Category Archives: school adventure

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of A Deadly Education – Book 1 of the Scholomance series by Naomi Novik #Brainfluffbookreview #ADeadlyEducationbookreview

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I am a fan of Novik’s writing – see my reviews of Spinning Silver, Uprooted and Victory of Eagles, Tongues of Serpents, Crucible of Gold, Blood of Tyrants and League of Dragons of the Temeraire series, so when I saw that she’d written a school-based fantasy, which I have a real fondness for – we pre-ordered it…

BLURB: A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere. El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.


REVIEW: Galadriel Higgins is a hard case. Having been rejected for what she has the potential to do – and an unfortunately bleak prophesy by her dead father’s mother – all her life, she grits her teeth, hunkers down and gets on with it. And what she is getting on with, is getting an education in a magical school, where there are no teachers and the place crawls with deeply unpleasant monsters. Yes… I know – the business with no teachers bothered me when I first heard about it, but Novik makes it work.

However, the problem is that there are unpleasant monsters outside the school, too, where they tend to seek out magically gifted youngsters. At least within the school, there are some protections. And if you’re a member of an enclave, you also have a ready-made team to watch your back – although El, as she is known, doesn’t have that either… She is a gloriously spiky, bad tempered protagonist, whose contrariness is a joy to read. Novik weaves past and present details of her life in the first-person narrative really effectively and I was drawn in from the first page, and didn’t want to stop reading until I reached the end.

The story works well, with plenty of adventure and action – and throughout the story, El finally manages to gather a small team around her, who are also well depicted. I liked the fact that amongst the mayhem and deaths, there are some lovely humorous moments. The crisis point is deftly handled, with plenty of tension such that I read faaar into the early morning to discover what happens to whom. But what now has me itching to read the next book, The Last Graduate, is the final plot twist – which both Himself and I agree is a gamechanger and has us both impatient to get our hands on the sequel. Highly recommended for fans of magical school series.
9/10

Three SPACE OPERA Mini-reviews: Record of a Spaceborn Few; Arkadian Skies; and Skyward #Brainfluffbookminireviews

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Record of a Spaceborn Few – Book 3 of the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers

BLURB: Centuries after the last humans left Earth, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place many are from but few outsiders have seen. Humanity has finally been accepted into the galactic community, but while this has opened doors for many, those who have not yet left for alien cities fear that their carefully cultivated way of life is under threat.
Tessa chose to stay home when her brother Ashby left for the stars, but has to question that decision when her position in the Fleet is threatened.
Kip, a reluctant young apprentice, itches for change but doesn’t know where to find it.
Sawyer, a lost and lonely newcomer, is just looking for a place to belong.
When a disaster rocks this already fragile community, those Exodans who still call the Fleet their home can no longer avoid the inescapable question: What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination?

I did find the accent of the narrator just a bit difficult to get to grips with at the beginning. But I love the different narratives as we go on learning about the daily lives of people still living on the generational ships. In multiple viewpoints we get to discover yet another pocket of the highly detailed world she has created, where humanity is now out among the stars, after having destroyed Earth.

While I’m aware there has been some criticism over the lack of a plot, I found the unfolding stories of each of the main protagonists was sufficiently engrossing to hold me to the end – and there were a couple of shocks along the way, too. The ending was beautiful – very poignant and left me with a lump in my throat. Highly recommended for those who enjoy reading and/or listening to stories of everyday happenings, rather than large conflicts.

9/10

Arkadian Skies – Book 6 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker

BLURB: With the man who kidnapped her daughter imprisoned aboard her ship, Captain Alisa Marchenko is closer than ever to reuniting her family. But her new guest has been in a coma for weeks, with the secret to her daughter’s location locked away in his mind. She must find a way to sneak him into a state-of-the-art hospital on Arkadius, a planet in the heart of Alliance territory. Not an easy task when she and the cyborg Leonidas, her most trusted ally, are wanted by the Alliance army.

As if that mission weren’t daunting enough, the Staff of Lore has appeared on the planet. As has the man who stole it: Alisa’s father.

I enjoyed jumping back aboard the Nomad for another action-packed adventure with Captain Alisa Marchenko and her quirky crew. Though the ship seems to be filling up with all sorts of unexpected passengers in this eventful instalment of the series…

Still trying to track down her missing daughter, Alisa is yet again diverted up another cul-de-sac. The romance with Leonidas does seem to provide rather too much distraction from her main aim of tracking down the missing child. That said, as ever the action is well depicted, the characters are nicely snarky and convincing, with some enjoyable layers and there are moments of real tension and danger that makes this yet another successful page-turner. I’m glad to have got back in touch with the series and it won’t be too long before I’ll be tracking down the next book.

8/10

Skyward – Book 1 of the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson

Spensa’s world has been under attack for decades. Now pilots are the heroes of what’s left of the human race, and becoming one has always been Spensa’s dream. Since she was a little girl, she has imagined soaring skyward and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with that of her father’s—a pilot himself who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, leaving Spensa the daughter of a coward, her chances of attending Flight School slim to none.

I really enjoyed this action-packed adventure, featuring a gutsy teen brought up on tales of derring-do by her grandmother while having to daily face the disgrace of her father’s supposed cowardice. I felt she was both sympathetic and plausible, which isn’t as easy to achieve as Sanderson makes it look. While the initial premise wasn’t particularly original, Sanderson throws in sufficient twists so that I couldn’t predict exactly what would happen next, so this became a real page-turner I could get lost in. The beautiful drawings of the space fighters were a bonus that I’m sure would have been easier to appreciate on a newer, spiffier Kindle.

I really liked how the puzzle of exactly why a human enclave ended up on this shattered world was addressed and unravelled, alongside Spensa’s adventures. I’m delighted to have acquired the Audible version of the sequel, which I’m looking forward to tucking into very shortly.

8/10

Review of INDIE Ebook The Zero Curse – Book 2 of The Zero Enigma by Christopher G. Nuttall #Brainfluffbookreview #TheZeroEnigmabookreview #Wyrd and Wonder 2020

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I was looking for something entertaining and escapist, given the current situation, so was delighted to find this one nestling in my TBR, as I particularly enjoyed the first book – see my review of The Zero Blessing. I enjoy Nuttall’s writing as his space opera adventure The Hyperspace Trap made my list of Outstanding Reads of 2018. I am linking this review to Wyrd and Wonder 2020.

BLURB: Caitlyn Aguirre is no magician … But that doesn’t make her useless. After discovering her true talent and uncovering the long-lost secret behind Objects of Power, Cat returns to school – intent on showing everyone what she can do. But her mere existence is a threat to the balance of power, convincing some to befriend her, some to try to use her … and some to remove her. And when she and her closest friends become the target of a deadly plot, she must use all her wits to save them and escape before she becomes the first casualty in a deadly war.

I thoroughly enjoy well-told fantasy school adventures and Nuttall’s first book in this series, The Zero Blessing, was an excellent start. If you haven’t yet read it, I recommend you go back and pick that one up before going any further, as there is a chunk of important backstory you’re missing. Caitlyn won’t make much sense to you if you don’t do so… Given the major twist at the end of the first book, I really liked the direction in which this one went – compared to the Molly Harper series, I think the sudden change in the dynamic is far more adroitly handled here.

While I wasn’t completely surprised when the shoe dropped and the stakes were abruptly raised, but I was impressed and gripped by the way the adventure then got a whole lot darker. I’m aware Nuttall is capable of killing off important supporting characters, so was on my toes throughout. As ever, I found it difficult to put this one down until it was over. I will definitely be continuing with this series during the year. He is an accomplished author, whose books are excellent value and this one is highly recommended for fans of exciting magical school adventures.

9/10

Review of AUDIOBOOK Fledgling – Book 2 of the Sorcery and Society series by Molly Harper #Brainfluffbookreview #Fledglingaudiobookreview

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I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series – see my review of Changeling – so was delighted when I saw this offering on Audible for a credit. Would I enjoy listening to this next book in the series as much?

BLURB: Days away from becoming completing her first year at Miss Castwell’s Institute for the Magical Instruction of Young Ladies, Changeling-born Sarah Smith might just get away with posing as an upper-class Guardian girl named Cassandra Reed. But strange visions of a Lightbourne destroyed by Miss Morton’s revenant army keep Sarah from enjoying her achievement. Plus, the Mother Book, Sarah’s one secret advantage and the ultimate entrée in Guardian society, suddenly stops revealing itself to her…putting her in a precarious position with the Guild.

On top of all that, her former lady’s maid left Miss Castwell’s, and the new hire is, well, taking some getting used to. If it weren’t for her two best friends, Alicia McCray and Ivy Cowel, who will do anything to protect her secret, Sarah doesn’t know if she’ll make it another year. When the three girls take summer holiday with Alicia’s family (chaperoned by an exacting and very disapproving Mrs. McCray), a relaxing vacation in Scotland is the last thing they’ll find…

That’s as much of the very chatty blurb I’m prepared to reveal and if you’re intending to read the book, my advice would be to give it a miss. Another piece of advice – read Changeling first. Because of the nature and progression of the story, it simply won’t make sense, otherwise.

Once again, I enjoyed Sarah’s first person pov. I’m aware some reviewers have been critical of her mature attitude, but given her very tricky upbringing and the difficulties she is currently operating under, I think she would have to grow up very fast. Having spent time with children who have coped in testing conditions, I’m often struck at their maturity compared to their more carefree peers. Initially, I enjoyed the progression of the story and the ongoing threat of Sarah’s enemies, who resent her position as Translator of the Mother Book, an ancient tome of lost magic that chooses its own magical human to communicate with.

The mayhem caused during the dancing lesson was both gripping and enjoyable and settled in to listen to more of the same as the scholars from Miss Castwell’s headed off for the summer break. This is where the pacing went awry, particularly when the plot took a sudden left turn and I wasn’t wholly convinced by Sarah’s actions, or the reactions of those around her. While I don’t mind if the overall pace of a story speeds up, it cannot be at the expense of the characterisation or in apparent opposition to what has gone before. And suddenly Sarah’s actions had me wondering if she really was as two-faced and scheming as she appeared, or if she’d been magically influenced in some way.

Harper did resolve the issue, but it was still a glitch that interfered with my enjoyment and I do agree with other reviewers who feel the ending was rushed. However, overall I liked the story and I am not deterred from reading the next slice of Sarah’s adventures.

Highly recommended for fans of school-based fantasy with a historical twist.
7/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson #Brainfluffbookreview #TheRithmatistbookreview

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I’d just finished a rather intense read and was away on a weekend break, so I wanted something a bit lighter. Browing through my Kindle, I came upon this offering and dived right in. I’m so glad I did…

BLURB: More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles. As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

I was looking for a school adventure with a bit of a difference, but to be honest, I hadn’t expected too much of this one, so was absolutely delighted when it delivered a really enthralling read with a fabulous premise. In this alternate fantastic world, Rithmatists are those who are able to attack and kill using chalk drawings. Their chalklings are able to strip the flesh from bones, cause fires and destroy. Sanderson’s straightforward, flowing prose quickly drew me into this world, where Joel is obsessed by the geometric designs that will keep the chalklings at bay.

Joel is a scholarship student whose rather blinkered approach to his studies means that he is regularly in trouble with his tutors. And while he isn’t necessarily bullied or hassled (which I liked, because it made a very nice change), neither is he ever invited home during the holidays to stay at the families of the rich and powerful. Being the son of the school cleaning lady means he isn’t well connected enough.

I liked his lack of self pity, as he deals with this dynamic, and his rather spiky character. The supporting cast are also well done – there is a pleasing mix of adults, so that while some are not particularly sympathetic or kind, there are a number who are all of those things. But the relationship that rolls this lovely story forward is his friendship with Melody. While Joel would give anything to be a Rithmatist, Melody hates her gift as it forces her into a life she resents and fears. Not surprisingly, this dynamic creates a lot of sparks between these two and I loved that it wasn’t a relationship that ever settles down into something easy and straightforward. She is also a strong, vibrant character with a flair for the dramatic and a tendency to draw cute unicorn chalklings.

As for the story – well, that’s a doozy! I had, of course, realised the identity of the antagonist creating all the havoc and kidnapping the promising young Rithmatists, until it became apparent that I’d got it completely wrong… The pages flew by as I was gripped by the plot, desperate for Joel and the kindly professor to succeed.

While the main puzzle is solved, the conclusion clearly sets this one up to be followed by another book, which so far hasn’t seen the light of day. It’s a real shame – and I’m glad I didn’t know the second book hadn’t appeared before I tucked into this one, or I might never have started it. And if I hadn’t done that, then I would have missed out on one of my most entertaining, quirkily clever reads of the year so far. Highly recommended, even if the second book isn’t available…
10/10

Sunday Post – 13th October, 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.

It’s been another busy week. Last Sunday evening we had a microwave mishap. Himself wanted to defrost a delicious apple pudding he’d made with the apples from my daughter’s garden the week before, but instead of defrosting it for ten minutes, it was on full power. The plastic container was set alight and I awoke to the whole house filled with thick choking smoke… Thankfully, Mr Google provided the answers to the urgent question – how do you get rid of the stench of burnt plastic? As well as dumping the microwave, we were boiling lemons, washing down all surfaces, cleaning the carpets, burning scented candles and filling containers with distilled vinegar. And by Wednesday, it was nearly gone so that I was able to teach Tim safely.

I attended Pilates again on Wednesday and on Thursday, I looked after Baby Eliza on my own for the first time as my daughter and her partner celebrated his birthday together. We had a lovely day – she is a real sunshine baby. I took a couple of pics, but it was the only time she was shy and so I put the camera away and just played. Though I felt it the following day! Every joint ached as trudging up and down stairs with her was a whole lot harder than it had been fourteen years ago with her teenage sister – where do the years go? On Saturday, I joined my sister as she measured up her new place for furniture and discussed new colour schemes for when she moves in.

On the writing front, I’m making good progress with Mantivore Warrior – I’m going to be blogging about that tomorrow. And I have now completed the editing pass on Mantivore Prey, which I am planning to release on 30th November.

Last week I read:

The Rithmatist – Book 1 of The Rithmatist series by Brandon Sanderson
More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood…
This one has been hanging around on my Kindle for far too long – it was a cracking read. I hope the second book will be written at some stage. Review to follow.

 

Bringing Stella Home – Book 1 of the Gaia Nova series by Joe Vasicek
The New Gaian Empire is crumbling. An undefeatable enemy from the outer reaches is sweeping across the frontier stars, slagging worlds and sowing chaos. Soon, they will threaten the very heart of civilized space. James McCoy never thought he would get caught up in the Hameji wars. The youngest son of a merchanter family, he just wants the same respect as his older brother and sister. But when the the Hameji battle fleets conquer his home world and take them away from him, all of that is shattered forever. No prisoner has ever escaped from the Hameji alive, but James isn’t going to let that stop him. He’ll do whatever it takes to save his family-even if it means losing everything in the process.
This is one I picked up during the last promo sale run by Book Funnel I participated in. I thoroughly enjoyed this kidnap adventure played out within a space opera setting. Review to follow.

 

The Mysterious Howling – Book 1 of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood
Found running wild in the forest of Ashton Place, the Incorrigibles are no ordinary children: Alexander, age ten or thereabouts, keeps his siblings in line with gentle nips; Cassiopeia, perhaps four or five, has a bark that is (usually) worse than her bite; and Beowulf, age somewhere-in-the-middle, is alarmingly adept at chasing squirrels.

Luckily, Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess. Only fifteen years old and a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, Penelope embraces the challenge of her new position. Though she is eager to instruct the children in Latin verbs and the proper use of globes, first she must help them overcome their canine tendencies.

But mysteries abound at Ashton Place: Who are these three wild creatures, and how did they come to live in the vast forests of the estate? Why does Old Timothy, the coachman, lurk around every corner? Will Penelope be able to teach the Incorrigibles table manners and socially useful phrases in time for Lady Constance’s holiday ball? And what on earth is a schottische?
Recommended to me by the Cap from the excellent book blogging site, Captain’s Quarters, I was immediately swept up into this enjoyable, quirky adventure. Review to follow.

 

Starship Alchemon by Christopher Hinz
Far from Earth, the AI-guided vessel Alchemon discovers a bizarre creature whose malignant powers are amplified by the presence of LeaMarsa de Host, a gifted but troubled Psionic.The ship is soon caught in a maelstrom of psychic turbulence that drives one crewmember insane and frees the creature from its secure containment. Now Captain Ericho Solorzano and the survivors must fight for their lives against a shrewd enemy that not only can attack them physically, emotionally and intellectually, but which seeks control of their sentient ship as a prelude to a murderous assault on the human species.
I was delighted to be approved for an arc of this intriguing space opera adventure featuring an alien encounter in deep space, which never seems to end well. Review to follow.

 

Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection narrated by Stephen Fry
Ever since he made his first appearance in A Study In Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes has enthralled and delighted millions of fans throughout the world. Now Audible is proud to present Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection, read by Stephen Fry. A lifelong fan of Doyle’s detective fiction, Fry has narrated the complete works of Sherlock Holmes – four novels and five collections of short stories. And, exclusively for Audible, Stephen has written and narrated nine insightful, intimate and deeply personal introductions to each title.
I’ve finally completed this listening marathon, interspersed with other audio treats to further prolong this absolute pleasure – all 71+ hours of it… It would have gone on for another 70 hours, if I’d had my way… Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

Review of Lent by Jo Walton

Friday Faceoff featuring Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Body Tourists by Jane Rogers

Teaser Tuesday featuring Starship Alchemon by Christopher Hinz

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Sunday Post, 6th October 2019

 

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

Update: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXVI (Philip K. Dick, Tanith Lee, Paul Park, Gorden Eklund, and Poul Anderson) https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2019/10/05/updates-recent-science-fiction-acquisitions-no-philip-k-dick-tanith-lee-paul-park-gordon-eklund-and-poul-anderson/ I often pop by this fascinating site – the covers on many of these books are simply amazing…

10 of the Best Poems for the Weekend https://interestingliterature.com/2019/10/05/10-of-the-best-poems-for-the-weekend/ This is also a regular favourite of mine – I often swing by here to discover poems or books I haven’t yet encounters, along with thoughtful, readable analysis of them.

The Magic of Swamps https://mctuggle.com/2019/09/26/the-magic-of-swamps/ I’m a tad late in catching up with this one, but I just loved these pics of a wonderful, wonderful place…

Halloween: Tricks & Treats for Learning https://wandaluthman.wordpress.com/2019/10/07/halloween-tricks-treats-for-learning-4/ I’m in the privileged position of being able to teach one-to-one and harness a student’s own enthusiasms and interests as opportunities for learning, so I know how brilliantly it works.

Writers Injuring Characters https://jaceybedford.wordpress.com/2019/10/08/writers-injuring-characters/ Jacey Bedford, successful author of the Psi-Tech trilogy, makes a valid point in this thoughtful article…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week…

Review of KINDLE Ebook Changeling – Book 1 of the Sorcery and Society series by Molly Harper #Brainfluffbookreview #ChangelingBookReview

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This was one added by Himself, who is also a sucker for great school stories including magic – but would I also like it? This was quite important as I’d selected this read for a very long train journey…

If 14-year-old Cassandra Reed makes it through her first day at Miss Castwell’s Institute for the Magical Instruction of Young Ladies without anyone discovering her secret, maybe, just maybe, she’ll let herself believe that she really does belong at Miss Castwell’s. Except Cassandra Reed’s real name is Sarah Smith and up until now, she lived her whole life in the Warren, serving a magical family, the Winters, as all non-magical “Snipes” are bound by magical Guardian law to do. That is, until one day, Sarah accidentally levitates Mrs. Winter’s favorite vase in the parlor…

I very much enjoyed Cassandra/Sarah’s journey. She is a gutsy, cheerful character with lots of can-do energy – this story lacks the darkness of the Harry Potter series as Sarah has loving parents. While she initially finds it difficult to come to terms with ignoring her family and fitting into the world of the Guardians, she nonetheless accepts the situation and works hard alongside Mrs Winter to behave as her long-lost niece. The way their relationship gradually grows from a fear-based, resentful mess into mutual respect, trust and even affection is well depicted.

It doesn’t hurt that there are regular dollops of humour that leaven the darker aspects of the story, such as the bullying. I also really liked the fact that Cassandra was initially overwhelmed and silenced by the poisonous bully by considerations of social conventions and needing to fit in – it made her far more realistic than those intrepid souls who stoutly refuse to go with the flow. Harper is good at showing unfurling friendships without lapsing into sentimentality and I particularly liked how Cassandra gradually finds her feet at the upscale school after initially feeling adrift and isolated.

I didn’t see the twist coming, though I immediately realised how the antagonist was operating the moment the reveal came – and I was also pleased that I understood and to some extent, could sympathise with this character, who had also suffered injustice in their lives.
All in all, this was a well plotted, enjoyable magical children’s school adventure that pulled me into the world. Himself and I are keen to find out what happens in the next book, Fledgling. Highly recommended for fans of magical school adventures.
9/10