Category Archives: new release special

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc String City by Graham Edwards #Brainfluffbookreview #StringCitybookreview

Standard

I liked the look of the cover and the sound of this one, so was delighted when I was received the arc as I hadn’t read anything from this author before.

It’s a tough job being a gumshoe in an interdimensional city full of gods, living concepts and weirder things. Good thing I’m a stringwalker, able to jump between realities. It started when I was hired to investigate an explosion at a casino. A simple heist, I thought, but it turned into a race to stop the apocalypse. So I rolled the dice, and now I’m up against the ancient Greek Titans, an interdimensional spider god and a mysterious creature known as the Fool. I’m going to need more than just luck to solve this one.

I’ll be honest – it took me a while to warm to this one. Initially I wasn’t sure if the Raymond Chandleresque writing worked with all those descriptions of quantum physics, jostling up against the likes of titans, wind gods and robots. In addition, I wasn’t sure if I liked the main character much as he also took some getting used to. I wanted to kick him hard in the shins when he kept calling Zephyr ‘hon’ – even when she asked him not to. However, as we got to know him better, I decided that he was one of the good guys, after all.

While there is an overarching case that our nameless gumshoe is trying to unravel (literally, given the parlous state of the interdimensional strings that hold the city together) the book is made up of a series of mysteries he tries to crack. His assistants vary – sometimes he is alone, sometimes the robot is a sidekick and other times it’s the girl. This variation is a smart move as it stops the various adventures from feeling too similar.

However I can’t discuss this book without referring to the extraordinary worldbuilding – this is Edwards’ writing strength as he weaves a savage world where aspects of quantum physics prevail alongside the Einsteinian type we’re more used to. His flights of imagination are literally mind-boggling and while I initially felt uncomfortable at being tipped into such an odd place, Edwards’ confident depictions persuaded me to suspend my disbelief and relax into the weirdness.

It was very much worth the effort – I thoroughly enjoyed this oddball adventure and recommend it to anyone with a taste for adventure with an unusual twist. While I obtained an arc of String City from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Advertisements

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Cyanide with Christie Book 3 of Crime With the Classics series by Katherine Bolger Hyde #Brainfluffbookreview #CyanidewithChristiebookreview

Standard

The premise for this entertaining cosy whodunnit caught my eye, as did the title. So I was delighted to be approved for a NetGalley arc.

Having finished transforming Windy Corner, the grand Victorian mansion she inherited from her great aunt, into a writers’ retreat, widowed literature professor Emily Cavanaugh is ready to receive her first set of guests. But her careful planning is thrown into disarray by the unexpected arrival of outrageous true-crime writer, Cruella Crime, whose unpardonably rude behaviour is causing great offence. As a ferocious ice storm rages outside, the guests entertain one another with a game of charades. But their revelries are brought to a sudden halt by the discovery of a body in one of the guest bedrooms. When it transpires the victim was poisoned, Emily decides to take a leaf out of the book of her favourite detective writer, Agatha Christie, and investigate.

I found Emily an interesting protagonist. At a time when kick ass, feisty heroines with lethal fighting skills are thick on the ground, this bookish, hesitant, and rather timid lady was a refreshing change. Although she did at times come across as a throwback from another age, particularly in her rather inexplicable attitude to her hunky and adorably devout suitor. That said, I enjoyed the clash of personalities of the would-be writers cooped up at Windy Corner when a snowstorm cuts off their retreat. Under such circumstances, the shocker would be if a body didn’t turn up – and we are not disappointed.

While there are a number of red herrings, I did work out exactly what was going on well before the denouement. That said, I was never tempted to stop reading as I was drawn into the story and frankly by the end was more held by the characters than the fallout from the murder mystery. Overall, this was a pleasant change from my normal reading and I would happily get hold of another book from this author.

While I obtained an arc of Cyanide with Christie from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas #Brainfluffbookreview #ThePsychologyofTimeTravelbookreview

Standard

I’ve been eyeing this one with enthusiasm and was delighted to be able to get hold of it via Netgalley. Apart from anything else – that cover is to die for…

In 1967, four female scientists worked together to build the world’s first time machine. But just as they are about to debut their creation, one of them suffers a breakdown, putting the whole project—and future of time travel—in jeopardy. To protect their invention, one member is exiled from the team—erasing her contributions from history. Fifty years later, time travel is a big business. Twenty-something Ruby Rebello knows her beloved grandmother, Granny Bee, was one of the pioneers, though no one will tell her more. But when Bee receives a mysterious newspaper clipping from the future reporting the murder of an unidentified woman, Ruby becomes obsessed: could it be Bee? Who would want her dead? And most importantly of all: can her murder be stopped?

Firstly, if you are in the habit of diving in and skimming your way through a story – that reading tactic won’t work here. This is a densely written, tightly crafted book with a non-linear timeline that means you need to slow down and pay attention when reading this one. And if you approached this one, thinking that you would be in for the kind of adventurous mayhem offered by Jodi Taylor in her Chronicles of St Mary’s series – again, you’d be wrong. It’s nothing of the sort. So now we’ve got the two fundamental mistakes I committed when first approaching this one out of the way – let’s address what it is.

For once, the title is spot on – this book addresses what regular time travelling does to the travellers. Unlike most time-travelling books, this one doesn’t take us on forays into the past or future, but concentrates on a small handful of people who are profoundly affected by time travelling and follows their story. I was intrigued that some didn’t even time travel themselves – Ginger, for instance – but were connected in some way to people who did. Told in multiple viewpoint, the story weaves around a tightly-knit group for whom the ordinary rules of the universe no longer apply. Led by someone innately arrogant and entitled, Grace’s viewpoint pervades the group and anyone who disagrees with her viewpoint is forced to leave. Apparently driven by a fear that the project will be shut down on the grounds that time travel causes mental illness, Grace institutes rigorous checks, including nasty games designed to foster an indifference towards death in the travellers.

How can an outsider find a way into this group to discover details about a mysterious death? As the story jumps between the characters and different timelines, we gain an insight into the motivations and lives of a handful of women all somehow involved in the particular death, or time travelling. It is an engrossing, clever read packed with telling character details that have had me mulling over this one ever since I put it down. And, exceptionally, I’m tempted to go back and reread it – something I hardly ever do. Partly, because while I thoroughly enjoyed it and am in awe of the writing talent that is Mascarenhas – I didn’t love it. Being a rather simple soul, I need to be able to bond with at least one of the main characters and other than poor Bee – I didn’t.

I’m really sorry about that, because the other outstanding aspect of this book is that the only male characters who appear are incidental. For once, I’m reading a book where every single person who has agency and matters is a woman – I can’t tell you after growing up in the 60s and 70s what an amazing feeling that is. I just wished I cared more about at least one of these brave, powerful females. However, that doesn’t diminish the book’s importance or lessen my appreciation of the writing skill on display and I shall definitely be looking out for more by this immensely talented author. While I obtained an arc of The Psychology of Time Travel from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Revenant Express by George Mann #Brainfluffbookreview #TheRevenantExpressbookreview

Standard

This is the long-awaited next book in this entertaining steampunk, gothic series featuring our two heroic crime fighters Maurice Newbury and Veronica Hobbes.

Following their bloody encounter with the Executioner, Sir Maurice Newbury’s assistant Veronica Hobbes is close to death. Desperate to save her life, Newbury and Veronica’s sister Amelia board a sleeper train bound for St. Petersburg, in the hope that Gustav Faberge might have the answer. But there are enemies on board, and Newbury and Amelia will need all their strength and cunning to survive the Revenant Express.

This is an action-packed read, given that it is only just over 250 pages long. Mann certainly manages to keep the tempo fast and furious as both Veronica Hobbes and Maurice Newbury are both attempting to tackle a terrible threat. Although I enjoyed the excellent action scenes, particularly on the train – I am a tad concerned about a major anomaly. We are told in the blurb that Veronica is close to death – so I actually reread the opening chapter in which she features, and at no time do we get a sense in her viewpoint that she’s anything other than a tad cold and miserable while standing in the pouring rain. While close to death, she happily goes off to get involved in a demanding case with Sir Charles Bainbridge and doesn’t mention feeling slightly unwell at any stage.

While in the ordinary run of things, this issues would be a dealbreaker, they aren’t this time around, simply because I like the world and the characters so much. It doesn’t hurt that this particular adventure is largely set on a train travelling across Europe, so a lot of the action doesn’t impact the wider story arc. The gruesome nature of the infection causing all sorts of havoc presents a real danger to our trusty protagonists – and has Mann has already demonstrated that he isn’t shy of killing off some main characters, I found myself paying real attention to the very dramatic fights.

That said, something clearly occurred that threw a major spanner in the works regarding Mann’s writing. I hope he is able to get back on track to write the next exciting instalment, but if he can’t or doesn’t – that’s okay, too. I do wince sometimes at the angry impatience of some readers while waiting for the next book. Everyone experiences major upsets in their lives – including authors in the middle of writing a popular series. In the meantime this series is recommended for fans of steampunk adventure with a gothic feel.

While I obtained an arc of The Revenant Express from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Ebook NOVELLA Knife Children by Lois McMaster Bujold #Brainfluffbookreview #TheKnifeChildrenbookreview

Standard

Those of you who are regular visitors to my blog know that Himself and I are huge fans of Bujold. So it was a given that we had pre-ordered this novella in The Sharing Knife series, which was completed a number of years ago.

Lakewalker Barr Foxbrush returns from two years of patrolling the bitter wilds of Luthlia against the enigmatic, destructive entities called malices, only to find that the secret daughter he’d left behind in the hinterland of Oleana has disappeared from her home after a terrible accusation. The search for her will call on more of Barr’s mind and heart than just his mage powers, as he tries to balance his mistakes of the past and his most personal duties to the future.

Bujold’s claim that this novella can be read as a stand-alone is correct. While I suddenly recalled exactly who Barr was about a quarter of the way in, it really didn’t matter. As ever, Bujold absolutely nails the story. She has written a series of successful novellas, getting the story progression, characterisation and pacing spot on – something the majority of authors who attempt this writing form don’t often achieve in my experience.

I have always had a soft spot for this particular world, where mages a long time ago let loose terrible magical creatures who feast on living energy, growing stronger and evermore powerful with every victim they consume. Theses malices can only be stopped by the death energy of a Lakewalker, who are the descendants of those irresponsible magic-users. Unsurprisingly, there is a gulf between the non-magical community, mostly farmers, who are at major risk from the malices and the Lakewalkers, who are the only people able to kill the malices – but at a very high cost to themselves.

This story, where Barr is forced to confront the consequences of his wild past and try to fix things, drew me in from the first line and wouldn’t let me go until the final full stop. Like most of the other people who have reviewed this book, my main regret was that it ended. However, it was brought to a fitting conclusion that I found unexpectedly emotional. This is Bujold at her awesome best and is highly recommended for any reader with a pulse, particularly if they enjoy well written fantasy.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Endgames – Book 12 of the Imager Portfolio series by L.E. Modesitt Jr #Brainfluffbookreview #Endgamesbookreview

Standard

When I saw this offering on NetGalley, I immediately requested it and was delighted to be approved – see my review of the first book, Imager. No… I haven’t read all eleven of the previous books in this series – I think I got as far as eighth book. However, although I have a few issues with this book the fact that I hadn’t read the previous two in this particular story arc wasn’t a problem.

Solidar is in chaos. Charyn, the young and untested ruler of Solidar, has survived assassination, and he struggles to gain control of a realm in the grip of social upheaval, war, and rioting. Solidar cannot be allowed to slide into social and political turmoil that will leave the High Holders with their ancient power and privilege, and the common people with nothing. But the stakes are even higher than he realizes.

I always enjoy Modesitt’s protagonists and Charyn is no exception. He has the steady good sense and even temperament that is the hallmark of many of this author’s main characters. As ever in a Modesitt book, we get a progression of everyday details alongside the ongoing drama which tends to build slowly. I don’t know anyone else who writes fantasy in quite so much detail and gets away with it. However, the question has to be with this particular offering – is there just too much detail silting up the pace?

Unfortunately, I would have to say yes. While there were still many elements that I enjoyed and I found it difficult to put this book down, I also found myself skipping the love letters that passed between two of the main characters, along with the long-winded philosophical questions they discussed. I don’t dive into a high fantasy adventure to read several pages about the nature of evil being discussed between the protagonists – I would rather it was played out within the action. However, it wasn’t a dealbreaker and at no time was I tempted to DNF the book because I still cared about the characters and I really wanted to know how it was going to work out.

I was surprised at where the story went, with real poignancy during the aftermath of the action. This is one of the aspects that Modesitt handles really well – because we are pulled into his stories by following the day to day routines of his characters, it matters when bad things happen to them. Overall though I enjoyed this one and know that the next time I have an opportunity to get hold of another Modesitt book, I will jump at it. He may not always get the balance absolutely right, but he remains one of my favourite authors.

While I obtained an arc of Endgames from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
7/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Headlong – Book 21 of the Bill Slider mysteries by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles #Brainfluffbookreview #Headlongbookreview

Standard

I thoroughly enjoyed the previous book I read in this series, Shadow Play, and was delighted when I saw this offering on Netgalley, so tucked right in…

When one of London’s best-known literary agents is found dead in strange circumstances, having fallen headlong from his office window, DCI Slider is under pressure from the Borough Commander to confirm a case of accidental death. But when the evidence points to murder, Slider and his team find themselves uncovering some decidedly scandalous secrets in the suave and successful Ed Wiseman’s past. An embittered ex-wife. A discarded mistress. A frustrated would-be author. A disgruntled former employee. Many had reason to hold a grudge against the late lamented literary agent. But who would feel strongly enough to kill him?

This is a classic police procedural, where the focus of the story revolves around the main protagonist, Bill Slider, who heads up the murder squad. As the investigation progresses, we discover more facts about the dead man and his life. And along the way, we also get a ringside seat into Bill Slider’s life, too. I like the fact that he is married with a small son and between them, they sometimes struggle with childcare when work builds up. I also like the fact that he is happily married and a concerned boss who tries to do the best for the team working under him. He isn’t magnificently defiant to his irritable bosses, either. He keeps his head down and his sour thoughts to himself, which nonetheless make entertaining reading.

At the heart of the story is the murder, of course. And Harrod-Eagles once more delivers a nicely twisty mystery with all sorts of plausible suspects that give us interesting glimpses into the publishing world. I didn’t see the resolution coming, but it made absolute sense and I was also very taken with the sudden domestic bombshell that emerged at the end of the book, too.

Any niggles? Well, just one – there were some rather flashy noirish phrases in the early stages of the book that caught my attention, until they completely disappeared around the halfway mark. There should be either more of them, or none at all. That said, I’m conscious that this is an arc, so this issue may have been fixed by the time this book comes to publication. Recommended for fans of intelligent, well-written murder mysteries with not too much gore.

While I obtained an arc of Headlong from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Murder in the Dark – Book 6 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green #Brainfluffbookreview #MurderintheDarkbookreview

Standard

This book cover looks creepy and rather horrific, but while there are murders and poor old Ishmael Jones is taking it all very seriously, this book has its tongue firmly in its cheek…

“The past is England’s dreaming, and not all of it sleeps soundly…”
Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny have been despatched to assist a group of scientists who are investigating a mysterious black hole which has appeared on a Somerset hillside. Could it really be a doorway to another dimension, an opening into another world? When one of the scientists disappears into the hole — with fatal consequences — Ishmael must prove whether it was an accident — or murder. But with no clues, no witnesses and no apparent motive, he has little to go on. Is there an alien predator at large, or is an all-too-human killer responsible? Only one thing is certain: if Ishmael does not uncover the truth in time, more deaths will follow…

I’m not sure at what point I began to see the funny side of this adventure, but when I did, there was a fair amount that set me quietly chuckling. Green’s dark humour is more apparent and gory in his Deathstalker series, but I found this version more enjoyable.

If you are looking for foot-to-the-floor action adventure, then you’ll be disappointed. Apart from the body count, which rises alongside the tension as Ishmael tries to work out exactly who or what is annihilating the wretched team of scientists stuck on the hill on a dark, dark night, there isn’t a lot that actually happens. Think of a locked room mystery in the middle of the English countryside. However, there are plenty of possible suspects – including what may or may not be emerging from that creepy hole – and lots of enjoyable character clashes and conflicts, which Green writes very well. The bonus for those who have followed the series, is that during this investigation we get to know a bit more about Jones’ shadowy past and hints that it might be catching up with him.

One of the joys of this series is his relationship with Penny, his girlfriend and dauntless sidekick – it’s rare to find a truly happy couple in these sorts of adventures and I hope it stays that way. Their snarky exchanges and domestic bickering about Penny’s driving and lack of cooking skills somehow helps to highlight just how weird it’s all got – and won’t it be nice to get back to normality…

Highly recommended if you like a bit of humour thrown in with the paranormal shenanigans – and the bonus is that this is the sort of series that you can jump in anywhere without losing too much of the context. While I obtained an arc of Murder in the Dark from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Athena’s Champion – Book 1 of the Olympus trilogy by David Hair and Cath Mayo #Brainfluffbookreview #Athena’sChampionbookreview

Standard

One of my lovely blogging friends recommended this, though I’m really sorry I can’t remember who is was, or I would namecheck her as this is a real gem.

Prince Odysseus of Ithaca is about to have his world torn apart. He’s travelled to the oracle at Pytho to be anointed as heir to his island kingdom; but instead the Pythia reveals a terrible secret, one that tears down every pillar of his life, and marks him out for death. Outcast by his family, hunted by the vengeful gods, Odysseus is offered sanctuary by Athena, goddess of wisdom, and thrust into the secret war between the Olympians for domination and survival. Only his wits, and his skill as a warrior, can keep him ahead of their power games – and alive.

Odysseus staggers away from this rite of passage an outcast, when he was expecting it to be part of his preparation and training for ruling Ithaca, a small rocky island off the Greek mainland. So he is out of options when Athena appears and offers to provide him with sanctuary, in return for his service. I’ve always had a soft spot for poor old Odysseus, whose – like Heracles – pays a high price for serving the gods, becoming entangled in the Trojan War and then taking ten long years to return home, to the extent that his name has come to mean a long, important journey… odyssey.

This retelling, however, deals with the events that lead up to the Trojan War and explains why the Greeks were such a quarrelsome lot. Once Odysseus has sworn his allegiance to Athena, he is automatically regarded with enmity by other members of the Olympian family, given they spend much of their time plotting against each other, terrified they will lose influence and get swallowed up by competing deities with more worshippers.
In this dangerous, uncertain world, where young Odysseus no longer even has the safety of his own family, he is forced to spend far more time than he’d like with Athena’s other champion, the mighty Theseus. This depiction has the great warrior as a bullying drunken braggart, convinced he is irresistible to woman. I like the fact that the events leading up to the Trojan War are not just explained by the gods’ insecurities, but also by Troy’s growing power as a trading centre that threatens the economy of the Spartan kingdom and the surrounding states.

I am conscious that I haven’t conveyed the pace and drama of this retelling – in amongst the intriguing backstory and strong characterisation, there is a cracking action adventure, full of fights, plots, desperate schemes and dangerous situations. Odysseus, though strong and well trained, is also too short to be able to prevail against might of a gigantic warrior like Theseus in hand-to-hand combat. However, he is clever, quick-witted and able to spin a tale to get himself out of a tricky situation, which is just as well…

I loved this one. And if you have a fondness for well-told retellings of Greek gods and heroes, this comes very highly recommended. While I obtained an arc of Athena’s Champion from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Consuming Fire – Book 2 of The Interdependency series by John Scalzi #Brainfluffbookreview #TheConsumingFirebookreview

Standard

I am linking this post up for Sci-Fi Month, hence the fabulous banner designed by Imyril. I was thrilled that I’d been immediately approved to receive a review copy of this one, given I’d really enjoyed the first book, The Collapsing Empire, and getting hold of sequels on Netgalley has proved to be increasingly difficult. When it arrived, I realised I only had the first six chapters… I’m not quite sure what to do with those, given I cannot possibly post an honest review of a book based on the opening chapters. So I decided to get hold of the rest of the book so I could at least read the rest of the story…

The Interdependency, humanity’s interstellar empire, is on the verge of collapse. The Flow, the extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible, is disappearing, leaving entire star systems stranded. When it goes, human civilization may go with it—unless desperate measures can be taken. Emperox Grayland II, the leader of the Interdependency, is ready to take those measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But nothing is ever that easy. Arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth—or at the very least, an opportunity that can allow them to ascend to power.

This is an interesting series for a variety of reasons. Dystopian sci fi where corporate greed is rampant and unchecked is a familiar trope in epic science fiction – but the Interdependency was stitched together to try and smooth out the destructive cycles of boom and bust that afflict a capitalist system. Now the Flow, a sort of super-highway of extra-dimensionality that allows far-flung star systems to trade with each other, is beginning to fail, the scrabble for power is intensifying. The corporate wheeler-dealers are magnificently cynical and greedy and everyone has plenty of snark, with the exception of Grayland II, who seems genuinely sweet.

Like many epic science fiction stories, Scalzi has passages of semi-omniscience where he tells the reader what is going on, rather than depicting the whole situation from the viewpoint of one of his cast of characters. This keeps the pace going and allows the reader to know some of the finer points that Scalzi thinks is important – and he makes this info-dumps enjoyable by the dry tongue-in-cheek tone he adopts. His characters are vivid, with some almost parodies in their desperation for more power, more leverage, more anything-they-can-get. I am intrigued by others, like Kiva, who I haven’t yet worked out is on the side of the angels, or simply out for what she can get. But be warned, she swears up a storm so if extensive use of the f-word offends you, then this is one to avoid.

Epic sci fi isn’t my favourite sub-genre – too much telling me what I should think… too much earnestness from the protagonists… too many powerful, entitled male characters… And I’m loving the fact that Scalzi has upended every single one of those peeves. His politically dynamic and feisty female characters are a pleasant change. His snarky tone and trick of understating the terrible consequences if the Interdependency fractures at the same time the Flow fails gives this book an almost urban fantasy feel. Will I be getting the next book? Oh yes.
9/10