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Review of INDIE Ebook Stranger Still – Book 3 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik #Brainfluffbookreview #StrangerStillbookreview #SciFiMonth2020

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I love, love, LOVED the first two book in this series so much that it physically hurt when I got to the end. See my reviews of Relatively Strange and Even Stranger. Would this third offering provide the same insane happy longing? I have linked my review of this psi-fi adventure to #Sci Fi Month 2020.

BLURB: Telepathy, along with sundry other odd abilities, have landed Stella more than once, in situations at best controversial, at worst life-threatening. But she’s always known; you have to fight your own corner as best you can, no point beating yourself up about it. Now though, times have changed, different priorities. She’s married, with a baby on the way and a flourishing business. She simply has to deal with a couple of worrying issues and then all should be smooth sailing. But, isn’t it a fact; just when you think you’ve got all your ducks in a row, life can turn right around and bite you on the bottom?

REVIEW: Stella is my new best friend – it’s official. Opinionated and often cranky, she has been defying expectations throughout her life. Firstly there’s those odd abilities of hers that have caused as many problems as they may have solved, though she is scaldingly aware that she was remarkably lucky to have been born into such a tough-minded, loving family. It doesn’t help that most of the time, all she wants is to lead a perfectly normal life and now she has found her niche, with her own business, and someone who loves her for who she is, it looks as though she is set fair.

But as the blurb makes clear, just when she starts to relax and assume everything is – more or less – okay, that’s when it generally goes wrong. I loved this one even more than the others. It’s when I realised how rarely we see a pregnant woman feature as a main protagonist – and it’s done very well. As is the growing sense of wrongness, which could be put down to the pregnancy, after all Stella isn’t sure if her baby has the same abilities and if they could be affecting her mind. It’s always a tricky balance, building up a slow-burn issue in this manner – too much and it becomes a boring repetitive mantra that holds up the pace; too little and the reader feels ambushed and a bit bamboozled when the enormity of the Big Bad slams into view. Messik nails it.

It doesn’t hurt that Stella is surrounded by a cast of vivid characters, many of them magnificently eccentric, ranging from her almost indestructible Aunt Kitty, who has somehow inserted herself into Stella’s business, to Laura, her pill-popping mother-in-law, whose appalled horror at her son’s marriage to Stella is hilarious. In fact, despite the fact that some of Stella’s adventures explore the darker side of human nature, the chippy humour throughout frequently had me laughing aloud. Though there were a couple of poignant moments that also had me tearing up. It’s a special book that makes you laugh and cry…

There is a doozy of a twist right at the end of this one, that has me yearning for more Messik goodness RIGHT NOW! Because I am struggling badly with a major book hangover.

Highly recommended for anyone who likes their paranormal thrillers narrated by a feisty, humorous woman who leaps off the page so vividly, I’ve been dreaming of her…
10/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 11th November, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW #SciFiMonth2020

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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. I have linked this post to #Sci Fi Month 2020…

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – The Expert System’s Champion – Book 2 of The Expert System series by Adrian Tchaikovsky – release date 26th January 2021

#science fiction #alien contact #colony planet

BLURB: It’s been ten years since Handry was wrenched away from his family and friends, forced to wander a world he no longer understood. But with the help of the Ancients, he has cobbled together a life, of sorts, for himself and his fellow outcasts.

Wandering from village to village, welcoming the folk that the townships abandon, fighting the monsters the villagers cannot—or dare not—his ever-growing band of misfits has become the stuff of legend, a story told by parents to keep unruly children in line.

But there is something new and dangerous in the world, and the beasts of the land are acting against their nature, destroying the towns they once left in peace.

And for the first time in memory, the Ancients have no wisdom to offer…

I actually discovered the existence of this one when trawling for covers for my Covet the Cover article last week, and I was delighted! I loved The Expert System’s Brother and I’m thrilled that we get to find out what next happens to Handry. Anyone else got this one on their wish list?



Interview With Jean Lee Regarding Her Writing Process And Her Books #Brainfluffauthorinterview #JeanLeeInterview

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Jean Lee is a fellow author I encountered after reading her amazing blog, which talks mostly about family life, writing, music and films. What has kept me coming back is her quirky view on Life and her wonderful way of putting things. So it was a no-brainer that I’d get hold of her first book when it hit the shelves – Fallen Princeborn: Stolensee my review. And I was thrilled when she offered me an arc of this new release, the second book in the series, Fallen Princeborn: Chosensee my review. I asked her to be a guest on my blog to celebrate the release of this second book, which is a major triumph, after a major setback. I’m delighted that she agreed and I am able to share with you a slice of her writing and an insight into her writing process. Enjoy…

1. You are crazily busy – three young children, including twins; a job and running a family – when do you make time for your writing? Are there any activities you use to help you maximise your time – playing music or lighting scented candles, for instance?
Oh, I’m not going to lie—it can be Hades some days in finding the balance between family, work, and writing, and that was before life in lockdown with remote learning. The balance between teaching and writing is still in a BIG flux; I haven’t taught full-time since before Blondie was born ten years ago, so I’m no longer accustomed to working with over one hundred students. But with the right sounds, be it fall ambience or instrumental music, I can stir a few story things around in my mind while grading. Even if I don’t get to physically write that day, I’ve still been brainstorming a fight, working out the kinks of some dialogue, or revising a plot line.

Honestly, I look back to five years ago when my three B’s were tiny, and I have no clue how I got the writing in that I did. Now that Biff and Bash are, as they put it, “pre-tweens,” I can usually let them occupy themselves for at least a little while so I can work and write. Often this leads to Bash using up all the tape in the house to build robots or his own paper story books about robots while Biff is drawing collections of favourite characters or cars—whatever strikes his fancy. Once the battery runs out on the Nintendo (or is simply removed and hidden, mwa ha ha), Blondie grabs her pencils and paper and leaves us all behind with her comics about dragons and pet detectives. All three can be like this with books, too. I wonder how many parents around us have to say, “Would you stop reading and___”? Like, we actually have to make them stop reading to finish meals or clean their rooms. It’s a good problem, that.

2. Your main characters, particularly Charlotte, ping off the page with such vividness in Fallen Princeborn: Chosen. How did you stay so closely in touch with them, between writing Stolen and Chosen?
Hmmm. I suppose it helps that large portions of the storyline have been in my head for a long time—ever since I first drafted Stolen back in 2010. This is largely why I couldn’t turn my back on the series and turned instead to self-publishing: I wanted to see these characters complete the journeys I’d imagined for them all these years.

It also helps that each of the major characters, in their way, connect to something I am, or aspire to be. And to be clear, this includes the antagonists. If a reader cannot relate to a story’s villain somehow, then that villain no longer feels real and is therefore no longer a threat. A villain made of lies and air is too easily waved away. So whether it’s Charlotte’s passion for music or Bearnard Artair’s utter refusal to accept he’s wrong (yes, I can be a stubborn bastard), there is something real, something of my human nature, inside both hero and villain.
For better or worse, we’ll always be connected.

3. Your writing is so full of sensory input – touch, taste, and sounds, as well as the images – do you always put these descriptions down on the page during your first draft? Which is the sense that you most easily visualise when writing?
I am a BIG fan of sensory detail! Often my rough draft is overloaded with detail I have to scale back for the sake of pacing. Sounds—or lack thereof—are usually my initial input I get down, followed by the visual. The smells of emotions and desires comes from an older place, where the sense of smell aided far more in survival. There’s something very ancient and instinctive about smell that just feels a bit dismissed, if that makes sense, which is why I love using that sense, too.

4. Which scene in Chosen was the easiest to write and why? And which was the hardest?
Well I don’t know if it was “easy,” but I had gobs of fun writing the fight scenes. Being the action junkie I am, if there’s a chance to bring horrifying creatures of dark magic onto the scene to fight, I’m going to take it.

Hardest…there’s a lot of hard scenes in here. That tag line I put on Chosen’s cover of “The Bloody Days are soon returning” is not just about the return of Liam’s family; it is also a reference to what Arlen says to Charlotte in the first book about the difficulty of facing one’s own “bloody days.”
Arlen studies Charlotte’s face for a long, quiet moment before he says, “We have all of us had our bloody days, Charlotte. For many it is easier to remain in them than to change. To change requires facing a past stained by screams.” Pause. “It is not an easy trial.”

Redemption is not given only because one experiences dark trauma. No. Redemption comes to those who battle through that darkness and change for the better, and in Chosen, Liam and Charlotte both must come to terms with their own bloody days in order to change—not just for their own sakes, but for each other’s and those they care about.


5. I loved meeting Liam’s terrible family, as it gave a real insight into his personality. Which of his horrible relations was the most satisfying to write and why?
Ooooooh, that’s a toughie! Liam’s parents were both fun to write, especially when they interact together—I have a whole post about Ceasar Augustus and Ewoks and why Bearnard and Livia interact as they do. The most satisfying, however, would have to be the one remaining family member never mentioned in Stolen, but who comes with Liam’s parents to River Vine in Chosen. To avoid spoilers, I will only say this:
Livia Artair is not the only one with a plan.

6. You use a lot of nature-inspired imagery in your writing – what is your own favourite natural place, where you feel inspired?
This may sound a little strange, but there is something…something fascinating about standing at the border and not seeing what’s beyond. Ever since I was very small, trips in the car between small towns always meant driving through farmland and wilderness. It was a like a quilt, these squares of corn, pasture, and forest, stitched together by streams and tall grasses. I loved imagining what could live in those forests. I still do. Were I to physically walk into those wild places, the spell might break, so on the outside I remain. I walk along the road, or near river’s edge, the woods always in sight, but out of reach. That is where I feel storytelling’s potential at its strongest, imagining impossibility into reality.

7. As soon as I got to the end of Chosen, I was keen to know when the next one will be available! Have you started writing it, yet? And is there any spoiler-free teaser you can give us as to what is next in store for Charlotte, Liam and those relying on their success?
The third book, Fallen Princeborn: Hidden is in a very, very rough state, but it’s there! At this point, I see a 2022 release so I can get some other projects taken care of (see my answer to the next question, lol). Let’s see, a little scene…how about visiting someone we didn’t get to see in Chosen—Jenny, the farm girl who lives just beyond The Wall?

The freak snow starts just after Jennifer Blair passes the wishing well. Flakes fat with cold tease her, melting onto her glasses and at the nape of her neck to slide in under her hooded sweatshirt. But does she go back inside for a proper coat? Of course not. It’s Wisconsin. A typical fall day can jump twenty degrees up or down, easy peasy.
So Jenny runs on, leaves of red, gold, and brown sucking tight onto the souls of her sneakers as she makes her way across the farm yard, beyond the old white barn and the tractor shed to the woods that rim the eastern edge of the farm. A few blood droplets fall from the bag she carries, melting snow clusters as she goes.
She dodges the poison ivy bush, sticks to the worn path to the nice little grove of maples that her dad finally agreed to tap this year because Jenny promised the wolves wouldn’t bother him. More snow runs down Jenny’s spine and she shivers, eager for some furry hugs, maybe even a sandpapery wolf tongue to lick the cold from her cheek. D always gave her so many happy welcome kisses that she’d laugh, and scratch his ears, and—
Silence.
The glen’s roofed in fiery colors among the trees, all the brighter for the snow clinging every leaf’s edge. The wind carries Jenny’s panting white breaths out of the glen, away from the tap tap of sap dripping from the maple trees on either side of her.
A mound of fur huddles on the other side of the glen, but there’s no giant of black fur. No green eye paired with a blue eye. Just…normal looking wolves, speckled shades of winter woods. One lifts its head, flares its nostrils. Whimpers.
“D’s still not here, huh?” Jenny tips her bag. Half a dozen cuts of venison slop into the bed of snow and leaves of bygone autumns. “Serves him right if I eat all my coffee cake by myself.” She talks snotty, but the crack in her voice, the whimper of another wolf—they say otherwise.
Especially when they do not come for the morning treat.
Jenny wipes her glasses clean even though the snow continues to cover her work. That shivering of the pack, it’s not just her blurred vision. “What is it, a bear?” She spins as she moves towards them, a scouting dance to check for marks of some sort. But nope—just the half dozen trees tapped. One’s lost its bucket, but nothing else is different than yesterday. There’s a bit of a stink in the air, too, but duh, it’s a farm. The air’s going to smell like manure sometimes.
Only when she’s next to the pack does one separate to say hello: a half-breed runt, she wages, considering his size compared to the other wolves. His head’s a bit different, too—more pointed, like a collie, and fur much coarser than the others. One of his ear’s torn from a long-ago fight—the test to get into the pack, maybe? But D liked him, so the others accepted him.
He licks snowflakes that land on her nosebridge, smothering her glasses with spit. “Dangit, I just cleaned those!” And Jenny giggles, because it feels way nicer to giggle than to cry over a missing friend. “I gotta check the taps quick. You grab your breakfast before the snow buries it.”
The runt gives his family the once-over, then takes a few cautious steps toward the meat. The others follow, eyes darting from Jenny to the tapped maples. Even the biggest of them all, the one with holes in his fur marking an enemy’s bite, scratches at the ground like he’s searching for something before heading over. His whimpers trail him like winter’s pawprints.
Jenny wipes her hands clean in the leaves and snow. No extra blood. No impressions in the ground. But still, Jenny bites her lip and checks her back pocket for her dad’s old jack knife. Something’s spooked her friends.
Could it be…
Jenny stands up, turns to the north. To the Wall. No snow sticks to it. Never does. No moss grows on it. No cement or mortar stuff. Just stones, smooth and round like from a river, all fitting just so to make a wall too high for a person to jump or peek over.
Old as the farm, too, probably older. She’s tried to research it on national park sites. She’s gone through books and pamphlets on historical markers and tribe histories. She even tried that weird microfiche machine the library keeps of old newspapers. Nothin’ about a wall that just goes on and on in the middle of a forest in the middle of Wisconsin, or even the three-story stone fortress-type place her family converted to a farm house. How does no one ever mention stuff like this in the history of ever?
Well Jenny has her guess, sure, not that she likes to dwell on it much.
The fairy-animal things.
They took her brother. Tried to make her come with them, with their creepy purple swirly eyes and the dreams they’d stick into her head. But D never let them get her. Never let her go over on her own, either. Any time she got close to following him, he’d turn right around and bat her to the ground and growl until she promised to stay away. Then off he went, bounding over the Wall like some horse into god knows what over in god knows where.
Six months now, he’s been gone god knows where. Is he hurt back there? Dead?
One fairy-animal appears on the ground before her now, orange-feathered and tiny. It chirps super short, like singing’s an after-thought for this songbird. But it always lands real nice in Jenny’s hands, and listens when Jenny talks about school all the way up until Jenny says thanks, and takes care to chirp once before flying off. Its purple eyes never swirl or glow at her like the bad fairy-animal things.
“Any sign of D today?” Jenny always asks that first.
The bird shakes its head.
“Bad fairies?”
The bird pecks the ground once, twice, three times, only it doesn’t pick up anything.
“Sure wish you could talk.” Jenny kneels. The cold damp quickly seeps through her jeans and numbs her knee. She pulls out a handful of coffee cake crumbs from in her pocket. “Something’s spooked D’s pack. I was gonna look around after checking the taps. Wanna come?”
The little bird hops into Jenny’s hand, chirps, then starts pecking away.
“Thanks.”
A little yip from behind—the runt half-breed’s finished first. He trots up to Jenny, smacking his chops.
“Sorry, buddy, that’s it. Come on,” she pulls out her knife, breathes, deep, “let’s see what’s what around here.”
The sugar maples for fall are pretty close, about as far as a kickball pitcher from home plate. It’s the last one with its bucket off, a weird happening since the hook is beneath the spigot. Wind shouldn’t be able to do that. A squirrel—a normal squirrel, anyway—wouldn’t have the strength. Raccoon, maybe, or a curious animal sniffing around. “You knock that off?” Jenny asks the half-breed.
His tail’s between his legs, nose sniffing fast, steps slowing down.
Too many leaves crunch as Jenny walks, the bird still and watchful in her hand.
“How about you?” she asks the bird. It chirps twice, flies into the bucket to shake off the snow clawing at its wings. Pecks. Chirps. Hops onto the ground. Pecks. Shakes its head like it’s found a worm.
“You found somethin’.” Jenny goes on without the runt and…oh yeah. She can smell it now.
That ain’t a poop smell. It’s pee. Kinda faint, the sort when someone uses the bathroom but forgets to flush. “So…another wolf, maybe. Cuz if it were someone in the pack marking here, they wouldn’t be so spooked.”
The bird shakes its head, pecks the ground again. Jenny follows the beak and picks up the snow clumps.
Impressions.
Half circle. Curvey rectangles.
A boot.
Two boots.
Air freezes in Jenny’s chest. She has to look up from the ground, she’s gotta—
—and sees the spigot.
A few thin rust-ish lines rim the nozzle. She’s seen lines like that before when her dad drinks from a glass after a long day outside: cracked lips.
Someone drank from the spigot.
Someone is here.
The bird circles the spigot before landing for a closer look.
A branch snaps deep inside the wild brush.
Jenny bolts upright. The runt growls, once and quick. The pack echoes, closes ranks.
Could just be snow too heavy for a stick.
Or not.


8. Have you any other writing projects you’re currently working on?
Oh, it’s such a higgeldy-piggledy pile of WIPs! 😊 I suppose the one I’m most keen to complete and publish next year is my expanded edition of Middler’s Pride I started some years ago. It’s a fun little escape, this land of Idana, and writing a fantasy series that does NOT focus on romance but instead building identity and friendship while also kicking butt is something I think today’s girls—girls like my daughter—would like to read.
In the land of Idana, where enchanted blades and goddesses can be found in the unlikeliest of places, no one wants to be a middle child. All the best inheriting goes to the firstborn, and all the best blessings in life elsewise go to the youngest.
Meredydd was a middler, and therefore useless. Unlike her handsome heir of an elder brother, or her lovely little sister, Mer was…there. Well, not really there. She did her best to stay out of the manor as much as possible, preferring the company of others whether they preferred her company or not.


Because my brain has a hard time flowing creatively in one lane, my other big goal is to finish What Happened When Grandmother Failed to Die, that NaNoWriMo project I started in 2019. It features some characters from the Fallen Princeborn universe, but is set in an isolated forest home in the dead of winter back in the 1960s. Trust me when I say this is no story for my daughter or any other child. Oh no. This story comes from the corner of my heart that loves a good scare with a splash of horror.

The kitchen itself wasn’t overrun with crows, at least. There were more pictures pinned to the walls, sure, but there weren’t feathers pinned to the cupboards or beaks in a bowl. It was actually pretty plain in there–wooden cupboards too old for their varnish lined one wall, interrupted only by a window and a sink. A long, narrow butcher’s block sat in the middle of the room, and a simple ovular table with four chairs sat over by a row of windows along the far wall–the back of the house, Chloe figured, since there was a back door, a pile of wood for the fire, and an axe. A big axe stained with blood. Stained with the same blood, maybe, as the blood on one of the kitchen chairs. On the furthest cupboards. In the sink. Maybe the same blood as that which sizzled atop a coating of grease, of oil, of God knows what else on the old gas stove where a kettle steamed.

Thanks so much for having me, Sarah, and sharing my work! I hope you will all stop by sometime and say hello when you can. Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!
-Jean Lee
Website: https://jeanleesworld.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jeanleesworld
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012373211758
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jeanleesworld/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Jean-Lee/e/B07DPP2RV6/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18139027.Jean_Lee

#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.