Category Archives: novella

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Ebook NOVELLA The Physicians of Vilnoc – Book 8 of the Penric and Desdemona series by Lois McMaster Bujold #Brainfluffbookreview #ThePhysiciansofVilnocbookreview #WyrdandWonder2020

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We are both huge fans of this accomplished, game-changing author, whose Miles Vorkosigan series took a physically disabled character in the far future and redefined what could be done with space opera – see my review of Cryoburn. We have been delighted all over again by her talent in this delightful series of fantasy novellas, set in her World of the Five Gods series, and have followed Penric’s adventures – see my reviews of Penric’s Demon, Penric and the Shaman, Penric’s Mission, Mira’s Last Dance, Penric’s Fox, The Prisoner of Limnos, and The Orphans of Raspay. You’ll notice that my ratings are consistently high and quite right, too. So we were thrilled to hear Bujold was bringing out a new book during lockdown that was guaranteed to sweep us away from the current misery surrounding us, and into another world… Or is it? I have linked this review to the Wyrd and Wonder 2020 event.

BLURB: When a mysterious plague breaks out in the army fort guarding Vilnoc, the port capital of the duchy of Orbas, Temple sorcerer Penric and his demon Desdemona are called upon by General Arisaydia to resurrect Penric’s medical skills and solve its lethal riddle. In the grueling days that follow, Pen will find that even his magic is not enough to meet the challenges without help from dedicated new colleagues—and the god of mischance.

Yes… it’s all about a mysterious plague! Apparently Bujold was working on this late last year and into the early part of the new year. I was a bit concerned that it would be too close to home – but I decided to make a start on it and if I found the storyline was all about social distancing and quarantining, I could always DNF it and wait until this crisis passed. In the event, I was immediately pulled into the story by dear old Penric, whom I LOVE and didn’t stop reading until I was finished.

I would suggest that if for some reason, you have encountered this offering without having read any of the other books, do at least take the time to get hold of Penric’s Demon. The original adventure sets up the lovely premise running through this series, and while I’d suggest you then work your way through the rest of the novellas on the grounds that it seems a real shame not to read such a cracking series in the right order, you certainly won’t flounder too much. Bujold is far too accomplished a writer for that to happen – and the manner in which she has nailed the novella form proves it. The pages simply turned themselves…

I had been initially concerned that the final scenes of this book would prove unsatisfactory, as like everyone else these days, I know far too much about what a tricky business it is to come out of an epidemic. But I hadn’t taken into account that Bujold knows her way around medical matters sufficiently well to bring the whole crisis to a satisfactory conclusion, including a couple of really nice touches along the way. As ever, a cracking read from one of our most talented SFF authors alive today. Highly recommended for anyone with a pulse, who enjoys an engrossing story that won’t take up a huge slice of life to get through it.
10/10

Sunday Post – 26th April, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Another lockdown week. The weather continues to be freakishly fabulous, so I’m enjoying many tea and coffee breaks in the garden. I’ve posted the choisya blossom, which is fabulous and the amber bedding plant last year, that I left in the garden and has turned into a perennial. I love it when that happens. And the echiums are now starting to bloom!

Non-gardening news: I am missing family horribly, but my daughter and I have had a couple of marathon phone calls, which meant on Friday night I didn’t get to bed until the early hours. I’m so filled with admiration at how she has organised the home-schooling routine for her 15-year-old and 10-year-old, so that it still makes time for little Eliza, who is also struggling with lockdown. Rebecca was telling me how she was calling out to another toddler in a shopping trolley, who was shouting back at her, as she went around the supermarket and they were both stretching towards each other, desperate to make contact. It must be so hard on that age-group who developmentally need socialisation, when you can’t even explain to them what is going on.

I had the pleasure of judging a poetry competition organised to coincide with the Littlehampton V.E. celebrations. Though the celebrations were cancelled, the competition went ahead and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the entries, all submitted online. I’ve been working on another writing project, which hopefully I will be talking about in more detail in the next few weeks.

Last week I read:

Q by Christina Dalcher
Every child’s potential is regularly determined by a standardized measurement: their quotient (Q). Score high enough, and attend a top tier school with a golden future. Score too low, and it’s off to a federal boarding school with limited prospects afterwards. The purpose? An improved society where education costs drop, teachers focus on the more promising students, and parents are happy.

Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s elite schools. When her nine-year-old daughter bombs a monthly test and her Q score drops to a disastrously low level, she is immediately forced to leave her top school for a federal institution hundreds of miles away. As a teacher, Elena thought she understood the tiered educational system, but as a mother whose child is now gone, Elena’s perspective is changed forever. She just wants her daughter back.
It’s a long time since I’ve read a protagonist I really hated as much as I loathed Elena. Review to follow.


The Hedgeway – short story by Vivienne Tuffnell
Leading from the overgrown grass and thicket of brambles were the distinct signs of feet passing: small, bare human feet.
A child had walked here, breaking the crisp coating of hoar frost, and had stood only yards from the kitchen window.
Cathy thought: They’re only footprints, so why do I suddenly feel so scared?
Daniel’s grandmother’s house seems only a few years from becoming a ruin but the roof is still sound and unlike his rented accommodation, the whole place is his. It seems the perfect time to ask girlfriend Cathy to move in with him and together they plan to renovate the house. But the old house has secrets that it wants to share with them whether they want to know or not.
(This is a longer short story of around 17,000 words)
After getting through Q I was yearning for a read that I knew would be excellently written and provide a complete contrast, so I turned to an author who I knew would deliver the goods.



A Little Bit Witchy – Book 1 of the Riddler’s Edge series by A.A. Albright
Aisling Smith is about to try out for a new job – a job writing for a paper she’s never heard of. But seeing as she’s currently writing classified ads and obituaries, it would be foolish not to give it a shot. Riddler’s Edge might be a small town, but it’s definitely not boring. The train hasn’t even pulled into the station, and already a woman has been murdered.
This is one that has been lurking on my TBR pile for far too long. Enjoyable and nicely escapist, I’m glad to have found a new series to dive back into when I’ve completed more series.



The Dark Side of the Road – Book 1 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
Ishmael Jones is someone who can’t afford to be noticed, someone who lives under the radar, who drives on the dark side of the road. He’s employed to search out secrets, investigate mysteries and shine a light in dark places. Sometimes he kills people. Invited by his employer, the enigmatic Colonel, to join him and his family for Christmas, Ishmael arrives at the grand but isolated Belcourt Manor in the midst of a blizzard to find that the Colonel has mysteriously disappeared. As he questions his fellow guests, Ishmael concludes that at least one of them not least Ishmael himself – is harbouring a dangerous secret, and that beneath the veneer of festive cheer lurk passion, jealousy, resentment and betrayal. As a storm sets in, sealing off the Manor from the rest of the world, Ishmael must unmask a ruthless murderer they strike again.
This is the first book in this thoroughly enjoyable series, so I jumped at the chance to discover more about the mysterious Ishmael Jones and was quickly engrossed in this entertaining paranormal whodunit. Review to follow.



Firewalkers by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Earth is burning. Nothing can survive at the Anchor; not without water and power. But the ultra-rich, waiting for their ride off the dying Earth? They can buy water. And as for power? Well, someone has to repair the solar panels, down in the deserts below. Kids like Mao, and Lupé, and Hotep; kids with brains and guts but no hope. The Firewalkers.
This cli fi adventure drew me in from the start. Once again, Tchaikovsky didn’t disappoint – review to follow.

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NOVELLA Scythe – Book 1 of the Dimension Drift prequels by Christina Bauer

Friday Face-off featuring The Fell Sword – Book 2 of The Traitor Son series by Miles Cameron

Review of AUDIOBOOK Poirot’s Finest Cases: Eight Full-Cast BBC Radio Dramatisations based on the books by Agatha Christie

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Mother Code by Carol Stivers

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Shorefall – Book 2 of The Founders Trilogy – by Robert Bennett Jackson

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Last Emperox – Book 3 of the Interdependency series by John Scalzi

Sunday Post – 19th April 2020

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

7 Eco-Friendly Actions for Kids during the Pandemic: from EARTHDAY. ORG https://platformnumber4.com/2020/04/19/7-eco-friendly-actions-for-kids-during-the-pandemic-from-earthday-org/ These practical suggestions look really useful…

Your Own Flying Rainbows https://cindyknoke.com/2020/04/19/your-own-flying-rainbows/ Aren’t they adorable?

National Bookmobile Day https://coffeeandcatsblog.wordpress.com/2020/04/22/national-bookmobile-day-2/ I loved this article by Loreen in tribute to Mr Riggs. Let’s take a moment to remember that person who understood and honoured our love for books when we were too young to get hold of them ourselves…

Book Recommendations: If You Liked… You Might Also Like… https://bookwindowcom.wordpress.com/2020/04/16/book-recommendations-if-you-liked-you-might-also-like/ I haven’t encountered this really useful blog post before – so I thought I’d share it.

Caturday funnies – coronapocalypse edition https://bluebirdofbitterness.com/2020/04/25/caturday-funnies-coronapocalypse-edition/ Some much-needed laughter…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have the best possible Easter and a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

Review of INDIE NOVELLA Pirate Bound – prequel to the Telepathic Space Pirates series by Carysa Locke #Brainfluffbookreview #PirateBoundbookreview #SciFiMonth2019

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I’ve read and enjoyed the first two full-length books in this series – see my review of Pirate Nemesis – so was pleased to see this addition and needed something full of escapist drama to relax with after reading some grittier offerings. I am linking this review to Sci Fi Month 2019.

BLURB: A desperate gamble… Sanah would do anything to protect her little sister, even if it means taking refuge with ruthless pirates. But the psychically Talented pirates terrorizing Commonwealth space are not quite the monsters she has been led to believe. When Sanah’s empathic gift shows her the truth behind the stories, she is no longer certain who the villains are in her world.

A race on the verge of extinction… Dem’s only goal is to protect his people, especially since a deadly bio-weapon decimated their population. Only a handful of women survived, and every day is a fight to rebuild. With Sanah’s empathy and her sister’s rare ability to heal, they could be the salvation Dem and his people have been looking for.

A dangerous secret that could destroy everything… But how can Sanah trust Dem with her life? Especially when he’d kill her if he knew the truth.
I generally don’t read much romantic science fiction, but this series is an exception. Do be aware that while there is a strong storyline and plenty of tension, there is also a big dollop of romance with some reasonably steamy action. However, what I really enjoyed about it was that the science fiction element wasn’t merely a vehicle for a boy-meets-girl scenario. The relationship is strongly nested within the world Locke has created, where a number of folks with telepathic abilities have turned their back on becoming a tool of the tyrannical governing authority and instead, plunder ships for the goods they need.

While their society is unquestionably violent, I also enjoy how Locke ensure my loyalties are firmly with the lawless outcasts. It was enjoyable to meet up with characters I’ve already encountered on other adventures, particularly Dem, whose brooding presence means that I didn’t previously bond much with him. But that’s the joy of a good prequel…

Overall, this was great fun and is highly recommended for those who enjoy engrossing space opera adventure with a side-order of romance on the spicy side.
8/10

Kickass Divas in Sci Fi Book Funnel Promotion #Brainfluffbookblog

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If you are hunting for some gripping sci fi featuring strong heroines in tricky situations, ready for November’s Sci Fi Month I’m taking part in the Kickass Divas in Sci Fi promotion running until 22nd October on Book Funnel. I’ve featured below a handful of books which have caught my eye. Click on the link to check them out in more detail…

Starfall – a Durga System novella by Jessie Kwak
“Have you been treated well here?”
Starla’s hands come up short — she was going to sign something rude, but she’s cuffed to the table. If these Alliance clowns want answers, they’re going to have to uncuff her to let her talk.
Because they seem to want to ask her plenty: What was her childhood like on Silk Station? Does she understand her parents are wanted? What does she know about OIC terrorists?
But Starla’s not saying a thing until she gets an answer to her own question:
What happened to my parents?
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Starla Dusai is fifteen, deaf — and being held as an enemy combatant by the Indiran Alliance. Willem Jaantzen is a notorious crime lord about to end a fearsome vendetta — and most probably his life.
When he learns his goddaughter has been captured by the Alliance, he understands he’s her only hope. But saving a girl he barely knows means letting his wife’s murderer walk free. Will Jaantzen be able to put aside his anger before Starla’s time runs out?

 

The Warbirds of Absaroka – NOVELLA – File One of the Universal Star League series
by Debbie Mumford

Brenna Standing Bear has been given an impossible task by her dying grandfather: convince Absaroka’s Planetary Council to build a fleet to defend against the Bug-Eyes. The problem? The council believes the Bug-Eyes were defeated sixty-eight years ago. Why should they expend precious resources to defend against a non-existent threat?

 

The Enclave – Book 1 of The Verge series by H.M. Clarke
Federation officer Katherine Kirk, a survivor of the Alliance holding facility at Yunga, is now on the brink of capturing its infamous commander. But that joy gets ripped away from Kirk when her ship is abruptly pulled from the line and sent to ferry a Federation Ambassador to Junter 3. Once there, Kirk finds herself quickly embroiled in the bitter politics between the New Holland Government and the Val Myrain Refugees claiming asylum.

After an attack on the New Holland Government Center, Kirk and her team hunt the enemy across the planet and discover an Alliance facility hidden deep beneath one of the Val Myrain enclaves. And contains a secret too horrifying to believe possible.

 

Distant Horizon – Book One of the Distant Horizon series by Stephanie and Isaac Flint
The Community is safe…
Unless you have superpowers.

The Community is secure…
Until the rebels come to get you.

The Community is efficient…
At hiding deadly secrets.

Uncover the truth in this thrilling dystopian adventure!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of INDIE NOVELLA The Orphans of Raspay – Book 7 of the Penric and Desdemona series by Lois McMaster Bujold #Brainfluffbookreview #TheOrphansofRaspaybookreview

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This series is one of our auto-buys as Lois McMaster Bujold is one of those handful of authors that we both absolutely love. But as the series wears on, will I continue to find it as engrossing as it was when it first started?

When the ship in which they are traveling is captured by Carpagamon island raiders, Temple sorcerer Penric and his resident demon Desdemona find their life complicated by two young orphans, Lencia and Seuka Corva, far from home and searching for their missing father. Pen and Des will need all their combined talents of mind and magic to unravel the mysteries of the sisters and escape from the pirate stronghold. This novella follows about a year after the events of The Prisoner of Limnos.

Penric, now happily married, is an increasingly reluctant traveller but is once more sent off on a mission – and during a sea voyage the ship he’s on falls prey to pirates, looking for passengers to sell into slavery. I really like the dynamic between Penric and the main demon living inside him, who he has named Desdemona. Recalling how horrified he initially was when the demon leapt into his body in the first book – Penric’s Demon, it is enjoyable to see just how well they now work as a team. In order to get the best from this one, you really need to have at least read the first book, although it is sufficiently well paced and constructed that if you do happen to crash midway into this series, I don’t think you would flounder all that much.

This is a world where the gods actually intercede in the affairs of humans, despite there being an ongoing war over a theological schism where one group believe there are five gods (the sect Penric belongs to) and those who don’t accept or believe in the Bastard God. This is important to remember when a particular plotpoint occurs, so that you don’t feel it is too convenient.

I like the fact that Bujold has managed not to make Penric too overwhelmingly powerful, despite his formidable talent – and there is a cost to his magic. What also seriously hampers him in this story is that he has taken two young girls under his wing. While getting off the island as a fit, determined young man possessed of serious magic would present an achievable challenge, it becomes a far more difficult task when he has to take into account the limitations posed by two malnourished young children.

As ever, the pacing and plotting is excellently judged. Bujold is completely in charge of this shorter form in the way that many authors aren’t and though I was sorry when the story came to an end, the conclusion was entirely satisfactory and expected. I do hate it when a novella-length adventure scurries to an abrupt end leaving me off-balance and expecting something more. This whole series is highly recommended for fans of well written character-led novella-length adventures.
9/10

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

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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

Sunday Post – 3rd February, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

We had several hard frosts this week, before the temperature warmed up – only to suddenly plunge again so that on Thursday evening we had snow falling for nearly four hours, leaving behind over an inch covering everything and fears of travel chaos the following day. Fortunately the sun shone on Friday morning and by the time we had to make the drive to Brighton to pick up the children, it was pouring with rain, finally washing away any traces of snow or ice. Oscar and I spent Saturday morning building a Lego tower together, before my sister popped in with a present – a pack of hangers! I was delighted as I’m always running out. Himself got home at around 1 pm after a 3 am start and after a short nap, he and Oscar played a quick game of Bloodbowl, while Frances and I went out for a coffee/hot chocolate and a natter.

My daughter will be coming over to pick up the children this afternoon, so Oscar and I will be making vegan banana cake together this morning. Other than having the children this weekend, the week has slipped by at the speed of a downhill skier – how come we’re in February, already? I swear that Christmas was only a fortnight ago…

Last week I read:
Dark City – Book 1 of The Order of the Shadows series by Kit Hallows
My name’s Morgan Rook, Supernatural Detective, Undercover Agent, odd jobs man. Call it whatever you like. I take out the nightmares, demons and werewolves. The things that lurk in the shadows around you. Guys like us, we call them Nightkind. And here I was, set to quit this dark life and retire to sunnier climes, except for one final job. There’s always one. This time a call to eliminate a cruel, rogue vampire, named Mr. Tudor. Simple right? Sure. Until the bodies started piling up in a new wave of vicious occult killings leading scarily close to my own front door…
An entertaining, fast-paced urban fantasy adventure featuring a mostly sympathetic protagonist.

Endgames – Book 12 of the Imager Portfolio series by L.E. Modesitt Jr
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.
This detailed, slow-burn fantasy adventure featuring a cool-headed young man struggling against difficult odds drew me in. Review to follow.

 

Knife Children – NOVELLA in The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold
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.
Wonderful addition to a favourite fantasy series by this fabulously talented author – review to follow.

Sparrow Falling – Book 2 of Gears of Empire series by Gaie Sebold
Eveline Sparrow hopes to put her past experiences as a thief and con-artist to more legitimate use; which is why some of the girls at her Sparrow School receive private lessons in burglary, fakery, and other such underhand practices. But it’s hard to get honest work when few businesses will employ young ladies in the security professions…
It was fun to reacquaint myself with Evvie after the enjoyable Shanghai Sparrow and her talent for getting into trouble in this steampunk sci fi/fantasy mash-up provides an entertaining adventure.

 

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 27th January 2019

Increasing Discoverability for Women Authors in SFF – 2018

Friday Face-Off featuring Eligible – Book 4 of the Austen Project by Curtis Sittenfeld

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* – Review of Headlong – Book 12 of The Imager Portfolio series by L.E. Modesitt Jr

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Quitting: Why Letting Go & Moving on Are Crucial for Success https://authorkristenlamb.com/2019/01/successful-people-quitting/ Once again, the wonderful Kristen Lamb provides solid advice for those of us struggling to write amongst all the other stuff going on in our lives…

Music Monday: The Sound of Silence by Disturbed. #Music #MusicMonday https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/music-monday-the-sound-of-silence-by-disturbed/ I know the Simon and Garfunkel version – but this one, I think, is even better…

Piano: A Poem by D.H. Lawrence https://interestingliterature.com/2019/01/28/piano-a-poem-by-d-h-lawrence/ This article features a poignant poem that I’m very fond of. It isn’t brilliant or clever, but its very simplicity always moves me…

PLANETARY AWARDS: Nominations for the best of 2018 https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2019/01/20/planetary-awards-nominations-for-the-best-of-2018/ Maddalena on her excellent blog provides the links for those of you who enjoy SFF and would like to nominate your favourite novel and novella of last year. I’m currently pummelling my brain into porridge in an effort to choose between a final two…

Grimbold Books’ advice to aspiring authors “Listen to feedback” https://damienseaman.com/publishing-advice-for-aspiring-authors/ Listening to this wonderful interview with Kate reminds me all over again why I submitted to this lovely indie publisher.

In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – have a wonderful week!

Review of NOVELLA Ebook The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky #Brainfluffbookreview #TheExpertSystem’sBrotherbookreview

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Anyone who has spent the odd moment or two glancing at my blog will know I’m a huge fan of Adrian Tchaikovsky – see my review of Children of Time here. So when I realised faaar too late that Himself had treated us to this novella, I immediately tucked into it…

After an unfortunate accident, Handry is forced to wander a world he doesn’t understand, searching for meaning. He soon discovers that the life he thought he knew is far stranger than he could even possibly imagine. Can an unlikely saviour provide the answers to the questions he barely comprehends?

This is another of Tchaikovsky’s interesting offerings where he provides us a rich, well-developed world through the eyes of Handry in an immersive first-person viewpoint. I really liked Handry – what happened to him was clearly very wrong and somehow the fact that it took a long time before the inevitable happened made it somehow worse… This is classic Tchaikovsky – what happens when an injustice occurs? How does this future colony cope with a victim of circumstance? For starters, you begin to see that Handry isn’t the only one on the raw end of a bad outcome – humanity is clearly struggling on a planet that was never designed for animals with our DNA. And over time, the increasingly beleaguered colony found a biological option to help humankind survive – hence the ghosts, a form of parasitic infestation that syncs the brain of the host with a skillset and knowledge that is no longer available to the average colonist.

And then he encounters Sharskin… I have read several reviews where the readers felt this was a predictable story. While I got a sense of exactly what we were looking at once they arrived at Sharkin’s settlement, I didn’t foresee what would happen next and the way in which Handry’s loyalty and sense of humanity would be tested. Because at the end of the day, this novella is all about one of Tchaikovsky’s major themes – a question he keeps coming back to in a variety of fascinating forms and forces his readers to ask – what does it mean to be human? What is the price you pay for your adherence to your code of behaviour? What happens when you turn your back on that code? What defines you, then?

I thoroughly enjoyed this clever, thought-provoking story and have found myself thinking about it quite a lot since I finished reading it, which surprised me rather. There’s something about Tchaikovsky’s writing that always gets into my inscape, leaving me pondering those questions he raises while telling a cracking story. Highly recommended for fans of colony adventures.
9/10

#Sci Fi Month – The Ones That Got Away…

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I’ve loved Sci Fi Month – huge thanks to Lisa and the team for organising this fabulous event. As you’ll have realised, I got a tad carried away… In fact, I got even more carried away than is apparent on the blog – because I ran out of November with still a stack of science fiction goodness all reviewed and ready to go. So here is a quick rundown of the books that missed out:

Black Holiday – Book 2 of The Black Chronicles by J.M. Anjewierden
Morgan has finally made it, earning an officer’s slot on S.T.E.V.E., the ancient flagship of the Takiyama Merchant House. She’s survived so much to get here, and isn’t about to let lingering nightmares over those events stop her now. That said, even the toughest mechanics need down time. Grudgingly taking some shore leave, Morgan goes to visit the estate of her friend Emily, Baroness Novan – and gets caught up in trouble that, for once, isn’t of her own making…
I reviewed the first book in this entertaining series here – so was keen to jump in and see what happens next to Morgan – which was something of a shock… I really enjoyed this offering and am looking forward to reading the next one when it is released.

 

Dreadnought – Book 2 of the Lost Colonies series by B.V. Larson
Captain William Sparhawk flies Earth’s single starship on a voyage of exploration. His crew of veteran spacers begins the mission with high hopes and the best of intentions, but the universe has other plans. Instead of space merchants and potential allies, they discover Earth’s impending doom. Sparhawk must decide whether to hunt down enemy scouts to keep Earth’s new starship a secret, or to head home to warn Star Guard of the danger. Either way, he’s ignited an interstellar war.
I’ve become a solid fan of Captain William Sparhawk – see my review of Battle Cruiser – and this stagnating, dystopian society – there is a real shock at the end of this book which is a gamechanger for the next one, such that I can’t wait to jump in and discover what happens next…

 

Nimbus – Book 3 of the Psi-Tech series by Jacey Bedford
In a galaxy where the super-powers are the megacorporations, and ambitious executives play fast and loose with ethics in order to secure resources, where can good people turn for help? The megacorps control the jump gates and trade routes. They use psi-techs, implant-enhanced operatives with psionic abilities, who are bound by unbreakable contracts.
But something alien is stirring in the depths of foldspace. Something bigger than the squabbles between megacorporations and independents. Foldspace visions are supposed to be a figment of the imagination. At least, that’s what they teach in flight school. Ben Benjamin knows it’s not true. Meeting a void dragon was bad enough, but now there’s the Nimbus to contend with. Are the two connected? Why do some ships transit the Folds safely and others disappear without a trace?
I’ve loved this entertaining series from a writer I thoroughly respect – see my review of Empire of Dust here. It was her talk on how to organise submissions to agents and small publishers and fired me up so that I persevered, getting a contract with the awesome folks at Grimbold Publishing in the process. It was a blast reading this final slice of the Psi-Tech series and I’ll be reviewing it shortly.

 

The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky
After an unfortunate accident, Handry is forced to wander a world he doesn’t understand, searching for meaning. He soon discovers that the life he thought he knew is far stranger than he could even possibly imagine. Can an unlikely saviour provide the answers to the questions he barely comprehends?
I love Adrian Tchaikovsky’s writing – see my review of Children of Time here. This intriguing novella is another treat, where an unfortunate incident has unforeseen consequences – this writer is fond of those. While part of this colony world adventure was reassuringly familiar, Tchaikovsky does his trick of taking genre conventions by the scruff of their neck and giving them a good shake.

 

Satellite by Nick Lake
He’s going to a place he’s never been before: home. Moon 2 is a space station that orbits approximately 250 miles above Earth. It travels 17,500 miles an hour, making one full orbit every ninety minutes. It’s also the only home that fifteen-year-old Leo and two other teens have ever known. Born and raised on Moon 2, Leo and the twins, Orion and Libra, are finally old enough and strong enough to endure the dangerous trip to Earth. They’ve been “parented” by teams of astronauts since birth and have run countless drills to ready themselves for every conceivable difficulty they might face on the flight.
This was an intriguing read, given it was written in text-prose. While I understand a number of readers simply couldn’t get through it, I think the fact this was a paperback actually helped. The story itself is thoroughly enjoyable, apart from a set piece that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Hollywood film, but rather let the book down. Other than that, I found the questions this book raised were both uncomfortable and pertinent for our near-future expansion into space.

 

The Boy on the Bridge – Book 2 of The Girl With All the Gifts series by M.R. Carey
Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy. The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world. To where the monsters lived.
If you haven’t read The Girl With All the Gifts yet want to plunge into this offering, feel free to do so – while it is set in the same world, the links between the two books are tenuous and don’t add all that much to the overall story. I found this zombie apocalypse reworking a heartbreak of missed opportunities and bungled decisions – but oh so very believable. And if zombies aren’t your thing, don’t dismiss this one – they aren’t my thing either, but Carey’s a master storyteller and this is a masterful story.

So… these are the books I read and reviewed for Sci Fi Month, before I realised that November only had 30 days – and there are a number of others I haven’t yet written the reviews for. As I said, I did get a tad carried away. What about you – are there any here that have taken your eye? What did you read for Sci Fi Month?

#Sunday Post – 12th August, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I have been busy rewriting the second book in The Arcadian Chronicles series, Mantivore Preys, as I’d like to be able to self-publish the first three books about a telepathic alien in close succession. Other than that, my blogging buddy Mhairi spent Monday with me, as we loaded up the corrected proofs for the paperback version of Running Out of Space. And on Wednesday the print proof copy arrived! I leapt around the house, whooping with excitement and as luck would have it – I was able to show it off to my sister, when we met up for lunch, as well as some of my writing friends. Brenda prepared us the most delicious meal on Wednesday evening with lots of lovely veggie dishes. On Thursday evening, I went to Chichester Theatre to see a performance of the world premiere of The Meeting – a really interesting play about a Friends’ Meeting House and how they react when a fleeing soldier pitches up in their midst…

On Friday, some of my students had planned to have a picnic at Marine Gardens in Worthing and invited me along. In the event, we were a select group – and we certainly weren’t picnicking as gale-force winds and torrential rain battered the coastline. We ended up in the café, chatting about writing, the world and everything over a yummy bowl of homemade soup. And on Saturday, Himself, my sister and I went for a walk along the River Arun in Arundel – I love the sound of the wind in the reeds…

I got a nasty shock this week. During our cosy catch-up on Wednesday, my sister demonstrated her new blood pressure machine on me. Then blinked and did it again, as it turns out my bp is way too high. I eat sensibly, don’t drink or smoke so I’m guessing the culprit is my very sedentary lifestyle and the fact the weight has crept back on. Before I go to the docs, I’m going to give myself a month where I try to get it down with a regime of exercise and losing those extra pounds that have rolled back onto my hips and tummy when I wasn’t looking. Watch this space!

This week I have read:

Pirate Nemesis – Book 1 of the Telepathic Space Pirates series by Carysa Locke
Mercy Kincaid is a fugitive from her own family. Her dangerous telepathic gifts make her a target. So is anyone she gets close to. When her best friend is captured and tortured, Mercy’s only hope is to reunite with the family that tried to murder her as a child. She trusts few among her blood relatives, but finds herself intrigued by an enigmatic and dangerous killer.

Reaper has spent a lifetime watching his people die. He’s vowed to kill anyone who jeopardizes their survival. Mercy’s gifts are the biggest threat they’ve faced in eleven years, since a biological weapon nearly annihilated the pirate colonies. But Reaper realizes her talents can either destroy them, or save them.
Entertaining space opera adventure with a really nicely creepy antagonist.

 

Hero at the Fall – Book 3 of The Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton
When gunslinging Amani Al’Hiza escaped her dead-end town, she never imagined she’d join a revolution, let alone lead one. But after the bloodthirsty Sultan of Miraji imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in the mythical city of Eremot, she doesn’t have a choice. Armed with only her revolver, her wits, and her untameable Demdji powers, Amani must rally her skeleton crew of rebels for a rescue mission through the unforgiving desert to a place that, according to maps, doesn’t exist. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.
I loved the first two books in this entertaining sand and sorcery series – see my review of The Rebel of the Sands – and wanted to find out how it all finishes, given how very high the stakes have become. Review to follow.

 

Garrison Girl – Book 1 of the Attack on Titan! series by Rachel Aaron
An original novel, with all-new characters and a new story set in the world of Attack on Titan! Fans of the series and readers alike will enjoy this immersive and engaging experience of the pop culture phenomenon and manga mega-hit.

With the last vestige of the human race threatened by unstoppable carnivorous giants, a brave young woman decides to defy her wealthy family and join the military to fight against humanity’s enemies. But Rosalie Dumarque soon finds out that bloody sword fights with monsters aren’t the only dangers faced by the Wall Rose Garrison. Can she earn the trust of her fellow soldiers, stand up to a corrupt authority, navigate a forbidden romance…and cut her way out of a titan’s throat?
Action-packed and engrossing debut to this interesting series. I will be reviewing this one tomorrow.

 

Anachronism – novella by Jennifer Lee Rossman
It’s the same old story: Time traveler meets girl, time traveler tells girl she’s the future president, time traveler and girl go on a road trip to prevent a war…

Petra Vincent is at the end of her rope – or rather, the edge of a bridge. Her world is falling apart around her and she sees no way out of the meaningless existence the future has in store. But when stranded time traveler Moses Morgan tells her that she will one day lead the country out of the rubble of a nuclear civil war as President of the United States, she’s intrigued – and when another time traveler starts trying to preemptively assassinate her, she realizes Moses might be telling the truth…
I loved this foot-to-the-floor adventure and rather lost my heart to Petra, the despairing young woman who discovers she has a shining destiny – if only she can survive to fulfil it. And there’s that twist… marvellous stuff!

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 5th August 2018

Review of The Backworlds – Book 1 of The Backworlds series by M. Pax

Teaser Tuesday featuring Garrison Girl – Book 1 of the Attack on Titan series by Rachel Aaron

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Salvation’s Fire: After the War – Book 2 of the After the War series by Justina Robson

Review of The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Friday Face-off – Behind every mask… featuring The Masked City – Book 2 of the Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

Review of novella Anachronism by Jennifer Lee Rossman

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

50 Ways to Reward Yourself http://www.bryndonovan.com/2018/07/30/50-ways-to-reward-yourself/ Okay – put your hand up if you have recently given yourself a proper treat – no… I’m not talking about scoffing a sticky bun that you shouldn’t be eating, anyway. I’m talking about a proper reward to acknowledge an achievement. Hm. Thought so… you need to read this, then.

The Wordwitch: A Writer’s Life in Pictures – July http://melfka.com/archives/2864 I love these clever drawings – they don’t just sum up Joanna’s writing life. Many of us have the same issues…

Mash ups – it could work! https://lynns-books.com/2018/08/07/mash-ups-it-could-work/ I loved the idea of some of these – the idea of The Shining mashed with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe had me cackling with laughter…

Face Lift https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2018/08/06/face-lift/ Apparently we are hard-wired to recognise faces – but this is taking that ability too far, I feel…

A Short Introduction to the Haiku https://interestingliterature.com/2018/08/08/a-short-introduction-to-the-haiku/ We all know about this verse form, given we write these at school – right? Wrong, apparently – it’s not that straightforward, for starters…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and have a great week.