Category Archives: netgalley

Review of Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew P. Walker


Given my husband’s diagnosis of severe sleep apnea and the difference the treatment from the sleep clinic has made to all aspects of his life, when I saw this book was available on NetGalley, I immediately requested it.

Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, and longevity. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don’t sleep. Compared to the other basic drives in life—eating, drinking, and reproducing—the purpose of sleep remained elusive. An explosion of scientific discoveries in the last twenty years has shed new light on this fundamental aspect of our lives. Now, preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker gives us a new understanding of the vital importance of sleep and dreaming. Within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Dreaming mollifies painful memories and creates a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge to inspire creativity.

Walker answers important questions about sleep: how do caffeine and alcohol affect sleep? What really happens during REM sleep? Why do our sleep patterns change across a lifetime? How do common sleep aids affect us and can they do long-term damage? Charting cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and synthesizing decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels; regulate hormones; prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; slow the effects of aging; increase longevity; enhance the education and lifespan of our children, and boost the efficiency, success, and productivity of our businesses. Clear-eyed, fascinating, and accessible, Why We Sleep is a crucial and illuminating book.

Normally I don’t include all the blurb, as it tends to give too much away. However, in this case I feel it nicely sums up exactly what this book is about. This was not a comfortable read. My husband’s snoring used to be epic – not only was it shredding his ability to sleep deeply, it also properly mucked up my sleep, too. It is still a mess and has been for a number of years. I have become accustomed to living reasonably happily on somewhere between four and five hours of sleep a night, and therefore it came as a very nasty shock to discover that I am probably compromising my immune system as well, as increasing my risk factor of incurring a range of nasty illnesses including Alzheimer’s and cancer.

However, the good news is that in addition to providing the scientific reasons why sleep is so important to us, Walker also provides a range of suggestions and tips so that those of us with really poor sleep hygiene have a chance to sort ourselves out. If you are a snorer, or sleep next one, find it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep for the recommended eight to nine hours a night, then you need to read this book.


Review of NETGALLEY arc Blunt Force Magic – Book 1 of The Monsters and Men trilogy by Lawrence Davis


I read several positive reviews of this one and took one look at the cover – and requested it…

Janzen Robinson is a man lost between two worlds. Five years removed from a life as an apprentice to a group of do-gooding heroes who championed the fight against supernatural evils, the once-promising student is now a package courier going through the daily grind, passing time at a hole-in-the-wall bar and living in a tiny, run-down apartment on the south side of Cleveland, Ohio. Then fate (or a case of bad timing) brings him face to face with a door that’s got his old life written all over it. From the ancient recesses of unyielding darkness known as the Abyss, a creature has been summoned: a Stalker, a predator whose real name is forbidden to be spoken aloud. It’s a bastardization of the natural order, a formidable blend of dark magic and primal tenacity. Its single-minded mission? Ending the life of a fiery, emerging young witch.

Though the cool cover shouts otherwise – at least to me, who thought this was going to morph into epic fantasy, this story is very much within the urban fantasy genre. That said, there are some striking differences that make this one stand out. Yes, Janzen has been selected as an apprentice due to his natural talent – however, that was a while ago. In the meantime, something terrible has happened to his mentor and he has spent the last five years just getting by. Therefore, while he does have raw talent, there is relatively little skill or finesse in his workings. I really like the idea that he is only half trained and that because of his chippy, mouthy character, he is also tricky to help, as he is often his own worst enemy.

That doesn’t stop him plunging into a desperate situation against a very dangerous opponent without too much thought about the consequences. This is partly due to his own bloody-minded nature and partly due to the survivor guilt he still feels.

While I’m always wary of assuming authors necessarily shoehorn their own lives into their writing, I was interested to read that Davis is a war veteran who served in Iraq. The young soldier who befriends Janzen is very well depicted and all the action scenes are effective and realistic.

In short, this one held me throughout. I liked the dynamic and the fact that there was no romantic relationship running throughout – a refreshing change in urban fantasy, these days. I also liked the scrabbling, somewhat desperate nature of Janzen’s opposition to the nasties ranged against him. I particularly appreciated the monsters – especially the stalkers, which are truly terrifying creatures.

All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable new series and I very much look forward to reading another slice of Janzen’s adventures – I hope Davies writes quickly. While I obtained an arc of Blunt Force Magic from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Reclaiming Shilo Snow – Book 2 of The Evaporation of Sofi Snow series by Mary Weber


Being the shallow sort, once more I was led into this one by the scrummy cover – I do love a gorgeous purple cover – and the fact it was a YA science fiction adventure…

Trapped on the ice-planet of Delon, gamer girl Sofi and Ambassador Miguel have discovered that nothing is what it seems, including their friends. On a quest to rescue her brother, Shilo, a boy everyone believes is dead, they must now escape and warn Earth of Delon’s designs on humanity. Except the more they unearth of the planet and Sofi’s past, the more they feel themselves unraveling, as each new revelation has Sofi questioning the very existence of reality. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Sofi’s mom, Inola, is battling a different kind of unraveling: a political one that could cost lives, positions, and a barely-rebuilt society, should they discover the deal made with the Delonese. But there’s a secret deeper than all that. One locked away inside Sofi and ticking away with the beginnings, endings, and answers to everything. Including how to save humanity.

Of course, the snag with being swept away by a gorgeous cover is that I tend to crash midway into a series. Sometimes I get away with it and other times, because the action seamlessly continues from one book to the other, I flounder. This second book in the series falls into the latter category and it took me a while to work out who was doing what to whom. Once I sorted that out, however, I became invested in the characters and caught up in the very difficult situation facing humanity.

Sofi and Miguel are appealing protagonists and while romance isn’t generally my go-to genre, Weber writes this relationship with lyricism and conviction that swept me along. The Delonese aliens are suitably imperturbable and smugly superior with their intimidating technical superiority and the character I most empathised with was poor Inola, who is trying to hold this political situation together. The action was gripping throughout and there were a couple of deaths that winded me with their unexpectedness, while keeping me on my toes.

Any quibbles? While the climactic action scene was engrossing and convincing, the aftermath did seem to wrap things up just a tad too tidily. But this is really a very minor issue, and certainly didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying this one – though my firm advice would be to go and track down the first book in this duology, The Evaporation of Sofi Snow, before tucking into this one. While I obtained an arc of Reclaiming Shilo Snow from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Bitter Twins – Book 2 of The Winnowing Flame Trilogy by Jen Williams


There has been much excitement amongst the book-blogging community about this one, as Jen Williams has become a solid favourite among epic fantasy fans with her unique blend of clever pacing, vivid characters and the sheer energy of her writing. But what had everyone waiting for this one was that twist at the end of The Ninth Rain – see my review here – that turned this into a genre mash-up.

The Ninth Rain has fallen, the Jure’lia have returned, and with Ebora a shadow of its former self, the old enemy are closer to conquering Sarn than ever. Tormalin the Oathless and the Fell-Witch Noon have their hands full dealing with the first war-beasts to be born in Ebora for nearly three hundred years. But these are not the great mythological warriors of old; hatched too early and with no link to their past lives, the war-beasts have no memory of the many battles they have fought and won, and no concept of how they can possibly do it again. The key to uniting them, according to the scholar Vintage, may lie in a part of Sarn no one really believes exists, but finding it will mean a dangerous journey at a time of war…

For starters, if you’ve picked this one up without having first read The Ninth Rain, then put it right back down again and rush off to get hold of the aforesaid first book in the series. It took me a while to get into this one, because I don’t reread books and as The Bitter Twins picks up more or less where The Ninth Rain left off, I was frankly floundering. If I hadn’t read the first book in this series, I think it would have taken me far too long to sort out who was doing what to whom to fully appreciate the writing and the story.

However, once I was back in the groove – this one was a joy. The characters are nuanced and three-dimensional, so that our gutsy heroes and heroines have flaws and weaknesses, and even characters we have written off as wrong ‘uns are capable of selfless acts. I loved the storyline regarding the origins of the Eborans, which worked really well and nicely mirrored what is happening on the Corpse Moon where unsettling transformations are taking place.

One of the recurrent themes within the epic fantasy genre is the role of history and how it defines people’s own identity within their culture and race. Williams treatment of this theme in this series is an interesting one, overlaid as it is by the insertion of another genre and how that both plays with and subverts the idea of cultural identity, particularly by the Eborans, who are teetering on the verge of extinction. As the inferior race, the human protagonists within the story have their own baggage and, in some cases, scores to settle. My favourite character is Vintage, the delightful human scholar whose insatiable curiosity has hauled her right into the middle of the current mess.

I don’t want you to go away with the idea, however, that this book spends pages discussing or worrying about the above, as it’s all about the adventure and such considerations are fully embedded within the plot. Events are moving fast, threats abound, and our intrepid band of protagonists are constantly having to react to yet another sticky situation. The pages flew by as I found it hard to break off and get on with the growing stack of chores – so I didn’t. After all, this was a Jen Williams read – which means it’s something special. While I obtained an arc of The Bitter Twins from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Into the Thinnest of Air Book 5 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green


I have read two of the previous four books in this entertaining series by prolific author, Simon R. Green – read my review of Death Shall Come – and thoroughly enjoyed them. So I immediately jumped at the opportunity to read this latest offering.

Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny are attending the re-opening of Tyrone’s Castle, an ancient Cornish inn originally built by smugglers. Over dinner that night, the guests entertain one another with ghost stories inspired by local legends and superstitions. But it would appear that the curse of Tyrone’s Castle has struck for real when one of their number disappears into thin air. And then another . . .

This entertaining locked-room mystery takes place in a creepy Cornish Castle with a long-standing curse hanging over it. After winning a substantial sum on the lottery, the couple hosting this particular evening have transformed it into an inn with a fine-dining restaurant and Penny, Ishmael’s partner, has been sent an invitation. They seem particularly keen for her to attend, although they were really friends of her father. So she feels obligated to go along and is sure that Ishmael will be equally welcome. However as he walks through the door, he realises that not only were they not expecting anyone to accompany Penny, they are not remotely pleased to see him.

Ishmael’s enhanced senses tell him there is something not quite right about this evening, so instead of a weekend getaway where they could pretend to be an ordinary couple, they find themselves pitchforked into the middle of yet another bloody adventure. Once again, Green’s snappy writing and effective scene setting swept me up into the story and had me turning the pages until it was all over. I really enjoy Ishmael as a character. While he is supposedly on the side of the angels, there is a darker side to him and I liked the fact that at one point in this story, he simply lost his temper and took it out on his surroundings.

One of Green’s strengths is his ability to give us plenty of back story and motive for all of the suspects that Ishmael and Penny, who are an interesting mix of characters and I enjoyed the fact that Green doesn’t necessarily play them to type – for instance, the vicar is far weaker than his wife. As for the denouement, while I didn’t see it coming, it had crossed my mind before I dismissed it a couple of times during the book. However, in this story, it is as much about the why, as it is the how, which I found reasonably convincing.

This one certainly managed to make a train journey to London and back far more entertaining and is recommended for fans of murder mysteries with a paranormal twist. While I obtained an arc of The Thinnest of Air from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Magic Chair Murder: a 1920s English Mystery – Book 1 of the Black and Dods Mysteries by Diane Janes


Once again, it was the cover that attracted me to this offering, along with the emphasis on it being a 1920s murder mystery. I really like that era, being a fan of Agatha Christie and an even bigger fan of Dorothy L. Sayers, so I hoped that Janes would prove to be an entertaining read.

1929. The night before she’s due to make a speech to the Robert Barnaby Society on the subject of the famous writer’s ‘magic chair’, committee member Linda Dexter disappears. When her body is discovered two days later, fellow members Frances Black and Tom Dod determine to find out the truth about her death.

This is the very simple premise that sets up the story, where a guest speaker inexplicably disappears during a conference and when her body is later discovered, it is assumed she has committed suicide. Both Frances Black and Tom Dod don’t believe this is the case and are determined to get to the bottom of why Linda is murdered.

I loved this one – Janes has taken care to set up the story and establish the characters in much the same way as Christie did. There is also no shortage of likely candidates when it comes to working out who the murderer is. As the investigation proceeds, we also learn more about Frances and Tom – and why the pair of them might be very willing to spend time and energy worrying about a problem that has nothing to do with their own daily routines. Despite this story consciously harking back to the past, there is no sentimentality in Janes’s depiction of the 1920s. The shadow of the Great War is still lying heavily across the country and although women have been granted the vote during the previous year, the manner in which Frances is frequently dismissed makes me very glad that I wasn’t born in that era.

I was also impressed with the worldbuilding and the level of historical detail throughout – at no time did any of it jar. What you don’t get with this book is foot to-the-floor action as the story builds steadily while Frances and Tom discover yet more facts and clues surrounding Linda’s life. Nonetheless I was immersed in the world and wanting to know exactly why Linda was murdered and who did it.

One of the pleasures in reading this type of crime novel is trying to guess the culprit and while I won’t claim to be particularly good at it, I can report that I didn’t guess whodunit, yet the murder and why it was committed made complete sense. I came to really like Frances and I’m going to be looking out for more books in this series – luckily it seems that Diane Janes is a prolific author. Yippee! While I obtained an arc of The Magic Chair Murder from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Hyperspace Trap by Christopher G. Nuttall


The cool cover immediately caught my eye and I know Himself has enjoyed the Schooled in Magic series, so I decided to give it a go.

A year after the Commonwealth won the war with the Theocracy, the interstellar cruise liner Supreme is on its maiden voyage, carrying a host of aristocrats thrilled to be sharing in a wondrous adventure among the stars. The passengers include the owner and his daughters, Angela and Nancy. Growing up with all the luxuries in the world, neither sister has ever known true struggle, but that all changes when Supreme comes under attack…

I am not going to continue further with the blurb as it gets a bit chatty – suffice to say events all slide away very rapidly. I really enjoyed this one, but if you are looking for foot-to-the-floor action from the first page, then this one isn’t for you. This is very much a gradual buildup where we get to know several members of the crew, including the captain, as well as the other main character, Angela, who is the owner’s eldest daughter. She is an interesting character as she isn’t particularly likeable, being rather spoiled and self-entitled which is in stark contrast to the two stewards we get to know who are working flatout to get the ship ready for the rich, demanding passengers. That said, I don’t particularly envy Angela either, despite her wealth, as it comes with major strings that she only begins to realise during the voyage.

Despite the slow build, I wasn’t remotely tempted to pull away as I found all the everyday details and worldbuilding around the rhythms of the ship fascinating. I particularly liked the long-suffering captain who is more used to serving with the military and is finding working with the civilian crew pandering to the needs of wealthy passengers a very steep learning curve.

When it all hits the fan and chaos ensues, I felt the long lead-up paid dividends as I was completely invested in a number of characters and genuinely cared about their fate. There were one or two characters who I would have liked to see more of – particularly young Nancy, although I am very much hoping this is going to be the start of a new series. In which case, perhaps she will feature in another book. Once the action kicks off, the nasty surprises just keep on coming as the hapless crew and passengers are assailed on all sides by a truly terrifying force. The climax is every bit as exciting and unexpected as you would want, with an intriguing twist that allows for this book to be the start of a new, enjoyable series.

This one is recommended for space opera fans who enjoy spaceship-centred stories. While I obtained an arc of The Hyperspace Trap from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc Fire and Bone – Book 1 of the Otherborn series by Rachel A. Marks


I liked the sound of the premise…

“Gossip Girl meets Percy Jackson in the glitz and grit of L.A….”
In Hollywood’s underworld of demigods, druids, and ancient bonds, one girl has a dangerous future.

Sage is eighteen, down on her luck, and struggling to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. Everything changes the night she’s invited to a party—one that turns out to be a trap. Thrust into a magical world hidden within the City of Angels, Sage discovers that she’s the daughter of a Celtic goddess, with powers that are only in their infancy. Now that she is of age, she’s asked to pledge her service to one of the five deities, all keen on winning her favor by any means possible. She has to admit that she’s tempted—especially when this new life comes with spells, Hollywood glam, and a bodyguard with secrets of his own. Not to mention a prince whose proposal could boost her rank in the Otherworld.

I haven’t seen Gossip Girl but have read snippets of the Percy Jackson series and have thoroughly enjoyed the world, so this one intrigued me. However, it wasn’t quite what I had envisaged. For starters, the romance features more than I had expected from reading the blurb – and as the story wore on, I realised there was the dreaded love triangle. I am not a fan of this dynamic, but I will say that Marks manages to make it seem a lot less sleazy than is often the case, as the extra character’s involvement is far more to do with what happened in the distant past.

It did take me a while to fully bond with Sage as she is continually plagued with visions and dreams which have the effect of swamping her rather chippy character, after she works through the clueless phase when she is struggling to work out exactly what is happening to her. There is a dark, tragic underbelly to this story that the blurb hasn’t highlighted and it isn’t our hapless protagonist navigating the social shark-tank of demi-god high society that I had envisaged – but the desperate story of a maddened Celtic queen who slays her king that eventually snagged me.

Given I was expecting something quite different – was what I got sufficiently engrossing to hook me anyway? Oh yes. There are some surprising plot twists in this story, particularly towards the end where the pace picks up and the stakes become a lot higher which had me reading into the early hours to discover what happened.

Be warned though – while a couple of the story elements are sorted out, this book ends on an almighty cliff-hanger. I’m hoping, therefore, that the second book is due to be released without too much delay as I would really like to know what happens next to Sage.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 21st February, 2018


Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – The Magic Chair Murder: a 1920s English Mystery – A Black and Dod Mystery:1 by Diane James

#crime #murder mystery #historical


The night before she’s due to make a speech to the Robert Barnaby Society on the subject of the famous writer’s ‘magic chair’, committee member Linda Dexter disappears. When her body is discovered two days later, fellow members Frances Black and Tom Dod determine to find out the truth about her death.

Could Linda have discovered something about Robert Barnaby that got her killed? Or does the answer lie in the dead woman’s past? As they pursue their investigations, Fran and Tom find the Barnaby Society to be a hotbed of clashing egos, seething resentments and ill-advised love affairs – but does a killer lurk among them?

I think this one sounds great fun. Though I haven’t read anything by this author before, Severn Publishing have produced a steady stream of well-written, enjoyable murder mysteries that I have scooped up on Netgalley – and this looks to be another entertaining addition.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Eye of the North by Sinéad O’Hart


I wanted to read and review more YA and children’s books this year, so when this one caught my eye due to the interesting premise, I requested it and couldn’t be more pleased. It’s a delight…

When Emmeline’s scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself heading for a safe house, where allies have pledged to protect her. But along the way, things don’t go as planned…

This steampunk adventure is huge fun that hits the ground running and doesn’t let up until the end. Emmeline is brought up a solitary child in a creepy house infested with all sorts of dangerous creatures and is more or less left to get on with it as her scientist parents have to do a lot of travelling. Until a fateful day when everything goes wrong… Do try to avoid reading the blurb which is far too chatty and gives away more of the plot than is necessary. That said, there is plenty of plot in this action-packed story brimful of interesting, likeable characters. Generally I am not a huge fan of stories where yet another set of new characters pop up in each scene, but somehow O’Hart manages to pull it off. Other than Emmeline, whose gritty self-assurance gets her through all sorts of tight spots, my favourite character has to be Thing, the vagabond boy she encounters on the liner. But there are plenty of other enjoyable, strong-minded characters to choose from as steampunk tends to roll along with lots of action and relatively little angst. It was when Thing had a wobble about his grim childhood that I bonded with him and felt that vulnerability gave him more reader-appeal.

There is also a pleasing number of unpleasant villains ranged against Emmeline and the people trying to prevent the impending apocalypse – my favourite is Doctor Siegfried Bauer as he is so magnificently horrible, especially to poor Emmeline. But the North Witch is also a thoroughly nasty character who poses all sorts of problems. Once the action really takes off, we have the two main protagonists, Emmeline and Thing alternating in telling the story, occasionally interspersed by other members of the supporting cast. O’Hart’s strong writing and deft handling of the rising tension makes this a really gripping read that didn’t want to let me go when I should have been up and about instead of finishing the book.

The denouement has to deliver after so much energy and tension has been expended during the rising action and in this case, it does, while all the dangling plotpoints are satisfactorily tidied up. I’m very much hoping that this book does well, because although I cannot see any sign of this being the first in a series, I’d love to read more about Emmeline and her family in another madcap adventure. Recommended for precocious readers from 10/11 years old onwards.