Category Archives: sand and sorcery

Sunday Post – 11th April, 2021 #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 are still recovering from a nasty attack of Covid and it’s baby steps. I walked to my local supermarket yesterday – only the second time I’ve been out and about since the beginning of March. A journey there and back, including the shopping normally takes about half an hour, if it isn’t too busy. I took nearly an hour and only bought two items. By the time I staggered back through the kitchen door, I felt as if I’d run a marathon. However, it’s now four days since I needed to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon. Himself is back at work, but still battling with a horrible cough. We are both taking lots of supplements and ensuring that we are eating and drinking healthily.

The photos this week are of plants blooming in the garden. It hasn’t been warm enough to sit out, but one lovely sunny morning I couldn’t resist wandering around taking some pictures. Though the garden is in desperate need of TLC and neither of us feels up to tackling the weeds, so frankly it’s a disgrace.

Last week I read:
The Recollection: Tenth Anniversary Edition by Gareth L. Powell
Four hundred years ago, Ed and Alice Rico threw themselves through a mysterious portal on the London Underground, hunting for Ed’s lost brother—Alice’s husband—Verne.

Now, starship captain Katherine Abdulov embarks on a desperate race against ruthless rival captain—and her former lover—Victor Luciano, to try and earn back her family’s trust.

Tomorrow, all their lives will be thrown together by disaster, as an ancient evil stirs among the stars, threatening the survival of all life…
I took a while to get invested in this dual narrative adventure, as initially I didn’t bond with any of the protagonists. But once things started to kick off, I was able to settle into this enjoyable space opera adventure and let the pages turn themselves. Review to follow.

The Russian Cage – Book 3 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris
Picking up right where A Longer Fall left off, this thrilling third installment follows Lizbeth Rose as she takes on one of her most dangerous missions yet: rescuing her estranged partner, Prince Eli, from the Holy Russian Empire.

Once in San Diego, Lizbeth is going to have to rely upon her sister Felicia, and her growing Grigori powers to navigate her way through this strange new world of royalty and deception in order to get Eli freed from jail where he’s being held for murder.
I’ve read and enjoyed the previous two books in this entertaining alternate history series and appreciated learning more about the Holy Russian Empire and exactly how it became established. There is plenty of action and more of Lizbeth, which is always a bonus…

Railhead – Book 1 of the Railhead series by Philip Reeve
Zen Starling is a petty thief, a street urchin from Thunder City. So when mysterious stranger Raven sends Zen and his new friend Nova on a mission to infiltrate the Emperor’s train, he jumps at the chance to traverse the Great Network, to cross the galaxy in a heartbeat, to meet interesting people – and to steal their stuff. But the Great Network is a dangerous place, and Zen has no idea where his journey will take him.

This YA adventure, with its sentient trains that span galaxies, is great fun. Though poor Zen is plonked right in the middle of something far bigger and scarier than he initially realised. Review to follow.

The Eyes of Tamburah – Book 1 of the Archives of the Invisible Swords series by Maria V. Snyder
Shyla is a researcher who resides in the underground desert city of Zirdai, which is ruled by the wealthy Water Prince and brutal Heliacal Priestess. Even though Shyla is sun-kissed – an outcast, considered cursed by the Sun Goddess – she is still renowned for uncovering innumerable archaic facts, lost artefacts, ancient maps and obscure historical documents.

Her quiet life is about to change when Banqui, an archaeologist, enlists her services to find The Eyes of Tamburah: legendary gemstones that bestow great magic on their wielder. These ancient objects can tip the balance of power and give whoever possesses them complete control of the city. But chaos erupts when The Eyes are stolen soon after they’re found – and Shyla is blamed for the theft.
I thoroughly enjoy the bouncy energy in Snyder’s writing – particularly now I’m feeling a tad embattled. So this cracking Sand and Sorcery adventure ticked all the boxes. Review to follow.

By Other Means – Book 5 of the Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie
The Hayden War has ended and now SOLCOM and the Alliance are face to face in talks, but neither side has the slightest idea what happened in the ultimate battle of the war. Amid political jockeying and diplomatic gamesmanship, Captain Sorilla Aida has been given an assignment : Find a weakness to exploit, buy SOLCOM time to learn just what the hell happened to Valkyrie, and make sure that the Alliance isn’t prepared to risk another conflict in the open.

Sorilla has problems of her own, however, and after losing so much in the war she isn’t as certain of her life choices as she used to be. Unfortunately for her, the Alliance, SOLCOM, and others don’t intend to let her have time to figure it out for herself.
This offering is a thoroughly enjoyable page-turner with plenty of tension and action, despite the lack of full-on space battles that Currie tends to specialise in. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

Review of NETGALLEY arc The Transylvania Twist – Book 2 of the Monster M*A*S*H
series by Angie Fox

Friday Face-off featuring Sourcery – Book 5 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Best Thing You Can Steal – a Gideon Sable novel by Simon R. Green

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

Tuesday Treasures – 31

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne – Book 1 of The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne series by Jonathan Stroud

Sunday Post – 4th April, 2021

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

Keeping up with the Martians https://earthianhivemind.net/2021/04/09/keeping-up-with-the-martians/ It’s great to get one of Steph’s handy roundups about what is happening off our planet just now…

Illuminating Histories: The Oxford Illustrated History of the Book https://interestingliterature.com/2021/04/oxford-illustrated-history-of-the-book-james-raven-review/ After having read Dr Oliver Teale’s review of this sumptuous offering, I now know it’s going to appear on my birthday present list…

Daffodils in Snow, and History Lessons https://ailishsinclair.com/2021/04/daffodils-in-snow-and-history-lessons/ A lovely article – that also ends with the exciting news that Ailish’s second book is now out! So I nicked across and got hold of a copy😊.

A Strange Easter https://thenaptimeauthor.wordpress.com/2021/04/04/a-strange-easter-2/ Another wonderful article by a talented author – this time taking us through Time to other Easters celebrated in challenging circumstances…

Music and the Art Show – Part 1 https://jenniefitzkee.com/2021/04/05/music-and-the-art-show-part-1/ I love how Jennie inspires and fires up the youngsters in her class to be fearlessly creative…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog. I hope you had a peaceful, healthy week – and do take care. x

Sunday Post – 24th January, 2021 #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.

I was expecting another quiet week, but my daughter was suddenly unwell and needed us to step in and look after the younger two children on Friday morning. As we are part of her support bubble, we were able to do so. To add to the pressure, little Eliza had the previous day been diagnosed with asthma and needed to get to grips with the medication – she’s two… Suddenly I was talking about the birds in the garden… the sun going to bed… our chiming clock – which fascinates Eliza… Basically having a ringside seat as a small person grapples with learning about the world around her. It’s a joy and a privilege, though I do need to get fitter! My steps counter on my phone went from 437 steps on Thursday to over 6,500 on Friday and recorded 15 flights of stairs…

The pics this week are of a bitterly cold trip to the beach on early Saturday morning with little Eliza. Right now we have the eldest, Frank, staying for a couple of days as the younger two went home last night. I’m glad to say that my daughter is now feeling a lot better.

Mantivore Dreams, the first book in my Arcadian Chronicles trilogy, is now free for the rest of the day – just click on the link or the cover in the sidebar, if you’d like a copy. It is an adventure based on a colony planet featuring a teenager whose harsh life is softened by a pretend friend – an ancient alien who offers comfort when things get tough…

Last week I read:

By the Pact – Book 1 of the Pacts Arcane and Otherwise series by Joanna Maciejewska
When Kamira, a once high mage student turned arcanist, discovers an imprisoned demon in underground ruins, she is forced into a pact that grants her powerful magic, but also ties her to the very demon that once devastated the continent… and Veranesh wants his freedom.

With one friend by her side, Veelk, a mage killer bound on protecting her, Kamira will have to outwit the archmages, other demons, and possibly her own demonic benefactor to survive. Her chances are slim, but with Veelk’s ever-present sarcastic repartee, Kamira might just pull through.

Plots and schemes, power and means—sometimes the price for victory is choosing which friend will die, but when you only have one friend, the choice is… easy?
This is a packet of fun! I have a real weakness for good sand and sorcery tales so sniggering at the snark between Veelk and Kamira, while ferocious demons scheme and plot in the background was a wonderful treat. I’m now really looking forward to reading the next book Scars in Stone, which is due to be released later this year.

The Night Parade of 100 Demons – a novel in A Legend of the Five Rings World by Marie Brennan
A thrilling epic fantasy adventure in the astonishing realm of Legend of the Five Rings, as two rival clans join forces to investigate a lethal supernatural mystery

Chaos has broken out in the isolated Dragon Clan settlement of Seibo Mura. During the full moon, horrifying creatures rampage through the village, unleashing havoc and death. When the Dragon samurai Agasha no Isao Ryotora is sent to investigate, he faces even greater danger than expected. To save the village, he must confront his buried past – not to mention an unexpected Phoenix Clan visitor, Asako Sekken, who has his own secrets to hide. The quest to save Seibo Mura will take the two samurai into the depths of forgotten history and the shifting terrain of the Spirit Realms… and bring them face to face with an ancient, terrifying evil.
I hadn’t been aware that this riveting fantasy story in a Japanese setting was also in the world of a popular role play game Legend of the Five Rings until I sat down to write the review. And frankly, I’m only tossing that info-nugget at you as a matter of interest, because as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference. The book is one of the best I’ve read of the year so far, as Brennan weaves her usual magic. Review to follow.

Murder at the Ritz by Jim Eldridge
August 1940. On the streets of London, locals watch with growing concern as German fighter planes plague the city’s skyline. But inside the famous Ritz Hotel, the cream of society continues to enjoy all the glamour and comfort that money can buy during wartime – until an anonymous man is discovered with his throat slashed open.

Detective Chief Inspector Coburg is called in to investigate, no stranger himself to the haunts of the upper echelons of society, ably assisted by his trusty colleague, Sergeant Lampson. Yet they soon face a number of obstacles. With the crime committed in rooms in use by an exiled king and his retinue, there are those who fear diplomatic repercussions and would rather the case be forgotten. With mounting pressure from various Intelligence agencies, rival political factions and gang warfare brewing either side of the Thames, Coburg and Lampson must untangle a web of deception if they are to solve the case – and survive.
This was another highly enjoyable read. DCI Coburg is an engaging protagonist battling to do his job during one of the most difficult, stressful times in London’s history. I loved the confident evocation of WWII and the nicely twisty plotting. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of By the Pact – Book 1 of the Pacts Arcane and Otherwise series by Joanna Maciejewska

Friday Face-off featuring Bloodhype – Book 2 of the Pip and Flinx series by Alan Dean Foster

Covet the Covers featuring Robert A. Heinlein

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Black Sun – Book 1 of Between Earth and Sky series by Rebecca Roanhorse

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Murder at the Ritz by Jim Eldridge

Tuesday Treasures – 23

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Shadow in the Empire of Light by Jane Routley

TWO Fantasy Mini-Reviews: A Dragon of a Different Colour by Rachel Aaron and Of Dragons, Feasts and Murder by Aliette de Bodard

Sunday Post – 17th January 2021

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

Mantivore Dreams is free today! https://mybook.to/MDJan21 The first book in my Arcadian Chronicles trilogy is free today on a giveaway that ends at midnight. Just click on the universal link above or the cover on the sidebar which will take you to your local Amazon store.

Happy Squirrel Appreciation Day https://bluebirdofbitterness.com/2021/01/21/happy-squirrel-appreciation-day-3/ This is more cartoon nonsense to bring a smile to your face…

Coumshingaun Lough https://inesemjphotography.com/2021/01/18/coumshingaun-lough/ Ireland is one of those places I’ve never been to that is on my bucket list. And these stunning pics, along with Inese’s chatty, informative prose only sharpens that wish…

Samantha by Zoe Sparkes https://soundcloud.com/zoe-ann-sparks/samantha And now for a treat for the ears. Tammy of Book’s Bones and Buffy mentioned her daughter’s new release – it’s beautiful… Swing by and just listen.

Wrap Up: 2020 Reading Statistics… https://ajsterkel.blogspot.com/2021/01/wrap-up-2020-reading-statistics.html?spref=tw As you probably know, I also produce a series of pie charts on my reading year – but AJ’s attention to detail is awesomely impressive!

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog. I hope you had a peaceful, healthy week – and do take care. x

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of INDIE Ebook By the Pact – Book 1 of Pacts Arcane and Otherwise by Joanna Maciejewska #BrainfluffINDIEEbookreview #BythePactbookreview

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Joanna and I have been blogging and writing buddies for a frightening number of years and I have always enjoyed her blog, Sorcery, Swords and Snark, where her artistic talent and engaging personality shines through. She has been working on By the Pact for a while – and I was excited to hear that she was finally publishing it this January, so obviously scampered over to scoop up a copy.

BLURB: High mages lied: Veranesh, the demon who destroyed the continent is still alive. And it’s up to their former student to expose the truth—even if it means another Cataclysm.

When Kamira, a once high mage student turned arcanist, discovers an imprisoned demon in underground ruins, she is forced into a pact that grants her powerful magic, but also ties her to the very demon that once devastated the continent… and Veranesh wants his freedom.

With one friend by her side, Veelk, a mage killer bound on protecting her, Kamira will have to outwit the archmages, other demons, and possibly her own demonic benefactor to survive. Her chances are slim, but with Veelk’s ever-present sarcastic repartee, Kamira might just pull through.

Plots and schemes, power and means—sometimes the price for victory is choosing which friend will die, but when you only have one friend, the choice is… easy?

REVIEW: I’ll be honest, it can be tricky business when a fellow writer, blogger and friend produces their first book and I open it. Because… what if I don’t enjoy it all that much? Worse – what if the reason why I don’t enjoy it all that much is because the writing isn’t any good? It quickly became apparent that all those worries were entirely superfluous. I quickly bonded with prickly, wary Kamira as she copes with a highly dangerous situation in the opening scene. Then forgot I was reading a friend’s book and became immersed in the story.

This could so easily have been a rather grim, unrelenting tale of vengeance and bloody murder, as old scores are settled and the demons involved – being demons – aren’t forgiving, compassionate types. However, throughout this adventure we have the strong friendship between Kamira and Veelk that mostly runs on snark and teasing – I liked the fact that their relationship isn’t a romantic one, rather a brother/sister bond. Both are charismatic characters, with a varied, eventful backstory and both are capable at looking after each other. They are also good at handling trouble – just as well, really – because the pair of them are disaster magnets.

While the strong characterisation and relationship between the two main protagonists sets the tone, ensuring there is always the fun of their interchanges in amongst the battle scenes and magical mayhem, there is also the wider story. I particularly enjoyed the magic system in this world. It makes complete sense and accounts for the presence of demons, as well as providing the historical backdrop – with the inevitable winners and losers and giving Kamira a solid reason for walking away from the more reputable career that had once been lined up for her.

Any niggles? Well I was a bit taken aback, when I turned another page – only to find I’d reached the end of the book, because while the initial narrative arc was satisfactorily dealt with, there are a handful of other plotpoints that have been left dangling. However, I am reassured on learning that the next book in the series, Scars of Stone, is due out later in the year. Highly recommended for fans of sand and sorcery fantasy.
9/10

Series I’ve Completed So Far in 2020… #Brainfluffbookblog #SeriesCompletedSoFar-2020

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Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger duology by Marie Brennan
Created by the merging of witch and doppelganger, Mirei is a unique being. Her extraordinary magic makes her the most poweful witch alive—and a notorious social outcast. While Satomi, the leader of the witches’ ruling Primes, hails Mirei as a miracle, rival Primes proclaim that Mirei is an evil abomination… and that those who champion her must be destroyed. Now the different witch factions engage in a bloody war with magic, treachery, and murder. But both sides may be fighting for nothing. For the power that the rebel Primes fear, the magic that Mirei alone possesses, is killing her.

Thoroughly enjoyed this one. This is a series that deserves to be better known.

Bone Silence – Book 3 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds
Two sisters ran away from home to join the crew of a spaceship. They took on pirates, faced down monsters and survived massacres . . . and now they’re in charge. Captaining a fearsome ship of their own, adventures are theirs for the taking. But Captain Bosa’s fearsome reputation still dogs their heels, and they’re about to discover that, out in space, no one forgives, and no one forgets . . .

This was quite a gritty, creepy read that took some of the established tropes for this sub-genre – and twisted them into something completely different. Enjoyable and unpredictable.

Crownbreaker – Book 6 of the Spellslinger series by Sebatien de Castell
Kellen and Reichis are settling into their new lives as protectors of the young queen and dealing with the constantly shifting threats to her reign and to her life. For the first time in his life, Kellen feels as if he’s becoming the kind of man that his mentor Ferius had wanted him to be. Even Reichis has come to appreciate having a noble purpose – so long as no one minds him committing the occasional act of theft from the royal treasury. But what seems to be a simple card game between Kellen and an old man is soon revealed to be a deadly game of wits in which a powerful mage has trapped the queen’s spellslinger in order to kill him.

I really enjoyed this series. Kellen is an engaging protagonist and his relationship with the savage little squirrel cat, Reichis, prevented the tone getting too darkly dismal, despite the stakes being raised ever higher.


Sacred Bride – Book 3 of the Olympus trilogy by David Hair & Cath Mayo
Prince Odysseus and the daemon Bria must penetrate the haunted caverns beneath Dodona, seeking a way to save their doomed nation, Achaea, from the might of Troy.
The startling revelation that follows will set Odysseus on his most daunting mission yet, as he seeks to reunite the divided Achaean kingdoms before the rapacious Trojans strike. His journey will pit him against wrathful gods and legendary heroes, in a deadly contest for the hand of Helen of Sparta, the daughter of Zeus, upon whose choice the fate of Achaea rests…

I am a real sucker for Greek myth retellings and 2019 was an outstanding year for this genre, what with this series and Madeline Miller’s wonderful tales. So it was a real treat to revisit this world to complete the series, which is highly recommended for fans of this sub-genre.

The Last Emperox – Book 3 of the Interdependency series
The collapse of The Flow, the interstellar pathway between the planets of the Interdependency, has accelerated. Entire star systems—and billions of people—are becoming cut off from the rest of human civilization. This collapse was foretold through scientific prediction… and yet, even as the evidence is obvious and insurmountable, many still try to rationalize, delay and profit from, these final days of one of the greatest empires humanity has ever known. Emperox Grayland II has finally wrested control of her empire from those who oppose her and who deny the reality of this collapse. But “control” is a slippery thing, and even as Grayland strives to save as many of her people from impoverished isolation, the forces opposing her rule will make a final, desperate push to topple her from her throne and power, by any means necessary. Grayland and her thinning list of allies must use every tool at their disposal to save themselves, and all of humanity. And yet it may not be enough. Will Grayland become the savior of her civilization… or the last emperox to wear the crown?

I thoroughly enjoyed this unusual space opera adventure – but I did find the ending jarring. And as time goes by, my feeling about it haven’t grown any less raw, which is unusual. I’m not going to claim that Scalzi short-changed his readers, because I don’t think he did – but he came mightily close…

The Empire of Gold – Book 3 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakrobarty
Daevabad has fallen.
After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people. But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.

I’ve such a soft spot for sand and sorcery books – and this series is outstanding. I loved each book and despite the fact that I found Dara’s actions shocking, Chakraborty managed to make me really care for him.

End Game – Book 8 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
Alisa Marchenko has reunited with her daughter, and even though she hasn’t figured out how to get Jelena to accept Leonidas yet, she dreams of the three of them starting a new life together. They can return the Star Nomad to its original purpose of running freight and staying out of trouble (mostly). Before that can happen, Alisa must fulfill the promise she made to Jelena: that she and her crew will retrieve young Prince Thorian, the boy who has become Jelena’s best friend. But Thorian was kidnapped by the rogue Starseer Tymoteusz, the man who wants to use the Staff of Lore to take over the entire system—and the man who may have the power to do it. Alisa doesn’t know why he kidnapped Thorian, but Tymoteusz once promised to kill the prince, so she fears they don’t have much time. Unfortunately, Tymoteusz hasn’t left a trail of breadcrumbs. Finding him will be difficult, and even if they’re successful, facing him could be suicidal. To have a chance of surviving, Alisa will have to come up with her greatest scheme yet.

This was so much fun! I loved that the dynamic with this entertaining space opera adventure was a desperate mother looking for her kidnapped daughter. But while that may sound rather bleak – this was nothing of the sort. Full of battles and all sorts of exciting action, including blowing up illegal laboratories and hunting savage dinosaurs – I completed this one with a real sense of loss.

It was one of my targets for 2020 to roll up my sleeves and complete more of the ongoing series I’ve been reading. Though I rather lost my head and requested faaar too many new shiny arcs during March and April, which derailed my good intentions, somewhat. However, I’m reasonably happy that I’ve managed to finish seven series so far. Have you read any of these?









Sunday Post – 14th June, 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.

I’m late this week, because since Wednesday, I haven’t been feeling very well and so yesterday, I gave myself the day off. Hopefully during the coming week, I’ll throw off this lergy. At least I was able to take part in the family quiz we had last week, which was great fun, especially as Himself and I won. My sister organised the questions, and my nephews sorted out the technicality of getting a number of us together from around the country. We all had a great time and agreed that we should do more😊).

Finally we have had some rain, though as it was accompanied by lots of wind, I’m not sure whether the garden has been suitably soaked, but the weeds are really loving it. The raindrops trapped in the fennel leaves look lovely and my black-leaved sambucca is smothered in more blossom than I’ve ever seen, as is my rather heavily shaded David Austin rose…

On the work front, I spent much of the week going through my friend’s book, after we had something of a formatting disaster. Now I just need to load it onto my Kindle and see how it reads. I am slowly getting to grips with the WordPress block editor and making some changes to try and overcome the limitations I am encountering. But it’s time-consuming and frustrating…


Last week I read:

Set My Heart To Five by Simon Stephenson
10/10 Jared does not have friends.
Because friends are a function of feelings.
Therefore friends are just one more human obligation that Jared never has to worry about.
But Jared is worrying. Which is worrying. He’s also started watching old films. And inexplicably crying in them. And even his Feelings Wheel (given to him by Dr Glundenstein, who definitely is not a friend) cannot guide him through the emotional minefield he now finds himself in.
Given the blurb is something of a hot mess – this delightful book is in the viewpoint of a bot in a human body, designed to work as a dentist without any feelings, so incapable of love, excitement, or boredom and depression. Except that he begins to acquire such emotions after all… It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved it.

The Empire of Gold – Book 3 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty
Daevabad has fallen. After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people. But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.
This final book in this sand and sorcery epic fantasy draws us into a land of vengeful magical beings, where the past dictates the present and those in the middle of the story finally discover how they fit into the complex political web around them. A triumphant ending to a magnificent series.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region. Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
This gothic tale certainly ticks all the boxes and had me reading into the small hours to find out what happened. A creepy house, miserable welcome and nasty, entitled family who don’t want strangers poking about. And that’s all I’m going to say about it – except that it will take a while before I can face a mushroom again…

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Empire of Gold – Book 3 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty

Friday Face-off featuring Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi

Review of The City of Brass – Book 1 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Gravity is Heartless – Book 1 of the Heartless series by Sarah Lahey

Sunday Post – 7th June 2020

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

Black SFF Authors You Should be Reading https://booksbonesbuffy.com/2020/06/02/black-sff-authors-you-should-be-reading/ Like Tammy, I generally don’t discuss politics on my blog, but if you wish to widen your reading – this is a great place to start…

A Short Analysis of Robert Browning’s ‘My Last Duchess’ https://interestingliterature.com/2020/06/a-short-analysis-of-robert-brownings-my-last-duchess/ This is one of my favourite poems – such a wonderful portrayal of a really nasty villain…

Music Monday: As Good as Hell by Lizzo https://saschadarlington.me/2020/06/08/music-monday-good-as-hell-by-lizzo/#.Xudmk-d7kaE I have heard parts of this song regularly from a certain ad – so it was a real treat to listen to the whole thing and jig along…

The Book Character Quarantine Tag https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2020/06/09/the-book-character-quarantine-tag/ Maddalena’s lovely and spot on post about how her favourite protagonists would fare under lockdown had me howling with laughter… I will be joining in this one!

Before He Was Scotty: James Doohan and World War II https://thenaptimeauthor.wordpress.com/2020/05/30/before-he-was-scotty-james-doohan-and-world-war-ii/ Anne’s wonderful article shows us Scotty and other members of the Star Trek cast as you’ve never seen them…

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Empire of Gold – Book 3 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheEmpireofGoldbookreview

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I take a bit of persuading to get immersed into a High Fantasy epic series, these days – but when it comes to a tale of sand and sorcery, I’m allll over it. The typically lush prose, desert landscapes and vicious magic centred around huge crocodiles, flying creatures and djinn are irresistible. I’ve loved the first two books in this series – The City of Brass and The Kingdom of Copper. So would this final book in the trilogy safely bring this wide-ranging, ambitious tale of lethal magic and betrayed peoples to a satisfactory conclusion?

BLURB: Daevabad has fallen. After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people. But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.

REVIEW: Chakraborty does a cracking job in progressing this tale, producing yet another breathtaking round of adventures and plot twists, before winding it up in a way that left a lump in my throat. A word of warning – if you happen upon either The Kingdom of Copper or The Empire of Gold without having first had the pleasure of tucking into The City of Brass, then restrain yourself and go looking for that first book. This is, in effect, a single narrative arc that has been broken into three parts and when I attempted to crash midway into the series, I had to backtrack to The City of Brass, then reread The Kingdom of Copper to really appreciate what was going on. I regularly make a hobby of crashing into series – and mostly get away with it. Not so, this time.

I’m really glad I made the effort to reread the second book, before plunging into this doorstop of a book, which is something over 700 pages long. Though it really didn’t feel like it. This series, with its cast of vivid, often violent and vengeful characters swept me up and held me throughout. It was Nahri’s story that I cared most about, but the amazing being, Dara, the fabled warrior brought back to life with such a bloody past, also held my heart. The characterisation was superb. Nahri could have so easily turned into a bit of a Mary Sue, but her sharp edges and inability to trust anyone kept her from being too cosy, or too much of a victim. And as for Dara – where to begin? A single terrible episode, when he trusted too easily, defined the rest of his very long life and for which he paid a terrible price. And goes on paying it throughout most of this book, too…

George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series was a game-changer in ensuring all factions were guilty of some bloody deed – and Chakraborty has continued that dynamic throughout this trilogy. The city of Daevabad was founded by an act of invasion, and throughout it has been riven by injustice and simmering hatred for one group against the other. I was both curious and concerned as to how Chakraborty would manage to find a realistic solution. The worldbuilding throughout has been exceptional. I’ve loved the descriptions of the various landscapes, particularly of the magical city – and found the transformations it undergoes once the magic has left, very moving.

CONCLUSION: I’m not going into any kind of detail as to how she manages it, but I was completely satisfied with the denouement and felt it worked both within the world and as a suitable conclusion.All in all, Chakraborty has magnificently pulled off a true epic fantasy that hits all the tropes within the sand and sorcery sub-genre, providing a wonderful addition to the canon and a magnificent read that took me away from everyday life for hours at a stretch. I couldn’t ask for more. The ebook arc copy of The Empire of Gold was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10


Review of KINDLE Ebook The City of Brass – Book 1 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty #Brainfluffbookreview #TheCityofBrassbookreview

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I have already read The Kingdom of Copper, the second book in this classy sand and sorcery series, which is good enough that I wanted to backtrack and get hold of this one, before reading the final book, in order to do real justice to the series. I’m so glad I did…

BLURB: Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles. But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.


REVIEW: I thoroughly enjoyed Nahri as the main protagonist when I encountered her in The Kingdom of Copper, but discovering how she became that wary, stifled consort was a gripping journey that had me reading way into the early morning. I am a real sucker for this sub-genre, which tends to have a lethal set of magic around djinns and ghouls, a fast-paced story that often encompasses poetic descriptions of the desert and the fabulous cities that exist by life-giving rivers. Chakraborty hits every one of those necessary tropes and knocks them out of the field, by giving her own spin on the world, including a bloody backstory and long-lived demons with longer memories, who aren’t inclined to forgive and forget.

Who, or what, Nahri is becomes a major focus of the story. Yep – that trope, again… But there is nothing remotely clichéd or tired in Charkaborty’s treatment of this enjoyable, chippy character. I quickly bonded with her and found the ensuing adventure across the desert with Dara entertaining, though I did feel they should have arrived at the city just a bit sooner than they did. The steady growth of their relationship felt realistic and I was pleased the romantic thread wasn’t the driving force in this story.

I did find myself initially skimming some of the palace scenes with Ali, the conflicted younger brother, who is unhappy at having to witness the daily injustices inflicted on the half-human population in Daevabad. Idealistic and inexperienced, we realise that he is being manipulated by those around him, while still in his viewpoint, which is a tricky thing to pull off.

CONCLUSION: As I read on, I become more invested in the politics in Daevabad and once Nahri arrived, the pace picked up again and so did the momentum of the story. I didn’t see that ending though… And am now rereading The Kingdom of Copper, before I pick up The Empire of Gold – highly recommended for those who enjoy their epic fantasy gritty with sand and suffused with djinn magic.
9/10



May 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffMay2020Roundup

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I recall I said something to the effect that there had never been a month like April in the whole of my life – except that May was exactly the same. Eerily so. Staying at home and seeing no one else, other than Himself. Though we did drive across to my daughter’s house and deliver her bike, so she could also cycle with the children. It was bittersweet seeing them after such a long time and I’m hoping this month, with the easing of the lockdown, I might once more be able to be a regular visitor, again. The weather continues to behave as if we are in July or August, further skewing the sense of abnormality. But thank goodness for books and writing projects!

Reading
I read fifteen books in May, but as I also broke off to read a couple of my own books on editing runs, that did impact on my general reading time. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my selection, so there were no DNFs. They were:

Oranges and Lemons – Book 17 of the Bryant and May: Peculiar Crimes Unit series by Christopher Fowler
The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North – see my review
Hammered – Book 1 of the Jenny Casey series by Elizabeth Bear
The Physicians of Vilnoc – Book 8 of the Penric and Desdemona series by Lois McMaster Bujold – see my review
Relatively Strange – Book 1 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik – this is my outstanding read of the month
AUDIOBOOK Starsight – Book 2 of the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson
The Valhalla Call – Book 4 of the Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie
Even Stranger – Book 2 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik
Stranger Still – Book 3 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik
The City of Brass – Book 1 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakrobarty
The Kingdom of Copper – Book 2 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakrobarty
AUDIOBOOK The Fire Court – Book 2 of the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor – this is my outstanding audiobook read of the month
Night’s Tooth – Tales of the River Vine novella by Jean Lee
Gravity is Heartless – Book 1 of the Heartless series by Sarah Lahey
The Obsidian Tower – Book 1 of the Rooks and Ruin series by Melissa Caruso

Writing
I finished the first draft of my Wordmanship Handbook – How to Write Convincing Characters, which went really well. While I had intended this to be part of a series, I decided that if I found it too much of a trudge, then it would be a standalone, but it ended up being quite a lot of fun to write. So during the year I am hoping to write at least another book in the Wordmanship series. The handbook aspect of it – with a quick checklist so an author can tick off possible issues as they go, either during the writing phase, or during an editing run – ended up being about the right length, too.

I then turned back to Mantivore Warrior to do the first editing pass. This is always slightly nerve-wracking. Once I’ve gained a bit of distance, I can work out whether it’s a hot mess, or if it hangs together. And as it is the first book that I thoroughly plotted before I started, I was keen to see how it held up. And I’m delighted – those fixes I put in last month strengthened the overall narrative, so there was only one major addition and then it was a question of smoothing the prose and looking for mistakes.

So once again, it’s been a wonderful writing month. Overall, I wrote just under 43,000 words in May, with just over 15,500 on the blog, and just under 26,000 on my writing projects.

Blogging
The big event during May was Wyrd and Wonder 2020, which I discovered thanks to Tammy from Books, Bones and Buffy. It was about alll things fantastical and I really enjoyed taking part. Huge thanks go to Imyril of There’s Always Room for One More, Lisa from Dear Geek Place and Jorie Loves a Story for all their hard work and effort throughout May to make this such a success.

I hope everyone is managing to keep well and healthy, both physically and mentally – the situation has been a strain on everyone, not helped by some dodgy decisions by those in charge. Take care and stay safe.x






Sunday Post – 24th May, 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.

Again no rain, and on Wednesday and Thursday we were back to high summer temperatures and sitting outside. So Himself is trudging around with the watering can. The yarrow is now flowering and here is the first bloom on my elder. I don’t know what the dear little pink fluffy flowers are – I bought the plant because I love the leaves, but they work really well with the rest of the colour scheme in that bed. And the echium spires are now in full flower and have stopped growing – don’t they look fabulous? For reference, I am 5’5″.

I completed my How-To book this week and am really pleased with it. Himself is compiling the bibliography for me, but I’ve added the writing exercises – there are 50 – to help with characterisation, along with the quick check-list. I am now starting the edits to Mantivore Warrior.

Other than that, I had an editing session with my friend Sally, working on the second book about her experiences with Tim. We took our scooters for a run along the sea front. It was hard work scooting against the wind, but great fun and nice to get out. Sadly, I missed the family games evening last night as I had a rotten headache.


Last week I read:
Stranger Still – Book 3 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik
Telepathy, along with sundry other odd abilities, have landed Stella more than once, in situations at best controversial, at worst life-threatening. But she’s always known; you have to fight your own corner as best you can, no point beating yourself up about it. Now though, times have changed, different priorities. She’s married, with a baby on the way and a flourishing business. She simply has to deal with a couple of worrying issues and then all should be smooth sailing. But, isn’t it a fact; just when you think you’ve got all your ducks in a row, life can turn right around and bite you on the bottom?
Something almost unheard of – I actually read the last two books in this series back to back. It was so much fun – but I am now pining for Stella and hoping that the author has nearly finished the next book! Review to follow.


The City of Brass – Book 1 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty
Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.
As I had the great good luck to get hold of an arc for The Empire of Gold, I wanted to read The City of Brass, the first book in this series. It was a cracking read that swept me up into this enjoyable Sand and Sorcery tale. Review to follow.


The Kingdom of Copper – Book 2 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty
Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there. Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of the battle that saw Dara slain at Prince Ali’s hand, Nahri must forge a new path for herself, without the protection of the guardian who stole her heart or the counsel of the prince she considered a friend. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family and one misstep will doom her tribe.
So… reading TWO series back to back?? I must have had a personality transplant! However, after reading the first book I decided I needed to put the second book into context, so reread it before starting the final book, so otherwise I felt I wouldn’t be giving it a fair go. It was also great fun – I’m a sucker for Sand and Sorcery tales…


AUDIOBOOK The Fire Court – Book 2 of the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor
The Great Fire has ravaged London, wreaking destruction and devastation wherever its flames spread. Now, guided by the incorruptible Fire Court, the city is slowly rebuilding, but times are volatile and danger is only ever a heartbeat away. James Marwood, son of a traitor, is thrust into this treacherous environment when his ailing father claims to have stumbled upon a murdered woman in the very place where the Fire Court sits. Then his father is run down and killed. Accident? Or another murder …? Determined to uncover the truth, Marwood turns to the one person he can trust – Cat Lovett, the daughter of a despised regicide. Marwood has helped her in the past. Now it’s her turn to help him. But then comes a third death … and Marwood and Cat are forced to confront a vicious and increasingly desperate killer whose actions threaten the future of the city itself.
This second book in this classy historical whodunit series took two sympathetic protagonists and wove a wonderful murder mystery around a fascinating time in English history that is oddly neglected in general fiction – the Great Fire of London and its aftermath. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

Review of Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger series by Marie Brennan

Friday Face-off featuring Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Shadow in the Empire of Light by Jane Routley

Five 5-Star Books in Five Words – Twice Over

Review of One Good Dragon Deserves Another – Book 2 of the Heartstrikers series by Rachel Aaron

Sunday Post – 17th May 2020

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

Fiction Writing Contests Worth Your Time in Summer 2020 https://writerunboxed.com/2020/05/22/fiction-writing-contests-worth-your-time-in-summer-2020/ For those of you who on the hunt for competitions – here are a selection…

Photo Prompt Friday: Ethereal https://leighhecking.com/2020/05/22/photo-prompt-friday-ethereal/ Also recommended for those of you who enjoy looking at wonderful photos…

10 of the Best Poems of Remembrance https://interestingliterature.com/2020/05/remembrance-poems/ Another interesting, enjoyable list from this great site…

Senior Moments https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2020/05/20/senior-moments/ I can relate. I want an app that will tell me why I climbed the stairs – because I generally only remember once I’ve gone back down them again…

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover: Celebrating Fantasy Artwork https://onemore.org/2020/05/19/top-ten-fantasy-cover-art/ This is worth a visit to immerse yourself in some stunning covers – and make a note of some awesome reads along the way…

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

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 6th May, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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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. I’m linking this week’s offering to Wyrd and Wonder 2020, which is celebrating all forms of fantasy for the month of May.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – The Empire of Gold – Book 3 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty – release date, 11th June, 2020

#epic fantasy #sand and sorcery

BLURB:
Daevabad has fallen.

After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people. But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies. Having narrowly escaped their murderous families and Daevabad’s deadly politics, Nahri and Ali, now safe in Cairo, face difficult choices of their own.

While Nahri finds peace in the old rhythms and familiar comforts of her human home, she is haunted by the knowledge that the loved ones she left behind and the people who considered her a savior are at the mercy of a new tyrant.

Ali, too, cannot help but look back, and is determined to return to rescue his city and the family that remains. Seeking support in his mother’s homeland, he discovers that his connection to the marid goes far deeper than expected and threatens not only his relationship with Nahri, but his very faith.

I read and thoroughly enjoyed Kingdom of Copper – see my review here – so I was delighted to be approved for The Empire of Gold and I’m looking forward to once again, getting swept up in Nahri’s adventures. Highly recommended for fans of sand and sorcery.