Category Archives: romance

Sunday Post – 19th May, 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.

Last week my sister and I spent the weekend at the Chewton Glen hotel having a series of spa treatments to celebrate her 60th birthday. And yes… it was every bit as fabulous as it sounds!

This week, I didn’t have much time to muse on my wonderful experience as Monday and Tuesday was taken up with teaching at Northbrook and catching up with admin, while on Tuesday night, writing buddy Mhairi made the five-hour drive up from Lincolnshire to stay over until Thursday. Once again, it was lovely seeing her and catching up on her writing progress – and I was pleased to be able to mention that so far this month I have written over 18,000 words towards Mantivore Prey and am now working on the penultimate chapter. The days flew by so that no sooner had I hugged her hello, then I seemed to be hugging her good-bye again. However, it is only temporary as she will soon be coming down again – and in July I will be travelling up to stay with her as we fill in our tax returns together.

I attended a funeral on Friday – a terribly sad affair where a sudden death out of the blue leaves two young sons without a father and a wife suddenly widowed. On Saturday, I was asked along as a number of my sister’s friends arranged a surprise birthday party for her. It was a lovely, relaxed affair, full of jokes, laughter and affection. I’m so glad and proud of her for battling through her serious illness and a long, unhappy relationship, to be able to get to this stage – she is a star!

I keep waiting for the boring middle age I was promised – surely Life is supposed to slow down and get more tedious as I get older, rather than ever more varied and demanding?

 

 

Last week I read:
Cleon Moon – Book 5 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
Now that she’s retrieved the Staff of Lore, Captain Alisa Marchenko can finally dedicate herself and her ship to finding her kidnapped daughter. Her scant clues lead her to Cleon Moon. Unfortunately, since the fall of the empire, mafia clans have taken over the domed cities on the harsh moon, and exploring there isn’t easy. Even with the cyborg Leonidas at her side, Alisa struggles to survive vengeful mafia clans, rogue Starseers, and genetically engineered predators. If Alisa can’t navigate the moon’s chaos, she may lose her only chance to catch up with her daughter.
This is yet another entertaining episode in this enjoyable, action-packed space opera series. I’m looking forward to getting hold of the next book in the series… Review to follow.

 

Across the Void by S.K. Vaughn
It’s Christmas Day, 2067. Silent Night drifts across the ruins of a wrecked spaceship, listing helplessly in the black. A sole woman, May, stirs within – the last person left alive of a disastrous first manned mission to Europe, a moon of Saturn.There is only one person who can help her – her ex-husband Stephen, a NASA scientist who was heading up the mission back on Earth. Until, that is, she broke his heart and he left both her and the mission.
Rarely has a book reduced me to such fury – and yes, I completed it and have written a thoroughly ranty review as a result.

 

 

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd
Lauren Pailing is a teenager in the eighties, becomes a Londoner in the nineties. And each time she dies, new lives begin for the people who loved her – while Lauren enters a brand new life, too. But in each of Lauren’s lives, a man called Peter Stanning disappears. And, in each of her lives, Lauren sets out to find him.
In stark contrast to the previous book, this one turned out to be a delightful surprise – both at the quality of the writing and the effective way in which Rudd evokes the 70s and 80s. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Porpoise by Mark Haddon

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Poison Song – Book 3 of The Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams

Friday Faceoff featuring The Red Knight – Book 1 of The Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Children of Ruin – Book 2 of the Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

 

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

Trees and Insecurity
https://chechewinnie.com/forests-and-insecurity/ This apparently innocuous title hides a gripping and shocking tale of survival because of trees – please read it. It will put your own problems into perspective…

Why Read Women Writers? An Interview with Bill Wolfe https://www.janefriedman.com/why-read-women-writers-bill-wolfe/ I thoroughly enjoyed this thoughtful review by the great Jane Friedman…

The Best Examples of Metaphysical Poetry in English Literature https://interestingliterature.com/2019/05/15/the-best-examples-of-metaphysical-poetry-in-english-literature/ Once more, this enjoyable information site delivers the goods…

The Power of Writerly Kindness https://writerunboxed.com/2019/05/15/the-power-of-writerly-kindness/ We so often hear of writers being envious of each other – it’s always a tonic to hear the other side of the story…

Top 5 Wednesday – BFFs in Fantasy (plus musings about intimacy, society expectations, and friendships in western vs eastern media) https://pagesbelowvaultedsky.wordpress.com/2019/05/15/top-5-wednedsay-bffs-in-fantasy-plus-musings-about-intimacy-societal-expectations-and-friendships-in-western-vs-eastern-media/ And yes… this excellent article is every bit as interesting as it sounds.

Many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – I will catch up with you as soon as I can, so thank you also for your patience. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Poison Song – Book 3 of The Winnowing Flame Trilogy by Jen Williams #Brainfluffbookreview #ThePoisonSongbookreview

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I have thoroughly enjoyed the ongoing adventure in this excellent trilogy – read my reviews of The Ninth Rain and The Bitter Twins. The progression of this story, taking it from a straight epic fantasy adventure into a science fiction mash-up was masterfully handled, as are the steady revelations of new twists about aspects that we previously understood to be facts…

The very nature of the way Williams crafts her books makes it unlikely that you will be able to fully enjoy what is going on unless you read them in order – and as those of you who are regular visitors to my site know, I habitually crash midway into series without turning a hair. However, I wouldn’t want to make such a move with this series and strongly recommend that you don’t attempt it.

Jump on board a war beast or two with Vintage, Noon and Tor and return to Sarn for the last installment of this epic series where the trio must gather their forces and make a final stand against the invading Jure’lia.

And that’s the blurb. It won’t make much sense if you haven’t already read the previous books… I had thought that this final episode wouldn’t be able to deliver yet more surprises about the key figures in this full-on adventure – but I was wrong. We learn a lot more about the winnowing flame through Noon, the rebellious young fell-witch whose actions deeply affect those similarly cursed or gifted, depending on your viewpoint… And once more, Hestillion and the Queen of the Jure’lia manage to shock and repel me by their actions. I’ve grown very fond of all the characters in this adventure over the duration of this series – but for me, it’s Vintage who is my absolute favourite.

So… given that the first two books were so very good – has this finale lived up to expectations? Oh yes. Once more, we are immediately whisked right up into the middle of the action, so I’d also recommend that if you read The Bitter Twins a while ago and can’t quite recall exactly what is going on – flit back and remind yourself of who is doing what to whom – Williams doesn’t give you much breathing space before plunging you back into the thick of the plot.

In amongst all the mayhem, the recurring theme is about identity. Are we who we are because of what befalls us, or because of our genetic heritage? I was interested to note that Williams answers this question quite firmly by the end – and I was also interested to see which side of that discussion she favours. Not that the plot drifts off as this is discussed in any way – there simply isn’t room in amongst all the world-changing battles and soul-searing adventures.

As I don’t want to give away any spoilers, my comments regarding the unfolding story are necessarily vague, but I can report that the handling of the pacing, the conclusion of all the main character arcs and the climactic final battle is brilliantly done. I loved the bittersweet nature of the ending, though I was a tad devastated by the outcome regarding one of the main characters. And finished this one feeling a bit shattered, uplifted and with a lump in my throat. That doesn’t happen to me all that often, these days. But despite the fact that I have over half of 2019 still to run – I know I have just completed reading one of my outstanding reads of the year. While I obtained an arc of The Poison Song from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Porpoise by Mark Haddon #Brainfluffbookreview #ThePorpoisebookreview

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Like many others, I thoroughly enjoyed Mark Haddon’s best-seller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and when I had the opportunity of reading his latest book, I jumped at it…

A newborn baby is the sole survivor of a terrifying plane crash. She is raised in wealthy isolation by an overprotective father. She knows nothing of the rumours about a beautiful young woman, hidden from the world. When a suitor visits, he understands far more than he should. Forced to run for his life, he escapes aboard The Porpoise, an assassin on his tail…

So begins a wild adventure of a novel, damp with salt spray, blood and tears. A novel that leaps from the modern era to ancient times; a novel that soars, and sails, and burns long and bright; a novel that almost drowns in grief yet swims ashore; in which pirates rampage, a princess wins a wrestler’s hand, and ghost women with lampreys’ teeth drag a man to hell – and in which the members of a shattered family, adrift in a violent world, journey towards a place called home.

Be warned – if you pick this one looking for more of the same regarding The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, then you’ll be disappointed. This is nothing like it, particularly the immersive first-person viewpoint that made Christopher sing off the page. This book is told throughout in omniscient viewpoint – the storyteller’s point of view. While we do spend short periods in the head of various characters, they are not what powers this story – and we are regularly given information that they are not privy to. I’ll be honest, if the story hadn’t been very well told and one that I hadn’t known, then I don’t think I’d have got through it. This is my least favourite viewpoint and it is a tribute to Haddon’s skill that once I relaxed into the rhythm of the writing and the cadences of the story, not dissimilar to those ancient Greek legends upon which aspects of this is based, I enjoyed it.

This story is a dual narrative, covering two timelines separated by thousands of years. We start with a plane crash that leaves a motherless newborn baby to be brought up by her very wealthy, doting father. And here comes my next warning – this book covers incest and child abuse, and though there are no graphic scenes, Angelica’s plight would certainly be a trigger for anyone affected. As her initial chance for escape disappears and her would-be rescuer flees for his life, the story abruptly jumps back in time.

Is this Angelica’s imaginings taking her to a different place? Or a mirroring of the same plight through the prism of time? We are never told and it’s left for the reader to make up her mind. But the blurb nails it in the second paragraph – the rest of the book plunges us into an adventure full of lost love, storms, pirates and perilous escape, in sharp contrast to the slow passing of time for Angelica as she tries to escape her father’s attentions.

That ending is both shattering and unexpected and has had me musing on this one long after I finished reading it. I’ve come away from this book with mixed feelings – I found it a gripping, unexpected adventure, but also quite disturbing. It has certainly wormed itself inside my head – recommended for readers who enjoy unusual, challenging stories where the ending doesn’t necessarily leave everything neatly tied up.

The ebook arc copy of The Porpoise was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – Blue oblivion, largely lit, smiled and smiled at me… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week at least one of our covers has to be BLUE, so I’ve selected Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Book 1 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor.

 

This edition was produced by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in September 2011. The monochrome face with that fantastic blue feathered mask is very eye-catching and I also really love the title font, which is both striking and effective. This one is so very nearly my favourite…

 

Published in August 2015 by Fischer Taschenbubh, this German cover is another strong contender. I love the shades of blue patterns backlighting the Prague cityscape. The girl looks otherworldly with the treatment to her eyes and the title font is also stylish and eye-catching. Yet another well designed and beautiful cover, wholly appropriate in tone and mood for this enjoyable fantasy adventure.

 

This edition, published by Hodder & Stoughton in September 2011, is my favourite. I love, love, LOVE those fabulous feathers with the iridescent sheen in all the shades of a sunlit starling. My choice might be influenced by the fact that this is the cover of the book that I read – I also think the title font is very well done.

 

Produced by De Boekerij in April 2013, this Dutch edition is yet another superb effort, being a variation on the design of the first cover. The mask is beautifully designed and the colours shading the title font replicate those colours, intensifying the lovely effect with the clever repetition. Another accomplished and appropriate cover for this book.

 

This Indonesian edition, published by Gramedia Pustaka Utama in September 2012, is yet another well-designed cover. If this had been a different book, I would be raving more about the restraint… the clever, subtle blue shading around the edge of the single feather… the way that colour is picked up and reflected in the stylish title font. But there are so many wonderful, classy covers for this particular book, it is just added to the list – lucky, lucky Laini Taylor! Which one is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Deathless – Book 1 of The Deathless series by Peter Newman #Brainfluffbookreview #TheDeathlessbookreview

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I had seen this one on Netgalley and then was invited to review it – and accepted. I liked the premise and assumed he’d be a solidly good writer, after all, he’s married to the great Emma Newman…

The demons… In the endless forests of the Wild, humanity scratches a living by the side of the great Godroads, paths of crystal that provide safe passage and hold back the infernal tide. Creatures lurk within the trees, watching, and plucking those who stray too far from safety.
The Deathless… In crystal castles held aloft on magical currents, seven timeless royal families reign, protecting humanity from the spread of the Wild and its demons. Born and reborn into flawless bodies, the Deathless are as immortal as the precious stones from which they take their names. For generations a fragile balance has held.
And the damned… House Sapphire, one of the ancient Deathless families, is riven by suspicion and madness. Whole villages are disappearing as the hunting expeditions holding the Wild at bay begin to fail.

Newman tips us right in the middle of the action – to the extent that at one point, I flipped back to ensure I was reading the first book in the series. But that’s okay – seeing as one of my hobbies is crashing midway into series, this approach works for me. I certainly prefer it to those stories that take forever to wind up into anything approximating an adventure. The world is overrun with demonic creatures who attack humanity – even the vegetation in the wild forests exact a price to keep them from attacking those desperate enough to seek refuge within such a lethal landscape. What stops the world from being completely overrun are the immortals who live in floating castles powered by crystalline power and the godroads, also crystal-enhanced which attacks and repels all demon-touched flora and fauna.

There are seven main dynasties who maintain their borders and keep all within them safe by their regular hunting expeditions. Until one House doesn’t and a village goes under… The House Sapphire is a mess after one of its most important representatives is accused of consorting with The Wild and is disgraced, before being driven out to fend for herself. Even more devastatingly, the vessel that houses her immortal soul is broken, so that once her current life ends – that’s it – she won’t be reborn into a young, healthy body, again.

The worldbuilding is fabulous – Newman manages to evoke a real sense of tension and menace once outside the castle walls, while providing an insight into what it’s like to live within the castle. I also liked the progression of the story and the pacing, which is really well-handled. The only problem I had was that while there were multiple viewpoints – only one of those characters really appealed, and that was Lady Pari, who is brave and sufficiently wilful to break the rules so she can be with her lover.

I appreciate the characters are not all good or bad – but most of the scions of the crystal families seem to be selfish and vengeful. They certainly seem to have forgotten that their primary vocation is to keep the wild safe for the mortals not fortunate enough to live in a floating castle. But as the adventure unspools, people are pushed to their limits outside their comfort zones and we get to see what they are made of.

I became increasingly absorbed in the story as it wore on and by the end, I was thoroughly engrossed – and I’m keen to read the next slice of the adventure. Because, as things stand – I have no idea where Newman will next take it. While I obtained an arc of The Deathless from the author via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. Recommended for fans of well written, fantasy with a strong, unusual world.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Unbound Empire – Book 2 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso #Brainfluffbookreview #TheUnboundEmpirebookreview

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I really enjoyed the first book in this series, The Tethered Mage, – see my review here – I thought the premise was a really smart one. The idea that lethal magic-users need to have their power curtailed from the time their talent becomes evident makes complete sense – as do the inevitable consequences following from that necessity… I recently read and reviewed the second book, The Defiant Heir, and liked it even more, so was delighted to be approved to read and review The Unbound Empire

While winter snows keep the Witch Lord Ruven’s invading armies at bay, Lady Amalia Cornaro and the fire warlock Zaira attempt to change the fate of mages in the Raverran Empire forever, earning the enmity of those in power who will do anything to keep all magic under tight imperial control. But in the season of the Serene City’s great masquerade, Ruven executes a devastating surprise strike at the heart of the Empire – and at everything Amalia holds most dear.

As with the second book, the political and personal stakes in this book continue to ramp up. Amalia continues to grow from the shy academic, whose real passion was studying magical practices, to a political player in her own right, determined to push through a piece of legislation that will impact every magic-user in the Empire. I love her character progression – along with the changes that every other major character undergoes. Caruso makes that aspect of writing a series look a lot easier than it is.

All the characters work well, but two in particular stand out – Ruven is a particularly satisfying villain, who I loved to hate. His arrogant dismissal of anyone non-magical and his tendency to inflict horrible tortures just because he can – as well as his targeting of our protagonist – makes him creepy and revolting. The cleverness in the writing is that Caruso manages also make the reader aware of what is powering his nastiness, so that he doesn’t come across as a pantomime villain. The other character I became a little in love with is one of those enigmatic, dangerous Witch Lords, Kathe. His entourage of crows, his courage, his love of games and his gradually emerging more vulnerable side made him very endearing. His odd courtship of Amalia made the romantic thread running through this series thoroughly entertaining.
Caruso’s other superpower is the pacing – I found The Unbound Empire almost impossible to put down because the narrative arc works so well. I quickly became caught up in her political fight – which then turned into something else far more challenging. Caruso’s ability to ramp up the stakes compelled me to keep reading far longer than I should. The final denouement in a series needs to be able to wrap everything up and give each of the major characters an ongoing path, so the reader gets a sense of their probable future, given the life-changing events they have undergone. Caruso manages to achieve this, making this trilogy one of my favourite, most memorable fantasy series I’ve read in recent years.

Please read these books in the correct order, though – it would a real shame to mess up such a well-crafted progression by crashing midway into this outstanding series. The ebook arc copy of The Unbound Empire was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Emily Eternal by M.G. Wheaton #Brainfluffbookreview #EmilyEternalbookreview

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Meet Emily – she can solve advanced mathematical problems, unlock the mind’s deepest secrets and even fix your truck’s air con, but unfortunately, she can’t restart the Sun.

She’s an artificial consciousness, designed in a lab to help humans process trauma, which is particularly helpful when the sun begins to die 5 billion years before scientists agreed it was supposed to.

I really liked Emily, an artificial consciousness (not an A.I.) designed to assist humans overcome traumatic situations. Emily is in huge demand right at the start of the book, when humanity is grappling with the knowledge that the sun is going to die in a matter of weeks – and so are they. Interestingly, the book is told from Emily’s viewpoint in first person pov, so we get a ringside seat to Emily’s thoughts. To be honest – while I consciously suspended my disbelief while reading the book, I wasn’t completely convinced by her to the extent that I could simply relax into the storyline without considering whether she actually worked. It wasn’t a dealbreaker and there is a lot about the book that I thoroughly enjoyed – but it would have been a 5 star rating from me if I’d been able to accept the whole premise.

That said, Emily is very likeable – smart, empathetic and clearly concerned about the humans she has grown up around in her 5-year-old life at the university lab where she works alongside a dedicated team of scientists and students. One of the things I love about this book is the pacing. I didn’t read the blurb, so found the initial plight – Sunmaggedon, as it’s called – both riveting and enjoyable. Just as I was settling down to discover how the university are going to use Emily to help with the desperate situation, it all turns into something else as another agenda forces itself onto the scene. The horror and violence was well done – sufficiently engrossing to keep the pace up and the pages turning, but not too much so that Emily is completely overwhelmed, thus slowing everything down.

The next plot twist – which I won’t reveal because it takes us into Spoiler territory – again, caught me unawares with a development I thoroughly enjoyed. However I found the romance between Emily and Jason annoying, to the extent that I was a tad disappointed when I discovered that he hadn’t died during a major incident near the beginning of the book.

The final plot development wasn’t one that wholly convinced me, though at no stage was I tempted to walk away. If you enjoy science fiction at the quirkier end, with a strong non-human protagonist, give this adventure a go. You may find Emily more believable than I did, but even if you have reservations, this is a brave book aiming high with an ambitious concept that I mostly enjoyed. The ebook arc copy of Emily Eternal was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10

Review of Library book The Defiant Heir – Book 2 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso #Brainfluffbookreview #TheDefiantHeirbookreview #LibraryLoveChallenge

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This is the sequel to The Tethered Mage – see my review – which so very nearly made my Outstanding Reads list for last year – I loved the idea that mages with their magical power needed to be contained. While it isn’t a new idea, this version where each mage has a minder who can release their power or shut it down works very well.

Across the border, the Witch Lords of Vaskandar are preparing for war. But before an invasion can begin, they must call a rare gathering of all seventeen lords to decide a course of action. Lady Amalia Cornaro knows that this Conclave might be her only chance to stifle the growing flames of war, and she is ready to make any sacrifice if it means saving Raverra from destruction. Amalia and Zaira must go behind enemy lines, using every ounce of wit and cunning they have, to sway Vaskandar from war. Or else it will all come down to swords and fire.

Thoughout the book, we stay in the viewpoint of Lady Amalia, whose mother, La Contessa, rules Raverra with a canny intelligence. Right from the beginning, Amalia knew she was destined for a life in politics, despite her interest in studying forms of magic as an academic subject. And then she inadvertently ends up in a situation where that academic interest suddenly becomes far more practical when she crosses paths with a mage with a rare but lethal talent. I think it’s a clever move to make Amalia bookish and rather shy at the start of the series – her character progression is noticeable from The Tethered Mage through to this book.

However the political crisis, where Raverra is threatened by the terrifying Witch Lords who rule Vaskandar, now needs her to represent her mother on a diplomatic mission where thousands of lives are at stake. The gathering sense of danger and sense of fear at what the Witch Lords are capable of doing, with the hideous beasts they are able to enchant, is palpable. From the first page, I was snagged by this one and found it difficult to put down. While I thoroughly enjoyed The Tethered Mage, I think The Defiant Heir is even better. The supporting cast are all well written and nicely three-dimensional – particularly Zaire and the unpredictable Kathe, who controls the crows…

The pacing is beautifully judged throughout, so that by the end I stayed up waaay later than I should to discover what happens at the end and found the conclusion completely satisfying – though leaving me with a real hankering for more from this world. Thank goodness I shan’t have to wait too long for the next book, The Unbound Empire. Highly recommended for fans of well written swords and sorcery with a splash of romance.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Day 115 on an Alien Planet – Book 1 of the Settler Chronicles series by Jeanette Bedard #Brainfluffbookreview #Day115onanAlienPlanetbookreview

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It was the cover that caught my eye on this one – and the very nifty title. It didn’t hurt that the author is an indie writer, as I know what a struggle it is to gain sufficient reviews to garner any kind of attention in the ocean that is Amazon.

A dishonourable discharge left Margo unable to find honest work on Earth. Signing onto a colonizing mission heading to a new world promised a fresh start. Or at least that’s what she’d thought. Strapped into a crashing colony ship, she realized how wrong she’d been. They hit the ground and the straight forward colonizing mission becomes a scramble for survival.

As you gather from the slightly shortened blurb, this is a colony world adventure where said colonisation plans have gone very badly wrong from the word go. I’m a sucker for these kinds of tales of survival – basically because it gives the author so much scope to take the story in all sorts of interesting directions. Bedard doesn’t disappoint with her vivid evocation of this bleak, airless environment, which nonetheless has been selected as suitable for this plucky group of pioneers to establish a foothold for humanity. The description and world building is believable and effective in producing a strong sense of reality without holding up the pace.

I really liked Margo as a protagonist. While having a troubled and eventful background, she is not too full of angst to be able to respond effectively in the challenging circumstances around her. There was a particular event that happened about a third of the way into the book that absolutely floored me – to the extent that I nearly stopped reading. However, I had an instinct that if I did, so I’d always wonder what happened next and I’m glad I continued. In the interests of providing a spoiler-free review. I’m not going to say more than that, but if you do happen to pick this one up, do be mindful that this is not the place to stop reading in disgust.

Any niggles? Well, there is just one. Part of the story is told through Margo’s journals, which I found more than a bit confusing because at no time did the viewpoint switch to 1st person and she isn’t the sort of character who would talk or think of herself in the third person. This did bother me for a while but as the tale was so genuinely engrossing and the stakes continued to become ever higher, it wasn’t a dealbreaker.

Of course, the difficulty in raising said stakes is that the climax has to give the reader sufficient reward or having stuck by the story in the expectation that the denouement is going to be worth it. I’m glad to say that Bedard managed to pull it off. This one has stayed with me since I finished reading it and I am keen to return to this isolated outpost of humanity to find out what happens next. So I shall certainly be tracking down the second book in the series. Recommended for fans of science fiction murder mysteries in dangerous settings. While I obtained an arc of Day 115 on an Alien Planet from the author via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Review of INDIE Ebook Dreadnought – Book 2 of the Lost Colonies series by B.V. Larson #Brainfluffbookreview #Dreadnoughtbookreview

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this entertaining series, Battle Cruiser, and was keen to read the second book, hoping that it would be as good…

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 really enjoy William Sparhawk’s first person narration of his amazing adventures – his rather stiff-necked approach in the first book has significantly loosened up during this book. He continues his command of Defiant and after his escapades in the first book, I did wonder if Larson could sustain the level of risk, along with the skin-of-his-teeth vibe and the bounciness and regular shafts of humour that run through the book. And the answer is – he can.

On this crucial mission, William is taking the Defiant on a historic voyage of discovery to colonies that were cut off over one hundred and fifty years ago. In the face of a lethal threat discovered out among the stars, Earth now desperately needs powerful allies to help from being invaded. Can William’s mission find those allies?
The catch is that William’s mission is also being overseen by political forces on Earth as they are unwilling to allow him free rein – and to his utter dismay, the person they have nominated to act as ambassador, outranking him on the diplomatic side of his mission, is his very elderly aunt, the Lady Grantholm.

This twist in the story meant that throughout this demanding voyage, William continually finds himself not only having to deal with a range of dangerous columnists, none of whom have any fond feelings towards Earth, but also his aunt, who regularly appears on the bridge at the most inconvenient moments. This nicely ups the stakes as well as providing some humour.

And the other source of amusement are William’s occasional romantic attachments. I thought they were hilarious, especially when he becomes entangled with crew members. Larson provides a nicely nuanced hero, playing on the typical lantern-jawed version we are all familiar with, yet also giving our brave protagonist, one or two wrinkles that the likes of Captain Picard doesn’t possess. That said, I’ve become very fond of William Sparhawk and I’m delighted to note that this is part of a trilogy – so there is more Sparhawk goodness to enjoy with Star Carrier. Recommended for fans of character-led military science fiction.
9/10