Category Archives: murder mystery

Series I Completed in 2020 – Part 2 #Brainfluffbookblog #SeriesICompletedPt2blog

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One of my ongoing major reading targets is to pick up and continue with book series that I started and enjoyed, only to let fall along the wayside, due to the ongoing lure of the new and shiny (thank you Netgalley!). I am now aware that I need to make a concerted effort to go looking for those series and authors I’ve previously loved, so I can continue in their wonderful worlds, until the series is finished. I made a really good start in the first half of last year – see my article Series I Competed in 2020 So Far – so did I continue to be successful?

The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel
England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen before Jane dies giving birth to the male heir he most craves. Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to the breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?

This remarkable series is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Mantel takes one of the bogeymen of history and turns him into a sympathetic, likeable character, while completely ignoring everything any respectable How-To book advises on how to write viewpoint… I listened to this one and wept at the end. Partly because of the emotion that Mantel’s writing engendered, but partly because I’d reached the end of one of the most extraordinary reading experiences of my life. Read my review.

The Relentless Moon – Book 3 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Earth is coming to the boiling point as the climate disaster of the Meteor strike becomes more and more clear, but the political situation is already overheated. Riots and sabotage plague the space program. The IAC’s goal of getting as many people as possible off Earth before it becomes uninhabitable is being threatened.

Elma York is on her way to Mars, but the Moon colony is still being established. Her friend and fellow Lady Astronaut Nicole Wargin is thrilled to be one of those pioneer settlers, using her considerable flight and political skills to keep the program on track. But she is less happy that her husband, the Governor of Kansas, is considering a run for President.

I absolutely loved this trilogy and am hoping to start her Glamourist fantasy series sometime this year, so long as I’ve completed another couple of series I’ve got on my list. And virtue is its own reward – while I loved the first two book, this one is my particular favourite. Read my review.

Last Dragon Standing – Book 5 of the Heartstrikers series by Rachel Aaron
Dear Reader,
There is no way to write a blurb for this final book without spoiling all of the others. Suffice it to say, mysteries resolve, dragons war, pigeons abound, and Julius must risk himself in ways he never dreamed possible as Bob’s grand plan finally comes to fruition. But the Great Seer of the Heartstrikers isn’t the only one whose schemes are nearing completion. The Nameless End is coming, and even the machinations of the world’s most brilliant dragon seer might not be enough to stop it. As the world comes crashing down, it’s up Julius to prove what he’s always known: that seers can be wrong, and Nice Dragons don’t always finish last.

This series proved to be so much fun! Not only does this entertaining urban fantasy feature shape-shifting dragons and some marvellous foot-to-the-floor action scenes – it also has plenty of humour, which is just what I needed during this testing year. Read my review.

Stranger Still – Book 3 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik
“Bending over me solicitously, was a porcelain-headed, laughing policeman; wide-mouthed with mirth he leaned closer, tilting his head in a parody of concern. Eyeless he watched me, tongueless he chanted, I knew the chant and my mind couldn’t help but chant with him, ‘Oh, I wish, I wish, I wish I knew, exactly what to do with you.’”

Telepathy, along with sundry other odd abilities, have landed Stella more than once, in situations at best controversial, at worst life-threatening. But she’s always known; you have to fight your own corner as best you can, no point beating yourself up about it. Now though, times have changed, different priorities. She’s married, with a baby on the way and a flourishing business. She simply has to deal with a couple of worrying issues and then all should be smooth sailing. But, isn’t it a fact; just when you think you’ve got all your ducks in a row, life can turn right around and bite you on the bottom?

I absolutely LOVED this series and there is a hint that this might not be the final book in this gem of a series that deserves to be far more widely known. But as it is still published as a trilogy, then I’m counting it as a completed series. Though no one will be happier than I if it proves to be false – this was one of the major reading highlights of my year. Read my review.

I’m aware that it doesn’t look all that impressive, only four series completed, but that meant that over the whole year, I’d finished eleven series. I’ll take that as a solid result. I’m also making an effort to catch up with other series that I’ve let lapse. Have you recently completed or caught up with any series?

Déjà vu review – No Humans Involved – Book 7 of the Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong #BrainfluffDéjàvureview #NoHumansInvolvedbookreview

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After discovering the Friday Face-off set of covers for Industrial Magic, it reminded me of this lovely series all over again – so I decided to feature a review of one of my favourite Otherworld characters that I posted back in January 2015…

BLURB: It’s the most anticipated reality television event of the season: three spiritualists gathered together in one house to raise the ghost of Marilyn Monroe. For renowned medium Jaime Vegas there’s just one problem. Unlike her colleagues, Jaime is the real deal: and she knows that the house is truly haunted. Not by dead film stars, but by something even stranger and much more disturbing.

A tragic mystery lurks in the maze of gardens behind the house: trapped spirits that only Jaime can hear. As their whispers grow more frantic, Jaime – along with Alpha werewolf Jeremy Danvers – is forced to embark on an investigation into a shocking underworld of black magic and ritual sacrifice.

REVIEW: This popular and trailblazing series, started back in 2001 with Bitten, features women caught up in the paranormal world one way or another. So while Bitten deals with Elena, a young journalist pitchforked into the middle of werewolf society – in No Humans Involved Jaime has to deal with the sudden appearance of ghosts in ‘I see dead people’ moments. Constantly… Fortunately, she does have coping strategies to prevent her going mad – one of them being that she is very well connected with a number of highly placed and powerful otherworldly characters. As this is the seventh book in the series, these characters have generally already appeared along the way. I really enjoy this feature of Armstrong’s writing – it is always a pleasure to get a different take on a protagonist in another story and she is very good at this technique.

It doesn’t hurt that Jaime, though undoubtedly glamorous and good looking, is also aware that the clock is ticking, her waistline isn’t getting any trimmer and the laughter lines are in danger of turning into crowsfeet… In other words, she reflects many of the anxieties women past a certain age can experience on a daily basis. Obviously, the fact she’s a celebrity means those concerns are heightened, but it is still something of a treat to read an urban fantasy romp that doesn’t feature a fit, perky young thing with all her vitality and good looks before her. I also love her self-deprecating humour. Of all Armstrong’s female heroines, Jaime holds a special place in my heart…

So in this murder mystery, does the story hold up around her? Oh yes. Armstrong quickly pulls us to the centre of this disturbing mystery by also giving us chilling slices in the perpetrator’s viewpoint, without revealing her identity– and it was also an enjoyable extra layer to discover that the baddie is also a woman… Meanwhile, Jaime is juggling the needs of the director, coping with professional jealousy from both her co-stars, while also trying to deal with her feelings about Jeremy Danvers, the Alpha werewolf who takes a vacation to meet her. Question is – does he also reciprocate her feelings? And is there really time for any sort of romance when there are trapped ghosts waiting for Jaime to help them?

I gobbled this book up in a couple of sittings when I should have been sleeping, but once I started reading I simply couldn’t stop. The conclusion was suitably dramatic and climactic, with a couple of surprises along the way. Great fun! And if you haven’t yet treated yourself to any of Armstrong’s keynote series – don’t start with this one, get hold of Bitten and feast on an entertaining, thoroughly enjoyable world.
9/10

Review of AUDIOBOOK A Quiet Life in the Country – Book 1 of the Lady Hardcastle Mysteries by T.E. Kinsey #BrainfluffAUDIOBOOKreview #AQuietLifeintheCountrybookreview

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I had a wonderful audiobook lined up on my Kindle all ready to listen to – and then the world fell on my head and I couldn’t face it. Though excellently written and doubtless a gripping story – I was already aware that it would probably be also somewhat bleak. So Himself proposed that I get hold of this delightful read, instead…

BLURB: Lady Emily Hardcastle is an eccentric widow with a secret past. Florence Armstrong, her maid and confidante, is an expert in martial arts. The year is 1908 and they’ve just moved from London to the country, hoping for a quiet life. But it is not long before Lady Hardcastle is forced out of her self-imposed retirement. There’s a dead body in the woods, and the police are on the wrong scent. Lady Hardcastle makes some enquiries of her own, and it seems she knows a surprising amount about crime investigation… As Lady Hardcastle and Flo delve deeper into rural rivalries and resentment, they uncover a web of intrigue that extends far beyond the village. With almost no one free from suspicion, they can be certain of only one fact: there is no such thing as a quiet life in the country…

REVIEW: So… two women who live together end up solving a crime in the 1900s – it certainly sounds like a female version of Holmes and Watson. However, Lady Hardcastle is a great deal nicer and more charming than Holmes and Flo is far more feisty and less hampered by an overwhelming sense of admiration for her employee.

I really liked the relationship between the women. It transpires that they endured a great deal of danger and trauma together, after Lady H’s husband was killed in China. Essentially they had to go on the run, eventually ending up in India during which numerous attempts were made on their lives. Elizabeth Knowelden does a marvellous job with the narration as the story unfolds in the first-person viewpoint of Flo, who certainly looks after Emily Hardcastle in the capacity of a lady’s maid and housekeeper, but as they are on first-name terms and generally dine together, she is also something a great deal more.

The ensuring murders and mysteries – there is also a stolen jewel that Lady H is tasked with tracking down – certainly keep the two women from relaxing into the quiet life they were looking for. The humour is enjoyable throughout and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the unfolding plot, which provided plenty of twists that made me quite sorry to complete my houseworking chores and have to switch off. All in all, this is a gem that provided a really entertaining escape, as well as a real puzzle as to whodunit. This is one of those stories where the setting, the characters and murder mystery all weave together to provide a satisfying world that I thoroughly enjoyed and am looking forward to returning to. Fortunately, Himself has already loaded the next book in the series – In the Market for Murder – onto my Kindle. No wonder he’s a keeper! Highly recommended for fans of historical murder mysteries.
9/10

Sunday Post – 21st February, 2021 #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.

At least it’s been a lot milder this week, but there has been a lot of wind and rain – so once again, I’ve stayed indoors. The major family issue that was hanging over us has finally been lifted, which is HUGE relief. I’m floating around a foot off the floor, now I’m no longer weighed down with the worry of it😊. It’s been a busy week – I’ve been editing Flame & Blame, the first novel in the Picky Eaters series, and completed the plot outline for Council of Dragons, which is the third book. During that process, I realised I still have lots of story to tell regarding dear old Castellan, so have also got plotpoints for the next trilogy in the series after that – Claws & Queens, Tumult in the Timescape and An Anarchy of Elves.

The photos this week are part of a walk we did this morning along the beach at very low tide. You can see views of the pier we’re normally walking along from below!

Last week I read:

AUDIOBOOK Night Watch – Book 29 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
For a policeman, there can be few things worse than a serial killer at loose in your city. Except, perhaps, a serial killer who targets coppers, and a city on the brink of bloody revolution. The people have found their voice at last, the flags and barricades are rising…And the question for a policeman, an officer of the law, a defender of the peace, is:
Are you with them, or are you against them?

This was one of my favourite Discworld novels when I first read it longer ago than I care to recall – and listening to it was pure joy. As ever, when hearing Pratchett’s writing read aloud, I’m struck by its quality and truth. Review to follow.

The King’s Evil – Book 3 in the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor
London 1667. In the Court of Charles II, it’s a dangerous time to be alive – a wrong move may lead to disgrace, exile or death. The discovery of a body at Clarendon House, the palatial home of one of the highest courtiers in the land, could therefore have catastrophic consequences.

James Marwood, a traitor’s son, is ordered to cover up the murder. But the dead man is Edward Alderley, the cousin of one of Marwood’s acquaintances. Cat Lovett had every reason to want her cousin dead. Since his murder, she has vanished, and all the evidence points to her as the killer.
I’ve now caught up with this classy, gripping series and just in time – for I’ve been lucky enough to have been offered the arc to the latest book in this series, which is coming out in April – The Royal Secret. As ever, this one held me throughout and I love the continued development of the two main protagonists and the tense atmosphere in the wake of the English Civil War. Review to follow.

Werewolves of London – Book 3 of the Monster M*A*S*H series by Angie Fox
In The Heat Of Battle
The hard-won cease-fire between the battling immortals doesn’t last long. In the blink of an eye, human surgeon Dr. Petra Robichaud is back on the frontlines, and starring in yet another of the oracle’s prophesies. As the only healer who can talk to the dead, Petra doesn’t have much choice about her role—even when her breathtaking ex-lover shows up at exactly the wrong time…

Once again, I fell into the trap of requesting the book without realising exactly where it is within the series – and found when it arrived that it was the third book in the series, not the second one. I decided to go for it and read and review it anyway. If I have time to go back and get hold of the second one I will. As it happened, I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it did a good job of concluding this quirky, enjoyable series. Review to follow.

The Court of Mortals – Book 3 of the Stariel series by A.J. Lancaster
Marrying your fae prince shouldn’t be this hard.
Hetta’s family now know Wyn’s true identity, but that doesn’t mean they approve of their relationship. Princes are all very well – but Wyn’s not human, for all he’s spent ten years pretending to be.

With gossip spreading like wildfire, Hetta and Wyn receive a royal summons. The Queen of Prydein has heard the rumours of fae intruders, and she’s not letting Wyn go until she’s satisfied he and his people aren’t a threat. Convincing her would be a lot easier if someone wasn’t trying to blacken Wyn’s name – and if his sister wasn’t trying to kill him.

For mortal politics aren’t the only problem the pair have to face. The Court of Ten Thousand Spires is still without a ruler, and the only way out may be for Wyn to assume the throne himself – meaning he and Hetta can never be together.
I inhaled this one… This series has been one of the highlights of my reading year so far – and in August, the final book comes out. And I’ll be right there at the front of queue waiting for it. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Reaper of Souls – Book 2 of the Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron

Friday Face-off featuring The Reptile Room – Book 2 of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snickett

Covet the Covers – Rachel Aaron

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Galaxy and the Ground Within – Book 4 of the Wayfarer series by Becky Chambers

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Werewolves of London – Book 3 of the Monster M*A*S*H series by Angie Fox

Tuesday Treasures – 27

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Library of the Dead – Book 1 of the Edinburgh Nights series by T.L. Huchu

Sunday Post – 14th January 2021

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

THE EXPANSE PODCAST: Ty and That Guy – Episode 1
https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2021/02/16/the-expanse-podcast-ty-and-that-guy-episode-1/ Podcasts are another way of accessing books and TV series – this one focuses on a successful book series that has been made into a successful TV series…

Views of the Neighborhood – #Lakewaystorywalk https://johnwhowell.com/2021/02/07/views-of-the-neighborhood-lakewaystorywalk/ This is absolutely charming…

A Tale of Two Dale Chihuly’s – Part 1 https://jenniefitzkee.com/2021/02/17/a-tale-of-two-dale-chihulys-part-1/ Jennie gives us another shining example of why a school curriculum needs to be flexible…

A Summary and Analysis of the Myth of Tiresias https://interestingliterature.com/2021/02/tiresias-myth-summary-analysis/ A fascinating article that linked up nicely with some of my recent reading…

Feathers, Fortesses and Flora – https://cindyknoke.com/2021/02/15/feathers-fortresses-flora/ More of Cindy’s stunning photos…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog. I hope you had a peaceful, healthy week – and do take care. x

Sunday Post – 14th February, 2021 #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 the two older grandchildren staying over on Tuesday and Wednesday, while my daughter had a minor op. As ever, it was a treat to spend time with them – though there were some discussions about online lessons and the fact they still needed doing… We took them back on Wednesday evening, while Rebecca continued to recover. Fortunately, everything went smoothly for her.

It’s been a bitterly cold week with a vicious easterly scything through rather than around me as I step outside the door. So I’ve stayed indoors – I hate the cold and most of the week the temperature has been below freezing. At least it hasn’t been snowing here, thank goodness…

The photos this week are part of my beautiful spring flower bouquet from Himself – lovely sprays of scented narcissi – and then the hope of better days as the daffs in the garden have begun to emerge…

Last week I read:

SHORT STORY Lucky Thirteen – the Frontline series by Marko Kloos
Rookie pilot Halley’s first drop ship command. A short story in the Terms of Enlistment universe.
Although I enjoy reading short stories, these days I prefer longer fiction – but Himself strongly recommended this one. And since he’s got impeccable taste (after all, he fell in love with me…) this was a real treat.

AUDIOBOOK Troy – Book 3 of Stephen Fry’s Great Mythology by Stephen Fry
The story of Troy speaks to all of us – the kidnapping of Helen, a queen celebrated for her beauty, sees the Greeks launch a thousand ships against the city of Troy, to which they will lay siege for ten whole years. It is a terrible war with casualties on all sides as well as strained relations between allies, whose consequences become tragedies.

In Troy you will find heroism and hatred, love and loss, revenge and regret, desire and despair. It is these human passions, written bloodily in the sands of a distant shore, that still speak to us today.
I’ve loved this series – and listening to this latest retelling, narrated by Fry himself and largely based upon Homer’s Illiad, was a real treat. Though Fry’s not wrong about it being a terrible war…

Out of Nowhere – Book 1 of The Immortal Vagabond Healer series by Patrick LeClerc
Healer Sean Danet is immortal—a fact he has cloaked for centuries, behind army lines and now a paramedic’s uniform. Having forgotten most of his distant past, he has finally found peace—and love. But there are some things you cannot escape, however much distance you put behind you.

When Sean heals the wrong man, he uncovers a lethal enemy who holds all the cards. And this time he can’t run. It’s time to stand and fight, for himself, for his friends, for the woman he loves. It’s time, finally, for Sean to face his past—and choose a future.
This fantasy was such an enjoyable ride. I particularly liked the fact that Sean is a paramedic and I’ll definitely be getting the second book in this intriguing and different adventure. Review to follow.

The Library of the Dead – Book 1 of Edinburgh Nights by T.L. Huchu
When a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, young Ropa investigates. She’ll need to call on Zimbabwean magic as well as her Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. But as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children–leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.
This was another fantasy adventure with an engaging and different protagonist – this time a tough, streetwise teen living in a post-apocalyptic Edinburgh who can talk to ghosts finds herself trying to help a dead mother find her missing child. Review to follow.

Frozen Stiff Drink – Book 6 of the Braxton Campus Mysteries by James J. Cudney
A winter blizzard barrels toward Wharton County with a vengeance. Madam Zenya predicted the raging storm would change the course of Kellan’s life, but the famed seer never could’ve prepared him for all the collateral damage.

Nana D disappears after visiting a patient at Willow Trees, leaving behind a trail of confusion. When the patient turns up dead, and second body is discovered beneath the snowbanks, Kellan must face his worst fears. What tragedy has befallen his beloved grandmother?
I’ve been following this enjoyable contemporary cosy murder mystery series. And once again, hapless Kellan trips over another body in upsetting circumstances. This time, not even the weather is behaving itself. Cudney is very good at producing an endless supply of plausible suspects and I stayed up way later than I should to discover what happened next. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Covet the Covers featuring Nevil Shute

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

Review of Last Dragon Standing – Book 5 of the Heartstriker’s series by Rachel Aaron

Friday Face-off featuring Shardik – Book 2 of the Beklan Empire series by Richard Adams

January 2021 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging…

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Galaxy and the Ground Within – Book 4 of the Wayfarer series by Becky Chambers

Tuesday Treasures – 26

Review of AUDIOBOOK Machine – Book 2 of the White Space series by Elizabeth Bear

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Expert System’s Champion – Book 2 of the Expert Systems series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Sunday Post – 7th January 2021

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

10 of the Best Poems about Calm and Relaxation https://interestingliterature.com/2021/02/poems-about-calm-and-relaxation/ It’s been a long week with bitter winds and sub-zero temperatures. Perhaps some of these poems will provide some measure of comfort during the dark days of winter…

Mermaid and Siren Book Recommendations https://aquapages.wordpress.com/2020/04/21/mermaid-siren-book-recommendations/ If you also like books featuring mermaids, you might find Eline’s suggestions useful…

#LessonsLearned from #JohnLeCarre: Always #Write a #Setting of Quality https://jeanleesworld.com/2021/02/01/lessonslearned-from-johnlecarre-always-write-a-setting-of-quality/ Jean’s articles are always worth reading for their sheer entertainment value, even if you aren’t all that fussed about writing. If you are, then they are a solid treat…

Gong Hei Fatt Choi! Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy Year of the Ox! #CNY #CNYbooks #ChineseNewYear #LunarNewYear #YearoftheOx https://hookedonbookz.com/2021/02/12/gong-hei-fatt-choy-gong-xi-fa-cai-happy-year-of-the-ox-cny-cnybooks-chinesenewyear-lunarnewyear-yearoftheox/ Jee wouldn’t normally be writing about the Chinese New Year, as he usually travels to Malaysia with his family to celebrate. This year, it’s different…

Desert Reflected~ https://cindyknoke.com/2021/02/06/desert-reflected/ These stunning pics warmed me up just by looking at them. Perhaps they’ll do the same for you…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog. I hope you had a peaceful, healthy week – and do take care. x

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #WintersOrbitbookreview

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Tammy of Books, Bones and Buffy gave this one a mention – and when I saw the cover and read the premise, I immediately requested it. And I’m so very glad I did…

BLURB: Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Everina Maxwell’s exciting debut.

While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control. But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.

REVIEW: Well, this is great fun! I was immediately drawn into the story by the immersive writing, and my sympathy for happy-go-lucky Kiem went up several notches at his evident horror in being married off to someone so recently bereaved. Jainan, the Thean representative is far more difficult to get to know, but again, is likeable and sympathetic. Given the romance strand in this story runs alongside the wider ramifications of what will happen if the coming Treaty isn’t successfully ratified, it is very important that we bond with the two main protagonists.

I’ve read several other reviews that regard this story as mostly about the romance, with the rest of the storyline dealing with the tangle over the Treaty and growing suspicions regarding Taam’s death providing a convenient backdrop. I disagree. While I thoroughly enjoyed the unfolding romance, which is of the slow-burn variety fraught with misunderstandings all around, my attention was mostly drawn to the political situation developing within the Court. If it was written merely as a cardboard setting for the romance, I would have spotted it in a heartbeat and while I wouldn’t have necessarily DNF’d the book – the overall dynamic between them worked far too well for that – I certainly wouldn’t be giving it a nine.

I was impressed at the depth of the worldbuilding and how much I enjoyed the dynamic of the Iskat Empire, though in control of a solar system of seven planets, needing wider protection from bigger, more rapacious neighbours. I also liked the plurality on display – some Theans want to break away from Iskat, while others are clearly loyal to the Empire, such as Jainan, and within the Court there are also a number of factions. I also like the way same-sex relationships are treated. Not so much as an eyebrow is raised, demonstrating that it is clearly completely normalised within both Thean and Iskat societies.

I loved the actions scenes and the way the tension grew, making it all but impossible to put this one down until the end – and then I crashed quite hard once I finished it. All in all, this has been a wonderful start to my science fiction reads of 2021, and Everina Maxwell is clearly One To Watch. While I obtained an arc of Winter’s Orbit from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Cruel as the Grave – Book 22 of the Bill Slider Mysteries by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #CruelastheGravebookreview

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the books I read of this series – see my reviews of Old Bones, Shadow Play and Headlong – so when this one popped up, I had no hesitation in requesting it.

BLURB: Fitness trainer Erik Lingoss is found dead in his west London flat, his head smashed by one of his own dumbbells. His heartlessly-dumped girlfriend, blood on her clothes and hands, is the prime suspect. She had means, opportunity, and motive. But is the case as clear-cut as it seems? Handsome Erik Lingoss had clients in high places; and he seemed to engender powerful emotions. If it was a crime of passion, there was plenty of that to go round: love strong as death, jealousy cruel as the grave.

Who did he let in to his flat that evening? Where is his missing mobile phone? Why is seven hundred pounds in cash stuffed under his pillow? The deeper Slider and his team dig, the clearer it becomes there’s far more to this case than meets the eye.

REVIEW: Harrod-Eagles is no slouch when it comes to concocting a well-crafted, murder mystery – I always enjoy reading her books for that reason, alone. But this time around, I think she has outdone herself. The plotting in this entertaining police procedural whodunit is masterful. It doesn’t hurt that I now know and like DCI Bill Slider and members of his team. We have all read or watched the moody, workaholic policeman whose dedication to the job takes the place of his family. His team are wary around him, but nonetheless respect his remarkable ability to get the job done. Well, Bill Slider is nothing like that. He’s happily married to a professional musician, who is about to have their second child in this instalment. And his father and stepmother live close-by and provide support in the form of meals and occasional childcare when work commitments become too pressing. It was refreshing to see a career policeman with a happy home life.

While everyone treats the victim and witnesses with professional respect, there were times when I grinned at the humour between Slider and Atherton as they questioned suspects, combed through CCTV footage, and checked out alibis. Indeed, I was interested to see just how crucial that CCTV footage became to the solving of the case. The denouement worked really well, with a sense of sadness over the waste of a young man’s life – by the end of the investigation, I felt that I knew him quite well. Highly personable and incredibly good looking, Erik with a ‘k’ had a gift for making people fall in love with him – not just inexperienced, pretty young girls – but clever, successful people, too.

Along with the strong characterisation, clever plotting and effective scene setting, and a nicely apt title – the full quote is Jealousy is cruel as the grave – I found myself thinking about this story after I finished the book, which is always a bonus. Highly recommended for fans of British police procedural whodunits – and yes… I know it’s the 22nd book in a long-running series and no, I haven’t read all of them. But I still thoroughly enjoyed this one, anyway. While I obtained an arc of Cruel as the Grave from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Guilt at the Garage – Book 20 of the Fethering Mystery series by Simon Brett #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #GuiltattheGaragebookreview

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I enjoy reading Simon Brett’s writing – see my reviews of Death on the Downs, Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations, The Liar in the Library, The Killer in the Choir and The Clutter Corpse. Death on the Downs, The Liar in the Library and The Killer in the Choir are all Fethering Mysteries featuring spiky Carol and her far more laidback friend and neighbour, Jude. What is icing on the cake for me, is that Brett lives locally and sets his murders in a fictional village a few miles away from where we live, so that places we know well regularly feature in these entertaining stories.

BLURB: Carole Seddon’s trusty Renault is one of her most treasured possessions. So when it is vandalised, there’s only one person she will entrust with its repair: Bill Shefford has been servicing the vehicles of the good citizens of Fethering for many years. But how could something like this happen in Fethering of all places? Then the note is shoved under Carole’s kitchen door: Watch out. The car window was just the start. It would appear that she has been deliberately targeted. But by whom – and why? Matters take an even more disturbing turn when a body is discovered at Shefford’s Garage, crushed to death by a falling gearbox. It would appear to be a tragic accident. Carole and her neighbour Jude are not so sure. And the more they start to ask questions, the more evidence they uncover of decidedly foul play .

REVIEW: These books come under the heading of ‘cosy mysteries’ but I’m not convinced that ‘cosy’ is a suitable adjective for the dynamic that Brett has set up here. Carole Sedden has to be one of the most prickly protagonists I’ve encountered. Unsociable, snobbish, judgemental and narrow-minded, I find her difficult to like. But she is also desperately insecure, horribly lonely and rather vulnerable. I also find it appealing that when her car is vandalised, she doesn’t immediately set to and try to discover the perpetrator – but rushes to get it repaired and cover up the event, because she is obscurely ashamed that such a thing has happened to her…

As ever, I was glad when Jude made an appearance. She is the opposite of Carole in so many ways and far more agreeable – they make an ideal Holmes and Watson pairing. Jude needs Carole’s obsessive tenaciousness and Carole needs Jude’s people skills. The garage murder worked well. I enjoyed the dynamic and learning more about a kindly man who took pride in his work. Brett’s take on the way the social fabric of this country is being strained, with everyone decamping to their own political and class echo chamber, is well depicted without becoming a rant.

Any niggles? Well, the trouble with setting up a hook, like the attack of a protagonist’s car, for instance – is that the denouement has to pay off. And in this case, I felt it was rather contrived and didn’t really satisfy. But because the main action was so well handled and crafted, this didn’t turn out to be a dealbreaker – more of a minor disappointment. I’ll certainly be getting hold of the next book, given there seems to be a major change in the air… Recommended for fans who like their murder mysteries with intelligent and sharp-edged observations on modern society, along with the dead bodies. While I obtained an arc of Guilt at the Garage from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Sunday Post – 31st January, 2021 #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 was a quiet week. Frank stayed over until Monday evening which was a joy. He is always such very good company. We had a lazy morning in our PJ’s chatting about Life, the World and everything – as you do with a sixteen-year-old and then went for a walk along Littlehampton beach.

Once he went home, the rest of the week has been all about reading, working with my father-in-law on his memoir and getting the first draft of Trouble With Dwarves sorted out. Himself is now on his long weekend, so we went for a walk this morning along the beach. We are allowed to leave home to exercise, but we are being strongly encouraged to stay as close as home as possible for said exercise, hence the pics – once again – of Littlehampton beach and our bracing walk. As you can see, the sea was quite rough…

Last week I read:

Defending the Galaxy – Book 3 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy by Maria V. Snyder
Year 2522. Oh. My. Stars.
Junior Officer Ara Lawrence here, reporting for duty. Again. It’s situation critical for the security team and everyone in the base – including my parents – with a new attack from the looters imminent, a possible galaxy-wide crime conspiracy and an unstoppable alien threat. But this all pales in the face of my mind-blowing discovery about the Q-net. Of course, no one believes me. I’m not sure I believe me. It could just be a stress-induced delusion. That’s what my parents seem to believe…

Their concern for me is hampering my ability to do my job. I know they love me, but with the Q-net in my corner, I’m the only one who can help the security team beat the shadowy aliens from the pits we discovered. We’re holding them at bay, for now, but the entire Milky Way Galaxy is in danger of being overrun. With battles on too many fronts, it’s looking dire. But one thing I’ve learned is when people I love are in jeopardy, I’ll never give up trying to save them. Not until my dying breath. Which could very well be today…
This is a wonderful finale to a very entertaining, action-packed space opera series. I’ve rarely seen subjects like quantum entanglement and time dilation dealt with so entertainingly, yet effectively. And Ara’s character simply bounces off the page. But whatever you do, read the other two books first… Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK Tombland – Book 7 of the Matthew Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom
Spring, 1549. Two years after the death of Henry VIII, England is sliding into chaos…
The king, Edward VI, is eleven years old. His uncle Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, rules as Protector. Radical Protestants are conducting all out war on the old religion, stirring discontent among the people. The Protector’s prolonged war with Scotland is proving a disastrous failure. Worst of all, the economy is in collapse, inflation rages and rebellion is stirring among the peasantry.

Since the old King’s death, Matthew Shardlake has been working as a lawyer in the service of Henry’s younger daughter, the Lady Elizabeth. The gruesome murder of the wife of John Boleyn, a distant Norfolk relation of Elizabeth’s mother – which could have political implications for Elizabeth – brings Shardlake and his young assistant Nicholas Overton to the summer assizes at Norwich. There they are reunited with Shardlake’s former assistant Jack Barak. The three find layers of mystery and danger surrounding the death of Edith Boleyn, as more murders are committed. During their investigation, a peasant rebellion breaks out across the country. Yeoman Robert Kett establishes a vast camp outside Norwich and leads a force of thousands to overthow the landlords. Soon the rebels have taken over the city, England’s second largest.
This monster of a book (800+ pages) was wonderfully narrated and has held me throughout most of January. I have been a fan of this series for years – and I’m so glad that one of my reading targets last year was to catch up with those series that somehow slipped through the cracks. For this book is a tour de force and already, I have one of the books that will make my Outstanding Reads of 2021… Review to follow.

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell
Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Everina Maxwell’s exciting debut.
While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.

But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.
This was a lovely surprise! I’m not sure what I was expecting – but it wasn’t this lovely adventure, coupled with a slow-burn same-sex romance that was handled beautifully. Which didn’t swamp the fascinating political dynamic and I’m very much hoping that this is the first in a series. Review to follow.

The Monster MASH – Book 1 of the Monster M*A*S*H series by Angie Fox
Ancient gods. Modern war. And a star-crossed couple who could use some divine intervention.

The day I was drafted into the army of the gods, all I knew about being a MASH surgeon was what I’d learned from Hawkeye Pierce and Hot Lips Houlihan. Now here I am, Dr. Petra Robichaud, in the middle of an immortal war, assigned to a MASH camp with a nosy sphinx, a vegetarian werewolf, and an uptight vampire who really needs to get a life.

At least they’re all too busy with their own dramas to discover my secret: I can see the dead. It’s a forbidden gift, one that can get me killed, so I haven’t told a soul. Until the arrestingly intense Galen arrives on my operating table, half-dead and totally to-die-for. When his spirit tries to slip out of his fatally wounded body, I impulsively slip it back in. Call it a rash resurrection. One I’ll live to regret.
A delightfully quirky read with a nice line in humour that prevents this being a bleak read. As a huge fan of the MASH TV series, I was pleased to see that this fantasy homage got the tone more or less spot on. Review to follow.

NOVELLA The Expert System’s Champion – Book 2 of The Expert System series by Adrian Tchaikovsky
It’s been ten years since Handry was wrenched away from his family and friends, forced to wander a world he no longer understood. But with the help of the Ancients, he has cobbled together a life, of sorts, for himself and his fellow outcasts.

Wandering from village to village, welcoming the folk that the townships abandon, fighting the monsters the villagers cannot—or dare not—his ever-growing band of misfits has become the stuff of legend, a story told by parents to keep unruly children in line. But there is something new and dangerous in the world, and the beasts of the land are acting against their nature, destroying the towns they once left in peace.
When I didn’t get a review copy of this one, I pre-ordered it, being a solid Tchaikovsky fan. And I’ve still to write the review of this one, as my feelings about it are a tad tangled. It was one of my most anticipated reads of 2021 and it didn’t quite live up to my very high expectations of it – though that didn’t prevent it being a solidly good book. Review to follow.

The Lord of Stariel – Book 1 of the Stariel series by A.J. Lancaster
The Lord of Stariel is dead. Long live the Lord of Stariel. Whoever that is.

Everyone knows who the magical estate will choose for its next ruler. Or do they? Will it be the lord’s eldest son, who he despised? His favourite nephew, with the strongest magical land-sense? His scandalous daughter, who ran away from home years ago to study illusion?

Hetta knows it won’t be her, and she’s glad of it. Returning home for her father’s funeral, all Hetta has to do is survive the family drama and avoid entanglements with irritatingly attractive local men until the Choosing. Then she can leave. But whoever Stariel chooses will have bigger problems than eccentric relatives to deal with.
Another solid delight! Himself strongly recommended this one and I read waaay into the night as I found it impossible to put down. I’ve a couple of Netgalley reads to get through – but just as soon as I can, I’ll be tucking into the next book in the series! Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

AUDIOBOOK Review of Eating Things on Sticks by Anne Fine

Friday Face-off featuring To Say Nothing of the Dog – Book 2 of the Oxford Time Travel series by Connie Willis

Covet the Covers featuring Maria V. Snyder

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Murder at the Ritz by Jim Eldridge

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Tuesday Treasures – 24

Review of Chasing the Shadows – Book 2 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy by Maria V. Snyder

Sunday Post – 24th January 2021

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

Isandlwana https://robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com/2021/01/22/thursdaydoors-isandlwana/ Thursday Doors is a quirky weekly photo blog and I loved this contribution…

2020 First-Time Foraging Experiences Around Leeuwarden https://operationxblog.wordpress.com/2020/12/30/2020-first-time-foraging-experiences/ It was a terrible year on so many levels, but it did give some folks an opportunity to try new things…

Hope Blooms https://cindyknoke.com/2021/01/22/hope-blooms/ Cindy’s amazing photos regularly feature on this spot – but this particular post may well chime with a number of you…

18 Amazing Things You Can’t Miss on Your Trip to Zanzibar https://colorfulsisters.com/2021/01/26/18-amazing-things-you-cant-miss-on-your-trip-to-zanzibar-things-to-do/ While we are in lockdown, unable to go anywhere other than exercise or when supporting the family in our support bubble, I find blogs like this such a comfort…

FROM THE GREAT STATE OF TEXAS https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2021/01/30/from-the-great-state-of-texas/ Rae is a wonderful inspirational teacher who I have had the privilege of meeting online and she also takes part in the marvellous My Little Free Library and this article features on the books that turned up, here…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog. I hope you had a peaceful, healthy week – and do take care. x

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Murder at the Ritz by Jim Eldridge #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #MurderattheRitzbookreview

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I was looking for a good quality historical murder mystery and spotted this one on Netgalley. I thought the author’s name rang a bell, and was heartened to hear that in addition to having a sizeable backlist of other murder mysteries, many set in the past, he was also responsible for the lovely series King Street Junior that I enjoyed listening to on BBC Radio 4.

BLURB: August 1940. On the streets of London, locals watch with growing concern as German fighter planes plague the city’s skyline. But inside the famous Ritz Hotel, the cream of society continues to enjoy all the glamour and comfort that money can buy during wartime – until an anonymous man is discovered with his throat slashed open.

Detective Chief Inspector Coburg is called in to investigate, no stranger himself to the haunts of the upper echelons of society, ably assisted by his trusty colleague, Sergeant Lampson. Yet they soon face a number of obstacles. With the crime committed in rooms in use by an exiled king and his retinue, there are those who fear diplomatic repercussions and would rather the case be forgotten. With mounting pressure from various Intelligence agencies, rival political factions and gang warfare brewing either side of the Thames, Coburg and Lampson must untangle a web of deception if they are to solve the case – and survive.

REVIEW: This was a thoroughly engrossing read, which ticked all the boxes. DCI Coburg, who is distantly related to the royal family, is clearly a very capable chap. He’s been particularly wheeled in on this murder, as the murder victim is discovered in the suite of an exiled king at the Ritz, and is regarded as a safe pair of hands to deal with the shocked exile and members of his court. However, this case soon spirals off into involving the murkier world of criminal gangs and I really enjoyed the twisting plot that provided plenty of surprises along the way. Some I thought I saw coming – until they turned into something else more interesting. I always enjoy it when that happens.

The characterisation works well, and Eldridge has given a convincing portrayal of life in London at a time just before rationing and the blitz really got going. There is a particular scene where one of the first bombings occur, where the horror and shock at the devastation caused is very well captured. Eldridge could have turned this into a much darker read by focusing on the fear engendered by the war and making the murders much grittier – but he chooses not to. While the deaths of the victims are not played down in any way, the overall tone of the book is generally upbeat. Eldridge achieves this by introducing a romantic thread and also giving us a shaft of glamour through DCI Coburg’s regular visits to lounge at the Ritz.

The balance between light and shade, the plot progression, the deft characterisation and the successful evocation of the period makes this a thoroughly satisfying read. Highly recommended for fans of well-written historical murder mysteries. While I obtained an arc of Murder at the Ritz from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10