapse since November – and from Wednesday through to Friday I was back in bed, again. The good news is that it wasn’t longer and although I felt a bit washed out yesterday, I wasn’t shaky and sick – which is a good result.

It’s been another tough week, what with one thing and another – but the light shining in amongst the dark is that my son and his girlfriend have just moved from L.A. to Germany, which is so much closer to us here in the UK. And the reason why is that Zoe, having had a fabulous season playing with the Texas Longhorn’s volleyball team that came top of their league, has now signed up with Munster and played her first professional match against Aachen last night. I don’t know how that went, as I’m writing this on Saturday morning – but my thoughts are with her.

We are just emerging from over a fortnight of freezing nights and bitterly cold days – though at least the rain finally stopped. It’s now slowly warming up – it’s been a treat not to have to thaw out the car before leaping in to ferry the grandsons to various places, as the taxicab of Gran and Papa is in great demand. If only we could charge them – that would set up our pensions into our old age!!

Last week, I got more reading done, particularly audiobooks as lying in bed and listening was all I was fit for. You’ll notice that apart from one Netgalley read, all the books I turned to were by trusted, favourite authors – I wanted the comfort of a solidly written, escapist read and they all delivered, bless them. Thank goodness for books – I’d have gone raving into the night years ago if it wasn’t for my love of reading!

Last week I read:-

Cast Adrift – Book 1 of the Cast Adrift series by Christopher G. Nuttall
Five hundred years ago, the human race discovered it was not alone in the universe when Earth was invaded and forcibly integrated by the Alphan Empire. Over the years, humans have grown used to their position within the empire, serving as soldiers and spacers for alien masters as well as building a place in the universe for themselves. But now, in the aftermath of a violent interstellar war that shattered the power of the Alphans, humanity has rediscovered its pride. Humanity wants to be free.

Facing a war they will lose even if they win, the Alphans give humanity its independence once again. Humanity stands alone in a hostile universe, facing alien threats that regard humans as nothing more than servants – or weaklings, easy meat for armed conquest. And if the human race cannot learn to stand on its own two feet, without its masters, it will rapidly discover that it has traded one set of masters for another …

… And if they lose the coming war, all hope of independence will die with it.
Nuttall is one of my favourite authors. I loved his School of Magic series, as he is clearly a history buff and likes to explore possibilities based on real historical incidents and the progression of the series is smart and inventive. This is a classic alien invasion story – with a bit of a twist. Thoroughly enjoyable and I’m looking forward to tucking into the next one. 8/10

AUDIOBOOK – Hidden Truth – Book 2 of the Truth series by Dawn Cook
Alissa never believed in magic. But then she went to the Hold, a legendary fortress where human Keepers once learned magic from enigmatic Masters. Under the tutelage of the last surviving Master, Alissa discovered that she had inherited her father’s magical ability.

But the Hold is ruled by Bailic, the renegade Keeper who seized the First Truth, a book of magic he will use to harness the might of the city of the dead and wreak a war of total devastation. The book has thwarted Bailic’s every attempt to access it, while it continually calls to Alissa—who must summon all her will to resist it. For if she gives in to the First Truth’s ultimate power and knowledge, she will be utterly changed—and the man she loves could be lost to her forever.
This is a series I discovered on Audible before I realised that Dawn Cook is also the pen name of urban fantasy author Kim Harrison – and it shows in the smart character progression and magnificently nasty villain. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this book, though I do find the simpering, ringleted female on the cover rather annoying, given it’s supposed to be Alissa, who isn’t remotely like that. That said, I’m looking forward to tucking into the next book in the series as I can’t wait to discover what happens next. 9/10

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Fairies – Book 1 of the Emily Wilde series by Heather Fawcett
Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party–or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.

So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.

But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones–the most elusive of all faeries–lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all–her own heart.
This book is essentially Emily’s journal as she undertakes a field trip in order to discover more about the mysterious Hidden Ones in order to complete her encyclopaedia. I love her ongoing grumpiness and her narrow focus on her studies – as well as her regular rants about Wendell. While aspects of this plot are entirely predictable, I wasn’t sure some of the major characters were actually going to survive. Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK – Diplomatic Immunity – Book 13 of the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold
A rich Komarran merchant fleet has been impounded at Graf Station, in distant Quaddiespace, after a bloody incident on the station docks involving a security officer from the convoy’s Barrayaran military escort. Lord Miles Vorkosigan of Barrayar and his wife, Lady Ekaterin, have other things on their minds, such as getting home in time to attend the long-awaited births of their first children. But when duty calls in the voice of Barrayar’s Emperor Gregor, Miles, Gregor’s youngest Imperial Auditor (a special high-level troubleshooter) has no choice but to answer.

Waiting on Graf Station are diplomatic snarls, tangled loyalties, old friends, new enemies, racial tensions, lies and deceptions, mysterious disappearances, and a lethal secret with wider consequences than even Miles anticipates: a race with time for life against death in horrifying new forms. The downside of being a troubleshooter comes when trouble starts shooting back…
I read the whole series longer ago than I care to recall – but do remember that while I always enjoyed Miles and his madcap adventures, it was the later books after his Admiral Naismith days that I particularly loved. So picked this one up on a bit of a whim – and found it utterly gripping. I’d forgotten enough of the twisting plot that I once more was engrossed – as well as being impressed all over again by the sheer quality of the writing. I’ll be listening to more of this series, which has certainly stood the test of time and reminds me why this author has won so many awards for her writing. 10/10

Range of Ghosts – Book 1 of the Eternal Sky series by Elizabeth Bear
Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather’s throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin.

Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards. These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.

Bear is another favourite author – and this stunning first book in this epic fantasy series is a gem that deserves to be better known. I was immediately swept up in the savage aftermath of a terrible battle and couldn’t put this one down until the final scene, as the vivid writing and charismatic characters held me throughout. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – The Princess Paradigm by Lindsay Buroker
Then a fearsome warrior from the human empire arrives, a supposed diplomat. Mrothgar is tattooed, muscled, and looks like he’d rather slay elves than befriend them, but he takes an interest in Hysithea. He invites her to accompany him back to his land to visit its great libraries.

As an academic and a historian, Hysithea is tantalized by the offer, but she’s studied his language and overhears his true intent:
Mrothgar is there to gather intelligence on the elves as his emperor prepares an invasion force to conquer them. Hysithea has no choice but to join him, hoping to spy and find a way to sabotage the invasion. Her people need her, and this is her chance to atone for the past.

But Mrothgar is smarter than she realized, and those muscles and tattoos are more intriguing than they should be. Against her wishes, Hysithea finds herself drawn to him. And that’s a problem. She can’t save her people if she falls in love with the man who wants to conquer them.

The Princess Paradigm is set after the events of The Elf Tangent, and brings in a few familiar characters, but it is a complete stand-alone fantasy romance novel (no cliffhangers!) and can be read on its own.
I’ll be honest – if I had to judge this one by its blurb alone, then I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. But… it’s Lindsay Buroker, people! And besides, I’ve already listened to the wonderfully entertaining The Elf Tangent, so I knew how much romance versus fantasy adventure I was getting. And it didn’t disappoint. I love the world with its interesting backstory about the Elvish curse so recently lifted and how that is affecting the humans and their own complex politics. This was often funny, yet also poignant and I loved that Epilogue. I do hope Buroker revisits this beguiling world, as I want more. 9/10

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 22nd January, 2023

As you can see, it wasn’t a good week for blogging, or much else – come to think of it. Hoping this week will be a better one and wishing you all a happy, healthy week😊.

SUNDAY POST – 16th October, 2022 #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 they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.

I did wonder if I was tempting Fate by writing about my experiences with Long Covid, given the up and down nature of the illness. But though I’d been feeling rather tired recently, I hadn’t had a proper relapse since August. Until this week, when I went to get out of bed on Thursday morning and the minute I put my foot to the floor, the world spun, my stomach roiled and I knew I wouldn’t be going anywhere for the rest of the day except back to bed. And so it proved. I felt too ill to shower or change my clothes, though I did manage to stagger downstairs and have tea with the family. Meanwhile Himself was having to look after me, on top of doing the school run. Fortunately, it was his day off – but it wasn’t remotely restful. In the meantime, I dosed and slept. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was reading or listening to books, feeling too tired to watch TV. I woke up on Friday, feeling much the same – though as the day wore on, I did feel well enough to have a shower.

Then suddenly, at about 10.30 pm, I felt better. As if a huge muffling blanket had been lifted away from me. I’m writing this on Saturday, having got up, showered and dressed. I still feel a little groggy and I don’t have all that much stamina, but the nausea has gone. I think I need to face the fact that I will have to keep managing my energy for the foreseeable future. One of the issues is that I haven’t been getting enough sleep, as years of being an insomniac makes it difficult to wind down and go to bed at a reasonable time. And while I’m doing better than I used to – it’s still not good enough for my body’s needs. I average between five and six hours of sleep a night and I reckon that these days, I need more than that.

The boys have stepped up and helped out, as they always do when I’m ill. Both have had a busy week and today Ethan is out meeting up with friends, while Oscar is recovering from a very hectic football practice. Tomorrow (Sunday) we are meeting up with my parents, who are taking us out for a meal to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary. It’s actually a little early – their anniversary is near the end of next month, but Dad isn’t all that keen on doing the drive home in the dark, which it will be by then as the day length continues to shorten. I am so very excited – I haven’t seen Mum since September 2020 and I cannot recall when the boys last saw her. So it will be a very special reunion for us and my sister, who is joining us.

Last week I read:-

The First Binding – Book 1 of the Tales of Tremaine series by R.R. Virdi
All legends are born of truths. And just as much lies. These are mine. Judge me for what you will. But you will hear my story first.

I buried the village of Ampur under a mountain of ice and snow. Then I killed their god. I’ve stolen old magics and been cursed for it. I started a war with those that walked before mankind and lost the princess I loved, and wanted to save. I’ve called lightning and bound fire. I am legend. And I am a monster. My name is Ari. And this is the story of how I let loose the first evil.
And if this blurb makes you think of The Name of the Wind, then you’re absolutely right – it definitely has a feel of that fantasy classic. It’s also a hefty size, being 800+ pages. That said, while it took me a while to get through it, at no time was I tempted to break off and read something else instead. Review to follow.

Unraveller by Frances Hardinge
Kellen and Nettle live in a world where anyone can create a life-destroying curse, but only one person has the power to unravel them. But not everyone is happy he can do so and, suddenly, he’s in a race to save both himself and all those who have been touched by magic…

I love Hardinge’s writing – see my review of Deeplight. So I immediately requested this arc and was thrilled to receive a copy. And my instincts were spot on – it’s a cracking read. Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK – The Elf Tangent by Lindsay Buroker
As a princess in the impoverished kingdom of Delantria, it’s Aldari’s job to look pretty, speak little, and marry a prince. Studying mathematics and writing papers on economic theory in an effort to fix her people’s financial woes? Her father has forbidden it. With war on the horizon, they must focus on the immediate threat.

Reluctantly, Aldari agrees to marry a prince in a neighboring kingdom to secure an alliance her people desperately need. All is going to plan until the handsome elven mercenary captain hired to guard her marriage caravan turns into her kidnapper. His people are in trouble, and he believes she has the knowledge to help.

But with an invasion force approaching Delantria, Aldari’s own people need her. She must do everything in her power to escape the elves and make it to her wedding in time. Never mind that her kidnapper is witty, clever, and offers her a challenge that intrigues her mind even as his easy smile intrigues her heart… Aldari can’t let herself develop feelings for him. To fall in love and walk away from her wedding would mean the end of her kingdom and everyone she cares about.
I’ve read the ebook, but when I had the opportunity to get hold of an audiobook of this engaging fantasy adventure with a splash of romance, I couldn’t resist it. I really enjoy Buroker’s characters and this particular story was lovely to listen to at a time when I needed an escapist read. 9/10

What Song the Sirens Sang – Book 3 of the Gideon Sable series by Simon R. Green
You can find everything you’ve ever dreamed of in the strange, old magical shop known as Old Harry’s Place. The problem is, not all dreams are kind.

Gideon Sable – legendary master thief, conman and well-dressed rogue – and his partner in crime Annie Anybody don’t want to be shopkeepers, but when the enigmatic Harry decides to retire, he blackmails the pair into taking the store on.

Before the grand reopening can happen, however, a menacing stranger arrives – with a rare and deadly item for them to appraise. A small piece of rock, with an unnerving aura, which ‘Smith’ claims contains the last echoes of the legendary sirens’ song. Before they can find out more, however, Smith vanishes . . . leaving only the stone. Some valuables are more trouble than they’re worth. But before Gideon and Annie can work out if they’ve been set up, the stone is stolen from its impregnable hiding place. How? And why? Gideon only knows one thing for certain: no one steals from him and gets away with it . . .
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this entertaining fantasy heist series – and this next slice of the adventure manages to give yet another twist, without getting steadily darker, as so often happens in ongoing series. Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK – Murder by Other Means – Book 2 of The Dispatcher series by John Scalzi
In the world of the Dispatchers, a natural or accidental death is an endpoint; a murder pushes the do-over button and 99.99% of the time the victim comes back to life. Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher who’s been taking shadier and shadier gigs in financial tough times, and after witnessing a crime gone wrong, he finds people around him permanently dying in a way that implicates him. He has to solve the mystery of these deaths to save the lives of others–and keep himself out of trouble with the law.

I loved Scalzi’s Lock In series – it’s one of the best sci fi murder mystery series I’ve read. So when I saw this Audible exclusive, I scooped up a copy and thoroughly enjoyed it. It isn’t all that long, but the pacing and voice are perfect and there are twists and action throughout. I will be looking out for more in The Dispatcher series for sure. 9/10

Bryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher
Bryony and her sisters have come down in the world. Their merchant father died trying to reclaim his fortune and left them to eke out a living in a village far from their home in the city.

But when Bryony is caught in a snowstorm and takes refuge in an abandoned manor, she stumbles into a house full of dark enchantments. Is the Beast that lives there her captor, or a fellow prisoner? Is the house her enemy or her ally? And why are roses blooming out of season in the courtyard?

Armed only with gardening shears and her wits, Bryony must untangle the secrets of the house before she—or the Beast—are swallowed by them.
This is an intriguing retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a tougher heroine than poor Beauty. Bryony is a gardener, who has already had a far too interesting life to date, which has made her resilient and resourceful. Which is just as well, because she’s up against a terrifying magical opponent. This is a cracking read that had me turning the pages until I came to the end. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – Persuasion by Jane Austen
At twenty-seven, Anne Elliot is no longer young and has few romantic prospects. Eight years earlier, she had been persuaded by her friend Lady Russell to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a handsome naval captain with neither fortune nor rank. What happens when they encounter each other again is movingly told in Jane Austen’s last completed novel. Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, but, above all, it is a love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities.

This is one of my favourite Austen novels – and listening to the version produced by the partly dramatised Jane Austen Collection was a real treat. I love Austen’s take on Bath society and her depiction of Lyme Regis, somewhere I used to know very well. The second-chance romance is beautifully done and while Anne is clearly beset by an uncaring family, she manages not to be too victimised. 9/10

My posts last week:

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Edge of Catastrophe: Terraforming Mars by Jane Killick

Sunday Post – 9th October, 2022

Wishing you all a happy, health week😊.

LIVING WITH LONG COVID – MY JOURNEY FROM 6th March 2021 to September 2022 #BrainfluffLIVINGWITHLONGCOVID

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Like millions of people around the world, I contracted Covid-19 before the vaccine programme had time to be rolled out – indeed, I caught it two days after having my first jab, which meant it wasn’t remotely helpful. And like a distressingly large percentage of those millions – I suddenly found my life sliding to a stop in the aftermath of the disease as I was besieged by a succession of symptoms, one in particular being life-altering.

Each person’s experience with the disease has varied widely – there are over 200 symptoms caused by Long Covid. And particularly when I first became ill, finding reliable advice on how to best cope with the illness was difficult. While my doctor’s surgery has been as helpful as they can – and I’ve never encountered anything but kindness and complete acceptance of my version of events from everyone there – they often weren’t able to help. I still remain on the waiting list for the local Long Covid clinic.

So whenever I was sufficiently fit, I logged my ongoing progress on my blog to give folks an inkling as to why I’d gone silent. And now that I think I have mostly recovered from all the major symptoms, I want to sum up my experience and explain what happened and what helped in the hope that another desperate soul trawling the internet, looking for something – anything – that could offer answers for what has befallen them might find some of it useful. So I will be offering up details about myself that I wouldn’t usually reveal. Please treat the information with respect in any comments.

Firstly, I’m a British, white, middle-class woman in my mid-sixties, who is reasonably active and before March 2021, I led a busy, happy life as a writer and Creative Writing tutor. I’ve no underlying health issues, other than mild hypertension which is controlled by a low dose of prescription medication. I caught the Kent strain of Covid from my husband, a train driver, who went down with it when it swept through the train crew at his depot, leaving four people hospitalised and one of them dead. We both went down with the illness hard, though in completely different ways. Himself had a hacking cough and struggled to breathe, and given that he has severe sleep apnea and needs a mask, he found the only way to get any relief was to remain upright. So he camped in the lounge swathed in blankets with the fire full on for four days. Whereas I was running a temperature and couldn’t bear to be anywhere so hot and although I had aching limbs and a sore head, I was overwhelmingly exhausted and just wanted to sleep – often for over ten hours and once for eighteen hours straight. On several occasions I staggered downstairs to make sure he was still alive – and I know that he also checked on me. His blood oxygen levels dropped worryingly low and so he had phone consultations with the local surgery for several days.

However, we both recovered. Indeed, Himself made it back to work impressively quickly despite my concerns that he was pushing himself too hard. Whereas I remained feeling very washed out. On one sunny day, I decided to wash the curtains – and ended up back in bed. In fact, it seemed if ever I tried to do something more than the bare minimum – I’d end up once more engulfed in a terrible tiredness that left me shaking and retching, unable to stand, unable to even think. And increasingly I was confined to bed. By the middle of April I had to face the fact that I wasn’t making a clean recovery and had been stuck with Long Covid. I’ll list the symptoms I encountered below, what I did to try and deal with them and whether it worked. Over the last 18 months, I’ve had:-

Bladder problems. This surfaced during the initial illness, but continued recurring during my relapses, resulting in occasional accidents. Not only was this distressing, but always occurred when I wasn’t very well, anyway which just made me feel even worse.
My solution: Once I realised that this was an issue, I resorted to the advice given me by my lovely Health Visitor half a lifetime ago, after having had a breech birth. Every time I turned a tap on, I contracted my bladder for a slow count of 5. And every time I went to the toilet, I’d attempt to stop my urine flow. Gradually, my control increased until it was no longer a problem – although I was interested to note that whenever I was in the grip of a relapse, I couldn’t stop my urine flow. So the two were definitely connected.

Digestive problems. I lost my appetite during Covid-19 and only ate when my stomach starting hurting through hunger. For a long time afterwards, my appetite was depressed. I’m sure that this was also because I wasn’t doing very much. But I did discover that certain foods caused bloating, wind and tummy upsets. Over time most of the discomfort and upsets have eased, except when I try eating onions.
My solution: Taking digestive medication did ease the symptoms, but I also avoided eating foods that caused problems for a while, until I felt better. Though I’ll leave it a bit longer before trying with onions again, as the resultant pain and stomach upset frankly isn’t worth it.

Loss of smell. Like many sufferers, I lost my sense of smell. Though as I’ve the nose of a bloodhound and during the worst of my relapses I was unable to shower or wash for days at a time – it’s one symptom that I recall feeling quite grateful about. It came back slowly over several months, until one day in June 2021 I suddenly realised I could smell the Marmite on my toast. It’s the only symptom that didn’t bother me overmuch at the time and when I reached the stage when I’d have started to mind about it – it was already returning.

Hair Loss. I began to notice my hair coming out in handfuls sometime in June 2021, especially when brushing or washing it. I’ve always had a good head of hair and I found this symptom particularly devastating. While I was lucky not to have any bald patches, it was noticeably thinner. It had stopped falling out by October 2021, by which time I’d lost between a quarter and half my hair. When it grew back, the new hair was curly, whereas my original hair was straight, which meant that any style quickly became a tousled mess.

My solution: I recently went to the hairdresser and asked her to cut it as short as she could in a style that suits me. Which she did – and I’m a great deal happier. I just could not get used to looking in the mirror after a lifetime of seeing straight hair – and being confronted by those stray curls sticking out in all directions. While my hair was falling out, I was careful when washing it and didn’t towel-dry it or roughly handle it, but other than that – I didn’t find anything that could prevent it. However, everyone told me that it would stop falling out and eventually grow back and they were proved correct.

Difficulty walking and loss of balance. My mobility was badly compromised right from the start in that I simply didn’t have the energy to move quickly. I’ve always been the sort of person who strides around the place and runs up and down the stairs, so this took some getting used to. However, after a relapse in April I found that I began to struggle with balance problems, too.
My solution: I bought a folding walking stick that I kept in my handbag, despite hating the dratted thing. I had friends who complained of suddenly being invisible once they reached a certain age, something I hadn’t been aware of. But once I was walking slowly and using a stick – I simply became an obstacle that people swished past. Fortunately, we live in a crescent, so I was able to walk around it using the stick whenever I felt well enough. I didn’t need the stick inside the house – but that’s because it’s a small house and I automatically moved from handhold to handhold. In October 2021, I started seeing a reflexologist as my progress seemed stuck. And within three weeks of seeing her, I was able to walk again without the stick. I didn’t regain my former walking speed to enable me to keep up with the family until the beginning of September 2022. Up to that point, everyone had to slow down for me.

Depression and anxiety. This was a terrible time. We’d both been very ill and I was massively incapacitated, to the extent that Himself became my carer. I could – on good days – shower and dress myself, but that was it. And thank goodness I never reached the stage when I needed help feeding myself or using the toilet, but it was a close-run thing on occasions. Going out or travelling was a non-starter – I could scarcely make it to the car at times when I needed to attend a doctor’s appointment. Worse, no one could tell me when, or if, this would end. I come from a long-lived family – the thought of living like a frail ninety-something for the rest of my years was a terrible prospect. We also lost my lovely father-in-law in the middle of all this and my mother-in-law, suffering from dementia, had to go into a home. You won’t be surprised that I struggled with my mental health.
My solution: The NHS Time-to-Talk scheme was an enormous help. I had ten sessions with a kind person on the end of the phone, on whom I poured out my fears and anxieties. She suggested I try meditation and my son told me about an app called Headspace, which was excellent at teaching me the basic techniques for focusing on my breath. I have since also found other free meditation apps. It helped me to keep in the moment and stop thinking too much about the future – I just had to get through each day at a time, the best way I could. I think it also massively helped that I have a faith and prayed for strength to deal with what was happening. And the fact that I’m a certain age was also a positive factor, as by now I know my own strengths and weaknesses, both physically and emotionally. I also took strength from my family – my sisters were both tremendously helpful. My middle sister ensured I had any medications that I needed, while I was able to talk through much of my feelings with my younger sister, who is a wellness coach, which was another huge help. Taking as much control as I could in dealing with my symptoms was helpful in empowering me to feel less like a victim, as I learnt to cope with the up and down nature of the illness and better understand what was happening to me. I am an avid reader, and that was also a great lifeline. There were times when I was too tired to watch TV, but I could listen to an audiobook and, when I felt better, read a lovely escapist tale on my trusty Kindle. It also helped that Himself was marvellous – endlessly patient and kind, while he was also dealing with his own heartbreak at what was happening to us.

Brain Fog. And yes… I’m here to tell you it’s a real thing. I was left with my mental faculties badly impaired. I write novels and soon after the initial illness, I sat down at the computer and tried to resume my current book – and just… couldn’t. It was impossible. I couldn’t even think of the right words to use. And in groping for the words, I lost track of what the character was actually trying to say, or even who was saying it. For the first time in my life, I was staring at the computer screen and completely stuck. I tried not to panic about losing my ability to write – and I’m not talking about book reviews, as I can pretty much produce one of those in my sleep. I’m talking about my creative writing.

My mental confusion wasn’t confined to my writing – I’d break off halfway through a conversation, because I lost the thread of what I was trying to say. I’ve always been a chatty person, full of opinions on everything. But partly due to the chronic exhaustion that robbed me of my mental energy, and partly because I was unable to focus, anyway, I became a lot quieter. Indeed, once I began recovering, Himself initially found it quite difficult to get used to the louder, more opinionated version, as he’d had over a year with the quieter model.
My solution: Whenever I felt well enough, I would do wordsearches, sudoku puzzles, TV quizzes, computer brainteasers, word games with the family… anything to stretch my brain. It got worse before it got better, but I am now sufficiently recovered that I don’t immediately notice any lack, except that I don’t possess the mental stamina I used to have. I cannot write for longer than three hours before feeling really tired, though I’m hoping that on regaining my fitness, it will improve, too.

Once I started recovering my mental stamina, soon after I started my reflexology treatment in October 2021, I began editing two other books in the same series as my work-in-progress. It took a while, as there were long periods when I wasn’t well enough to even open up the computer. But eventually, I worked my way through them and finally, in June this year, I managed to complete the chapter that I’d started back in March last year, before I went down with Covid-19. That felt like a very big win.

Eczema. I have had occasional problems with this itchy skin disorder when particularly stressed. But it started up in the middle of the initial illness and from then on, every single time I had a relapse – back it would come. Right between my shoulder blades.
My solution: A variety of skin creams. I’d find that one would keep the itching down until it didn’t and we’d switch to another one. I went on a completely sugar-free diet in an attempt to alleviate the spells of exhaustion and accidentally discovered that once I stopped eating any processed sugar, the eczema dramatically improved.

Swollen thyroid and lymph glands. I’d been aware of pressure on my throat soon after the initial illness – and when I’d start to get exhausted, it would get worse often making me feel nauseous. My lymph glands were also swollen, particularly on the right side to the extent that if I stretched my neck, the lump was visible. They were also very tender and downright painful if touched. When I reported this to the doctor, I was sent for scans, which revealed that I’d got nodules on my thyroid and that my lymph glands were badly deformed. I’ve read that Covid-19 seems to attack specific areas of the body – and I think it was my endocrine system that got hammered.
My solution: For a very long time, there wasn’t anything I seemed to be able to do regarding these symptoms. Although I learnt to pay attention to the throbbing discomfort in my neck – it was a useful indicator that I was doing too much and needed to rest. The lymph glands finally shrank back to normal in September this year, after a course of antibiotics for another symptom.

Persistent chest and upper arm pain. While I didn’t have any breathing problems, during the initial illness, my ribcage was extremely sore with sharp, stabbing pains, especially on the right side. And while the pain cleared up on the left, it continued on the right to the extent that it was months before I was able to wear a bra and I couldn’t lie on my right side in bed as the pain would wake me up.
My solution: I did find that ibuprofen would relieve it when it got painful enough to restrict my movement as I became more active, but as my active periods were interspersed by long periods lying in bed, it wasn’t too much of an issue until I began to fully recover. At that stage, I was referred to the Breast Clinic to ensure the pain wasn’t an indicator of something more nasty. Fortunately, all the scans came back clear, although I found the examinations extremely painful. And I continued to take painkillers when necessary for the pain until it finally eased away in August of this year, which has been a huge relief.

Night sweats. During the initial illness, I’d been sweating heavily with my high temperature, but the night sweats continued afterwards. I’d put up with this particular misery during the menopause, so wasn’t best pleased when it returned.
My solution: Before I contracted Covid-19, I was someone who very much felt the cold, so I had an electric blanket and thermal nightwear. I gradually realised, while struggling with overheating, that my whole metabolism had altered – I now no longer get so cold. So I got rid of all the extra blankets, bought pure cotton nightshirts to wear and while the sweats continued, particularly during a relapse, at least I was a tad more comfortable.

Insomnia. This was grim. I’ve struggled to go to bed at a reasonable time for years – but was also aware that trying to regain my energy levels wouldn’t work if I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep. And while I’m sure the lack of activity was an issue, there was no doubt that when I was unwell, getting to sleep was a nightmare. And if I didn’t, then I could very easily find myself still wide awake at 6 am, and dropping off to sleep just as Himself was surfacing and then sleeping the day away. This clearly wasn’t ideal on any level, so I tried to address the situation. This was one of the biggest ongoing struggles throughout my illness and while it’s improved, I still need to work more on it. These days, I average between five and six hours a night, which isn’t anything like good enough. But at least I don’t battle to fall asleep in the way that I used to.
My solution: To try and help address my sleep issues, my lovely son bought me an oura ring, which is specifically designed to give data on sleep and provide feedback to help change behaviours. It’s been a boon, as I can monitor the quality of my sleep and immediately see whether various strategies are working. I also began switching off screens half an hour before going to bed and reading or listening to a story in low light levels to help wind down, along with a night-time meditation. I did try using Sleepcasts, which my son swears by, and are featured on Headspace. These are descriptions of a particular place, ranging from rain forests to libraries, narrated in a soothing voice. They didn’t work for me, but I mention them because Robbie is a huge fan. What did work is listening to an audiobook on my phone, tucked under the pillow so it doesn’t disturb Himself. I put it on a sleep timer and these days, I’m usually asleep before the half an hour is up.

Tinnitus. I’ve suffered with some tinnitus ever since I burst my eardrum in my 30s. But after going down with Covid-19, this was on a completely different scale. The right ear was far worse than the left and it manifests in a high-pitched squeal. During the day, I was largely able to block it out, except when lying flat in bed, too tired to do anything except stare at the ceiling. That wasn’t fun on any level. And it certainly made getting to sleep more of a challenge. This is the one symptom that hasn’t eased up much, despite my recovery. Fortunately, I’m now well enough to write and frankly – the building could fall down around me and I probably wouldn’t notice. For which I’m very grateful, as it allows me to blank out the ringing in my ears.
My solution: The meditation helps. I have also discovered that drinking too much caffeine aggravates it, so I restrict my intake to 3 small cups a day and all before lunchtime, so I don’t compromise getting to sleep. But listening to a gripping story on an audiobook allows me to zone it out the noise at night so I can sleep.

Post-Viral Fatigue. This is the single symptom that absolutely felled me. Fatigue… exhaustion… tiredness… there needs to be another word to describe it, because it’s unlike any other type of tiredness I’ve ever experienced. It’s a malaise that left me shaking, unable to stand, feeling sick and giddy with such tiredness that even my bones ached. It wasn’t just physical. It also left me too tired to think, or even care at all much. I’d be alright for a few days, or as much as a week, sometimes. Then I’d wake up, put my foot to the floor – and it would hit me with a sickening wave and I knew that I’d be spending the rest of the day in bed, too tired to do much of anything. The worst relapse was in August 2021 when I was bedridden for fourteen days in a row. And afterwards, I found I’d lost much of the progress I’d already made, so I was left far more compromised. In fact, I still haven’t managed to drive to Chichester and back since then, which I’d done in June to take Himself to his first covid vaccination. This single symptom laid waste to my life – I was unable to cook, or clean and going shopping was a distant dream for months and months. I’ve already mentioned that I lost the ability to write for a very long time. The hardest part was not knowing if I’d ever get better.

But I had a couple of huge advantages – while I was dealing with a range of unpleasant symptoms, most of the time I wasn’t in pain. I don’t underestimate what a lucky break that was. And Himself was a superstar, ever-thoughtful, kind and tireless in keeping everything going. So that gave me the space and determination to try to take control of what was happening to me.
My solution: I got hold of a book – Classic Pacing: For a Better Life with ME by Ingebjørg Midsem Dahl, which gave me a range of coping strategies in order to deal with my new life. The first was to accurately gauge how much energy I had and then draw up a timetable so that I ensured my daily activities didn’t outstrip my available energy. When I started, I was shocked to see that my available energy was only running at 20% of what it should be. It took a while to get the balance right, but I believe the days, weeks and months that I put in trying to keep within my energy envelope allowed me to heal.

I also started taking a number of supplements – an iron tonic, vitamin D, vitamin C, B12, and a liquid calcium drink. I hasten to add that I didn’t take all these together, but spaced them out appropriately throughout the day. I also tried probiotics, but they simply don’t agree with me so I discontinued with them, though I’m aware that they have helped quite a lot of Long Covid sufferers. I also paid attention to what I ate. My appetite wasn’t large, but I wanted to ensure that everything I consumed would be helping to build me up – so the first thing I did was to eliminate all processed sugar from my diet. I added turmeric tea, which I now love – and I have tahini on toast in the mornings. I’ve been surprised at some of the side effects from not eating sugar. My lower back pain, which should have been giving me constant grief given how long I’ve spent in bed, has hardly grumbled at all. And the pain I was having in my finger joints and wrists has disappeared. I’ve noticed that I’ve less wrinkles around my mouth and eyes, too. While obviously I’ll have the occasional treat for birthdays and Christmas – there’s no way I’m going back to having my twice-weekly sticky bun. I’m eating a lot of salads and as we’re vegetarians, we eat a lot of veg anyway.

Another recommendation was to make life as easy as possible – so we ordered a bath stool so I was sitting down in the shower, which I still use as it makes the whole process far less tiring. And there are still days when staggering to the bathroom to have a shower is a big deal.

This wasn’t the only useful book I got hold of – the other one was The Long Covid Self Help Guide published by the specialists at the Oxford Long Covid clinic, which I found really helpful in rebalancing my energy versus activity output. I strongly recommend this book for anyone battling with Long Covid and the book on pacing for others dealing with Post-Viral Fatigue. Other than that, it was a question of taking each day at a time and trying to stay as calm and positive as possible – I was shocked at just how much energy negative emotions take once I became well enough for my fury and sadness to surface at having lost such a chunk of my life. If I am getting tired, a fifteen-minute meditation is a brilliant way of resting as it’s a super recharge, helping both mind and body. Others have also found yoga to be similarly helpful.

I am also very lucky to have found an excellent reflexologist, who has certainly helped. My progress stalled last September/October and within a couple of weeks of seeing Laura, a holistic healer who runs Sole to Soul, several major symptoms shifted and improved. I don’t think I’d be where I am now without her intervention.

I am now on the road to recovery, though I still have a way to go. Overall, I put on a stone in weight and given just how inactive I’ve been and my age, it could have been a lot worse. However, I’m keen to lose it. Partly because there is a huge chunk of my wardrobe that I cannot wear and partly because at a time when all my energy is precious – I’m lugging around too many unwanted pounds. I’m now exploring attending a course at the local Leisure Centre specifically for people who wish to recondition their bodies after a significant illness and in the near future, I’ll see if I can get a doctor’s referral. I’m hoping to regain my former fitness so I can reclaim my life. And it’s the least I can do for my wonderful husband and helpmate, who looked after me throughout this terrible time with so much love and tenderness.

Nasal drip and sore sinuses. I’d never heard of nasal drip before I got covid. But this is where instead of mucus running from your nose, it trickles down the back of your throat. This results in a certain amount of discomfort, a horrid taste in the mouth and bad breath. This symptom surfaced sometime during November 2021, after a minor cold. At first I was pleased, as I thought it would drain my poor sore lymph glands. However, it didn’t. It was only my right nostril that was affected, but as time wore on, the sinuses in the right side of my face became swollen and tender and finally even the top of my head grew sore where the sinus cavities on the top of my head were becoming inflamed. It was dreary – and dragged on from November, throughout the winter and finally events came to a head during this summer.
My solution: I had candling and sinus massages at regular intervals, which kept the symptoms manageable. In between my treatments, I was able to prevent my ear from becoming infected by relieving the pressure using a little battery-operated scalp massager which proved to be a lifesaver. I found it very handy for massaging the drainage points for my sinuses once the tenderness spiked into something sharper.

Finally, in June 2022 after dealing with this for seven months, I woke up to a streaming nose. At first I thought I’d gone down with a cold, but it was just the right nostril that was congested – the left one was completely clear. I coped with it for nearly two months, but there was no sign of it easing. By now my nose was sore and my face felt it was about to fall off every time I bent over – a sure sign that my sinuses were infected. I phoned up the surgery and got an emergency appointment and was immediately put on a course of antibiotics. And within three days of starting the course, it had completely dried up. It took another week or so for my sinuses to calm right down and best of all – my lymph glands also returned to their normal shape. And to all intents and purposes, as I haven’t suffered any form of relapse sending me back to bed since the middle of August – I think I can now say at the beginning of October 2021, my Long Covid is now over.

And I cannot begin to sum up just what a relief it is to be able to type those words. While this was always the outcome I was aiming for – there was a long time when it seemed a distant dream. For those of you struggling in the middle of this slow-motion nightmare, let me offer you light at the end of the tunnel. It is possible to recover from the endless cycle of improvement followed by relapse and there can be a time when the never-ending stream of one grotty symptom after another will ease up. Just don’t give up hope.

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID – 23

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This is my update on how I’m coping with Long Covid now it’s been nearly eighteen months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.

This is something of a momentous post. I’ve taken the decision that this will be the final Sunday Post where I’ll be focusing on the Long Covid that I’ve been dealing with since I got sick with Covid-19, back on 6th March 2021. That’s not to say I’m fully recovered. Yesterday, I needed to take it really easy as I suddenly ran out of energy the previous evening. But while I must always take into consideration how I’m feeling – the constant exhaustion that once blanketed me and turned me into a bedridden invalid is no longer defining my life and every single action I take. I will be writing another post, where I’ll sum up my experience with Long Covid and include the things that helped and those that didn’t. But unless I have a catastrophic relapse (fingers crossed that doesn’t happen!!) my regular account of my struggles with the ‘weird beast’, as my doctor calls it, are now ending. I want to thank everyone here. Many of you have been so supportive with encouraging words, while some have even been praying for me. Not being able to leave the house for months meant that all my interactions were online – and your kind comments and the knowledge that you were there and cared at a time when I didn’t know if I’d ever get better often gave me a burst of positivity and courage when I most needed it. Thank you, all of you, for being here and letting me know that you were thinking of me. Book people are the best😊.

We are now busy getting ready for school, as Oscar goes back tomorrow. He’s not looking forward to it, but I’m hoping that once he gets back into the swing of the daily routine, he will find it’s not quite as bad as he thinks. Ethan finished his summer job yesterday and resumes college next week. We are thrilled that he got a Distinction for his final first year project, which is such an achievement given his severe dyslexia.

I’m not quite sure where the summer went – I’m sure that when I was a girl, six weeks lasted a lot longer. Given the shoddy quality of politicians these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if the scallywags in the Government have gone and devalued the length of days behind our backs. It seems the sort of shifty nonsense they’d get up to. While the weather is now pleasantly cooler, we are still seeing plenty of sunshine, with temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s during the day. I just wish we were getting more rain – which is something I never thought I’d say…

Last week I read:-

AUDIOBOOK – Her Majesty’s Royal Coven – Book 1 of Her Majesty’s Royal Coven series by Juno Dawson, narrated by Nicola Coughlan
If you look hard enough at old photographs, we’re there in the background: healers in the trenches; Suffragettes; Bletchley Park oracles; land girls and resistance fighters. Why is it we help in times of crisis? We have a gift. We are stronger than Mundanes, plain and simple.

At the dawn of their adolescence, on the eve of the summer solstice, four young girls–Helena, Leonie, Niamh and Elle–took the oath to join Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, established by Queen Elizabeth I as a covert government department. Now, decades later, the witch community is still reeling from a civil war and Helena is now the reigning High Priestess of the organization. Yet Helena is the only one of her friend group still enmeshed in the stale bureaucracy of HMRC. Elle is trying to pretend she’s a normal housewife, and Niamh has become a country vet, using her powers to heal sick animals. In what Helena perceives as the deepest betrayal, Leonie has defected to start her own more inclusive and intersectional coven, Diaspora. And now Helena has a bigger problem. A young warlock of extraordinary capabilities has been captured by authorities and seems to threaten the very existence of HMRC. With conflicting beliefs over the best course of action, the four friends must decide where their loyalties lie: with preserving tradition, or doing what is right.
This has been one of the reading highlights of the summer. I’ve been suffering from a real book hangover since I finished listening to this one. The cracking story with plenty of drama and magic, alongside relevant contemporary issues has left me yearning for the next one in the series. Very highly recommended. 10/10

Witchy Reservations: A Paranormal Cozy Mystery – Book 1 of the Mystic Inn Mystery series by Stephanie Damore
There’s nothing practical about magic—which is why I ditched my wand years ago.

Thirteen years, to be exact. The day I left Silverlake.

Except now, a family emergency has called me back home, and quite frankly, I’d rather be anywhere but here. But when my aunt raises her wand to cure a friend and he ends up dead, it becomes abundantly clear I’m not leaving anytime soon.
This cosy murder mystery is escapist fun with plenty of twists and suspects along the way. I liked the engaging protagonist, whose first-person narrative makes the story go with a swing. 8/10

AUDIOBOOK – The Accidental Alchemist – Book 1 of The Accidental Alchemist series by Gigi Pandian, narrated by Julia Motyka
Unpacking her belongings in her new hometown of Portland, Oregon, herbalist and reformed alchemist Zoe Faust can’t help but notice she’s picked up a stowaway. Dorian Robert-Houdin is a living, breathing three-and-half-foot gargoyle – not to mention a master of French cuisine – and he needs Zoe’s expertise to decipher a centuries-old text. Zoe, who’s trying to put her old life behind her, isn’t so sure she wants to reopen her alchemical past… until the dead man on her porch leaves her no choice.

Includes recipes!
This is huge fun. And I loved the fact that the very scrummy-sounding recipes are all vegan😊. Apart from the food, other enjoyable ingredients are a quirky gargoyle, nicely snarky teenagers and a sympathetic protagonist with a long, sad past, who is desperate to escape official notice. I really cared for the characters and enjoyed listening to this one, as Portlanders begin to succumb to mysterious poisoning. 8/10

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean
Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries.

Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairytales and cautionary stories.

But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger—not for books, but for human minds.
This is another reading highlight – I really have had a wonderful reading week. This dark fantasy packs a punch – it grabbed me by the collar and wouldn’t let go. I’ve seen comparisons with The Handmaid’s Tale and while I don’t agree, as there are far too many significant differences, I can see why some readers went there. Review to follow.

Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m beginning to be able to visit more sites, although it all depends on whether I’ve enough energy – so I appreciate your patience if you’ve dropped by and I haven’t immediately responded. Take care and have a lovely week.

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #22

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This is my update on how I’m coping with Long Covid now it’s been over seventeen months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.

As we now have our grandsons staying with us, it’s been another full-on week. Ethan’s summer job has become a lot busier as the back-to-school rush for uniforms hits its peak. He is coping really well with long days serving fraught parents and their miserable children. I can’t quite believe that the summer holidays have slipped by so fast and he is about to begin his final week before he starts back at college for the second year of his animation course. We took Oscar to the Wetland and Wildfowl Trust last Tuesday on a rainy day. Another year and I would be moaning about the weather – but after weeks of blistering heat, it was delightful to wander around in the misty drizzle and watch the birds enjoying themselves – as you can see from the pics.

Other than that, I’ve been up in the mornings to ensure Ethan has a good breakfast and give him a lift to work. Initially we’d thought he could walk it – but given the brutal heat, we took the decision to drive him to work. And although it’s now cooler, I am reluctant to make him walk over a mile there and back on top of working full shifts when he hasn’t had a chance to be acclimatised to it.

I am feeling more energetic than I did last week, although there are still good and bad days. I’m pleased to see I’ve started losing some of the weight I put on while spending so much time bedridden and exhausted and I can now wear some of my jeans. I’ve still got quite a way to go before I can get into most of my clothes, but right now that isn’t a priority as I’m still not sufficiently recovered to consider a full reconditioning and fitness programme. I am looking forward to the time when I can go swimming at the local leisure centre while Boomerang Boy is hitting the gym, instead of spending my time sitting in their very uncomfortable chairs reading a book. He’s very pleased to see some muscle development since he started attending at the start of the summer holidays and we’re hoping to continue attending once he returns to school. He has also grown more than an inch since we measured him in the second week of August.

While my writing progress has been hit and miss throughout the summer, I have made some progress on the third book of Castellan’s adventures, Problems With Power. I thought I’d discovered a plot hole near the end of the previous book, Trouble With Dwarves, but Himself pointed out that I was overthinking the issue and suggested that I sort it out with a suitable conversation, instead of several major scene changes and a whole new sub-plot. I’ll be taking his advice and adding said conversation in the coming week – full of relief that I won’t have to administer major surgery to the ongoing narrative!

I’ve recently read:-

Her Majesty’s Warlord – Book 2 of the Stuck in Magic series by Christopher G. Nuttall
After being trapped in a very strange world, Elliot Richardson found his footing and led the forces of Damansara to victory, only to find himself under threat from jealous and resentful city fathers who thought he was on the verge of overthrowing their rule and taking their power for himself.

Isolated and alone, Elliot accepted an offer of employment from Princess Helen of Johor and finds himself travelling to the heart of her kingdom, to a city caught between the stagnant past, the hope of a better future and factions threatening to burn the world down rather than risk letting it be saved. And, as Elliot goes to work, he finds himself threatened by powerful enemies who will stop at nothing to see him brought down…
This is a spin-off from the gripping Schooled in Magic series that I’ve been working through during the last year – and I’m now following Elliot’s progress as he struggles to cope in a world where magic is the ultimate power, rather than technology. However, it’s also a world riven by social discontent as the agrarian culture, relying on peasants and downtrodden serfs to produce the food, is beset by sudden change. Once again, Nuttall has produced an action-packed read, full of plot twists and action that I thoroughly enjoyed. And being an indie book, it is also excellent value for money😊. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – Emma by Jane Austen, narrated by Emma Thompson
Emma Woodhouse is one of Austen’s most captivating and vivid characters. Beautiful, spoilt, vain and irrepressibly witty, Emma organizes the lives of the inhabitants of her sleepy little village and plays matchmaker with devastating effect.

I’m working my way through the collected novels of Jane Austen and I hadn’t particularly been looking forward to reaching Emma, as the last time I read the book I decided that Mr Knightly was a priggish misery. This time around, listening to the fabulous Emma Thompson, I didn’t find him such a pain. The humour of listening to both Emma and Mr K. being eaten up with jealousy without necessarily realising their feelings for each other was also more apparent. All in all, this was far more fun than I was expecting and turned out to be really enjoyable. However, I could do without all the music in this production. 8/10

The Half Killed – Book 1 of The Sundered Veil series by Quenby Olson
Dorothea Hawes has no wish to renew contact with what lies beyond the veil. After an attempt to take her own life, she has retired into seclusion, but as the wounds on her body heal, she is drawn back into a world she wants nothing more than to avoid.

She is sought out by Julian Chissick, a former man of God who wants her help in discovering who is behind the gruesome murder of a young woman. But the manner of death is all too familiar to Dorothea, and she begins to fear that something even more terrible is about to unleash itself on London.

And so Dorothea risks her life and her sanity in order to save people who are oblivious to the threat that hovers over them. It is a task that forces her into a confrontation with her own lurid past, and tests her ability to shape events frighteningly beyond her control.
I had read Olson’s entertaining romp about a dragon’s egg surfacing in a small village and it in no way prepared me for the intensity of this fantasy thriller. The writing is rich and layered, giving a vivid evocation of London during a savage heatwave in a time when people’s clothing was all about keeping them sufficiently warm. I loved the world and the steadily escalating tension in this classy read, rooting for Dorothea all the way. 10/10

AUDIOBOOK – Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany
Babel-17 is all about the power of language. Humanity, which has spread throughout the universe, is involved in a war with the Invaders, who have been covertly assassinating officials and sabotaging spaceships. The only clues humanity has to go on are strange alien messages that have been intercepted in space. Poet and linguist Rydra Wong is determined to understand the language and stop the alien threat.

I’m generally not all that impressed with the classic sci fi reads from this era – far too often it’s all about the lantern-jawed hero with female characters providing bed partners and/or requiring to be rescued just to show the protagonist off as courageous and tough. Not so this one – the protag is a well-written, nuanced heroine, who engaged me throughout with her intelligence and resilience. I also enjoyed the diverse ethnic range of characters throughout, showing that Delany was well ahead of his time. The ideas raised regarding language aren’t new – not when considering books such as Nineteen Eighty-Four and Embassytown – but I enjoyed the way Delany explores the subject. The only reason this one didn’t get a 10 was that the end felt a bit rushed and was weak and ordinary when compared with the quality of the rest of the book. 9/10

The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope
Washington D. C., 1925

Clara Johnson talks to spirits, a gift that saved her during her darkest moments in a Washington D. C. jail. Now a curse that’s left her indebted to the cunning spirit world. So, when the Empress, the powerful spirit who holds her debt, offers her an opportunity to gain her freedom, a desperate Clara seizes the chance. The task: steal a magical ring from the wealthiest woman in the District.

Clara can’t pull off this daring heist alone. She’ll need help from an unlikely team, from a jazz musician capable of hypnotizing with a melody to an aging vaudeville actor who can change his face, to pull off the impossible. But as they encounter increasingly difficult obstacles, a dangerous spirit interferes at every turn. Conflict in the spirit world is leaking into the human one and along D.C’.s legendary Black Broadway, a mystery unfolds—one that not only has repercussions for Clara but all of the city’s residents.
This one is a gripping read. Clara is a sympathetic heroine, full of anger at how her life has been twisted by the gift bestowed upon her. The story also throws into relief the extra hardship being black is in Washington in the 1920s in a very matter-of-fact way, which gave me – a white middle-class Brit woman – a better appreciation of the unremitting harshness of being instantly judged by the colour of your skin. Review to follow.

A Date With Death – #0.5 of the Conjuring a Coroner series by S.C. Stokes
Whoever said blood is thicker than water hasn’t met the Harrington family. New York royalty, the Harrington family are old money with magic coursing through their entitled veins, and the only thing the Harringtons care less about than each other…is the law.

When Lester dies unexpectedly, his considerable estate is set to pass to his surviving heirs. But the coroner, Kasey Chase, has ruled Lester’s death a homicide, sparking a family feud that sees the Harrington heirs turn on each other in a lethal struggle where the only prize for second place is death.

With unlimited resources and a callous disregard for human life, the Harrington’s have to be stopped before the city pays the price for their petty war. Caught in the middle, Kasey is left fighting for her life. Fortunately, she’s been hiding a secret of her own. Kasey is a witch.
Kasey is an appealing heroine – and I liked how reluctant she is initially to get sucked into such a potentially tricky situation. I get a tad tired of protagonists who happily run towards danger the rest of us would instinctively back away from. And when this one finally kicked off – the action rolled forward and didn’t let up until the end. I’ll definitely be reading more Kasey goodness as this urban fantasy adventure is a page-turning read. 8/10

Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m aware that right now, it’s a one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #21

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This is my update on how I’m coping with Long Covid now it’s been over seventeen months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.

A lot has happened since I last reported in. The morning of my Dr’s appointment, the surgery contacted me to apologise that my consultation would have to be postponed as they had four doctors off with covid. I immediately got back in touch and explained that I was really struggling with a suspected sinus infection so I had a telephone appointment and was prescribed a course of antibiotics. The improvement in my condition was immediate, with the congestion easing and the lymph glands on the right side of my neck no longer so swollen and sore. Even the top of my head stopped aching. I felt on top of the world – I hadn’t felt so well since I’d become ill with covid back in March 2021. The only downside was that the tablets made me photosensitive, so during yet another week of soaring temperatures and bright sunshine, I had to keep covered up and indoors as much as possible. Still, it was a small price to pay. I even felt well enough to start sorting out my clothes in the wardrobes in the boys’ rooms so they would have sufficient space for their own possessions, given that they are now staying with us for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile I was convinced that I had now beaten the long covid and it was all behind me. Until the beginning of this week, when I once more woke up to the far too familiar feeling of dragging, bone-deep exhaustion that made getting up a struggle. The worst day was Wednesday when I wasn’t able to get out of bed and shower before midday – but it could have been so much worse. The last time I’d been hit by such a relapse, I’d spent several days in bed unable to get up before 5 pm. By Friday I was starting to recover again, although my energy levels still aren’t back to what they were, but at least now I know that I’ll get there. And an indicator that I am really on the road to recovery – at long last, I’m able to walk at the same pace as the rest of the family. For the longest time, although I was no longer walking with a stick, I was still moving really slowly, which forced the boys and Himself to check their pace so I wasn’t left behind. I hated it. I felt old before my time and also often got caught behind other slow-moving folks, because I didn’t have the acceleration to step past them. I also felt vulnerable on a crowded pavement, as I was also aware if someone wasn’t paying attention, I couldn’t react fast enough to avoid a collision. The ability to stride out and walk quickly again is such a joy – though I quickly get puffed as I have no stamina. Never mind, that will come.

The boys, as ever, are being brilliant. They are such good company and are always helpful with the chores, especially when I’m not feeling at my shiny best. Ethan is getting ever busier working in a shop that sells workwear and school uniforms as the summer holiday is coming to an end. While his younger brother is enjoying sessions in the local gym. We went down to the beach one lovely summer evening and I’m hoping to take them more often as I get stronger again. While all this has been going on, reading, writing and blogging have taken rather a hit.

I’ve recently read:-

AUDIOBOOK – The Daughter of Dr Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Carlota Moreau: a young woman, growing up in a distant and luxuriant estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán peninsula. The only daughter of either a genius, or a madman.

Montgomery Laughton: a melancholic overseer with a tragic past and a propensity for alcohol. An outcast who assists Dr. Moreau with his scientific experiments, which are financed by the Lizaldes, owners of magnificent haciendas and plentiful coffers.

The hybrids: the fruits of the Doctor’s labor, destined to blindly obey their creator and remain in the shadows. A motley group of part human, part animal monstrosities.

All of them living in a perfectly balanced and static world, which is jolted by the abrupt arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the charming and careless son of Doctor Moreau’s patron, who will unwittingly begin a dangerous chain reaction. For Moreau keeps secrets, Carlota has questions, and in the sweltering heat of the jungle, passions may ignite.
This slow-burn, atmospheric historical adventure creaked with tension throughout. I loved the depiction of two strong-minded, flawed people caught up in Dr Moreau’s machinations. Review to follow. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting by Sophie Irwin
Kitty Talbot needs a fortune. Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. Left with her father’s massive debts, she has only twelve weeks to save her family from ruin.

Kitty has never been one to back down from a challenge, so she leaves home and heads toward the most dangerous battleground in all of England: the London season.

Kitty may be neither accomplished nor especially genteel—but she is utterly single-minded; imbued with cunning and ingenuity, she knows that risk is just part of the game.

The only thing she doesn’t anticipate is Lord Radcliffe. The worldly Radcliffe sees Kitty for the mercenary fortune-hunter that she really is and is determined to scotch her plans at all costs, until their parrying takes a completely different turn…
This is huge fun – and just the sort of escapist enjoyment I need right now. I thoroughly appreciated that Kitty has accepted the stark fact that she must make a financially favourable marriage to keep the rest of her family from foundering, which was an all-too common occurrence for women of a certain social class back in the day. Review to follow. 9/10

Breakup – Book 7 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow
In Breakup, Kate Shugak’s loyalties – to the land, her heritage, her home – are put to the test when a series of mishaps lead to murder. April in Alaska is typically a period of rebirth and renewal, and after the long winter Kate has nothing more strenuous on her agenda than paying her taxes. But mayhem abounds as the meltoff flows; this year’s thaw is accompanied by rampaging bears, family feuds, and a plane crash quite literally in Kate’s own backyard. What begins as a series of headaches escalates into possible murder when a dead body is found near her homestead. Initially unwilling to involve herself in the investigation, preferring instead to write off each odd occurrence as a breakup-related peculiarity, Kate is drawn irresistibly to seek the truth.

Compelled by her friends to act as problem solver and guided by the spirit of her Aleut grandmother, she finds herself slowly taking on the role of clan leader, a post she is bound to by honor and blood. As breakup becomes increasingly fraught with danger and destruction, Kate must decide whether she can cross the line from passive observer to instrument of change, assuming the role of elder as the mantle of responsibility is passed.
I am slowly working my way through this engaging murder mystery series, set in Alaska and featuring a young woman born and bred in this extraordinary place. This particular book is a joy. I love the vivid depiction of place and Kate’s increasing frustration as she becomes sucked into local politics, despite her best intentions. The story see-saws between extreme danger and farce as events take on a life of their own, with an ugly murder emerging from the middle of all the mayhem. This is an outstanding read in an excellent series. 10/10

AUDIOBOOK – Sherlock Holmes & the Miskatonic Monstrosities – Book 2 of The James Lovegrove’s Sherlock Holmes series by James Lovegrove
It is the spring of 1895, and more than a decade of combating eldritch entities has cost Dr John Watson his beloved wife Mary, and nearly broken the health of Sherlock Holmes. Yet the companions do not hesitate when they are called to the infamous Bedlam lunatic asylum, where they find an inmate speaking in R’lyehian, the language of the Old Ones. Moreover, the man is horribly scarred and has no memory of who he is.

And when the man is taken from Bedlam by forces beyond normal mortal comprehension, it becomes clear that there is far more to the case than they initially suspected…
I have cut short the rather chatty blurb to this thoroughly enjoyable Sherlock Holmes adventure, where Lovegrove really hits his stride with this entertaining pastiche that also encompasses Lovecraftian aspects. The story takes all sorts of exciting twists and turns, yet remains true to the overall style and tone of Conan Doyle. Thoroughly recommended for Sherlock Holmes fans, who also appreciate a splash of fantasy with their historical murder mysteries. 10/10

Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #20

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This is my update on how I’m coping with Long Covid now it’s been over sixteen months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.

Well, I survived the heatwave when we had temperatures soar into the mid 90s – and before you roll your eyes and scoff at what wusses we are, please bear in mind that only about half our shops and offices have aircon and only a handful of homes. And given that we had the hottest temperature ever recorded in the UK at 104.5° F. further inland, you can also surmise that we’re simply not used to such heat. So much so, that Boomerang Boy’s school saw fit to send the boys off to play football on the astro-turf at around noon on the hottest day of the year. It won’t surprise you to hear that I got a panicked phone call asking for me to go and pick him up as he was suffering from severe heat exhaustion. They weren’t wrong – his face was beetroot, except for a worrying white patch around his mouth and he was finding it difficult to walk in a straight line. Fortunately, although he was wiped out for the rest of the day and still feeling less than his usual shiny self the following day, he managed to bounce back as I ensured he had a tepid shower, drank loads of water and slept with a cooling gelpack under his pillowcase and a cold-water bottle on his feet.

As for my hay fever. It isn’t. I don’t have the right symptoms and neither do they respond at all to any of the hay fever medication. I think it’s the nasal drip now causing major congestion instead, so it’s yet another iteration of the dratted Long Covid. Oh joy… I am thoroughly fed up as my energy levels are being shredded by sneezing fits, severe tinnitus, a constant blocked or runny nose and sore sinuses. The only thing alleviating the symptoms with some effectiveness is the steamer, but even that is only a temporary fix as my nose gets steadily more inflamed and tender.

We are now in the middle of the summer holidays in one of the loveliest parts of the country with wonderful weather, now it has cooled down again. Am I taking the Boomerang Boy to the beach, or the Wetland and Wildfowl Trust, or visiting the Pitch and Putt together, or wandering around Highdown Gardens and having a cuppa at the local café? Nope – none of the above. Because I simply cannot manage it. Neither can I rejoin my Writing Group, or attend a dear friend’s birthday dinner. In short – I feel my life is fading away as I sink into semi-invalidism, whereby I’m losing my friends. I’m not even able to assist in any meaningful way with the household chores. Needless to say – none of is this remotely fair on Himself, either.

Sorry about the rant – but I’m feeling really defeated about the whole business. I have an appointment with the Dr tomorrow, but I’m not particularly hopeful. I’ve been left to struggle with the whole gamut of long covid symptoms pretty much on my own so far – and I don’t hold out much hope that an increasingly hard-pressed NHS has anything much to offer. Thank goodness for books and the light and life the youngsters are bringing into the house!

This week I’ve read:-
As you’ll see, this week there have been far more audiobooks as it’s been a struggle sleeping with my tinnitus screaming and my nose either constantly running or blocked solid.

AUDIOBOOK – Mansfield House by Jane Austen – The Jane Austen Collection: an Audible original
Mansfield House – narrated by Billie Piper

Adopted into the household of her uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram, Fanny Price grows up a meek outsider among her cousins in the unaccustomed elegance of Mansfield Park. Soon after Sir Thomas absents himself on business, Mary Crawford and her brother, Henry, arrive at Mansfield, bringing with them London glamour and the seductive taste for flirtation and theatre that precipitates a crisis.

Directed by Tamsin Collison. With Matt Addis, Lucy Briers, James Corrigan, Scarlett Courtney, Rosalind Eleazar, Jennifer English, Emma Fielding, Ash Hunter, Joel MacCormack, Harry Myers, Esme Scarborough, Lucy Scott, Bert Seymour and Natalie Simpson.
I thoroughly enjoyed Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. However this one is less successful for me. Listening to Billy Piper’s rendition brought home to me just what a drab little mouse Fanny Price is. I found myself increasingly hoping that Mary Crawford would prevail and that prissy little Fanny would disappear off to become someone’s lady’s companion. That said – this production is excellent. 7/10

AUDIOBOOK – Sherlock Holmes & the Beast of the Stapletons – Book 5 of James Lovegrove’s Sherlock Holmes series by James Lovegrove
1894. The monstrous Hound of the Baskervilles has been dead for five years, along with its no less monstrous owner, the naturalist Jack Stapleton. Sir Henry Baskerville is living contentedly at Baskerville Hall with his new wife Audrey and their three-year-old son Harry.

Until, that is, Audrey’s lifeless body is found on the moors, drained of blood. It would appear some fiendish creature is once more at large on Dartmoor and has, like its predecessor, targeted the unfortunate Baskerville family.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are summoned to Sir Henry’s aid, and our heroes must face a marauding beast that is the very stuff of nightmares. It seems that Stapleton may not have perished in the Great Grimpen Mire after all, as Holmes believed, and is hell-bent on revenge…
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying James Lovegrove’s series which provides a really effective pastiche of Conan Doyle’s world and his most famous private detective. I also appreciate Lovegrove having very slightly tweaked the less attractive traits of sexism and racism that surface in the original canon to give us another twist to this, the most famous of all Sherlock Holmes’s stories. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – Conspirator – Book 10 of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh
Cajeiri is the young son of the powerful leader of the Western Association-and he has become a target for forces bent on destroying his father’s rule. For Cajeiri is the first “ateva” youth to have lived in a human environment. And after hundreds of years of fragile atevi-human coexistence, he may very well be the first of his people to ever truly understand the so similar-yet so dangerously different-aliens who share his home planet and threaten the hidebound customs of his race.


I am absolutely loving this series. It’s length gives Cherryh an opportunity to really dig deep into the political and social changes wrought upon the atevi and their culture after humans unexpectedly turn up. Bren Cameron becomes embedded into their power structure as translator for the humans, inevitably also drawing down the wrath of a number of political factions – and their black-clad, highly efficient assassins… Once again, I found myself transported to another world with different rules. Daniel May does an outstanding job of narrating this thrilling series. 9/10

Death and the Decorator – Book 21 of the Fethering Mystery series by Simon Brett
Having decided to redecorate Woodside Cottage, Jude has engaged the services of local man Pete, who has painted and decorated the homes of Fethering residents for many years. Pete is currently working on Footscrow House, a large Victorian building which is being converted into holiday flats by a local developer.

Having arranged to meet at ‘Fiasco House’, as it is known locally due to the many failed business enterprises over the years, Jude and Pete make a surprising discovery behind a wall panel: a woman’s handbag! The casual discovery becomes serious when the police identify the handbag’s owner as Anita Garner, a young woman who vanished in suspicious circumstances twenty years earlier.

Determined to find out what really happened to Anita all those years ago, Jude and her neighbour Carole’s investigations plunge them into a maze of deception and murder, as they uncover a number of uncomfortable secrets beneath the serene surface of Fethering life . . .
Jude and Carole team up to try to uncover what happened to Anita – is she buried in a shallow grave somewhere on the South Downs, as the local pub bore insists? This dynamic duo once again get together to discover what happened. An engaging and twisty whodunit set in an English village peppered with shafts of humour. And no… you don’t have to have read the previous twenty books to thoroughly enjoy this one. 9/10

Augusta Hawke – Book 1 of the Augusta Hawke series by G.M. Mailliet
Where are Niko and Zora Norman? Crime writer Augusta Hawke puts her sleuthing skills to the test to solve the mystery of her disappearing neighbors in the first entry in a new series.

While Augusta Hawke is a successful author of eighteen crime novels, since her husband’s death she’s been living vicariously through her Jules Maigret-like detective Claude and his assistant Caroline. Then a handsome police detective appears investigating a real-life mystery.

Where are her neighbors, the Normans? No one has a clue what’s happened – except Augusta. Although she isn’t nosy, spending all day staring out the windows for inspiration means she does notice things. Like the Normans arguing. And that they’ve been missing a week…
This is another contemporary murder mystery with yet another feisty heroine deciding not to let matters lie. I rapidly fell in love with Augusta, whose beguiling first-person narrative drew me in and wouldn’t let me go. Not particularly action-packed, but full of humour and with an enjoyably surprising denouement. Review to follow. 9/10

This week I have posted:

*RE-RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Death and the Decorator – Book 21 of The Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett

*RE-RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Almost a Dragon – Book 1 of The Wizard and the Dragon series by Al Case

Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well. I’m here to tell you that Life isn’t all that much fun if you can’t rely on your health…

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #19

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This is my update on how I’m coping with Long Covid now it’s been over sixteen months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.

I’ve always loved the heat and found the lack of light and warmth in English winters an ongoing challenge. But as with so many other things that have changed since I had covid last March, that apparently is no longer the case. I was a bit taken aback last winter when I kept having to turn down the heating – and now I’m finding the warm nights and hot days simply exhausting, whereas before, they used to fire me up and fill me full of energy. So I spent two days in bed last week, though I did manage to get up to see our boomerang boy off to school in the mornings without too much difficulty.

I never used to have any windows open at night, even in the warmest weather. And that was partly because I was never that hot, but also because the cooler weather would bring down the pollen and trigger my hay fever, which otherwise these days is very well behaved. We’ll have to go back to keeping those windows shut as I’m now in a position where I could take a role in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves as Sneezy. And I’m here to tell you that sneezing 20+ times in a row leaves you wrung out. Thank goodness I wasn’t trying to drive the car! Today is supposed to be the start of the hottest spell we’ve ever endured in the UK – and I’m dreading it. I don’t like to think of the poor souls living in big cities, as at least we get the benefit of the onshore sea breeze most afternoons which helps a bit. We also live in a brick-built house, so it tends to keep warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. In common with almost everyone else in the UK, we don’t have aircon although we do use fans throughout the night.

I have been watching a bit more TV in this heat – Boomerang Boy and I are enjoying Stranger Things together and I’ve just finished watching The Midwich Cuckoos, which I thought was brilliantly updated and adapted for a contemporary audience.

This week I’ve read:-

AUDIOBOOK – Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen – The Jane Austen Collection: an Audible original
Pride and Prejudice – narrated by Claire Foy

Pride and Prejudice is centred around the Bennet family, their five unmarried daughters and their mother’s desperation for at least one of them to make a wealthy match to save the family from destitution. When Charles Bingley moves into Netherfield, a nearby estate, it seems that Jane, the eldest daughter, may have found her match, but it also introduces our heroine Elizabeth to Bingley’s friend, the aloof Mr Darcy.

Directed by Nicolette Chin. With Tarrick Benham, Nicole Davis, Barnaby Edwards, Billie Fulford-Brown, Rebecca Front, Emma Gregory, Ferdinand Kingsley, Chris Lew Kum Hoi, Tim McInnerny, Heather Nicol, Sarah Ovens, Janet Prince, Jenny Rainsford, Jennifer Saayeng, Sam Stafford, Katy Sobey, Homer Todiwala, Patience Tomlinson and Simon Yadoo.
I’ve already had the pleasure of listening to Sense and Sensibility and this offering is the next one in this excellent collection of Jane Austen novels to listen to. It’s a solid favourite and has been dramatised very well. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – A Free Man of Color – Book 1 of the Benjamin January series by Barbara Hambly
It is 1833. In the midst of Mardi Gras, Benjamin January, a Creole physician and music teacher, is playing piano at the Salle d’Orleans when the evenings festivities are interrupted by murder.

Ravishing Angelique Crozat, a notorious octoroon who travels in the city’s finest company, has been strangled to death. With the authorities reluctant to become involved, Ben begins his own inquiry, which will take him through the seamy haunts of riverboatmen and into the huts of voodoo-worshipping slaves.

But soon the eyes of suspicion turn toward Ben for, black as the slave who fathered him, this free man of color is still the perfect scapegoat. . . .
And this is why I’m such a huge fan of Netgalley. Not long ago, I read and thoroughly enjoyed Death and Hard Cider, which was the nineteenth book in the series. So I went hunting and discovered the audiobook of this, the first book. What an absolute treat! A cracking murder mystery in a decadent and luscious setting with a thoroughly likeable protagonist. I’m definitely going to be revisiting this series again. 10/10

Against All Gods – Book 1 of The Age of Bronze series by Miles Cameron
The gods play their games, looking down on the mortal realm and moving men as pawns. Sacrificing lives, towns, even civilisations as they make moves against each other, oblivious to and uncaring of the suffering it causes.

They are above it all: worshipped, emulated and admired.

Yet there is one among them who exists to sow chaos, to challenge the way of things, and to stir up trouble. One who sees the gods growing indolent and contented and selfish . . . and who is ready to meddle in the world of men. Not as part of the immortal game, but because they believe it’s possible for men to challenge . . . and even topple . . . the gods themselves.
I am a fan of Cameron’s writing – I thoroughly enjoyed The Traitor Son series and last year his space opera adventure Artifact Space was a reading highlight of the year. But this one was very bloody, despite being well written, which I found a tad difficult at times. I also would have liked at least one of the plotpoints to be tied up by the end, rather than the whole storyline left on a cliff-hanger. 8/10

Last Wish – Book 4 of the Highland Magic series by Helen Harper
It’s not easy pretending to be dead – especially when it feels as if you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Between an unfulfilled prophecy, the demon-occupied Lowlands, the continuing power of murderous Aifric Moncrieffe – not to mention her constant yearnings for Byron – Integrity Adair has a lot to worry about.

Still, how hard can it really be to save Scotland, maintain her morals, get the guy and keep her sense of humour?
This is the last book in this delightfully quirky fantasy series. I suppose it’s urban fantasy as it hits many of the genre tropes – a feisty heroine, lots of snark, a few steamy interludes. But it’s set in a Scotland where the Lowlands, including Edinburgh, have been occupied by demons for the past 300 years. Integrity Adair is huge fun and this was one of those reads where I was torn between wanting to know what happens next – and wanting the book to go on for a long, long time, as I didn’t want to part company with Integrity. Or Bob the genie. Or Tipsy. Or May the demon… It takes skill and technique to successfully bring an entertaining series to a satisfying close, but then Harper never disappoints. She has become one of my go-to authors when I want a fun-filled read full of action and humour.
10/10

Half a Soul – Book 1 of the Regency Faerie Tales series by Olivia Atwater
Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.

If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.
This was another enjoyable escapist read full of fun and tension. Dora is beautifully written – compromised protagonists take a lot of skill to get right and Atwater nails it. I loved the unfolding romance and the social reform aspect, which was very well depicted within the narrative. Review to follow. 9/10

This week I have posted:

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The First Binding – Book 1 of the Tales of Tremaine series by R.R. Virdi

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Against All Gods – Book 1 of The Age of Bronze series by Miles Cameron

Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #18

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This is my update on how I’m coping with Long Covid now it’s been over sixteen months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.

I’m aware that it has been quite a while since I’ve touched base with everyone here. In the past, that generally meant I’d been enduring another prolonged spell in bed, utterly exhausted. And while I’ve had to spend the occasional day lying down – mostly this time around, there are other reasons.

Firstly, at the end of June I celebrated a significant birthday – not one I was particularly looking forward to, I have to add. The upside was that I shared my party with my youngest granddaughter, Eliza, who was very thrilled to turn four. The pics are of her side of the party – we adults generally just sat around and chatted, so were far less photogenic. Our boomerang boy is back with us again, as he enjoys our company and he lights up the house with his joking and fun. Thirdly, my lovely sister had a nasty car accident a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately she wasn’t seriously injured but she was bruised and shaken and her beloved car was written off. Her guardian angel was definitely sitting on her shoulder that day, as it so easily could have been so much worse. And we have just come to the end of Wimbledon fortnight. I’m not a huge sports fan, but I do love watching grass court tennis – and it’s been a joy being able to fully engage with the tournament. Last year while I went through the motions of watching, I really didn’t have the energy to care, and in 2020 it was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Before I was ill, I was able to cope with doing several things at once – that no longer is that case. I’m hoping this is temporary and there will come a time when I can once again keep up with writing, blogging, reading AND watching Wimbledon. But that isn’t happening, right now. Not that I’m too upset, as it isn’t all that long ago that I was regularly stuck in bed too tired to do much before 2 pm in the afternoon. Now, I’m getting up at 7 am on schooldays – sometimes I go back to bed once the school run is over, but often I stay up for the rest of the day. This is amazing progress, but I’m aware that I still have a mountain to climb. One of my current issues is how stiff and sore I am after spending over a year largely in bed. I will be adding exercises to get stronger and fitter in due course, but right now everything hurts too much! My electric massager has been a huge help to loosen sore muscles first thing in the morning, especially in my lower back, thighs and upper arms and if it gets too miserable, I take the occasional ibuprofen tablet.

We are enjoying a spell of really warm weather – we haven’t had any rain for over a week now and the temperature has been up in the 70s and it looks as though it’s set to stay that way for the coming week. I enjoy it, but Himself is suffering as he doesn’t get on with too much heat. What with everything that’s been going on, I haven’t been doing all that much reading recently, although I’m still listening to audiobooks as I drift off to sleep – they’re a lifesaver!

This past fortnight I’ve read:-

Stuck in Magic – Book 1 of the Stuck in Magic series by Christopher G. Nuttall
Elliot Richardson thought he’d lost everything. He’d come home from deployment to find his wife cheating on him, his sons strangers and his life in tatters. Driving away, unsure where he was going, he fell through an interdimensional rift and found himself in a very different world, a city of magic and mystery and dangers beyond his comprehension, a land spinning out of control as innovations from the distant west unsettle the monarchy and challenge the position of the aristocrats and warlords that hold the kingdom in their grasp.

Powerless and alone, with no way home, Elliot struggles to survive long enough to make a new life. But as war looms on the horizon, he finds himself forced to use his skills to make a name for himself, all too aware that the slightest slip will mean instant death – or worse.
This is a spinoff from the superb long-running Schooled in Magic series that has been one of my lifeline reads throughout the last year. I love the contrast between poor old Elliot and Emily, who are both refugees from Earth. Elliot is a vet from Afghanistan with no magical powers or powerful allies. I’m delighted to discover there is another book in the series. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows – Book 1 of the James Lovegrove’s Sherlock Holmes series
In the stews of London’s East End, an outbreak of insanity sees ordinary men and women reduced to gibbering, incoherent wrecks; a mysterious creeping fog hides terrifying apparitions within that rob the wits of all who see them and even inspire suicide.

Sherlock Holmes, in the infancy of his detecting career, deduces a connection between these sinister “shadows” and an Oriental drug lord who is bent on expanding his criminal empire. Yet there are even more sinister forces at work, as the great detective faces a challenge so fearsome and deadly that his career may be over almost as soon as it has begun.
I am a solid fan of Lovegrove’s writing and his take on Sherlock Holmes’ adventures is a joy. It’s especially clever as there are two versions. One series of books are straightforward additions to the Conan Doyle canon, while the other puts a Lovecraftian spin on them… It’s done very cleverly and even uses Lovegrove’s name as part of the backstory. This is the first of the fantasy adventures that Holmes and Watson tackle. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – Rotten to the Core – Book 8 of the Lady Hardcastle Mysteries by T.E. Kinsey
Summer 1911. A scorching heatwave engulfs the quiet town of Littleton Cotterell and brings about an unusually early harvest. The villagers are thrilled, but events quickly turn sour when one of them turns up dead in an apple orchard, stabbed through the heart. Amateur sleuth Lady Hardcastle and her trusty lady’s maid, Flo, suddenly have a juicy case on their hands. Might the mysterious stranger they recently met in the village be to blame?

When a second cider-related murder takes place, it quickly becomes clear that there’s more to these mysterious deaths than meets the eye. The daring duo uncover whispers of an ancient order and moonlit rituals. And evidence points to a macabre secret in the village stretching back years. A secret someone will do anything―anything at all―to keep hidden.
I’ve been pining for more Littleton Cotterell delight. And this one picks up just a day after The Fatal Flying Affair. While I do enjoy following the well crafted murder mysteries in this series – for me, it’s really about the delightful relationship between Lady H and Flo. And for a long-lost time before the horrors of WWI… This one is particularly good, with a lovely twisty plot and lots of enjoyable shafts of gentle humour throughout. 10/10

AUDIOBOOK – Deliverer – Book 9 (Sequence 3, Book 3) of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh
In the aftermath of civil war, the world of the atevi is still perilously unstable. Tabini-aiji, powerful ruler of the Western Association, along with his son and heir Cajeiri, and his human paidhi, Bren Cameron, have returned to the seat of power. The usurper, Murini, has escaped to the lands of his supporters, but the danger these rebels pose is far from over. Ilisidi, Tabini’s grandmother, the aiji-dowager, has returned to her ancient castle in the East, for she has powerful ties in the lands of the rebels, and she seeks to muster whatever support for her grandson that she can from among those enemy strongholds.

The long-running Foreigner series can also be enjoyed by more casual genre readers in sub-trilogy installments. Deliverer is the 9th Foreigner novel. It is also the 3rd book in the third subtrilogy.
This is yet another excellent audiobook series I’m following that never disappoints. Daniel May has nailed bringing to life the various crises that come in the wake of the attempted rebellion, so that Cherryh’s wonderful aliens are solidly three-dimensional characters. As for Bren, he is once again plunged right in the middle of this latest emergency, as the only human translator and ambassador living on the mainland amongst this lethal and fascinating species. 9/10

This last week I have posted:

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Last Feather by Shameez Patel Papathanasiou

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of What Rough Beast by Michael R. Johnston

Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #17

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This is my update on how I’m coping with Long Covid now it’s been over fifteen months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.

My grandmother had a saying, “What goes up must come down.” And yes… it absolutely applies to my current situation. After celebrating my triumphant return to something approaching my life before I got sick with Covid – I then had another relapse that lasted nearly a fortnight, where I spent most of the day in bed again, feeling utterly exhausted. And this time around it was a lot harder to endure after having once more felt like the person I used to be.

The good news is that I know exactly what triggered this setback – my hospital appointment at the Breast Care Clinic, where I had a thorough exam by a consultant, a mammogram and ultrasound scan – just to ensure that some of my Long Covid symptoms weren’t masking something far more sinister and life-shortening. I was so impressed at the efficient and kindly staff and I’m delighted to be able to report that all is well. But the appointment was over three hours long and entailed having to get dressed and undressed a number of times and was also rather emotionally gruelling, as well as extremely painful at times. Small wonder that I was knocked back afterwards.

The huge light at the end of this tunnel is that I am now able to write, once my energy levels improved again. I’ve been editing for a while – but not said too much about it, as initially every time I mentioned I was able to work on my manuscripts, I then promptly found I couldn’t. And it massively mattered to me that I’d lost my ability to write – to be honest, it’s been one of hardest things I’ve had to cope with. And – yes – I know I’ve been regularly knocking out a steady stream of reviews. But while I enjoy recording my responses to the books I’ve read, I don’t define myself creatively by my non-fiction output. For me, it’s always been about the stories I tell. I’ve been writing science fiction and fantasy for longer than I care to think and to quote the late great Terry Pratchett, ‘Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.’ I’ll fully endorse that! And when I simply didn’t have the mental energy to hold a character and his story in my head long enough to get it down onto the page, I was devastated. Though the big silver lining was said lack of energy meant that devastation was overlaid by a Zenlike calm caused by my inability to feel very much about anything. So when this week, I finally completed the chapter I’d started before I went down with Covid, I wept with relief that my secret dread – that I’d never regain my ability to write – hasn’t come to pass. I’m thrilled that dear old Castellan is back in my life in all his grumpy glory😊.

Our Boomerang Boy is back with us this weekend, which is another joy. He cycled over on Friday night and will be going home again later today. We went shopping together in Rustington yesterday – he is such good company. And today, my sister is coming over to see us, which is also such a treat. Himself is, as ever, my rock and my saviour – even though my relapse coincided with his annual leave so that we ended up doing very little and going nowhere together, despite optimistic plans for day trips to places we’ve missed seeing for the past year and bit. I’m so blessed that his love, constancy and care has never faltered.

This week I’ve read:-

Veiled Threat – Book 3 of the Highland Magic series by Helen Harper
Integrity Taylor has regained possession of her ancestral lands – and inherited a whole host of new problems. The spectre of what really happened to her parents is casting a shadow over everything while Fomori demons are being sighted up and down the Highlands. It doesn’t help that Aifric Moncrieffe still seems determined to see her dead and emerald-eyed Byron remains stubbornly blind to his father’s true nature.

Integrity is determined to stay in control of her own destiny, however, even if it means confronting the darkness across the Veil yet again. And at least she’s still got a sense of humour…
Harper has nailed writing feisty heroines facing huge odds, who cope with dollops of often inappropriate humour – which I thoroughly enjoy. This latest adventure also has brought some intriguing twists to the ongoing narrative arc, which means it won’t be long before I tuck into the next book, which I think is the final one in this entertaining series. Which, I’m dreading – as I’ve grown very fond of Integrity. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip
Brenden Vetch has a gift. With an innate sense he cannot explain to himself or describe to others, he connects to the agricultural world, nurturing gardens to flourish and instinctively knowing the healing properties each plant and herb has to offer. But Brenden’s gift isolates him from people–and from becoming part of a community.

Until the day he receives a personal invitation from the wizard Od. She needs a gardener for her school in the great city of Kelior, where every potential wizard must be trained to serve the Kingdom of Numis. For decades the rulers of Numis have controlled the school, believing they can contain the power within it–and punish any wizard who dares defy the law.But unknown to the reigning monarchy is the power possessed by the school’s new gardener–a power that even Brenden isn’t fully aware of, and which is the true reason Od recruited him…
This standalone fantasy adventure is a joy. I was hugely impressed by McKillip’s The Forgotten Beasts of Eld – see my review. So jumped at the chance to tuck into this one when it came up as a freebie with my Audible membership. And I wasn’t disappointed – it’s stood the test of time very well. I particularly enjoyed the shafts of dry humour throughout and loved dear Brendon. Though it’s a pity that the cover decided to depict Od as some glamorous maiden, when McKillip is at such pains to describe her so very differently. 9/10

Death and Hard Cider – Book 19 of the Benjamin January series by Barbara Hambly
September, 1840. A giant rally is being planned in New Orleans to stir up support for presidential candidate William Henry Harrison: the Indian-killing, hard-cider-drinking, wannabe “people’s president”. Trained surgeon turned piano-player Benjamin January has little use for politicians. But the run-up to the rally is packed with balls and dinner parties, and the meagre pay is sorely needed.

Soon, however, January has more to worry about than keeping his beloved family fed and safe. During an elegant reception thrown by New Orleans’ local Whig notables, the son of a prominent politician gets into a fist-fight with a rival over beautiful young flirt Marie-Joyeuse Maginot – and, the day after the rally is over, Marie-Joyeuse turns up dead. The only black person amongst the initial suspects is arrested immediately: January’s dear friend, Catherine Clisson. With Catherine’s life on the line, January is determined to uncover the truth and prove her innocence. But his adversaries are powerful politicians, and the clock is ticking . . .
What a treat. Hambly’s vivid evocation of the time and place had me dreaming of it – and I am just a bit in love with Benjamin January. It’s the first time I’ve read this series, but it certainly won’t be the last. 10/10

AUDIOBOOK – Destroyer – Book 7 (Sequence 3, Book 1) of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh
It has been two years since the starship Phoenix left Alpha Station on a rescue mission where over four thousand human spacers were under attack by a hostile alien race. Now, exhausted from their journey, the crew of the Phoenix yearns for home. But when the ship makes the jump into atevi space, they learn the worst: that supplies to the station have been cut off; that civil war has broken out on the atevi mainland; that the powerful Western Association has been overthrown; and that Tabini-aiji, Bren Cameron’s primary supporter and Ilisidi’s grandson and ally, is missing and may be dead.

With no one left to lead the Western Association, Ilisidi and Bren know that the survival of their allies lies in their hands. And with the atevi world at war, the only safe landing strip lies on the human colony at Mospheira. Although there are many dangers inherent in bringing a powerful atevi leader such as Ilisidi onto human lands, Bren realizes they have no other choice. But even if they safely survive their landing, will Bren and Ilisidi together prove strong enough to muster the remaining shards of the Western Association and regain control of their planet?

The long-running Foreigner series can also be enjoyed by more casual genre readers in sub-trilogy installments. Destroyer is the 7th Foreigner novel. It is also the 1st book in the third subtrilogy.
This audiobook was a lifesaver during a couple of particularly wretched nights when I simply couldn’t sleep, despite feeling utterly exhausted – not a combination I recommend. Daniel May’s brilliant narration brought poor old Bren’s current woes to life and had me crouching in the pouring rain alongside him, hoping that all his associates would survive the desperate battle raging around him. This series really comes into its own when listening to it and I’m delighted there are plenty more Foreigner adventures to enjoy. 9/10

Delusions of the Past – Reg Rawlins #6 – Books 4-6 of the Reg Rawlins, Psychic Investigator series by P.D. Workman
What kind of a monster poisons a psychic’s cat? When Starlight first fell ill, Reg thought that she was the cause of it. She should have been watching him more carefully. She should have found out about household plants and chemicals that could hurt her familiar. She was clearly a negligent owner.

But it soon becomes clear that there is some darker force at work, and Reg is going to need all of her resources to find the culprit before it is too late if she is to have any chance of saving her furry companion’s life.
I really enjoy this series. Some cosy mystery series are so slathered in treacle they become frankly sickly – this one isn’t. In amongst the cute pets and intriguing fantasy creatures is a hard edge that means the story can often take an unexpected turn to a place just dark enough to keep me turning the pages, desperate to discover what happens next. And with Workman, you can’t ever really predict what that will be… I’ve just spent money we don’t really have to buy the next bundle, because I want more Reg Rawlins in my life. 8/10

This week I have posted:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Death and Hard Cider – Book 19 of the Benjamin January series by Barbara Hambly

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Knave of Secrets by Alex Livingston

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Veiled Masters: a Twilight Imperium novel by Tim Pratt

Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.