Category Archives: troubled hero

Friday Faceoff – Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceofftrickcovers

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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 being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with VISUAL TRICKERY. I’ve selected The Whisper Man by Alex North.


This edition was produced by Celadon Books in August 2019. It’s it clever? The handprint that somehow turns into a butterfly works really well. And they haven’t even added a bit of colour to give us a visual clue, which would have been acceptable. I love the fact that ALL the information featured on the cover is the title, the author and the fact that this is a novel. For once the publishers have relied on the strength of the book design to sell this one – and judging by the numbers of reviews it garnered on Goodreads, this default cover did the business.

 

Published in June 2019 by Penguin, I think this is both beautiful and gruesome – and those aren’t two adjectives that go together all that often… The beautiful butterfly wing in the pale gold against the dark background is stunning – until you look a bit more closely and notice the details are skulls and parts of the human skeleton. The pin through the wing just adds to the sense of wrongness. But it is subtle and clever. This one is my favourite.

 

This Polish edition, published by MUZA S.A., in October 2019 is another cover that plays visual tricks. The white moth against the black cover couldn’t be more simple – until you look again and see it as a triangular, ghostly face. I also like the title font – the greying, slightly grubby look works really well with the monochrome effect of the rest of the cover and I applaud the designer in keeping it pared back. So many covers these days are so very busy. My only niggle – and yes, you’ll probably already know what I’m going to say, but I’ll say it anyway – are the lines of chatter under the melting moth/face. What a shame they had to be there, as they detract from the spare menace of the design.

 

This Bulgarian edition, produced by Сиела in 2019, has taken the butterfly – or is it moth? – theme in a different direction. There is a lot going on in this beautiful, ominous cover. The full moon outside provides all the light as a lightning forks across the sky and those moths flutter around the window. Nothing much to see – except the curtain has been drawn back and there is a single palmprint on the glass. If the owner of the hand pressed against the window was standing in front of it, s/he/it had to be outside… It’s cleverly done and gives a disturbing sense of wrongness without recourse to any kind of horror trope.

 

This Macedonian edition, published by Сакам Книги is less subtle, but I absolutely love the jagged cut across the title font which works so well. I’m not quite as thrilled with the spatter of blood, but that butterfly… Is it resting on the chin of a face, just below a screaming mouth? Or is that just my imagination working overtime? The indistinctness adds to the horror vibe. If I have a quibble, I think the abandoned house beneath the title font is an unnecessary addition – they should have trusted the strength of that single, shocking image, rather than hedging their bets with another horror trope. Which is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Last Protector – Book 4 of the Lovett and Marwood series by Andrew Taylor #Brainfluffbookreview #TheLastProtectorbookreview

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I realised that I’d read the first book of this gripping historical series, The Ashes of London – see my review – so was delighted when I got hold of the arc of this one…

BLURB: Brother against brother. Father against son. Friends turned into enemies. No one in England wants a return to the bloody days of the Civil War. But Oliver Cromwell’s son, Richard, has abandoned his exile and slipped back into England. The consequences could be catastrophic. James Marwood, a traitor’s son turned government agent, is tasked with uncovering Cromwell’s motives. But his assignment is complicated by his friend – the regicide’s daughter, Cat Lovett – who knew the Cromwells as a child, and who now seems to be hiding a secret of her own about the family…

You don’t need to have read any of the previous books, but I would recommend getting hold of at least one of them – I can personally recommend The Ashes of London. Andrew Marwood works on behalf of the King through the system of patronage that was popular back then. So while he enjoys the protection of Joseph Williamson, Undersecretary of State and Lord Arlington, Secretary of State, he has incurred the enmity of the Duke of Buckingham, who is a powerful courtier and favourite of Charles II. When a duel is fought and Marwood is sent along to provide an eye-witness account of the outcome, he becomes the target for Buckingham’s henchmen.

While Cat Lovett, now married to the elderly and increasingly frail Simon Hakesby, is worried when a girl she knew only vaguely as a child, accosts her on the street, claiming a warm friendship and wanting to renew it. But Cat is having enough problems without Elizabeth Cromwell, granddaughter to the Protector and traitor, crashing into her life. I love the dynamic. This is the aftermath of the Civil War, during which families were torn apart as loyalties were divided and though time has passed, there are those with long memories who look back on the Protectorate with wistfulness, on seeing the King’s extravagant and ungodly lifestyle.

Taylor has depicted the time really well. Both main protagonists are sympathetic and behave appropriately within the constraints of their time. And as we also get a ringside seat into the wretched life of poor Ferrus, born with some congenital defect, the tension slowly winds up as the stakes continue to increase. The climax is brutal and explosive – I couldn’t put this one down until I’d finished it. And I’ve now got hold of the second book in the series, needing more of Cat and Andrew in my life. The quality of the writing and immersive, vivid feel of 17th century London reminds me of C.J. Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series. Highly recommended for fans of good quality historical murder mysteries. The ebook arc copy of The Last Protector was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10


*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc War of the Maps by Paul McAuley #Brainfluffbookreview #WaroftheMapsbookreview

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I was delighted to see this offering on Netgalley, as Paul McAuley is always worth reading – I thoroughly enjoyed his cli-fi thriller Austral and the first book in his sci fi series The Quiet War.

BLURB: On a giant artificial world surrounding an artificial sun, one man – a lucidor, a keeper of the peace, a policeman – is on the hunt. His target was responsible for an atrocity, but is too valuable to the government to be truly punished. Instead he has been sent to the frontlines of the war, to use his unique talents on the enemy. So the lucidor has ignored orders, deserted from his job, left his home and thrown his life away, in order to finally claim justice.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The worldbuilding, as ever with McAuley, was both detailed and plausible. But what I liked most of all about this story was that we mostly stayed in the viewpoint of the lawman, known as a lucidor, who is determined to track down a truly horrible antagonist – a murderer who casually commits atrocities, and enjoying watching his victims suffer. Unfortunately, he is also one of the foremost scientific thinkers on the planet who is able to help fight the influx of mutated creatures engulfing villages, countryside and towns, slaughtering humanity, domestic animals and wildlife alike. There are some gripping passages of the ruined landscape where no birds or insects break the silence…

So, who is right – the dogged lucidor who is convinced that Remfrey He should account for the lives he has torn apart? Or the authorities who feel that, in this extremely unusual case, Remfrey He should be allowed to atone for his misdeeds by travelling to the site of the suffering land to assist in beating back the alter women? These grotesque mutations have a social structure resembling ants and gather everything in their path to tear up and reuse it for their own purposes – including people.

Remfrey He is one of the most satisfyingly nasty characters I’ve encountered in a while, and by contrast, I grew to love the lucidor, whose name we hardly ever see. He has adopted his birth name, Thorn, after he retired from his profession of tracking down lawbreakers, when he was known as Lucidor Kyl. He is elderly, tough, resourceful and trusts no one and we’re in his head for a large chunk of the narrative. This story starts off as one man tracking another through an increasingly dangerous landscape, and broadens out as the lucidor is sucked into some of the upheavals caused by the dangerous mutations.

One of the intriguing details is that some people are gifted with particular talents, such as scrying. As well as being brilliant and resourceful, Remfrey He is a silvertongue, with the gift of persuading most people to become his disciples. And the reason why the lucidor was sent after him, is that his gift nullifies the talents of those in close proximity. I liked how that played out, because the consequence is that other people who might be able to successfully apprehend Remfrey He don’t want to work with the lucidor, as he sucks their gift dry.

This isn’t a fast-paced book. McAuley’s habit of writing dense description about every step of the way ensures that we see the world through the lucidor’s eyes and his days of plunging headlong into adventures are well and truly over. But I not only could see the world, I could taste and hear it, as this book swallowed me up and had me engrossed until right up to the end. It’s a gem that deserves to be far better known than it is. Highly recommended by fans of well-written intelligent colony world adventures and epic fantasy. The ebook arc copy of War of the Maps was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

Sunday Post – 22nd March, 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.

Like everyone else, I’m reeling at how my world has changed. So far we are keeping well, as are the family, but we both have elderly parents. Mothering Sunday is something we have always celebrated and when we discovered that the Interflora service simply isn’t able to deliver flowers to my mother and mother-in-law – Himself insisted that we deliver them. Fortunately it’s doable, as both sets of parents live within a mile of each other. It’s a bit of a journey, though we made good time as the roads were a lot quieter than usual. We sat in the car and spoke on the phone, facing them through their windows as they opened their cards and admired the flowers. And we were able to blow kisses and tell our mothers how much we honour and love them, looking forward to the time when we can hug them again…

On Friday, my daughter and the family were moving, so Himself and I went to help. It was my job to keep little Eliza entertained in the front room, while furniture and bags of clothes and possessions were being loaded into the van. She is such a sunshine soul, and we had loads of fun together, but towards the end of the day, she was increasingly unhappy at the strangeness of it all – it’s so hard when you can’t explain what is going on. Himself was helping to carry furniture – fortunately they are only moving a short distance away – and reassemble bunk beds, etc. We staggered home around 8 pm, feeling a bit shattered – it’s times like these I realise I’m getting older… Fortunately, I heard from my daughter this morning and they are settling in. Eliza’s first night in the new home went reasonably well, too.

Last week I read:

AUDIOBOOK The Sword of Summer – Book 1 of the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series by Rick Riordan
Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers. One day, he’s tracked down by an uncle he barely knows—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. Uncle Randolph tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.
Rick Riordan does this so very well… Magnus is an engaging protagonist – brave, principled and often very funny. The retelling of the pantheon of Norse gods through the lens of a modern, streetwise teenager is entertaining and engrossing, seeing as Riordan’s superpower is also handling excellent action scenes. I’m so glad I’ve more of these books on my Kindle.




No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished – Book 3 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron
When Julius overthrew his mother and took control of his clan, he thought he was doing right by everyone. But sharing power isn’t part of any proper dragon’s vocabulary, and with one seat still open on the new ruling Council, all of Heartstriker is ready to do whatever it takes to get their claws on it, including killing the Nice Dragon who got them into this mess in the first place. To keep his clan together and his skin intact, Julius is going to have to find a way to make his bloodthirsty siblings play fair.
This is shaping up to be one of my very favourite urban fantasy series in a long time… It doesn’t hurt that it features dragons, of course. But I love the progression, whereby at the end of each book some important new questions are raised, while the current story is being wrapped up. Thank goodness there is more Heartstriker awesomeness to dive into.




Interdicted Space – Book 2 of the Interstellar Enforcement Agency by Gillian Andrews
The universe needs saving, but is this makeshift crew really the stuff of superheroes?
Nivala’s first interstellar patrol is interrupted by extremely unwelcome visitors. Mallivan may have to take them on board; he doesn’t have to like it. His vociferous crewmembers certainly don’t. He is right to be concerned. The youngest member of the team is in imminent, grave danger…
While I enjoyed the first book, I loved this one. The story really took off with loads of exciting, well written action featuring characters I cared about. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this series, is that Humanity isn’t behaving at all well – and Mallivan is regarded in some quarters as a traitor to his species…




War of the Maps by Paul McAuley
On a giant artificial world surrounding an artificial sun, one man – a lucidor, a keeper of the peace, a policeman – is on the hunt. His target was responsible for an atrocity, but is too valuable to the government to be truly punished. Instead he has been sent to the frontlines of the war, to use his unique talents on the enemy. So the lucidor has ignored orders, deserted from his job, left his home and thrown his life away, in order to finally claim justice.
I saw this one on Netgalley and immediately requested to read it – McAuley is one of my favourite authors. And this has been a solid joy. The world is under attack from a variety of horribly mutated creatures – and one of the few people who can make inroads on this terrible invasion is also a murdering monster. Do you overlook his crimes and discount his victims for the sake of enlisting his help in a desperate struggle for survival? Which is one of the fascinating issues addressed in this beautifully written, engrossing adventure which deserves a LOT more attention than it’s currently receiving. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

Review of NETGALLEY arc Interdicted Space – Book 2 of the Interstellar Enforcement Agency series by Gillian Andrews

Friday Face-off featuring The Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne

Review of Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Review of HARDBACK Recursion by Blake Crouch

Sunday Post – 15th March 2020

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

#Lifeathome with #children during #Selfquarantine: more excellent #online and #handsonactivities for #reading, #geography, #science, and #art courtesy of @anneclairewriter https://jeanleesworld.com/2020/03/20/lifeathome-with-children-during-selfquarantine-more-excellent-online-and-handsonactivities-for-reading-geography-science-and-art-courtesy-of-anneclarewriter/ Jean is letting us into her life via her fabulous blog as she has to adjust her daily routine – teaching online, as well as educating and occupying a set of lively twin boys and a clever daughter…

Deadly Companions: a reading list for the pandemic https://earthianhivemind.net/2020/03/20/deadly-companions-a-reading-list-for-the-pandemic/ My personal response is to dive into escapist adventures and shut it all out – but this is for those of you who would like to confront the whole business headon and see what history and excellent fiction has to offer in the way of lessons…

The Ballad of the Dunny Roll https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ia0bfWbOLjY If you want a drop of humour to leaven the misery – this Aussie skit on our inexplicable lust for more toilet paper than we’ll ever need is hilarious…

A shoutout to women over forty! https://rantingalong.blog/2020/03/20/a-shout-out-to-women-over-forty/ This tribute to those of us no longer in the first bloom of youth makes for an enjoyable read, too…

All those deleted drafts. Let’s discuss. https://feedyourfictionaddiction.com/2020/03/all-those-deleted-drafts-lets-discuss.html For the bloggers – does this chime with your experiences?

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

Review of NETGALLEY arc Interdicted Space – Book 2 of the Interstellar Enforcement Agency by Gillian Andrews #Brainfluffbookreview #InterdictedSpacebookreview

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I read and enjoyed Termination Shock – see my review so I was pleased to see Interdicted Space available at Netgalley and was delighted to be approved to read and review it.

BLURB: The universe needs saving, but is this makeshift crew really the stuff of superheroes?
Nivala’s first interstellar patrol is interrupted by extremely unwelcome visitors. Mallivan may have to take them on board; he doesn’t have to like it. His vociferous crewmembers certainly don’t. He is right to be concerned. The youngest member of the team is in imminent, grave danger. People covet her privileged link to the mighty Chakran aliens, who can unlock spacetime itself…

While I enjoyed the first book, this is the one where Andrews hits her stride. Mallivan has always been good at thinking on his feet, but we see him continue to grow in experience as he continually gets pitchforked into the middle of life or death situations. I like the fact that he finds himself having to cope with the fact that some of those he leads into fights don’t return – the fact that people die matter in this adventure. And we also have Bull Cunningham making a reappearance – the antagonist I particularly love to hate. He’s well drawn. Charming and persuasive, he manages to make his stance sound very plausible – and it’s an interesting change to see the representatives for humanity on the wrong side, morally, which puts Mallivan at odds with his own species…

There is an interesting mix of aliens serving alongside Mallivan, mostly having been thrown together in the former book – particularly featuring young Zenzie, the eight-year-old who is bound to Mallivan by the ‘Savior Protocols’ after he saved her life, for as long as she lives. An offspring of a formidably gifted race, she was frankly something of an unbearable brat in the first book – however, this time around, while she still has her smug moments, there is a major plotline involving her and I was a bit shaken at just how emotionally invested I was in her continued wellbeing. It takes some writing chops to turn around a reader’s initial perception of a character to the degree that Andrews manages during the course of Interdicted Space.

I also liked the fact that Andrews clearly knows her science – in amongst the mayhem, we get plenty of slices of techie information that satisfied my inner nerd, without slowing the pace or throwing us out of the story. The only sticky point in this pleasing adventure, was the info dump right at the beginning, which I could have done without. Once that was out of the way, the pace picked up and I was swept away by the problems of Nivala and her plucky crew. I’m delighted that the third book in the series was published in January – I’ll be getting hold of it. Space opera this entertainingly enjoyable is not to be passed up when I’m this desperate for escapist adventure. Highly recommended for space opera fans – though I’d advise you to get hold of Termination Shock first. Like many indie books, these are very reasonably price and represent excellent value for money. The ebook arc copy of Interdicted Space was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – And all addictions were brown. Coffee, chocolate and his eyes… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffbrowncovers

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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 being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring BROWN covers. I’ve selected The Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne. I haven’t yet read any of the books, though the first one is on my TBR…

 

The Naturalist was published by Thomas & Mercer in October 2017. It’s rare I want to reach out and STROKE a cover, but that is exactly what I want to do with this one. I also very much like that the font is given sufficient attention. It might be relatively white and plain – but just look at the way it pops against that rich brown. I get the sense the colour choice is deliberate rather than because nobody could be bothered to consider anything else. I love the way the title and author fonts appear to be sinking into that luxuriant coat. This is so nearly my favourite…

 

Published in March 2018 by Thomas & Mercer, they’ve nailed the cover of this second book in the series, too. It is apparently such a simple design, but I cannot take my eyes off it. The richness of the fallen leaves half covering bones… the fact we cannot quite make out exactly what they are is tantalising, adding to the sense of mystery. And again, the title and author fonts have been masterfully handled. I love the clean uncluttered look of this classy offering. This is how covers should look, people! Not that I’m ranting. At all. And in case you hadn’t already guessed – this one is my favourite.

 

Murder Theory, the third book in The Naturalist series, was published in February 2019 by Thomas & Mercer and once again, features an eye-catching natural scene that mesmerises. The fractured wood with the spatters of blood flicking across the title and author fonts is so very clever and telling. And no chatter or blurb to detract from the power of that design. Another lovely, well crafted cover that makes me want to pick this one up…

 

Thomas & Mercer published Dark Pattern in October 2019 – clearly going for a quick-release strategy to keep readers keen to continue to follow the story. It doesn’t hurt that they also have produced stormingly good covers to help with the marketing. I love that stick, which also looks a bit like a snake with an open mouth. The way the fern encroaches on the font adds to the pleasing detail. I really love all these covers – and just wish that more books had the same classy look. Thomas & Mercer rock! Which is your favourite?






Review of Autonomous by Annalee Newitz #Brainfluffbookreview #Autonomousbookreview

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I liked the look of the cover and the premise intrigued me, so I was delighted to read and review this one…

BLURB: A notorious anti-patent scientist who has styled herself as a Robin Hood heroine fighting to bring cheap drugs to the poor, Jack’s latest drug is leaving a trail of lethal overdoses across what used to be North America—a drug that compels people to become addicted to their work. On Jack’s trail are an unlikely pair: an emotionally shut-down military agent and his partner, Paladin, a young military robot, who fall in love against all expectations. Autonomous alternates between the activities of Jack and her co-conspirators, and Elias and Paladin, as they all race to stop a bizarre drug epidemic that is tearing apart lives, causing trains to crash, and flooding New York City.

This was an interesting read. There was a lot about this book that was very familiar – the dystopian neo-future world, where large corporate firms, in this case, drug companies, were producing all sorts of drugs which were less about healing and more about extracting the maximum amount of efficiency from workers. Capitalism is red in tooth and claw, throwing away people when they no longer serve the bottom line, as in the profit margin. Slavery has become acceptable, both of cyborgs and by extension, humans, although they are known as indentured.

Jack, a former research scientist, who has crossed to many lines to be regarded as a legal citizen, now produces bootleg drugs for those who cannot afford the real thing. But when one of those drugs proves to be lethal, she finds that she has drawn down unwelcome attention. The team sent out to reel her in and put a stop to her activities is a partnership between experienced Elias and Paladin, a newly built military-grade cyborg which contains a human brain. However, his memory has been compromised and he is having to learn the craft of interacting with humans and putting the skills he’s learnt in a training programme to use in the field.

It took me a while to warm to this one. The characters are not innately likeable or easy to get to know. However, as we gradually learn more about Jack and her past, I became far more sympathetic to her stance. The interesting aspect of this book is the attitude to sex. It isn’t unusual for there to be a protagonist with a casual attitude towards sex, which Jack certainly demonstrates in her relationship with Threezed. However, it isn’t an equal relationship and although it is the young runaway who instigates sex, Newitz makes it clear that because the power relationship between the two characters is so unequal, the sexual relationship is almost inevitably abusive – something Jack would not perceive to be the case. The relationship between the experienced, not-quite-burnt-out human field agent and the raw, newbie cyborg is also an uncomfortable one. Paladin picks up the fact that Elias finds him physically attractive, despite struggling with the fact that he is defined as male. So Paladin decides to reinvent herself as female, in order to please him. It’s taken me a while to work out my thoughts on this interesting book.

Overall, it is an examination of power relationships. Not just those that go to make a dystopian society where selling children for sex and working people to death is the ultimate consequence of using profit margins and market forces to run society – but how such inequalities play out on a personal level. I enjoyed the world building and tech in this near-future world which I thought worked well. However, the pacing was a bit lumpy in places, particularly at the beginning. Overall, though, I enjoyed this one and recommend it to fans of dystopian near-future adventures.
8/10

Review of HARDBACK edition of Recursion by Blake Crouch #Brainfluffbookreview #Recursionbookreview

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I thoroughly enjoyed Crouch’s super-charged sci fi thriller Dark Matter – see my review – and so was keen to get hold of this one, as many folks whose opinion I respect said Recursion was better than Dark Matter. So I was absolutely delighted to discover that I’d won a beautiful hardback copy in a giveaway organised by Tammy of Books, Bones and Buffy.

BLURB: What if someone could rewrite your entire life?
‘My son has been erased.’
Those are the last words the woman tells Barry Sutton before she leaps from the Manhattan rooftop. Deeply unnerved, Barry begins to investigate her death only to learn that this wasn’t an isolated case. All across the country, people are waking up to lives different from the ones they fell asleep to. Are they suffering from False Memory Syndrome, a mysterious, new disease that afflicts people with vivid memories of a life they never lived? Or is something far more sinister behind the fracturing of reality all around him?

This one starts with a bang and doesn’t let up. Like Dark Matter, Crouch gives his sci fi premise a real contemporary thriller feel with the punchy pacing and driving narrative. The surprise-filled, twisting plot sucks you in and doesn’t let go until the last page, so that I read this one in two greedy gulps and judging from the comments of other reviewers, I’m not alone in being unable to put this one down until the end. One of Crouch’s strengths is that I really cared about the two main protagonists. Both Barry and Helena are good people, trying to do their best in increasingly dreadful circumstances and I held my breath, hoping against hope that – somehow – they’d prevail.

I was pleased to see that even the main antagonist had strong reasons for doing what he’d done, so that while I couldn’t condone his actions, I could at least understand them. I really liked the way the stakes around this huge discovery kept getting greater, until that terrible climactic scene in the middle of New York… I had to put the book down for a while at that point, as I needed to draw breath.

Of course, the catch with raising the stakes so very high, is that the denouement and ending have to be able to match them. While it hadn’t been a dealbreaker, I wasn’t wholly happy with the end of Dark Matter. However this time around, Crouch brings the story to a great conclusion, with plenty of poignancy and heartache along the way. Far too often, apocalyptic sci fi focuses on the geeky consequences of the catastrophe, leaving characters with all the charisma of cardboard cutouts – not so Crouch. I minded what happened to these people and felt very invested in their ultimate wellbeing. As I rather shakily closed this book for the last time, I took a couple of deep breaths, feeling very relieved that I wasn’t a character in one of Crouch’s worlds.
10/10







*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Murder Your Darlings – Book 3 of the Francis Meadowes mysteries by Mark McCrum #Brainfluffbookreview #MurderYourDarlingsbookreview

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I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, The Festival Murders – see my review here, so was delighted to be approved to read this third book charting Francis Meadowes’ adventures…

BLURB: Francis Meadowes is soaking up the late summer sun in Italy, running a creative writing course at the beautiful Villa Giulia, deep in the remote Umbrian countryside. Recruited by the villa’s owners, Stephanie and Gerry, Francis’s students include snooty, irritating Poppy and her ex-ambassador husband Duncan, eccentric Northern Irishman Liam, quirky, self-styled ‘Hampstead Jewess’ Zoe, bossy Scottish Diana, kooky young American Sasha, mysterious ‘spy’ Tony and restless civil servant Roz. But what should be a magical week under the Italian sun turns into something far more sinister when one of the group is found dead, and the local police quickly turn to Francis for help. Uncovering betrayal, lies, secrets and old scores to be settled, Francis soon realizes something very dark is lurking beneath the genteel and civilized veneer . . .

If you are looking for a foot-to-the-floor, non-stop action adventure, then this one isn’t for you. McCrum wonderfully conveys the glorious scenery and magical surroundings of this creative writing course by the steady accretion of details and description. His prose style is readable and accomplished, as Francis finds himself unwillingly sucked into the horrible murder. As in the first book, I found Francis to be a really attractive protagonist, and it was easy to empathise with his rather detached interest in everyone around him. Writers tend to be a bit vampiric about their own lives, always wondering if they can use what happens around them as material for another book… McCrum uses this side of Francis’ character to very good effect. I thought the crafting of the whodunit was also exceptionally well done – there were a raft of suspects, most with plausible reasons why they should want the victim done away with. But I couldn’t work out who was the murderer until the denouement, though flipping back, the clues were clearly there. Nicely done – and not always the case in cosy mysteries.

Francis’ own involvement was both bizarre and yet believable – and I very much liked the fact we weren’t allowed to forget that someone had died. Particularly with the second death, there was a real sense of shock and loss at the wicked waste of life, which not only upped the stakes, but made it matter that the perpetrator was caught. Overall, this was a classy effort and I shall certainly be following these mysteries and reading more. Highly recommended. The ebook arc copy of Murder Your Darlings was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10


Sunday Post – 7th March, 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 was AWOL last week – as I was ill and in a rather dark place, I didn’t have much to report, other than a dreary recital of my misery. Fortunately, I am now recovering and fit once more for civilised company. I have finally completed Mantivore Warrior which has contributed to feeling so bleak – I always struggle once I’ve finished writing a book and as this is the end of the series, it’s a double whammy. But at the same time, I’m also glad to see it done.

Himself is also recovering from a heavy cold. The weather has mirrored our mood – February proved to be the wettest on record, and after day after day of pelting rain and grey skies felt neverending. Daffodils and primulas now flowering in the garden are brave splinters of sunshine in the winter gloom…

Last week I read:
Death of a Bean Counter – Book 12 of the Maggy Thorsen mysteries by Sandra Balzo
Maggy Thorsen’s head is spinning thanks to partner Sarah Kingston’s latest idea – selling luxe espresso machines in their Wisconsin coffeehouse, Uncommon Grounds. But Maggy soon faces a far bigger problem when her fiancé, sheriff Jake Pavlik, makes an official call on the coffeehouse’s star barista, Amy Caprese. Amy’s wealthy new beau, investment adviser Kip Fargo, has been shot dead in his bed – and Amy is the last known person to see him alive…
This is an entertaining whodunit featuring official nosy-parker Maggy, who decides to unofficially discover who killed Kip, despite being engaged to the local sheriff. Review to follow.


AUDIOBOOK Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess…
I was blown away by Circe last year. So treated myself to the Audible version of this one and I wasn’t disappointed. The writing is lyrically beautiful without losing pace or compromising the nuanced characterisation. And despite knowing the ending, I was gripped throughout. Review to follow.


Feathertide by Beth Cartwright
Marea was born to be different – a girl born covered in the feathers of a bird, and kept hidden in a crumbling house full of secrets. When her new tutor, the Professor, arrives with his books, maps and magical stories, he reveals a world waiting outside the window and her curiosity is woken. Caught in the desire to discover her identity and find out why she has feathers fluttering down her back like golden thistledown, she leaves everything she has ever known and goes in search of the father she has never met.
The writing is lyrically beautiful and the setting and worldbuilding is wonderful, but I did feel the pacing and narrative needed more work. Review to follow.


The Last Protector – Book 4 of the Lovett and Marwood series by Andrew Taylor
Brother against brother. Father against son. Friends turned into enemies. No one in England wants a return to the bloody days of the Civil War. But Oliver Cromwell’s son, Richard, has abandoned his exile and slipped back into England. The consequences could be catastrophic.
James Marwood, a traitor’s son turned government agent, is tasked with uncovering Cromwell’s motives. But his assignment is complicated by his friend – the regicide’s daughter, Cat Lovett – who knew the Cromwells as a child, and who now seems to be hiding a secret of her own about the family.
I read the stormingly good first book in this series, Ashes of London – see my review – and so was thrilled to see this one appear on Netgalley – and be approved to read it. I inhaled it, finding it impossible to put down. Review to follow.


A Dying Fall – Book 5 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths
Ruth’s old friend Dan Golding dies in a house fire. But before he died Dan wrote to Ruth telling her that he had made a ground-breaking archaeological discovery. Could this find be linked to his death and who are the sinister neo-Nazi group who were threatening Dan? Ruth makes the trip to Blackpool to investigate, wary of encroaching on DCI Harry Nelson’s home ground. Soon Ruth is embroiled in a mystery that involves the Pendle Witches, King Arthur and – scariest of all – Nelson’s mother.
This series is one of my favourite whodunits – see my reviews of The Crossing Places, The Janus Stone and A Room Full of Bonesyet again, Griffiths provided an excellent adventure, while continuing the fascinating dynamic between her main characters. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce

Friday Faceoff featuring Skeleton Crew by Stephen King

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Night Train to Murder – Book 8 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Greene

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