SUNDAY POST – 30th October, 2022 #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 they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.

It’s been a rather torrid fortnight… Firstly, the good stuff. The celebration meal with my parents was wonderful – it was lovely to see them again. And the pics above are of us with them. My lovely parents are in the middle, the boys are on either side of them in the left photo, while in the right photo my sister is on the left and I’m on the right. It helped that the weather was warm, if a tad cloudy and the food at the Arun View was great. We are now in the tail-end of half term week, which has been a welcome break in amongst the daily routine of school runs and pickups from the station for college. We managed to spend a lovely afternoon at the Wetland and Wildfowl Trust during another amazingly warm October afternoon. And those are the pics below…

But in amongst all of that, my sister needed to go to A & E with terrifically high blood pressure – I’ve never seen a machine flash red warning lights and bleep before… We got to the hospital at 4 pm and finally returned home at 3 am, so it was a real marathon. She was actually seen really quickly, but needed blood tests, a thorough examination and then a brain scan to check for microbleeds. And of course we had to wait for the results. I cannot praise the staff highly enough. Everyone was professional, unfailingly patient and kind. There was also a great vibe amongst the people in our corner of the waiting room, where people were also patient and good humoured, despite a number being in pain and worried about their condition. I felt proud of being a Brit and deeply grateful for our hard-pressed NHS. It turns out my sister is suffering from severe stress and has since seen a doctor and is signed off work for a fortnight – I’m not surprised. Her pharmacy is hugely busy and they have lost 2 part-time and one full-time staff member and only replaced the full-timer. I am shocked at the level of abuse she has to endure on a daily basis by people waiting for prescriptions and underwhelmed by the support she gets from the management. Small wonder that she is ill, having worked flat out through the pandemic and still finding there is no let-up.

Unfortunately, I spent the next two days in bed with exhaustion. I was back on my feet just in time for my covid booster jab, which once more floored me… And Himself was also feeling dreadful with the effects of the jab – fortunately he was on a long weekend, otherwise he would have had to go sick. The good news is that apparently, the fact we felt so ill means that we will have produced a nice lot of antibodies to that strain of covid, which should provide good protection if we fall ill with it.

Poor Oscar has been nursing a shoulder strain, so wasn’t able to go the gym for the last fortnight, which he really missed. But this week he was able to resume his training schedule and also went back to football practice, which he is also enjoying. And Ethan managed to hand in his college assignment for the term with no problems and has been busy revising for his Maths exams, which he goes back to this coming week as he starts his second term at college.

This last week I read:-

Mindwalker by Kate Dylan
Eighteen-year-old Sil Sarrah is determined to die a legend. In the ten years she’s been rescuing imperilled field agents for the Syntex Corporation—by commandeering their minds from afar and leading them to safety—Sil hasn’t lost a single life. And she’s not about to start now.

She’s got twelve months left on the clock before the supercomputer grafted to her brain kills her, and she’s hell-bent on using that time to cement her legacy. Sil’s going to be the only Mindwalker to ever pitch a perfect game—even despite the debilitating glitches she’s experiencing. But when a critical mission goes south, Sil is forced to flee the very company she once called home. Desperate to prove she’s no traitor, Sil infiltrates the Analog Army, an activist faction working to bring Syntex down. Her plan is to win back her employer’s trust by destroying the group from within. Instead, she and the Army’s reckless leader, Ryder, uncover a horrifying truth that threatens to undo all the good Sil’s ever done. With her tech rapidly degrading and her new ally keeping dangerous secrets of his own, Sil must find a way to stop Syntex in order to save her friends, her reputation—and maybe even herself.
I really liked the sound of Sil having to race against her upcoming death at the ripe old age of 19. The whole cybertech part of the book was well handled and I really bonded with the gutsy protagonist. Being a YA read meant the emotion and romance featured heavily, but it certainly didn’t overshadow the main narrative arc. Enjoyable read. 8/10

The Deep End – Book 1 of The Country Club Murders series by Julie Mulhern
Swimming into the lifeless body of her husband’s mistress tends to ruin a woman’s day, but becoming a murder suspect can ruin her whole life.

It’s 1974 and Ellison Russell’s life revolves around her daughter and her art. She’s long since stopped caring about her cheating husband, Henry, and the women with whom he entertains himself. That is, until she becomes a suspect in Madeline Harper’s death. The murder forces Ellison to confront her husband’s proclivities and his crimes—kinky sex, petty cruelties and blackmail.

As the body count approaches par on the seventh hole, Ellison knows she has to catch a killer. But with an interfering mother, an adoring father, a teenage daughter, and a cadre of well-meaning friends demanding her attention, can Ellison find the killer before he finds her?
Laura at Through Raspberry Colored Glasses was talking about this series and I liked the sound of it sufficiently to look out the first book. And then, because I was in the mood, I then read it and thoroughly enjoyed the 1970’s vibe and lovely dry humour. The plotting was also nicely twisty, with a satisfyingly long list of possible suspects – no wonder the series is still going strong with such a successful start. 9/10

The Green Man’s Gift – Book 5 of The Green Man series by Juliet E. McKenna
A teenage boy has turned up in Snowdonia, barely conscious and babbling about beautiful women and fairy feasts. The authorities blame magic mushrooms. The wise women say different and they want dryad’s son, Daniel Mackmain, to investigate. He needs to watch his step in the mountains. Those who live in the hollow hills mask their secrets and intentions with sly half-truths.

Far from the woods he knows, Dan needs help from the allies he has made in past adventures. But he’s a loner at heart. As the true power of his adversary becomes clear, he must decide if he’s willing to see those he cares for put themselves in danger.
Himself saw this one and immediately bought it – quite right too. This series is one of our favourites and this particular adventure, set in the Welsh hills, didn’t disappoint. As ever, McKenna’s strong descriptive writing, clever pacing and charismatic and entirely believable protagonist meant the pages simply turned themselves until I reached the end with that familiar sense of happiness and sorrow that only comes when completing a thumping good read. 10/10

AUDIOBOOK – Chosen For Power – Book 4 of the Dragon’s Gate series by Lindsay Buroker – REREAD
Jak and his allies venture through the portal in search of the longevity plant their king demands, but all Jak wants is to find the elder dragons. Some say they’re extinct. Some say they’re in hiding.

If he can’t locate them, there won’t be anyone to teach his hatchling how to fly. Or to protect the dragon eggs preserved within a glacier on another world. Or to help him free his people from the tyrannical rule of the wizards. Jak has no choice. He must find the dragons. But some ancient secrets were buried for a reason. What he discovers may jeopardize not only Jak and his allies—the survival of the entire species of dragons may be at stake.
I decided to reread this slice of this entertaining epic fantasy adventure as I’ve recently got hold of the next audiobook in the series and I wanted to ensure that I didn’t miss any of the plot points. It was a solid pleasure to follow Jak and his intrepid mother again as they once more are forced to risk their lives to follow King Uthari’s whims. I’m loving this adventure, which confirms Buroker as one of my all-time favourite authors. 9/10

Blood Will Tell – Book 6 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow
At the request of her grandmother, a matriarch of her Aleut clan, Kate Shugak travels to Anchorage to investigate the mysterious deaths of several Council members just before a crucial meeting to determine the fate of some disputed tribal lands.

I completed Breakup before realising that I’d somehow missed reading this one in the right order. As ever, the politics raging over the beautiful, fragile Alaskan eco-system is brilliantly depicted without turning into a moralistic rant. Shugak is a riveting heroine and I found the ending of this one immensely powerful and moving. 10/10

My posts last week:

Review of NETGALLEY arc Unraveller by Frances Hardinge

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring AUDIOBOOK Orbs of Wisdom – Book 6 of the Dragon Gate series by Lindsay Buroker

Wishing you all a happy, health week😊.

Review of NETGALLEY arc Unraveller by Frances Hardinge #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #Unravellerbookreview

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I love Hardinge’s writing – see my review of Deeplight – so when I caught sight of this breathtakingly lovely cover and registered the author, I immediately requested it. And was absolutely delighted to get hold of a review copy.

BLURB: Kellen and Nettle live in a world where anyone can create a life-destroying curse, but only one person has the power to unravel them. But not everyone is happy he can do so and, suddenly, he’s in a race to save both himself and all those who have been touched by magic…

REVIEW: The first issue to tackle is the fact that this book is labelled a children’s read. Hm. I suppose it can be read by youngsters in that there isn’t any swearing or any overt sex and the protagonists are young. But frankly, as with a number of books in this category, this one is simply too good to leave solely to the kids and I strongly advise you not to discount reading this one simply for that reason alone.

I fell in love with Nettle, who has supposedly recovered from a devastating curse thanks to Kellen’s unique gift. But instead of staggering off to try and pick up the threads of her previous life, she chooses to accompany him on his various jobs where he has to unravel curses and return the victims to their families. Nettle had been turned into a heron and still has periods where she stares into the middle distance and is easily startled. She’s also often quite grumpy at Kellen’s tendency to rush into situations, determined to fix people. And then he’s keen to swiftly move on to the next job, rather than hang around and try to deal with the fallout that often occurs once a curse has been reversed.

However, they make a great team. Nettle, for all her slightly birdlike gestures, is clever and particularly good at finding the weak spots in Kellen’s plans when he wants to rush to the rescue. I thought their exasperation with each other worked particularly well – and their mutually reliant relationship heightened the sense of loss when later on in the book, they have been separated.

As for the plot – it is one of the major strengths of the story. I always love it when I’m in the hands of a master storyteller, whose pacing and plotting continually provides unexpected surprises that never feel forced or contrived. And Hardinge is one such storyteller. I kept trying to slow down, knowing that I was thoroughly enjoying this particular reading experience – but at the same time, desperate to know what happens next. The story provides all sorts of reverses and difficulties for our plucky duo – and Hardinge always weaves a sufficiently convincing air of menace, that I’m not ever totally convinced that her protagonists will prevail. I’m conscious that I’ve made this book sound thrilling, yet a bit bleak – and that isn’t the case. There are lovely touches of dry humour throughout.

If you are looking for an engrossing, well-written fantasy adventure that is also a stand-alone, this one comes very highly recommended. While I obtained an audiobook arc of Unraveller from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 26th October, 2022 #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 – AUDIOBOOK Orbs of Wisdom – Book 6 of the Dragon Gate series by Lindsay Buroker – release date – hm… probably end of December 2022/beginning January 2023 (judging by the comparative release dates of the audiobooks to the ebooks in the series).

#fantasy adventure #dragons #magic #delightful mother and son protagonists

BLURB: The final installment in the Dragon Gate saga!

With his mother’s life at stake and the entire world threatened by powerful dragons, the sand in the hour glass is running out for Jak Freedar. He and his allies must find the ancient Orbs of Wisdom and hope they hold the solutions to the problems plaguing humanity and the dragons before it’s too late.
I’ve LOVED listening to the first four books in this gripping epic fantasy series featuring Jak and his archaeologist mother, who get snatched by greedy, ambitious mage King Uthari and have been swept up in the amazing adventure that follows. It is chockful of engaging characters who I’ve grown to love, such as Rookie Tezzy and her enchanted axe – as well as some really nasty antagonists I love to hate. I was thrilled to discover that the fifth book, Sky on Fire, is now available as an audiobook and have just finished listening again to the fourth book, Chosen for Power before tucking into it. So I am thoroughly looking forward to the sixth and final book with a familiar mixture of emotions. I’m desperate to know what happens, yet… I don’t want this series to end!

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 19th October, 2022 #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 – Children of Memory – Book 2 of the Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky – release date – 24th November, 2022

#science fiction #colonisation adventure

BLURB: Earth is failing. In a desperate bid to escape, the spaceship Enkidu and its captain, Heorest Holt, carry its precious human cargo to a potential new Eden. Generations later, this fragile colony has managed to survive, eking out a hardy existence. Yet life is tough, and much technological knowledge has been lost.

Then Liff, Holt’s granddaughter, hears whispers that the strangers in town aren’t from neighbouring farmland. That they possess unparalleled technology – and that they’ve arrived from another world. But not all questions are so easily answered, and their price may be the colony itself.
The first book in this series, Children of Time, is one of my all-time favourite colonisation adventures – I just loved those spiders… While the second book, Children of Ruin wasn’t quite as successful, nonetheless I’m delighted to have got hold of this third book in the series – especially as the premise is so intriguing.

Review of NETGALLEY arc The First Binding – Book 1 of the Tales of Tremaine series by R.R. Virdi #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheFirstBindingbookreview

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BLURB: All legends are born of truths. And just as much lies. These are mine. Judge me for what you will. But you will hear my story first.

I buried the village of Ampur under a mountain of ice and snow. Then I killed their god. I’ve stolen old magics and been cursed for it. I started a war with those that walked before mankind and lost the princess I loved, and wanted to save. I’ve called lightning and bound fire. I am legend. And I am a monster. My name is Ari. And this is the story of how I let loose the first evil.

REVIEW: This one has been compared to The Name of the Wind – which was a major reason why I requested it. And the comparison is spot on. This is Ari The Storyteller, who conjures fires and special effects to beguile audiences, using magical folding techniques to control the magic. In amongst his current adventures, he encounters a beautiful, mysterious woman – and this time around he’s the one who is beguiled. She is also clearly more than she seems and persuades him to open up and tell his story. So we have two narrative timelines running – that of Ari and his current adventures, and his recitation of his past, which is every bit as compelling as what is going on in the present.

By now, you’ll be aware that in order to pull readers into the story and keep them equally engrossed in both narratives, Virdi has to be a talented author with serious writing chops. I’m delighted to report that Virdi is triumphantly successful in producing a highly readable page-turner, despite the ambitious premise and intimidating length. Because by the time I got around to reading it, I wasn’t necessarily in the mood for such a long, epic fantasy about a mysterious magic-user. And I was expecting to read a couple of chapters, then put it to one side and keep going back to it in between other, less hefty and taxing reads. In the event, that didn’t happen, because I simply didn’t want to stop reading the story. And given that it’s 800+ pages, that in itself is an impressive testimony to the compulsive pull of this tale.

I loved it. To the extent that I wasn’t even particularly cross that Virdi has the nerve to leave a book of this length on something of a cliff-hanger. If you’re a confirmed epic fantasy fan, who thinks fondly of Rothfuss, Martin and Hobb et al with a nostalgic sigh, then track this one down. It’s a big, beguiling read full of wit, humour and sadness and marks Virdi as One To Watch. Highly recommended for fans of epic fantasy reads the size of house bricks. While I obtained an arc of The First Binding from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

SUNDAY POST – 16th October, 2022 #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 they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.

I did wonder if I was tempting Fate by writing about my experiences with Long Covid, given the up and down nature of the illness. But though I’d been feeling rather tired recently, I hadn’t had a proper relapse since August. Until this week, when I went to get out of bed on Thursday morning and the minute I put my foot to the floor, the world spun, my stomach roiled and I knew I wouldn’t be going anywhere for the rest of the day except back to bed. And so it proved. I felt too ill to shower or change my clothes, though I did manage to stagger downstairs and have tea with the family. Meanwhile Himself was having to look after me, on top of doing the school run. Fortunately, it was his day off – but it wasn’t remotely restful. In the meantime, I dosed and slept. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was reading or listening to books, feeling too tired to watch TV. I woke up on Friday, feeling much the same – though as the day wore on, I did feel well enough to have a shower.

Then suddenly, at about 10.30 pm, I felt better. As if a huge muffling blanket had been lifted away from me. I’m writing this on Saturday, having got up, showered and dressed. I still feel a little groggy and I don’t have all that much stamina, but the nausea has gone. I think I need to face the fact that I will have to keep managing my energy for the foreseeable future. One of the issues is that I haven’t been getting enough sleep, as years of being an insomniac makes it difficult to wind down and go to bed at a reasonable time. And while I’m doing better than I used to – it’s still not good enough for my body’s needs. I average between five and six hours of sleep a night and I reckon that these days, I need more than that.

The boys have stepped up and helped out, as they always do when I’m ill. Both have had a busy week and today Ethan is out meeting up with friends, while Oscar is recovering from a very hectic football practice. Tomorrow (Sunday) we are meeting up with my parents, who are taking us out for a meal to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary. It’s actually a little early – their anniversary is near the end of next month, but Dad isn’t all that keen on doing the drive home in the dark, which it will be by then as the day length continues to shorten. I am so very excited – I haven’t seen Mum since September 2020 and I cannot recall when the boys last saw her. So it will be a very special reunion for us and my sister, who is joining us.

Last week I read:-

The First Binding – Book 1 of the Tales of Tremaine series by R.R. Virdi
All legends are born of truths. And just as much lies. These are mine. Judge me for what you will. But you will hear my story first.

I buried the village of Ampur under a mountain of ice and snow. Then I killed their god. I’ve stolen old magics and been cursed for it. I started a war with those that walked before mankind and lost the princess I loved, and wanted to save. I’ve called lightning and bound fire. I am legend. And I am a monster. My name is Ari. And this is the story of how I let loose the first evil.
And if this blurb makes you think of The Name of the Wind, then you’re absolutely right – it definitely has a feel of that fantasy classic. It’s also a hefty size, being 800+ pages. That said, while it took me a while to get through it, at no time was I tempted to break off and read something else instead. Review to follow.

Unraveller by Frances Hardinge
Kellen and Nettle live in a world where anyone can create a life-destroying curse, but only one person has the power to unravel them. But not everyone is happy he can do so and, suddenly, he’s in a race to save both himself and all those who have been touched by magic…

I love Hardinge’s writing – see my review of Deeplight. So I immediately requested this arc and was thrilled to receive a copy. And my instincts were spot on – it’s a cracking read. Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK – The Elf Tangent by Lindsay Buroker
As a princess in the impoverished kingdom of Delantria, it’s Aldari’s job to look pretty, speak little, and marry a prince. Studying mathematics and writing papers on economic theory in an effort to fix her people’s financial woes? Her father has forbidden it. With war on the horizon, they must focus on the immediate threat.

Reluctantly, Aldari agrees to marry a prince in a neighboring kingdom to secure an alliance her people desperately need. All is going to plan until the handsome elven mercenary captain hired to guard her marriage caravan turns into her kidnapper. His people are in trouble, and he believes she has the knowledge to help.

But with an invasion force approaching Delantria, Aldari’s own people need her. She must do everything in her power to escape the elves and make it to her wedding in time. Never mind that her kidnapper is witty, clever, and offers her a challenge that intrigues her mind even as his easy smile intrigues her heart… Aldari can’t let herself develop feelings for him. To fall in love and walk away from her wedding would mean the end of her kingdom and everyone she cares about.
I’ve read the ebook, but when I had the opportunity to get hold of an audiobook of this engaging fantasy adventure with a splash of romance, I couldn’t resist it. I really enjoy Buroker’s characters and this particular story was lovely to listen to at a time when I needed an escapist read. 9/10

What Song the Sirens Sang – Book 3 of the Gideon Sable series by Simon R. Green
You can find everything you’ve ever dreamed of in the strange, old magical shop known as Old Harry’s Place. The problem is, not all dreams are kind.

Gideon Sable – legendary master thief, conman and well-dressed rogue – and his partner in crime Annie Anybody don’t want to be shopkeepers, but when the enigmatic Harry decides to retire, he blackmails the pair into taking the store on.

Before the grand reopening can happen, however, a menacing stranger arrives – with a rare and deadly item for them to appraise. A small piece of rock, with an unnerving aura, which ‘Smith’ claims contains the last echoes of the legendary sirens’ song. Before they can find out more, however, Smith vanishes . . . leaving only the stone. Some valuables are more trouble than they’re worth. But before Gideon and Annie can work out if they’ve been set up, the stone is stolen from its impregnable hiding place. How? And why? Gideon only knows one thing for certain: no one steals from him and gets away with it . . .
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this entertaining fantasy heist series – and this next slice of the adventure manages to give yet another twist, without getting steadily darker, as so often happens in ongoing series. Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK – Murder by Other Means – Book 2 of The Dispatcher series by John Scalzi
In the world of the Dispatchers, a natural or accidental death is an endpoint; a murder pushes the do-over button and 99.99% of the time the victim comes back to life. Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher who’s been taking shadier and shadier gigs in financial tough times, and after witnessing a crime gone wrong, he finds people around him permanently dying in a way that implicates him. He has to solve the mystery of these deaths to save the lives of others–and keep himself out of trouble with the law.

I loved Scalzi’s Lock In series – it’s one of the best sci fi murder mystery series I’ve read. So when I saw this Audible exclusive, I scooped up a copy and thoroughly enjoyed it. It isn’t all that long, but the pacing and voice are perfect and there are twists and action throughout. I will be looking out for more in The Dispatcher series for sure. 9/10

Bryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher
Bryony and her sisters have come down in the world. Their merchant father died trying to reclaim his fortune and left them to eke out a living in a village far from their home in the city.

But when Bryony is caught in a snowstorm and takes refuge in an abandoned manor, she stumbles into a house full of dark enchantments. Is the Beast that lives there her captor, or a fellow prisoner? Is the house her enemy or her ally? And why are roses blooming out of season in the courtyard?

Armed only with gardening shears and her wits, Bryony must untangle the secrets of the house before she—or the Beast—are swallowed by them.
This is an intriguing retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a tougher heroine than poor Beauty. Bryony is a gardener, who has already had a far too interesting life to date, which has made her resilient and resourceful. Which is just as well, because she’s up against a terrifying magical opponent. This is a cracking read that had me turning the pages until I came to the end. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – Persuasion by Jane Austen
At twenty-seven, Anne Elliot is no longer young and has few romantic prospects. Eight years earlier, she had been persuaded by her friend Lady Russell to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a handsome naval captain with neither fortune nor rank. What happens when they encounter each other again is movingly told in Jane Austen’s last completed novel. Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, but, above all, it is a love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities.

This is one of my favourite Austen novels – and listening to the version produced by the partly dramatised Jane Austen Collection was a real treat. I love Austen’s take on Bath society and her depiction of Lyme Regis, somewhere I used to know very well. The second-chance romance is beautifully done and while Anne is clearly beset by an uncaring family, she manages not to be too victimised. 9/10

My posts last week:

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Edge of Catastrophe: Terraforming Mars by Jane Killick

Sunday Post – 9th October, 2022

Wishing you all a happy, health week😊.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 12th October, 2022 #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 – Edge of Catastophe: A Terraforming Mars novel – Book 2 of the Terraforming Mars series by Jane Killick – release date – 22nd November, 2022

#science fiction #Mars colonisation #crime thriller

BLURB: In the 26th century, Mars is thriving: the huge crater made by the crashed moon of Deimos is now a vast domed city, buzzing with industry and a burgeoning Martian-born and immigrant workforce. Ecoline scientist Mel Erdan is at the forefront of vital research to feed and maintain Mars’ increasing population. But when her viral enhancer transforms lush green plants into a blackened swathe of dead crops, it triggers a wave of violent unrest across Deimos City, and Mel is accused of deliberately sabotaging Mars’ fragile viability. With resources rapidly dwindling, conspiracy theories flying, and criminal gangs rioting, Mel must prove her innocence, uncover the truth, and revitalise Mars’ harvest before it’s too late – for everyone.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series – see my review of In the Shadow of Deimos – so when I saw the sequel, I was delighted to get hold of a copy. Apparently, the book series is based on a board game, Terraforming Mars, but don’t let that worry you. I was blissfully unaware of that fact after I’d finished the first book. As I haven’t read much science fiction recently, I’m really looking forward to tucking into this one.

SUNDAY POST – 9th October, 2022 #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 they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.

It’s been another busy week. Poor Ethan lost his wallet on his train journey into college – but fortunately, one of his friends lent him the money for a ticket home. We told him it was a rite of passage – we all lose purses/wallets/keys and now he’s coped with it, doing all the right things, including promptly phoning the bank to cancel his card, he has one more adult experience in his arsenal to help his resilience.

Oscar has recently become interested in football (soccer) again, so yesterday Himself took him for a training session with one of the local youth teams – and ended up retrieving balls and helping to put up a temporary goal. He came home very tired and with wet feet, having been up since 2 am due to an early shift. He really is a keeper… We also got Oscar’s bike properly serviced, having the brake and gear cables replaced, the chain tightened and fully oiled so that on the days that he rides to and from school, we know he’s as safe as possible. He isn’t quite big enough for an adult bike, though it won’t be long at the rate he’s now growing – so it doesn’t make sense to buy him something new and shiny right now, when I think he’ll need something bigger in less than a year.

We finally got some new blinds for the kitchen – yay!! The house has been disgracefully neglected, what with one thing and another, over the last couple of years and our previous blinds were long past their sell-by date. So we finally got some new ones. I’m very pleased at how well they go with our colour scheme😊.

As for me, I’ve been struggling somewhat this week. Typical, having written that I’m largely over the Long Covid that has blighted my life for the past eighteen months, that halfway around Tesco last week on the weekly supermarket shop, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the all-too-familiar wave of nausea and tiredness. But the big plus is that it didn’t result in my legs giving way in the middle of the aisle, or having to stagger to the nearest chair. Instead, I was able to continue the task with the help of the boys, though I felt very wiped out afterwards and throughout the week, I’ve been nursing my energy levels as I’ve been really tired. Knowing how this goes, so long as I look after myself, this dragging feeling should ease up in the next day or so. But so far, I haven’t needed to take to my bed for the duration – and that’s a massive win. However, that’s also been reflected in my reading this week as whenever I pick up my Kindle, I end up dozing off.

Last week I read:-

AUDIOBOOK – Ithaca – Book 1 of the Penelope series by Claire North
Seventeen years ago, King Odysseus sailed to war with Troy, taking with him every man of fighting age from the island of Ithaca. None of them has returned, and the women of Ithaca have been left behind to run the kingdom.

Penelope was barely into womanhood when she wed Odysseus. While he lived, her position was secure. But now, years on, speculation is mounting that her husband is dead, and suitors are beginning to knock at her door.

No one man is strong enough to claim Odysseus’ empty throne—not yet. But everyone waits for the balance of power to tip, and Penelope knows that any choice she makes could plunge Ithaca into bloody civil war. Only through cunning, wit, and her trusted circle of maids, can she maintain the tenuous peace needed for the kingdom to survive.

This is the story of Penelope of Ithaca, famed wife of Odysseus, as it has never been told before. Beyond Ithaca’s shores, the whims of gods dictate the wars of men. But on the isle, it is the choices of the abandoned women—and their goddesses— that will change the course of the world.
Oh my goodness! What an amazing listen… For those of you suffering withdrawal symptoms after Madeline Miller’s wonderful Circe and Songs of Achilles and Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls – here is another powerful, moving depiction of the Greek myths from the feminine viewpoint. I absolutely loved it. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

LIVING WITH LONG COVID – My Journey from 6th March 2021 to September 2022

Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK Death Among the Diamonds – Book 1 of the Cressida Fawcett Mystery series by Fliss Chester

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse

Sunday Post – 2nd October, 2022

Interesting blogs and articles that have caught my attention during last couple of weeks, in no particular order:

Friday Faceoff: Guess Who’s Back – Vampires – popular again?I regularly used to enjoy and take part in Friday Faceoff, and in due course I’m hoping to get back to joining in. Which covers do you prefer?

Quarterly Challenge Update: September 2022 Carla’s reading stats frankly awed me. I haven’t generally joined in any of the regular book blogging challenges, although they always look like great fun. Do you – and do they inspire you to stretch your reading?

Gloria!I love reading Jennie’s regular updates on what happens in her classroom – and this is just one example of her inspired teaching…

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday – The Boys from Biloxi by John GrishamI haven’t read one of Grisham’s books for a very long time… So I was intrigued to see this upcoming release pop up.

What’s On My Plate: 15 SFF Books to Read in October 2022Tammy always has some of the coolest new releases around, so I always enjoy visiting her site. Though I’m now tussling with the impulse to get hold of the audiobook of Station Eternity, despite being stacked out with books I still haven’t yet listened to!

Wishing you all a happy, health week😊.

LIVING WITH LONG COVID – MY JOURNEY FROM 6th March 2021 to September 2022 #BrainfluffLIVINGWITHLONGCOVID

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Like millions of people around the world, I contracted Covid-19 before the vaccine programme had time to be rolled out – indeed, I caught it two days after having my first jab, which meant it wasn’t remotely helpful. And like a distressingly large percentage of those millions – I suddenly found my life sliding to a stop in the aftermath of the disease as I was besieged by a succession of symptoms, one in particular being life-altering.

Each person’s experience with the disease has varied widely – there are over 200 symptoms caused by Long Covid. And particularly when I first became ill, finding reliable advice on how to best cope with the illness was difficult. While my doctor’s surgery has been as helpful as they can – and I’ve never encountered anything but kindness and complete acceptance of my version of events from everyone there – they often weren’t able to help. I still remain on the waiting list for the local Long Covid clinic.

So whenever I was sufficiently fit, I logged my ongoing progress on my blog to give folks an inkling as to why I’d gone silent. And now that I think I have mostly recovered from all the major symptoms, I want to sum up my experience and explain what happened and what helped in the hope that another desperate soul trawling the internet, looking for something – anything – that could offer answers for what has befallen them might find some of it useful. So I will be offering up details about myself that I wouldn’t usually reveal. Please treat the information with respect in any comments.

Firstly, I’m a British, white, middle-class woman in my mid-sixties, who is reasonably active and before March 2021, I led a busy, happy life as a writer and Creative Writing tutor. I’ve no underlying health issues, other than mild hypertension which is controlled by a low dose of prescription medication. I caught the Kent strain of Covid from my husband, a train driver, who went down with it when it swept through the train crew at his depot, leaving four people hospitalised and one of them dead. We both went down with the illness hard, though in completely different ways. Himself had a hacking cough and struggled to breathe, and given that he has severe sleep apnea and needs a mask, he found the only way to get any relief was to remain upright. So he camped in the lounge swathed in blankets with the fire full on for four days. Whereas I was running a temperature and couldn’t bear to be anywhere so hot and although I had aching limbs and a sore head, I was overwhelmingly exhausted and just wanted to sleep – often for over ten hours and once for eighteen hours straight. On several occasions I staggered downstairs to make sure he was still alive – and I know that he also checked on me. His blood oxygen levels dropped worryingly low and so he had phone consultations with the local surgery for several days.

However, we both recovered. Indeed, Himself made it back to work impressively quickly despite my concerns that he was pushing himself too hard. Whereas I remained feeling very washed out. On one sunny day, I decided to wash the curtains – and ended up back in bed. In fact, it seemed if ever I tried to do something more than the bare minimum – I’d end up once more engulfed in a terrible tiredness that left me shaking and retching, unable to stand, unable to even think. And increasingly I was confined to bed. By the middle of April I had to face the fact that I wasn’t making a clean recovery and had been stuck with Long Covid. I’ll list the symptoms I encountered below, what I did to try and deal with them and whether it worked. Over the last 18 months, I’ve had:-

Bladder problems. This surfaced during the initial illness, but continued recurring during my relapses, resulting in occasional accidents. Not only was this distressing, but always occurred when I wasn’t very well, anyway which just made me feel even worse.
My solution: Once I realised that this was an issue, I resorted to the advice given me by my lovely Health Visitor half a lifetime ago, after having had a breech birth. Every time I turned a tap on, I contracted my bladder for a slow count of 5. And every time I went to the toilet, I’d attempt to stop my urine flow. Gradually, my control increased until it was no longer a problem – although I was interested to note that whenever I was in the grip of a relapse, I couldn’t stop my urine flow. So the two were definitely connected.

Digestive problems. I lost my appetite during Covid-19 and only ate when my stomach starting hurting through hunger. For a long time afterwards, my appetite was depressed. I’m sure that this was also because I wasn’t doing very much. But I did discover that certain foods caused bloating, wind and tummy upsets. Over time most of the discomfort and upsets have eased, except when I try eating onions.
My solution: Taking digestive medication did ease the symptoms, but I also avoided eating foods that caused problems for a while, until I felt better. Though I’ll leave it a bit longer before trying with onions again, as the resultant pain and stomach upset frankly isn’t worth it.

Loss of smell. Like many sufferers, I lost my sense of smell. Though as I’ve the nose of a bloodhound and during the worst of my relapses I was unable to shower or wash for days at a time – it’s one symptom that I recall feeling quite grateful about. It came back slowly over several months, until one day in June 2021 I suddenly realised I could smell the Marmite on my toast. It’s the only symptom that didn’t bother me overmuch at the time and when I reached the stage when I’d have started to mind about it – it was already returning.

Hair Loss. I began to notice my hair coming out in handfuls sometime in June 2021, especially when brushing or washing it. I’ve always had a good head of hair and I found this symptom particularly devastating. While I was lucky not to have any bald patches, it was noticeably thinner. It had stopped falling out by October 2021, by which time I’d lost between a quarter and half my hair. When it grew back, the new hair was curly, whereas my original hair was straight, which meant that any style quickly became a tousled mess.

My solution: I recently went to the hairdresser and asked her to cut it as short as she could in a style that suits me. Which she did – and I’m a great deal happier. I just could not get used to looking in the mirror after a lifetime of seeing straight hair – and being confronted by those stray curls sticking out in all directions. While my hair was falling out, I was careful when washing it and didn’t towel-dry it or roughly handle it, but other than that – I didn’t find anything that could prevent it. However, everyone told me that it would stop falling out and eventually grow back and they were proved correct.

Difficulty walking and loss of balance. My mobility was badly compromised right from the start in that I simply didn’t have the energy to move quickly. I’ve always been the sort of person who strides around the place and runs up and down the stairs, so this took some getting used to. However, after a relapse in April I found that I began to struggle with balance problems, too.
My solution: I bought a folding walking stick that I kept in my handbag, despite hating the dratted thing. I had friends who complained of suddenly being invisible once they reached a certain age, something I hadn’t been aware of. But once I was walking slowly and using a stick – I simply became an obstacle that people swished past. Fortunately, we live in a crescent, so I was able to walk around it using the stick whenever I felt well enough. I didn’t need the stick inside the house – but that’s because it’s a small house and I automatically moved from handhold to handhold. In October 2021, I started seeing a reflexologist as my progress seemed stuck. And within three weeks of seeing her, I was able to walk again without the stick. I didn’t regain my former walking speed to enable me to keep up with the family until the beginning of September 2022. Up to that point, everyone had to slow down for me.

Depression and anxiety. This was a terrible time. We’d both been very ill and I was massively incapacitated, to the extent that Himself became my carer. I could – on good days – shower and dress myself, but that was it. And thank goodness I never reached the stage when I needed help feeding myself or using the toilet, but it was a close-run thing on occasions. Going out or travelling was a non-starter – I could scarcely make it to the car at times when I needed to attend a doctor’s appointment. Worse, no one could tell me when, or if, this would end. I come from a long-lived family – the thought of living like a frail ninety-something for the rest of my years was a terrible prospect. We also lost my lovely father-in-law in the middle of all this and my mother-in-law, suffering from dementia, had to go into a home. You won’t be surprised that I struggled with my mental health.
My solution: The NHS Time-to-Talk scheme was an enormous help. I had ten sessions with a kind person on the end of the phone, on whom I poured out my fears and anxieties. She suggested I try meditation and my son told me about an app called Headspace, which was excellent at teaching me the basic techniques for focusing on my breath. I have since also found other free meditation apps. It helped me to keep in the moment and stop thinking too much about the future – I just had to get through each day at a time, the best way I could. I think it also massively helped that I have a faith and prayed for strength to deal with what was happening. And the fact that I’m a certain age was also a positive factor, as by now I know my own strengths and weaknesses, both physically and emotionally. I also took strength from my family – my sisters were both tremendously helpful. My middle sister ensured I had any medications that I needed, while I was able to talk through much of my feelings with my younger sister, who is a wellness coach, which was another huge help. Taking as much control as I could in dealing with my symptoms was helpful in empowering me to feel less like a victim, as I learnt to cope with the up and down nature of the illness and better understand what was happening to me. I am an avid reader, and that was also a great lifeline. There were times when I was too tired to watch TV, but I could listen to an audiobook and, when I felt better, read a lovely escapist tale on my trusty Kindle. It also helped that Himself was marvellous – endlessly patient and kind, while he was also dealing with his own heartbreak at what was happening to us.

Brain Fog. And yes… I’m here to tell you it’s a real thing. I was left with my mental faculties badly impaired. I write novels and soon after the initial illness, I sat down at the computer and tried to resume my current book – and just… couldn’t. It was impossible. I couldn’t even think of the right words to use. And in groping for the words, I lost track of what the character was actually trying to say, or even who was saying it. For the first time in my life, I was staring at the computer screen and completely stuck. I tried not to panic about losing my ability to write – and I’m not talking about book reviews, as I can pretty much produce one of those in my sleep. I’m talking about my creative writing.

My mental confusion wasn’t confined to my writing – I’d break off halfway through a conversation, because I lost the thread of what I was trying to say. I’ve always been a chatty person, full of opinions on everything. But partly due to the chronic exhaustion that robbed me of my mental energy, and partly because I was unable to focus, anyway, I became a lot quieter. Indeed, once I began recovering, Himself initially found it quite difficult to get used to the louder, more opinionated version, as he’d had over a year with the quieter model.
My solution: Whenever I felt well enough, I would do wordsearches, sudoku puzzles, TV quizzes, computer brainteasers, word games with the family… anything to stretch my brain. It got worse before it got better, but I am now sufficiently recovered that I don’t immediately notice any lack, except that I don’t possess the mental stamina I used to have. I cannot write for longer than three hours before feeling really tired, though I’m hoping that on regaining my fitness, it will improve, too.

Once I started recovering my mental stamina, soon after I started my reflexology treatment in October 2021, I began editing two other books in the same series as my work-in-progress. It took a while, as there were long periods when I wasn’t well enough to even open up the computer. But eventually, I worked my way through them and finally, in June this year, I managed to complete the chapter that I’d started back in March last year, before I went down with Covid-19. That felt like a very big win.

Eczema. I have had occasional problems with this itchy skin disorder when particularly stressed. But it started up in the middle of the initial illness and from then on, every single time I had a relapse – back it would come. Right between my shoulder blades.
My solution: A variety of skin creams. I’d find that one would keep the itching down until it didn’t and we’d switch to another one. I went on a completely sugar-free diet in an attempt to alleviate the spells of exhaustion and accidentally discovered that once I stopped eating any processed sugar, the eczema dramatically improved.

Swollen thyroid and lymph glands. I’d been aware of pressure on my throat soon after the initial illness – and when I’d start to get exhausted, it would get worse often making me feel nauseous. My lymph glands were also swollen, particularly on the right side to the extent that if I stretched my neck, the lump was visible. They were also very tender and downright painful if touched. When I reported this to the doctor, I was sent for scans, which revealed that I’d got nodules on my thyroid and that my lymph glands were badly deformed. I’ve read that Covid-19 seems to attack specific areas of the body – and I think it was my endocrine system that got hammered.
My solution: For a very long time, there wasn’t anything I seemed to be able to do regarding these symptoms. Although I learnt to pay attention to the throbbing discomfort in my neck – it was a useful indicator that I was doing too much and needed to rest. The lymph glands finally shrank back to normal in September this year, after a course of antibiotics for another symptom.

Persistent chest and upper arm pain. While I didn’t have any breathing problems, during the initial illness, my ribcage was extremely sore with sharp, stabbing pains, especially on the right side. And while the pain cleared up on the left, it continued on the right to the extent that it was months before I was able to wear a bra and I couldn’t lie on my right side in bed as the pain would wake me up.
My solution: I did find that ibuprofen would relieve it when it got painful enough to restrict my movement as I became more active, but as my active periods were interspersed by long periods lying in bed, it wasn’t too much of an issue until I began to fully recover. At that stage, I was referred to the Breast Clinic to ensure the pain wasn’t an indicator of something more nasty. Fortunately, all the scans came back clear, although I found the examinations extremely painful. And I continued to take painkillers when necessary for the pain until it finally eased away in August of this year, which has been a huge relief.

Night sweats. During the initial illness, I’d been sweating heavily with my high temperature, but the night sweats continued afterwards. I’d put up with this particular misery during the menopause, so wasn’t best pleased when it returned.
My solution: Before I contracted Covid-19, I was someone who very much felt the cold, so I had an electric blanket and thermal nightwear. I gradually realised, while struggling with overheating, that my whole metabolism had altered – I now no longer get so cold. So I got rid of all the extra blankets, bought pure cotton nightshirts to wear and while the sweats continued, particularly during a relapse, at least I was a tad more comfortable.

Insomnia. This was grim. I’ve struggled to go to bed at a reasonable time for years – but was also aware that trying to regain my energy levels wouldn’t work if I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep. And while I’m sure the lack of activity was an issue, there was no doubt that when I was unwell, getting to sleep was a nightmare. And if I didn’t, then I could very easily find myself still wide awake at 6 am, and dropping off to sleep just as Himself was surfacing and then sleeping the day away. This clearly wasn’t ideal on any level, so I tried to address the situation. This was one of the biggest ongoing struggles throughout my illness and while it’s improved, I still need to work more on it. These days, I average between five and six hours a night, which isn’t anything like good enough. But at least I don’t battle to fall asleep in the way that I used to.
My solution: To try and help address my sleep issues, my lovely son bought me an oura ring, which is specifically designed to give data on sleep and provide feedback to help change behaviours. It’s been a boon, as I can monitor the quality of my sleep and immediately see whether various strategies are working. I also began switching off screens half an hour before going to bed and reading or listening to a story in low light levels to help wind down, along with a night-time meditation. I did try using Sleepcasts, which my son swears by, and are featured on Headspace. These are descriptions of a particular place, ranging from rain forests to libraries, narrated in a soothing voice. They didn’t work for me, but I mention them because Robbie is a huge fan. What did work is listening to an audiobook on my phone, tucked under the pillow so it doesn’t disturb Himself. I put it on a sleep timer and these days, I’m usually asleep before the half an hour is up.

Tinnitus. I’ve suffered with some tinnitus ever since I burst my eardrum in my 30s. But after going down with Covid-19, this was on a completely different scale. The right ear was far worse than the left and it manifests in a high-pitched squeal. During the day, I was largely able to block it out, except when lying flat in bed, too tired to do anything except stare at the ceiling. That wasn’t fun on any level. And it certainly made getting to sleep more of a challenge. This is the one symptom that hasn’t eased up much, despite my recovery. Fortunately, I’m now well enough to write and frankly – the building could fall down around me and I probably wouldn’t notice. For which I’m very grateful, as it allows me to blank out the ringing in my ears.
My solution: The meditation helps. I have also discovered that drinking too much caffeine aggravates it, so I restrict my intake to 3 small cups a day and all before lunchtime, so I don’t compromise getting to sleep. But listening to a gripping story on an audiobook allows me to zone it out the noise at night so I can sleep.

Post-Viral Fatigue. This is the single symptom that absolutely felled me. Fatigue… exhaustion… tiredness… there needs to be another word to describe it, because it’s unlike any other type of tiredness I’ve ever experienced. It’s a malaise that left me shaking, unable to stand, feeling sick and giddy with such tiredness that even my bones ached. It wasn’t just physical. It also left me too tired to think, or even care at all much. I’d be alright for a few days, or as much as a week, sometimes. Then I’d wake up, put my foot to the floor – and it would hit me with a sickening wave and I knew that I’d be spending the rest of the day in bed, too tired to do much of anything. The worst relapse was in August 2021 when I was bedridden for fourteen days in a row. And afterwards, I found I’d lost much of the progress I’d already made, so I was left far more compromised. In fact, I still haven’t managed to drive to Chichester and back since then, which I’d done in June to take Himself to his first covid vaccination. This single symptom laid waste to my life – I was unable to cook, or clean and going shopping was a distant dream for months and months. I’ve already mentioned that I lost the ability to write for a very long time. The hardest part was not knowing if I’d ever get better.

But I had a couple of huge advantages – while I was dealing with a range of unpleasant symptoms, most of the time I wasn’t in pain. I don’t underestimate what a lucky break that was. And Himself was a superstar, ever-thoughtful, kind and tireless in keeping everything going. So that gave me the space and determination to try to take control of what was happening to me.
My solution: I got hold of a book – Classic Pacing: For a Better Life with ME by Ingebjørg Midsem Dahl, which gave me a range of coping strategies in order to deal with my new life. The first was to accurately gauge how much energy I had and then draw up a timetable so that I ensured my daily activities didn’t outstrip my available energy. When I started, I was shocked to see that my available energy was only running at 20% of what it should be. It took a while to get the balance right, but I believe the days, weeks and months that I put in trying to keep within my energy envelope allowed me to heal.

I also started taking a number of supplements – an iron tonic, vitamin D, vitamin C, B12, and a liquid calcium drink. I hasten to add that I didn’t take all these together, but spaced them out appropriately throughout the day. I also tried probiotics, but they simply don’t agree with me so I discontinued with them, though I’m aware that they have helped quite a lot of Long Covid sufferers. I also paid attention to what I ate. My appetite wasn’t large, but I wanted to ensure that everything I consumed would be helping to build me up – so the first thing I did was to eliminate all processed sugar from my diet. I added turmeric tea, which I now love – and I have tahini on toast in the mornings. I’ve been surprised at some of the side effects from not eating sugar. My lower back pain, which should have been giving me constant grief given how long I’ve spent in bed, has hardly grumbled at all. And the pain I was having in my finger joints and wrists has disappeared. I’ve noticed that I’ve less wrinkles around my mouth and eyes, too. While obviously I’ll have the occasional treat for birthdays and Christmas – there’s no way I’m going back to having my twice-weekly sticky bun. I’m eating a lot of salads and as we’re vegetarians, we eat a lot of veg anyway.

Another recommendation was to make life as easy as possible – so we ordered a bath stool so I was sitting down in the shower, which I still use as it makes the whole process far less tiring. And there are still days when staggering to the bathroom to have a shower is a big deal.

This wasn’t the only useful book I got hold of – the other one was The Long Covid Self Help Guide published by the specialists at the Oxford Long Covid clinic, which I found really helpful in rebalancing my energy versus activity output. I strongly recommend this book for anyone battling with Long Covid and the book on pacing for others dealing with Post-Viral Fatigue. Other than that, it was a question of taking each day at a time and trying to stay as calm and positive as possible – I was shocked at just how much energy negative emotions take once I became well enough for my fury and sadness to surface at having lost such a chunk of my life. If I am getting tired, a fifteen-minute meditation is a brilliant way of resting as it’s a super recharge, helping both mind and body. Others have also found yoga to be similarly helpful.

I am also very lucky to have found an excellent reflexologist, who has certainly helped. My progress stalled last September/October and within a couple of weeks of seeing Laura, a holistic healer who runs Sole to Soul, several major symptoms shifted and improved. I don’t think I’d be where I am now without her intervention.

I am now on the road to recovery, though I still have a way to go. Overall, I put on a stone in weight and given just how inactive I’ve been and my age, it could have been a lot worse. However, I’m keen to lose it. Partly because there is a huge chunk of my wardrobe that I cannot wear and partly because at a time when all my energy is precious – I’m lugging around too many unwanted pounds. I’m now exploring attending a course at the local Leisure Centre specifically for people who wish to recondition their bodies after a significant illness and in the near future, I’ll see if I can get a doctor’s referral. I’m hoping to regain my former fitness so I can reclaim my life. And it’s the least I can do for my wonderful husband and helpmate, who looked after me throughout this terrible time with so much love and tenderness.

Nasal drip and sore sinuses. I’d never heard of nasal drip before I got covid. But this is where instead of mucus running from your nose, it trickles down the back of your throat. This results in a certain amount of discomfort, a horrid taste in the mouth and bad breath. This symptom surfaced sometime during November 2021, after a minor cold. At first I was pleased, as I thought it would drain my poor sore lymph glands. However, it didn’t. It was only my right nostril that was affected, but as time wore on, the sinuses in the right side of my face became swollen and tender and finally even the top of my head grew sore where the sinus cavities on the top of my head were becoming inflamed. It was dreary – and dragged on from November, throughout the winter and finally events came to a head during this summer.
My solution: I had candling and sinus massages at regular intervals, which kept the symptoms manageable. In between my treatments, I was able to prevent my ear from becoming infected by relieving the pressure using a little battery-operated scalp massager which proved to be a lifesaver. I found it very handy for massaging the drainage points for my sinuses once the tenderness spiked into something sharper.

Finally, in June 2022 after dealing with this for seven months, I woke up to a streaming nose. At first I thought I’d gone down with a cold, but it was just the right nostril that was congested – the left one was completely clear. I coped with it for nearly two months, but there was no sign of it easing. By now my nose was sore and my face felt it was about to fall off every time I bent over – a sure sign that my sinuses were infected. I phoned up the surgery and got an emergency appointment and was immediately put on a course of antibiotics. And within three days of starting the course, it had completely dried up. It took another week or so for my sinuses to calm right down and best of all – my lymph glands also returned to their normal shape. And to all intents and purposes, as I haven’t suffered any form of relapse sending me back to bed since the middle of August – I think I can now say at the beginning of October 2021, my Long Covid is now over.

And I cannot begin to sum up just what a relief it is to be able to type those words. While this was always the outcome I was aiming for – there was a long time when it seemed a distant dream. For those of you struggling in the middle of this slow-motion nightmare, let me offer you light at the end of the tunnel. It is possible to recover from the endless cycle of improvement followed by relapse and there can be a time when the never-ending stream of one grotty symptom after another will ease up. Just don’t give up hope.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK Death Among the Diamonds – Book 1 of the Cressida Fawcett Mystery series by Fliss Chester #BrainfluffNETGALLEYAUDIOBOOKreview #DeathAmongtheDiamondsaudiobookreview

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I have a real weakness for 1920s era cosy mysteries, so I was delighted when this one popped up on the Netgalley dashboard – and I was even more chuffed when I was approved to listen to it.

BLURB: Everyone in 1920s London knows the Honourable Cressida Fawcett: fiercely independent (though never apart from her little pug Ruby), lover of martinis and interior designer extraordinaire. She’s solved many crimes of fashion… so how about murder?

Cressida Fawcett is heading to the English countryside for a weekend of cocktails and partying at her friend’s glamorous mansion, the location of a recent diamond heist. But just hours after her arrival, Cressida is woken by an almighty scream. Rushing to the landing, she looks down into the great hall to find a trembling maid standing next to the body of Harry, the friendly young chandelier cleaner…

REVIEW: I’ve cut the rather chatty blurb short, as it gives away too much of the storyline. I was expecting an enjoyable slice of country house life in a glamorous era that I recall hearing a lot about when I was young, as my grandmother had been a flapper. What I hadn’t been expecting was quite such a twisty plot, full of events and all sorts of shenanigans. At one point, I was getting a bit fed up – as I knew exactly where the diamonds were hidden and was irritated that Cressida hadn’t put it together. Until it transpired that they weren’t there after all… I do love it when that happens!

Cressida is a feisty, headstrong young woman with an independent income and a nice life with no intention of spoiling it all by becoming someone’s wife. Her loving companion is her little pug dog, Ruby, who accompanies her in all her adventures and often is helpful in unravelling clues. I liked the fact that in amongst all the action, Ruby is never forgotten or overlooked, which can happen at times to fictional pets. And I’m also prepared to bet that Chester has owned or owns a little pug, as her descriptions of Ruby’s behaviour and appearance are always spot on.

I liked Cressida’s impulsiveness and constant curiosity. She is an adventurous soul who got into a number of scrapes at school and has been known to cut loose in memorable ways at certain London nightclubs, when the champagne cocktails are flowing. I enjoyed Chester’s habit of never spelling out exactly what she gets up to, giving the reader the opportunity to fill in the gaps. She is also innately kind with a strong sense of justice, despite a blithe disregard for authority if it doesn’t suit her. Daphne Kouma’s excellent narration brought her vividly to life, along with all the goings-on at a house party memorable for all the wrong reasons.

The denouement works well, making absolute sense – which isn’t always the case in whodunits where more than one murder has occurred – and bringing the whole affair to a satisfactory conclusion. All in all, this is a thoroughly entertaining country house whodunit featuring a pleasing protagonist and her loyal canine companion. Recommended for fans of 1920’s murder mysteries. While I obtained an audiobook arc of Death Among the Diamonds from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10