Category Archives: netgalley

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NEGALLEY arc I, Julian by Claire Gilbert #BrainfluffNEGALLEYbookreview #IJulianbookreview


My eye was caught by this stunningly beautiful cover – and when I realised this was a fictional autobiography of Julian of Norwich, then it was a no-brainer I’d request it. When on my writing retreats to Bexhill with my sister-in-law, while I was writing SFF novels, she was working on her thesis for her doctorate. And one of the primary source materials she was using were the writings of Julian of Norwich. I was absolutely blown away by the beauty and tenderness of the writing. Julian’s utter faith in the goodness of God shone through – and she also had interesting things to say about despair, too.

BLURB: So I will write in English, pressing new words from this beautiful plain language spoken by all. Not courtly French to introduce God politely. Not church Latin to construct arguments. English to show it as it is. Even though it is not safe to do so.

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.’

REVIEW: I love this book. Gilbert powerfully depicts a fictionalised account of Julian’s life, from a highly sensitive small child, watching her father die of the bubonic plague, through all the major events in her life, ending up with her living bricked up as an anchoress for the final twenty years. I thought Gilbert handled the language so it gave the impression of a medieval woman, even though it’s written in modern English very well – and it’s a tricky thing to do.

I was reminded of the old Chinese curse – May you live in interesting times – when reading this book. Poor Julian not only endured the death of her father from bubonic plague as a young child, which completely changed the family’s dynamic, but also had to cope with the loss of her own young daughter and husband in another devastating wave of the same terrible illness. I read of her struggles to come to terms with these heart-wrenching bereavements, conscious that I was viewing this quite differently in a post-Covid world.

Huge numbers had died of the plague and there weren’t enough workers to get harvests in – or, indeed, enough people farming the land. The Church claimed the plague was God’s punishment for the sinful ways of the populace – a terrible burden of guilt to carry if you were a young woman not entirely happy in her marriage, who also found motherhood difficult. Julian was all but crushed by it. She then fell dangerously ill – and during that illness she experienced powerful visions of God’s love that a long-time friend, a priest, wrote down as she dictated. Eventually, she got her wish to spend time alone and communing with God, though I was interested to read of her careful preparation before becoming an anchoress, as the abbess supporting her was keen for the project not to fail.

Gilbert writes movingly of her panic attacks at being cooped up and of her ongoing battle with crippling constipation during the winter – her illness seems to have left her rather frail. She was overwhelmed when her loyal servant, Alice, also decided to become a hermit. In time, Julian manages to come to terms with her life and gets a reputation for wisdom and divinity when people seek her out for advice. Her message of God’s unwavering love for all must have provided huge comfort for others also traumatised by bereavement and loss. But she also had to contend with growing suspicion from the Church and members of the clergy.

I came away from reading this book awed at the courage and resilience of this medieval woman from a middle-income family. It’s amazing the depth of her perception and the poetry of her writing, given she didn’t receive any formal education and her contribution deserves to live on. Highly recommended for those interested in the nature of faith, the history of the Church and an uplifting testament to the resilience of the human spirit. While I obtained an arc of I, Julian from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Ukulele of Death – Book 1 of the Fran and Ken Stein Mystery series by E.J. Copperman #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #UkuleleofDeathbookreview


I enjoy Copperman’s writing – see my reviews of And Justice of Mall, Inherit the Shoes and Witness for the Persecution. So I was keen to tuck into this one, looking forward to the same blend of action and humour I’ve come to expect.

BLURB: After losing their parents when they were just babies, private investigators Fran and Ken Stein now specialize in helping adoptees find their birth parents. So when a client asks them for help finding her father, with her only clue a rare ukulele, the case is a little weird, sure, but it’s nothing they can’t handle.

But soon Fran and her brother are plunged into a world where nothing makes sense – and not just the fact that a very short (but very cute) NYPD detective keeps trying to take eternal singleton Fran out on dates.

All Fran wants to do is find the ukulele and collect their fee, but it’s hard to keep your focus when you’re stumbling over corpses and receiving messages that suggest your (dead) parents are very much alive. Ukuleles aside, it’s becoming clear that someone knows something they shouldn’t – that Fran and Ken Stein weren’t so much born, as built . . .

REVIEW: I hadn’t read the blurb on this one, so didn’t appreciate that it was a new series until I opened it up. Not that I was initially all that concerned – after all, Copperman’s previous sure-footed writing style and deft handling of the humour alongside the action in the Sandy Moss series meant I was thoroughly looking forward to this one.

However, as the story wore on, I wasn’t bonding with the main protagonist, Fran. And that was something of a problem because the story is told in first-person viewpoint. While I really enjoyed Sandy’s asides and tendency to rush into things in the Jersey Girl Legal Series – Fran’s constant snark about her brother felt less like affectionate exasperation and more like an annoyed sister who wanted her brother out of her life. There was also a great deal of telling, rather than showing. The paranormal aspect of the story didn’t really convince me, either.

The murder mystery was initially well set up, but I felt the pace did drop somewhat two-thirds through the story, when random figures show up to attack the siblings. What should have nocked the pace and tension up several notches rather fell flat. I wasn’t sure about the romantic element, as I found Fran’s dithering about whether to go on a date or not with the long-suffering Mank annoying. She’s not a teenager and I wanted her to stop behaving like one. That said, Copperman’s experience and skill shows in the smooth prose, succession of likely suspects and the steady accretion of clues such that I wasn’t ever tempted to abandon this one. For starters, I was sufficiently hooked that I really wanted to know whodunit.

The final denouement did work well – and for the first time in the story I truly believed that Fran was in real danger. I will certainly get hold of the next book – it sometimes takes a couple of books for a series to hit its stride and I know Copperman is a talented, able author. While I obtained an arc of Ukulele of Death from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NEGALLEY arc Cursed Crowns – Book 2 of the Twin Crowns series by Catherine Doyle & Katherine Webber #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #CursedCrownsbookreview


I listened to the first book in this series, Twin Crowns, and quite enjoyed it. Though I did feel that Wren, in particular, took crazy risks to spend quality time with the man in her life, almost at the expense of everything else. Like the future of the kingdom and the fate of all witches within it, including her family. It didn’t make me all that fond of her. So I was hoping there was less romance and more story in this slice of the adventure.

BLURB: Twin queens Wren and Rose have claimed their crowns . . . but not everyone is happy about witches sitting on Eana’s throne. Cool-headed Rose sets off on a Royal Tour to win over the doubters, but soon finds herself drawn to the Sunless Kingdom. Here secrets are revealed about those closest to her, and Rose finds her loyalties divided.

Meanwhile rebellious Wren steals away to the icy north to rescue their beloved grandmother, Banba. But when she accepts King Alarik’s deadly magical bargain in exchange for Banba’s freedom, the spell has unexpected – and far-reaching – consequences . . . As an ancient curse begins to arise from the darkness, the sisters must come together and unite the crown. Their lives – and the future of Eana – depend on it.

Break the ice to free the curse,
Kill one twin to save another . . .

REVIEW: I enjoyed the premise and the overall ideas driving the narrative in Twin Crowns, as well as the contrast between careful, responsible Rose and reckless, adrenaline-junkie Wren. What niggled me was the emphasis on the romantic thread within the story, which I felt took too much precedence in an adventure-packed plot where far more interesting things are going on. Twin Crowns finishes on a major cliff-hanger, so I was glad to have this offering.

Cursed Crowns is far more about the precarious situation both queens now find themselves in. Although they have now successfully claimed the throne for themselves, they are far from out of trouble. The rabid fear of witches and their magic hasn’t disappeared and there are those determined to take advantage of the situation.

Meanwhile, Wren is determined to go after her beloved grandmother. Despite everyone, including fierce Banba, warning her not to do so. This time around, as the next tranche of perilous escapades unfold, there is far less about smouldering looks being exchanged, which I appreciated. Particularly as both authors are capable of throwing sudden twists into this story that takes the danger up a notch. I certainly hadn’t expected some of the developments that took place. In amongst all the danger, what sets this one apart are the regular dollops of humour. And some of it proves to be very dark. Or perhaps I’m just a very bad person, but I did find the outcome of Wren’s spell to try and save her grandmother’s life both poignant and hilariously funny…

Rose’s storyline proves to be every bit as gripping as she desperately attempts to gain help for her troops against the incipient rebellion, where the population’s fear of magic is being manipulated in a bid for power. We’d heard a great deal about the Sunless Kingdom in the first book, so I was very happy to see this plotline explored – as well as the seers’ stronghold, which was another hilarious interlude. The comic relief stops this from becoming yet another grim scrabble for power within a fantasy setting – and instead turns it into something more quirky and unpredictable.

While I hadn’t been completely convinced by the rave reviews for Twin Crowns, I’m joining the chorus of approval for this second slice of the adventure. But whatever you do, don’t skip the first book. This one tips the reader straight into the middle of the action, where Twin Crowns leaves off – and while both authors are too deft to leave you floundering for too long, I think it would dent your enjoyment, which would be a shame. Highly recommended for fans of fantasy adventures featuring interesting magic with two contrasting protagonists. My only niggle is the inclusion of a possible love triangle – but hopefully that will be ironed out in the next instalment, which I’ll definitely be getting. While I obtained an arc of Cursed Crowns from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Lords of Uncreation – Book 3 of The Final Architecture series by Adrian Tchaikovsky #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #LordsofUncreationbookreview


I’m a fan of Tchaikovsky’s writing, and his science fiction can take readers in all sorts of interesting places. See my reviews of Children of Time, The Expert System’s Brother, Ironclads, Dogs of War, The Doors of Eden, Firewalkers, Shards of Earth – Book 1 of the Architects of Earth series and Eyes of the Void – both final books in this list being the previous offerings in this series. So it was a no-brainer that I’d request this one and was delighted to have been granted a review copy.

BLURB: Idris Telemmier has uncovered a secret that changes everything – the Architects’ greatest weakness. A shadowy Cartel scrambles to turn his discovery into a weapon against these alien destroyers of worlds. But between them and victory stands self-interest. The galaxy’s great powers would rather pursue their own agendas than stand together against this shared terror.

Human and inhuman interests wrestle to control Idris’ discovery, as the galaxy erupts into a mutually destructive and self-defeating war. The other great obstacle to striking against their alien threat is Idris himself. He knows that the Architects, despite their power, are merely tools of a higher intelligence. Deep within unspace, where time moves differently, and reality isn’t quite what it seems, their masters are the true threat. Masters who are just becoming aware of humanity’s daring – and taking steps to exterminate this annoyance forever.

REVIEW: Let’s get one wrinkle immediately straightened out – this series initially was called Architects of Earth and at some stage between books one and two, became The Final Architecture. I didn’t mention it previously because I didn’t notice, but if you go back to read the first two books in the series, before picking up this one – and I highly recommend that you do – then I wanted to clear up any possible confusion.

While there is a convenient Story So Far at the start of this book, which I found very handy as a prompt, you’ll lose a great deal of story if you don’t take the time to go back to the first two books. This is a detailed world, full of cataclysmic events and ongoing consequences on a pan-galactic scale. As a result, there is quite a lot of telling throughout. It’s not my favourite mode of narration, as I far prefer being immersed in a story and learning what’s going on as the main characters deal with the situation. However, that simply wouldn’t have worked in this instance.

What had stuck with me from the previous two reads, is the disparate cast of characters. They are all by this point more than a bit broken by their ongoing ordeals. Each one is dealing with the fallout to the best of their ability. Solace, the gene-modified soldier, particularly snagged my sympathy as her world of command and obey suddenly became up-ended and she found herself having to question all that she’d previously utterly believed in. While this is an ongoing sci fi theme, Solace grappled with this without a lot of the usual hand-wringing and angst. And that’s what I loved about all these characters. Most are facing crazily dangerous situations, particularly poor old Idris, who I suppose is my favourite – but self pity isn’t on the agenda. Tchaikovsky is good at portraying grumpy, somewhat miserable and contrarian protagonists that we nonetheless end up really rooting for – and this time around is no exception.

I enjoyed the previous two books, but this one is definitely my favourite. And while there is plenty of action throughout, the pacing is manageable because Tchaikovsky takes the time to explain the wider implications throughout. Maybe readers with better memories than mine would have found it aggravating – I was just grateful, as the plethora of factions, politicking and characters, good, bad and grey would have otherwise overwhelmed me.

As for the ending – it was lump-in-the-throat moving and yet uplifting at the same time. Which isn’t easy to achieve. If you enjoy classic space opera adventure that spans worlds and a variety of interesting aliens – and a couple of truly horrible villains, then this series comes highly recommended. While I obtained an arc of Lord of Uncreation from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Cleaving by Juliet E. McKenna #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheCleavingbookreview


I’ve always enjoyed McKenna’s writing – see my reviews of Dangerous Waters – Book 1 of the Hadrumal Crisis, Darkening Skies – Book 2 of the Hadrumal Crisis, Irons in the Fire – Book 1 of the Lescari Revolution, Blood in the Water – Book 2 of the Lescari Revolution, Banners in the Wind – Book 3 of the Lescari Revolution. And then there’s her fabulous Green Man series – see my reviews of The Green Man’s Heir, The Green Man’s Foe, The Green Man’s Silence and The Green Man’s Challenge. But I reckon she’s absolutely knocked it out of the park with this one…

BLURB: The legendary epics of King Arthur and Camelot don’t tell the whole story. Chroniclers say Arthur’s mother Ygraine married the man that killed her husband. They say that Arthur’s half-sister Morgana turned to dark magic to defy him and Merlin. They say that the enchantress Nimue challenged Merlin and used her magic to outwit him. And that Arthur’s marriage to Guinevere ended in adultery, rebellion and bloodshed. So why did these women chose such dangerous paths?

As warfare and rivalries constantly challenge the king, Arthur and Merlin believe these women are destined to serve Camelot by doing as they are told. But men forget that women talk. Ygraine, Nimue, Morgana and Guinevere become friends and allies while the decisions that shape their lives are taken out of their hands. This is their untold story. Now these women have a voice.

Juliet McKenna is an expert on medieval history and warfare and brings this expertise as well as her skills as a fantasy writer to this epic standalone novel.

REVIEW: I’ve been loving the Greek myth retellings by the likes of Pat Barker and Madelaine Miller – so when this offering caught my eye, I was really excited at the prospect of this one. After all, one of my favourite childhood books was King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table – I had a beautiful copy, complete with stunning pictures. But, as ever, the women in this story were simply there as ornamentation. Or those, like Morgana, were derided as evil and unnatural for taking a hand in their own destiny.

This version of Arthur’s story is told by Nimue, one of the Fair Folk, or fae. Unlike most of her kind, she has somehow ended up as part of Ygraine’s household, living alongside mortals and keeping her magical powers as small as she can. Where she encounters another of her kind, who isn’t remotely discrete – Merlin. Counsellor to the violent and ambitious Uther Pendragon, Merlin uses his powers to manoeuvre Pendragon into the position of High King, claiming that otherwise the country will be overwhelmed by wild magic of the worst sort. He’s seen it in a vision…

However, as Nimue already knows, actions have consequences – and Merlin’s meddling has a horrible outcome for poor Ygraine, who ends up bearing Uther a son. Nimue does the best she can to protect Ygraine and her youngest daughter, Morgana, from the fallout of Uther’s bid for power – and the beginnings of the legend of Arthur comes into being. What struck me this time around was the violence pervading the whole story. And just how much the women in it are utterly disregarded. McKenna’s vivid descriptions of the clothing, food and daily routine of high-born women of the time brings this medieval setting to life. I also loved her description of the battles. Her expertise in medieval weaponry shows in the brutal hand to hand fighting – and the terrible injuries sustained despite armour, and sometimes because of it.

I tore through this one, finding it difficult to put down. And if you enjoyed The Silence of the Girls or Circe – then grab a copy of this one. You’ll thank me if you do. While I obtained an arc of The Cleaving from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #SomeDesperateGlorybookreview


I knew Emily Tesh is a talented author, as I’d read and enjoyed her novella Silver in the Woodsee my mini-review. And when I spotted this offering on the Netgalley dashboard, I immediately requested it, hoping for something special. And I wasn’t disappointed. In fact I was completely blown away…

BLURB: While we live, the enemy shall fear us.

All her life Kyr has trained for the day she can avenge the murder of planet Earth. Raised in the bowels of Gaea Station alongside the last scraps of humanity, she readies herself to face the Wisdom, the all-powerful, reality-shaping weapon that gave the Majoda their victory over humanity.

They are what’s left. They are what must survive. Kyr is one of the best warriors of her generation, the sword of a dead planet. But when Command assigns her brother to certain death and relegates her to the nursery to bear sons until she dies trying, she knows she must take humanity’s revenge into her own hands.

Alongside her brother’s brilliant but seditious friend and a lonely, captive alien, she escapes from everything she’s ever known into a universe far more complicated than she was taught and far more wondrous than she could have imagined.

REVIEW: For those of you who are interested in such things, the title of this science fiction timeshift adventure is taken from Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ describing a gas attack in WWI in terrible detail. The final four lines read thus:
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

It’s a wonderful poem, I urge you to look it up if you don’t know it. And the subject matter and sentiment is absolutely spot on for the tenor of this story.

Gaea Station is one of the final holdouts for humanity that remains true to our species, now our home planet has been blown up by the alien’s sentient governing A.I., the Wisdom. Although there are traitors who have thrown in their lot with the majo who are responsible for killing fourteen billion human beings, Gaea is still raising children with the warbreed genetic strain. So they are bigger, faster, deadlier than the average human and committed to revenging themselves upon those who destroyed our world and its military might. And one of the most committed and loyal is Kyr, who is determined to serve by training the hardest. After all, she has a point to prove – her elder sister fled the station in a disgraceful act of disloyalty. This is where Kyr is at the start of the book.

And from then on, she finds herself confronted with nasty truths that increasingly undermine this version of her life and her ultimate aims. It forces her to act in ways that would have been unthinkable only a short time previously… And yes – this is familiar and oft-trodden territory for sci fi space opera adventures. But rarely have I seen it done so well. While Kyr is a teenager, I really like how her sexuality is handled. It makes perfect sense that she is so incredibly committed, she has locked down her aberrant sexual desires. For starters, like every other youngster on the station, she is malnourished and worked incredibly hard. She doesn’t have the time or inclination to start wondering why she isn’t remotely attracted to any of the boys and men training alongside her – other than to feel resentment at their inbuilt extra strength. This is a refreshing change from so many books dealing with youngsters in dire circumstances, where they constantly are examining and acting on their sexual desires, no matter the dangers they are being exposed to.

The other characters are also vividly portrayed with perception and depth, so I found myself rooting even for obnoxiously clever Avi, who does something terrible. The storytelling is fabulous – the descriptions of the station and the nearest planet are wonderful and this book reminded me all over again just why I LOVE science fiction so much! My one sorrow… it’s a standalone, so I won’t have another slice of this world through the eyes of Kyr. Very highly recommended for fans of superb science fiction adventure. While I obtained an arc of Some Desperate Glory from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Not of This World – Book 4 of the Gideon Sable series by Simon R. Green #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #NotofThisWorldbookreview


I’m a fan of Green’s writing. See my reviews of his Ishmael Jones series, featuring an alien dark ops agent and his alluring sidekick, Penny, in Buried Memories, The Dark Side of the Road, Very Important Corpses, Death Shall Come, Into the Thinnest of Air, Murder in the Dark, Till Sudden Death Do Us Part, Night Train to Murder, The House on Widow’s Hill and his paranormal James Bond hero in The Man With the Golden Torc. I also thoroughly enjoyed the first three books in this fantasy heist series, The Best Thing You Can Steal, A Matter of Death and Life and What Song the Sirens Sangso I was delighted when this offering appeared on the Netgalley dashboard.

BLURB: The Preserve in Bath – the British Area 51 – is the secret government dumping ground for all things supernatural and out of space. It is one of the most heavily-guarded places in the world. However, it’s not what protects it that makes it so dangerous but the things that are inside . . .

Gideon Sable – master thief, con artist and self-proclaimed vigilante – faces a challenge he can’t refuse. His client, the former Head of the British Rocketry Group, Professor Neil Sharpe, wants him to break into the Preserve. Once inside, Gideon and his crew of supernatural misfits can get any mystical artefact they desire out of the Preserve’s collection. The catch? To reach it, they must go through the treacherous Box Tunnel complex and not only face trained guards and booby traps but steal something that can’t normally be stolen – a ghost! Sharpe’s obscure motive leaves Gideon uncertain and suspicious. The only thing he knows for sure is that he can steal anything with just the right amount of preparation – but will he be prepared enough to face whatever the Preserve holds, or will he find himself a permanent part of the government’s collection?

REVIEW: I have thoroughly enjoyed these paranormal heist adventures, which don’t take themselves too seriously. And this latest addition produced the expected quirkiness. Immensely powerful, dangerous characters, a nicely twisty plot that doesn’t get too lost in the process, all sorts of intriguing gismos that do all sorts of intriguing things that come wrapped in a slick story with a wryly dry tone that regularly tips into humour.

Gideon Sable is the man you turn to if you want the impossible stolen or tricked away from dodgy people that no one wishing to reach an average life expectancy would go near. That said, he has some really cool bits of kit – like a pen that with a click can stop Time. The downside is that it makes it difficult to move through solidifying Time and the atmosphere tends to become unbreathable after a distressingly short while, so it isn’t a fix-all. Just as well, otherwise the story would become rapidly boring and repetitive.

In fact, this is where Green is really clever – he manages to produce lethally effective characters for the Home team, such as Polly the werewolf and the Damned, who has armour made of aspects of Heaven and Hell. And then ranges them against deeply unpleasant villains who are also highly dangerous. And there are a goodly sprinkling of characters who are sufficiently complicated that we’re never truly sure where they stand (I’m looking at you, Sally…). In less experienced hands, this could all very quickly devolve into a mess of non-stop action and constant reverses that would have the reader finishing the book and wondering what she’s just read.

But the other clever bit is that Green also tends to use tension and a slow build-up with great effect, too. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, especially as there are clearly some issues regarding Gideon’s lover and loyal partner, Annie Anybody, which hopefully will be sorted out in the next book. My one niggle – and I’ve knocked a point off because it annoyed me quite a lot – is that the book ended extremely abruptly. While nothing was left dangling that needed to be tied up – I would have appreciated just half a page with Gideon reflecting on what had happened. Apart from anything else – I enjoy his musings. Other than that, it was a joy from start to finish. While I obtained an arc of Not of This World from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Infinity Gate – Book 1 of the Pandominion series by M.R. Carey #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #InfinityGatebookreview


I’m a fan of M.R. Carey’s writing – see my reviews of The Girl with all the Gifts, The Boy on the Bridge, and his popular post-apocalyptic Rampart trilogy – The Book of Koli , The Trials of Koli. and The Fall of Koli. So when I learnt that he was producing a sci fi series, I was delighted and was looking forward to this one with huge anticipation.

BLURB: The Pandominion is a political and trading alliance consisting of roughly a million worlds.

But they’re really all the same world – Earth – in many different dimensions. And when an AI threat arises that could destroy everything the Pandominion has built, they’ll eradicate it by whatever means necessary—no matter the cost to human life.

REVIEW: I am aware that my huge excitement at getting hold of a copy of this one probably didn’t do me any favours – because I was initially somewhat disappointed. I’m not a fan of info-dumps – and when the book starts with an explanation of the world and the main characters and what their role is going to be, then my heart sinks. Particularly when the author is as accomplished as Carey. I’m not even sure it’s in the right place – for going back and rereading it, I think it would have made a better epilogue than prologue.

There is also a lot of foreshadowing throughout the story – and again, I didn’t feel that was necessary. It’s almost as though Carey didn’t quite trust that his story is capable of bringing the reader along without those extra assists, which is a bit annoying, because it clearly does. For example, one of the main protagonists has an unexpected transformation. At least – it would be unexpected, but for the fact that we’re told well in advance what has happened to her. This was irritating on two levels. For starters, I would quite like to have experienced the plot twist alongside the other characters involved, who were clearly upset and shocked. The other consequence is that because I already knew the important part of her fate – and therefore was able to put together exactly what has actually happened to her – I was ahead of the characters involved with her for quite a large part of the book. And that never helps with the pacing, because it meant that until they caught up with me, I felt that aspect was a bit draggy, even though all sorts of exciting things were going on.

That said, I’m aware that I’m in a minority as a number of my book blogging buddies have read this one and absolutely loved it. I wanted to – and indeed, there’s much in the story that I thoroughly enjoyed. I love the world and the premise, which is clearly highly relevant and Carey’s take on the parallel world theory is interesting and rich. The settings are vividly portrayed with economy and power – vital when there are a variety of places and part of the wonder is the sheer scale and difference. And Carey’s ability to produce nuanced and difficult characters that we nevertheless can care about – I’m looking at you, Essien Nkanik – is impressive. And I hasten to add that this isn’t a bad book by any means. If it had been written by another author, I’d probably be singing its praises – but I wasn’t expecting such technical glitches to interfere with my enjoyment in a story by M.R. Carey. While I obtained an arc of Infinity Gate from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY NOVELLA arc And Put Away Childish Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky #Brainfluffbookreview #AndPutAwayChildishThingsbookreview


There aren’t many authors I can think of within the SFF genre who have such an impressive range within their output – 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, Ogres and City of Last Chances. So when I saw this novella pop up, I was fascinated to see what Tchaikovsky would make of this intriguing premise.

BLURB: Harry Bodie has a famous grandmother, who wrote beloved children’s books set in the delightful world of Underhill. Harry himself is a failing kids’ TV presenter whose every attempt to advance his career ends in self-sabotage. His family history seems to be nothing but an impediment.

An impediment… or worse. What if Underhill is real? What if it has been waiting decades for a promised child to visit? What if it isn’t delightful at all? And what if its denizens have run out of patience and are taking matters into their own hands?

REVIEW: Let’s get this straight – Harry Bodie isn’t particularly nice. That said, I began to understand why he was quite so chippy about of the third of the way in. And given the set-up, I don’t think it would have worked so well if he had been entirely likeable right from the start. Because this book was an affectionate parody of all things Narnia – so our main protagonist, Bodie, also undergoes a transformation during the book that helps to give the ending such a very satisfying conclusion. It could have so easily descended into a parody of itself, or the dark humour could have tipped into something darker and a whole lot less amusing. To be honest, I slowed down near the end because I couldn’t bear to see all those poor suffering characters end up being annihilated. And I’m glad to say that doesn’t happen – because while it took me a while to bond with Harry, I immediately lost my heart to poor, bedraggled Timon, the rascally faun.

In common with better written parody, parts of this had me laughing aloud – while some of the later scenes in the Underhill were simply painful to read. In fact, given its length, I was a tad shocked at just how much I’d emotionally invested in this novella – but then, I was one of those children who yearned to find a hidden world at the back of my wardrobe and indeed, I went looking for it on more than one occasion… I appreciated that there wasn’t a scrap of sentimentality within this story and as ever, Tchaikovsky handles the narrative arc, the pacing – and above all that wonderful ending with the technical prowess I’ve come to expect in most of his writing. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this offering and if you ever read the Narnia series and loved it as a child – then, this one comes highly recommended. While I obtained an arc of And Put Away Childish Things from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc We Dream of Gods – Book 4 of The Reborn Empire series by Devin Madson #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #WeDreamofGodsbookreview


I have loved the first three books in this series – see my review of We Cry For Blood – so when I saw this one was available, I immediately requested it, even though my TBR pile is groaning. And I was thrilled to get hold of a copy, given that everything had been left on a cliff-hanger ending in the last book. Would Madson be able to successfully wrap up this epic fantasy adventure in a satisfactory manner?


Betrayed by her closest allies, Empress Miko Ts’ai is thrust from ruler to pawn. But she won’t suffer the whims of men. A string of dangerous gambles could win Miko her empire for good, but to take back the throne, she must become everything her ancestors failed to be.

Rah e’Torin leads a herd again. Now he seeks to honor a promise he made a lifetime ago-to safely bring his Swords home. Yet Rah’s loyalty to the past may be his ultimate undoing.

Cassandra Marius is lost. Ensnared by memories that aren’t her own, Cass must decide who she really is, but the answer lies beyond one final confrontation with Leo Villius.

And trapped in the heart of the Chiltaen army, Dishiva e’Jaroven is handed unexpected power. The dream of a new homeland is within her grasp – if she risks everything and trusts her former enemies.

REVIEW: There are series where you can pick up the fourth book, pick your way through the story and make sense of what is going on. This isn’t one of them. Each book follows on directly from the previous one – and so much has befallen all our main characters, both the protagonists and antagonists, that you’ll be short-changing yourself and the series if you persevere. My firm advice is to go back to the first book We Ride the Storm, then work through the series with We Lie With Death and We Cry for Blood.

I was very concerned that our three heroines and hero weren’t going to prevail in the final fallout – after all, a steady stream of likeable and undeserving characters have met grisly ends throughout the series. And no – I’m not going to give any Spoilers away, because Madson does put our protagonists through the wringer, ably assisted by the despicable Leo, who has to be one of the most magnificently horrible villains I’ve met in a while.

The action alternates between the four main characters as they each battle against insanely difficult odds and I was just about to relax and think that Miko, at least, was on her way to achieving her goals, when there was a sudden, almighty wrench in the works… It’s all cleverly done and I found myself reading until the wee small hours to find out what happened next. I love the vivid writing, the strong characters and the ongoing narrative drive that keeps the pacing up with plenty of plot twists and surprises along the way. There are shafts of humour that had me sniggering aloud, and a couple of poignant scenes that left me with a lump in my throat. I love it when a book involves me to such an extent. All in all, this is a triumphant conclusion to a memorable and well executed epic fantasy adventure and comes very highly recommended. While I obtained an arc of We Dream of Gods from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.