Category Archives: netgalley

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Dead Man in a Ditch – Book 2 of the Fetch Phillips Archives by Luke Arnold #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #DeadManinaDitchbookreview

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I enjoyed the first book in this series, Last Smile in Sunder Citysee my review, so when I saw the second book was coming up, I was delighted to be approved to read it. Would I enjoy it as much as the first book?

BLURB: The name’s Fetch Phillips — what do you need? Cover a Gnome with a crossbow while he does a dodgy deal? Sure.

Find out who killed Lance Niles, the big-shot businessman who just arrived in town? I’ll give it shot.

Help an old-lady Elf track down her husband’s murderer? That’s right up my alley.

What I don’t do, because it’s impossible, is search for a way to bring the goddamn magic back. Rumors got out about what happened with the Professor, so now people keep asking me to fix the world.

But there’s no magic in this story. Just dead friends, twisted miracles, and a secret machine made to deliver a single shot of murder.

REVIEW: It starts well – I very quickly felt right back at home in this grim, noirish city where everything is a bleaker, more tattered version of itself because Magic has now disappeared. I settled into the first two adventures well enough. Though wincing somewhat as Fetch seems to take far more than his fair share of beatings, and I felt suitably sympathetic at his angst and guilt. But…

It’s a longish book at well over 400 pages, and generally that sort of length doesn’t bother me – but just about the halfway mark, I was conscious of this one starting to drag. Fetch’s constant misery became irritating and the fact that the plot seemed to cycle round in ever-widening circles, so that what initially seemed like a progression just became more of the same – Fetch investigating a case… feeling miserable… getting beaten up… Rinse and repeat. It didn’t help that there was precious little light and shade – it was basically all shades of dark.

I’m aware that right now I’m not really in the right place for lots of bleakness. But the quirky cover and the strapline comparing this book to Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series had me thinking that maybe this book would be a whole lot lighter, as by the end of the first book, Fetch seemed to have found some closure. The world is well described, and Arnold’s vivid descriptions of the once-magical characters are both imaginative and original – I love the premise. But Fetch’s constant angst was also annoying the other characters in the story – it comes to something when I find myself nodding in agreement as a major antagonist verbally shreds the hero.

If you are looking for a fantasy crime series with a real difference and enjoy your world on the grimy, grimdark side, then you may well find this one suits you. While I obtained an arc of Dead Man in a Ditch from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
6/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Trials of Koli – Book 2 of The Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this post-apocalyptic adventure set in England in a ruined landscape where scattered remnants of humanity try to eke out a precarious existence – see my review of The Book of Koli. Though the overall tone of this one isn’t as bleak as that scenario might suggest – and if you’ve read his best-seller The Girl with all the Gifts or The Boy on the Bridge, then be aware that this series isn’t as doom-laden as those stories. For me, that’s a plus.

BLURB: Beyond the walls of Koli’s small village lies a fearsome landscape filled with choker trees, vicious beasts and shunned men. As an exile, Koli’s been forced to journey out into this mysterious, hostile world. But he heard a story, once. A story about lost London, and the mysterious tech of the Old Times that may still be there. If Koli can find it, there may still be a way for him to redeem himself – by saving what’s left of humankind.

REVIEW: The previous book, The Book of Koli, was solely in our young protagonist’s head, and the major difference here is that we also learn of what befalls the small community that exiled Koli, as we are also in the first-person viewpoint of Spinner. She featured largely in Koli’s life before he went on the run, so it was interesting to see her take on what happened. I would just mention that there are series where you can crash midway into them without too much trouble – this isn’t one of them. Essentially this is an overarching narrative that has been chopped into book-sized segments and if you try picking up what is going on, while you’ll probably get the gist, there is far too much of importance that you’ll have missed.

Once again, we have the broken, ungrammatical language that helps define the worldbuilding, partly to give an indication of the length of time that has elapsed and partly to show rather than tell of the lack of education and erosion of knowledge. It’s an issue that is bound to divide readers – some tolerate, some loathe, and others absolutely love it. I’m in the latter category and find it really helps me get immersed in the world. Koli isn’t travelling alone. He’s accompanied by a grumpy older woman who is a travelling healer and has come to a grim conclusion about the viability of humankind – hence the journey to try and locate a more organised settlement with a large population.

I really enjoyed this second slice of the adventure. We see and learn more about Koli’s companions, as well as also discovering more about the capabilities of the technology they are using. I particularly enjoyed seeing how another community, living near the sea, manages to exist. And it was refreshing to also realise that not every settlement in this dystopian view of the future is innately hostile or aggressive.

This second book is well paced, with plenty going on, as well as increasing what is at stake and how important it is that Koli and his companions succeed. If I have a concern, it’s how Carey is going to combine the two strands of his story – that of Mythen Rood and Koli’s fortunes – in the final book, The Fall of Koli, which is due to come out in March next year. While I obtained an arc of The Trials of Koli from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Afterland by Lauren Beukes #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #Afterlandbookreview

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I loved Zoo City – it’s one of my all-time favourite reads – see my review. And when I saw this one right at the beginning of the COVID lockdown, I requested it despite the pandemic theme. My heart goes out to Beukes as the timing for this one is dire.

BLURB: They’ll call her a bad mother. Cole can live with that. Because when she breaks her son Miles out of the Male Protection Facility – designed to prevent him joining the 99% of men wiped off the face of the Earth – she’s not just taking him back.
She’s setting him free. Leaving Miles in America would leave him as a lab experiment; a pawn in the hands of people who now see him as a treasure to be guarded, traded, and used. What kind of mother would stand by and watch her child suffer? But as their journey to freedom takes them across a hostile and changed country, freedom seems ever more impossible.
It’s time for Cole to prove just how far she’ll go to protect her son.

REVIEW: The way the apparently innocent flu mutates into something far more lethal is both scary and plausible – particularly now. I thought the worldbuilding was particularly good, but then that’s Beukes’ superpower, anyway. A post-apocalyptic America where many are reeling from their losses and trying to do deal with the situation as best they could was well depicted and, for me, one of the more enjoyable parts of the book.

My main problem was that I don’t much like Cole and I loathe Billie and as these are the protagonists, with a few sections in Miles’ head, it meant I spent most of the book tolerating, rather than sympathising with main characters. I found Cole’s stubborn, stupid idea to get Miles “away” almost as dumb as Billie’s nasty scheme, while some of the action scenes descended into a horrible kind of farce. Both sisters weren’t good at listening to others and I was profoundly sorry for poor Miles, who was being dragged around the country on the rather scattered whim of his mother and daily exposed to all sorts of unnecessary dangers. She wasn’t a particularly effective mother who’d bonded well with her son. A lot of the banter between them seemed to be Cole trying to coerce Miles into doing what she wanted, without being too heavy-handed about it. And most of the novel seemed to revolve around the toxic relationship between Cole and Billie, rather than an examination of how a society without men would really function.

As for the ending – what was that about? This pandemic was portrayed as a worldwide problem, so that simply didn’t make sense. That said, this one won’t leave me alone. The ugly muddled scenes of violence… the series of run-down places they stayed and some of the pathetic survivors, who’d lost husbands and sons… I’ve dreamt of these. Which proves that while it isn’t a book I necessarily always enjoyed, nonetheless it has sunk its hooks into my inscape with the powerful worldbuilding and vivid writing. Recommended for fans of post-apocalyptic, dystopian scenarios. While I obtained an arc of Afterland from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
7/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Fearless by Allen Stroud #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #Fearlessbookreview

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I can’t lie – it was the cover that caught my eye on this one. Bold, bright and with a ship speeding through space – just what I needed😊. Better still, there is a protagonist without legs, which I further liked…

BLURB: AD 2118. Humanity has colonised the Moon, Mars, Ceres and Europa. Captain Ellisa Shann commands Khidr, a search and rescue ship with a crew of twenty-five, tasked to assist the vast commercial freighters that supply the different solar system colonies.

Shann has no legs and has taken to life in zero-g partly as a result. She is a talented tactician who has a tendency to take too much on her own shoulders. Now, while on a regular six-month patrol through the solar system, Khidr picks up a distress call from the freighter Hercules…

REVIEW: This one is written in first-person viewpoint (I), across several protagonists. It starts with what should be a routine call for help – and turns into something far more stressful and unexpected. I loved the initial scene-setting and how lethal acceleration is to the oh-so-fragile crew, which is done really well. The world is vividly depicted without lots of info-dumping and I quickly bonded with the Shann, the captain. When something then goes wrong, the captain quickly and decisively deals with it – and while we were regularly in other characters’ viewpoints, it was Shann who was my solid favourite. I felt her character and motivation was by far the most well nuanced and established. However, there were times when she seemed oddly detached from the crew, who she’d spent years alongside. We’re told they are a tight-knit bunch, but Shann doesn’t seem to know them well enough. I liked the fact that despite she is clearly tough-minded and brilliant, she is also fiercely individualistic and maybe that has compromised her leadership skills. This sort of nuanced characterisation is unusual in such an action thriller.

I thought the overall pacing worked well and mostly the characterisation was successful, though it’s always a challenge to get that completely right in such a action-packed story. I also thought the action scenes were very well written, with a strong balance between the characters’ thoughts and emotion amidst the unfolding chaos.

However, while the initial emergency has been dealt with, our intrepid crew are still facing a major hazard with a host of questions that have been raised, but not fully addressed. I’m assuming that this is the start of a series, but there is nothing to suggest that is the case. If it isn’t, then I am beyond disappointed – I want more! On the grounds that I believe it is the beginning of a series, this one is highly recommended to fans of high-octane space opera adventure. While I obtained an arc of Fearless from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Grave Secrets – Book 1 of the Lavington Windsor Mysteries by Alice James #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #GraveSecretsbookreview

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I love the cover on this book and, craving something with plenty of humour, I requested it, hoping for mayhem and nonsense in amongst the whodunit…

BLURB: Toni Windsor is trying to live a quiet life in the green and pleasant county of Staffordshire. She’d love to finally master the rules of croquet, acquire a decent boyfriend and make some commission as an estate agent. All that might have to wait, though, because there are zombies rising from their graves, vampires sneaking out of their coffins and a murder to solve. And it’s all made rather more complicated by the fact that she’s the one raising all the zombies. Oh, and she’s dating one of the vampires too. Really, what’s a girl meant to do?

REVIEW: The strapline for this one is: Agatha Raisin meets Sookie Stackhouse, with croquet and zombies. And it’s spot on. Toni is a quirkier, younger version of Agatha, while the paranormal backdrop, though firmly set in rural England, is peopled with characters that wouldn’t look out of place in the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries. There is also a similar amount of heat in Grave Secrets as in Charlaine Harris’s books, which means that while it is considerably less explicit than the HBO True Blood series – it still contains several raunchy scenes. This isn’t usually an ingredient I look for in my reads, but it’s done well. Toni’s strong attraction to Oscar is convincingly portrayed – along with her ongoing concerns about his suitability, until she sees him again when once again, she’s swept off her feet.

But what really beguiled me is the strong first-person voice. A breezy, generally can-do attitude, combined with a sharp-edged Brit humour that had me sniggering throughout and a couple of times made me laugh aloud. The vampires are suitably arrogant and entitled, so no surprises there – though I also like the fact that they come in shades of nastiness and some make a real effort to be more caring of the humans in their coterie. I also really like Toni’s relationship with Peter, the other human who is in Oscar’s coterie. James has the ability to write her characters with warmth along with the snarky humour, so it didn’t descend into an adventure where poor put-upon Toni is ranged against all the powerful nasties without any help. To counter-balance the vile behaviour of the antagonists, there are also a number of people happy to assist Toni.

Another plus point – the fact that Toni is a necromancer, who has been raising the dead since a small child. They are normally portrayed as chilling creatures, whose repellent habits make them as unwholesome as the zombies they create – so Toni’s portrayal as a bubbly, impetuous young woman full of strong views on what is Right and Wrong comes as an enjoyable change. As you may have gathered – I was charmed by this one, so I’m very much looking forward to reading the next book in the series. While I obtained an arc of Grave Secrets from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10
10.8.20

Review of NETGALLEY arc Every Sky A Grave – Book 1 of The Ascendance series by Jay Posey #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #EverySkyaGravebookreview

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I read and thoroughly enjoyed Jay Posey’s Outriders series – see my review of Outriders and review of Sungrazer. These books were military science fiction, full of action and adventure – so I was unprepared for Elyth’s careful, thoughtful approach.

BLURB: HER WORD IS HER WEAPON.
Mankind has spread out and conquered the galaxy by mastering the fundamental language of the universe. With the right training, the right application of words, truth itself can be rearranged.

Language is literally power. Peace reigns now. Order reigns. For if a planet deviates too far from what the authorities plan, an agent is sent out to correct that. To quietly and with great skill, end that world. One such agent is Elyth – a true believer.

REVIEW: I loved this one! Elyth is an insanely powerful character with cataclysmic power, which it should have been a real problem. I shouldn’t have been so worried on her behalf as she is pitchforked, still reeling and unprepared from a previously traumatic assignment, into this most challenging task. But her weapon isn’t some technical planet-busting gismo – Posey is far more inventive than that. Elyth’s power comes from a mastery of language as a subset of the fabric of the universe that can have the power to unravel it, and its secrets are kept within an all-women sect that help The Ascendancy keep order throughout all human space. Elyth is their agent, who has been sent secretly to Qel to discover what is causing a disturbance within the Deep Language – and eliminate it at whatever cost.

This isn’t a foot-to-the-floor, all-guns-blazing adventure. This is one of those tense stories where the main protagonist is scrabbling to cope when all her plans are up-ended before she has a chance to get going. So initially the pacing is quite slow. I’ve no problem with that – it gave me plenty of time to get immersed in the world and acquainted with how this unusual world works, as well as more time to get to know Elyth. She doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve, or emote all that much – she’s been trained not to. It also meant that when the action did kick off, it had far more impact.

The descriptions of the countryside, as Elyth is trying to stay hidden from the security forces, gave me a vivid picture of the world. Not only did this enrich my reading experience – it was also important as part of the story. Because it matters that Elyth becomes increasingly fond of the planet and feels an affinity for the flora and fauna that lives there. I’m not going to say more, as I don’t want to lurch into Spoiler territory. Suffice to say, the plot goes off into a direction both familiar and yet with a different twist, so that I’m very keen to read the next book in the series. And I’m hoping that Posey is going to write it quickly. This excellent read is highly recommended for science fiction fans who like their colony adventures with a different twist. While I obtained an arc of Every Sky is a Grave from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Mother Code by Carol Stivers #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheMotherCodebookreview

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I put this one down feeling rather conflicted. It’s an ambitious book in its scope, as Stivers attempts to take the classic apocalyptic lethal plague scenario and give it an interesting twist.

BLURB: The year is 2049. When a deadly non-viral agent intended for biowarfare spreads out of control, scientists must scramble to ensure the survival of the human race. They turn to their last resort, a plan to place genetically engineered children inside the cocoons of large-scale robots–to be incubated, birthed, and raised by machines. But there is yet one hope of preserving the human order–an intelligence programmed into these machines that renders each unique in its own right–the Mother Code.

Kai is born in America’s desert southwest, his only companion his robot Mother, Rho-Z. Equipped with the knowledge and motivations of a human mother, Rho-Z raises Kai and teaches him how to survive. But as children like Kai come of age, their Mothers transform too–in ways that were never predicted. When government survivors decide that the Mothers must be destroyed, Kai must make a choice. Will he break the bond he shares with Rho-Z? Or will he fight to save the only parent he has ever known?

REVIEW: After I started reading this one, I discovered that Stivers is a scientist – which is evident by all the techy details she became engrossed in, which as far as I was concerned, slightly held up the pace. This book isn’t presented as a hard sci fi read – and the fact that a lot of the science surfaced at several crucial points, where the pacing should have been increasing didn’t help my bonding with the main characters.
I think this book had the potential to be a truly great read – but Stivers hasn’t quite pulled it off and that is because the story can’t make up its mind what it’s trying to do. It could have been a quirky, hard sci fi adventure about how saving the species got messed up from the viewpoint of the key scientists as the survivors desperately try to outwit the lethal robots protecting them. Or it could have been a gritted survival adventure from the viewpoint of the children battling to stay alive in the desert, accompanied by their robotic mothers. But what Stivers tried to do was straddle both stories and the result is a bit of a hot mess, particularly by the end.

I found it a rather frustrating read, because just as I was starting to care about one of the characters, the viewpoint shifted yet again, which meant that I didn’t bond with anyone in the book, though I came close to caring about poor little Kai and James Said. It didn’t help that I’m not a fan of the apocalyptic scenario where there is a steady attrition of main characters, but in fairness to me – this one wasn’t marketed as that kind of book. It’s a shame, because Stivers isn’t a bad writer and if only she’d had an editor who had given her more clarity as to what she really wanted to do with this story, it could have been awesome. Apparently, Stephen Spielberg has bought the rights to the story, and I’ll be interested to see if he’ll tell the more interesting, quirkier story – or turn it into a Hollywood cliché.

Recommended for fans who enjoy their apocalyptic adventures with a dollop of hard sci fi. The ebook arc copy of The Mother Code was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Ghost Ups Her Game – Book 9 of the Bailey Ruth mysteries by Carolyn Hart #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #GhostUpsHerGamebookreview

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I was looking for a cosy mystery, wanting the comfort of something fixable and tidy as the world continues to spin into havoc – and happened upon this intriguing offering. I don’t often read ghostly investigators, although I know it’s a popular sub-genre of fantasy crime. So would I enjoy this one?

BLURB: After a busy morning dispatching emissaries from Heaven’s Department of Good Intentions to those in need, Bailey Ruth Raeburn is feeling flush with success. So when an urgent call for help comes through from her old hometown, she can’t resist taking on the mission herself. After all, what could go wrong? With the shouted warning of her boss, Wiggins – “Irregular! Problematic!” – ringing in her ears, she arrives to face a shocking scene: Professor Iris Gallagher leaning over the corpse of her colleague Matt Lambert, the murder weapon clutched in her hand. Bailey Ruth is only sent to help the innocent, but things are looking very black for Iris. With Wiggins breathing down her neck, and her old friend Police Chief Sam Cobb casting doubt on her every theory, Bailey Ruth must uncover the truth – or this could be the last trip to earth she’s ever allowed to make.

REVIEW: First, let’s get the fact that this is the nineth book in the series out of the way – it isn’t an issue. While initially I was a bit adrift and do feel that there could have been just a little bit more context as to exactly how Bailey got this particular job, once the investigation got under way, it was fairly easy to work out what was going on. And the fact that this is Bailey’s home patch, where she lived when she was alive made it sufficiently plausible for me to suspend my disbelief.

Besides, I like Bailey. She is generally a very chirpy, upbeat character who seems to thrive on a bit of excitement and chaos going on around her. Although there was a point when everything was going wrong that she became overwhelmed and had a crisis of confidence – I liked that, too. While it was a pleasant change to have a confident protagonist, who wasn’t particularly angst-ridden, I felt Hart successfully avoided her also coming across as unduly smug, which wouldn’t have worked during this particular investigation.

What you won’t get with this one is a foot-to-the-floor action-filled adventure. It’s a steady accumulation of clues, as the suspects are each lined up and eliminated. I very much enjoyed the murder mystery aspect of this story – it was well handled with a reasonable number of suspects. And unlike some cosy mysteries, there was a real sense of loss and outrage at the death of a couple of the victims – at the cutting short of their lives and the waste of what they had to offer. Overall, this is an entertaining, enjoyable murder mystery written by an experienced author who knows what she is doing – recommended for fans of cosy mysteries with a paranormal twist. While I obtained an arc of Ghost Ups Her Game from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheSpaceBetweenWorldsbookreview

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I can’t lie – it was the beautiful cover that caught my eye – and then that quirky blurb nailed it, as I was looking for more science fiction goodness with a bit of a difference. And I got that, alright…

BLURB: Reasons Cara has died:
– The emperor of the wasteland wanted to make an example of her mother and started with her
– One of her mother’s boyfriends wanted to cover up what he did to her
– She was born addicted and her lungs didn’t develop
– She was left alone, and a stranger came along
– The runners came for a neighbour and she was in the way
– The runners came for her mother and she was in the way
– The runners came for her boyfriend and she was in the way
– The runners came for no one, serving nothing but chaos and fear, and she was what they found
– Her mother left her alone in a shed while she worked or got high and she fell asleep alone and hungry and forever

Reasons Cara has lived:
– She doesn’t know but there are 8.
The multiverse business is booming, but there’s just one catch: no one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive.
Enter Cara. Of the 382 realities that have been unlocked, Cara is dead in all but eight
But on this earth, she survived. Born in the wastelands where if a basic lack of resources didn’t kill you, violence would, Cara is happy to reap the benefits of a job and a safe place in the city to call home. But when one of her eight remaining doppelgangers dies under mysterious circumstances, Cara is plunged into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and future in ways she never could have imagined – and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.

REVIEW: I loved Cara, who is a gutsy survivor with a grim past which defines her and makes her valuable, giving her a lifestyle she couldn’t have dreamt of. She travels to parallel worlds where there isn’t her equivalent, because that would kill her, so she regularly visits other Earths where there are characters she grew up with – in some of them she has a surviving family – as well as those where her murderer thrives. Having been the victim of violent, abusive behaviour and regularly gone hungry and thirsty, she is keen to stay employed by the Eldridge Corporation. However, she becomes increasingly unhappy in the direction that the company is going. It doesn’t help that the role of traversers – people like her, who travel to parallel worlds – is steadily being pared down to a handful of operatives and the rumour is that in a few months, their job will be automated.

The worldbuilding is well done. I liked the premise and while there isn’t shedloads of science, the explanations offered are all cohesive and make sense. Cara can only travel to 372 of the possible 380 worlds available – and there aren’t more available, as those that become too misaligned from Earth Zero, the original world where the found of the Eldridge company made his breakthrough, they disappear and are no longer reachable. The gulf between the haves and have-nots is far too wide between Ashtown and Wiley City. Climate refugees and the descendants of the people end up in Ashtown, scrabbling to survive. Inevitably they are black and horribly poor, so are kept out of Wiley City by ferocious security. While there is trading between the two communities, it is limited and access to clean water and decent food in Ashtown depends on who you know and how strong you are.

The dystopian world was plausible and well depicted, though not overly original – that was left to the plot, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The dynamic Johnson sets up, where Cara’s traversing uncovers some unexpected surprises that forces her to re-examine her priorities, works well. I thought Cara’s harsh past was very well handled – it could have so easily tipped into victimhood and it didn’t, though do be warned, this book does deal with violent relationship abuse, in amongst the general murder and mayhem. I also liked the hopeless longing that portrays Cara’s romantic yearnings throughout most of the book, too.

The denouement is effectively handled, with plenty of tension as the stakes continue to grow – until the climactic ending, where all the plotpoints are satisfactorily tied up. Overall, this is a really strong debut novel and Micaiah Johnson is certainly One To Watch. Recommended for fans of multiverse science fiction in a near-future era. While I obtained an arc of The Space Between Worlds from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Seven Devils – Book 1 of the Seven Devils series by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May #BrinfluffNETGALLEYreview #SevenDevilsbookreview

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I was thrilled to be approved for an arc for this book. However, when I started reading it, I had a massive struggle getting into the story – because throughout the text all through the book were the words NOT FOR SALE OR DISTRIBUTION randomly appearing in the middle of sentences. It made it very difficult to connect with the story. After appealing to Orion, they did send me a PDF which had watermarked pages, instead, making it much easier to read – but the catch was that I could only read that on my desktop. I spend HOURS in front of my computer every day – I read for fun and relaxation on my Kindle. I did try… but it wasn’t fun, so in the end I returned to the version with the phrase running through it and persevered. Though I won’t be using the word DISTRIBUTION in my own writing any time soon.

I know piracy is an ongoing issue for publishers and I am aware that a few reviewers abuse the privilege we’ve been given in being allowed to read advance copies, but I’m not sure this is the answer. It is a cracking story – but being constantly yanked out of the story really hampered my enjoyment. I have tried my best to not allow this issue to influence my honest opinion of the book, but I’m not sure if this would have been a solid 10 from me if I hadn’t had such a struggle. If that’s the case, what a shame…

BLURB: When Eris faked her death, she thought she had left her old life as the heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Novantaen Resistance, an organization opposed to the empire’s voracious expansion, throws her right back into the fray. Eris has been assigned a new mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return the intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But her partner for the mission, mechanic and hotshot pilot Cloelia, bears an old grudge against Eris, making an already difficult infiltration even more complicated.

When they find the ship, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with firsthand knowledge of the corrupt empire’s inner workings.

REVIEW: This is an ensemble narrative, as this group of desperate women of driven to face overwhelming odds to try and fight back a corrupt and inhuman system. I loved the dynamic and real danger posed by the deep programming inserted in every loyal Tholosian, who won’t hesitate to attack if they suspect they are facing a traitor. Life is both cheap and merciless – this dystopian society is rotten right to the top.

It would have been so easy for either author to have resorted to chunks of info-dumping. However, they manage to avoid such measures by giving us chapters in alternating viewpoints and also providing flashbacks to show how each character arrived at the stage where they’re prepared to risk all. It’s well done. Not only have May and Lam managed to keep the plot moving forward, those flashbacks heighten the stakes and strengthen readers’ bonding with the protagonists, which is always more of a challenge when there are more than one or two protagonists in the mix.

The gathering sense of drama as this book moved to the final denouement is what really sets it apart, however. I love May’s writing – it was the prospect of reading a space opera adventure written by her that prompted me to request this book, after her fabulous Falconer trilogy – see my review of The Falconer, The Vanishing Throne and The Fallen Kingdom. She writes with the brakes off – and this book is imbued with that madcap energy I have grown to associate with her style and works brilliantly during the closing climactic scenes. I couldn’t put this one down as that ending played out – and I do hope we don’t have to wait too long for the second book, because it ends on a real cliffhanger that had me dreaming of the world. Highly recommended for all space opera fans. The ebook arc copy of Seven Devils was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.

9/10