Category Archives: troubled hero

Sunday Post – 19th January, 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.

This week was one I’ve been looking forward to with really mixed feelings. On Monday, Himself drove up to Cambridge to collect up Robbie’s possessions and bring them back here, as he was moving out, so that when he travelled down on the train on Wednesday evening, he only had a light bag to carry. Thursday was spent sorting out Robbie’s clothes – what he was going to take with him, and what he was going to leave behind for the clothing bank or his nephews. But Friday morning pitched up far too fast, when came the time to load everything in the car, drive him up to Gatwick airport and see him off on his journey to L.A. I am so thrilled for him that he has found a lovely girl and his career is falling into place. But so sad that from now on, I can’t just hop on a train and get a fix of that huge personality of his…

Thank goodness I didn’t have time to brood – because that evening, I was off to Chichester Festival Theatre with my daughter and grandson to see Six, the hit musical about Henry VIII’s six wives. I can see what the fuss is about – it was absolutely brilliant. We were on our feet whooping and clapping till our hands stung at the end and as the show is about to embark on an international tour, I recommend you go and see it if you get the chance. Afterwards, we went for a meal together and agreed we must do this more often.

On Saturday, I was running a Poetry Day here at the house for a few folks, so we were both up early, flying around and getting the kitchen presentable – it frankly looked as though a bomb had hit it. And organising the casserole and apple pudding I was serving for lunch. It was a lovely day – wonderful to catch up with the five folks who attended, hear their work and immerse myself back into another world. Rob has arrived safely in L.A. and today we need to start dealing with the pile of stuff in the spare room, as I have Mhairi arriving tomorrow… Thank goodness for busyness. And the amazing rock in my life – Himself.

Last week I read:

Termination Shock – Book 1 of the Interstellar Enforcement Agency by Gillian Andrews
Ryler Mallivan’s comfortable life as an upstanding young freighter captain has just imploded. Avaraks are storming the training ship he is on and the bullets being fired are not blanks. Interstellar war has broken out and unless he moves fast they will all be as stone dead as the instructor lying at his feet. But this is one conflict they can never escape. The cause of the trouble is far closer than they know and will bring Mallivan and his ragbag fledgling crew under ferocious attack from all sides
I spotted this one on Netgalley, and wanted a bit of space opera goodness, so requested it. Great fun – full of action and an engaging protagonists – but also including a really annoying alien child… Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK Over Sea, Under Stone – Book 1 of The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper

On holiday in Cornwall, the three Drew children discover an ancient map in the attic of the house that they are staying in. They know immediately that it is special…
This classic fantasy adventure is one I never got around to reading as a child, but as it was on Frankie’s audiobook list, I gave it a go. While in places it showed its age, I nonetheless thoroughly enjoyed it, aided by the excellent narration.

 

The Last Smile in Sunder City – Book 1 of the Fetch Phillips Archives by Luke Arnold
I’m Fetch Phillips, just like it says on the window. There are a few things you should know before you hire me:
1. Sobriety costs extra.
2. My services are confidential – the cops can never make me talk.
3. I don’t work for humans.
It’s nothing personal – I’m human myself. But after what happened, Humans don’t need my help. Not like every other creature who had the magic ripped out of them when the Coda came…
I just want one real case. One chance to do something good.
Because it’s my fault the magic is never coming back.
I was attracted by the premise and quirky cover. I haven’t seen Black Sails, so the author’s other life as an actor wasn’t a factor in my picking this one up. The world didn’t disappoint – wonderfully described dystopian landscape where magic has abruptly disappeared. Review to follow.

A Longer Fall – Book 2 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris
Lizbeth Rose is hired onto a new crew for a seemingly easy protection job, transporting a crate into Dixie, just about the last part of the former United States of America she wants to visit. But what seemed like a straight-forward job turns into a massacre as the crate is stolen.
I really enjoyed my second visit to this dystopian world, following the twists and turns of the plot as Rose tries to find out why so many people had to die.

 

My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring Heavy Time – Book 4 of The Company Wars by C.J. Cherryh

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of A Longer Fall – Book 2 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Apollo Deception by Mitch Silver

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Rules of Magic – prequel to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Sunday Post 12th January 2020

 

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

10 of the Best and Most Famous Opening Lines in English Poetry https://interestingliterature.com/2020/01/famous-opening-lines-poetry/ There are some lovely examples here – but do you think a great opening line has been unfairly left out?

Thursday Doors – Boats https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2020/01/16/thursday-doors-boats/ Jean rings the changes – we get to see a number of boats, instead of doors. And you’ll NEVER guess what is growing on the cabin roof of one little motor cruiser…

Tidings from the Crew – galaxy quest (1999) movie review – old sci fi movies reviews continue! https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordpress.com/2020/01/15/tidings-from-the-crew-galaxy-quest-1999-movie-review-old-sci-fi-movie-reviews-continue/ This is a lovely, affectionate review of one of my all-time favourite films…

The brilliance of RUNNING UP THAT HILL by Meg Myers https://redpenofdoom.com/the-brilliance-of-running-up-that-hill-by-meg-myers/ I loved this tribute to both Kate Bush (whose work I ADORE) and this fabulous cover version – including the remarkable video to accompany it…

A Little Bit Like Grandpa https://writersite.org/2020/01/13/like-grandpa/ I really enjoyed this slice of family history, along with Luanne’s musings on her writing…

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

Friday Faceoff – So much universe, so little time… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffhorizoncovers

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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 the theme for finding covers is HORIZON. I’ve selected one of my all-time favourite science fiction reads – that beginning blew me away – Heavy Time – Book 4 of The Company Wars by C.J. Cherryh.

 

This edition was produced by Grand Central Publishing in March 1992 and I think it is fabulous. And yes… I know the actual artwork is only a small part of the cover – and it could be argued that the dreaded textbox actually takes up most of the cover area. But just look at the way the shading of that very funky font matches the background colour in the airlock. The incident, where they are rescuing poor old Paul relates directly to action in the book and catches some of the drama of the amazing writing. And despite the fact that this one was designed before ebooks became a thing, it looks wonderful in thumbnail. And yes… this one is my favourite.

 

Published in May 1993 by Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, this Geman edition adopts a far more relaxed mood, with this encounter clearly being an approach from the man, chatting up the girl. It could be anywhere – except for the backdrop where we can see the spacescape through the implausibly large porthole. Although, I’d like it whole lot more if it wasn’t for that nasty tomato-coloured textbox plonked across the top.

 

This edition, published by The Easton Press in June 1991, is far more successful. I love the spacescape with the girl’s face superimposed through it, which makes it look far more modern than it actually is. And the font, though large and blocky, really sings out in thumbnail.

 

This Polish edition, produced by Solaris in December 2001, is a very near miss as my favourite. I love the bright, glowing colours and the boxy, businesslike mining shuttle approaching this moon, with the large processing ship in the background. And I love the way the title and author have been worked into the image, rather than imprisoned in a textbox and splatted any old how across the artwork.

 

This German edition, published by Heyne Verlag in May 2016, is another solid offering. I am always a sucker for a cool spacescape, particularly one that works well with the story – and I appreciate the stunning view of this asteroid belt, given that is the initial setting of the story. It is really simple, with the plain white font for the title and author fonts – but I like the style of it, which works well as a sci fi font and yippee for a clean, uncluttered cover with no unnecessary chatter across the front. Which is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – Take Me to Your Leader… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffvintagescificovers

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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 VINTAGE SCI FI covers. I’ve selected Have Space Suit – Will Travel by Robert Heinlein.

 

This edition was produced by Del Rey Books in May 1985 and is purposely recreating a cover used on a much earlier edition – this one was originally published in 1958. I really like this one. Yes… I know it has a dreadful, intrusive textbox, but at least there is the excuse that back in those days, they were still in vogue. I love detailed artwork – that expression of grumpy surprise on the poor alien beastie is hilarious.

 

Published in July 1987 by New English Library, this one is my favourite. I love the 1950s space suit and the way the light glimmers off it. In fact the artwork on this one is outstanding, with the small town tucked up for the night adding to the sense of place – and not a nasty, intrusive textbox to be seen!

 

This edition, published by Ace in June 1975, is rather weird and quirky. Those odd faces surrounding the worried-looking young man in the jaunty spacesuit look comedic. As far as I can gather, this one is a very early YA space opera adventure, though I’m unsure if it is supposed to be particularly funny.

 

This edition, produced by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1958, certainly packs a visual punch. That vivid yellow background really draws the eye and works very well with the brilliant red figure – and I’m impressed no one added anything else. I was surprised to learn this was one of the original covers – it feels far more modern with the funky colours and stripped-back design – again, no textbox to clutter and disfigure.

 

This edition, published by New English Library in June 1985, is another strong offering. I love that beautiful, multi-coloured backdrop, while that foreshortened figure is seen from below – a really unusual viewpoint. This attractive and original cover manages to be stylish and different, yet still keeps within the genre. This one is definitely a contender. Which is your favourite?

Sunday Post – 5th January, 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.

While it has been a lot less hectic, the fun hasn’t stopped. Last Sunday, I went for a spa evening with Sally – we didn’t talk about work, but relaxed in the sauna and the jacuzzi putting the world to rights. It was bliss. New Year’s Eve was lovely – just Himself and I spending it together, which is more special than it sounds, as he frequently has to work, or go to bed early because of his shift pattern. We had lunch together at Haskins on New Year’s Day and afterwards, I spotted a Kipling handbag on sale – irrestistible!  We had a lovely lazy afternoon, lolling on the sofa watching films together, making the most of Himself’s last day of his winter leave.

My sister-in-law drove up to see me the following day – her birthday. So we had a walk along beach and then I took her for lunch at Haskins, which serves a baked potato with roasted vegetables as a tasty veggie lunch, plus cake of course. I hadn’t seen her since our writing retreat in Bexhill, so it was a wonderful treat. Yesterday, I met up with my sister and caught up on her life since Christmas Day when we last saw each other. Inevitably we went shopping together – I came away with two long-sleeved tops and a new pair of trousers in the sales and she got a lovely blouse.

Today is the last day of my Christmas break and we’re taking down the Christmas decorations – a chore I hate, as the house always looks so dreary afterwards. But all good things come to an end and I’ve had the best Christmas in years.

Last week I read:

AUDIOBOOK The Last Olympian – Book 5 of the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series by Rick Riordan
All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of victory are grim. Kronos’s army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan’s power only grows. While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it’s up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time.

I’ve enjoyed listening to this entertaining children’s series and was pleased that this concluding adventure wrapped up the narrative really successfully, as well as providing a cracking battle full of action and tension. Review to follow.

 

Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger duology by Marie Brennan
When a witch is born, a doppelganger is created. For the witch to master her powers, the twin must be killed. Until now…

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.

This has proved to be a delightful duology – I loved the first book and wanted to find out what would happen next. This offering wasn’t a disappointment as my first ebook read of the decade. Review to follow.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Rules of Magic – prequel to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Find your magic

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

I was expecting to be blown away by this one and I wasn’t. Nonetheless, the worldbuilding and atmospheric writing kept me listening to the excellent narration, despite my other issues with the book. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Review of AUDIOBOOK How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury – Book 12 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell

Friday Faceoff featuring The Wee Free Man – Book 1 of the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett

My 2019 Reading Year – the Statistics

My First Reads of the Decade – Welcome 2020!

My Outstanding Reads of 2019

Review of AUDIOBOOK To Say Nothing of the Dog – Book 2 of the Oxford Time Travel series by Connie Willis

Sunday Post 29th December 2019

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

Gavin and Stacey: what that Christmas special cliffhanger ending means for future season https://www.stylist.co.uk/life/gavin-and-stacey-christmas-special-ending-spoilers-future-series-ruth-jones/339367?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=share&utm_campaign=share-buttons
And this one has been niggling at the back of my head since I watched it… I’m a HUGE fan and would LOVE more Gavin and Stacey goodness – but only if it is as marvellous and heartwarming and wonderful as the previous series. Please, please don’t mess it up…

10 Ways to Stay Healthy This Flu Season https://www.michellescrazybusylife.net/index.php/2020/01/03/2739/#.XhHkoPzgrb0 All very good advice, when we still have the coldest, dreariest part of winter still ahead of us…

Reading Challenges to Try in 2020 http://skolion.org/2019/10/06/reading-challenges-to-try-in-2020/ It’s that time of year again, when we all start thinking about the challenges we are going to set ourselves – and this article has some helpful suggestions.

My Personal “Yellow Brick Road” https://laurelrainsnow.wordpress.com/2019/12/22/my-personal-yellow-brick-road/ Laurel’s article highlighting mementoes that had significance for her had me wondering about the things that matter to me, too…

River to Skate Away On https://platformnumber4.com/2019/12/14/river-to-skate-away-on/ Becky’s recollections of childhood winters, complete with photos, brought back a former time.

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

Review of AUDIOBOOK How To Fight A Dragon’s Fury – Book 12 of How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell #Brainfluffbookreview #HowToFightaDragon’s Fury

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So here it is… the very last book in the series, which I started with Frankie way back in 2014. I started reading the books to him, then he wanted to continue listening to them on audio and it wasn’t until the beginning of last year that I was able to access his Audible account and join in the joys of audiobooks, so I could continue listening to this series.

BLURB: The Doomsday of Yule has arrived, and the future of dragonkind lies in the hands of one boy with nothing to show but everything to fight for. Hiccup’s quest is clear…but can he end the rebellion? Can he prove himself to be king? Can he save the dragons? The stakes have never been higher, as the very fate of the Viking world hangs in the balance!

Whatever else happens, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of this delightful, quirky series – don’t start here. It is the culmination of a twelve-book series packed with all sorts of adventures as a small boy, the heir to the Chief of the Hooligan Tribe, struggles to survive and overcome insanely difficult odds. And this current crisis he’s facing is the most insurmountable of the lot. He is fighting for the survival of humanity and/or the dragons as they are set to fight each other to extinction, although given the firepower the dragons are capable of, the outcome is a foregone conclusion… That’s the situation at the beginning of the book – Cowell is better than anyone else I know at providing overwhelming odds and then fantastic ways for her embattled protagonist to beat them. But this time around, I couldn’t see any way that Hiccup and Toothless would survive the end of this adventure unscathed – and I was wary, because people who matter can die in this series.

While I had enjoyed reading the books, the advantage of listening is that David Tennant also sings the songs – and especially in this book, the songs matter. They provide a strong emotional backdrop to the ongoing action, which was every bit as gripping and exciting – more so as I realised this was the last time I’d hear of Hiccup battling the impossible.

Cowell has written an epic. The overarching themes she covers provide morals and mottos that youngsters listening can use as life lessons. I’m aware that some reviewers became a bit exasperated by the way she emphasises these throughout, but I didn’t have a problem with them. Now in my 60s, it’s handy to remind myself that second best is often good enough and loyalty to those you love is important.

And… that ending. Oh my word. I was sitting in the kitchen and weeping as I heard the final epilogue. Perhaps, because I am now coming to a stage of my life when I, too, am starting to consider what I’ve done and whether it’s been good enough, the words particularly resounded with me. And now I’m sad that it’s over, but so very elated and joyful that I’ve had the chance to read and hear it. Very highly recommended. An outstanding series.
10/10

My Outstanding Reads of 2019 #Brainfluffbookblogger #2019OutstandingReads

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I have had another stormingly good reading year. The highlight being my immediate love affair with audiobooks, once I got hold of a Kindle Fire which could cope with the selection I’d already bought my dyslexic grandson to encourage him to keep reading. Needless to say, I’ve added to that list…

During 2019 I read 168 books and wrote 129 full reviews, with 26 still to be published. In no particular order, these are the books that have stood out for me. It might be that I didn’t originally give a 10 – but something about these books has stayed with me and won’t let go, which is why they have made the cut. And none of this top ten rubbish – I can’t possibly whittle down my list any further.

 

Oracle’s War – Book 2 of The Olympus series by David Hair and Cath Mayo
I loved the layered characterisation of Odysseus and his complex relationships in this intelligent and politically aware retelling of events leading up to the Trojan War. This one has stayed in my memory and I’ve found myself often thinking about it. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones
I’d read this book before – but listening to the excellent narration by Jonathan Broadbent brought home the darker side of the story. It certainly isn’t a children’s read – as the exploitation of the magic kingdom takes some shocking turns, and while Wynne Jones doesn’t go into graphic detail, they are still there. Riveting and thought provoking. See my review.

 

Atlas Alone – Book 4 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
This has been one of the outstanding science fiction series of the last few years for me and this latest slice in the adventure held me to the end. Dee’s driven, edgy character is so compelling – Newman writes these tricky protagonists with amazing skill. See my review.

 

Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick
Alien first contact tales are a staple of science fiction, but rarely have they been covered with such skilled detail, featuring such a self-effacing protagonist as Avery. The second book is also an excellent read. See my review.

 

Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Wildest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer
I picked up this true tale of adventure by accident – and I’m so pleased I did. The author opted to take part on a whim and even at the beginning, was clearly not really prepared for what followed. This fascinating account stayed with me throughout the year. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK Mythos: the Greek Myths retold, written and narrated by Stephen Fry
Listening to this offering while decorating the bathroom sweetened hours of tedious work as Fry’s smooth, chatty manner belied the scholarship and rigor that has gone into this retelling. See my review.

 

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
This is probably the most quirky, extraordinary read of this year’s selection. A series of letters between two protagonists on either side of a savage war – think Romeo and Juliet with knobs on – drives the narrative in this beautiful, desperate book. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK A Room Full of Bones – Book 4 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths
This offering took me completely by surprise. In fact, I’d felt rather fed up with Ruth’s struggles in the previous book – but this story took all the ingredients and ramped up the tension to an unexpectedly heart-rending degree that I still think about… See my review.

 

Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence by James Lovelock
The second non-fiction book in this list, I found Lovelock’s take on our future absolutely fascinating and unexpectedly uplifting. Given he is now over a hundred years old and has been working in a variety of scientific fields until very recently, his opinion is worth reading. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Empty Grave – Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud
This was an unexpected treat. One of Frankie’s chosen series, I wasn’t prepared for the sheer quality of the characterisation and worldbuilding, although I should have been, after thoroughly enjoying the Bartimaeus Trilogy. This final book brought the outstanding series to a triumphant conclusion. It goes without saying that you MUST read the previous four books first. See my review.

 

Sweep of the Blade – Book 4 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
I find this quirky science fiction/fantasy mash-up just goes on getting better and better. I really suffered a profound book hangover after I finished this one – and that doesn’t happen to me all that often. See my review.

 

Circe by Madeline Miller
I’m conscious there is rather a strong Greek myth theme running through this list – but that just goes to show how well-written these books are. And this one is a total joy. The protagonist isn’t pretty or charismatic, so finetunes her magical skills in an effort to prevail alongside sneering relations. And then it all goes wrong… Fabulous, layered characterisation of a powerful woman who has endured a shedload of suffering without it being bleak or self-pitying. See my mini-review.

 

Akin by Emma Donoghue
In these days of serial monogamy and blended families, this interesting, unsentimental book drills down into what – exactly – makes up family. Brilliantly executed and thought provoking. See my review.

 

Lent by Jo Walton
This author is one of the finest, most talented writers in the SFF genre today, so I was thrilled when this one came out. Settling in to read it, I was happily engrossed in 15th century Florence – until a THING happens that changes the whole dynamic. Brilliantly written and completely engrossing, if you were to force me to choose a single outstanding read this year – you’d be a cruel beast for doing so and I’d probably never speak to you again – it would be this one. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK How To Fight a Dragon’s Fury – Book 12 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
While I’d read a number of these books to the grandchildren, for one reason or another, I’d never reached the end, so when I realised we had the complete series on Audible, I started listening to the wonderful David Tennant’s narration. And then came the end… I was listening to this one with tears pouring down my face, unable to complete my chores. Epic fantasy of this calibre, written for reluctant primary school readers, is a rarity. Review to follow.

 

AUDIOBOOK To Say Nothing of the Dog – Book 2 of the Oxford Time Travel series by Connie Willis
This quirky, humorous homage to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat is funny and completely engrossing – a thumping good listen. I loved it and though it isn’t quite as spectacular as her classic, Doomsday Book, that doesn’t prevent it making this list. See my review.

Have you read any of these offerings? What did you think of them? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these books! Wishing everyone a very happy, book-filled 2020…

Review of AUDIOBOOK To Say Nothing of the Dog – Book 2 of the Oxford Time Travel series by Connie Willis #Brainfluffbookreview #ToSayNothingoftheDogbookreview

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I always enjoy this author’s writing – see my review of Crosstalk and her masterful book, the first in this series, Doomsday Book. So when the Cap from Captain’s Quarters reviewed this book in glowing terms – I needed to track it down, and when I saw there was an audio version of it, I promptly bought it. I’m so glad I did…

BLURB: When too many jumps back to 1940 leave 21st century Oxford history student Ned Henry exhausted, a relaxing trip to Victorian England seems the perfect solution. But complexities like recalcitrant rowboats, missing cats, and love at first sight make Ned’s holiday anything but restful – to say nothing of the way hideous pieces of Victorian art can jeopardize the entire course of history.

This is a complete joy, perfectly narrated by Stephen Crossley. Poor Ned finds himself on a river trip that borrows a lot from Jerome K Jerome’s wonderful classic Three Men in a Boat – to the extent that Ned even has a fleeting meeting between the characters featured in the book and himself. Humour is highly subjective and I’m always a bit hesitant when the blurb blithely assures me I will find this book hilarious, as far too often I find it just annoying. But Willis’s lovely humour runs through this book in a rich vein without ever expecting it to prop up the story or be an adequate replacement for a decent plot – something far too many comedic books try to do. In fact, the plotting of this offering is one of its major strengths. Lady Sharples has tasked Ned to find a piece of artwork called The Bishop’s Bird Stump, which is supposed to have survived the WWII bombing of Coventry Cathedral. While boating up the Thames, Ned finds himself caught up in an entanglement caused by another historian who manages to save a cat and bring it forward in time – something not supposed to happen. Time travelling can be problematical as a plot device, but I really like the fact there are strict rules regarding what can and cannot happen in this version of time travel.

Events spiral out of control as there is one muddle and misunderstanding after another, all perfectly paced so that I didn’t get tired or fed up with any type of improbability. Apart from anything else, the characters are all the joy with their quirky eccentricity and sheer likeability. All in all, this is one of my favourite reads of the year and gave me some wonderful shafts of humour at a time when I really needed it. I love it when books do that.

Very highly recommended for fans of time travelling stories, or anyone with a fondness for Three Men in Boat.
10/10

Sunday Post – 29th December, 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 madly busy and great fun… Yes – I know I used that line last week, but it also nicely sums up this last week. Himself was working until 10 pm on Christmas Eve, so it was something of a blur to get presents wrapped and all the cooking done. My son arrived on Christmas Eve, just in time to start tucking into the homemade vegan mince pies and we had a lovely natter together. Christmas morning was spent cooking – Himself was in charge, despite struggling with a terrible cold. My sister and nephew joined us for lunch and stayed for the evening. We had a lovely time – Rob and Michael hadn’t seen each other for far too long, so were able to have a good catch up. After lunch was eaten and cleared away, we opened presents and played a couple of cracking games – Ticket to Ride and Scotland Yard.

On Boxing Day, we were due to drive over to my daughter’s for the afternoon to play yet more games, when she phoned me to say the conditions on the A27 were horrendous and she didn’t want me driving over. So they bundled into their all-weather terrain jalopy and came to us, instead. She then made a meal for eight in my kitchen before we played the Present Game and I subjected the family to my Christmas Quiz. So much laughter – the walls rang with it…

We have been taking it easy since, while Himself is trying to recover from his cold. He is off work until New Year’s Day, which is a real treat. Rob went back to Cambridge yesterday evening, so the house is a lot quieter… I can’t quite believe it’s all over.

Last week I read:

The Zig Zag Girl – Book 1 of the Stephens and Mephisto mystery series by Elly Griffiths
Brighton, 1950.

When the body of a girl is found, cut into three, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is reminded of a magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl. The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old friend of Edgar’s. They served together in the war as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men. Max is still on the circuit, touring seaside towns in the company of ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. Changing times mean that variety is not what it once was, yet Max is reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate. But when the dead girl turns out to be known to him, Max changes his mind.

I’ve enjoyed reading some of the Ruth Galloway series by this author, so was intrigued by this series set in a city I know quite well. This entertaining, historical whodunit did not disappoint. Review to follow.

 

Recursion by Blake Crouch
‘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?

I was lucky enough to win this lovely hardcover edition from Tammy of Books, Bones and Buffy in one of her international giveaways. I tucked into it as a Christmas treat and despite not having all that much time, once I opened it, I couldn’t put it down. It truly is an addictive page-turner… Review to follow.

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Borderline – Book 4 of the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards

Friday Faceoff featuring Across the Universe – Book 1 of the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis

Christmas Trivia 2019

Christmas has come early – thank you so much, Tammy!

Sunday Post 22nd December 2019

Huge apologies – with all the festivities and my son staying over, I simply haven’t been online enough to interact, comment or be able to recommend any articles. Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

Monday Post – 16th December, 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.

I’m currently swept up in Christmas preparations, like many other folks. I’ve started buying presents and making a list of what to get who, started decorating the house, organised the Christmas menu and not even yet looked at my Christmas card list… On Wednesday, I attended Oscar’s Christmas show of Aladdin, where every child in the school ended up on the stage. It was a lovely show – and Oscar’s performance was one of the best. He delivered his lines clearly and confidently, even prompting his fellow actors. I was such a proud granny!

On Thursday, my daughter braved the atrocious weather to come and vote and while she did, little Eliza was left with us on her own for the first time. It wasn’t for long, but she was very happy to finish eating her lunch and play in the high chair. On Friday, Himself and I hit the shops to start on the mountain of pressies we end up buying at this time of year. On Saturday, we drove to Brighton to pick up the grandchildren to stay for the weekend so they could help with decorating the house. Frankie did sterling work with positioning all the Christmas toys and afterwards Oscar and I spent a cosy evening watching the Strictly Come Dancing final, which we thoroughly enjoyed. It helped that the right couple won – congratulations Oti and Kelvin on the best show dance ever.

Yesterday we had lunch at a local, riverside gastro pub with my parents, who travelled from Ringwood for a belated celebration of my mother’s birthday. It went brilliantly. Our table had lovely views over the river, the food was delicious and Mum was thrilled to be able to catch up with her great grandchildren. We then drove the children back to Brighton, and when we arrived home again, my lovely writing buddy, Mhairi, had already arrived after a long drive from Lincolnshire, to come and stay for a few days. We stayed talking into the wee small hours, which is why this has ended up being a Monday post…

Last week I read:

AUDIOBOOK The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

This YA paranormal coming of age adventure charting the run-up to a defining annual race featuring the mysterious water horses, is outstanding for the glorious worldbuilding and characterisation. Review to follow.

Warrior – Book 1 of the Doppleganger series by Marie Brennan
When a witch is born, a doppelganger is created. For the witch to master her powers, the twin must be killed. But what happens when the doppelganger survives?

Mirage, a bounty hunter, lives by her wits and lethal fighting skills. She always gets her mark. But her new mission will take her into the shadowy world of witches, where her strength may not be a match against powerful magic.

Miryo is a witch who has just failed her initiation test. She now knows that there is someone in the world who looks like her, who is her: Mirage. To control her powers and become a full witch, Miryo has only one choice: to hunt the hunter and destroy her.

This dual narrative fantasy is an intriguing premise. I enjoyed the adventure featuring the two strong female protagonists – and I certainly didn’t see the solution to their problem. I’m looking forward to tucking into the next book int his series. Review to follow.

Borderline – Book 4 of the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards
Being a telepath means your greatest strength can also be your greatest weakness.

Eighteen-year-old Amber is the youngest of the five telepaths who protect the hundred million citizens of one of the great hive cities of twenty-sixth century Earth. Her job is hunting down criminals before they commit their crimes, but this time she must face multiple challenges. While preparing to celebrate the New Year festival of family, Amber’s team have to deal with a case where the stakes grow increasingly personal. The help of Amber’s borderline telepath counsellor, Buzz, becomes crucial.

Edwards is one of my favourite science fiction authors. Her heroine, Amber, is a thoroughly likeable girl whose strong telepathic talent has tipped her sideways into a completely life to the one she thought she’d be leading. This series has charted her adventures in helping to keep law and order within the densely populated Hive city, built underground to protect humanity from the environmental damage on Earth’s surface generations earlier. As ever, a page-turning, engrossing read, full of incident and excitement. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring Dissolution – Book 1 of the Matthew Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom

Min-reviews: Cage of Souls; Circe and The Lost Plot

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Festival Murders – Book 1 of the Francis Meadowes mysteries by Mark McCrum

Teaser Tuesday featuring Warrior – Book 1 of the Doppleganger series by Marie Brennan

Review of Valkyrie Rising – Book 2 of the Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie

Sunday Post 8th December 2019

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

It’s New to Me – Favorite Authors I Read for the First Time in 2019
https://thebookishlibra.com/2019/12/13/its-new-to-me-favorite-authors-i-read-for-the-first-time-in-2019/ I love this time of year when bloggers begin to write those round-up posts, reflecting on their reading experiences during the year. Suzanne’s selection added a new name to my TBR list…

10 Moments The ‘Chamber of Secrets’ Move Missed Out https://comfortreads13.wordpress.com/2019/12/14/10-things-that-should-have-been-in-the-chamber-of-secrets-movie/ I thoroughly enjoyed this article – do you agree with Jess?

30 Inktober Witches http://melfka.com/archives/30103 Yes, I know it isn’t October – or even November – but that doesn’t stop Joanna’s witchy drawings being a delight…

10 of the Best Examples of the Lyric Poem https://interestingliterature.com/2019/12/10/best-examples-of-lyric-poem/ Do you agree with this choice? And if not – which poem would you add to this top ten?

Never give up on your dreams https://www.michellescrazybusylife.net/index.php/2019/12/11/never-give-up-on-your-dreams/#.XfdwZfzgrb0 While we’re all rushing around like headless chickens, let’s not forget WHY we’re doing what we’re doing… And that book Michelle mentions right at the end of her article contains a lovely, uplifting message for children and adults alike…

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

Friday Faceoff – Feed your Faith and your fears will starve to death… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffreligiouscovers

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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 RELIGIOUS ICONS/CHURCH OR TEMPLE. I’ve selected Dissolution – Book 1 of the Matthew Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom.

 

This edition was produced by Pan in 2004. While I like the idea and the overall design, I think the execution ultimately lets it down. For some reason, this cover looks very washed out. The font is the strongest aspect – that lovely olden-style font nicely pops against the darker background. However that chatter both detracts from the design by cluttering it up and is difficult to read, as it is white against a light background. Both visually annoying and unsuccessful, it really spoils this one for me.

 

Published in April 2004 by Penguin Books, I think this image of a praying monk is a great improvement. Ideally, I would have liked the image to be just a little less gloomy – Sansom’s Tudor thriller is full of vivid description and tension, while his protagonist pings off the page. This cover doesn’t give an inkling of that – other than that ghastly bright red sticker they’ve plonked onto the artwork, which is a dealbreaker for me…

 

This edition, published by Macmillan in June 2003 is the best effort so far. I prefer the lighter colour palette and find that scene of the monks processing through the hall pulls me into the scene. The ornate title works well and while I’m not thrilled about the chatter near the bottom of the cover, at least it isn’t too intrusive. This is a real contender – I so nearly went for this one…

 

This edition, produced by Penguin in 2004, has gone for the split design. This rarely works well in thumbnail and I don’t think this example is all that effective when full sized, either. It feels as if two designers couldn’t make up their minds as to which image to go for – so decided to add both. I find the top image annoying anyway. The monastery buildings were generally repurposed during and after the Dissolution and only ended up looking like that a great deal later – so it isn’t even historically accurate.

 

This Dutch edition, published by De Fontein in November 2011 is my favourite. I love the ruddy light reflected off the monastery wall – there is clearly a fire nearby. And that sounds all too plausible, judging by accounts of how the monasteries were looted once Cromwell’s men got to work. And in the foreground, an elderly monk is praying… Though I’m dismayed to see even the Dutch insist on plastering their covers with chatter that by rights should be on the back cover. Which is your favourite?