Category Archives: netgalley

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #CityofLastChancesbookreview

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I’m a huge fan of Tchaikovsky’s writing – there are few SFF authors whose prolific output encompasses such a varied range of topics and styles. See my reviews of Children of Time, The Tiger and the Wolf – Book 1 of the Echoes of the Fall series, Redemption’s Blade: After the War, The Expert System’s Brother, Ironclads, Dogs of War, The Doors of Eden, Firewalkers, Cage of Souls Guns of Dawn, Shards of Earth – Book 1 of the Architects of Earth series and Spiderlight to get a feel for the sheer variety of his writing. So this offering piqued my interest, along with the glorious cover.

BLURB: There has always been a darkness to Ilmar, but never more so than now. The city chafes under the heavy hand of the Palleseen occupation, the choke-hold of its criminal underworld, the boot of its factory owners, the weight of its wretched poor and the burden of its ancient curse.

What will be the spark that lights the conflagration? Despite the city’s refugees, wanderers, murderers, madmen, fanatics and thieves, the catalyst, as always, will be the Anchorwood – that dark grove of trees, that primeval remnant, that portal, when the moon is full, to strange and distant shores. Ilmar, some say, is the worst place in the world and the gateway to a thousand worse places.

Ilmar,
City of Long Shadows.
City of Bad Decisions.
City of Last Chances.

REVIEW: This story unfolds via multiple viewpoints, with italicised inserts in semi-omniscient point of view. So as the situation within the city steadily deteriorates, while we follow the fortunes of a handful of its citizens from various walks of life, there are also short sections covering a number of characters who only make fleeting appearances and then are gone, not to return. It takes significant technical skill to successfully pull off this type of structure without either losing the reader’s interest or sympathy. Fortunately, Tchaikovsky has that skill – to the extent that I was hooked throughout, even though this is far from my favourite narrative style.

What makes it work is that Ilmar is a fascinating society. In many ways, it’s all too familiar for those of us who studied the likes of Manchester and London during the Industrial Revolution, with the same wretched working conditions for far too many of the population. Then Tchaikovsky adds a twist that demons are also enslaved within factories by the kings of the Underworld, contracted to use their mighty strength and stamina to power the machines that are turning out uniforms for the invading soldiers. For Ilmar is also a city under occupation by a totalitarian regime that is obsessed with bringing Perfection to an imperfect world. And of course, the only way to do that is to conquer all those imperfect states and corral their culture, religion and way of life to the striving for Perfection, right down to altering their language.

In addition to the conquered aristocrats that in theory are running much of the city much of time, despite the occupation – there is also a powerful underclass of criminal gangs that are constantly fighting for supremacy. And one of the places where that battle particularly plays out is in the deserted areas of the city, where not even the occupying Palleseens venture called The Reproach. Ilmar was originally built far too close to a vast forest where vicious, enchanted beings live and the then ruling family made a dynastic pact with the denizens of this wood, which turned them dangerously peculiar. So they were slaughtered in favour of the Duke. But instead of doing the decent thing and fading decorously into the history books, the court of the ruling family is still… alive. And anyone wandering in the wrong part of the woods at the wrong time is apt to be subsumed into their court, to dance until they die, while inhabited by the consciousness of ancient, aristocratic family members.

This could so easily have been a rather charming, fey read. It isn’t. This world is peopled by folks eking out a living in a dangerous society, who have survived by putting themselves first. The powerplays amongst those running the city are all about personal advancement over the wellbeing of those they are responsible for – the Palleseens aren’t too fussy about killing Ilmar’s citizens, anyway. So don’t expect a cast of characters who are either wholly good or bad – everyone is doing the best they can to stay alive, except for a handful carried away by the old stories of glory, who want to see the end of the current occupation. I found it a riveting read, that – despite the grim situation and casual violence – isn’t remotely dreary. I suspect Tchaikovsky’s vivid descriptions, strong control of his narrative drive and flashes of dark humour has a lot to do with that.

As ever when completing one of Tchaikovsky’s books, I came away from this one thinking a lot about the themes of social injustice, the nature of good and evil and what it takes to live a decent life in difficult times. Highly recommended for those who enjoy their fantasy layered with social commentary amidst a vibrantly depicted society. While I obtained an audiobook arc of City of Last Chances from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK The Windweaver’s Storm – Book 2 of T.J. Young and the Orishas series by Antoine Bandele #BrainfluffNETGALLEYAUDIOBOOKreview #TheWindweaversStormbookreview

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It was the setting of this one that caught my eye. There are plenty of magical schools out there, which I love by the way, but set in Africa? Drawing on West African culture and origin myths? It was this difference that snagged my attention and made me particularly want to listen to this YA adventure.

BLURB: TJ Young spent last summer fighting to unlock the secrets behind his sister’s mysterious death but found himself battling the magic of the ancient Orishas instead. And some of the answers he sought came with a promise he may not be able to keep: to dismantle new human construction on the coastline of Lagos, Nigeria by the start of spring.

But how does a teenager do away with decades of infrastructure in only half a year? He’ll need to enlist the help of new allies, mortal and immortal alike. And thankfully, after surviving the grueling magical curriculum of Camp Olosa, he’s now headed to the most prestigious magic school in West Africa: Ifa Academy for Tomorrow’s Diviners.
But will that be enough as he prepares for what can only end in an all-out war between mortals and gods?

REVIEW: It didn’t take me long to realise that this was the second in the series – but at that stage, I wasn’t sure I would like this one enough to spend one of my precious book credits on listenng to the first book. While T.J. seemed an engaging and sympathetic protagonist, initially the leisurely pace took some getting used to.

That said, the production values on this audiobook are very high – I enjoyed the sound effects at the start of each chapter, as the birdsong, in particular, served as a handy reminder that we’re in Nigeria. And Nekia Renee Martin does a wonderful job narrating this tale. Once I got used to the depth of description, I was able to relax into the story as T.J. struggles to settle into this prestigious magical school. I liked the fact that he battled in most of the lessons and didn’t find much of the magic easy to control, given his evident talent in quirky yet powerful ways. It would have been all too easy to turn him into a Gary Stu and I’m very glad that Bandele didn’t.

The tension continues to crank up throughout the story – the ongoing reminders on T.J.’s phone worked nicely to highlight the countdown to the cataclysmic event. Of course, if you build up such a catastrophe, when the hammer falls it needs to be spectacular. And Bandele’s writing didn’t disappoint. Indeed, I was shaken by the sheer extent of the devastation and some of the deaths – Bandele isn’t afraid to off some of his cast of characters that have played a significant role in the story. In fact, I stayed up later than I should to hear what happened next.

Any niggles? Well, I could have done without the love triangle. I understand that teenage romances are often messy due to the strong emotions and inexperience of those caught up in such feelings – but frankly, I wanted to shake T.J. until his teeth rattled at the upset and hurt he was causing. And he got off far too lightly, in my opinion. So I have taken off a point for that. But otherwise, it’s a cracking YA adventure with a lushly portrayed setting that is both unusual and effective. So, yes – I shall be spending one of my precious credits to read the first book in this engaging fantasy, The Gatekeeper’s Staff, as I want to spend more time with T.J. and those Orishas. While I obtained an audiobook arc of The Windweaver’s Storm from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Waste of a Life – Book 3 of the Decluttering Mysteries by Simon Brett #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #WasteofaLifebookreview

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I always enjoy Brett’s twisty plotting and sardonic view on contemporary life in England – see my reviews of Death on the Downs, The Liar in the Library, The Killer in the Choir and Guilt at the Garage. I also have enjoyed Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations. But I’ve a particularly soft spot for his current heroine, Ellen Curtis in the Decluttering Mysteries, see my reviews of The Clutter Corpse and An Untidy Death. So I was delighted to discover that another book in this entertaining series is hitting the shelves.

BLURB: Declutterer Ellen Curtis has been working to bring order into the life of Cedric Waites, a recluse in his eighties who hasn’t left his house or let anyone inside it since his wife died. On one of her regular visits, Ellen finds the old man dead.

Sad but, given his age, perhaps not unexpected. Nothing to get worked up about . . . until the police raise the suspicion that Cedric might have been poisoned! The cause seems be something he ate, and as Ellen cleared away the old man’s food containers, she is under suspicion. As is Dodge, who works for Ellen and has unhelpfully done a runner . . .

Meanwhile, a rival declutterer is out to sabotage Ellen’s reputable business, her two grown-up children are back home and in crisis, and she has a potential love interest. Ellen’s life has taken on a chaotic turn of its own! Can she uncover the killer and bring order back to her own life?

REVIEW: Before I go further, I need to mention a trigger warning – in Ellen’s past there is a suicide. While this book doesn’t go into huge detail about the event, ten years later it still reverberates through Ellen’s life in a poignant and realistic manner.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the previous two books, don’t be deterred from enjoying this one. Like many murder mystery series, while there is a narrative arc for the main protagonist, each whodunit is resolved within the book so you won’t be left to flounder. And an author of Brett’s skill and experience doesn’t do such things to his readers, anyway. I have huge affection for Ellen. She is at an age where she is of the middle generation squeeze – still looking after grown-up children, neither of whom are particularly thriving, as well as confronted with an ageing and increasingly frail mother. It doesn’t help that she isn’t on particularly good terms with her mother or her daughter.

I like Brett’s unsentimental approach to family life. There is often a rather unrealistic gloss around the key relationship between mothers and daughters in genre fiction, unless it is the darker psychological sort, or gritty murder mysteries. But while there is definitely a bedrock of love and concern in the relationship between Ellen and her children, she is also extremely careful to step around their adult sensibilities. The result is often poignant and humorous. In amongst all this family angst, Ellen is having to continue her daily routine – also refreshingly realistic.

The murder mystery in this story is a slow burn that gradually gains momentum. I won’t claim that the murderer is a huge surprise. But I wasn’t sure they would be satisfactorily uncovered so the police could step in – and I’m not telling you if that happens, as then we’d be lurching into Spoiler territory. Once more, I was pulled into this story to the extent that I didn’t put it down until I’d reached the end, so I read it in two greedy gulps. Highly recommended for fans of the gentler sort of murder mystery that nonetheless has an edged look at modern life. While I obtained an arc of Waste of a Life from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TreadofAngelsbookreview

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I enjoy Rebecca Roanhorse’s writing, see my reviews of Trail of Lightning and Black Sun. So when I had the opportunity to get hold of the arc of this intriguing novella, I jumped at the chance.

BLURB: High in the remote mountains, the town of Goetia is booming as prospectors from near and far come to mine the powerful new element Divinity. Divinity is the remains of the body of the rebel Abaddon, who fell to earth during Heaven’s War, and it powers the world’s most inventive and innovative technologies, ushering in a new age of progress. However, only the descendants of those that rebelled, called Fallen, possess the ability to see the rich lodes of the precious element. That makes them a necessary evil among the good and righteous people called the Elect, and Goetia a town segregated by ancestry and class.

Celeste and Mariel are two Fallen sisters, bound by blood but raised in separate worlds. Celeste grew up with her father, passing in privileged Elect society, while Mariel stayed with their mother in the Fallen slums of Goetia. Upon her father’s death, Celeste returns to Goetia and reunites with Mariel. Mariel is a great beauty with an angelic voice, and Celeste, wracked by guilt for leaving her sister behind, becomes her fiercest protector…

REVIEW: I have cut short the rather chatty blurb and recommend that you give it a miss if you don’t want your reading experience Spoilt. Given this isn’t a long read, you really don’t want to go into it knowing more than the bare essentials.

I quickly bonded with Celeste, who hasn’t had an easy time of it. Her overwhelming need to keep her sister safe within a rapacious society where the Fallen are automatically at the bottom of the heap shines through. I found her protectiveness endearing, especially when I realised the price she’d already paid to keep looking after Mariel. This drive certainly informs her actions throughout the rest of the book, when a grisly murder occurs and Mariel is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I hadn’t initially appreciated that this was a novella, or I had and then completely forgot about it by the time I got around to reading it, which is probably more likely. But it’s a tricky length to write well and only a relatively few authors manage to pull it off entirely successfully, in my experience.

I was impressed at how much of the world and scene setting unfolds within the narrative, as Celeste desperately scrambles to exonerate her sister. It’s a fascinating world, where the Fallen are immediately identified by their eye colour and because their ancestors happened to be on the wrong side of a heavenly war – they are automatically a downtrodden underclass. However, it’s the Fallen who can identify the valuable remains of Abaddon, whose body fell to Earth during the war. While the Elect reap the financial rewards, it’s the Fallen who have to mine the precious element that powers their Divine inventions. This tension is played out within Celeste’s family, as her Elect father took her away from the rough mining town that is Goetia to mix with respectable Elect society while Mariel and their Fallen mother had to stay behind. Once their father died, Celeste immediately returned to look after her sister feeling guilty and ashamed at having abandoned her and promising never to do so again.

I was swept along by Celeste’s increasing desperation – and a bit floored by the ending. While it certainly works and has had me thinking a lot about the outcome, I’m also left with wanting more. The world is interesting and I found Celeste and Mariel’s adventure riveting, but ultimately also a tad frustrating, as I felt the story ended a bit abruptly. I want to know how both Celeste and Mariel cope with the sudden change in their circumstances. I very much hope that Roanhorse will revisit this world in the future – more please! While I obtained an arc of Tread of Angels from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of NETGALLEY arc The Ivory Tomb –Book 3 of the Rooks and Ruin series by Melissa Caruso BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheIvoryTombbookreview

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I’m a huge fan of Caruso’s writing – see my reviews of her Sword and Fire series – The Tethered Mage, The Defiant Heir and The Unbound Empire. And the misery of lockdown and Long Covid were eased more than a tad by the first two books in this Rooks and Ruin series – see my reviews of The Obsidian Tower and The Quicksilver Court.

BLURB: The Dark Days have returned. The Demon of Carnage mercilessly cuts through villagers and armies. The Demon of Corruption poisons/rots the land. The Serene Empire and the Witch Lords race towards war. And in the middle of it all stands Rxyander, the Warden of Gloamingard.

Burdened by conflicting loyalties and guilt, Ryx searches desperately for a way to defeat the demons before the world she loves is completely destroyed. To find answers, she’ll have to return to where it all started…the black tower at the heart of Gloamingard.

By blood the Door was opened and only by blood will the Dark Days end.

REVIEW: Firstly, whatever you do – don’t plunge into this slice of the adventure without reading the previous two books in the series. Caruso’s writing creaks with tension, plot twists and dangerous, unpredictable characters so that you won’t be in a position to appreciate the full awesomeness of the worldbuilding and some telling developments if you don’t have a full picture of what came before. And no… the helpful summary at the beginning of the book is designed to bump-start your memory, not act as replacement for reading the previous books.

One of the reasons why I’m so passionate about the above point is the glorious manner in which Ryx develops throughout the series. She goes from being shunned and desperately lonely without knowing why she has been so cursed at the start of the first book, to coming to terms with who she is and what she’s done by the end of the final book. There is a major reveal that explains a lot about her character and the formidable talent she has for causing mayhem during the second book, which also impacts on the action during The Ivory Tomb in a major way.

In epic fantasy, there nearly always is an overarching threat to the world. Most of the time, the fullest extent of said threat doesn’t come to pass. However this time around, the hammer has fallen and the world is reeling from devastating attacks on several fronts. This keeps the action and tension full on, as Ryx and the Rooks race from one crisis to another in an attempt to save as many lives as possible. Sometimes, such ongoing full-scale devastation comes at the expense of characterisation and description – not so in The Ivory Tomb. Caruso’s skill is evident as she manages to keep all those vital plates spinning, while keeping the pacing dialled up and the action thick and fast. I stayed up far later than intended to discover what happens and whether the denouement and ending matches the eventful, risk-ridden journey. It does.

It’s always something of a wrench when a much-loved series comes to an end, but Caruso brings the Ruin and Rook series back home in triumphant style, with real poignancy and emotion. This wonderful finale is one of my outstanding reads of 2022 and very highly recommended. While I obtained an arc of The Ivory Tomb from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Children of Memory – Book 3 of the Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #ChildrenofMemorybookreview

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I was blown away by Children of Time see my review, which I think is one of the best terraforming adventures I’ve ever read. So I was especially keen to read Children of Ruin, which I didn’t think was so successful, though that was partly because it was extremely ambitious – see my review. It goes without saying that Children of Memory is one of my must-reads of the year – for starters, I was intrigued to see where Tchaikovsky was going with this story and how many of his highly unusual cast in this series would appear.

BLURB: Earth is failing. In a desperate bid to escape, the spaceship Enkidu and its captain, Heorest Holt, carry its precious human cargo to a potential new Eden. Generations later, this fragile colony has managed to survive, eking out a hardy existence. Yet life is tough, and much technological knowledge has been lost.

Then Liff, Holt’s granddaughter, hears whispers that the strangers in town aren’t from neighbouring farmland. That they possess unparalleled technology – and that they’ve arrived from another world. But not all questions are so easily answered, and their price may be the colony itself.

REVIEW: I loved the early section of the book which quickly drew me in. Liff is a delightful and sympathetic character, who is just at the age when questioning the status quo is what she should be doing. Unfortunately, this isn’t a society where any form of dissent is welcomed, particularly where her uncle is concerned. Sometimes, this merely causes a bit of family tension, other times her questions are met with blows and punishment. Time is highly mutable in this tale and we revisit key events with very different outcomes.

I enjoyed once more meeting Kern, Portia, Paul and Miranda in their current iterations as they grapple with the puzzle that lies at the heart of the colony. But about of the third of the way through, the pace stuttered. Obviously in a book dealing with time loops, there is a degree of repetition. But I did feel that there were just too many dialogues between the ravens that essentially ended up with them being stumped. And while their back and forth was initially amusing, by the final section I frankly hoped that someone in the colony would shoot the wretched birds and save me from yet another conversation between them.

Fortunately, Liff’s predicament and Miranda’s quirky character kept me turning the pages, along with the examination of memory, guilt and the role of outsiders within a closed society, all of which were nested within the story. The pace once more picked up again in the final section as Tchaikovsky drew all the elements together. I thoroughly enjoyed the ending, which left me moved. I don’t recommend you tuck into this one if you haven’t read at least one of the previous books in the series. Besides, Children of Time is definitely a treat if you haven’t yet had the pleasure. And while in my opinion, neither of the subsequent books in the series quite reach the same heights, both are interesting and thought-provoking reads. While I obtained an arc of Children of Memory from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Terraforming Mars: Edge of Catastrophe – Book 2 of the Terraforming Mars series by Jane Killick #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #EdgeofCatastrophebookreview

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I read and reviewed the first book in the series, In the Shadow of Deimos, and thoroughly enjoyed it – see my review. So when I saw this offering on Netgalley, I was delighted to be given an opportunity to scoop up the arc.

BLURB: Return to the Red Planet as the saga of Terraforming Mars continues, in a sweeping science fiction thriller of planetary progress, set in the universe of the award-winning boardgame

In the 26th century, Mars is thriving: the huge crater made by the crashed moon of Deimos is now a vast domed city, buzzing with industry and a burgeoning Martian-born and immigrant workforce. Ecoline scientist Mel Erdan is at the forefront of vital research to feed and maintain Mars’ increasing population. But when her viral enhancer transforms lush green plants into a blackened swathe of dead crops, it triggers a wave of violent unrest across Deimos City, and Mel is accused of deliberately sabotaging Mars’ fragile viability. With resources rapidly dwindling, conspiracy theories flying, and criminal gangs rioting, Mel must prove her innocence, uncover the truth, and revitalise Mars’ harvest before it’s too late – for everyone.

REVIEW: As mentioned in the blurb, this book series is based on the popular boardgame Terraforming Mars – a fact that I hadn’t realised until I came to review the first book. And if I hadn’t told you, you wouldn’t know on reading the book, so please don’t give it a thought, unless you’re a particular fan of the game and want to spend more time in the world.

As you might think from a spin-off, the world is well established with a strong backstory and believable history, with a nicely detailed social and political landscape that collide as tensions grow and food supplies dwindle. I really like Mel, whose dedication and sense of duty drives her to try and put right the horrible error that creates the virus. However, this time around there is a sub-plot around a group of young workers who are deeply unhappy with the status quo and want Mars to have more freedom from Earth. In the earlier stages of the story, I found it difficult to fully sympathise with their actions – although I’m well aware that the stunts they pull are all too realistic.

I guessed who the main villain was behind the troubles well before the denouement, although that didn’t particularly impede my enjoyment as by that stage the story is rocketing along at a fair lick. While this story doesn’t have quite the tension and finesse of the previous book, it still provides plenty of excitement and page-turning action that had me sorry when it all came to an end. While I obtained an arc of Edge of Catastrophe from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK Murder Most Royal – Book 3 of Her Majesty the Queen Investigates series by S.J. Bennett #BrainfluffNETGALLEYAUDIOBOOKreview #MurderMostRoyalbookreview

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I was in the mood for something a bit different, when this offering caught my eye. I was initially a bit hesitant – until I saw that Samantha Bond was narrating this one which gave me confidence to go for it. I particularly didn’t want to plough through some second-rate parody of Her Majesty, especially in the wake of her sudden death.

BLURB: December 2016 – A severed hand is found washed up on a beach next to the Queen’s estate at Sandringham. Elizabeth has become quite accustomed to solving even the most complex of murders. And though she quickly identifies the 70-year-old victim, Edward St Cyr, from his signet ring, the search for his killer is not so straightforward. St Cyr led an unconventional, often controversial life, making many enemies along the way in the quiet, rural world of North Norfolk, where everyone knows each other’s business.

But when a second man is found dead, and a prominent local woman is nearly killed in a hit-and-run, the mystery takes an even darker turn. With the Christmas break coming to an end, the Queen and her trusted assistant Rozie must race to discover how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Or the next victim may be found even closer to home.

REVIEW: I’m so glad that I went for this one. It’s a joy. Although it’s the third book in the series, I was blissfully unaware of the previous two books until I came to write up this review so don’t worry if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the other books – neither have I. Yet.

Set in 2016, the Queen is a battling a head cold as she and Prince Philip travel to Sandringham for the usual Christmas festivities. I loved the little additions, like the Queen’s chat with the PM. In fact, Bennett’s writing is enormously clever – she manages to avoid pinning the Queen down to any strong political opinion, which is entirely realistic. But neither does Her Majesty come across as too wishy-washy either. The only moment when I wasn’t completely happy with the depiction of the Queen is when she chooses to go wandering across the field, when the sensible option would be to stay in the Range Rover. But that is a minor niggle set against the rest of the book. In addition to the Queen, I loved Prince Philip’s character and the staff. I thought the relationship between the Queen and the royal household was very well done, particularly Rozie Oshodi, her Assistant Private Secretary.

As for the murder mystery, it’s a slow burn affair that throws out all sorts of puzzling details which at once stage had me wondering how the murder mystery was going to be wrapped up. I needn’t have worried. Bennett is clearly an experienced and able writer, who delivers a thoroughly enjoyable denouement. There were times when I listened to this with a lump in my throat for the loss of the amazing lady who ruled over us for a whole generation. Highly recommended for fans of quirky murder mysteries that is also well researched with a wealth of historical detail. I’m looking forward to tracking down the previous two books. While I obtained an audiobook arc of Murder Most Royal from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc And Justice for Mall – Book 4 of the Jersey Girl Legal Mystery series by E.J. Copperman #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #AndJusticeforMallbookreview

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the previous books I’ve read in this entertaining cosy mystery series – see my reviews of Inherit the Shoes and Witness for the Persecution – so when I spotted this one on the Netgalley dashboard, I immediately requested it.

BLURB: When Riley Schoenberg strides into family lawyer Sandy Moss’s office without knocking and coolly sits down, Sandy’s more irritated than amused. She has a client meeting to prepare for, and being interrupted by an eleven-year-old girl is not on her to-do list.
But then Sandy hears Riley’s pitch, and it’s a killer one: Riley’s father’s been convicted of murdering her mother . . . and the oddly intimidating pre-teen will do anything to get him out of jail.

Sandy, in turn, will do anything to get Riley out of her office. Which includes agreeing to look into her dad’s case for free. A decision she regrets when it turns out Riley’s inheritance has made her a multi-millionaire. Still, Sandy’s determined to get Riley the answers she needs. There’s just one tiny problem: Riley might be convinced her father’s innocent, but Jack Schoenberg is insisting he did it.

REVIEW: Yet another legal tangle for our feisty heroine, Sandy Moss, to solve. It could so easily be full of fraught, angsty emotions – after all there isn’t anything at all funny about a pre-teen with a murdered mother desperate to get her convicted father out of prison. But somehow, Copperman’s protagonist manages to make almost all the situations she gets herself in genuinely funny – without diminishing the upset surrounding said situations.

Young Riley certainly tugs at our heartstrings – though not because she breaks down and weeps. She’s had a hard time of it since her mother’s death and doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve. I found her tough front particularly poignant, given that children of her age shouldn’t have to be so streetwise and wary of their emotions. So when she does crack, it’s a big deal and I thought Copperman dealt with her character really well, having spent time with children of her age who have also suffered a similar lack of love.

As for Sandy, she is also house-hunting with the love of her life, gorgeous actor Patrick McNabb. It rapidly gets very complicated, as Sandy is frankly overwhelmed with the outlandish luxury that Patrick is accustomed to, yet she also is mindful that he’s got a lot of stuff that needs room. So they need to find somewhere large enough for their needs, but not too large and overblown – and she’s also aware that if she finds something that she wants, Patrick will immediately agree to it whether he likes it or not. I found this sub-plot endearing and a bit of light relief when events take a sudden, darker turn. Perhaps it’s Copperman’s gift of making sure there are lighter moments while the rest of Sandy’s investigations are getting dangerous that keeps the humour coming, without it appearing crass or insensitive.

I thought the denouement worked well and that the main murder mystery was successfully tied up. There’s a possible cloud on the horizon regarding Sandy’s happiness that I may have spotted… I’m hoping I’m wrong. But I can’t wait to dive into the next book, anyway, because there’s bound to be tension and adventure, alongside Sandy’s lovely dry humour. Recommended for fans of legal murder mysteries with a splash of ironic humour. While I obtained an arc of And Justice for Mall from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Review of NETGALLEY arc The Immortality Thief by Taran Hunt – Book 1 of The Kystrom Chronicles #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheImmortalityThiefbookreview

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I’m always a sucker for a cracking good space opera thriller – and the cover and the blurb had me looking forward to this offering. Would it deliver?

BLURB: Refugee, criminal and linguist Sean Wren is made an offer he knows he can’t refuse: life in prison, “voluntary” military service – or salvaging data in a long-dead language from an abandoned ship filled with traps and monsters, just days before it’s destroyed in a supernova. Data connected to the Philosopher’s Stone experiments, into unlocking the secrets of immortality.

And he’s not the only one looking for the derelict ship. The Ministers, mysterious undying aliens that have ruled over humanity for centuries, want the data – as does The Republic, humanity’s last free government. And time is running out. In the bowels of the derelict ship, surrounded by horrors and dead men, Sean slowly uncovers the truth of what happened on the ship, in its final days… and the terrible secret it’s hiding.

REVIEW: I’ll be honest – when I finally got around to reading this one, I wasn’t really in the mood for a creepy deserted space ship, which I’ll own is my problem rather than anything wrong with the writing. So it’s a testament to the author’s skill that by the time I was a quarter of the way into this one, I was thoroughly hooked.

The reason why I found myself so wrapped up in this adventure is that I became thoroughly invested in Sean. The main protagonist is masterfully handled by Hunt. In the early stages of the book, I found him hard work. His ‘cheeky chappie’ façade started to wear thin very quickly – and by their reactions, I realised the other crew of Viper felt much the same way. But as the book wore on, I began to appreciate that Sean’s wisecracking, irreverent attitude hides a deep belief in the sanctity of life. And a strong sense that the dumb stroke of luck that allowed him to survive the massacre of his family, friends and neighbours has left him with a need to pass it on whenever he finds someone wanting help. Hunt does a really good job in conveying this belief without portraying Sean as some futuristic Pollyanna.

I also got thoroughly caught up in learning more about the two other characters Sean finds himself sharing his terrifying adventures with – initially, they both seem utterly horrible and extremely dangerous. In fact, they remain extremely dangerous throughout, which provides some interesting plot twists along the way. I’m aware that I’ve only really discussed the characters – but this is principally an action adventure novel, brimful of action set on a derelict space ship on the brink of catastrophic disaster. And it provides plenty of tension and nasty surprises along the way, which makes for an engrossing page-turner I found hard to put down.

A completely unexpected twist right at the end has me keen to read the next book in this series and it comes very highly recommended for fans of tension-filled space opera adventure with memorable, excellently portrayed characters. While I obtained an audiobook arc of The Immortality Thief from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10