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SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #2

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In my previous article, I wrote about the run-up to the crisis that had me in despair, which happened just after my last major relapse in the third week of August. In this Sunday Post, hosted by Kimberly, the Caffeinated Reviewer, I’ll talk about what I discovered when I was well enough to be able to go online and search for more information.

The first couple of times I’d searched, I’d found some rather generic advice and a couple of accounts by other sufferers. But there was nothing specific that I could actually use to help me form any kind of coherent recovery plan. The doctor had organised a blood test, which discovered that I was slightly deficient in vitamin D, which I promptly fixed by ordering the recommended dose of tablets. However, that didn’t appear to make any difference. This time around, my online searching hit the jackpot.

Almost immediately, I came across an article recommending that Long Covid sufferers struggling with chronic fatigue get hold of a book – Classic Pacing: For a Better Life with ME by Ingebjørg Midsem Dahl, which I immediately ordered. I went for the print version, which is a bit of a beast, but I use a bookstand so I’m not holding it and I think it’s by far the better option. There are tables and lists, which are much easier to read on a real page, rather than on an ebook. At long last, I had a measure of the extent of my condition and – even more importantly – a strategy to try and stabilise my symptoms, so that I wasn’t trapped in this miserable pattern of recovery and relapse. The book recommends that I gauge my energy levels, then attempt to operate below my limit to ideally avoid becoming bedridden again.

That said, I was a bit chastened when I realised just how limited my life would be – no more quick trips to the beach for the foreseeable future. But we reckoned it was worth it if it helps my ultimate recovery from Long Covid. It also recommends that I take advantage of any equipment to enable me to rest – like using a bath stool to sit while showering, for example. This has meant I’m able to shower more frequently, which helps my mental health. When I am too weak to shower, most days I can still manage a quick wash while sitting at the sink. I went to the physio to get a set of very gentle exercises I can do lying down, on my good days, to try and stop my body becoming a flabby blob. Though fortunately, so far I haven’t put on any weight. On really good days, I take a walk around the block with Himself, using my walking staff as support to help with my balance issues. I think I’m getting a bit quicker, but a dozing snail could still overtake me with ease.

The other major recommendation was to rest frequently during the day, after each task. This prospect would have left me dismayed – but for the fact that someone online had recommended using meditation. Not only does it assist in resting the mind and body, it also teaches calmness and focus. When I mentioned this to my son, he immediately pointed me towards Headspace, an app I could upload onto my phone. This has been a huge help in helping me rest mindfully, but also to meditate on getting better, keeping positive and being kinder to myself. There are also sleepcasts and meditations to help relax before bedtime, which is important as I have a dysfunctional relationship with sleep that goes back years.

I now keep an activity journal, where I write down what I do every day and give each day a mark out of 10 for my mental and physical state. Himself has been putting these in a graph – I’ve now two months of data, as I’d started keeping the score before my relapse. This is important as Time now feels very odd. Each day runs quite slowly, but when I look back, days and weeks seem to bleed into one another so my perception of what has gone before is completely impaired. And obviously, to aid my recovery I need to understand whether I’m getting better or not, so I need a clear record of what happens on a daily basis.

I no longer make any plans – and this was initially something of a struggle as I’m an inveterate list-maker and each night, I’d work out what the coming day’s tasks would be. But I simply can’t, as I never know how I’ll be feeling. I can have three good days in a row – and the next morning wake up feeling fragile and slightly sick when I move. So it’s best not to add an extra twist of disappointment by then having to put a line through any activities I was looking forward to doing.

I pay close attention to what I eat and drink. Fortunately, I don’t have much of an appetite so I’m not tempted to snack or comfort-eat – but I learnt early on that sugar is not my friend in any form. It makes me tired, depressed and causes joint pain, particularly in my back where I have a dodgy disc, anyway. So no sweets, biscuits, or cakes – I’ve even discovered they put sugar in lots of bread. So it’s sourdough slices for my morning toast and in the evening, there’s plenty of fresh vegetables, often with a side salad, all prepared by Himself. I love my lapsang souchong, but limit myself to two cups a day – and then it’s onto a variety of herbal teas, including peppermint and liquorice; lavender and oat; redbush and turmeric. While I’m aware that caffeine can be inflammatory and it would be ideal to cut it out – there’s a balance. And right now, I reckon I need those two cups of tea in my life.

I need to stay upbeat and positive to get through this – and not just for my sake. Himself has been an absolute trooper throughout – unfailingly kind and nurturing. But I’m very aware that he is under enormous strain, not only holding down an important, safety-critical job, but then coming home and looking after me, while doing all the housework, shopping and cooking. Whenever I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself, I remember that in many ways he has it worse than I do. And whatever the future holds – there isn’t a quick fix ahead of us. I’m banking on being part of the statistical cohort that eventually recovers – I have to believe that. I had a wonderful life before this happened and I want it back. But realistically, I still have months ahead of me – maybe years – whereby I have to focus on pacing myself below what I can do in the hope that gives my body sufficient surplus energy to devote to healing itself. Wish me luck! In the meantime, I’ll try to post updates on my progress and anything I’ve encountered or experienced that might help others in my situation. Thank you so very much for your comments and good wishes – it’s been lovely to reconnect with so many of you. Though please understand that I’m likely to disappear again, as being able to spend any time in front of the computer only happens when I’m feeling at my very best.

I’ve been reading like a fiend during my illness – thank goodness for books, both audio and digital! Without them I’d be gibbering at the moon by now. I lead a very limited life and being able to escape into all sorts of intriguing worlds and adventures has helped to pass the time and keep me entertained. This week I’ve read:-

Assassin’s Bond – Book 3 of the Chains of Honor series by Lindsay Buroker
Yanko and his friends must escape a Turgonian prison and find passage back home before their enemies claim an advantage that could change the world. And not for the good of the Nurian people.

But even more trouble awaits at home. Civil war has broken out, Yanko’s family is in danger, and the man who sent him on his mission has disappeared. If Yanko can’t find Prince Zirabo, he’ll forever remain a criminal and be hunted down by his own people. Worse, his only chance to survive and redeem his honor may be to rely on the one person who’s been trying to kill him since his adventure began.
This next instalment in this entertaining adventure is full of action, incident, quirky amusing characters and laugh-aloud moments. Buroker has become a favourite author of mine over the last few months. I’m so impressed at her ability to tell a cracking story full of tension and emotion and yet still manage to inject real humour throughout.
9/10

The Necropolis Empire: A Twilight Imperium novel by Tim Pratt
Bianca Xing has spent a lifetime on a provincial planet, dreaming of travelling the stars. When her planet is annexed by the Barony of Letnev, Bianca finds herself being taken into custody, told that she’s special – the secret daughter of a brilliant scientist, hidden away on a remote planet for her own safety.

But the truth about Bianca is stranger. There are secrets hidden in her genetic code that could have galaxy altering consequences. Driven by an incredible yearning and assisted by the fearsome Letnev Captain, Dampierre, Bianca must follow her destiny to the end, even if it leads to places that are best left forgotten.
This is a real treat. Pratt’s breezy tone drives this adventure forward with verve and pace which had me really caring for the protagonists. He writes truly nice characters very well, which is harder than he makes it look. Review to follow.
9/10

The Broken Throne – Book 16 of the Schooled in Magic series by Christopher G. Nuttall
The Kingdom of Zangaria has fallen into civil war. On one side, King Randor and his forces, determined to impose his rule over the entire kingdom; on another, the noblemen who want to crush the king; on a third, Princess Alassa and the Levellers.

Caught in the middle, Emily must steer a course between her loyalty to her friend, her duty to people who put their faith in her and her fears for the future. But King Randor has unleashed forces even he may be unable to control…
This is another cracking series that has continued to deliver all sorts of unexpected twists and turns that has me enthralled. This particular episode charts some of the fallout caused by Emily bringing inventions from contemporary Earth to a feudal system driven by magic.
9/10

Battle Ground – Book 17 of the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher
Harry has faced terrible odds before. He has a long history of fighting enemies above his weight class. The Red Court of vampires. The fallen angels of the Order of the Blackened Denarius. The Outsiders.

But this time it’s different. A being more powerful and dangerous on an order of magnitude beyond what the world has seen in a millennium is coming. And she’s bringing an army. The Last Titan has declared war on the city of Chicago, and has come to subjugate humanity, obliterating any who stand in her way. Harry’s mission is simple but impossible: Save the city by killing a Titan. And the attempt will change Harry’s life, Chicago, and the mortal world forever.
Don’t pick this one up unless you have read Peace Talks and clearly recall the story or you’ll flounder. The action moves forward from the previous book and Butcher doesn’t hang around. And the title is spot on – the whole book essentially describes an epic battle, from the build-up to the immediate fallout. Review to follow.
8/10

Scorched Heart – Book 4 of the Firebrand series by Helen Harper
My parents were brutally murdered when I was five years old. Their killer has spent the last twenty-five years in prison for his terrible crimes – but I still have unanswered questions. After all, I am the phoenix. When I die, I am reborn in fire and brimstone. It happens again and again and again. I have no idea where my strange ability came from and nobody to ask.

Now another shocking murder has been committed in the small village where my parents died and there is evidence which suggests the killer is supernatural. The crime gives me the perfect reason to return to my childhood home. I can offer my expertise as a Supe Squad detective – and seek the truth behind what I really am. The trouble is that I might not like what I find.
In this, the fourth instalment of this exciting Brit-based urban fantasy featuring Emma, we finally discover the mystery behind the tragedy that has overshadowed her life since she was five. Harper’s pacy plotting and engaging characters have drawn me into this world and I really enjoyed the twisty climax to this tense murder mystery.
9/10

Owl’s Fair – Book 2 The Owl Star Witch series by Leanne Leeds
Once Astra Arden realized her life’s direction had been chosen for her by the goddess Athena, the former witch tracker did her best to adjust. After all, there were destinies you could fight to change, and there were destinies that, when refused, might get you turned into a stone statue for eternity.

When the altruistic Alice Windrow comes to Athena’s Garden for a tarot card reading, the cheerful young woman seems to not have a care in the world. Known throughout the town for her philanthropy funded by a distant relative’s substantial inheritance, she only wishes assurance that the marathon she sponsored will come off without a hitch. The reading takes a turn when Athena’s glowing Star Card flips—showing someone has it in for the innocent Alice. Can Astra and her sisters unravel the plot in time to stop Alice’s murder? Or will the generous girl find that her marathon is officially over—for good?
I’d found some of the reads this week a tad intense – so I went looking for something a bit more lighthearted. And recalled that I’d recently read the first book in this enjoyable urban fantasy series about poor old Astra having to move back home and being tasked to prevent murders before they happen on behalf of the goddess Athene. She even has a talking owl for help – though Archie provides all sorts of problems along the way, too. This enjoyable offering is skilfully plotted, with plenty of twists and tension along with the laughs. Just what I needed!
9/10

Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m very aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be in a position to start to reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and have a lovely week:).

Sunday Post – 11th July, 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.

Overall, it’s been a much better week. And thank you so much for all the kind, encouraging comments I received after my rather frustrated rant, last week. They really helped me bounce back to a place where everything doesn’t seem so hopeless😊. Himself and I had a chat about everything, and we realised that I do need to get out more, even if it is only a matter of walking a handful of steps and then returning home. So on Wednesday, Himself and I were able to visit the local garden centre and have a pizza, and on Thursday, we went for a short walk along the river and ended up at the riverside café for a coffee. During the afternoons, I’ve been following the events at Wimbledon – and feel rather smug at correctly predicting that Mateo Berrettini would be playing in the Men’s Final, after watching him play his first match at Queen’s, back in mid-June. The pics this week are more from the garden…

The other bright spot is the fabulous quality of the books I’ve read this week – they are a lifeline by taking me away to another time and place. And one, in particular, has been outstanding…

Last week I read:

Into the Dark – Book 1 of the Alexis Carew series by J.A. Sutherland
At fifteen, Alexis Carew has to face an age old problem – she’s a girl, and only a boy can inherit the family’s vast holdings. Her options are few.

She must marry and watch a stranger run the lands, or become a penniless tenant and see the lands she so dearly loves sold off. Yet there may be another option, one that involves becoming a midshipman on a shorthanded spaceship with no other women.
This is a reread. For some reason, I didn’t follow up this series after reading the first book, so I read this one again to ensure that my memory hadn’t played tricks on me and that I definitely wanted to continue reading Alexis’s adventures. Which I certainly do…

Hestia 2781 – Book 1 of the Draco Tell Dramis series by Janet Edwards
Hestia 2781 is the first of two full-length novels set immediately after the short story Hera 2781.

The year is 2781. Lieutenant Drago Tell Dramis’s first mission as a newly qualified fighter pilot ended with him and his team leader saving one of humanity’s oldest colony worlds, Hera, from destruction. Now he’s discovering that saving a world can be simple compared to living with the consequences.

Both Drago and his team leader and second cousin, Jaxon, are famous now, given rapid field promotions, and are due to be awarded medals. Worryingly, Drago learns Jaxon has a mysterious secret and a past history of erratic behaviour. It’s vital that Drago keeps both of them out of trouble and away from nosy reporters until the medal ceremony, because Jaxon could do or say something that deeply embarrasses both the Military and their Betan clan.

The Military is helping by sending their fighter team on a mission somewhere inconspicuously boring until the medal ceremony. That destination definitely won’t be Hestia, the perpetual trouble spot of humanity.
This series is a spinoff from Edwards’ very popular Earth Girl series and I highly recommend that you read the short story ‘Hera 2781’ before tucking into this one, as the events in that story impact on what happens in the book. As ever, I thoroughly enjoyed the upbeat vibe Edwards always manages create in her space opera adventures, and appreciated revisiting this complex, enjoyable world. Review to follow.

Mutineer – Book 2 of the Alexis Carew series by J.A. Sutherland
Just as Midshipman Alexis Carew thinks she’s found a place in the Royal Navy, she’s transferred aboard H.M.S. Hermione. Her captain is a tartar, liberal with the cat, who thinks girls have no place aboard ship.

The other midshipmen in the berth are no better. The only advice she’s offered is to keep her head down and mouth shut – things Alexis is rarely able to do.
This was another enjoyable, action-packed read – and a shocking one. This series is essentially Hornblower in Space – and vividly depicted the darker, more brutal side of the Senior Service, by showing what can happen when a sadistic brute ends up running a ship. Sutherland’s notes on the story discloses that many of the events were based on true events that happened on a particular ship. It made for a gripping read.

The Goblin Emperor – Book 1 of The Goblin Emperior series by Katherine Addison
Maia, the youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favour with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the spectre of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor.
And firstly – a grovelling apology… Someone last week had recommended this one, so I got hold of it and I just want to say – THANK YOU – I just wish I could remember who it was, so I can namecheck you! This wonderful, engrossing read is going to make my Outstanding Reads list of the year. And even better news – I’ve now managed to get hold of an arc of the upcoming sequel – yay!

De Oppresso Liber – Book 6 of the Hayden War Cycle series by Evan Currie
The war may be over, but the fighting continues as SOLCOM learns of an excursion by the Ross’El against an unaffiliated pre-space civilization in the no man’s land between Earth and the Alien Alliance. With always more questions than answers, SOLCOM dispatches a ship to quietly survey the situation and determine what, if any, course of action is best.

Captain Sorilla Aida and her team are the ground element assigned to the task, with the clear understanding that no matter what… they are to remain undetected by the alien overlords now controlling the moon world. Sorilla knows only one thing for certain as she learns more about the situation :
Oppression is universal, Freedom is never free… and this is EXACTLY what she trained for.
De Oppresso Liber…
I once more tucked into this military sci fi adventure series, which has been cleverly developed from the initial flashpoint into a well-rounded world, full of detail and political tensions. Sorilla Aida has also had an interesting journey – and I like how her previous adventures are now affecting her current decisions.

AUDIOBOOK – Prophecy – Book 2 of the Giordano Bruno series by S.J. Parris
A Tudor thriller featuring Giordano Bruno, renegade monk, philosopher and heretic, for fans of C. J. Sansom and The Name of the Rose
Autumn, 1583. Under Elizabeth’s rule, loyalty is bought with blood…
An astrological phenomenon heralds the dawn of a new age and Queen Elizabeth’s throne is in peril. As Mary Stuart’s supporters scheme to usurp the rightful monarch, a young maid of honour is murdered, occult symbols carved into her flesh.

The Queen’s spymaster, Francis Walsingham, calls on maverick agent Giordano Bruno to infiltrate the plotters and secure the evidence that will condemn them to death. Bruno is cunning, but so are his enemies. His identity could be exposed at any moment. The proof he seeks is within his grasp. But the young woman’s murder could point to an even more sinister truth…
Hm. Not sure about the comparison with The Name of the Rose – but this one certainly helped me cope with my C.J. Sansom withdrawal symptoms… Bruno is a likeable, sympathetic character, whose presence in Tudor England on the edges of Elizabeth’s court is convincing and intriguing. Tudor London is beautifully described and the plot worked well as both a mystery and meshed effectively with the historical events of the time. Recommended for fans of historical mysteries. I also really enjoyed Laurence Kennedy’s excellent narration.

Wedding Hells – Book 8 of the Schooled in Magic series by Christopher G. Nuttall
After her victory over Master Grey, Emily wants nothing more than to relax and give herself time to recover from the duel. Her magic, pushed to the limits, is no longer reliable, forcing her to learn to control it from scratch. Every time she delays using her magic, she risks headaches … or worse. But she must return to Whitehall to complete her fourth-year exams and bid farewell to those of her friends who are not returning for fifth year. And then, she must return to Zangaria to play her role in Princess Alassa’s wedding to Jade. It seems, if nothing else, a brief diversion before she goes off on a tour of the Allied Lands.

But all is not well in Zangaria and the kingdom is fast approaching a major crisis. Junior aristocrats are demanding their rights and titles from the king, while King Randor himself is dangerously unstable and hiding a secret that could spark off a civil war … and the peasants are threatening to revolt. Emily herself is isolated, unsure how to balance her obligations to her closest friends with her belief in freedom, justice and democracy. And, as Emily finds herself used as a political pawn by the different sides in the growing dispute and no longer sure who she can trust, she may find herself confronting a choice between doing the right thing, regardless of the cost…

…And losing everything she’s built over the past four years.
This intriguing magical school adventure has quickly developed into a far more interesting scenario, where a girl from Earth has been dumped into the middle of a medieval society. And then has been very quick to share ideas that are fast transforming the world around her. I enjoyed the ongoing story and was rather shocked at where it ended – though I’m pleased that Himself had got hold of the next book in the series, so I’ll be able to discover what happens next without too much delay…

My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and his Wise Draconic Tips on Life

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Antiques Carry On – Book 15 of the Trash n’Treasures Mystery series by Barbara Allan

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Ferryman and the Sea Witch by D. Wallace Peach

Sunday Post – 4th July 2021

Unfortunately, I haven’t been online enough to recommend any blogs or articles. And neither have I been visiting my fellow bloggers all that much, either… I’m very sorry. Thank you for those of you who continue to visit and comment – I really do appreciate you taking the time and effort to do so😊. I hope you all have a happy, healthy week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NOVELLA The Expert System’s Champion – Book 2 of the Expert System series by Adrian Tchaikovsky #BrainfluffNOVELLAbookreview #TheExpertSystemsChampionbookreview

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I absolutely loved the first book in this series The Expert System’s Brothersee my review. I particularly fell in love with Handry and his struggle to survive once his adaptations to the planet had been partially revoked. So I was disappointed not to get hold of a review copy – not that I let that get in the way of sampling this intriguing world, again.

BLURB: It’s been ten years since Handry was wrenched away from his family and friends, forced to wander a world he no longer understood. But with the help of the Ancients, he has cobbled together a life, of sorts, for himself and his fellow outcasts. Wandering from village to village, welcoming the folk that the townships abandon, fighting the monsters the villagers cannot—or dare not—his ever-growing band of misfits has become the stuff of legend, a story told by parents to keep unruly children in line.

But there is something new and dangerous in the world, and the beasts of the land are acting against their nature, destroying the towns they once left in peace. And for the first time in memory, the Ancients have no wisdom to offer…

REVIEW: I struggled with this one initially, which was something of a disappointment – and not a usual experience with Tchaikovsky’s writing. There is a Prologue that goes on for 9% of the book that doesn’t include the main protagonist, Handry, who I really emotionally identified with in The Expert System’s Brother. I would have preferred more of a bonding event with Handry at the start of this adventure, because while I enjoyed the story and found the plight of the early colonists engrossing – I didn’t particularly care about any of the characters, throughout, this time around.

That said, this is still worth reading. Nobody does colonisation quite like Tchaikovsky and the sheer inventive cleverness of the story and the consequent oddity of the inhabitants had me turning to pages to discover what would happen next. Though I’m profoundly grateful I don’t live within an ecosystem that fundamentally is toxic to my body, given the ultimate adaptation that was made to provide humanity with the ability to survive the place. Wasps and snails are involved, for starters… And if Tchaikovsky produces another book set within this remarkable world, I’ll be getting hold of it. Even if this one didn’t emotionally chime with me as much as the previous book – it is still a thought-provoking, enjoyable read.
8/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 27th 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 – Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell – release date 2nd February

#science fiction #space opera #LGBTQ romance

BLURB: Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Everina Maxwell’s exciting debut.

While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.

But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.

I heard of this one from one of my book blogging buddies, liked the sound of the premise and fell in love with the cover… I have made a start and am thoroughly enjoying this one. We are immediately tipped into the middle of the action and both main protagonists are likeable and well written. I very much like the setup where the Iskat Empire, despite ruling the rest of the system, nonetheless relies on a higher power to keep itself and its vassal planets safe from more rapacious conquerors – so long as they do as they’re told. Has anyone else got this one on their radar?

Review of KINDLE Ebook Chasing the Shadows – Book 2 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy series by Maria V. Snyder #Brainfluffbookreview #ChasingtheShadowsbookreview

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this engaging YA far future adventure Navigating the Stars, featuring bouncy disaster-magnet Lyra Daniels – see my review. So I was happy to snap this one up when it became available.

BLURB: Okay, so I only died for sixty-six seconds. But when I came back to life, I got a brand new name and a snazzy new uniform. Go me! Seriously, though, it’s very important that Lyra Daniels stays dead, at least as far as my ex-friend Jarren, the murdering looter, knows. While dying is the scariest thing that’s happened to me, it morphed my worming skills. I can manipulate the Q-net like never before. But Jarren has blocked us from communicating with the rest of the galaxy and now they believe we’ve gone silent, like Planet Xinji (where silent really means dead).

A Protector Class spaceship is coming to our rescue, but we still have to survive almost two years before they arrive – if they arrive at all. Until then, we have to figure out how to stop an unstoppable alien threat. And it’s only a matter of time before Jarren learns I’m not dead and returns to finish what he started. There’s no way I’m going to let Jarren win. Instead I’ll do whatever it takes to save the people I love. But even I’m running out of ideas…

REVIEW: I also enjoyed the blurb, which gives a strong indication of the narrative voice and the stakes involved, without then giving away major spoilers. I won’t deny that Lyra is something of a Mary Sue – she has major skills that no one else possesses, which also puts her right on the front line of the trouble they are facing. But this time around, that didn’t bother me, especially as Snyder does give us solid reasons why she is particularly outstanding, and it works with the plot.

What also works particularly well is the steady rise in the tension throughout, as the enormity of the threat that Jarren poses continues to impact the lives of the community. We learn a bit more about what the mysterious terracotta warriors can do and how they interact with the deadly shadow aliens. I would just mention that in order to fully appreciate this book, I think you would need to have read Navigating the Stars, as they are essentially the same story with the same overarching narrative arc, so not only would you be floundering in far too many places – there are events in the first book that have a direct bearing on the characters and ongoing plot.

The ongoing romance isn’t an aspect of the book that particularly interests me, but I’m not the target audience – and it is generally well handled. Sweet, without being too cloying, with just the right amount of passion suitable for the age group, it evokes the strong emotions of first love very well. It also neatly underlines what is at stake. This one comes highly recommended for fans of far future adventures featuring a feisty heroine – though do read the first book before picking this one up.
8/10

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 KINDLE Ebook The Relentless Moon – Book 3 of The Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal #Brainfluffbookreview #TheRelentlessMoonbookreview

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I’ve read and enjoyed both The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, so was delighted when Himself suggested I treat myself with this one as part of my birthday present.

BLURB: The Earth is coming to the boiling point as the climate disaster of the Meteor strike becomes more and more clear, but the political situation is already overheated. Riots and sabotage plague the space program. The IAC’s goal of getting as many people as possible off Earth before it becomes uninhabitable is being threatened. Elma York is on her way to Mars, but the Moon colony is still being established. Her friend and fellow Lady Astronaut Nicole Wargin is thrilled to be one of those pioneer settlers, using her considerable flight and political skills to keep the program on track. But she is less happy that her husband, the Governor of Kansas, is considering a run for President.

REVIEW: The previous two books are in Elma’s viewpoint and are all about her struggle to get accepted as a woman astronaut in an alternate world where unfortunately sexism and racism are still prevalent. However, this slice of the adventure changes both the dynamic and viewpoint, so if you wanted to know what all the fuss is about, yet are reluctant to read the previous two books – you could pick this one up without struggling too much. That said, you would be missing out on two wonderful books, so my recommendation is that you then hunt them down, too. But I suspect once you’ve got to the end of this one – you’ll want to do that anyway…

I loved Elma and was a bit taken aback when I saw this one was in Nicole’s viewpoint – particularly as Elma isn’t always a huge fan of Nicole and believes – rightly – that her husband’s position guaranteed her slot on the space programme. However, I fell in love with her. Nicole is such a gutsy woman, who has overcome so much in her life – and continues to do so. There were times during this story when I was struggling not to cry – and yet at no stage is she portrayed as a helpless victim. Kowal writes powerful women so very well – along with their vulnerabilities, and I thought once again she absolutely nailed it.

But what had me reading throughout the night, unable to put this one down, is the fact that it turns into one of the most nail-biting thrillers set in space that I’ve ever read. The Moon colony is a fragile community and Nicole is put into the position of trying to ensure its survival. This isn’t a foot-to-the-floor, non-stop adventure, but a tense, high-stakes scenario, where those implacably opposed to any kind of solution that diverts money and effort from Earth, do their level best to scupper the whole project.

It’s very well done, with plenty of details that portray the struggles of living in space without overloading the story with too much techy stuff – yet make the environment wholly believable. Kowal’s ability to pull this off is far harder than she makes it look, and this one is right up there as one of my best reads of the year, so far. I’m just really sorry I’ve now reached the end of this exceptional series. Highly recommended for science fiction fans who enjoyed The Martian.
10/10

Review of AUDIOBOOK Finder – Book 1 of the Finder Chronicles by Suzanne Palmer #Brainfluffaudiobookreview #Finderbookreview #SciFiMonth2020.

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The Cap from Captain’s Quarters was fulsome in praising this one – and I’ve come to respect the Cap’s opinions such that I immediately went looking for Finder. I decided to treat myself to the audio version – and I’m delighted that I did, because Joe Hempel did a cracking job on the narration. I’m linking this article with #Sci Fi Month 2020.

BLURB: Fergus Ferguson has been called a lot of names: thief, con artist, repo man. He prefers the term finder. His latest job should be simple. Find the spacecraft Venetia’s Sword and steal it back from Arum Gilger, ex-nobleman turned power-hungry trade boss. He’ll slip in, decode the ship’s compromised AI security, and get out of town, Sword in hand. Fergus locates both Gilger and the ship in the farthest corner of human-inhabited space, a gas-giant-harvesting colony called Cernee. But Fergus’ arrival at the colony is anything but simple… That’s as much of the rather chatty blurb that I’m prepared to share.

REVIEW: Well this is a bucketful of fun! Fergus is a sympathetic protagonist, who I immediately bonded with over the way he handled himself during the first adventure that sucked him into Cernee’s power struggle. In common with most protagonists, Fergus has a troubled backstory that accounts for his footloose lifestyle. But although this comes into play and at times has a bearing on the decisions he makes, it doesn’t turn him into too much of a victim.

While this book is packed with action, it isn’t at the expense of the main characters or the setting. And I really enjoyed seeing Fergus pitchforked into the middle of a series of impossible situations and then watch how he tries to improvise his way out of them. A couple of his madcap ideas are plain hilarious – his use of sex toys comes to mind – which brings some welcome levity into a story that could have been all about the killing and bloodshed. I thoroughly enjoyed the setting – the space habs were vividly portrayed, as were the pests…

There is a McGuffin that Fergus acquires during his various adventures, but I was glad to see that in the eventual showdown, that didn’t allow him to prevail against the baddie. The supporting cast are also fun, especially the snarky teen who keeps popping up just as Fergus thinks he’s got her tucked away somewhere safe.

My only niggle is that we don’t really get a sense of the motivations of arch-villain, Arum Gilger – and given that he is the major antagonist throughout, I was a tad disappointed that it wasn’t until right at the very end of the adventure, we get any kind of insight as to what runs him. And even then, it wasn’t really fully explored, which given the reach he has, I found a little unsatisfactory. It isn’t a dealbreaker as such – and I’m certainly going to get hold of the second book – but it does account my score of eight, rather than a nine.

Highly recommended for fans who enjoy excellent space opera adventure with an interesting, likeable hero.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Angel Six Echo by Robert Appleton #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #AngelSixEchobookreview #SciFiMonth2020

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I loved the sound of this one – a former black ops fighter rescuing a spouse, who has joined a vicious war without realising exactly what they’re getting into. Given that the wife is the black ops fighter and the husband is the spouse – throw in the alien combat suit, how could I resist? I am linking this post to #Sci Fi Month 2020.

BLURB: Armed with a fabled combat suit left to her by a dying warrior race, Gabby Rojas enters the deadliest standoff of the war as a rogue sniper with one goal: to keep her husband alive at all costs. Dalton is a high school teacher, not a soldier, but he’s volunteered to fight for the good of the colonies, against her advice. Gabby, on the other hand, is a black-ops prodigy who turned her back on the military years ago. The consequences of re-entering the fray alone like this, wielding the power of her extraordinary armoured suit, could tip the balance of power in the galaxy…

REVIEW: This was a thoroughly entertaining read. Gabby is a super-soldier, trained from childhood to become part of an infamous black ops unit. Until she broke – both physically and mentally. And Dalton, kind, non-judgemental and caring helped put her back together again – and in the process of doing so, they fell in love… The relationship between them is touchingly portrayed – they are clearly passionate about each other. And I liked them both very much. Dalton is rather goofy, easy-going and with a charm that is attractive. Not innate super-soldier material, so it’s just as well that he’s a coms specialist, tasked with keeping in touch with those out on the front line, trying to stave off the increasingly bleak odds they are facing. Gabby is driven, single-minded and ruthless. She doesn’t kill needlessly, but will do so without a qualm if it becomes necessary.

The supporting characters worked well and I thought the battle scenes were well written. Appleton manages to balance the necessary explanation and the full-on action without losing the reader or holding up the pace, which is harder to do than he makes it look. I liked the fact that things often went wrong – plans didn’t work out, and those in the front line paid the price. There are deaths of characters I’d grown to like, but nothing that felt manipulative or careless. Gabby’s relationship with the suit was well handled – inevitably there was stuff that wasn’t explained, because neither Gabby nor the suit really knew what was going on. But I felt that was okay.

What, for me, was never really tackled adequately, was why Dalton – kind, caring husband who knew his wife was emotionally very reliant on him – suddenly ups and leaves for the front line. He always talks of her with great fondness, evidently missing her. And yet, even though he knew she was desperate for him to stay – he left. I would have been a lot happier if he’d been randomly picked in some sort of lottery system, for example.

But other than that one niggle, I found this to be an engrossing and at times, really poignant story of love, loss and hard decisions made in the heat of battle. Oh, and some really nasty aliens! The ending wasn’t what I was expecting, but it did work. Recommended for fans of character-led military sci fi adventure.
8/10

Mantivore Warrior is published today! #MantivoreWarriorpublication #TheArcadianChroniclescompleted

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I’m delighted to announce the Mantivore Warrior is published today – thus completing The Arcadian Chronicles trilogy about my telepathic alien, Vrox.

To celebrate the completion of my SECOND trilogy – I’ve decided to make Running Out of Space, the first book in my FIRST trilogy free from today MONDAY 31st August until WEDNESDAY 2nd September! Just click on the cover in the sidebar, which will take you to your nearest Amazon store to claim your copy.

For those of you who have been following Vrox’s journey, this book features a different protagonist – Jessob, so it gives an entry point into the story. I’m really excited to have finished Vrox’s adventures, because the first draft of Mantivore Dreams is one I wrote a long time ago, when it was different in many ways – except for Vrox, who has more or less stayed unchanged.

BLURB for MANTIVORE WARRIOR
Setting out to cross The Arids is always dangerous – but this time, when the survival of an ancient sentient species hangs in the balance – it could be lethal…

Jessob Jolanzo, raised within the most powerful and remote mantivore lair on the planet, has roamed The Arids since he was knee-high to a hen. Having succeeded in his seemingly impossible mission, he and his companions are returning with a message of hope to the beleaguered mantivore community. But the way things are going, they’ll need a huge helping of luck to return them safely to the hidden mantivore enclave.

Vrox, apex predator and telepath, holds in his head ancient secrets many powerful humans in Gloriosa Prime would rather keep hidden. And his lifelong captivity leaves him unprepared him for this brutal journey.

Mistress Felina Keeper, former village Storekeeper, is now MindLinked with Vrox and accompanying him on this trek. Resourceful and possessed of formidable mental strength, her presence should help. But Jessob is discovering that while middle-aged mantivores become ever tougher and stronger – the same isn’t true of ageing humans.

And when an attacker strikes from a completely unexpected quarter, it isn’t only future of the mantivore race in peril – Jessob risks losing his mind…

Mantivore Warrior is now available at Amazon – and here is a sneak peek…

CHAPTER ONE

It’s nearly my favourite place in all the world, sitting by a campfire after a long night’s trek. Though my pleasure was dented when Mistress Felina’s face crunched into the scowl I’d grown to dread. “Roaching lizards, again?”
“When roasted till crunchy, there’s nothing tastier.” I put the bundle of lizards down onto the rock beside her, having already gutted an’ beheaded them, after she’d grumbled about that. “Vroxy won’t—”
“I got the ringside seat to Vrox’s kill, thank-you kindly. And to him gobbling it up,” she snapped. “Still trying to wipe it outta my mind so’s I can think of supper without wanting to puke. And then you show up with a bunch of headless lizards!”
Vrox whickers pleadingly. Can Lordling ease our Queen’s aches, so Vrox can return to a peaceful fireside and warm his chilled scales?
It will be done, Vroxy. I’ll need more HealDrool from you when you get back, though, I Sent. Sorting through my pack, I found the right phial, unwrapped it an’ placed it beside me.
While stacking the kindling, Mistress Felina looked across, face-scrunching again as she spotted the phial. “Don’t need that. Not now, Jessob! I’m busy.”
You’re hoed flat an’ hurting. An’ busy proving that you aren’t a cripped old woman Vroxy an’ me should leave behind. Which we won’t cos you’re tired an’ sore, but we might if you go on being such a drab-scaled misery. I grinned at her, hoping to soften her mood.
Vrox squeals, horrified at Lordling’s slack-crested incivility to his Queen and wants her to know he’d no such thoughts.
Mistress Felina chuckled, a throaty, terracotta sound full of comfort an’ warmth, before putting the lizards in a pouch hanging from Leggsie’s round metal body. Leaving anything dead lying around in The Arids for more than a handful of heartbeats was asking for trouble.
I sucked in a deep breath, tasting the multi-coloured scents of the campfire, Leggsie’s blue, metallic tang an’ Mistress Felina’s musky ochre humanity. Staring up at the vast star-spattered sky vaulting overhead, I wondered what Dorn was doing… Is he part of a night-time reccie? Probably not. Probably LoveDrooled up to his neck crest an’ twining tongues with Gristor. Not an image I wanted to linger on.
I shifted across to the boulder next to Mistress Felina. “C’mon then. Let’s have them. The right one, first. That’s the one hurting most.”
Mistress Felina lifted her right foot with a wince, grumbling, “And that’s the trouble with this MindLinking flamdoodle. Some roaching teener starts telling you which foot is giving you the keenest grief.”
I propped her foot on my knees, unbuckled her boot an’ eased her swollen foot free. Squeezing out a tiny amount of HealDrool, I worked it into the roughened sole, marvelling at the way human elderly skin wrinkled an’ folded, so unlike mantivore hide. I made sure to gently knead extra across the purplish lump sticking out by her big toe joint, which ached most of all. I caught the name of it from her thoughts… A bunion. Sounds nasty an’ sore. “There’s nothing to stop you riding a hover-trolley, for a spell.”
“Don’t you start treating me like some lamed liability!” she snapped, yellow fear-notes threading through her voice. “I’ve been trudging through the roaching Arids before you were a kiss on your papa’s lips.”
“Aye, I know.” I lowered my voice an’ raised my mental shields so Vroxy couldn’t listen in – him still tending to MindSnoop. Even though we’d had plenty of talks on why he shouldn’t. “Thing is, Vroxy gets his scales in a swirl when you’re sore, or stenched. Or both. An’ we need him to track those stray vores nice an’ calmlike. He goes in remotely stirred up, that lord will reckon he’s trying to move in on his queen an’ cubs.”
Mistress Felina swapped over feet, already more relaxed as the HealDrool started doing its stuff. “Hm. That’s a thing I hadn’t considered.”
Mistress Felina accepting she might be wrong? That only happens once in a purple tide… Meanwhile I was coping with her relief from the pain, along with a giddying rainbow surge of pleasure as I applied the rest of the HealDrool. “Try raising your shields.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Hoeing you flat with my mind fluff, am I?”
“You’re loud.” So very, very loud. I pushed down my panic at the havoc her untrained Sendings could have on new-borns, cub-starved queenlings an’ mood-scurfed lords once we arrived at the Much-Tribute Horde. The Queen’s coterie will likely scoop her up an’ protect her, seeing as she tastes so powerfully of an old mantivore Queen full of wisdom. Won’t they?
She shut her eyes, breathing deeply.
I surfaced from the swamp of her pleasure at having no more aching feet, now I’d finished applying the HealDrool.
“How’s that?” she demanded, opening her eyes again. “Cos I’m all but rupturing my sorry self keeping my thoughts locked down.”
An’ you might as well not be bothering.