Tag Archives: family relationships

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – 2019 Roundup #Brainfluffbookblog #ShootfortheMoon2019Roundup

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This is now an annual event – in the dying days of the year, my writing buddy Mhairi Simpson and I sit down together and set ourselves targets for the coming year. The theory is that in aiming for the insanely unrealistic, we’ll achieve more than if we were more cautious in our goalsetting. These are the targets I set for 2019 – how did I do?

• Edit and publish Mantivore Dreams – Book 1 of The Arcadian Chronicles
I released Mantivore Dreams at the end of August, so it was bang on target, given I’d planned to publish it during the summer.

• Complete, edit and publish Mantivore Prey – Book 2 of The Arcadian Chronicles
Mantivore Prey was released just three months later, at the end of November, and I’m really pleased with the way it turned out. I’d had a battle with this one and I feel I’ve managed to complete Kyrillia’s story in a way that is both powerful and moving. Vrox’s story will be concluded in Mantivore Warrior, due out after Easter, all being well.

• Rewrite, edit and submit Miranda’s Tempest
This didn’t happen and for the time being, I’m going to abandon this project. Miranda’s Tempest is too far from my current goal, which is to continue working on my self-publishing career. So breaking off from my writing and publishing schedule to fit in a book that I think could cause me major problems in the writing seems a daft move, right now.

• Outline and start on the first draft of Bloodless – Book 1 of the Beth Wheeler mysteries
I didn’t manage to get to this one, either. Mantivore Prey took longer to rewrite and edit – I don’t write particularly quickly and my editing process isn’t all that fast. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article – these goals were ambitious, and I failed with this one.

• Release paperback editions of Dying for Space and Breathing Space
I’ve now managed to get both these books published in paperback – in fact, Breathing Space is pretty much hot off the press, as I uploaded the paperback format just a couple of weeks ago. I’m thrilled to be able to hold the books in my hand, and particularly like how the blurb and the Griffinwing Publishing logo appear on the back cover.

• Organise reviews for the release of Netted
I was delighted to have a handful of reviews organised for Netted when it was released by Grimbold Publishing. And I’m very happy with the amazing cover that Mhairi designed.

• Regain my fitness and stamina
I now feel a whole lot better, but still haven’t regained the stamina and fitness I’d achieved in the early part of 2018. However, now I’m taking blood pressure tablets, I’m feeling so much better and in a position to really work on building up my stamina and fitness.

• Continue delivering my Creative Writing courses at Brighton Metropolitan College
I achieved this goal, in that I completed the 2018/19 academic year with my lovely students, before resigning from the position of Creative Writing tutor, after a wonderful ten-year stint. It was a wrench and I still miss them, but running those three classes, along with my other obligations, was simply too much. Since stepping down from the post, I’ve felt a lot better and have found writing easier. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, though.

• Continue teaching TW
I continued to teach Tim, as part of a team of tutors who also supported him when he attended Chichester College to take a Music Diploma. The course has a two-year option, but Tim decided not to continue his education in a college setting, as he feels he learns more on a one-to-one basis. We prepared him for the last section of his English Functional Skills Level Two exam – the Reading paper – throughout the Autumn term. While he is a fluent reader, he found it a challenge to compare and contrast three separate texts, then answer questions on them – but then this exam is commensurate with a GCSE English Language qualification, so it isn’t meant to be too easy. He took the exam at the end of November 2019 and during his first lesson after Christmas, we got the news that he not only passed it – he smashed it by getting an amazing 25/30!

• Continue blogging about books and writing
I thoroughly enjoy reading and reviewing books – I’m keeping my target for the year at 100 books, although during 2019 I read 168 books and wrote 128 reviews, though some have yet to be published. I had intended to branch out from mostly featuring book reviews, to taking part in reading challenges such as Love Your Library and Beat the Backlist. It didn’t happen, as I’m rubbish at nipping across to the host site and adding the links. Although I did participate in Sci Fi Month, which I absolutely loved. I wrote a measly five articles in my series authoring annals, so that was also something of a fail.

During 2019, I wrote 350,569 words – 151,500 were written for the blog, just under 52,000 were in connection with my teaching duties and just over 147,000 words went towards my novels. I published the boxed set of The Sunblinded trilogy, Mantivore Dreams and Mantivore Prey – and I had the fun of watching someone else publish Netted. I also had my Roman steampunk story ‘The Final Voyage of Juno’s Breath’ published in the anthology Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion II.

While I would have liked to have managed to get more books completed, I am pleased to see my backlist steadily growing. Overall, I think the 2019 Shoot for Moon Challenge went reasonably well. I shall post my goals for the 2020 Shoot the Moon Challenge at the end of the month. What about you – do you find setting targets helpful? What was your biggest success of 2019?

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 8th January, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #Can’tWaitWednesday

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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 – Bone Silence – Book 3 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds

#science fiction #far future #gothic space opera #pirates #YA adventure

Two sisters ran away from home to join the crew of a spaceship. They took on pirates, faced down monsters and survived massacres . . . and now they’re in charge. Captaining a fearsome ship of their own, adventures are theirs for the taking. But Captain Bosa’s fearsome reputation still dogs their heels, and they’re about to discover that, out in space, no one forgives, and no one forgets . . .

I was so thrilled to be approved for this Netgalley arc and am rubbing my hands at the prospect of tucking into this one! I’ve loved the series so far – read my reviews of Revenger and Shadow Captain – and I’m hoping the final instalment will be brought to a triumphant conclusion.

My First Reads of the Decade – Welcome 2020! #Brainfluffbookblog #MyFirstReadsoftheDecade

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These days I read two books simultaneously – one ebook and one audiobook. So the two books I’m starting this year with are both fantasy and both dealing with witchcraft, but so very different:-

KINDLE Ebook Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger series by Marie Brennan
Created by the merging of witch and doppelganger, Mirei is a unique being. Her extraordinary magic makes her the most poweful witch alive—and a notorious social outcast. While Satomi, the leader of the witches’ ruling Primes, hails Mirei as a miracle, rival Primes proclaim that Mirei is an evil abomination… and that those who champion her must be destroyed.
I thoroughly enjoyed Warrior, the first book in this duology – but I’m finding this one even more engrossing. The fallout as Mirei’s very existence upends hundreds of years of custom is predictably hostile by certain factions. This gives an inventive, skilled author like Brennan all sorts of places to take this story – great fun! I will be reviewing both books in this duology in due course.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.
I’ll be honest – I don’t love this one as much as I thought I would. The prose is coolly elegant and each of the main protagonists are well drawn, but I feel rather distanced by the viewpoint and structure. There’s no risk of not finishing it, though – so hopefully I will reach a point when I suddenly find I’ve completely bonded with the world and the characters. Review to follow.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson #Brainfluffbookreview #Aurorabookreview

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I loved Robinson’s Mars series and have also enjoyed some of his subsequent work, as he is an ambitious writer, willing to push the envelope in what he does – see my review of 2312.

BLURB: Our voyage from Earth began generations ago. Now, we approach our new home. AURORA.

And that’s it – the blurb. How refreshingly short and to the point… As you may have gathered, this is a generational ship adventure in the closing stages of its long, long journey. I was impressed at the strength of the characterisation of the main protagonist, Freya, who is the daughter of the main engineer striving to keep Aurora, their ship, in one piece long enough for the arrival at Tau Ceti. Roberson writes on the harder side of science fiction, so there is a fair amount of technical detail regarding keeping the ship and all the systems running. I found a lot of the problems thrown up by trying to keep a small biome running really fascinating – of course, this is fiction rather than science, but many of the issues Robinson raises did sound scarily plausible.

While many of the problems around a generational ship were interesting, I am always all about the story and that means characters. There have been times when I have found Robinson’s characterisation a little thinner than I would have liked. Not so here. I loved Freya and I thought his depiction of her development from a young girl, through the main relationships throughout her life, until she is facing the historic events around the arrival at Tau Ceti absolutely convincing.

The other strength in this narrative is the way the plot twists kept coming. I simply didn’t predict the way events unspooled on the arrival to their longed-for destination, and was unable to put the book down as I was utterly engrossed in finding out what would happen next. That is about all I’m going to say about the plot as I would hate to provide any spoilers – this is one that needs to be read with the minimum amount of foreknowledge. That strong narrative kept me turning the pages, so that I read faaar into the night.

Any niggles? Robinson is fond of slowing the pace right back down at times, and there were long – and I mean long – passages where he muses about the philosophy surrounding the ship’s consciousness, which I felt tipped into self-indulgence. However, it wasn’t a dealbreaker. There is so much in this book that I loved and I know that Aurora will stay in my head for a long time to come. Highly recommended for fans of excellent generational ship adventures.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – The night is dark and full of terrors… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffdarkandforebodingcovers

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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 currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this this week we are featuring DARK AND FOREBODING covers. I’ve selected Night Road by Kristin Hannah.

 

This edition was produced by St Martin’s Press in March 2011. The colours of this one are both beautiful and yet, there is a sense of wrongness. That cleverly angled head, along with the loose hair give a sense of someone in trouble. And yet, we cannot see enough to make sure. It’s very well done. I also like the lack of clutter. My one grizzle is that the title font is rather ordinary and doesn’t stand out sufficiently.

 

This edition, published in January 2012 by St. Martin’s Griffin, is a really dreary affair, I think. The wet road is boring, the title font is visually underpowered and the stripped back effect the designer was going for has been compromised by the chatter cluttering it up.

 

Published by Pan Books in June 2011, this offering is a definite improvement on the last effort. The running figure again denotes that something isn’t right, while the dark colouring and blurring gives a sense of menace. I really like the font on this one.

 

This Croatian edition, published by Znanje, Zagreb in February 2015, is more like it. The lonely road with the girl walking along it, lit by the moon looks both beautiful and threatening. I think I’d prefer it without the olden-style lamp in the foreground, but despite the rather measly title font, this is one of the better offerings.

 

This Romanian edition (I think! For some reason that escapes me, Goodreads has omitted that information) was published by LITERA. This is a beautiful cover, with that incredible night sky and the lurid red lighting picking out the road disappearing into the dark. While the font is still plain, it at least holds its own against the artwork and I’m pleased to see how uncluttered the cover is, allowing us to fully appreciate the design. Which is your favourite?

Teaser Tuesday – 17th December, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton

30% It was Banna Mora’s wedding day, and she was supposed to be praying.

Long rays of sunlight pulled across the high walls of the rose courtyard at the Summer Seat. Like most of Innis Lear, the courtyard was two things at once: from the outside it appears isolated and dark, built of black stone blocks streaked by years of salt spray, but inside it revealed itself to be bright and welcoming.

BLURB: Inspired by Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Lady Hotspur continues the saga of Innis Lear, centuries later, as revolution, love, and a betrayal corrupt the descendants of two warring kingdoms.

Hal was once a knight, carefree and joyous, sworn to protect her future queen Banna Mora. But after a rebellion led by her own mother, Caleda, Hal is now the prince of Lionis, heir to the throne. The pressure of her crown and bloody memories of war plague her, as well as a need to shape her own destiny, no matter the cost.

Lady Hotspur, known as the Wolf of Aremoria for her temper and warcraft, never expected to be more than a weapon. She certainly never expected to fall in love with the fiery Hal or be blindsided by an angry Queen’s promise to remake the whole world in her own image—a plan Hotspur knows will lead to tragedy.

Banna Mora kept her life, but not her throne. Fleeing to Innis Lear to heal her heart and plot revenge, the stars and roots of Innis Lear will teach her that the only way to survive a burning world is to learn to breathe fire.

These three women, together or apart, are the ones who have the power to bring the once-powerful Aremoria back to life—or destroy it forever.

It took me a while to get into this one, but I’m now thoroughly enjoying the dynamic between the three women and can see some parallels with the Shakespearean storyline – though there is a whole lot that is also very different. I am now at the stage where I don’t want it to end too quickly, because it is a highly satisfying, engrossing read…

Review of LIBRARY book Shadow Captain – Book 2 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds #Brainfluffbookreview #ShadowCaptainbookreview #SciFiMonth2019

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I’d read and enjoyed the dark, gothic Revenger – see my review – so was delighted when I spotted this one on the library shelf. I am linking this review to Sci Fi Month 2019.

BLURB: Adrana and Fura Ness have finally been reunited, but both have changed beyond recognition. Once desperate for adventure, now Adrana is haunted by her enslavement on the feared pirate Bosa Sennen’s ship. And rumors of Bosa Sennen’s hidden cache of treasure have ensnared her sister, Fura, into single-minded obsession. Neither is safe; because the galaxy wants Bosa Sennen dead and they don’t care if she’s already been killed. They’ll happily take whoever is flying her ship.

The lovely thing about spaceship thrillers is that you don’t have to make up complicated reasons why people don’t just wander off for a relaxing walk, or pop out to the shops – everyone is stuck. No one can leave. It gives a lovely claustrophobic sense of desperation when things are going wrong. Like… you’re not sure if you can trust your own sister, anymore. Or maybe several crew members are cracking under the strain. Or maybe – just maybe, you are being shadowed by another ship intent on exacting revenge upon the crazed manwoman who had formerly captained your vessel…

Ditto when you get to port. Again, no one can get very far away. Especially if said port is a space station that has seen far, far better days and is on the brink of financial ruin before it fell into the hands of the wrong sort of people. Another twist of tension-filled mayhem. Bring to it, Reynold’s gift for dark, brooding prose, complicated characters who don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves and I found this one equally unputdownable. It doesn’t have quite the violence level of the first book, which was brutal in parts, but that simmering threat had me on my toes all the same. As well as the knowledge that Reynolds is quite capable of killing off really nice characters that I liked a lot.

The pages more or less turned themselves as I read far into the night to discover what would happen next. And I was pleased to see that the current story arc was satisfactorily wrapped up, while leaving a couple of major plotpoints dangling, ready for the next slice of the adventure.

Highly recommended for those who like their space opera on the darker side…
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 26th November, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday #SciFiMonth2019

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! This week, I’m linking this post to Sc Fi Month 2019.

This is my choice of the day:

Navigating the Stars – Book 1 of Sentinels of the Galaxy by Maria V. Snyder
6%: With that last gift, my funeral officially ends. There is no good-bye or we’ll be in touch. I hug Lan and leave the room with only memories and a couple of photographs to add to my collection.

Emotionally drained, I head back to our housing unit. Each step an effort of will. By the time I reach my bedroom, I make a promise.

No more friends. Ever.

BLURB: “The answer is no, Lyra,” my mother utters her favorite—I swear—phrase.

No means I have to travel with them to another planet—again.

No means leaving all my friends fifty years in the past. Thanks, Einstein.

Seventeen-year-old Lyra Daniels can’t truly blame Einstein or her parents for their impending move across the Milky Way Galaxy. It’s all due to the invention of the Q-net, which made traveling the vast distances in space possible—with one big caveat: the time dilation. But that never stopped Lyra’s ancestors from exploring the Milky Way, searching for resources and exoplanets to colonize. What they didn’t expect to find is life-sized terracotta Warriors buried on twenty-one different exoplanets.

… Make that twenty-two.

As the Galaxy’s leading experts on the Warriors, Lyra’s parents are thrilled by the new discovery, sending them—and her—fifty years into the future. Her social life in ruins, she fills her lonely days by illegally worming into the Q-net. The only person close to her age is the annoyingly irresistible security officer who threatens to throw her into the brig.

After the planet they just left goes silent—meaning no communications from them at all—security has bigger problems to deal with than Lyra, especially when vital data files go missing. But that’s just the beginning, because they’re not as alone as they thought on their new planet… and suddenly time isn’t the only thing working against them.

As you can see, I haven’t got very far into this one, but I love the premise. I’ve found the prospect of travelling across the vast distances, yet still having to deal with time dilation gives family dynamics a twist that immediately ups the stakes.

Review of INDIE Ebook Cleon Moon – Book 5 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker #Brainfluffbookreview #CleonMoonbookreview #SciFiMonth2019

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I have been following this series and enjoying the unfolding adventure and likeable nonsense that accompanies all the various problems bedevilling disaster magnet Alisa Marchenko – see my review of the first book, Star Nomad. I am linking this review to Sci Fi Month 2019.

BLURB: Now that she’s retrieved the Staff of Lore, Captain Alisa Marchenko can finally dedicate herself and her ship to finding her kidnapped daughter. Her scant clues lead her to Cleon Moon. Unfortunately, since the fall of the empire, mafia clans have taken over the domed cities on the harsh moon, and exploring there isn’t easy. Even with the cyborg Leonidas at her side, Alisa struggles to survive vengeful mafia clans, rogue Starseers, and genetically engineered predators. To further complicate matters, she must worry about the ancient relic hidden on her ship, a beacon to anyone in the system who craves its power. If Alisa can’t navigate the moon’s chaos, she may lose her only chance to catch up with her daughter.

Alisa’s smart mouth is entertaining as the action gets hot and her adrenaline kicks in, while she finds herself in situations where she’d be better off heading in the opposite direction. The problem is, she’s looking for her eight-year-old daughter who was snatched by the infamous Starseers, telepaths with a dark history of trying to subdue the empire and use the bulk of the untalented population as serfs.

I also liked how the stories of the other main characters in the ship are also progressing – each adventure highlights one of the passengers so that we learn more about their backstory and/or continue to develop their character arc. This time around, it is aspiring chef, Beck, who is very much caught up in the action as he goes off to meet up with someone who might be interested in the sauces he makes… Meanwhile, Alisa has investigations of her own to make – where is Jelena, her daughter? If I have a slight grumble, is that she seems to be getting a tad too distracted with cyborg hunk, Leonidas, who she desires, rather than keeping focused on the search for her daughter. Meanwhile, her long-suffering engineer, Mica, keeps looking for a new position but somehow never getting around to leaving the ship and new-age, Yumi, with her rescued chickens, is also very excited at the prospect of landing on a moon where fungi is the main flora, given she knows how to make a drug from one of the rarer species…

Throw in dinosaur hunts, a knockabout space battle where weaving amongst the taller mushrooms is a thing and a devastating theft from their trusty ship, and the pages flew by so that I reached THE END with a sense of loss that this slice of the adventure is now over. I generally don’t embark on long-running series if I can avoid it – keeping up with them is too much like hard work. However, I have somehow reached the end of Book 5 of this whacky adventure without it seeming to be a big deal. And I’m definitely continuing with Book 6, Arkadian Skies – apart from anything else, this Indie series is very good value for money.

Recommended for fans of action-packed space opera, including a splash of romance.
8/10

Book review of LIBRARY book Castaway Planet – Book 4 of the Boundary series by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor #Brainfluffbookreview #CastawayPlanetbookreview #SciFiMonth2019

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I saw the familiar brightly coloured, retro Baen cover on the shelves and swooped upon this one – I generally enjoy science fiction adventures produced by this publisher – would I like this one? I have linked this review to Sci Fi Month 2019.

BLURB: Lost in the dark, half a year into their journey to the colony world of Tantalus, Sakura Kimei, her family, and her best friend, the alien “Bemmie” nicknamed Whips, are torn from the safety of their colony ship. In a crippled lifeboat, they had one chance to find a habitable world. But even then, they would find that their apparent salvation was a world of a thousand secrets.

Yes, yes – I know. Book 4… and I haven’t read any others in this series. But my foolish ways once more paid off – this is clearly a new entry point into this series, because due to the nature of this adventure, previous characters and actions simply didn’t matter. Think Swiss Family Robinson in space – this book has the same upbeat energy and painstaking attention to detail regarding their survival adventures I recall from that classic I read a lifetime ago. The planet they have landed on has some intriguing differences regarding the way the land and sea interact, which impacts on all the creatures they discover. While the climate and landmass is a lot more temperate and suited to humans and bemmies than it might have been, the eco-system throws up all sorts of hazards.

I loved this one. It took me back to the likes of Robinson Crusoe and one I enjoyed even more – Coral Island. The family dynamic worked well – though it was an improbably cosy and peaceable family where there were hardly any quarrels and the parents were invariably united and supportive of each other. But that’s okay – given it was the situation that powered the narrative, I was quite happy to accept the characters’ slightly unrealistic positivity for the sake of the storyline, which was brought to an entirely satisfactory conclusion. Highly recommended for fans of space colony adventures.
8/10