I loved the cover of this one and then the quirky blurb… I have a fondness for sci fi murder mysteries and having inhaled detective noir novels from the likes of Raymond Chandler far too long ago, I’ve a fondness for those, too. Would this one live up to my expectations?
BLURB: It’s 2032 and we live in the worst cyberpunk future. Kiera is gigging her ass off to keep the lights on, but her polycule’s social score is so dismal they’re about to lose their crib. That’s why she’s out here chasing cheaters with Angel Herrera, a luddite P.I. who thinks this is The Big Sleep. Then the latest job cuts too deep—hired to locate Herrera’s ex-best friend (who’s also Kiera’s pro bono attorney), they find him murdered instead. Their only lead: a stick of Nag Champa incense dropped at the scene.
Next thing Kiera knows, her new crush turns up missing—sans a hand (the real one, not the cybernetic), and there’s the familiar stink of sandalwood across the apartment. Two crimes, two sticks of incense, Kiera framed for both. She told Herrera to lose her number, but now the old man might be her only way out of this bullshit…
REVIEW: It’s extremely difficult to write near future convincingly or well. But Wood makes a very good stab at it. I loved the dystopian feel of the world, which has clearly gone to hell in a handcart frighteningly fast. But the grittiness of the daily grind and trying to make ends meet was overlaid by Kiera’s touchingly vulnerable character. I could see why Herrera tends to act like a parent towards her.
The relationship between the pair is often the narrative engine that powers this exuberant read, so it’s important that I cared about what happens to both of them. And I did. I liked the fact that everyone introduced themselves alongside their preferred pronouns – it certainly rings true when I listen to what matters to my grandson and his friends. I also enjoyed the nuances around sexual relationships, from the sleazy and abusive right through to sweet cuddles and kisses. Not that a great deal of emphasis is particularly placed upon the range of sexuality – but it twines through and around the story as part of the worldbuilding. Like the odd fusion of foods and emphasis on cheap fast foods, which always seem to be the staple of private investigators in this genre.
I thoroughly enjoyed the worldbuilding. It’s particularly important in this sub-genre as it also provides the mood music by setting the overall tone of narrative. While the story is peppered with tragic deaths that matter to at least one of the protagonists and there is a fair amount of violence throughout – this isn’t a grim read. There’s too much snark and humour, especially between Kiera and Angel. Though I also enjoyed much of repartee aimed at Detective Flynn. Overall, this is a boisterous book, full of energy that pings off the page and took me with it. I’d love to read another book in this world – there’s plenty of mileage in the characters and I highly recommend this one for fans of futuristic detective noir in a cyberpunk setting. While I obtained an arc of Bang Bang Bodhisattva from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.
It’s been another hectic week with Ethan working on his final assignment, which finally had to be handed in by midnight on Friday evening. He managed this – and then stayed up to talk and support his fellow students who were battling to get their projects submitted before the deadline. So was rather sleepy and subdued yesterday after weeks of worry and work… Oscar has also been attending school, though we ended up in A & E on Friday evening as he had a bad fall during a playground football game and came home with a very sore wrist. Luckily there were no broken bones or sprains, which was a relief as we are just starting half term week.
I’ve been banging on to anyone who’ll listen about what a fabulous year it’s being for spring flowers. And to prove it to you – I took a short walk, no more than 10 minutes from our house with my trusty camera. The pics below show the blossom on a horse chestnut tree, a photinia bush and the hawthorn bushes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen hawthorn blossom like it – every tree and bush is smothered. The pretty purple climber is wisteria.
I was thrilled to finish my story Casta and the Giggling Knight, which came out at around 22,500 words. I was able to take it to my writers’ group on Wednesday night and got really valuable feedback, so I’ll be tweaking it in between continuing with the line edit of Flame & Blame. It was a lovely sociable week – in addition to attending my writing group, I spent most of Friday catching up with one of my ex-students, who is having a collection of her poetry published. I just need to get more sleep!
Books I’ve read in the last week:-
Bang, Bang Bodhisattva by Aubrey Wood It’s 2032 and we live in the worst cyberpunk future. Kiera is gigging her ass off to keep the lights on, but her polycule’s social score is so dismal they’re about to lose their crib. That’s why she’s out here chasing cheaters with Angel Herrera, a luddite P.I. who thinks this is The Big Sleep. Then the latest job cuts too deep—hired to locate Herrera’s ex-best friend (who’s also Kiera’s pro bono attorney), they find him murdered instead. Their only lead: a stick of Nag Champa incense dropped at the scene.
Next thing Kiera knows, her new crush turns up missing—sans a hand (the real one, not the cybernetic), and there’s the familiar stink of sandalwood across the apartment. Two crimes, two sticks of incense, Kiera framed for both. She told Herrera to lose her number, but now the old man might be her only way out of this bullshit… This near-future, detective noir thriller is full of personality. It’s difficult to make near-future fiction convincing, but Wood pulls it off. Review to follow.
I, Julian by Claire Gilbert From the author of Miles to Go before I Sleep comes I, Julian, the account of a medieval woman who dares to tell her own story, battling grief, plague, the church and societal expectations to do so. Compelled by the powerful visions she had when close to death, Julian finds a way to live a life of freedom – as an anchoress, bricked up in a small room on the side of a church – and to write of what she has seen. The result, passed from hand to hand, is the first book to be written by a woman in English.
Tender, luminous, meditative and powerful, Julian writes of her love for God, and God’s love for the whole of creation. ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’ Beautiful and ultimately uplifting, it was a special read. And also shows what a rough time the survivors of historical pandemics had. Not only grieving their dead, but being blamed for the plague by the Church… Review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK – Our Lady of the Mysterious Ailments – Book 2 of the Edinburgh Nights series by T.L. Huchu When Ropa Moyo discovered an occult underground library, she expected great things. She’s really into Edinburgh’s secret societies – but turns out they are less into her. So instead of getting paid to work magic, she’s had to accept a crummy unpaid internship. And her with bills to pay and a pet fox to feed.
Then her friend Priya offers her a job on the side. Priya works at Our Lady of Mysterious Maladies, a very specialised hospital, where a new illness is resisting magical and medical remedies alike. The first patient was a teenage boy, Max Wu, and his healers are baffled. If Ropa can solve the case, she might earn as she learns – and impress her mentor, Sir Callander.
Her sleuthing will lead her to a lost fortune, an avenging spirit and a secret buried deep in Scotland’s past. But how are they connected? Lives are at stake and Ropa is running out of time. This series started off as Library of the Dead. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Huchu’s lively prose as gutsy Ropa struggles to keep her small family afloat in post-apocalyptic Scotland. This book held me throughout as an initial investigation into what is slowly killing a teenage boy encompasses a far wider problem. And this time around, we learn a lot more about the Library of the Dead. I’m delighted that this proved to be such a cracking adventure, as I have the arc of the next book in the series. 9/10
This is my update on how I’m doing while coping with Long Covid now it’s been over a year since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.
A Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate – and if you don’t, then I hope you are enjoying the holiday weekend. The weather the last two days has been glorious – lots of sunshine and for once, there isn’t a wind blowing. I just hope it holds for the rest of the long weekend so everyone can appreciate it.
I am steadily increasing my activity level, though I have had to tweak it a bit, thanks to my lovely friend Mhairi, who suggested how I could make it more gradual. My biggest problem is my very sore shoulder where I had my last booster vaccination – at night it prevents me from getting back to sleep so I’m only getting 3 or 4 hours a night. I then fall asleep after breakfast, finally surfacing at around midday. But that is far from ideal and is really hampering my recovery. I am hoping to find ways around it before I contact the Dr as I’m conscious that the NHS is under huge pressure. Though that didn’t stop them swinging into action magnificently earlier this week when my brother-in-law was admitted to hospital with a blood clot on the lung. After two days on oxygen, thank goodness he’s now at home and recovering.
I have new glasses! And luckily, although it was something of a challenge to peer at blurry old me in the mirror while choosing the frames, I do like the look of them. What is a shock, is what a huge improvement I’ve noticed in my eyesight since putting them on. I was terribly overdue, but simply hadn’t had the energy to face the test and all the messing around with lenses and whatnot that fitting varifocals takes. Himself is not very well – he went down with an almighty cold last week. At least we hope it was a cold – the lateral tests said so. But I’m aware that they aren’t all that accurate with some of the new variants of covid. He had a couple of days off work with a terrible, hacking cough and feeling absolutely wiped out. He is now on annual leave, and although he is better, he still hasn’t fully recovered. Though I’m aware that he’s exhausted. Having to look after me for 14 months, on top of keeping the house clean, doing the chores including the washing and all the shopping and cooking, as well as keeping a demanding job going is a constant grind. I just hope that sometime soon I can begin to lighten his load.
This week I’ve read:-
Tainted – Book 4 of The Taellaneth series by Vanessa Nelson Woken from sleep by intruders, Arrow is shocked to realise that humans have managed to break through her wards. This was no simple break-in. It quickly becomes clear this was just part of a series, and the Erith’s ancient enemies may be involved.
Worse than that, the peace treaty that holds shape-changers, humans and Erith from all-out war is on the brink of collapse. Arrow is once more in the middle of a deadly power struggle. I am really loving this unusual fantasy crime series. Nelson is a talented capable author, whose ability to set the wrongdoings Arrow investigates within a world with a High Fantasy flavour really makes this one stand out from the crowd. Arrow is also a strong protagonist with lots of baggage after years of neglect and abuse – but is trying to come to terms with it. This adventure took her in a different direction, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I just wish it wasn’t the penultimate book in the series…:( 10/10
Murder at the Car Rally – Book 3 of the Lady Sleuth Murder Mystery series by Sonia Parin When Evie Parker, Countess of Woodridge, decides to spend a day in London unaccompanied she has no idea she will encounter the one person she has hoped to spend the rest of her life avoiding. There’s no escaping Isabel Fitzpatrick’s exuberant energy and desire to show off her new husband. However, the encounter sets off a series of events and brings trouble right to Evie’s doorstep.
Even when Evie manages to return to her country house in Berkshire, she finds the only way to avoid her childhood friend is to flee by joining a car rally group, but trouble pursues her and now a man has died under suspicious circumstances… I’ve cut short the rather chatty blurb on this entertaining 1920s murder mystery adventure. I’ve grown rather fond of Evie – and found this latest instalment particularly effective. I especially liked the depiction of the ‘bright young things’ who end up being at the heart of the story. There is also plenty of humour in amongst the whodunit, which I appreciated. 8/10
The Body in the Transept – Book 1 of the Dorothy Martin series by Jeanne M. Dam Dorothy Martin, new widow moved to England, enjoys the Christmas service in Sherebury Cathedral until she trips over the body of Canon Billings. With handsome Chief Constable Alan Nesbitt, neighbor Jane, cat Emmy, and amusing hats, she sorts through suspects: pompous dishonest verger Wallingford, fired student Nigel, philandering George – to the truth.
I read a previous offering of this author and was sufficiently impressed to give this established series a whirl. I very much enjoyed seeing a small cathedral city (which seems to have an uncanny resemblance to Salisbury) through the eyes of an American woman of a certain age. Dorothy is a slightly spiky, amusing protagonist and while the whodunit itself isn’t particularly complicated, the detailed descriptions of the city and the characters kept me turning the pages during a particularly wretched night. 8/10
NOVELLA Barbary by Vonda N. McIntyre Even before the space transport Outrigger docked on research station Einstein, Barbary had heard about an alien ship that was moving into the solar system.
Some believed the vessel was drifting aimlessly; others were sure it was under conscious control. Either way, the team of scientists aboard Outrigger were prepared to investigate.
Their mission did not involve a passenger named Barbary. Yet she —and more importantly, the pet cat she smuggled on board—were about to play key roles in mans first contact with aliens… This space opera children’s adventure story, first published in 1986, absolutely charmed me. Many thanks to … the person who featured this on their blog recently, where it caught my eye and encouraged me to get hold of it. And sorry for not remembering who you are! But it’s a delight. Barbary is a sympathetic protagonist and I was thoroughly rooting for her to succeed in her determination to take the only thing that really matters into space with her. I just wish it was longer! 8/10
AUDIOBOOK Dark Currents – Book 2 of the Emperor’s Edge Collection Books 1-3 by Lindsay Buroker It’s been three months since former enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon and the notorious assassin Sicarius thwarted kidnappers and saved the emperor’s life. The problem? Nobody knows they were responsible for this good deed. Worse, they’re being blamed for the entire scheme. With enforcers and bounty hunters stalking them, and the emperor nursing a personal hatred for Sicarius, it’s going to be hard to earn exoneration.
When Amaranthe’s team discovers mutilated bodies in the city aqueducts and a mysterious illness incapacitates thousands of citizens, she and Sicarius see an opportunity to solve the mystery and prove their loyalty. But they’ll have to defeat vengeful shamans, man-eating predators, and deadly mechanical constructs, all while dodging imperial soldiers who would rather kill them than accept their help. Nobody said exoneration would be easy. Buroker’s rollicking writing style, full of energy and humour – along with a hatful of unexpected plot twists now makes her one of my favourite authors. It has taken me a while to fully bond with this latest crew of misfits and troublemakers – but I found this adventure engrossing. And while I don’t like Sicarius at all, I was delighted to spend more time with Booksy and of course, our feisty heroine, Amaranthe. 8/10
Vengeance in Death – Book 6 of the In Death series by J.D. Robb He is an expert with the latest technology…a madman with the mind of a genius and the heart of a killer. He quietly stalks his prey. Then he haunts the police with cryptic riddles about the crimes he is about to commit–always solved moments too late to save his victims’ lives. Police lieutenant Eve Dallas found the first victim butchered in his own home. The second lost his life in a vacant luxury apartment. The two men had little in common. Both suffered unspeakable torture before their deaths. And both had ties to an ugly secret of ten years past–a secret shared by none other than Eve’s new husband, Roarke.
I’m generally not a huge fan of murder mysteries featuring mad-but-brilliant serial killers. However I have a soft spot for Eve Dallas, and as Himself has bought alllll the books in this very long-running series, I thought I’d continue to work my way through it while I’m on a Crime reading spree. As ever with these books, the pages flew by as I found it hard to put down. I do enjoy the fact that Eve and Roarke have such a very passionate relationship as a married couple. 8/10
Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.
A book by Adam Roberts is always worth reading – see my reviews of The Real-Town Murders and Yellow Blue Tibia. Being the shallow sort, first the cover snagged my attention, then when I saw the author I immediately requested it.
TRUNCATED BLURB: The This is the new social media platform everyone is talking about. Allow it to be injected into the roof of your mouth and it will grow into your brain, allow you to connect with others without even picking up your phone. Its followers are growing. Its detractors say it is a cult. But for one journalist, hired to do a puff-piece interview with their CEO, it will change the world forever.
Adan just wants to stay at home with his smart-companion Elegy – phone, friend, confidante, sex toy. But when his mother flees to Europe and joins a cult, leaving him penniless, he has to enlist in the army – move that changes his life forever…
REVIEW: This is another offering with a rather chatty blurb that you’d do well to avoid as it gives away far too much of the story. Although it also manages to be very misleading, because it concentrates on the plot, rather than the narrative engine of the book which isn’t the storyline.
Most novels provide stories that take their readers away to other places, peopled by sympathetic characters with whom we can identify. Sometimes it provides pure escape and entertainment, other times the story provides a warning message, or commentary on current inequalities – such as George Orwell’s 1984. However, there are novels who are powered by an idea, or theory and the story is tailored to support that notion – the other example that immediately springs to my mind is Jo Walton’s masterly and very enjoyable Thessaly trilogy, which explores Plato’s theory of an ideal society as proposed in his book, Republic – see my review of The Just City. And this book is another one that falls into that category – this time looking at Hegel’s philosophy in amongst other ideas.
That might sound dry and unappealing – and in less able hands that might be the case. But Roberts is a remarkable writer who deserves to be far better known for his talent and versatility. Few others could get away with flourishes like the opening passage at the start of the book, which charts the various incarnations of a single person, circling around the phrase, In the Bardo subject and object are the same thing… While the characters and the storylines matter and certainly had me turning the pages to see what would happen next, they also support or challenge the ideas that Roberts wants to explore. And my mention of 1984 wasn’t merely incidental – there is also a homage to the book in amongst the closing chapters that is both entertaining and slightly horrifying.
The notion of social media is thoroughly examined – what does it mean to be part of world-wide group such as Twitter. And what would happen if those who spend their time locked onto their phones tweeting were offered the opportunity to become part of a new cult craze called The This. Better still, to belong you don’t even need a phone – a small implant is inserted in the roof of your mouth and you’re good to go. You can be part of the hive mind of The This 24/7 – and never alone, again. Roberts explores the idea of loneliness and isolation versus the lure of belonging – although I don’t wholly agree with his premise or his conclusions, given he clearly has very fixed ideas about the impact of social media. But that doesn’t stop this book being a fascinating read that still has me mulling over the ideas it tosses out as the story rackets along at a gripping pace. Very highly recommended for those who enjoy their science fiction laced with philosophical ideas along with a very readable story. While I obtained an arc of The This from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10
This is my update on how I’m doing while coping with Long Covid now it’s been 10 months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.
It’s been a week of two halves, but as I’m now able to write this Sunday Post just a week after my previous effort, you’ll be right in thinking that overall my energy levels are still reasonably good. So long as I don’t think of trying to do any housework! While I know it is definitely positive that my emotional and mental energy have improved so much – it’s very much a two-edged sword… The first half of the week was grim. I woke up on Monday feeling angry and miserable and while I can generally throw off those feelings – this time around, I couldn’t. It was the anger I found impossible to shift. And of course, given there is just the two of us – the person who bore the brunt of it is the one person in my life who is completely undeserving of my snarling criticisms on what he hadn’t managed to do around the house. It’s rather chastening to realise that I’m far less nice when I’m more like me, than when I was too ill and exhausted to care… And even that reflection didn’t manage to lift my black fury at how bloody helpless and useless I am.
However, thank goodness I had a reflexology appointment on Thursday afternoon. Laura listened sympathetically to my teary rant about how much I hated being so vilely furious – and how it was poisoning my life at a time when I really cannot afford the energy to be so negative. So she set to work, promising to concentrate on my emotional energies. At one point, while she was working on my hormonal energy, which she said was allll over the place, my leg was twitching uncontrollably. Whatever she did certainly worked. I always feel very tired after a consultation. But I woke up on Friday morning feeling reasonably happy again. I’m still sleeping badly, and the constant high-pitched screaming in my ears is still something of an ongoing struggle. But I’m back to believing I can get through this – that I haven’t finally run out of stamina and courage. And that there will come a time when I will regain sufficient energy to write my books again so that my grumpy black dragon, Castellan, will once again soar through my life.
This week I’ve read:-
Blood Politics – Book 4 of the Blood Destiny series by Helen Harper You’d think that life would finally be dealing Mack Smith a kind hand. Living in London, and with the opening of the new improved city version of Clava Books mere days away, things appear to be settling down. Other than the terrible nightmares about dragons, that is. Or the fact that she’s being constantly tailed by a string of mages, shifters and faeries, all of whom are constantly demanding her attention. And that’s without even bringing the temptation of Corrigan, Lord Alpha of the Brethren, into the equation.
Then, when a local dryad asks her for some help, things really start to fire up. There are some long hot summer days ahead… I thoroughly enjoy Harper’s gutsy, short-fused heroine. Mack is a shapeshifter with a difference and this urban fantasy is full of twists and turns that kept me reading throughout a wretched night and into the small hours. Be warned, Mack tends to get very sweary when she loses her rag, so there is a lot of bad language – but I’ll forgive that. And there is also a doozy of cliffhanger at the end that had me reaching for the next book in the series – which is something that I hardly ever do. 9/10
Blood Lust – Book 5 of the Blood Destiny series by Helen Harper Life’s no fun being a dragon, especially when you are forced into responsibilities that involve trying to keep the peace between an array of shifters, mages and faeries in order to bring down the scariest and deadliest foe the Otherworld has ever seen. And that’s not to mention the fact that your own soul mate hates your guts…
Mack Smith, a fiery Draco Wyr, is battling to come to terms with her emotions, her heritage and her true capabilities. All she has to do is defeat Endor, win back Corrigan and live happily ever after. From the streets of London and Russia, to the beaches of Cornwall, will she be able to ever win the day? Not only does this book deliver yet another engrossing adventure featuring short-tempered Mack, our foul-mouthed yet endearing heroine – it also has to produce a convincing and satisfactory conclusion to this series. I’ll be honest – given the narrative dynamic Harper had set up, I couldn’t see how she would pull this one off. And then she did… I completed this one with a lump in my throat and a smile on my face. Very highly recommended. 10/10
The Gathering – Book 1 of The Hundred series by Vanessa Nelson As one of the Hundred, Yvonne cannot ignore a plea for help, even if all she wants is a quiet life, somewhere safe for her adopted children to grow into adulthood. Safety is in short supply. Young people, some of them children, are going missing in large numbers, leaving bewildered and grieving families behind. It’s not something she can ignore.
She finds an unexpected ally in an arrogant goblin lord, who seems intent on following her from place to place. With her skills in magic, and his resources, can they track down the kidnappers and return the children home? I’ve been reading her Ageless Mysteries series and been very impressed, so when I saw this series I immediately tucked into the first one and was very glad I did. Nelson’s worldbuilding is superb – a layered realistic world that gradually is revealed through the eyes of a nuanced, three-dimensional character. The relationship between Guise and Yvonne is beautifully done and I look forward to reading the next one. 9/10
Witch Hunt – Book 3 of the Secondhand Magic series by Lori Drake Magic Crimes Consultant Emily Davenport’s prestigious family coven may have been disappointed in her lack of magical talent, but they never took issue with how she lived her life—until she registered as a witch. Now the gloves are off, and she’s under investigation by the Circle, a powerful alliance of ancient covens.
But with an important case three months in the making finally starting to bear fruit, she can’t just stop and walk away. The witches of Santa Fe need her. A mysterious, illicit drug that only affects witches is gaining more traction by the day, and every minute she spends worrying about her own future is an opportunity for another witch to die. Can Emily stop the flow of the deadly narcotic and prove herself before her clock runs out, or will she be carted off to face tribunal in chains? This urban fantasy whodunit has a strong heroine, who used to be an emergency nurse who is dismissed once she registers as a witch. Now she ekes out a living as a consultant on magical cases with the local police department. I really enjoyed Emily’s backstory – she is a strong, sympathetic protagonist who has been put in a convincingly difficult position. I’m delighted there are more books in this smart, well written series. 9/10
The Dragon and Mrs Muir by Connie Suttle The wedding was an outdoor affair, on a beach with the Gulf of Mexico in the background. In all, seventy-two were injured, and the body count rose to seventeen. Local hospitals were filled with bleeding attendees, and, at one point, the bride, her bloodied white wedding dress cut away and spilling onto the emergency room floor, went into cardiac arrest. Her groom died at the scene.
Philomena Muir became a widow on her wedding day. Three years later, she found herself bumping into the strangest man she’d ever met–except he wasn’t a man. More specifically, he wasn’t human. That brief meeting became the catalyst for a brewing war, pitting one human witch against the might of a supernatural race. The cards are stacked, and Philomena needs a winning hand… This is an unusual book and despite the slight unevenness of the story-telling and the ease with which some of the conflicts are overcome, I enjoyed the dynamic. The dramatic backstory is very well handled and I really liked Phil. Overall, an intriguing and memorable read. 8/10
Little Witches – Book 21 of Schooled in Magic series by Christopher G. Nuttall Laughter Academy is in trouble. The student witches are growing increasingly reckless, preying on the mundanes below the mountains as their tutors plot and scheme to take advantage of the chaos. And no one seems to know why.
Emily is in no condition to intervene. But she cannot refuse. Heading to Laughter, Emily finds herself dragged into a world of schoolgirl games, staffroom politics and a deadly plot aimed at the heart of the Allied Lands themselves… As I’ve been reading this entertaining and unpredictable fantasy series, I’ve often imagined Nuttall having a conversation in a bar with a couple of writing buddies. “So… what do you think would happen if a girl got transported from our world, back to a medieval society? And then triggers a major change by introducing some key inventions – what would happen then? I think I’m going to write it. Just to see where it goes.” Because that’s exactly the dynamic of this fascinating series story arc and Emily – the protagonist and catalyst of so much of the upheaval that occurs – has become a firm favourite of mine. There are three more books to go in this series and I’d intended to space them out – but I immediately got hold of the next one, because of that amazing cliffhanger ending. 8/10
The Right Side of History – Book 22 of Schooled in Magic series by Christopher G. Nuttall
A brutal uprising in the Kingdom of Alluvia has shaken the Allied Lands – and Emily finds herself accused of starting it. Desperate, all too aware the kingdom is on the verge of becoming a vortex of chaos, Emily travels to Alluvia in the hopes of calming both sides long enough to secure peace…
…Unaware that the uprising is merely the first step in a plan to shatter the Allied Lands beyond repair. I pretty much inhaled this one – the beginning is fraught and full of danger. And the tension doesn’t ease up. But the climactic final battle at the end left me reeling as we lose a major character – and Emily suffers a terrible betrayal that I didn’t see coming. Oh my goodness. I’m trying to be good and not immediately reach for the penultimate book in the series as I want to cling onto this world for just a bit longer… this series has seen me through so many wretched nights and difficult days during the worst of my illness. 9/10
AUDIOBOOK – Hard Time – Book 2 of The Time Police series by Jodi Taylor Team Weird are back causing havoc in the Time Police in this irresistible spin-off series by international bestseller Jodi Taylor, author of The Chronicles of St Mary’s. A time slip in Versailles, problems in the Ice Age and illegal time travellers in need of rescue. Must be a job for the Time Police.
Luke, Jane and Matthew are back and ready to cause havoc – inadvertently or otherwise – in their latest adventures. This time travelling adventure hasn’t quite the rollicking, no-holds-barred flavour of the St Mary’s books, but it is still full of humour. In typical Taylor style, there are also deeply moving and emotional moments, too. It was a joy to listen to. 9/10
Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m very aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.
This is my fortnightly update on how I’m doing while coping with Long Covid now it’s been 10 months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.
I had hoped to continue to feel better after the uptick in my energy levels once I recovered from my cold at the beginning of January. But last week, it was a struggle to get out of bed before the middle of the afternoon and by the time I’d showered and dressed, it was often getting dark again. While I’m aware it’s important to get outside in the fresh air and whatever sunshine – there didn’t seem much point shuffling around the block in the frigid gloom of a mid-winter late afternoon. So I didn’t bother – for one thing, I can’t move fast enough to get the blood moving to combat the cold, so it’s an exercise in misery.
However this week, I woke up on Monday feeling hugely better. And so far, on Sunday, I’m still feeling better. Though I’m taking it cautiously. I still am dealing with the ongoing nasal drip, which I’m heartily sick of – both the disgusting taste and the resulting tinnitus. And my neck is still very swollen and tender, making it painful to turn my head quickly. But my energy levels, both physical and mental, are much improved. When I saw the Dr last week, he was very reassuring. My liver and kidney functions are normal and while my thyroid is swollen and has a number of nodules, which he thinks is a result of covid, it is also functioning normally. I’m due to have another scan in March to monitor any further changes. But I still don’t manage to get up much before midday and I still struggle to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, even if I go to bed at the right time. Thank goodness for books – if I wasn’t able to put the light on and read in the wee small hours, Life would be a whole lot more challenging.
On the bright side, our car has now been fixed after the minor accident when someone swung into the passenger door – and their insurance accepted the liability. And our grandson came to stay again from Tuesday through to Friday. Having him in the house, travelling back and forth to college on the train, with his bubbling enthusiasm for his college course is a real tonic. So I’m delighted that his staying with us is going to become a regular fortnightly event. Now he is 17, I’m not worried about having to look after him if I’m too ill to get out of bed and he is happy to help around the house.
This week I’ve read:- The Red King – Book 1 of the Wilde Justice series by Jenn Stark As the first Justice of the Arcana Council in two hundred years, Tarot-reading Sara Wilde is tasked with taking out the most dangerous magic-wielding criminals on the planet. Her first assignment? A killer known only as the Red King, who’s systematically picking off the world’s most gifted magicians in the rollicking streets and storied canals of Venice, Italy, on the eve of Carnevale.
Amidst the festival’s music, masks, and brightly colored costumes, Sara must unravel the truth about a brutal murderer from Venice’s own murky past, navigate the twisting political currents of magicians who seek to rival her own Council, and keep one costume change ahead of a conjurer whose lethal spells could end Justice–permanently. Good thing the diabolically sexy and deeply powerful Magician of the Arcana Council has Sara’s back…if only he didn’t hold so much of her heart as well. This was a gripping read – and it didn’t hurt that Stark’s vivid evocation of Venice reminded me of a wonderful family holiday in what seems another life. Sara is a sympathetic protagonist, there were plenty of plot twists that kept the pages turning and I’m delighted to discover there are plenty of books in this spinoff series. 9/10
Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld In 1971, Hillary Rodham is a young woman full of promise: Life magazine has covered her Wellesley commencement speech, she’s attending Yale Law School, and she’s on the forefront of student activism and the women’s rights movement. And then she meets Bill Clinton. A handsome, charismatic southerner and fellow law student, Bill is already planning his political career. In each other, the two find a profound intellectual, emotional, and physical connection that neither has previously experienced. In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton.
But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail—one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the tradeoffs all of us must make in building a life.
Brilliantly weaving a riveting fictional tale into actual historical events, Curtis Sittenfeld delivers an uncannily astute and witty story for our times. In exploring the loneliness, moral ambivalence, and iron determination that characterize the quest for political power, as well as both the exhilaration and painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world still run mostly by men, Rodham is a singular and unforgettable novel. I’ve included the complete very wordy blurb as it does a good job of setting out the narrative imperative behind this intriguing book. While I’m notcompletely familiar with the political landscape of the time, Sittenfeld has done a thorough job of depicting it. But what I think is masterly is her evocation of the unthinking sexism and racism running throughout the spheres of influence that not just impacts Hillary, but other women around her. I’ve found myself thinking about it a lot since I finished reading this one, and the main reason why it hasn’t garnered a 10 from me is the unevenness of the pacing in places. 9/10
Immortal in Death – Book 3 of the In Death series by J.D. Robb When Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas investigates the murder of a top model, she is putting her career on the line, because the prime suspect is her best friend. Eve’s investigations lead her into the glamorous world of high fashion.
Himself has bought all these books, so I’m starting to work my way through them. Set in the near future, the writing is pacy with plenty of romance as Norah Roberts in the guise of J.D. Robb serves up a number of brutal murders for our feisty protagonist to contend with. 8/10
AUDIOBOOK – Kingdoms at War – Book 1 of the Dragon Gate series by Lindsay Buroker For centuries, wizard kings have ruled the world from their elite sky cities, battling each other to add to their wealth and power, while using normal human beings as pawns. Those without magic struggle to feed their families and live in constant fear of bringing down the wrath of their tyrannical masters. Something must change.
As a cartography student, Jak has always dreamed of finding the lost dragon gate and exploring and mapping distant worlds. Developing magical powers and becoming a powerful wizard? Not a chance. Wizards are cruel and inhumane, warring with each other from their great sky cities and keeping most of humanity enslaved. Jak wants nothing to do with them. But when he and his archaeologist mother unearth the gate, they attract the attention of the very wizards they sought to avoid. Even more troubling, Jak starts developing magical powers of his own, powers that could rival those of the great rulers. Fate may have given him the opportunity to change the world. But the wizard rulers don’t like change, and when they detect threats, they send their elite assassins to eliminate them. And if the above blurb sounds like an intriguing situation – you’re absolutely right. I love Buroker’s vivid, three-dimensional worlds. Her settings are always detailed and politically sophisticated and once again, I’ve lost my heart to the main protagonists, Jak and his clever, studious mother. I’m thrilled to discover yet another gripping series by this accomplished author to dive into – Buroker has been one of my major lifelines during my illness! 9/10
The Cruel Stars – Book 1 of The Cruel Stars trilogy by John Birmingham The galaxy was once terrorized by the Sturm, a group of “species purists” intent on destroying any human with genetic or cybernetic enhancements. Fashioning themselves as the one true “Human Republic,” the Sturm cut a bloody swath across the stars, killing billions before finally being defeated and driven into the far reaches of Dark Space. Centuries of peace bred complacency. Everyone believed the Sturm had died out in the Dark. They were wrong.
The enemy has returned and, with a brutal and decisive attack, knocks out almost all of humanity’s defenses. Now on the brink of annihilation, humankind’s only hope is a few brave souls who survived the initial attack: Commander Lucinda Hardy, thrust into uncertain command of the Royal Armadalen Navy’s only surviving warship. Booker3, a soldier of Earth, sentenced to die for treason, whose time on death row is cut short when the Sturm attack his prison compound. Princess Alessia, a young royal of the Montanblanc Corporation, forced to flee when her home planet is overrun and her entire family executed. Sephina L’trel, the leader of an outlaw band who must call on all of her criminal skills to resist the invasion. And, finally, Admiral Frazer McLennan, the infamous hero of the first war with the Sturm hundreds of years ago, who hopes to rout his old foes once and for all—or die trying. This military space opera adventure is full of action and conflict, as well as a number of punchy, well-written protagonists. One of the best written is the terrified child caught up in the middle of a waking nightmare by dint of her birth – Birmingham’s depiction of Alessia is one of the highlights in this enjoyable book. 8/10
Baking Bad – Book 1 of the Beaufort Scales Mysteries by Kim M. Watt A tranquil village. A poisoned cupcake. A murdered vicar. A simple case – or it should be. But all clues point to the Toot Hansell Women’s Institute, and Detective Inspector Adams is about to discover there’s much more to the W.I. than bake sales and jam making.
Alice Martin, RAF Wing Commander (Ret.), and current chair of the W.I., knows the ladies of the Women’s Institute are not guilty. But she has a bigger problem. Toot Hansell has a dragonish secret, and she needs to keep the police well away from it. And she’d really rather not be arrested for murder. Again. Meanwhile, Beaufort Scales, High Lord of the Cloverly dragons and survivor of the days of knights and dragon hunts, knows even better than Alice that the modern dragon only survives as long as no one knows they exist. But he also knows friends don’t let friends face murder inquiries alone. Beaufort fully intends to Get Involved. This investigation is about to take on dragonish proportions. A cosy murder mystery set in a small English village, accompanied by quantities of tea, cake and dragons… This one sounds almost to be too good to be true. So I was delighted to discover that as well as being genuinely funny with a cast of enjoyable, believable characters – the dragons are also intriguingly different from the general run of scaly monsters we’re used to seeing in our fiction. I will definitely be reading more of this series. 9/10
The Shattered Skies – Book 2 of The Cruel Stars trilogy by John Birmingham The Sturm, a group of “species purists” intent on destroying any human with genetic or cybernetic enhancements, returned from the far reaches of Dark Space to strike a devastating blow against humanity. Though their victory seemed inevitable, a small group of reluctant heroes managed to beat back the invading force. Now left with the remains of a crippled civilization, they must work together to rebuild–and to stand guard, in case those weren’t the only enemies hiding in the dark…
This Netgalley arc is the second book in this military space opera adventure. Once again our plucky group of misfits are faced with dealing with a lethal and committed enemy. Review to follow.
Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m very aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.
To be honest, I’m still not quite sure why I decided to go ahead and request this one, given that I’ve been in quite a dark place. Except that some of my decisions have been a tad skewed, what with one thing and another. However, I’m glad that on one of my spells of energy, I got sufficiently carried away to get hold of this one, as it has provided me with one of the reading highlights of the year…
BLURB: Ruth lives in the heart of the city. Working, drinking, falling in love: the rhythm of her vivid and complicated life there is set against a background hum of darkening news reports from which she deliberately turns away.
As a new relationship becomes increasingly claustrophobic, and the discussions of impending political crisis are harder to avoid, she starts to dream of water; of escaping entwining tentacles through deep blue seas. She sets out to the other side of the globe to find that vision of freedom, and to decide who she wants to be when she returns. But when she arrives at her destination, she finds instead that the world, and life, she left behind no longer exists.
REVIEW: I won’t deny that there’s a devastating event that occurs right at the heart of this book. It’s tied up with the whale in an unusual way and sets the tone for what happens to Ruth during the rest of her life. If it had been written differently, it could have been unbearable to read. But Sawyer’s beautiful, poetic prose does exactly what literary writing should do – it supports the story by deepening the emotional impact and giving us an immersive, sensory experience. This isn’t instead of a cracking plot and well depicted, believable characters, which happens all too often when the writing is at such a wonderful standard – it’s in addition to those other vital ingredients.
The result is a stunning book that hooked me in and had me reading till my eyes ached. There were times when I cried and times when I held my breath – until I finally surfaced, feeling lightheaded and slightly euphoric. Though with that familiar sense of loss that there was no more time to spend in this story. I don’t want to say too much about the plot, as while the blurb gives a sense of what happens – there is so much more that the reader should discover on Sawyer’s terms. Her crafting of this plot worked perfectly for me – and I loved how I increasingly came to be more and more in Ruth’s corner as the story wore on. And if you pick this one up and find that in the beginning, you don’t like her all that much – do persevere for a bit longer. I promise that she will grow on you…
This is a remarkable book by an author who knows exactly what she is doing. It’s an ambitious book – to define the life of a character through such a major event and I don’t know many that could pull it off. Sawyer does more than that – she has created a highly memorable read that will stay with me for a very long time. And although we are only just over halfway through the year, I do know The Stranding has already made my list of Outstanding Reads of 2021. Very highly recommended. While I obtained an arc of The Stranding from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 10/10
That cover first attracted me – and then the blurb. Any parent will recognise that opening line as the battlecry their offspring invariably use when they want the latest gismo – and the truth of it snagged my attention. And the fact that Tammy of Books, Bones and Buffy was highlighting it also made me look twice – she has a great knack for sniffing out the special ones…
BLURB:Everybody’s getting one. Val and Julie just want what’s best for their kids, David and Sophie. So when teenage son David comes home one day asking for a Pilot, a new brain implant to help with school, they reluctantly agree. This is the future, after all. Soon, Julie feels mounting pressure at work to get a Pilot to keep pace with her colleagues, leaving Val and Sophie part of the shrinking minority of people without the device.
Before long, the implications are clear, for the family and society: get a Pilot or get left behind. With government subsidies and no downside, why would anyone refuse? And how do you stop a technology once it’s everywhere? Those are the questions Sophie and her anti-Pilot movement rise up to answer, even if it puts them up against the Pilot’s powerful manufacturer and pits Sophie against the people she loves most.
REVIEW: Initially, I started this one waiting for the family dynamic to twist into something darker… For there to be a hidden, nasty past that would catch up with Val or Julie; for there to be something dire about the children’s origins; for an alien something to come crawling out of the woodwork and capitalise on the Pilot. And I’m delighted to say that nothing like that happened. This book is more intelligently plotted than that.
Instead, it is a real look at a likely scenario that could unfold within our present near-future if an app is invented to increase the brain’s ability to multi-task and focus – and it’s ongoing impact on a specific family over a number of years… And if that sounds a bit dull, or workaday, it isn’t. While this isn’t the book to go to if you want full-on action with lots of explosive battles, the dilemmas created by using the Pilot had me turning the pages waaay into the night to discover how it pans out. And what happens to those who can’t or won’t use the Pilot, once it has been successfully rolled out to most of the population…
I loved both Val and Julie, who are thoughtful, caring parents who want the best for their children and agonise about David’s desperate desire to be able to keep up with his richer classmates. Julie, who works for a high-profile politician, also comes under pressure to acquire a Pilot to keep on top of her boss’s schedule. And then, there’s Val who hates the very idea of having anything so intrusive anywhere near her brain, especially as their daughter, Sophie, will never be able to have one fitted because of her epileptic seizures. We follow their fortunes as the consequences of their difference decisions unspool over a number of years.
The depth of the characterisation, the quality of the narrative arc and the final fallout worked really well for me. In particular, I found David’s plight really poignant – and I would just add a trigger warning for drug abuse and PTSD. I’m aware that I might have made this sound rather drearily worthy. It’s nothing of the sort – there are shafts of humour within the family snark, the prose is punchy and the tight pacing keeps the story rolling forward at a brisk lick. I haven’t encountered this author before – but this certainly won’t be the last time I’ll be reading her work. Highly recommended for both sci fi fans and those who enjoy reading family-centred stories with an unusual dynamic. While I obtained an arc of We Are Satellites from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 10/10
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
If you are celebrating, Happy Easter!
I’ve been away for a while, because Himself and I went down with Covid just after my last Sunday Post and we were both very poorly. Himself narrowly escaped being admitted to hospital due to his breathlessness and I was coping with aching joints and slept more or less round the clock. Thank goodness we are now on the road to recovery, though I’m still struggling with my energy levels and Himself has been left with a nasty cough.
We are part of a study whereby we take a Covid test every month. On Thursday, the monthly event rolled around again – and this time, they also asked us for a blood sample. They want around 5 ml and the catch is that we have to administer the procedure ourselves. It was a hoot stabbing my finger and squeezing the blood out, then encouraging it to drop into the little phial. By the time we got the hang of it, the first little cut had clotted and both of us had to start again with another finger! By the time we’d finished the whole procedure, we were giggling hysterically. Hopefully by next month, we’ll get the hang of it with only one stabbed finger…
I have no photos this week, as sadly, I haven’t yet made it outdoors since I was ill. Maybe next week…
Last week I read: To Fire Called – Book 8 of the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series by Nathan Lowell
Captain Ishmael Wang finally gets the Chernyakova out of the yard and embarks on a voyage into the Toe-Holds where the Confederated Planets Joint Committee on Trade has no authority. Where the law is whatever you say it is as long as you can enforce it. Where he learns that some will do anything to hide their secrets and everybody has a secret. This is a space opera series that I tore into while we were ill, which is highly readable and provided escapism without too much darkness or gore. As you see, I found it difficult to leave it alone… Mini-review to follow.
The Invitation by A.M. Castle Thirteen guests. One killer. No escape. On an island on the coast of Cornwall, cut off from the mainland by the tides for most of the day, thirteen old friends meet at Tregowan Castle for a weekend of revelry. By the next evening only twelve are still alive.
Amongst them is a killer – but who? As a storm traps them on the island and past betrayals and grievances are revealed, nerves fray and friendships begin to fracture.
But with no escape and no way of calling for help it’s only a matter of time before the killer strikes again. And when everyone is keeping secrets, anybody could be the next victim… I thoroughly enjoyed this locked room murder mystery set on a fictionalised version of St Michal’s Mount. There was plenty of dramatic tension and the denouement was well done – I’ll be reading other books by this accomplished author.
AUDIOBOOK The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves A female cop with her first big case A brutal murder Welcome to… The Thursday Murder Club
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.
When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late? While this one took a while to get going, I ended up really enjoying this murder mystery featuring four elderly protagonists. Kudos to Osman for not patronising them in any way, providing plenty of food for thought and some poignant moments, along with the crimes and a mostly thoroughly likeable cast of characters. Review to follow.
The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne – Book 1 of The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne series by Jonathan Stroud Set in a fragmented future England, The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne introduces us to a world where gunfights and monsters collide, and where the formidable outlaw Scarlett McCain fights daily against the odds. When she discovers a wrecked coach on a lonely road, there is only one survivor – the seemingly hapless youth, Albert Browne. Against her instincts, Scarlett agrees to escort him to safety.
This is a mistake. Soon, new and implacable enemies are on her heels. As a relentless pursuit continues across the broken landscape of England, Scarlett must fight to uncover the secrets of Albert’s past – and come to terms with the implications of her own. This YA offering set in post-apocalyptic England is a rip-roaring adventure full of drama, with some shafts of humour and lots of tension. I inhaled this one, loved it and am now very much looking forward to the next one. Review to follow.
By Darkness Forged – Book 9 of the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series by Nathan Lowell Profits. Coffee. Extortion. All in a day’s work.
When Ishmael takes the Chernyakova back into Toe-Hold space, he finds a lot more than profit. A quick pass through the Telluride system reveals the answer to one question but leaves him docked without a cargo until the owner of Dark Knight Station makes him an offer he can’t refuse. I’m not sure – but this book has a real feel of the final book of the series. While Lowell doesn’t generally go in for foot-to-the-floor action, this time around there was plenty of tension and danger, which worked really well. Review to follow.
This is the third book in this wonderful post-apocalyptic series, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed to date – read my reviews of The Book of Koli and The Trials of Koli. Would I enjoy it as much as the other two?
BLURB: Koli has come a long way since being exiled from his small village of Mythen Rood. In his search for the fabled tech of the old times, he knew he’d be battling strange, terrible beasts and trees that move as fast as whips. But he has already encountered so much more than he bargained for.
Now that Koli and his companions have found the source of the signal they’ve been following – the mysterious “Sword of Albion” – there is hope that their perilous journey will finally be worth something. Until they unearth terrifying truths about an ancient war . . . and realise that it may have never ended.
REVIEW: Essentially this is a single story with an overarching narrative that stretches across the three books, so if you’ve picked this one up without reading the first two – then whatever you do go back to The Book of Koli and start there. Even if you manage to figure out what is going on, you will have missed far too much of the backstory to fully appreciate the overall narrative.
It was lovely touching base with Koli again – and in particular his special companion, Monono, who I’ve taken a real shine to. Yes… I know – a metal gismo that lives in Koli’s pocket, but she is one of my favourite characters. As for the other two companions who accompany Koli on his travels, this time around, we get to see very little of Ursula, the healer. I was a bit sorry about that – but I appreciate there was only so much space for the story. On the plus side, I thoroughly enjoyed watching events move on in Mythen Rood, the village where Koli grew up, which is the other narrative timeline featuring young Spinner that progresses alongside Koli’s adventures as he, Cup and Ursula finally encounter the Sword of Albion.
I loved the tension that Carey manages to engender as their initial rescue gradually turns into something else. And I’ve always been a sucker for plotlines where first we think one thing is happening – only to discover further along that it’s something else quite different. Carey sustains the intensity, while delivering several surprises along the way. I very much appreciated a greater insight into the capabilities of the tech that the fallen civilisation had possessed. As well as learning exactly how it toppled and why. Overall, this is extremely well handled. The antagonists were satisfyingly unpleasant and I also enjoyed the tormented, morally ambivalent character who’d been so badly twisted by his treatment – his was a heartbreaking tale, for he never stood a chance.
As for the final climactic denouement, it was so packed full of action and danger, I couldn’t put the book down until I found out what happened. And as for that ending… oh my word. Yes, it works really well with everyone’s plotline satisfactorily wrapped up. I came to the end of this one with a real sense of regret – the Rampart trilogy is now my favourite post-apocalyptic series. It would make a cracking TV series… Highly recommended for fans who enjoy engrossing post-apocalyptic adventures. While I obtained an arc of The Fall of Koli from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10