Sunday Post – 17th January, 2021 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

It’s been a very quiet week. Himself has been going off to work as usual, though he says the trains are nearly empty. And I’ve gone nowhere, other than shopping in town last Tuesday, while Himself whisked around the supermarket. It was cold earlier in the week and the pictures are of frost-covered plants from the garden taken one brisk morning.

I was a bit surprised when WordPress told me this week that I’d just reached my twelve-year blogging anniversary – where does the time go? Other than that, I’ve been working at home, catching up on the blog, working with my father-in-law on his memoirs and writing the opening act of Trouble With Dwarves. And reeling at the numbers of people falling sick…

Last week I read:

Haunted House Ghost – Book 5 of the Braxton Campus mysteries by James J. Cudney

It’s Halloween, and excitement is brewing in Braxton to carve jack-o’-lanterns, go on haunted hayrides, and race through the spooky corn maze at the Fall Festival.
Despite the former occupant’s warnings, Kellan renovates and moves into a mysterious old house. When a ruthless ghost promises retribution, our fearless professor turns to the eccentric town historian and an eerie psychic to communicate with the apparition. Meanwhile, construction workers discover a fifty-year-old skeleton after breaking ground on the new Memorial Library wing.
While Kellan and April dance around the chemistry sparking between them, a suspicious accident occurs at the Fall Festival. Soon, Kellan discovers the true history and dastardly connections of the Grey family. But can he capture the elusive killer – and placate the revenge-seeking ghost.
This was great fun, with lots of Halloween goodness – and goodies – in amongst the twisting plot that dear Kellan finds himself confronted with. We also have a ringside seat to his rather tangled personal life, which I keep hoping will get a bit happier and more settled… Review to follow.

Cruel as the Grave – Book 22 of the Bill Slider mysteries by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Fitness trainer Erik Lingoss is found dead in his west London flat, his head smashed by one of his own dumbbells. His heartlessly-dumped girlfriend, blood on her clothes and hands, is the prime suspect. She had means, opportunity, and motive.

But is the case as clear-cut as it seems? Handsome Erik Lingoss had clients in high places; and he seemed to engender powerful emotions. If it was a crime of passion, there was plenty of that to go round: love strong as death, jealousy cruel as the grave. Who did he let in to his flat that evening? Where is his missing mobile phone? Why is seven hundred pounds in cash stuffed under his pillow? The deeper Slider and his team dig, the clearer it becomes there’s far more to this case than meets the eye.
I loved this gloriously plotted police procedural – Harrod-Eagles absolutely nails it in this classy whodunit, which was difficult to put down. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, as I particularly appreciated the lighter touches that meant it wasn’t too gloomy, yet still being mindful that someone had died. Nicely done! Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

AUDIOBOOK Review of Finding the Fox – Book 1 of The Shape-Shifter series by Ali Sparkes

Friday Face-off featuring Earthlight by Arthur C. Clarke

Review of INDIE Ebook A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher

My 2020 Reading Year – the Statistics

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Cruel as the Grave – Book 22 of DCI Bill Slider mysteries by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Doors of Sleep – Journals of Zaxony Delatree by Tim Pratt

Tuesday Treasures – 22

My Outstanding Reads of 2020

Sunday Post – 10th January 2021

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

SPFBO Finalist Super Sale https://mlwangbooks.com/spfbo-finalist-super-sale/ For Fantasy fans of all types – this is a fantastic opportunity to pick up some marvellous reads for only $0.99 each. It lasts until 20th January, so nip across and take a look…

Reptile Dysfunction https://blogging807.wordpress.com/2021/01/14/reptile-dysfunction-2/ My lovely blogging pal Rae reblogged this series of funnies – check them out if you’d like a good laugh…

A year like none other before https://earthianhivemind.net/2021/01/03/a-year-like-none-other-before/ And yes… I know that I discovered this one a couple of weeks after it was posted – but I really like Steph’s message. And I thought her comparison with what her grandmother had endured in her life was both timely and a comfort…

Italy to Australia https://imageearthtravel.com/2020/08/16/italy-to-australia/ For those of you still stranded in Lockdown limbo, like me, you might also find this enjoyable…

EOS 10 – SF Podcast – Season 1 https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2021/01/12/eos-10-sf-podcast-season-1/ Maddalena has reviewed this podcast and provided a link for those who might like to try it out…

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

Castellan the Black and his Wise Draconic Tips on Food and Drink #BrainfluffCastellanthe Black #WiseDragonicTipsonFood&Drink #PickyEaters

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Some do-gooders insist you shouldn’t eat any species that can beg for mercy. You can ignore this nonsense by biting their heads off before asking them if they want to be spared.

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.

Review of AUDIOBOOK Finding the Fox – Book 1 of The Shapeshifter series by Ali Sparkes #Brainfluffaudiobookreview #FindingtheFoxbookreview

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I’m a real fan of Ali Sparkes’ writing – see my reviews for Frozen in Time and Dark Summer – so I was delighted to see this offering was in Frank’s audiobook list.

BLURB: Dax Jones is an ordinary schoolboy – until something extraordinary happens one day. Whilst frightened for his life, he inexplicably changes into a fox. Before long, both a government agent and an ambitious young journalist are on his tail.

REVIEW: And that’s how you do a blurb, people! A brief overview of what the stakes are and the genre to give readers an idea if they’ll like the book – NOT spoiling the first major plotpoints in the book. Right – rant over.

I love Dax, who has certainly drawn the short straw when a happy family life was handed out. His mother died when he was four years old and his stepmother dislikes him and makes no secret of the fact. As for his father – he’s away working most of the time and doesn’t make much of an effort to bond with his son, anyway. Is he angry about it? Oh for sure – but Dax has learnt not to show it, so he buries his anger. Until it manifests… differently.

Sparkes is really clever at depicting realistic, rounded characters which is why she is such a firm favourite with me. I was right alongside Dax, rooting for the quiet, wary boy who learnt far too young that the world is often a cruel, uncaring place. But that also gives him an advantage – he isn’t easily taken in. And that distrust gives him a vital edge when someone means him harm. I also liked the supporting cast – this is the start of a six-book series, so part of the task is to establish some of the main characters, such as Gideon, Dax’s new friend and some of the teachers who will clearly be featuring in coming adventures. The denouement of this adventure is genuinely gripping, and instead of carrying on with my chores, I sat down to listen, not willing to miss any of the action. This gripping read is recommended for children, particularly boys, aged 9-11who enjoy fast-paced fiction with a fantasy twist.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – Who doesn’t want to fly around in a spaceship? #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffspacebattlecovers

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with SPACE BATTLES. I’ve selected Earthlight by Arthur C. Clarke.

Ballentine, September 1975

This offering was produced by Ballantine in September 1975. And no… I know there aren’t any spaceships as such – or are there??? Look carefully at those twinkles in the sky – they are far too regular and in formation to be anything other than an armada of ships about to attack this peaceful colony! This one is a very close contender. I love the artwork, the lighting and the funky font – and the vintage feel of it. If it wasn’t for the next cover, this one would be my favourite.

Del Rey Book, October 1977

Published in October 1977 by Del Rey Books, this is my favourite. I love the really clever, creative use of the author and title fonts, where the spaceship seems to flying under it. The use of the strong reds, oranges and the sizzling yellow of the explosion down near the bottom of the cover and right in the middle, gives both a pleasing symmetry and grabs my attention. This is such a cool, imaginative design that consciously harks back to an earlier time. Why don’t we see more fonts like this nowadays? It sings out in thumbnail and looks really effective.

Thai edition, March 2018

This Thai edition, published by สำนักพิมพ์เวลา in March 2018, is a more muted affair. But it is an effective cover, nonetheless. The darker sky allows us to see the battle raging overhead, which looks beautiful from the planet surface. I also like the colony building in the foreground – this is a more modern version of the first cover. However, I’m not convinced about the title font, which simply disappears into the cover when in thumbnail.

This Persian edition, published in 1994 by پاسارگاد, is another strong offering, particularly if you are a fan of space battles (I am!). We have the Moon to the right and Earth near the centre of the cover and an exploding ship lighting up the whole scene in a really dramatic way. While I love the design, I would have preferred to see more made of the title font, with a more contrasting colour and maybe a bit bigger.

Orion Publishing Group, August 2012

This edition, produced by the Orion Publishing Group in August 2012, is cleverly disturbing. A planet or the Moon is in the foreground, while a molten blob that looks like a planet in mid-implosion provides most of the backdrop. Putting the lettering against the blazing yellow of the lava would have been an even smarter move if they hadn’t used such a very wussy font that immediately disappears. And I loathe that text strip near the bottom of the cover, announcing it is Gateway Essentials… really? They couldn’t have just coloured the font white and let the contrast provide the necessary visibility? Because that nasty yellow stripe immediately draws the eye away from the drama, compromising the impact of the design. Such a shame! Meanwhile, do let me know which is your favourite.

Review of INDIE Ebook A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher #BrainfluffINDIEbookreview #AWizardsGuidetoDefensiveBakingbookreview

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I treated myself to this one with some of my birthday money, after it was recommended to me by one of my book blogging buddies – and I’m so sorry that I cannot recall who! If you do remember my gushing over it, feel free to come and nudge me in the ribs and I’ll namecheck you…

BLURB: 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…

REVIEW: This one is a solid delight. I absolutely loved it. Mona is such a superb protagonist – having been orphaned and then looked after by her aunt and uncle, her life is jogging along quite nicely. But then the appearance of a dead body in the bakery upsets everything. And from then on, Mona’s life becomes a lot more complicated.

The setting is a medieval city state where most of the subjects are just about coping, though there is widespread poverty. I believed in the world, the politics and the way prejudice against folks with magical ability had been subtly stirred up – it was nicely done. But what makes this book really stand out is the magic. Or rather – Mona’s magic… It’s a joy. Both funny and completely believable, the way Mona’s desperate efforts to save the day made this a gripping read so that I stayed up far too late to discover what happened. And I’ve been mourning the loss of this world ever since I stopped reading it. I even dreamt about it…

I also liked the depth of the supporting characters – as well as Mona’s anger at the adults’ inability to sort things out, so that it’s down to her. Such a natural reaction, but one I don’t see all that often in these sorts of adventures. I very much hope that Kingfisher finds that her lovely heroine won’t leave her alone – and that she, too, misses Mona. Because I’d love to read more about this gutsy, quirky teen.
10/10

My 2020 Reading Year – the statistics #Brainfluffbookblog #BrainfluffReadingYear2020

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Despite being a truly horrible year, reading-wise it has been marvellous. Once again, I kept my reading challenge to read and review at least 100 books, which I achieved by reading 184 books with 155 full reviews written, though 23 have yet to be published.

I have read 111 books by female authors and 75 by men – the sharp-eyed among you will have notice that adds up to 186, but there were two books in this year’s list with joint authorship – Sacred Bride by David Hair and Cath Mayo and Sweep with Me by Ilona Andrews, which is a husband and wife writing team. I am happy with that ratio, given that male authors still get higher priority in bookshops and more prestigious reviews, especially in SFF.

In a related challenge I set myself the task of reading at least two books a month by female authors. I managed to read 35 books in this category, which is 19% of my 2019 reading list, while 9% of books were by male authors I hadn’t previously read, which means that 28% of the books I read last year were by authors new to me. This is in contrast with last year’s 37% – but I’m not going to get unduly worried about that. I was in survival mode for quite a lot of the year, and reading was one of my main ways of keeping stress levels at bay. I wasn’t in the mood to experiment – indeed I was expecting this number to be lower.

I had originally intended to cut right back of review copies during 2020, and focus on tucking into my disgracefully large TBR. But once Lockdown hit, that went out of the window. Apart from anything else, a lot of wonderful books from authors I already knew and loved suddenly appeared on Netgalley. And as you can see – I went a bit overboard with requesting new arcs, as I reviewed 81 newly released books. I also bought 59 new books and only read a measly 41 books from my TBR pile. As for library books – that was also a complete bust, but in my defence, our library has been closed most of the year. I am going to try and read more books I already own – but to be honest, until the pandemic subsides, I’m giving myself a pass.

As you can see, I read 157 ebooks, 3 print books and listened to 24 audiobooks. Again, I had intended to read more of our print books that we own during 2020 – another target that went out of the window during Lockdown. And yes… while I appreciate that I do need to knuckle down and read more of them, right now, I find it far easier to read ebooks. So until things ease up, that’s what I’ll do. The one surprise is the fact I read far fewer audiobooks than last year, but that is because I tend to select large, hefty tomes to listen to while I’m houseworking. Whereas last year, I was working my way through my young grandson’s audiobook list of children’s and YA listens which were a great deal shorter.

In 2020 I read 59 science fiction books, 68 fantasy books, 27 crime adventures, 1 contemporary fiction, 21 historical books, 1 non-fiction book and 27 children’s books. Science fiction includes sub-genres such as space opera, colony adventures, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic, time travel, alternate history, military, futuristic crime, literary and steampunk. Fantasy includes sub-genres such as epic, urban, swords and sorcery, musket and magic, sand and sorcery, underworld, historical, grimdark and coming of age. I am still working my way through Frank’s audiobook library, which was mostly fantasy, but decided to take those out of the equation by putting them in a separate category. Even so, fantasy still is my most popular genre, followed by sci fi.

I have read 37 books by small presses and self-published authors, which is only 20% of my 2020 reading list. I think this low number has been skewed by my increased numbers of review copies from Netgalley which are most usually offered by traditional publishers. And yes – this is a number I would like to improve upon, but I’m refusing to consider any such target until Life gets a whole lot easier.

Did you find the situation last year impacted your reading patterns, too?

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 13th January, 2021 #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 – Cruel as the Grave – Book 22 of DCI Bill Slider mysteries by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles – release date 2nd February

#crime #police procedural murder mystery

BLURB: Fitness trainer Erik Lingoss is found dead in his west London flat, his head smashed by one of his own dumbbells. His heartlessly-dumped girlfriend, blood on her clothes and hands, is the prime suspect. She had means, opportunity, and motive.

But is the case as clear-cut as it seems? Handsome Erik Lingoss had clients in high places; and he seemed to engender powerful emotions. If it was a crime of passion, there was plenty of that to go round: love strong as death, jealousy cruel as the grave.

Who did he let in to his flat that evening? Where is his missing mobile phone? Why is seven hundred pounds in cash stuffed under his pillow? The deeper Slider and his team dig, the clearer it becomes there’s far more to this case than meets the eye.

No… I haven’t read the previous 21 books, and probably won’t get around to doing so, either. But I have read Old Bones, Shadow Play and Headlong, the last three books, and enjoyed the experience sufficiently so it was a no-brainer to request this arc the minute I saw it was available. Harrod-Eagles is a mistress of the twisty plot and I’ve grown to really like dear Bill, who has an unexpectedly happy family life and a good solid team around him. Anyone else about to tuck into this offering?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Doors of Sleep – Journals of Zaxony Delatree series by Tim Pratt

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I haven’t read anything by this author, but the cover caught my eye and I really liked the premise. I’m also a fan of Angry Robot, whose output is invariably interesting and well written, so I was delighted to be approved for this arc.

BLURB: Every time Zax Delatree falls asleep, he travels to a new reality. He has no control over his destination and never knows what he will see when he opens his eyes. Sometimes he wakes up in technological utopias, and other times in the bombed-out ruins of collapsed civilizations. All he has to live by are his wits and the small aides he has picked up along the way – technological advantages from techno-utopias, sedatives to escape dangerous worlds, and stimulants to extend his stay in pleasant ones. Thankfully, Zax isn’t always alone. He can take people with him, if they’re unconscious in his arms when he falls asleep. But someone unwelcome is on his tail, and they are after something that Zax cannot spare – the blood running through his veins, the power to travel through worlds…

REVIEW: I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining portal adventure, which has a pleasingly old-fashioned feel. The overarching narrative is very straightforward. For reasons that poor Zaxony doesn’t fully understand, every time he falls asleep or unconscious – he jumps worlds. Initially, he spends his time in a horrified daze as he tries to come to terms with his new normal. For the worlds that Zax encounters are mind-bogglingly various, ranging from idyllic to nightmarish and everything in between. He can take someone with him, as long as he is holding them when he falls asleep – but he is haunted by an upsetting incident where a lovely woman he fell in love with stayed awake during their journey between worlds and arrived in the new world raving – her mind broken by the experience. So he is very careful who he takes along.

We join Zax in the middle of his adventures, after a couple of the companions he has taken with him haven’t turned out to be ideal – and just as he starting a relationship with another kindly soul. There is a generally upbeat, positive vibe running through the series of adventures that I thoroughly welcomed and while the main plot isn’t overly complicated, or particularly original – what made this book really stand out is the sheer inventiveness and variety of alll those worlds Zax visits. There is a building sense of frustration that we only ever see the thinnest slice of their dynamic – because as soon as Zax falls asleep, off we go to somewhere entirely new, again. But I really liked that niggling sense of annoyance, as it helped me bond with dear old Zax, who is generally a well-meaning, honest chap – in sharp contrast to a nicely satisfyingly nasty antagonist in the form of the Lector, an archetypal evil scientist.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure and note with satisfaction that it looks as though this is the first in a series. Highly recommended of fans of science fiction adventures with an upbeat tone. While I obtained an arc of Doors of Sleep from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Tuesday Treasures – 22 #Brainfluffbookblog #LightintheLockdown

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In this week’s Tuesday Treasures, I’ve taken a series of photos from last Thursday, when we went for a walk along Littlehampton beach. The grandchildren were with us and it was a beautiful sunny afternoon without a breath of wind. It was amazingly mild for the time of year, so I could dawdle on the shingle, soaking up the sun and watching the boys tussle down by the sea. They both returned with wet shoes, but that was okay. I got them dry before they went home the following day. A drop of golden happiness in the middle of the gloomiest of gloomy winters…

My Outstanding Reads of 2020 #Brainfluffbookblogger #2020OutstandingReads

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The wonderful books I’ve encountered during this horrible year have, at times, kept my head straight when other pressures have added an extra twist of awfulness due to the pandemic. I have encountered a number of talented authors I’d previously not had the pleasure of reading (I’m looking at you Mary Robinette Kowal, Elisabeth Bear, Marilyn Messik and T. Kingfisher) and managed to complete 11 series, while working my way through 66 other series. I’ll get more nerdy in my post about the stats relating to my 2020 reads, later in the week.

During 2020 I read 184 books and wrote 155 full reviews, with 23 still to be published. In no particular order, these are the books that have stood out for me. It might be that I didn’t originally give them a 10 – but these books have stayed with me, which is why they made the cut. And let’s forget any top ten nonsense – whittling down my list to this paltry number was painful enough!

Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Despite reading this one back in January, I often found myself thinking about brave, clever Emily and what she underwent. That is the mark of a special book – when it won’t leave you alone. I think it’s one of Tchaikovsky’s best, and given the man’s towering talent, that’s saying something. See my review.

AUDIOBOOK Ancestral Night – Book 1 of the White Space series by Elizabeth Bear
Elizabeth Bear is another wonderful author I discovered this year – and the good news is that she has a pleasingly long backlist. This one was an utter joy to listen to – Haimey’s first-person narrative held me throughout, even though the pacing was somewhat leisurely at times. This book at 500+ pages has it all – vivid action scenes, nail-biting tension, and plenty of plot twists and shocking reveals. And of course a space cat – who could resist that? See my review.

You Let me In by Camilla Bruce
By rights, this shouldn’t have worked for me – I really don’t like books featuring an abused child. But the way Bruce posits this situation is masterfully done, as Cassie narrates her adventures with Pepperman, a grumpy and dangerous fae entity, who draws the small child into the world of the fae. This book has also stayed with me throughout the year. Read my review.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey
This is such a simple book with lots of pictures. The story of four different creatures, who come together to help each other. It could so easily have turned into a treacly, sentimental mess. But it doesn’t. My lovely sister-in-law gave me my copy and it has been beside me ever since. Read my review.

TUYO – Book 1 of the Tuyo series by Rachel Neumeier
The opening sequence of this book immediately hooked me and wouldn’t let me go. I enjoy Neumeier’s writing, anyway. But this amazing world and the vividness of her characters still have me regularly thinking about them. In particular, the depiction of being ensorcelled was brilliantly portrayed – I’ve never seen it done better. Read my review.

AUDIOBOOK Deep Roots – Book 2 of The Innsmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys
This riveting world has left me yearning for more after reading the first book Winter Tide, which made my Outstanding Reads of 2017. So I was thrilled to discover this offering. Aphra is still coming to terms with the loss of her parents, friends and relations when confronted with a new danger. Once more I was pulled into a tense adventure where Lovecraftian monsters were only part of the threat. Read my review.

Last Dragon Standing – Book 5 of the Heartstrikers series by Rachel Aaron
This is as much about the celebration of this quirky, enjoyable series, as much as it is about the climactic battle that wraps up the story. Peopled with shape-shifting dragons, a powerful ghost who assumes the shape of a cat and an enraged nature goddess, this urban fantasy reaches epic proportions, with all sorts of surprises and twists along the way. Review to follow.

The Book of Koli – Book 1 of the Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey
I very much enjoyed The Girl With All the Gifts, but I liked this even better. Koli is an endearing character with his youth and restless energy that gets him into far too much trouble within his village. This book is set in post-apocalyptic England, where even trees have become feral – but there are welcome shafts of light, too. Read my review.

AUDIOBOOK The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel
This whole series is a tour de force and I loved listening to this extraordinary conclusion to Cromwell’s life, as an embittered Henry VIII becomes ever more difficult to deal with – and Cromwell’s many enemies begin to circle. I wept at the end, which was wonderfully handled – and I’m still trying to work out how Mantel managed to keep me spellbound for so long, when I already knew the outcome before listening to the first chapter. Read my review.

Relatively Strange – Book 1 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik
This was one of those books I picked up and couldn’t put down again. Messik’s writing is utterly addictive, as far as I’m concerned and Stella is now my new best friend. I finished this one far too fast and was miserable until I picked up the next one in the series. I think this was the worst book hangover I endured during the year. Review my review.

The Relentless Moon – Book 3 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal
This is another of those wonderful authors I discovered this year – and this series just blew me away. I loved Elma York and her battles to gain recognition during the first two books in the series – but when this story introduced me to Nicole, who finds herself trying to track down a saboteur on the Moon, I not only loved every single minute of the book, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, afterwards. Read my review.

A Memory Called Empire – Book 1 of the Teixcalaan series by Martine Arkady
I tracked down this one, after hearing it compared to the great C.J. Cherryh’s immersive writing style. And I wasn’t disappointed. I loved watching poor Mahit, replacement ambassador to the enigmatic Teixcalaani empire, flounder as she tries to work out just how her predecessor died. This tense murder mystery played out in the far future kept me up far too late as I couldn’t put it down. Read my review.

AUDIOBOOK Charlotte Sometimes – Book 3 of the Aviary Hall series by Penelope Farmer
I have always enjoyed reading Children’s fiction, because the very best is far too good just to leave to the kids. And this gem certainly falls into that category. A children’s classic that was published in 1969, it is written with depth and sophistication about two schoolgirls who cris-cross into each other’s times. Until something happens to Charlotte… I loved this one. Set in 1918, the period is beautifully portrayed and the bittersweet ending has stayed with me. Read my review.

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher
This is another of those books for children, which engrossed and delighted me. Mona is a baker’s apprentice with a small magical talent, who suddenly finds herself caught up in a murder. Events snowball entertainingly – and I found myself thoroughly enjoying Mona’s ingenious creations to try and stay ahead of the baddies. Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK The Stranger Diaries – Book 1 of the Harbinder Kaur series by Elly Griffiths
I enjoy Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series, so decided to try this latest series and absolutely loved it. There is a tongue-in-cheek Gothic vibe that I found very appealing. Though I have a shocking memory, the twists and turns of this enjoyable murder mystery have stayed with me. Read my review.

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken – Book 3 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
I was utterly beguiled by Vish when I first encountered him during the fifth book of the series, The Case of the Reincarnated Client earlier in the year and have been eking out the rest of the series ever since. Vish Puri is fond of calling himself the Indian Sherlock Holmes and his energetic attitude and passion for justice are very endearing – even if he does dismiss his clever, streetwise Mummy-Ji, who often takes a close interest in his cases. This book has an extra dimension and Hall is adept at dealing with hefty issues of the painful events around India’s partition in a respectful manner, without making it dreary. Read my review.

While I’d like to think that each one of these books offers some brain fodder, none of them are gloomy, downbeat reads as this year I needed to escape. And my favourite book of 2020? Probably Ancestor Nights, though I’m likely to claim it’s The Relentless Moon if you ask me the same question again tomorrow. And then there’s Relatively Strange, of course…