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#IndieAuthor #Interview: @SJHigbee shares #bookjoy with #reading and #writing delightfully #adventurous #sciencefiction and #fantasy

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#IndieAuthor #Interview: @SJHigbee shares #bookjoy with #reading and #writing delightfully #adventurous #sciencefiction and #fantasy

Talented author Jean Lee interviews me about reading… writing… and how to encourage children to love books…

Jean Lee's World

Welcome, Friends, to yet another splendid interview with a beautiful indie author soul! I am thrilled to pause all this chaos of teaching, parenting, and preparing my own novel for publication so I may introduce you to the cosmic dreamer and eternal adventurer, S.J. Higbee.

To call you an “avid reader” feels like a huuuuge understatement. Can you share a little of your reader’s journey with us? That is, can you tell us what inspired you to take on book reviewing with such gusto, and your process for choosing the books you do for reviewing?

Visit her at @sjhigbee & her website sjhigbee.wordpress.com.

I’ve always been an avid reader. Once I got to school and realised the power of words and how stories could take me away from where I was and to different worlds – that was it. I was away…

I originally started reviewing for SFReader.com…

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Sunday Post – 13th September, 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’ve been very quiet over the last few days online, because we went away to celebrate our wedding anniversary, seeing as we’ve now been married 25 years. Which seems a ridiculous number of years on one level. Yet on another… I cannot conceive Life without Himself by my side. Last Sunday we went to a local Tai restaurant to celebrate Himself’s birthday and then on Monday, we sat down to plan our getaway to celebrate our Silver Wedding anniversary.

We stayed at the Ashdown Park Hotel and Spa, which is in the middle of Ashdown Forest of Winnie the Pooh fame, from Wednesday to Saturday. It’s an amazing place – this week’s pics are of the hotel and grounds. On Thursday, we visited Bateman’s, the National Trust property where Rudyard Kipling spent the last years of his life. Due to COVID-19, the house was closed, but the gardens were open and are lovely. The weather throughout our holiday was fabulous – bright sunshine which was warm enough for me, yet cool enough for Himself. We’d planned to visit Bodium Castle on Friday – but when it came around, we decided we’d rather spend the day in our gorgeous room. Later in the afternoon, we went for what was supposed to be a gentle walk in the extensive grounds – and got lost for about an hour in the forest, because the designated path had become impassable. We decided to push on, rather than turn off, as another path was clearly visible. Until it wasn’t… There was no phone signal worth the name and by half past five, we were still scrambling over fallen trees and through bracken. Fortunately, I listened to Himself, rather than follow my own wretched sense of direction and when we finally emerged from the forest onto a corner of the golf course, we were only a short walk from the actual hotel. During the walk we saw squirrels, a fox and deer.

We both were sorry to pack up and return home on Saturday, but were happy in the knowledge that we couldn’t have had a better time.


Last week I read:

Taken to Voraxia – Book 1 of the Xiveri Mates series by Elizabeth Stephens
Miari
Here’s what I know: aliens invade our colony every three years, hunt and claim the most beautiful of our women, then leave. Here’s what I don’t know: why the king of them is here this time, and why his black, glittering eyes are trained on me. A hybrid with red alien skin and brown human eyes, I’m not pretty. I’ve got no family and no plans to ever have one – least of all with this monster of a male. I’m an inventor, a mechanic, a tinkerer. The alien king wants me for reasons I can only guess at, but I’m not about to be taken for a slave and his response to me is something I know I can engineer my way out of.

He plans to come back for me when I’m of age, but he’ll have to find me first. Our little colony is a scary, desperate place and I’m less afraid to face it, than to face him or the strange, alien sensations he stirs…

Raku
She is my Xiveri mate, yet she runs from me – straight into the horrors of her small, savage moon colony. Slaughtering in her defense is easy, while gaining her trust will be the true challenge. She fears my kind and the horrors my treacherous general has inflicted on her humans. Does she not know that it is my blood rite to keep her safe against him and his even more dangerous off-world allies? No, she thinks herself my slave and in place of acceptance, offers me only pacts and bargains. Shamed by her pacts, I still take them all gluttonously, because though she knows only hate, I know only need.

Eventually, we will need more than just these pacts between us if I am to convince her that she is my Xiveri mate and if she is to take her place at my side, not as my slave, but as Voraxia’s queen.
I was a tad surprised at just how steamy this sci fi romance turned out to be. That said, the world and general premise behind the love story was well written and the characters were sympathetic with a strong backstory – which isn’t always the case with sexy stories. Mini-review to follow.


Earth Prime – Book 1 of the Earth Girl Aftermath stories by Janet Edwards
Earth Prime is the first of two collections of aftermath stories set in the distant future of the Earth Girl trilogy (Earth Girl, Earth Star, and Earth Flight). This collection is set immediately after Earth Flight, and focuses on Jarra, Fian, and the other archaeologists before they head to excavate the alien ruins on Fortuna.
I’m a real fan of Edwards’ writing and loved the Earth Girl series, so was delighted when Janet asked me if I was interested in reading an arc of her latest collection. In fact, it doesn’t read like a collection of stories – more like an extension of events surrounding Jarra’s class, before some of them head off to investigate the ruins on Fortuna. Review to follow.


AUDIOBOOK Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor – Book 2 of the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series by Rick Riordan
It’s been six weeks since Magnus and his friends returned from defeating Fenris Wolf and the fire giants. Magnus has adjusted to life at the Hotel Valhalla—as much as a once-homeless and previously alive kid can. As a son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of Odin’s chosen warriors, but he has a few good peeps among his hallmates on floor nineteen, and he’s been dutifully training for Ragnarok along with everyone else. His days have settled into a new kind of normal.

But Magnus should have known there’s no such thing as normal in the Nine Worlds. His friends Hearthstone and Blitzen have disappeared. A new hallmate is creating chaos. According to a very nervous goat, a certain object belonging to Thor is still missing, and the thunder god’s enemies will stop at nothing to gain control of it.
I really enjoy Riordan’s smart, contemporary take on the Norse pantheon, with Magnus as a sympathetic and funny narrator of his own adventures. In amongst all the fun, these books also spark an interest in ancient mythologies – my grandson is studying Classical History because of them. Mini-review to follow.


Kept From Cages – Book 1 of the Ikiri duology by Phil Williams
Reece’s gang of criminal jazz musicians have taken shelter in the wrong house. There’s a girl with red eyes bound to a chair. The locals call her a devil – but Reece sees a kid that needs protecting. He’s more right than he knows. Chased by a shadowy swordsman and an unnatural beast, the gang flee across the Deep South with the kid in tow. She won’t say where she’s from or who exactly her scary father is, but she’s got powers they can’t understand. How much will Reece risk to save her?

On the other side of the world, Agent Sean Tasker’s asking similar questions. With an entire village massacred and no trace of the killers, he’s convinced Duvcorp’s esoteric experiments are responsible. His only ally is an unstable female assassin, and their only lead is Ikiri – a black-site in the Congo, which no one leaves alive. How far is Tasker prepared to go for answers?
This headlong adventure is packed full of incident, and peopled by a cast of eccentric, memorable characters in vivid settings. A spinoff from Williams’ successful Ordshaw series, this enjoyable paranormal thriller is a real adrenaline ride. Review to follow.


Written in Red – Book 1 of The Others series by Anne Bishop
As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.

Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.
Himself has been nagging me to read this series for a while – and when we were away, I decided to tuck into this first book. I loved the premise and the taut writing, so inhaled this one throughout a lazy afternoon on the terrace. Review to follow.

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher
Fourteen-year-old Mona isn’t like the wizards charged with defending the city. She can’t control lightning or speak to water. Her familiar is a sourdough starter and her magic only works on bread. She has a comfortable life in her aunt’s bakery making gingerbread men dance. But Mona’s life is turned upside down when she finds a dead body on the bakery floor. An assassin is stalking the streets of Mona’s city, preying on magic folk, and it appears that Mona is his next target. And in an embattled city suddenly bereft of wizards, the assassin may be the least of Mona’s worries…
This is an utter joy. Mona is a delightful protagonist and I loved the world, where real danger is leavened by Mona’s tart take on the mess the adults are making of it. As for the magic, it’s a delight. Review to follow.


Murder of Crows – Book 2 of The Others series by Anne Bishop
After winning the trust of the terra indigene residing in the Lakeside Courtyard, Meg Corbyn has had trouble figuring out what it means to live among them. As a human, Meg should be barely tolerated prey, but her abilities as a cassandra sangue make her something more. The appearance of two addictive drugs has sparked violence between the humans and the Others, resulting in the murder of both species in nearby cities. So when Meg has a dream about blood and black feathers in the snow, Simon Wolfgard – Lakeside’s shape-shifting leader – wonders if their blood prophet dreamed of a past attack or a future threat.
I returned to this beguiling world, as I’d thoroughly enjoyed reading about Meg and her struggle to put the horrors of her previous life behind her. This adventure is every bit as addictively readable as the first. Mini-review to follow.

My posts last week:

August 2020 Roundup

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Green Man’s Silence – Book 3 of The Green Man series by Juliet E. McKenna

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Dead Man in a Ditch – Book 2 of the Fetch Phillips Archives by Luke Arnold

Tuesday Treasures – 12

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Afterland by Lauren Beukes

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Fearless by Allen Stroud

Sunday Post – 6th September 2020


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

Here be Dragons…picky eaters (S.J. Higbee) https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordpress.com/2020/09/10/here-be-dragons-picky-eaters-s-j-higbee/ Having been away – it was a lovely surprise to return to find this review of Picky Eaters by the Cap.

Guy’s security camera catches kid tearing it up on his driveway every day, so he decides to do something about it. https://twitter.com/MikeSington/status/1299074699385663488 And this won’t be the response you’ll be expecting…

My Top Ten Games of the Past Two Years https://booksbyproxy.wordpress.com/2020/09/05/my-top-ten-games-of-the-past-two-years/ I’m the wrong age to be a gamer, but these look tempting to me…

Subjective Chaos: our 2020 award winners https://onemore.org/2020/09/07/subjective-chaos-our-2020-award-winners/ This is an interesting list – do you agree with it?

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

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 9th September, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Dead Man in a Ditch – Book 2 of the Fetch Phillips Archives by Luke Arnold – release date 22nd September

#urban fantasy #crime noir #private investigator

BLURB: A former soldier turned PI solves crime in a world that’s lost its magic in this brilliant sequel to actor Luke Arnold’s debut The Last Smile in Sunder City.

The name’s Fetch Phillips — what do you need?

Cover a Gnome with a crossbow while he does a dodgy deal? Sure.

Find out who killed Lance Niles, the big-shot businessman who just arrived in town? I’ll give it shot.

Help an old-lady Elf track down her husband’s murderer? That’s right up my alley.

What I don’t do, because it’s impossible, is search for a way to bring the goddamn magic back.

Rumors got out about what happened with the Professor, so now people keep asking me to fix the world.

But there’s no magic in this story. Just dead friends, twisted miracles, and a secret machine made to deliver a single shot of murder.

Welcome back to the streets of Sunder City, a darkly imagined world perfect for readers of Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series – see my review of The Last Smile in Sunder City – so I’m looking forward to reading this one to see where the story goes next.




Sunday Post – 30th August, 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 has been another week with lots of wind and rain and steadily cooling temperatures. It feels as if Autumn is just around the corner – a thought I dread… Other than finally getting a chance to visit the hairdresser, not much happened. Himself and I ventured into Rustington on his day off to do a bit of shopping, and visited our go-to cafe. Our planned walk was cancelled – the water fell out of the sky in a pelting torrent and neither of us were up for a soaking. So we went for a walk this morning along the beach, again – which is where this week’s photos are from.

In the meantime, I taken time off from the ongoing chore of editing, as I was beginning to struggle. So instead, I’ve been rewriting my outline plan for Picky Eaters 2 before continuing work on it. I’ve also been preparing the final details for the launch of Mantivore Warrior, which is being released tomorrow, Monday 31st August.

Last week I read:

Every Sky a Grave – Book 1 of The Ascendance series by Jay Posey
Mankind has spread out and conquered the galaxy by mastering the fundamental language of the universe. With the right training, the right application of words, truth itself can be rearranged. Language is literally power. Peace reigns now. Order reigns.
For if a planet deviates too far from what the authorities plan, an agent is sent out to correct that. To quietly and with great skill, end that world. One such agent is Elyth – a true believer.
I’ve truncated the rather chatty blurb and I’d advise you to give it a miss if you want to tuck into this one – which is highly recommended. I loved the tension popping from the nuanced character of Elyth and was impressed by the quality of the writing.


AUDIOBOOK Charlotte Sometimes – Book 3 of the Aviary Hall series by Penelope Farmer
It’s natural to feel a little out of place when you’re the new girl, but when Charlotte Makepeace wakes up after her first night at boarding school, she’s baffled: everyone thinks she’s a girl called Clare Mobley, and even more shockingly, it seems she has traveled forty years back in time to 1918. In the months to follow, Charlotte wakes alternately in her own time and in Clare’s. And instead of having only one new set of rules to learn, she also has to contend with the unprecedented strangeness of being an entirely new person in an era she knows nothing about.
This was in Frankie’s list of audiobooks, which I started listening to on a whim. And discovered a gem… This book is extraordinary – it’s right up there with Tom’s Midnight Garden and the writing is truly beautiful spoken aloud. It didn’t hurt that the narrator is accomplished actress Hannah Gordon. Review to follow.

Fearless by Allen Stroud
AD 2118. Humanity has colonised the Moon, Mars, Ceres and Europa. Captain Ellisa Shann commands Khidr, a search and rescue ship with a crew of twenty-five, tasked to assist the vast commercial freighters that supply the different solar system colonies.

Shann has no legs and has taken to life in zero-g partly as a result. She is a talented tactician who has a tendency to take too much on her own shoulders. Now, while on a regular six-month patrol through the solar system, Khidr picks up a distress call from the freighter Hercules…
I loved the worldbuilding and the action-packed scenario, which was so well done. This one buckets along at a cracking pace and is a real page-turner – but I wasn’t a fan of the very abrupt ending which left the story on a cliffhanger. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Musings

Review of AUDIOBOOK Deep Roots – Book 2 of the Innsmouth Legacy series by Ruthanna Emyrs

A Déjà vu Review of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – Book 1 of The Inheritance series by N.K. Jemisin

Friday Face-off featuring The Crow Trap – Book 1 of The Vera Stanhope series by Ann Cleeves

Review of NETGALLEY arc Every Sky a Grave – Book 1 of The Ascendance series by Jay Posey

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Trials of Koli – Book 2 of The Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Mother Code by Carol Stivers

Tuesday Treasures – 10

Cover Love #2 featuring the covers of N.K. Jemisin’s books

Sunday Post – 23rd August 2020


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

Happy Halloween https://www.becausereading.com/happy-halloween-ive-seen-ghost/ Yes – I KNOW it isn’t Halloween, but I was taking part in a tag on Twitter, and came across a real-life ghost story…

The Book Predictions Tag https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2020/08/25/the-book-predictions-tag/ Talking of tags… this one is huge fun – apart from the 1 star question which still has me scratching my head. Why would you pick up a book that you thought would be a 1 star read??

Is It Cheating To Listen to Audiobooks? https://barelywise.com/2020/08/08/is-it-cheating-to-listen-to-audiobooks/ I’ve seen this subject discussed several times in book blogging circles, but this article covers it really well…

Finding Our Focus During Crazy Times: Only So Many Ducks To Give https://authorkristenlamb.com/2020/08/finding-focus-mental-health-stress/ I love Kristen’s articles and had noticed her absence – so it’s lovely to see her back…

How to spot a Dragon using an illusion spell https://twitter.com/fictiongateway/status/1297843739688341504/photo/1 I just loved this pic…

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

Castellan the Black and his Wise Draconic Musings on Controlling Grandchildren #BrainfluffCastellanthe Black #WiseDragonicMusingsonControllingGrandchildren #PickyEaters

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Castellan the Black’s wise dragonic musings…

Do remember that these days, you aren’t allowed to give the pesky lizards a good old-fashioned singeing. A fact they don’t need to know…


Castellan the Black, mighty dragon warrior, features in my short story Picky Eaters, written to provide a humorous escape from all the stuff that isn’t happening on Wyvern Peak… All proceeds for the duration of its publishing life are donated to mental health charities.

Castellan the Black and his Wise Draconic Musings on Life in General #BrainfluffCastellanthe Black #WiseDragonicMusingsonLifeinGeneral #PickyEaters

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As the oldest dragon alive today, I know the answers to all those questions that bothered me as a youngster. Trouble is, the wretches have now gone and changed the questions…



Castellan the Black, mighty dragon warrior, or Casta the Grey as he used to be known as, features in my short story Picky Eaters, written to provide a humorous escape from all the stuff that isn’t happening on Wyvern Peak… All proceeds for the duration of its publishing life are donated to mental health charities.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Chaos Vector – Book 2 of The Protectorate series by Megan E. O’Keefe #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #ChaosVectorbookreview

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I put this one down with very mixed feelings. The opening sequence of Velocity Weapon has to be one of the best opening scenes I’ve read in space opera for years. I was blown away by it – unfortunately, I didn’t find the rest of the book quite matched up to that promise. Would Chaos Vector manage to fulfil that flash of awesomeness?

BLURB: Sanda and Tomas are fleeing for their lives after letting the most dangerous smartship in the universe run free. Now, unsure of who to trust, Sanda knows only one thing for certain — to be able to save herself from becoming a pawn of greater powers, she needs to discover the secret of the coordinates hidden in her skull….

REVIEW: The rest of the blurb is a bit too chatty for my taste, so I’m leaving it there. Ironically, while the beginning of the first book was the high point for me, I was badly struggling for the first 20% of this one to really care all that much. I’m not a fan of pages of info-dumping – and that’s what we got, as the author went into lots of detail about the world, leaving the characters waving in the wind in the process.

There were times when O’Keefe seemed a tad overwhelmed by the scope and scale of her world and range of her characters. Fortunately, we had Sanda and Biran, and once the story got going, these two main characters with their attendant plotlines pulled the book back on track. But I thought Jules was something of a cliché, and that the book suffered because we didn’t see anything like enough of Tomas. Given what a vital role he played in the first book, we got far too little of him in this one – especially as there was a plot twist involving him that I found plain irritating, as I immediately realised how it was going to play out.

Despite these hiccups, the story was an entertaining read with plenty going on and a detailed, nuanced world, whose murky history is coming back to bite the Protectorate in the bottom. Some of the flashbacks were unnecessary – the information we needed could have been depicted within the narrative timeframe without breaking the flow of the story. But I did enjoy the politicking among the Keepers and I love Sanda’s character. This one finished on something of a cliffhanger, so I’m hoping we won’t be waiting too long for the next book in the series. Recommended for fans of epic space opera with plenty going on. While I obtained an arc of Chaos Vector from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
7/10

Castellan the Black and his Wise Draconic Musings on Family Life #BrainfluffCastellanthe Black #WiseDragonicMusingsonFamilyLife #PickyEaters

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Do NOT set fire to your brother’s farts in mid-air. It’s not clever, it’s not funny – and dragons have lost tails that way…



Castellan the Black, mighty dragon warrior, or Casta the Grey as he used to be known as, features in my short story Picky Eaters, written to provide a humorous escape from all the stuff that isn’t happening on Wyvern Peak… All proceeds for the duration of its publishing life are donated to mental health charities.

Sunday Post – 28th June, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It was my birthday on Friday – and I was dreading it. While we had arranged to go for a picnic at Borde Hill Garden, near Haywards Heath, I was all too aware we were in the hands of the weather. What I couldn’t do was have my customary family birthday party. So I woke up on Friday morning not feeling all that excited. Yet it turned out to be one of the loveliest birthdays… While it was still very warm, the promised thunderstorms didn’t materialise and Borde Hill Garden is a gem. My daughter had put together a yummy vegan picnic, including the most delicious cake and the pics this week are all from Borde Hill Gardens. We then had our older grandchildren to stay for the weekend – they went home this morning. It was so much fun spending time with them again, and although we couldn’t take them swimming or scootering along the foreshore due to the constant high winds and rain showers on Saturday – we had a hilarious Game of Thrones monopoly game, instead.

On Wednesday, we went to Elmer Beach with the family on one of the sunniest days of the year. Though it was busy, we were able to observe social distancing throughout the afternoon. The boys swam, while little Eliza was engrossed with stones on the beach and afterwards, they were occupied flying a kite in the onshore breeze. So it has been a busy week, socially!

On the writing front, the release of Picky Eaters went very well. Thank you so much to those of you who spread the word – and those of you who bought the book.

Last week I read:
Entangled Secrets – Book 3 of the Northern Circle Coven series by Pat Esden
Pregnant and alone at twenty-one, Chandler Parrish sought refuge within the Northern Circle coven’s secluded complex. Never revealing the identity of her child’s father, Chandler has raised her now eight-year-old son, Peregrine, in peace, and used her talent as an artist and welder to become a renowned metal sculptor. But her world is shaken to the core when Peregrine shows signs of natural faerie sight—a rare and dangerous gift to see through faerie glamour and disguises that could only have come from his father’s genes. Worse yet, the boy has seen a monstrous faerie creature trailing Lionel Parker, a magic-obsessed journalist determined to expose the witching world.

But the very man who threatens the witches’ anonymity may also be key to healing Chandler’s long broken heart. As dangerous desires and shocking secrets entangle, new faerie threats and demonic foes close in on the coven and High Council. Loyalties will be tested. Fierce magics will be called upon. And Chandler will have to face her past to save all she holds dear: her coven, her child—and perhaps even her own soul.
Despite crashing midway into this series, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Chandler proved to be a gutsy, sympathetic protagonist and I loved her fierce protectiveness towards her young son, which nicely nocked up the ongoing tension throughout a fair chunk of the story. Review to follow.


Perilous Hunt – Book 7 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
After failing to catch up with her daughter Jelena so many times, Alisa’s optimism is battered, but her determination has never waned. She, Leonidas, and their eclectic crew are hunting down a Starseer research station in the heart of the Kir Asteroid belt—Jelena’s supposed location. Alisa vows that she will find her daughter if she has to search a million asteroids to do so.

But Jelena and her close friend, Prince Thorian, have attracted the interest of many factions, and the Star Nomad isn’t the only ship on the hunt…
Alisa has been searching for her daughter now through six action-packed books – so I wondered whether once again Buroker could deliver the goods such that once again I’d be sucked back into this intriguing world. But she absolutely did. I really enjoyed this penultimate adventure of this series. Review to follow.

TUYO – Book 1 of the Tuyo series by Rachel Neumeier
Raised a warrior in the harsh winter country, Ryo inGara has always been willing to die for his family and his tribe. When war erupts against the summer country, the prospect of death in battle seems imminent. But when his warleader leaves Ryo as a sacrifice — a tuyo — to die at the hands of their enemies, he faces a fate he never imagined.
The author contacted me and asked if I would be interested in a review copy of TUYO – and I immediately agreed. After all, Neumeier wrote the fabulous Griffin Mage trilogy – one of my all-time favourite reads. I’m so glad I did – this one handles the issue of mind sorcery brilliantly and I inhaled this book, unwilling to put it down. Review to follow.


The Calculating Stars – Book 1 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal
On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.

Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.

Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.
This one has been enthusiastically recommended by many of my book blogging buddies – and now I’ve had a chance to tuck into it, I understand what the fuss is about. I loved the way the alternate history strand was handled – with care and attention to the details that made this timeline work. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

Review of AUDIOBOOK Longbourn by Jo Baker

Friday Face-off featuring The High Window by Raymond Chandler

Three MURDER MYSTERY Mini-Reviews: The Case of the Missing Servant, Dying Fall and The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Scarlet Odyssey – Book 1 of the Scarlet Odyssey series by C.T. Rwizi

Tuesday Treasures – 1

Review of Broken Flyght – Book 2 of The Flyght series by S.J. Pajonas

Picky Eaters is now available!

Review of The Boy, the Mole, Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey

Sunday Post – 21st June 2020


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

End of the School Year https://jenniefitzkee.com/2020/06/26/end-of-the-school-year/ This is always an emotional business – particularly for the little ones, but what a marvellous way to manage it so that the children have closure!

Book Mail! https://coffeeandcatsblog.wordpress.com/2020/06/24/book-mail/ For those of you who love the idea of getting books through the post…

The “WOULD YOU RATHER…” Tag https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2020/06/23/the-would-you-rather-tag/ Maddalena is on something of a roll – and I really like this one, too😊.

The Hack’s Guide to Writing While the Kids are at Home https://writerunboxed.com/2020/06/20/the-hacks-guide-to-writing-while-the-kids-are-at-home/ Bill is always worth reading for a laugh – and a guide as to how not to go about it…

Picky Eaters is Live Today https://twitter.com/AMhairiSimpson/status/1275003664558690309 A huge thank you to those of you who spread the word about Picky Eaters’ publication day on Monday – I was thrilled at the response. I’ve chosen Mhairi’s tweet, seeing as she also included her first sketch of Castellan, as she donated the book cover for free…

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

Mantivore Dreams – Book 1 of The Arcadian Chronicles is now FREE!

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From today and throughout the weekend, Mantivore Dreams is FREE. Just click on the cover below, or the cover in the sidebar and it will take you to your Amazon outlet.



BLURB: On a colony planet, in a hot, dusty village where no one wants to live, is someone who was exiled there a long time ago. Someone who stole something so precious, others are prepared to lie, kidnap and murder to get it back.

Drawn into this web of deceit is Kyrillia, a teenager who dreams of running the village’s branch of the Node, the planetwide organic information system, but instead drudges for her mother…

Seth, member of the disgraced Priest family who can read and write, but instead toils as a day labourer on the smelliest, most thankless jobs in the village, in exchange for scraps of food and temporary shelter…

And Vrox, an ancient, sentient alien who lives only in Kyrillia’s imagination, or so she thinks…

When Kyrillia sneaks into the Node and opens up a forbidden site, she triggers a chain of events that not only rips through her own life, but affects those living thousands of miles away in the capital. For when something so precious goes missing, others will stop at nothing to get it back.

What inspired me to write this series were a couple of ideas that I wanted to explore. I have always been interested in the concept of power – who wants it; who thinks they have it; and who actually has it. Most stories are about power, I think. This time, I wanted to put it right at the forefront of the narrative, because it is often disguised as something else.

Another notion that fascinates me is what defines an alien – and the answer ultimately has to be their difference. But what if they aren’t quite as different as we all thought they were? Particularly if that alien species is telepathic and can lock onto human thoughts under special circumstances, especially those of young children. And what if a vulnerable child comes to rely on the comfort and love provided by an elderly alien who lives half a world away? What if she grows up as a Cinderella figure? And her Prince Charming isn’t someone who can whisk her away from the drudgery and shield her from the danger, because he, too, has fallen through the cracks that are supposed to keep youngsters safe.

So that is the dynamic I started with, which is why this story is something of a mash-up. It’s not a classic alien story, but neither does the romance power the narrative – it’s about someone powerful hunting for something they want. However the answer is far more complicated and tricky than they know. Than anyone knows…


Below is a sneak peek at the beginning of CHAPTER ONE…

I held my breath. At last! I’d begun to think I’d never track down this music site. A picklist unfolded and I gawked at the strange words. Classical. Youth Cultures. Popular Cultures. Devotional. Ethnic.
What did they mean? Surely music was just a dance tune, or a song? I jabbed at the first one. Yet another picklist unpeeled onto the mat. Much longer. The words tasted strange as I sounded the musicians’ names aloud. “Beethave- no -hoven… Mozz-art…Ta-ch— simply don’t have the time to sound that one out.” I went for a short name – Bach. What did his Family do, to earn a Name like that?
My eyes slid down the picklist of his tunes and found a piece about organs with something about a minor D. Probably a comedy. I hoped so – I could do with a laugh.
“Play.” I breathed in the thick, sweet smell, storing up the sensation of Facs-mining on the Node – something I didn’t do nearly enough. Looking across at the bubbling organi-packs glowing in their transparent tanks, I wished I could spend more time here, rather than snatch these forbidden stints when Mother was away.
The sound pealed out. What was the instrument? The notes seemed to stop, then to stack up on each other as they roared around the room, making Mother’s flower vases buzz on the stone floor. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard. Torrents of melody attacked, drowning me in a rush of yearning. Everything seemed bright, and achingly beautiful.
The final crashing chord faded into silence.
Vrox sways, crooning with delight…
“Again.” I closed my eyes as the monumental music thundered around me. I was Tranced by Vrox’s joy as his emotion rolled through me, swept along by the reverberating climax—
I was stunned by a hard blow. And another. My hurt-hot ear rang with the impact. My cheek felt numb and heavy; my mouth filled with blood.
Vrox rears up, startled – sorry he hadn’t noticed her approach…
“Turn it off! Turn it off!” Mother shrieked over the music. Her distorted face shivered in my vision for a shock-stalled eternity. Snatches of her rant filtered through Bach’s bone-buzzing crescendo, making her fury seem even worse, “…-icked girl… -ways think you know best… –dare to override my passwor…” The organ tune stopped abruptly, just as she screamed, “…ate you! I hate you…
Her words echoed horribly in the small room.
I jerked to my feet. She’s finally admitted it. Axe-sharp hurt immediately snuffed out the flicker of relief, that I’d been right all these years. “Think I don’t know?” My voice shook, on the edge of tears. But grown girls of seventeen shouldn’t cry in front of their mothers. I spun round, stumbling over a vase, and ran. Out into the hot sunlight. Past the stable, whose sharp smell reminded me I still hadn’t mucked out the camel stall or goat pens. I scrabbled at the keycode on the sidegate, my shaking fingers making a hash of it.
She ran after me, yelling my name. Her panting echoed between the house and high fence, getting closer. Finally, as Vrox focused, I got the sequence right. The gate snicked open as she grabbed for my arm. I twisted away, the burn of her nails raking my skin. Skidding through the gate, I slammed it shut in her face. I sprinted across the front yard and past the first startled Node enquirer of the day, over the village courtyard, heading for Westgate. Heat settled like a greasy coat as I raced down Main Street, dust clotting my nose and throat.
At Westgate, Cupert Peaceman, the village security guard, dodged out of the way. Just as well, because I wasn’t stopping for him, or anyone else. Ignoring several calls, driven by the need to get away, I finally slowed, winded and hurting, on the open road where the verges were widened to discourage hostile wildlife. The sun beat down in a suffocating sheet.
Haven’t got a sunscreen – better find some shade. I tottered along on chewed-string legs, coughing up dust. Mother would say it was my punishment. The thought of her pushed me on.
Turning onto Mantivore Way was a relief. The palm tree clumps offered shade and the smell of the water strengthened my legs. I pushed through the shoulder-high reeds, which used to swish over my head, swallowing me whole. Moist leaves slapped against my sore legs. I broke off a brown-brittled stem, whipping it around and stamping noisily to frighten off any lone jaspers or nemmets sheltering from the sun. River silt seeped through my sandals, soothing my feet as I paddled in the murky water. Reaching my sanctuary – a stranded treetrunk – I sat down and rested my eyes on the river.
Sunslit water glitters through the swaying stalks. Scents of river ooze and crushed leaves tickle Vrox’s nostrils. Wind rocks the reeds with a sighing rattle…
See? I was right. She really hates me… For once Vrox, my imaginary childhood companion, was wrong. He reckoned mothers found their daughters annoying, but that, deep down, they cared.
Vrox croons comfort noises, his vari-colour scales flickering in shades of green and blue.
His image flashed on my inscape, while his sympathy finally broke my resolve not to cry. I buried my face in my hands and sobbed until no more tears would come, while the mantivore paced and huffed his sympathy. Finally, I wiped my eyes, blew my nose and stared across the river, where a cargo boat laden with olives throbbed downstream, headed for Reseda. I watched it disappear around the bend, wishing I was on the deck. But then I’d forfeit my right to be Brarian. Waste Uncle Osmar’s painful effort. Besides, I wanted the job – the Node was the only place I felt truly happy. Other than this place. I stared hungrily at the peaceful patterning of light and water. If I came here more often maybe life would seem worth the effort it takes to breathe.
Vrox churrs a strong agreement…
A swishing of reeds warned me, so he faded from my consciousness before I heard the voice. “Kyrillia?”
I relaxed. “Here, Onice.”
“You braced?”
“I’ve been better.”
She high-stepped into the small space surrounding the treetrunk, and carefully sat on the trunk, lifting her skirts clear of the muddy water. “Saw you pelting down the road, so I figured you’d be here.” Handing me a sunscreen, she added, “You’d better borrow this.”
Typical of Onice to worry about me getting fried to a greasy spot. “Oh! Many thanks. I’ll get it back to you tomorrow.”
“She on to you, again?” Onice’s forehead creased in concern.
Grabbing at a reed stem, I rolled it between my fingers.
I hate you… Mother’s wrath-reddened face blazed through my mind as I opened my mouth to frame the words. And closed it. What could I say? I’d watched Onice bask in her parents’ affection with shocked envy ever since I’d been old enough to understand it. She knew that Mother and I fought – she regularly tangled with her own father. But she’d never make sense of Mother’s loathing for me.
And if she did, maybe she’d realise I wasn’t worth her friendship. I stared at the river. “Found that Music site on the Node and played a song. That was when she caught me.”
Onice clicked her tongue. “Bet what had her steaming was you breaking through her passwords and sneaking onto the Node. Again.”
“Hm.” The reed stem mashed to a papery pulp between my fingers. Onice never understood why I persisted in using the Node, despite Mother’s strict ban. But then, I hadn’t told her about Vrox and his constant longing for the Node, either.
“There’s talk about restarting an inter-village apprentice network, Da says. Some girl drowned herself last month in Pistacia cos of her family’s beatings. Maybe you could get yourself signed up for it.” So Onice figures I’ve angered Mother to breaking point.
I hate you… I pushed the memory away, trying to think straight.
“And if I get apprenticed away from here, what happens to Uncle Osmar? She wouldn’t take proper care of him.” I tore at another reed stem.
Onice shrugged. “You got to live your own life. Your Uncle’s had his chances.”
I sighed. It seemed a hard way to treat the old man, especially after all he’d taught me. But it was a sharp-edged situation and if there’d been an easy option I’d already have taken it.