Category Archives: S.J. Higbee

Sunday Post – 21st October, 2018 #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.

It’s been a week of catching up and becoming ill… I really loved my writing retreat and for the first few days when I returned, I was very good about getting a reasonable amount of sleep. And then my old bad habits surfaced and I found myself working into the early hours again. But this time around, it was an increasing struggle to surface in the morning and my sciatica has been niggling away. And by Thursday my body had had enough. What I initially thought was a stomach bug wasn’t. I felt sick and giddy when I got out of bed and yet once I lay down again, I was feeling a lot better. Friday was still a battle to get showered without being ill.

By the afternoon, I was well enough to sit at the computer and work and do a bit of light housework so long as I wasn’t moving around too much. I think I’ve simply hit the buffers and now urgently need to address my dysfunctional sleep patterns. I’m relieved that I have half term coming up – but I do think that I need to ease back on all my dashing about and just concentrate on resting, rebalancing my life and sorting out my sleep! Sorry – I’m aware this has been a REALLY boring post!

Due to spending some time in bed waiting for the world to stop spinning, I’ve been catching up on my reading:

Together by Julie Cohen
This is not a great love story.
This is a story about great love.
On a morning that seems just like any other, Robbie wakes in his bed, his wife Emily asleep beside him, as always. He rises and dresses, makes his coffee, feeds his dogs, just as he usually does. But then he leaves Emily a letter and does something that will break her heart. As the years go back all the way to 1962, Robbie’s actions become clearer as we discover the story of a couple with a terrible secret – one they will do absolutely anything to protect.
This was recommended to me by one of my students and I’m so glad that I finally got around to reading it. A haunting, thought-provoking book that raises uncomfortable questions about the importance we place on romantic love in our society…

 

Headlong – a Bill Slider mystery by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
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.
I really enjoyed the previous book, Shadow Play, I read in this series and was delighted when I saw this Netgalley arc available. Once again it delivered a cracking whodunit – review to follow in due course.

 

Soulbinder – Book 4 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell
The fourth book in the page-turning SPELLSLINGER fantasy series. Perfect for fans of The Dark Tower, Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, Terry Pratchett, Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher.
Another wonderful magical adventure featuring Kellen, full of high emotion, sarky humour and lots of high-stakes action. This series is now one of my all-time favourite fantasy treats. Review to follow.

 

 

Caraval – Book 1 of the Caraval series by Stephanie Garber
Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over. But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives.
I loved the twisting plot and sense of never knowing exactly who poor old Scarlett can and cannot trust – and to think that she’s been waiting to take part in this magical madness for seven years!

 

Bloodfire – Book 1 of the Blood Destiny series by Helen Harper
Mack might be, to all intents and purposes, a normal looking human, but she lives with a pack of shapeshifters in Cornwall in rural England after being dumped there by her mother when she was just a young child. She desperately wants to be accepted by her surrogate family, not least because a lot of them hate her for merely being human, but for some reason her blood just won’t allow the transformation to occur.
This paranormal, shapeshifter adventure is a lot of fun – just what I needed to whisk me away from my sick giddiness, to the extent that I immediately turned to the next book in the series, something I don’t often do.

 

Bloodmagic – Book 2 of the Blood Destiny series by Helen Harper
After escaping the claws of Corrigan, the Lord Alpha of the Brethren, Mack is trying to lead a quiet lonely life in Inverness in rural Scotland, away from anyone who might happen to be a shapeshifter. However, when she lands a job at an old bookstore owned by a mysterious elderly woman who not only has a familiar passion for herbal lore but also seems to know more than she should, Mack ends up caught in a maelstrom between the Ministry of Mages, the Fae and the Brethren.
Yet more shapeshifting mayhem – I do like the character of Mack, though the romance aspect of this story surfaced more strongly in this slice of the adventure, which is fine – though not necessarily what I was looking for.

 

Dreamer’s Pool – Book 1 of the Blackthorn and Grim series by Juliet Marillier
In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she’ll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.
I really enjoyed the fact that this medieval high fantasy romantic adventure features a cranky middle-aged woman with agency and a skill that makes her independent. The story pulled me into the book, though on reflection, there were some aspects of the portrayal of women’s sexuality that rather bothered me, which I will discuss further in the review…

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 14th October 2018

AUTHOR ANNALS #2 – Writing Retreat

Teaser Tuesday featuring Soulbinder – Book 4 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Athena’s Champion by David Hair and Cath Mayo

Friday Face-off featuring The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Unwritten by Tara Gilboy

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

Thursday Doors https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2018/10/18/thursday-doors-115/ I love this quirky series and this week Jean brings us some delightful examples…

Does It Make Sense? http://chechewinnie.com/does-is-it-make-sense/ Cheche is asking hard questions about the plants chosen for green landscaping around cities in his native Kenya – but it made me look more closely at the plants adorning our local towns. And I realise hardly any of them are indigenous, either…

#lessons learned from #Ray Bradbury: #write #setting details that creep out #characters & #readers alike https://jeanleesworld.com/2018/10/18/lessons-learned-from-raybradbury-write-setting-details-that-creep-out-characters-readers-alike/ Once more, Jean offers up her original take on writing by drawing on one of the great masters of the genre – and a bit of a preview of her own upcoming novel

Five of the Best Poems About the Sky https://interestingliterature.com/2018/10/17/five-of-the-best-poems-about-the-sky/ There are some gems in here – some I knew, while some I didn’t…

Top Five Wednesday – Mythical Creatures of Canada and Korea (and examples in the media) https://pagesbelowvaultedsky.wordpress.com/2018/10/17/top-5-wednesday-mythological-creatures-of-canada-and-korea-and-examples-in-media/ This proved fascinating – there was only one of these that I actually knew. The others are just amazing!

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

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Unwritten by Tara Gilboy #Brainfluffbookreview #Unwrittenbookreview

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I liked the sound of this children’s adventure and, conscious that I hadn’t read many children’s books this year, I was delighted when I was approved to read and review it.

Twelve-year-old Gracie Freeman is living a normal life, but she is haunted by the fact that she is actually a character from a story, an unpublished fairy tale she’s never read. When she was a baby, her parents learned that she was supposed to die in the story, and with the help of a magic book, took her out of the story, and into the outside world, where she could be safe. But Gracie longs to know what the story says about her.

Once again, I’ve abbreviated the rather chatty blurb, but you’ll get the gist that this is about a girl who feels she doesn’t belong. Don’t take the tone of this book from the Disney-looking cover – this book is a lot grittier than the cover design suggests. Gracie’s flashbacks of being in a fire become increasingly upsetting, so when random chance gives her an opportunity to track down the author of the unpublished book containing her story, she takes it.

I like this treatment of the classic portal fantasy trope – it works well. The bewilderment of the well-known author at Gracie’s odd questions and keenness to distance herself from the intense, peculiar girl works really well. Gracie isn’t all that likeable at time – she’s prickly, secretive and prone to lying which is something of a risk, given that children generally prefer a nicer protagonist. However, this is one of the main themes of the book – who is the villain in this story?

There is a lot going on in this thoughtful, well-crafted story. The archetypal wicked queen isn’t as much of a pantomime villain as Gracie first thought. And what about her parents’ behaviour? Her mother’s stubborn refusal to discuss any of the weirdness poor Gracie keeps encountering is at worst selfishly stupid and at best short-sighted; while Gracie’s father opts to stay out of her life. Again, not exactly stepping up to the plate, is he? The adventure deals with some hefty issues with Gracie making an unpleasant discovery about her own role as the royal princess in the story.

As a children’s adventure tale, it has been brought to a satisfactory, reasonably upbeat conclusion. I have found myself thinking a lot about this thought-provoking and intelligently written story that I think would be an ideal book to be read and examined as a class project.

While I obtained an arc of Unwritten from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – The grave’s a fine and private place… #Brainfluffbookblog

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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 the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is A HORROR NOVEL, so I’ve selected The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

 

This edition was produced by HarperCollins in September 2008. I really like this one – the blue-black background is both effective and attractive and the gravestone is striking. But what stands out is the treatment of both the title and author fonts, which I love. And then they go and RUIN it by plastering that large gold blob right in the centre! Couldn’t it have gone in a corner? Just asking…

 

Published in December 2008 by Bloomsbury, this cover is the exact opposite of the above cover. Rather than going for the minimalist approach, this cover is full of wonderful detail, featuring the two main protagonists scowling out at prospective readers. I could have done without the endorsement by Diana Wynne Jones impinging onto that glorious artwork, but overall I like this one, including the funky title font. This is the cover of the copy we own. The big problem with it is that it doesn’t look good in thumbnail.

 

This Spanish edition, published by Roca Editorial in October 2010. I really like it – the design is  clever, featuring the blade of a knife with the cityscape running along its length and young Bod running along the edge of it. I think it’s attractive and eye-catching – and again the author and title fonts look fabulous. However, the snag for me is that there is no graveyard in this cover, which features so heavily in the book – and the title.

 

Produced by Polaris in September 2008, this Czech cover does feature a graveyard. I like the design and appreciate that the ghosts also feature. However, unfortunately the execution of the otherworldly characters lets down this cover – they look like they’ve been painted onto material and then photoshopped into the cover. It’s such a shame, because I think the idea and the rest of the image is really strong.

 

This French edition, published by J’ai lu in April 2012, is also set in a graveyard and I love it. I think it’s the strongest of all the designs. It sings off the page with the eerie lighting and the silhouetted figure of the small boy against the wrought iron gates of the graveyard looks fabulous. This is mine – but which is your favourite?

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 17th October, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #Can’tWaitWednesday

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

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

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Athena’s Champion – Book 1 of the Olympus series by David Hair and Cath Mayo

#Greek myth retelling #fantasy #magic #troubled hero

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.

I’m a sucker for Greek retellings and this one, due out on 8th November, is a cracking version. Many thanks to the person on this site who recommended this book – sorry I can’t recall who it was!

Teaser Tuesday – 16th October, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Soulbinder – Book 4 in the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell

56% Ghilla came and gave me a gentle kick in the shin. ‘We ain’t so bad, boy. You’ll see.’

What do you do in the face of something you’ve never earned but always wanted? I held the bundled shirt with the bones inside it under my arm tightly, as if doing so was somehow an act of resistance against their kindness. It didn’t work though, because after a few moments my traitorous mouth opened, and I said, ‘Take me home.’

BLURB: The fourth book in the page-turning SPELLSLINGER fantasy series.

Perfect for fans of The Dark Tower, Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, Terry Pratchett, Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher.

Even grumpy old me can’t rant about that blurb being too much of a spoiler, can I?

I recently read and loved Charmcaster so Himself stumped up and treated me to this one as a belated birthday treat – no wonder I love him so… And once again, I’ve been caught up in Kellen’s adventures full of danger, emotion and humour. This is certainly one of my favourite fantasy series of the year.

AUTHOR ANNALS #2 – WRITING RETREAT #Brainfluffauthorannals

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I was fortunate enough to be invited to go on a writing retreat with some of my writing group members. I’ve been part of this group now for nearly ten years and we try to meet up twice a month over tea and cake every other Wednesday evening to share each other’s work and provide constructive, but honest criticism.

This retreat was at a converted barn with 8 double bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms. Six of us were there for most of the week, while three others joined us for part of the week. The barn was tucked away down winding single-track roads etched into the red West Country earth at a farm on Exmoor near the hamlet of Roadwater. The weather was fabulous, so we’d aim to write from 9.30 am, stop for lunch at 1 pm and go for a walk at between 4-4.30 pm, though I only broke off a couple of days for the walk. And then we generally stopped writing at about 6 pm and took turns to prepare the wonderful meals organised and provisioned by Sarah Palmer, who not only organised the whole thing, but happens to be a fabulous cook. After clearing up, we sat around the table and read our work aloud to each other and gained valuable feedback. We then played quizzes or chatted until going to bed, before repeating the whole process again the next day. Bliss…

My bedroom view was across the lawns to the main farmhouse, with a large lavender bush right outside the door opening onto the gardens, which was open most afternoons because otherwise it was too hot. It was so lovely – this was where I chose to write

The internet connection was practically non-existent in the barn, apart from the occasional text and if we wanted to make a phone call we had to climb the hill at the back of the property. I found this a huge advantage, though others weren’t so impressed, but it meant that there was no question of messing around on the internet in displacement activities – it was all about the writing.

It’s been such a treat to have spent that amount of time as a writer – the part that often gets tucked away until the end of a busy day, or squeezed between other chores – that I’m very aware just how very lucky I’ve been to have such a wonderful opportunity. But did I make the most of it? Nope. I made some fundamental mistakes that meant I didn’t make as much progress as I should have.

The biggest problem was my lack of preparation. During the last year, I’ve published a space opera adventure The Sunblinded trilogy, which meant I spent hours in the head of my main protagonist, Lizzy and immersed in the world. I don’t know what made me think that I’d be able to seamlessly switch into Kyrillia’s viewpoint in Mantivore Preys and absorb all the details, backstories and most importantly of all – the speech rhythms and dialect differences of Arcadia without at least rereading the first book, Mantivore Dreams. But I didn’t and I paid the price. While Felina, the protagonist who made a takeover bid for the book during my last retreat, had poured from my fingertips, Kyrillia didn’t. The going was slow and I kept having to break off to check up on various details.

That said, having read several scenes to the group, who gave me suitable feedback, I’ve returned from Somerset with a stronger start to the book. And while I was there, I also had an epiphany regarding Miranda’s Tempest which is currently on the backburner, until the Arcadian trilogy is finished.

But the biggest advantage was to get a break from my everyday life in a setting that made me feel happy and peaceful, with the mental space to realise that my current work rate simply isn’t sustainable. I need more sleep and fewer hours in front of the computer – I suspect my raised blood pressure is part of that problem, too. So now I’m back home, I hoping to put in place some major changes… watch this space!

Sunday Post – 14th October, 2018 #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.

Once again, I went AWOL as I disappeared off into the wilds of Somerset for a week at a writing retreat with part of my writing group, organised by the fabulous Sarah Palmer, who also invited along other writing colleagues. We stayed in a converted barn tucked away near the tiny hamlet of Roadwater on Exmoor. The countryside is beautiful and the weather was fabulous – we had one cloudy day and bright sunshine the rest of the time.

I was working on Mantivore Prey, the second book of The Arcadian Chronicles – about a telepathic alien whose involvement with the humans colonising his planet gets more complicated and problematical. I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped, but at least I’m on the right track and it was utter luxury to be able to simply focus on my writing.

I returned home last Friday and was welcomed back by Himself, my sister and the grandchildren who were staying. It was lovely to see them and catch up on how they’re getting on at school. I drove them back to Brighton where I stayed last Sunday, in order to do the school run on Monday, accompanied by my lovely sister. After duly delivering the children on time while slogging through the Brighton rush-hour, we felt we deserved a hearty breakfast before returning home.

This week has been back to college and teaching Tim. It’s been something of a scramble to catch up after having been away, so apologies for the lack of engagement and commenting on blogs, reviews, etc…

This week I have read:
Charmcaster – Book 3 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell
‘I was getting almost as good at running away from enemies as I was at making them in the first place. Turns out, I wasn’t running nearly fast enough.’
Kellen has begun to master his spellslinging and the Argosi tricks for staying alive, and he and Reichis have found a career that suits them both: taking down mercenary mages who make people’s lives miserable. But Ferius is concerned that Kellen is courting disaster . . .
Great fun with plenty of adventure and emotion to go with it. I’m delighted to see that this series hasn’t lost its bounce as it progresses. Review to follow.

 

 

Strange the Dreamer – Book 1 of the Strange the Dreamer series by Laini Taylor
The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.
I love, love, LOVED this one… One of my favourite reads of the year so far – I think it’s even better than her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. Review to follow… though whether the world really needs another review of this gem is debatable, given there are well over 8,000 on Goodreads.

 

Athena’s Champion – Book 1 of the Olympus series by David Hair and Cath Mayo
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.
I can’t recall who recommended this one – because I’d definitely namecheck them, as I’ve LOVED it. I’m a sucker for Greek myth retellings anyway and this one is brilliantly done. Review to follow on release.

So as you can see, it’s been a fabulous reading week…

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of A Muddle of Magic – Book 2 of the Fledgling Magic series by Alexandra Rushe

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Select Few – Book 2 of the Select series by Marit Weisenberg

Face-off Friday – Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again… featuring Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Lethal White – Book 4 of the Strike Cormoran novels by Robert Galbraith

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

Rolling Stones, Bob and Earl: The Harlem Shuffle https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2018/10/02/rolling-stones-bob-and-earl-the-harlem-shuffle/ Once again Thom Hickey weaves his magic of poetical prose and passion for music in the wonderful article…

Sci Fi/Fantasy Scenes I Can Never Get Enough Of https://pagesbelowvaultedsky.wordpress.com/2018/10/13/scifi-fantasy-scenes-i-can-never-get-enough-of/ I thoroughly enjoyed this interesting article – and found myself nodding in agreement throughout. What about you – do you need these aspects in your favourite SFF reads?

The Man Himself, Eric Carle https://jenniefitzkee.com/2018/09/18/the-man-himself-eric-carle/ Those of us who raised children on the likes of The Very Hungry Caterpiller will enjoy reading this one.

Six Female Poets Whose Poetry Has Been Forgotten https://interestingliterature.com/2018/10/12/six-female-poets-whose-poetry-has-been-forgotten/ Once again this fabulous site has informed me about writers whose work I know nothing about – brilliant…

7 reasons why you need listicles as part of your content marketing strategy https://thisislitblog.com/2018/10/10/7-reasons-why-you-need-listicles-as-part-of-your-content-marketing-strategy/ This lovely article reminded me all over again just how useful and readable listicles can be – thank you Shruti!

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Kindle EBOOK Lethal White Book 4 of the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith #Brainfluffbookreview #LethalWhitebookreview

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I didn’t enjoy Career of Evil – see my review here – as much as the previous two books and was a bit worried that this was a series that would be sliding further down into the gritty grunge of the murder mystery spectrum, as it’s not what I prefer to read. However this time around, I absolutely loved this one – it’s my favourite so far…

“I seen a kid killed…He strangled it, up by the horse.”
When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic. Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott—once his assistant, now a partner in the agency—set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

This story spans the full range of the social class system in England – from a mentally ill young man, clearly unable to adequately look after himself to a Minister of the State with a complicated family life. Cormoran Strike, dogged private investigator, cannot shake the feeling that Billy wasn’t hallucinating about the horrific murder he described.

As part of the investigation, Robin goes undercover in the Houses of Parliament as an intern and that made for fascinating reading, given that Rowling got access to the overcrowded, shabby offices where most of the admin work is carried out. The murder mystery part of the book twists in all sorts of directions, until the crime-fighting duo finally pull enough clues together to work out what was going on. Which is when that title really comes into its own…

This long book isn’t solely about the murder mystery element – at least half the book is given over to Cormoran and Robin’s complicated private lives. In fact the book starts with a major event in Robin’s life that also impacts upon Cormoran – and if you have crashed midway into this series, you’ll be forgiven for wondering if you’ve somehow ended up with a romance. Though there isn’t all that much that is happy or romantic in this book. Both Cormoran and Robin are finding it difficult to keep their partners happy, given the demands the Agency is making upon their time. While Cormoran frequently finds the inevitable walking and standing he has to do creates real problems with his artificial leg, Robin is also battling with panics attacks caused by the last case where she was attacked and injured. I really like the fact that these protagonists aren’t Teflon-coated – they are brave and both crave adventure, but also have to deal with the fallout when an incident becomes terrifying and life-threatening.

This is a long book, but at no time did I feel I was trudging through it. The final denouement was a genuine shock – I hadn’t guessed who the culprit was – and the book managed to tie up all the loose ends, leaving me wanting more…
10/10

Friday Faceoff – Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again… #Brainfluffbookblog

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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 the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is MYSTERY NOVEL, so I’ve selected Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

 

This edition was produced by Little, Brown and Company in December 2013. Initially I didn’t like it – too gloomy and odd. But it is a cover that has grown on me. There is a lot going on despite the preponderance of black – the glamorous woman hugging herself, clearly in trouble. For once, I even think the textbox featuring the title is well done – though I generally hate them – as it gives a sense of the period in which this classic was written.

 

Published in 2006 by HarperCollins, this is a classic case of more is less. The sepia image of the steps, presumably leading to Manderley, are suitably appropriate. Granted, the very plain white font is rather bald and could have done with a bit of texture or shadowing to lift it – but then scrawling a fancy R over the whole thing in a mismatched colour just shouts that some big boss looked at it and decided it ‘needed something’. He was probably right – but definitely not the odd scolling either side of that very plain font, or that R…

 

This edition, published by Virago in December 2007 is more like it. Those wrought-iron gates with the ominous glow in the background, echoed in the sky above the author’s name leaves a sense of menace without giving the impression it’s horror. I quite like this one, though once again, I think the title and author name are rather too plain.

 

Produced by Virago Modern Classics in 2015, this is my favourite. For starters, unlike any of the others to date, this cover is actually beautiful. The scrolling of the wrought-iron gate, the looping font for both the author and the title are eye-catching and visually appealing. And yet… those hectic red flowers shout that something is amiss – maybe dangerous.

 

This edition, also published by Virago, though in July 2015, is another excellent effort. You can see echoes of the previous design (I’m not sure which one came first) in the styling of the author and title font, but the colour is different. The silhouettes of Manderlay and the second Mrs de Winters – or is it Rebecca? – stand out really well against the black background. This one is a very close second, though the previous cover still just edges it for me. Which is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Select Few – Book 2 of the Select series by Marit Weisenberg #Brainfluffbookreview #SelectFewbookreview

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I really enjoyed this first book in this YA paranormal series, Select – read my review here – so when I saw the second book was available, I immediately requested it and was delighted to be accepted.

After rejecting the cult-like influence of her father’s family, Julia moves into a fancy hotel in downtown Austin. But she finds herself alone except for her boyfriend, John–and her fears. The FBI is also keeping a close eye on Julia hoping she can lead them to her father, Novak, as he’s wanted for questioning in his former assistant’s death. Will she ever be able to blend into normal society without being traced by her father? Will the FBI ever leave her alone? Can she ever find happiness?

I have once again made major changes to the very chatty blurb, and my advice is – don’t read it before picking up the book. The first book ended on something of a cliffhanger with a sudden revelation right at the very end, which turned everything on its head and had Julia making a snap decision not to join her family in their flight to a new life. So the start of Select Few has Julia coming to terms with that decision, after realising the enormity of her loss. She now has to make her way without her sister, whom she loves and misses and her overbearing authoritarian father. While at times she has revelled in her new freedom, she has also discovered that freedom is often accompanied by loneliness. Her relationship with John is also problematical, given that revelation at the end of the first book, so while her feelings for him are a comfort, he is often at a loss to understand her behaviour.

The reason I can discuss John’s feelings with such authority is that this book is a dual narrative with Julia’s first-person viewpoint telling most of the story, interleaved with John’s observations, addressed directly to Julia in the form of some kind of journal. If you haven’t read Select I recommend you do so if you are not feeling particularly bonded with the main characters, or you cannot work out what is going on. Given the first slice of the story is taken up with what is happening, I think this is one of those series where you really can’t crash midway in the series without floundering – and that would be a shame as I found the early part of the book particularly gripping while I tried to work out where it would go next.

Of course, if you are held at the start, the build-up has to really lead something – we’ve all read books which start with a bang and simply can’t sustain the momentum. Fortunately, Weisenberg has sufficient story and drive that the climax and final stages bring the book to a satisfying and convincing end.

I wasn’t as fed up with the inevitable love triangle as I usually am, and to be honest, I’m not sure why. But perhaps it was because I was sufficiently caught up in the main story and found the road trip also helped Julia comes to terms with some important issues along the way. Recommended for fans of paranormal coming-of-age books. While I obtained an arc of Select Few from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10