Tag Archives: crime

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Waste of a Life – Book 3 of the Decluttering Mysteries by Simon Brett #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #WasteofaLifebookreview

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I always enjoy Brett’s twisty plotting and sardonic view on contemporary life in England – see my reviews of Death on the Downs, The Liar in the Library, The Killer in the Choir and Guilt at the Garage. I also have enjoyed Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations. But I’ve a particularly soft spot for his current heroine, Ellen Curtis in the Decluttering Mysteries, see my reviews of The Clutter Corpse and An Untidy Death. So I was delighted to discover that another book in this entertaining series is hitting the shelves.

BLURB: Declutterer Ellen Curtis has been working to bring order into the life of Cedric Waites, a recluse in his eighties who hasn’t left his house or let anyone inside it since his wife died. On one of her regular visits, Ellen finds the old man dead.

Sad but, given his age, perhaps not unexpected. Nothing to get worked up about . . . until the police raise the suspicion that Cedric might have been poisoned! The cause seems be something he ate, and as Ellen cleared away the old man’s food containers, she is under suspicion. As is Dodge, who works for Ellen and has unhelpfully done a runner . . .

Meanwhile, a rival declutterer is out to sabotage Ellen’s reputable business, her two grown-up children are back home and in crisis, and she has a potential love interest. Ellen’s life has taken on a chaotic turn of its own! Can she uncover the killer and bring order back to her own life?

REVIEW: Before I go further, I need to mention a trigger warning – in Ellen’s past there is a suicide. While this book doesn’t go into huge detail about the event, ten years later it still reverberates through Ellen’s life in a poignant and realistic manner.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the previous two books, don’t be deterred from enjoying this one. Like many murder mystery series, while there is a narrative arc for the main protagonist, each whodunit is resolved within the book so you won’t be left to flounder. And an author of Brett’s skill and experience doesn’t do such things to his readers, anyway. I have huge affection for Ellen. She is at an age where she is of the middle generation squeeze – still looking after grown-up children, neither of whom are particularly thriving, as well as confronted with an ageing and increasingly frail mother. It doesn’t help that she isn’t on particularly good terms with her mother or her daughter.

I like Brett’s unsentimental approach to family life. There is often a rather unrealistic gloss around the key relationship between mothers and daughters in genre fiction, unless it is the darker psychological sort, or gritty murder mysteries. But while there is definitely a bedrock of love and concern in the relationship between Ellen and her children, she is also extremely careful to step around their adult sensibilities. The result is often poignant and humorous. In amongst all this family angst, Ellen is having to continue her daily routine – also refreshingly realistic.

The murder mystery in this story is a slow burn that gradually gains momentum. I won’t claim that the murderer is a huge surprise. But I wasn’t sure they would be satisfactorily uncovered so the police could step in – and I’m not telling you if that happens, as then we’d be lurching into Spoiler territory. Once more, I was pulled into this story to the extent that I didn’t put it down until I’d reached the end, so I read it in two greedy gulps. Highly recommended for fans of the gentler sort of murder mystery that nonetheless has an edged look at modern life. While I obtained an arc of Waste of a Life from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TreadofAngelsbookreview

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I enjoy Rebecca Roanhorse’s writing, see my reviews of Trail of Lightning and Black Sun. So when I had the opportunity to get hold of the arc of this intriguing novella, I jumped at the chance.

BLURB: High in the remote mountains, the town of Goetia is booming as prospectors from near and far come to mine the powerful new element Divinity. Divinity is the remains of the body of the rebel Abaddon, who fell to earth during Heaven’s War, and it powers the world’s most inventive and innovative technologies, ushering in a new age of progress. However, only the descendants of those that rebelled, called Fallen, possess the ability to see the rich lodes of the precious element. That makes them a necessary evil among the good and righteous people called the Elect, and Goetia a town segregated by ancestry and class.

Celeste and Mariel are two Fallen sisters, bound by blood but raised in separate worlds. Celeste grew up with her father, passing in privileged Elect society, while Mariel stayed with their mother in the Fallen slums of Goetia. Upon her father’s death, Celeste returns to Goetia and reunites with Mariel. Mariel is a great beauty with an angelic voice, and Celeste, wracked by guilt for leaving her sister behind, becomes her fiercest protector…

REVIEW: I have cut short the rather chatty blurb and recommend that you give it a miss if you don’t want your reading experience Spoilt. Given this isn’t a long read, you really don’t want to go into it knowing more than the bare essentials.

I quickly bonded with Celeste, who hasn’t had an easy time of it. Her overwhelming need to keep her sister safe within a rapacious society where the Fallen are automatically at the bottom of the heap shines through. I found her protectiveness endearing, especially when I realised the price she’d already paid to keep looking after Mariel. This drive certainly informs her actions throughout the rest of the book, when a grisly murder occurs and Mariel is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I hadn’t initially appreciated that this was a novella, or I had and then completely forgot about it by the time I got around to reading it, which is probably more likely. But it’s a tricky length to write well and only a relatively few authors manage to pull it off entirely successfully, in my experience.

I was impressed at how much of the world and scene setting unfolds within the narrative, as Celeste desperately scrambles to exonerate her sister. It’s a fascinating world, where the Fallen are immediately identified by their eye colour and because their ancestors happened to be on the wrong side of a heavenly war – they are automatically a downtrodden underclass. However, it’s the Fallen who can identify the valuable remains of Abaddon, whose body fell to Earth during the war. While the Elect reap the financial rewards, it’s the Fallen who have to mine the precious element that powers their Divine inventions. This tension is played out within Celeste’s family, as her Elect father took her away from the rough mining town that is Goetia to mix with respectable Elect society while Mariel and their Fallen mother had to stay behind. Once their father died, Celeste immediately returned to look after her sister feeling guilty and ashamed at having abandoned her and promising never to do so again.

I was swept along by Celeste’s increasing desperation – and a bit floored by the ending. While it certainly works and has had me thinking a lot about the outcome, I’m also left with wanting more. The world is interesting and I found Celeste and Mariel’s adventure riveting, but ultimately also a tad frustrating, as I felt the story ended a bit abruptly. I want to know how both Celeste and Mariel cope with the sudden change in their circumstances. I very much hope that Roanhorse will revisit this world in the future – more please! While I obtained an arc of Tread of Angels from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK Murder Most Royal – Book 3 of Her Majesty the Queen Investigates series by S.J. Bennett #BrainfluffNETGALLEYAUDIOBOOKreview #MurderMostRoyalbookreview

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I was in the mood for something a bit different, when this offering caught my eye. I was initially a bit hesitant – until I saw that Samantha Bond was narrating this one which gave me confidence to go for it. I particularly didn’t want to plough through some second-rate parody of Her Majesty, especially in the wake of her sudden death.

BLURB: December 2016 – A severed hand is found washed up on a beach next to the Queen’s estate at Sandringham. Elizabeth has become quite accustomed to solving even the most complex of murders. And though she quickly identifies the 70-year-old victim, Edward St Cyr, from his signet ring, the search for his killer is not so straightforward. St Cyr led an unconventional, often controversial life, making many enemies along the way in the quiet, rural world of North Norfolk, where everyone knows each other’s business.

But when a second man is found dead, and a prominent local woman is nearly killed in a hit-and-run, the mystery takes an even darker turn. With the Christmas break coming to an end, the Queen and her trusted assistant Rozie must race to discover how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Or the next victim may be found even closer to home.

REVIEW: I’m so glad that I went for this one. It’s a joy. Although it’s the third book in the series, I was blissfully unaware of the previous two books until I came to write up this review so don’t worry if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the other books – neither have I. Yet.

Set in 2016, the Queen is a battling a head cold as she and Prince Philip travel to Sandringham for the usual Christmas festivities. I loved the little additions, like the Queen’s chat with the PM. In fact, Bennett’s writing is enormously clever – she manages to avoid pinning the Queen down to any strong political opinion, which is entirely realistic. But neither does Her Majesty come across as too wishy-washy either. The only moment when I wasn’t completely happy with the depiction of the Queen is when she chooses to go wandering across the field, when the sensible option would be to stay in the Range Rover. But that is a minor niggle set against the rest of the book. In addition to the Queen, I loved Prince Philip’s character and the staff. I thought the relationship between the Queen and the royal household was very well done, particularly Rozie Oshodi, her Assistant Private Secretary.

As for the murder mystery, it’s a slow burn affair that throws out all sorts of puzzling details which at once stage had me wondering how the murder mystery was going to be wrapped up. I needn’t have worried. Bennett is clearly an experienced and able writer, who delivers a thoroughly enjoyable denouement. There were times when I listened to this with a lump in my throat for the loss of the amazing lady who ruled over us for a whole generation. Highly recommended for fans of quirky murder mysteries that is also well researched with a wealth of historical detail. I’m looking forward to tracking down the previous two books. While I obtained an audiobook arc of Murder Most Royal from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK arc The Thirty-One Doors by Kate Hulme #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheThirty-OneDoorsbookreview

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I’ve a weakness for country house historical murder mysteries and that intriguing cover set in a very snowy landscape caught my eye. So I was delighted when I received an audiobook arc for this tale.

BLURB: Scarpside House is famed for its beauty, its isolation and its legendary parties.
Tonight, it hosts the Penny Club soiree, an annual gathering of lucky men and women from all walks of life, coming together to celebrate their survival against the odds.
But this year, their luck is running thin. Accidents do happen, after all….
And some are long overdue….

REVIEW: The premise is a very familiar one – there’s a country house full of guests with murky pasts which make them either liable to murder their fellow party-goers, or be murdered due to something they’ve done. And no… when it becomes obvious that there’s a serial murderer on the loose, they can’t just rush to the front door and summon their chauffeur, because this house can only be accessed by a funicular ride. And someone sabotages it after our plucky detective arrives.

I wanted to like this one more than I actually did. Hulme’s prose is lush and highly descriptive, both of her characters and Scarpside House, evidently going for a gothic vibe. However this sub-genre demands loads of tension and fraught sense of wrongness, tipping into horror at times. That means that the reader needs to be invested in at least the main character, so that when Detective Sergeant Frank Glover is in peril, or at least struggling with the investigation – we need to care. Despite David Morley Hale’s excellent narration, I never really bonded with Glover. I found his initial aloofness towards the recently bereaved guests rather off-putting. We spent a great deal of time in his head as he roamed around Scarpside House on a ceaseless hunt for clues, when he mused about the loss of his mother as a small boy and his feelings for a young woman who was caught up in a previous case he was working on. I thought him rather self-absorbed and didn’t like him all that much. This was a problem as we are clearly supposed to care about him when he gets into several dangerous situations. Whereas I worried more about poor Dotty.

The other issue is the constant over-description of the house. Hulme clearly has a vivid visual imagination, but I really didn’t need an intricate description of the colour of the walls in every single bedroom or the curtains, cushions and carpets. It defuses much of the tension built up by the growing body count. The creepy atmosphere caused by the snowstorm and the knowledge that there is at least one highly dangerous person roaming around the building is also compromised by the over-long descriptions as it slows the pace far too much and took my attention away from what really matters.

I wasn’t convinced that Glover would have co-opted Dotty, the servant in quite the way he did – but I was prepared to suspend my disbelief on that score as she is the only person in the book I really liked. The tone of murder mystery did seem rather overblown at the beginning, instead of building up that sense of dark wrongness that permeates a gothic thriller, so I wondered if Hulme would pull off a successful denouement that adequately explained all the rather elaborate and varied styles of killing. I think she manages it, just about.

I’m aware that writing a classic murder mystery these days, with a nod to those who went before, takes a great deal of technical skill. While I was never tempted to DNF this one, as I was invested sufficiently to stick to the end to discover whodunit, I do think Hulme’s editor should have been more rigorous with the red pen and murdered a few more of her descriptive passages along with the various victims. While I obtained an audiobook arc of The Thirty-One Doors from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
7/10

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😊.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 28th September, 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 – And Justice for Mall – Book 4 of the Jersey Girl series by E.J. Copperman – release date – 1st November, 2022

#crime #cosy whodunit #legal murder mystery #feisty heroine #humour

BLURB: When Riley Schoenberg strides into family lawyer Sandy Moss’s office without knocking and coolly sits down, Sandy’s more irritated than amused. She has a client meeting to prepare for, and being interrupted by an eleven-year-old girl is not on her to-do list.

But then Sandy hears Riley’s pitch, and it’s a killer one: Riley’s father’s been convicted of murdering her mother . . . and the oddly intimidating pre-teen will do anything to get him out of jail.

Sandy, in turn, will do anything to get Riley out of her office. Which includes agreeing to look into her dad’s case for free. A decision she regrets when it turns out Riley’s inheritance has made her a multi-millionaire. Still, Sandy’s determined to get Riley the answers she needs. There’s just one tiny problem: Riley might be convinced her father’s innocent, but Jack Schoenberg is insisting he did it.

I was delighted when I saw this one pop up on Netgalley, as I’ve previously enjoyed other books in the series – see my reviews of Inherit the Shoes and Justice for the Persecution. I’ve a real soft spot for Sandy Moss and Copperman’s steady injection of humour throughout makes the ongoing puzzle as to whodunit always more enjoyable. So the fact that an eleven-year-old child is desperately fighting to free her remaining parent won’t be quite as grim as it initially sounds. I hope…

Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK Her Majesty’s Royal Coven – Book 1 of Her Majesty’s Royal Coven series by Juno Dawson #BrainfluffNETGALLEYaudiobookreview #HerMajestysRoyalCovenbookreview

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I saw the title and cover and immediately requested this one. It seemed like such a very cool premise and with that pink, I was sure I was getting a reasonably light book to listen to. So I was delighted to be approved – however, this one wasn’t what I was expecting…

BLURB: If you look hard enough at old photographs, we’re there in the background: healers in the trenches; Suffragettes; Bletchley Park oracles; land girls and resistance fighters. Why is it we help in times of crisis? We have a gift. We are stronger than Mundanes, plain and simple.

At the dawn of their adolescence, on the eve of the summer solstice, four young girls–Helena, Leonie, Niamh and Elle–took the oath to join Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, established by Queen Elizabeth I as a covert government department. Now, decades later, the witch community is still reeling from a civil war and Helena is now the reigning High Priestess of the organization. Yet Helena is the only one of her friend group still enmeshed in the stale bureaucracy of HMRC. Elle is trying to pretend she’s a normal housewife, and Niamh has become a country vet, using her powers to heal sick animals. In what Helena perceives as the deepest betrayal, Leonie has defected to start her own more inclusive and intersectional coven, Diaspora. And now Helena has a bigger problem. A young warlock of extraordinary capabilities has been captured by authorities and seems to threaten the very existence of HMRC. With conflicting beliefs over the best course of action, the four friends must decide where their loyalties lie: with preserving tradition, or doing what is right.

REVIEW: Looking at the shocking pink cover of the audiobook, I’d assumed that I was getting a reasonably light-hearted exploration of witchcraft and what it means to be a woman in the contemporary world. It’s nothing of the sort. Instead, nested within a cracking story that had me listening far later than I should, is a searing and comprehensive examination of female loyalties and expectations within our modern society. Just because the four young women are imbued with powerful magic, they aren’t insulated from the pressures the rest of us wrestle with on a daily basis. Issues such as dealing with chauvinist and abusive behaviour, racism, juggling work with motherhood, the push/pull of whether to settle down to have a family or prioritise a chosen career are all very recognisable problems also experienced by us non-magical Mundanes. In addition to dealing with these ongoing life decisions – our four protagonists are also still recovering from a savage war within the magical community between those who believed the magically gifted should be ruling the world and those who felt the status quo should prevail. Two of our heroines lost partners in the conflict, while Niamh’s twin sister was also on the opposing side, so the cost was high.

When a young, traumatised warlock is discovered after a destructive fire, Helena and Niamh initially agree on a course of action. However, as events unfold, the former allies suddenly find themselves on opposing sides of an issue that is also ripping apart Feminists – that of transgenderism. It was brilliant to see this difficult, emotive topic so effectively covered within a gripping tale, where both sides of the argument were so well covered.

I’m conscious that I’ve given the impression that this is a worthy story, full of pertinent issues that affect modern women within Western society. But what I’ve perhaps omitted to tell you is that all this goes on within a wonderful tale full of drama and some fabulous action scenes, shot through with wry humour that occasionally had me laughing aloud. And there was one particular scene that had me close to tears. The book also finishes on a doozy of a plot twist that has me desperate to read the sequel RIGHT NOW – because I’ve got to know my all-time favourite character is alright. In short, this is a fabulous tale that gives us four nuanced, believable characters facing familiar and contemporary problems with an extra, complicating twist of magic that makes the story leap off the page. I can’t wait to get hold of the next book. Very highly recommended. While I obtained an audiobook arc of Her Majesty’s Royal Coven from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #21

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This is my update on how I’m coping with Long Covid now it’s been over seventeen months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.

A lot has happened since I last reported in. The morning of my Dr’s appointment, the surgery contacted me to apologise that my consultation would have to be postponed as they had four doctors off with covid. I immediately got back in touch and explained that I was really struggling with a suspected sinus infection so I had a telephone appointment and was prescribed a course of antibiotics. The improvement in my condition was immediate, with the congestion easing and the lymph glands on the right side of my neck no longer so swollen and sore. Even the top of my head stopped aching. I felt on top of the world – I hadn’t felt so well since I’d become ill with covid back in March 2021. The only downside was that the tablets made me photosensitive, so during yet another week of soaring temperatures and bright sunshine, I had to keep covered up and indoors as much as possible. Still, it was a small price to pay. I even felt well enough to start sorting out my clothes in the wardrobes in the boys’ rooms so they would have sufficient space for their own possessions, given that they are now staying with us for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile I was convinced that I had now beaten the long covid and it was all behind me. Until the beginning of this week, when I once more woke up to the far too familiar feeling of dragging, bone-deep exhaustion that made getting up a struggle. The worst day was Wednesday when I wasn’t able to get out of bed and shower before midday – but it could have been so much worse. The last time I’d been hit by such a relapse, I’d spent several days in bed unable to get up before 5 pm. By Friday I was starting to recover again, although my energy levels still aren’t back to what they were, but at least now I know that I’ll get there. And an indicator that I am really on the road to recovery – at long last, I’m able to walk at the same pace as the rest of the family. For the longest time, although I was no longer walking with a stick, I was still moving really slowly, which forced the boys and Himself to check their pace so I wasn’t left behind. I hated it. I felt old before my time and also often got caught behind other slow-moving folks, because I didn’t have the acceleration to step past them. I also felt vulnerable on a crowded pavement, as I was also aware if someone wasn’t paying attention, I couldn’t react fast enough to avoid a collision. The ability to stride out and walk quickly again is such a joy – though I quickly get puffed as I have no stamina. Never mind, that will come.

The boys, as ever, are being brilliant. They are such good company and are always helpful with the chores, especially when I’m not feeling at my shiny best. Ethan is getting ever busier working in a shop that sells workwear and school uniforms as the summer holiday is coming to an end. While his younger brother is enjoying sessions in the local gym. We went down to the beach one lovely summer evening and I’m hoping to take them more often as I get stronger again. While all this has been going on, reading, writing and blogging have taken rather a hit.

I’ve recently read:-

AUDIOBOOK – The Daughter of Dr Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Carlota Moreau: a young woman, growing up in a distant and luxuriant estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán peninsula. The only daughter of either a genius, or a madman.

Montgomery Laughton: a melancholic overseer with a tragic past and a propensity for alcohol. An outcast who assists Dr. Moreau with his scientific experiments, which are financed by the Lizaldes, owners of magnificent haciendas and plentiful coffers.

The hybrids: the fruits of the Doctor’s labor, destined to blindly obey their creator and remain in the shadows. A motley group of part human, part animal monstrosities.

All of them living in a perfectly balanced and static world, which is jolted by the abrupt arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the charming and careless son of Doctor Moreau’s patron, who will unwittingly begin a dangerous chain reaction. For Moreau keeps secrets, Carlota has questions, and in the sweltering heat of the jungle, passions may ignite.
This slow-burn, atmospheric historical adventure creaked with tension throughout. I loved the depiction of two strong-minded, flawed people caught up in Dr Moreau’s machinations. Review to follow. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting by Sophie Irwin
Kitty Talbot needs a fortune. Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. Left with her father’s massive debts, she has only twelve weeks to save her family from ruin.

Kitty has never been one to back down from a challenge, so she leaves home and heads toward the most dangerous battleground in all of England: the London season.

Kitty may be neither accomplished nor especially genteel—but she is utterly single-minded; imbued with cunning and ingenuity, she knows that risk is just part of the game.

The only thing she doesn’t anticipate is Lord Radcliffe. The worldly Radcliffe sees Kitty for the mercenary fortune-hunter that she really is and is determined to scotch her plans at all costs, until their parrying takes a completely different turn…
This is huge fun – and just the sort of escapist enjoyment I need right now. I thoroughly appreciated that Kitty has accepted the stark fact that she must make a financially favourable marriage to keep the rest of her family from foundering, which was an all-too common occurrence for women of a certain social class back in the day. Review to follow. 9/10

Breakup – Book 7 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow
In Breakup, Kate Shugak’s loyalties – to the land, her heritage, her home – are put to the test when a series of mishaps lead to murder. April in Alaska is typically a period of rebirth and renewal, and after the long winter Kate has nothing more strenuous on her agenda than paying her taxes. But mayhem abounds as the meltoff flows; this year’s thaw is accompanied by rampaging bears, family feuds, and a plane crash quite literally in Kate’s own backyard. What begins as a series of headaches escalates into possible murder when a dead body is found near her homestead. Initially unwilling to involve herself in the investigation, preferring instead to write off each odd occurrence as a breakup-related peculiarity, Kate is drawn irresistibly to seek the truth.

Compelled by her friends to act as problem solver and guided by the spirit of her Aleut grandmother, she finds herself slowly taking on the role of clan leader, a post she is bound to by honor and blood. As breakup becomes increasingly fraught with danger and destruction, Kate must decide whether she can cross the line from passive observer to instrument of change, assuming the role of elder as the mantle of responsibility is passed.
I am slowly working my way through this engaging murder mystery series, set in Alaska and featuring a young woman born and bred in this extraordinary place. This particular book is a joy. I love the vivid depiction of place and Kate’s increasing frustration as she becomes sucked into local politics, despite her best intentions. The story see-saws between extreme danger and farce as events take on a life of their own, with an ugly murder emerging from the middle of all the mayhem. This is an outstanding read in an excellent series. 10/10

AUDIOBOOK – Sherlock Holmes & the Miskatonic Monstrosities – Book 2 of The James Lovegrove’s Sherlock Holmes series by James Lovegrove
It is the spring of 1895, and more than a decade of combating eldritch entities has cost Dr John Watson his beloved wife Mary, and nearly broken the health of Sherlock Holmes. Yet the companions do not hesitate when they are called to the infamous Bedlam lunatic asylum, where they find an inmate speaking in R’lyehian, the language of the Old Ones. Moreover, the man is horribly scarred and has no memory of who he is.

And when the man is taken from Bedlam by forces beyond normal mortal comprehension, it becomes clear that there is far more to the case than they initially suspected…
I have cut short the rather chatty blurb to this thoroughly enjoyable Sherlock Holmes adventure, where Lovegrove really hits his stride with this entertaining pastiche that also encompasses Lovecraftian aspects. The story takes all sorts of exciting twists and turns, yet remains true to the overall style and tone of Conan Doyle. Thoroughly recommended for Sherlock Holmes fans, who also appreciate a splash of fantasy with their historical murder mysteries. 10/10

Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Augusta Hawke – Book 1 of the Augusta Hawke series by G.M. Malliet #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #AugustaHawkebookreview

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I’ve been reading a lot of murder mystery series recently – and my attention was snagged by the concept of a writer of detective novels turning amateur sleuth. Yes… I know it’s not remotely original, but I’ve recently thoroughly enjoyed a TV series based on that premise and wanted to see if Malliet’s version would be similarly entertaining.

BLURB: Where are Niko and Zora Norman? Crime writer Augusta Hawke puts her sleuthing skills to the test to solve the mystery of her disappearing neighbors in the first entry in a new series. While Augusta Hawke is a successful author of eighteen crime novels, since her husband’s death she’s been living vicariously through her Jules Maigret-like detective Claude and his assistant Caroline. Then a handsome police detective appears investigating a real-life mystery.

Where are her neighbors, the Normans? No one has a clue what’s happened – except Augusta. Although she isn’t nosy, spending all day staring out the windows for inspiration means she does notice things. Like the Normans arguing. And that they’ve been missing a week.

REVIEW: Let’s get one thing straight – if you’re looking for an action-packed, foot-to-the-floor thriller, then pass on this one. Instead, you get a slow-burn building sense of wrongness that gradually develops into an investigation – although Augusta is the first to admit that she largely started looking into her neighbours’ disappearance because she’d hit a bit of a wall with her latest manuscript. Indeed, it’s debatable whether the pacing is a tad too slow at times, though I was never in any danger of abandoning this one. Augusta’s dry humour held me throughout. Her personality and my liking for her is the outstanding aspect of this book – I definitely am looking forward to reading more in the series.

Not in the first flush of youth, Augusta was widowed when her beloved husband died in a car crash. Upsettingly, the circumstances of his death led to very hurtful discoveries about him hand the double life he was leading. And since his death, she has retreated into her writing, watching the world from her window and her regular walks with her dog. I liked how the devastation of Marcus’s death slowly is revealed – this aspect of the story could have so easily slid into a self-pitying whine. However, Augusta uses humour as her defence and refuge, which had me grinning and thoroughly rooting for her. The writing is accomplished and Malliet is clearly an experienced storyteller with a particular talent for writing a strong, sympathetic protagonist capable of engaging this reader’s affection – I really cared about Augusta.

That is particularly important when the stakes suddenly become a whole lot higher as the book suddenly shifts up a couple of gears during the climactic denouement. And while I’d a suspicion about the actual villain – the backstory and extent of the antagonist’s wrongdoing came as a shock. Recommended for fans of contemporary mysteries that aren’t too gritty or dripping with gore and feature a strong female protagonist. While I obtained an arc of Augusta Hawke from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*RE-RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Death and the Decorator – Book 21 of the Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #DeathandtheDecoratorbookreview

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I’m a long-standing fan of Simon Brett, so have thoroughly enjoyed other books in this series, including Death on the Downs, The Liar in the Library, The Killer in the Choir and Guilt at the Garage. I also have enjoyed Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations, as well as the first two books in his entertaining new series The Decluttering Mysteries – The Clutter Corpse and An Untidy Death. So when I saw this offering available, I immediately pounced – and I’m very glad I did…

BLURB: Having decided to redecorate Woodside Cottage, Jude has engaged the services of local man Pete, who has painted and decorated the homes of Fethering residents for many years. Pete is currently working on Footscrow House, a large Victorian building which is being converted into holiday flats by a local developer.

Having arranged to meet at ‘Fiasco House’, as it is known locally due to the many failed business enterprises over the years, Jude and Pete make a surprising discovery behind a wall panel: a woman’s handbag! The casual discovery becomes serious when the police identify the handbag’s owner as Anita Garner, a young woman who vanished in suspicious circumstances twenty years earlier.

Determined to find out what really happened to Anita all those years ago, Jude and her neighbour Carole’s investigations plunge them into a maze of deception and murder, as they uncover a number of uncomfortable secrets beneath the serene surface of Fethering life . . .

REVIEW: Jude and Carole are the proverbial odd couple. In other circumstances, it’s unlikely that they’d ever be more than acquaintances – let alone a duo who have gone on to solve a number of tricky murders. They are such very different personalities – Jude is warm-hearted, open-minded and easy-going, who mostly enjoys her life; while Carole is judgemental, bitterly lonely, socially insecure and naturally secretive. What they both have in common is huge curiosity, an eye for details and inconsistencies, sharp intelligence and a drive to see that Justice is done. There have been times in this series when I find the inevitable friction between them frankly annoying, as it can get in the way of the investigation and makes me want to upend Carole’s glass of wine over her head. However, this time around, I was glad that both women were playing to their strengths.

Brett is an experienced storyteller, with the ability to craft an enjoyably complex whodunit with a satisfying number of possible suspects. And I was delighted to discover that while I’d fleetingly considered the perpetrator – it wasn’t for the right reason, or for the right crime. I love it when an author has me flicking back through the pages to discover the little clues that I’d overlooked. As well as delivering a solidly good murder mystery – I always enjoy Brett’s cutting shafts of humour, as he takes lumps out of the smug, upper middle-class residents of Fethering. All in all, if you enjoy murder mysteries set in an English village that plays with the expectations of this crowded sub-genre in an interesting way, then this one comes highly recommended. And no – you really don’t have to have read any of the former twenty books in the series to thoroughly enjoy this particular offering. While I obtained an arc of Death and the Decorator from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10