Category Archives: magic

Review of KINDLE Ebook Six of Crows – Book 1 of the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo #Brainfluffbookreview #SixofCrowsbookreview

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Yeah – I know, I know… Everyone in the galaxy has read this book and most of them – except the aliens lurking on Io – absolutely loved it. So I hesitated – partly because I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it and partly because I wasn’t sure I’d have anything meaningful to say about it when I came to review it, given all those folks in the galaxy got there before me…

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

I’ll be honest – criminal underworld fantasy heist adventures aren’t my go-to genre. I’ve enjoyed the likes of Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastards Sequence – the first three and a bit, anyhow – and Daniel Polansky’s Low Town series is one of my all-time favourites – see my review of The Straight Razor Cure here. But I’ve begun too many books in this genre, only to abandon them when the filth, abject poverty and violence got too much. However, something about this one – including that amazing cover – was calling to me and I’m so very glad I gave in and eventually listened. It takes technical skill to keep this number of protagonists as viewpoint characters without one of them being skimmed, yet Bardugo pulls off this feat, so that we get to know each main member of the gang – why they’ve ended up as part of Ketterdam’s criminal underclass and what their particular role is supposed to be.

Inevitably, the plan put in place by the cold, calculating Kaz doesn’t run all that smoothly and under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have cared all that much, but I fell for Inej, or the Wraith, which is her gang nickname. I wanted her to be able to move on and resume a better life for herself. And then, once we are pulled right into the heart of the story, Bardugo reveals hidden layers of the main character in the middle of plot – ‘Dirtyhands’ Kaz, himself. It’s very well done. The character development throughout the story is masterfully handled – you only have to read a handful of reviews to realise these characters matter to readers.

And I haven’t even started on the plot, yet. Because for a book in this sub-genre to really work, we need to have a clear idea of what’s at stake, what the plan actually is, how it goes wrong and what happens next… There are any number of places where an author can slip up during the delivery of a novel in a criminal underworld fantasy adventure – and I’m not particularly forgiving of a lot of them. I don’t like it when the plot wanders, or one character takes over, or a romance blossoms right in the middle of what should be an action adventure story, or the major climax isn’t so major after all. So I regularly abandon books which have committed these crimes, unfinished and of course, unreviewed.

Six of Crows deftly skips around all these potential pitfalls as if they don’t exist. Every single requirement is triumphantly nailed such that this one became increasingly difficult to put down. And once I finally finished it, I suffered from book hangover so that I struggled to find something else I wanted to read – this hardly ever happens to me! So, at the risk of sounding like everyone else in the universe, except for those embittered, six-legged critters on Io, this is an excellent read and very highly recommended to… well – anyone with a pulse, really.
10/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Ebook NOVELLA Knife Children by Lois McMaster Bujold #Brainfluffbookreview #TheKnifeChildrenbookreview

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Those of you who are regular visitors to my blog know that Himself and I are huge fans of Bujold. So it was a given that we had pre-ordered this novella in The Sharing Knife series, which was completed a number of years ago.

Lakewalker Barr Foxbrush returns from two years of patrolling the bitter wilds of Luthlia against the enigmatic, destructive entities called malices, only to find that the secret daughter he’d left behind in the hinterland of Oleana has disappeared from her home after a terrible accusation. The search for her will call on more of Barr’s mind and heart than just his mage powers, as he tries to balance his mistakes of the past and his most personal duties to the future.

Bujold’s claim that this novella can be read as a stand-alone is correct. While I suddenly recalled exactly who Barr was about a quarter of the way in, it really didn’t matter. As ever, Bujold absolutely nails the story. She has written a series of successful novellas, getting the story progression, characterisation and pacing spot on – something the majority of authors who attempt this writing form don’t often achieve in my experience.

I have always had a soft spot for this particular world, where mages a long time ago let loose terrible magical creatures who feast on living energy, growing stronger and evermore powerful with every victim they consume. Theses malices can only be stopped by the death energy of a Lakewalker, who are the descendants of those irresponsible magic-users. Unsurprisingly, there is a gulf between the non-magical community, mostly farmers, who are at major risk from the malices and the Lakewalkers, who are the only people able to kill the malices – but at a very high cost to themselves.

This story, where Barr is forced to confront the consequences of his wild past and try to fix things, drew me in from the first line and wouldn’t let me go until the final full stop. Like most of the other people who have reviewed this book, my main regret was that it ended. However, it was brought to a fitting conclusion that I found unexpectedly emotional. This is Bujold at her awesome best and is highly recommended for any reader with a pulse, particularly if they enjoy well written fantasy.
10/10

Sunday Post – 3rd February, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

We had several hard frosts this week, before the temperature warmed up – only to suddenly plunge again so that on Thursday evening we had snow falling for nearly four hours, leaving behind over an inch covering everything and fears of travel chaos the following day. Fortunately the sun shone on Friday morning and by the time we had to make the drive to Brighton to pick up the children, it was pouring with rain, finally washing away any traces of snow or ice. Oscar and I spent Saturday morning building a Lego tower together, before my sister popped in with a present – a pack of hangers! I was delighted as I’m always running out. Himself got home at around 1 pm after a 3 am start and after a short nap, he and Oscar played a quick game of Bloodbowl, while Frances and I went out for a coffee/hot chocolate and a natter.

My daughter will be coming over to pick up the children this afternoon, so Oscar and I will be making vegan banana cake together this morning. Other than having the children this weekend, the week has slipped by at the speed of a downhill skier – how come we’re in February, already? I swear that Christmas was only a fortnight ago…

Last week I read:
Dark City – Book 1 of The Order of the Shadows series by Kit Hallows
My name’s Morgan Rook, Supernatural Detective, Undercover Agent, odd jobs man. Call it whatever you like. I take out the nightmares, demons and werewolves. The things that lurk in the shadows around you. Guys like us, we call them Nightkind. And here I was, set to quit this dark life and retire to sunnier climes, except for one final job. There’s always one. This time a call to eliminate a cruel, rogue vampire, named Mr. Tudor. Simple right? Sure. Until the bodies started piling up in a new wave of vicious occult killings leading scarily close to my own front door…
An entertaining, fast-paced urban fantasy adventure featuring a mostly sympathetic protagonist.

Endgames – Book 12 of the Imager Portfolio series by L.E. Modesitt Jr
Solidar is in chaos. Charyn, the young and untested ruler of Solidar, has survived assassination, and he struggles to gain control of a realm in the grip of social upheaval, war, and rioting. Solidar cannot be allowed to slide into social and political turmoil that will leave the High Holders with their ancient power and privilege, and the common people with nothing. But the stakes are even higher than he realizes.
This detailed, slow-burn fantasy adventure featuring a cool-headed young man struggling against difficult odds drew me in. Review to follow.

 

Knife Children – NOVELLA in The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Lakewalker Barr Foxbrush returns from two years of patrolling the bitter wilds of Luthlia against the enigmatic, destructive entities called malices, only to find that the secret daughter he’d left behind in the hinterland of Oleana has disappeared from her home after a terrible accusation. The search for her will call on more of Barr’s mind and heart than just his mage powers, as he tries to balance his mistakes of the past and his most personal duties to the future.
Wonderful addition to a favourite fantasy series by this fabulously talented author – review to follow.

Sparrow Falling – Book 2 of Gears of Empire series by Gaie Sebold
Eveline Sparrow hopes to put her past experiences as a thief and con-artist to more legitimate use; which is why some of the girls at her Sparrow School receive private lessons in burglary, fakery, and other such underhand practices. But it’s hard to get honest work when few businesses will employ young ladies in the security professions…
It was fun to reacquaint myself with Evvie after the enjoyable Shanghai Sparrow and her talent for getting into trouble in this steampunk sci fi/fantasy mash-up provides an entertaining adventure.

 

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 27th January 2019

Increasing Discoverability for Women Authors in SFF – 2018

Friday Face-Off featuring Eligible – Book 4 of the Austen Project by Curtis Sittenfeld

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* – Review of Headlong – Book 12 of The Imager Portfolio series by L.E. Modesitt Jr

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

Quitting: Why Letting Go & Moving on Are Crucial for Success https://authorkristenlamb.com/2019/01/successful-people-quitting/ Once again, the wonderful Kristen Lamb provides solid advice for those of us struggling to write amongst all the other stuff going on in our lives…

Music Monday: The Sound of Silence by Disturbed. #Music #MusicMonday https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/music-monday-the-sound-of-silence-by-disturbed/ I know the Simon and Garfunkel version – but this one, I think, is even better…

Piano: A Poem by D.H. Lawrence https://interestingliterature.com/2019/01/28/piano-a-poem-by-d-h-lawrence/ This article features a poignant poem that I’m very fond of. It isn’t brilliant or clever, but its very simplicity always moves me…

PLANETARY AWARDS: Nominations for the best of 2018 https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2019/01/20/planetary-awards-nominations-for-the-best-of-2018/ Maddalena on her excellent blog provides the links for those of you who enjoy SFF and would like to nominate your favourite novel and novella of last year. I’m currently pummelling my brain into porridge in an effort to choose between a final two…

Grimbold Books’ advice to aspiring authors “Listen to feedback” https://damienseaman.com/publishing-advice-for-aspiring-authors/ Listening to this wonderful interview with Kate reminds me all over again why I submitted to this lovely indie publisher.

In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – have a wonderful week!

Sunday Post – 27th January, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

The weather has been quite a bit colder this week, with several frosts and then it suddenly warmed up again to nearly 50°F. No wonder several students have been off sick and my writing buddy had to cut short our Friday together. On Wednesday evening, I attended our fortnightly writing group and touched base with everyone, though I didn’t take any writing. On Thursday, I had a planning meeting in the morning for the rest of the teaching year with Tim and then taught him for three hours in the afternoon. It was lovely catching up with him, as I hadn’t seen him since the beginning of December.

On Saturday morning, Himself and I went shopping and I also took a stack of books to the local library, who gratefully received them. It was lovely to catch up with the wonderful lady who reads stories to small children in the library on Saturday mornings – she always asks after Frankie and Oscar, who she regularly used to read to. She was amazed when I told her that Frankie is now taller than I am…

I spent the rest of the day working on Mantivore Prey. The first 1,000 words was like drawing teeth and took a looong time. However, I then got into the swing of the narrative – I’m now in the middle of an unexpected subplot which is going very well, though time will tell if it’s going to work out. Fingers crossed…

Last week I read:
The Warrior – Book 3 of The Immortal Dealers series by Sarah Fine
Ernestine “Ernie” Terwilliger never intended to live among the Immortal Dealers, much less to be party to an ongoing battle where the fate of humanity is in the draw of a card. And the stakes have gotten only higher now that a shady new Forger has been crowned.
Despite crashing into this series by picking up the final book, I enjoyed this world and the magic system, as well as being able to empathise with the sympathetic protagonist. Review to follow.

 

The Defiant Heir – Book 2 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso
Across the border, the Witch Lords of Vaskandar are preparing for war. But before an invasion can begin, they must call a rare gathering of all seventeen lords to decide a course of action. Lady Amalia Cornaro knows that this Conclave might be her only chance to stifle the growing flames of war, and she is ready to make any sacrifice if it means saving Raverra from destruction.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, but I really loved this one. The political situation is gripping and the supporting cast are fabulous. Review to follow.

 

Spacer’s Cinderella by Adria Rose
A broken shoe. A forbidden ball. A sexy cyborg with a secret. Born on an abandoned colony barely held together by sealant tape and hope, Aurora Sato is at the very bottom of the social pecking order. Hard work and brains got her into a coveted spot in the quadrant’s top university… But her new supervisor is a woman who’s not about to let an upstart like Aurora get anything close to a break.
This romance sci fi story has a gripping plotline that drew me in and held me, despite not generally reading this sub-genre.

 

Traveler in the Dark – Book 1 of the Ex Situ series by Deirdre Gould
Sixteen hundred years ago, they fled Earth. Now their long journey may finally be at an end. None of them have ever walked on soil, felt rain, or breathed unrecycled air. Their resources nearly spent, they sent a last exploratory mission to a new planet. It’s ideal… but they are not alone. In the struggle for survival, they must make a choice. Sacrifice another species or accept their own extinction. And time is running out.
This colony exploration tale took an unexpectedly dark turn, which also explored the moral issues of colonisation.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 20th January 2019

Review of Novella The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Friday Face-Off featuring The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Box Set – The Sunblinded Trilogy – Running Out of Space, Dying for Space, Breathing Space

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
The Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse of 2019 http://www.fundinmental.com/the-super-blood-wolf-moon-eclipse-of-2019-bloodwolfmoon-eclipse/#.XE2QhM3grb1 I tend to avoid the news these days with the Brexit nonsense going on – but then I miss events like this. Thank goodness I can comfort myself with these superb pics…

Thursday Doors https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2019/01/24/thursday-doors-121/ This quirky blog is rarely just about doors – and this week not only do we have pics of the cutest dog in the world, but a grim slice of history, too.

The U.L.S. The Underground Library Society Guest Post by Amanda Cade! https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com/2019/01/22/the-u-l-s-the-underground-library-society-guest-post-by-amanda-cade/ Academic and indie writer Charles French runs this meme on his excellent blog – and this week I was blown away by Amanda’s contribution.

Let’s get real about the hot mess of spell-check, grammar and editing tools https://redpenofdoom.com/lets-get-real-about-the-hot-mess-of-spell-check-grammar-and-editing-tools/ Given that effective editing is a large chunk of successful writing – I share Guy’s pain in this heartfelt article.

Twisted Conservation Education and Awareness http://chechewinnie.com/twisted-conservation-education-and-awareness/ I enjoy Cheche’s blog, and her insightful observations about conservation in Africa – this disturbing article highlights some of the challenges faced by those trying to make a difference…

In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – have a wonderful week!

Sunday Post – 20th January, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

It’s been another very busy week and now that I’ve finally got around to setting myself a daily wordcount for the rewrite of Mantivore Prey, I turned around to discover that I’ve now written 5,000 words in the last eight days. It’s not brilliant – but it’s a great deal better than I’d been doing before Christmas. I also wrote and submitted the blurb, acknowledgements and dedication for Netted, my post-apocalyptic novel set in Maine which is being released by Grimbold Publishing. I also have received the edits for my Roman steampunk short story, ‘The Last Journey of Vulcan’s Breath’ which is appearing in an anthology due to be published sometime during the year.

I woke up on Thursday morning feeling rather sorry for myself – I’d a terrible sore throat and stiff neck and felt it wasn’t appropriate to hand whatever had smitten me onto Tim, who I was due to teach that afternoon, so I cancelled our lesson and spent the day dosing myself with lots of water and vitamin C.

It did the trick, which is just as well because I surfaced to my phone pinging. It was my daughter who’d been up all night with a stomach bug and was now worried about carrying the baby up and down the stairs, changing her nappy etc while feeling so sick and giddy. I arrived just after 10 am to find the baby wide awake alongside my sleeping daughter. As I quietly made friends with little Eliza, she beamed up at me. And that set the tone for the day. I was in sole charge of coping with all her needs, having to quickly brush up on my rather rusty babycare skills as I changed her nappies, sorted out lunch, amused her and put her down for her naps. She is now six months old, and the sunniest-natured baby I’ve ever encountered since her mother. She didn’t cry at all during the day, except when she let out a single bellow at being put back down in the buggy when she was expecting a feed, instead. Fortunately, Rebecca was able to get a few hours’ solid sleep and her partner did the school run, so that by the end of the day she was looking a lot better. I brought the two older children back with me for the weekend, which has been huge fun while I’ve caught up with all their doings since seeing them just before Christmas.

I’m quite stiff and sore after lifting and carrying Eliza around, but it was a joy getting to spend so much time with her. Today we took the children home as the weekend passed in a blur and hopefully, it won’t be so long before we see them again.

Last week I read:

Children of Blood and Bone – Book 1 of Legacy of Orïsha series by Tomi Adeyemi
They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
This is an emotional and at times, a harrowing read. But the story of the struggle between those with and without magic is very well depicted, effectively showing both sides of the divide. I loved this adventure and look forward to reading the next slice of the adventure.

Witch Slapped – Book 1 of the Witchless in Seattle series by Dakota Cassidy
What’s a girl to do when she’s a broke, shunned ex-witch with a very tiny, very hungry bat familiar named Belfry to feed? Hello. My name is Stevie Cartwright, and I’ve been witchless for thirty days.
If only there was a support group for down-on-their-luck ex-witches who’ve had their powers slapped right out of them (literally). Just as I was licking my wounds after returning to my hometown of Ebenezer Falls, WA, and navigating my suddenly non-magical existence with the help of my familiar, the only friend I have left in the world–things got sticky. Enter an ex-spy and newly departed spirit named Winterbottom, who’s infiltrated my life with his sexy British accent and a couple of requests…
As you can tell, this cosy murder mystery is a far lighter read. I thoroughly enjoyed the nonsense and will be definitely looking out for more from this entertaining author. Thank you Laura for the recommendation!

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 13th January 2019

My Outstanding Reads of the Year – 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Gilded Wolves – Book 1 of The Gilded Wolves series by Roshani Chokshi

Review of An Easy Death – Book 1 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris

Friday Face-Off featuring The Story of the Amulet – Book 3 of the Five Children series by E. Nesbit

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
Do you trust bloggers who don’t post negative reviews? https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2019/01/16/do-you-trust-bloggers-who-dont-post-negative-reviews-bookblogger-bookbloggers-blogger-bloggers/ This is an ongoing debate that regularly surfaces – and I really liked Drew’s approach to it.

Writing tip: Using Wordle to highlight overused words https://jaceybedford.wordpress.com/2019/01/15/writing-tip-using-wordle-to-highlight-overused-words/ It’s always great to get a really useful writing tip I can pass along to my students – it’s even better when it comes from an author I like and admire.

‘My Last Duchess’: A Poem by Robert Browning https://interestingliterature.com/2019/01/15/my-last-duchess-a-poem-by-robert-browning/ This is a wonderful example of a dramatic monologue and reading the final section always makes me shiver.

Elvis Presley, Tom Jones (never forgetting Lonnie Donegan!): It Looks Like I’ll Never Fall in Love Again https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/01/15/elvis-presley-tom-jones-never-forgetting-lonnie-donegan-it-looks-like-ill-never-fall-in-love-again/ As ever, Thom gives us all sorts of interesting info nuggets, amongst videos of different performers singing this song – but whatever you do, don’t miss that last clip…

Appreciate A Dragon Day https://bookwyrmshoard.com/uncategorized/appreciate-a-dragon-day/ And now I dream of a lovely little dragon, whose forelegs curl protectively across the spine of one of my favourite books – I waaaaant one!

In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – have a wonderful week!

Friday Faceoff – Time travel is possible. Will explain later. #Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the object this week featuring on any of our covers or the story is an AMULET, so I’ve selected a book I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading, The Story of the Amulet – Book 3 of the Five Children series by E. Nesbit.

 

This edition was produced by Penguin Classics in March 1995. I love the artwork and the green-hued backdrop which gives a real sense of the drama and danger of a trip back to Egypt. But that clunky red something doesn’t remotely resemble any amulet I’ve ever seen – what a shame, given the wonderful lighting giving it centre stage. And my other peeve is that dreadful red text box plonked right across all that fabulous detail…

 

Published by Penguin Classics in March 2018, this is a much better effort. The colouring is attractive and I love the scene within a scene, giving a hint of the time travelling theme. The style, along with the children featured in the Egypt makes it clear this is a children’s story. I also love that font – this is my favourite.

 

Produced by Smk Books in March 2009, the amulet featured on the front of this cover is beautiful and draws the eye, while the font is attractive and easy to read. However, my concern is that there is nothing on this cover that informs the reader that this is a children’s book.

 

This Kindle edition is certainly eye-catching. But the golden rule must be that a cover should reflect the content and the etched figures being swallowed up as they enter that brooding gothic building give a sense that it’s a horror story. And it isn’t – it is a lesser-known book in one of the most famous early fantasy tales for children.

 

This is another attractive, striking contender, published by Virago in 2018. The warm yellow backdrop is welcoming and I love all the details on the cover that directly link up to the content. While the title is inoffensively clear, I do feel that Times New Roman is a bit joyless for one of the first time-travelling adventures written for children. It’s the main reason why this one isn’t my favourite – but what do you think?

Review of KINDLE Ebook An Easy Death – Book 1 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris #Brainfluffbookreview #AnEasyDeathbookreview

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I’m a fan of Harris’s writing – see my review of Midnight Crossroad here. So when a steady trickle of enthusiastic reviews turned into a stream, I alerted Himself, who decided to treat both of us to this offering. Our book budget for this year hasn’t been busted – more like broken beyond repair…

Set in a fractured United States, in the southwestern country now known as Texoma. A world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, especially by a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose. Battered by a run across the border to Mexico Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards to be their local guide and gunnie.

And that is as much of the very chatty blurb that I’m prepared to share. I would add that the States is very different to our version, as it also includes a Russian enclave in this alternate history where the Romanov dynasty didn’t die in a basement in a hail of bullets, but instead survived to flee across the Atlantic accompanied by their magic-user, Rasputin. As for Texoma, think Wild West complete with bandits. It’s an interesting world, where life is cheap, travel exceedingly dangerous and luxuries such as electricity tend to be erratic. Each settlement or town seems to have its own set of laws that those passing through need to know.

I really liked the character of Lizbeth Rose, whose tough, self-reliant attitude helps her bounce back after the initial devastating incident at the start of the book, which puts her in the path of the two Russian wizards. Harris is good at making us care for her protagonists and I was quickly invested in Lizbeth prevailing against the odds. This dystopian, broken-backed landscape where the remains of metalled roads and ruins of houses pock the countryside should have given this book a more downbeat feel, but Lizbeth’s first-person narrative rescued this from being a grim, post-apocalyptic exploration of a destroyed civilisation. While she mentions such features, she’s matter-of-fact about the whole business, which happened before she was born. And besides, she’s too busy trying to keep herself and her clients alive to spend too much time brooding about the past.

Harris perfectly paces this adventure, so that we have plenty of time to appreciate what is at stake, before the situation flips around to heighten said stakes and once more Lizbeth is engulfed in yet more life-threatening action. It became physically impossible to put this one down, as I kept turning the pages as if my life depended upon it – and once I reached the end of the story, I felt drained and a tad shaky, suffering a real book hangover, which doesn’t happen very often to me, these days.

If you like your fantasy with a sideorder of wild west action and backdrop, then track this one down. I’m looking forward to seeing how this one plays out on TV, too…
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Gilded Wolves – Book 1 of The Gilded Wolves series by Roshani Chokshi #Brainfluffbookreview #TheGildedWolvesbookreview

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I’m a real fan of Chokshi’s writing – see my review of her stunning debut The Star-Touched Queen – and when I requested an arc of this one, I was prepared for more of the same – a rich, lushly told fantasy story shot through with eastern allusions. But this one is completely different…

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance. To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much. Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

Yes – this is a fantasy criminal heist adventure and if I’d realised that, I might not have so enthusiastically requested it, as I have DNF’d far too many third-rate copies of Scott Lynch’s gentlemen bastards and their adventures. But I’m very glad I did get my hands on this one. I’ve seen the constant comparison to Six of Crows and while the story has some similarities – a heist adventure featuring a team of misfits – there are also vital differences.

The setting is an alternate Paris where magical artefacts are used to assist the ruling families stay in power. While there is a team involved in a mission-impossible type of heist, the leader and arch-planner is Séverin, who yearns for the future he lost aged seven, when what should have been his induction into the golden circle of ruling families was abruptly snatched from him in a plot that falsely claimed he wasn’t his father’s true heir. After that he was passed around a series of abusive step-fathers, each one mistreating or using him in some nefarious fashion. Along the way, he teamed up with Tristen, who had the misfortune to be the actual son of one of these nasty characters.

Chokshi’s prose style comes into its own as she gives us a vivid insight to each of these characters and what matters to them, which meant that when it all hits the fan I really cared about each one. It also meant that I didn’t ever find myself muddled or confused as to who was who doing what to whom. I like the fact there is real racial and sexual diversity among the characters, which is presented in a nicely matter-of-fact manner as their energies are engaged in trying to track down a magical ‘thing’ which will change everything.

The pacing works well. While this story starts fairly slowly, before winding up to the mayhem that ensues as the adventure goes awry, Chokshi also effectively manages the aftermath, which could have dragged into something a lot more downbeat and depressing. With this story, I get the sense that Chokshi has fully matured as a writer, gaining confidence to set her stories and characters outside the eastern backdrop that fuelled her previous adventures. One of the reasons why I regularly DNF fantasy heist adventures featuring a team of misfits, is that it is very difficult to write well. But when it all comes together, as it does here, it is a powerful, emotional read. I staggered away from this intense story with my head full of Séverin, Tristan, Hypnos, Zofia, Laila and Enrique – and hoping I don’t have to wait too long to discover what happens next…

The ebook arc copy of The Gilded Wolves was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

My Outstanding Reads of the Year – 2018 #Brainfluffbookblogger #MyOutstandingReadsoftheYear2018

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It’s been another great reading year with loads of choice within my favourite genres, so I ended up reading 162 books with 125 reviews published and another 23 in hand. In no particular order, these are the books that have stood out from the rest in the best way. Some of them might not even have garnered a 10 from me at the time – but all those included have lodged in my head and won’t go away. And none of this nonsense about a top 10 – I can’t possibly cope with a limit like that.

The Stone Sky – Book 3 The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
The whole trilogy is an extraordinary read – a mash-up between fantasy and science fiction and sections of it written in second person pov. It shouldn’t work, but it does because her imagination and prose fuses together to make this more than a sum of its parts. See my review.

 

Hyperspace Trap by Christopher G. Nuttall
I like this author’s writing anyway and I’m a sucker for a well-told space opera adventure, so I read a fair few. However, something about this one has stuck – I often find myself thinking about those passengers on the space liner and the crew looking after them, while marooned by a malign presence. See my review.

 

The Cold Between – A Central Corps novel by Elizabeth Bonesteel
This is the start of a gripping space opera adventure with interestingly nuanced characters, whose reactions to the unfolding situation around them just bounces off the page. I love it when space opera gets all intelligent and grown-up… See my review.

 

The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet E. McKenna
This fantasy adventure is set in contemporary Britain with the protagonist very much hampered by his fae ancestry and trying to discover more about that side of his family. It gripped me from the first page and wouldn’t let go until the end, when I sulked for days afterwards because I wanted more. See my review.

 

Head On – Book 2 of the Lock In series by John Scalzi
This is such a smart, clever premise. The paralysed young protagonist is able to live a nearly-normal life because his consciousness is uploaded into a robot, when he pursues a career fighting crime. Science fiction murder mysteries are one of my favourite genres, when it’s done well – and this is a great example. See my review.

 

Before Mars – Book 3 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
This has been an outstanding series – and this tight-wound thriller is no exception. I love the fact that Newman tackles the subject of motherhood, which isn’t a subject that comes up all that often in science fiction. See my review.

 

Child I by Steve Tasane
I’ve been haunted by this book ever since I read it. It’s not long and the language is very simple. The little boy telling the story is bright and funny and not remotely self pitying. When I started reading it, I assumed it was set in a post-apocalyptic future – and then discovered that it was set right now and is the distilled experience of children from all over the world. And I wept. See my review.

 

The Wild Dead – Book 2 of The Bannerless Saga by Carrie Vaughn
This was the most delightful surprise. This is another murder mystery set in the future – this time in post-apocalyptic America once law and order has been re-established. I loved the atmosphere, the society and the above all, I fell in love with Enid, the no-nonsense, practical lawgiver sent to sort out the puzzle of a body of a girl that nobody appears to know. See my review.

 

The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah
As well as being a story of a family, this is also a homage to Alaska and a time when it was a wilder, less organised place. It isn’t one of my normal reads, but my mother sent me this one as she thought I’d love it – and, being my mum, she was right. See my review.

 

Fallen Princeborn: Stolen by Jean Lee
I’ve come to know the author from her amazing blog and was happy to read a review copy of her book – what I wasn’t prepared for was the way her powerful, immersive style sucked me right into the skin of the main character. This contemporary fantasy is sharp-edged, punchy and very memorable. See my review.

 

Eye Can Write: a memoir of a child’s silent soul emerging by Jonathan Bryan
This is another amazing read, courtesy of my lovely mum. And again, she was right. This is a non-fiction book, partly written by Jonathan’s mother and partly written by Jonathan himself, whose severe cerebral palsy locked him into his body, until he found a way to communicate with the outside world using one letter at a time. See my review.

 

Windhaven by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle
This remarkable colony world adventure is about a girl yearning to break into the closed community of flyers – and what happens when she does. I love a book all about unintended consequences and this intelligent, thought-provoking read thoroughly explores the problems, as well as the advantages of throwing open this elite corps to others. See my review.

 

Strange the Dreamer – Book 1 of Strange the Dreamer duology by Laini Taylor
I loved her first trilogy – but this particular book has her writing coming of age. The lyrical quality of her prose and her amazing imagination has her odd protagonist pinging off the page. See my review.

 

Battle Cruiser – Book 1 of the Lost Colonies series by B.V. Larson
This is just such fun. William Sparhawk is a rigidly proper young captain trying to make his way in the face of enmity from his superiors due to his family connections, when he’s pitchforked right into the middle of a ‘situation’ and after that, the tale takes off and buckets along with all sorts of twists and turns that has William becoming less rigid and proper… See my review.

 

Certain Dark Things by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia
That this author is a huge talent is a given – and what she does with a tale about a vampire on the run in a city that has declared it is a no-go area for the destructive creatures is extraordinary. Review to follow.

 

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
I’ll be honest – I liked and appreciated the skill of this book as I read it, but I didn’t love it. The characters were too flawed and unappealing. But it won’t leave me alone. I find myself thinking about the premise and the consequences – and just how right the setup is. And a book that goes on doing that has to make the list, because it doesn’t happen all that often. Review to follow.

Are there any books here that you’ve read? And if so, do you agree with me? What are your outstanding reads for last year?

Teaser Tuesday – 8th January, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
The High King’s Vengeance – Book 2 of Malessar’s Curse by Stephen Poore

p. 295 There was too much in her head. Her father. Her grandfather. Hetch. The remnants of Guhl’s Company, bound to her service now. The shieldmen, two hundred walking reminders of a man she thought she had loved. All the stories she had ever heard her father tell; those Baum and Malessar debunked or expanded upon. The dragons of Lyriss, and their uncertain allegiance. Craw – the damned beast still knew more than it would tell her, and where was it now her gamble was approaching the endgame?
And all of that was accompanied by the constant thrumming of Jedrell’s wardrums, a sound that only she could hear. Sometimes she thought it was all she could hear.

BLURB: “I am the Heir to the North.”

Malessar’s Curse is broken, the wards around Caenthell destroyed. The Warlock himself lies, exhausted and gravely wounded, in the rubble of his own house. And while the dire spirits trapped behind the wards for centuries are unleashed into the world once more, Cassia is confined to a cell deep in Galliarca’s grand palace.

Yet Caenthell calls to her, and Cassia must answer. As Heir to the North, the throne and the power behind it belong to her. But the twisted hunger of Caenthell’s spirits appals her and Cassia vows to do everything she can to defeat them.

I loved the first book in this epic fantasy story – Heir to the North. Poore takes all the major ingredients of an epic fantasy tale, gives it a good shaking and sets it on its head. So it’s an itinerant storyteller’s daughter who finds she is the unlikely inheritor of a terrible curse, not the well-groomed, handsome prince accompanying her. As in the first book, I’m finding this one an engrossing read as the classic tropes within epic fantasy are playing out in unpredictable, interesting ways.