Tag Archives: family relationships

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

Review of INDIE Ebook Sweep of the Blade – Book 4 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews #Brainfluffbookreview #SweepoftheBladebookreview #@SciFiMonth2019

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I absolutely love this sci fi/fantasy mash-up, as it is so funny, smart and cleverly plotted – see my review of Clean Sweep. It has also stuck in my head, so I was absolutely thrilled when I saw this one was available – and treated it to myself once I’d completed the major rewrite of Mantivore Prey. I’m linking this review to the @SciFiMonth2019 event.

Maud Demille was a daughter of Innkeepers. She knew that a simple life wasn’t in the cards, but she never anticipated what Fate would throw at her. Once a wife to a powerful vampire knight, Maud and her daughter, Helen, had been exiled for the sins of her husband to the desolate planet of Karhari. Karhari killed her husband, and Maud had spent a year and a half avenging his debts. But now all the debts are paid. Rescued by her sister Dina, Maud had sworn off all things vampire. Except she met Arland, the Marshal of House Krahr. One thing led to another and he asked for her hand in marriage. She declined. Try as she might, she can’t just walk away from Arland. It doesn’t help that being human is a lot harder for Maud than being a vampire.

This is something of a spinoff, as this is the first book that doesn’t feature Dina, the young innkeeper, but instead follows the fortunes of her sister, Maud. We first meet with her and the adorable Helen in the previous book, but to be honest if you haven’t read any of the other innkeeper books, this would be a good entry point.

I love the fusion of fantasy and sci fi – because these vampires aren’t the blood-drinking batlike creatures that regularly turn up in urban fantasy, they are a space-faring alien species with a martial culture honed by spending generations battling a ferocious species intent on decimating their kind, while snacking on their children. They are larger and stronger than humans and value strength, cunning and awesome fighting skills. Maud happens to have those. And yes… there were times in the book when I was frankly sceptical at her fighting ability – until a certain point when it becomes clear how she manages to hold her own against these hulking fighters. It’s neatly done and if you don’t register it, there’s no explanation – you, the reader, are left to join up the dots.

The romance between her and Arland is well handled, given it is something of a slowburn affair, given that Maud had already been swept off her feet by a vampire warrior and it didn’t end well. There are reasons why she isn’t about to rush off into the sunset with yet another gorgeous vampire, no matter how well connected he is, or how attracted she is to him. After all, she now has a young daughter to consider, and she doesn’t want to end up exiled on another dusty hellhole struggling for survival, again. And yes – this made her one of the most sympathetic protagonists I’ve encountered in a while. I burned through this one far too fast and though the next book on my list is a cracking read, it’s taken longer to bond with it than it should, simply because the protagonist isn’t Maud and the world isn’t peopled with sharp-toothed predators who like fighting for fun…

Highly recommended for fans of both fantasy and science fiction adventure stories with a splash of romance.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Body Tourists by Jane Rogers #Brainfluffbookreview #BodyTouristsbookreview #SciFiMonth2019

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I’ve only ever heard good things about this author, so was delighted when I saw this arc available on Netgalley – and even more delighted to be approved to read it. I am also linking this one to @SciFiMonth2019.

BLURB: In this version of London, there is a small, private clinic. Behind its layers of security, procedures are taking place on poor, robust teenagers from northern Estates in exchange for thousands of pounds – procedures that will bring the wealthy dead back to life in these young supple bodies for fourteen days. It’s an opportunity for wrongs to be righted, for fathers to meet grandsons, for scientists to see their work completed. Old wine in new bottles. But at what cost?

This story is told in multiple viewpoints, as we are introduced to a number of characters who become involved in this experiment. Inevitably, there are some who stick in the mind more than others. Paula is stranded on one of the thousand estates where the working class forced into unemployment as their jobs are now automated, are housed. Many retreat into VR worlds as an escape, while existing on sub-standard food, sub-standard education and sub-standard opportunities. She uses the money she gets for renting out her body to open a dance studio for the youngsters who don’t want to live in a virtual world and inevitably, it is her students – unusually fit and healthy – who are targeted for Luke’s experimental process. I loved her struggles, both practically and ethically, to live the life she wants against a background of poverty and deprivation.

I also enjoyed the storyline of Elsa and Lindy, another memorable subplot that particularly chimed with me, as I’m also a teacher. I felt their story was poignantly portrayed and the passages when they were able to fully express their love for one another were beautiful. There is also the tale of Richard K, successful pop musician who made it after his dad died and now he’s well into his middle age, would like to have the chance to reconnect with his father again.

Rogers could so easily have made this a far more polemic read, but I liked the fact that this wasn’t a completely dark tale of the haves preying on the have-nots – until it suddenly was… That ending packed a real punch and was all the more devastating because it seemed all too plausible – although thankfully, I think the actual science behind this premise is a very long way down the line.

This very readable story is both engrossing and thought provoking – I always love it when science fiction does that. And while the overall premise isn’t a particularly original one, I thoroughly enjoyed Rogers’ treatment. Highly recommended for readers who might like to sample a strong science fiction read, but are nervous of the techie bits.

The ebook arc copy of Body Tourists was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book
9/10

Sunday Post – 3rd November, 2019 #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.

Last week I was travelling home from Bristolcon and as our train was delayed and in order to avoid a bus trip for the last leg, Himself drove to Southhampton to pick us up, we got home later than we had planned and I was frankly too exhausted to sit down and write a post.
I won’t be saying too much about Bristolcon here, because I do want to write a separate post about it.

Mhairi stayed over for the week, which was a real treat and left on Friday to go on a writing retreat with some friends. We had plenty of time to catch up with what each other is doing, and acknowledge the fact that we badly miss each other’s support and advice on a day-to-day basis. I was still able to continue with Fitstep and Pilates and as luck would have it, it was half term here, so I didn’t have any lessons to eat into my time with Mhairi. It was just a shame about the weather as we had planned to go for walks along the beach in between the writing. It didn’t happen on account of the rain.

Last week I read:

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
A notorious anti-patent scientist who has styled herself as a Robin Hood heroine fighting to bring cheap drugs to the poor, Jack’s latest drug is leaving a trail of lethal overdoses across what used to be North America—a drug that compels people to become addicted to their work. On Jack’s trail are an unlikely pair: an emotionally shut-down military agent and his partner, Paladin, a young military robot, who fall in love against all expectations. Autonomous alternates between the activities of Jack and her co-conspirators, and Elias and Paladin, as they all race to stop a bizarre drug epidemic that is tearing apart lives, causing trains to crash, and flooding New York City.
This thought-provoking read raises some interesting issues regarding the dynamic of power both in society at large and more interestingly, at an individual level in relationships.

 

How To Betray a Dragon’s Hero – AUDIOBOOK 11 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
High up in the Treacherous mists of the Murderous Mountains, Hiccup and the Company of the Dragonmark are in hiding. The witch’s Vampire Spydragons are guarding the shores of Tomorrow — but Hiccup is determined to become King of the Wilderwest. Can Hiccup dodge the dragons and steal back the King’s Things from Alvin before the Doomsday of Yule? And is there a traitor in Hiccup’s camp who, in the end, will betray them all?
Annoyingly, I managed to skip this one before reaching the end of the series. But I didn’t want to miss out on any Hiccup goodness, so I’ve backtracked to listen to this slice of the adventure, in order to put off the inevitable heartache of admitting that I’ve finally come to the end of this marvellous, marvellous series.

 

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair
Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it. She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland. She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird. Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning… Until the past catches up with her.
After enjoying her blog and learning that she has a book recently published, I decided to check it out. It is an enchanting historical romance with a lovely, large-hearted protagonist, who nonetheless has a hard time of it… Review to follow.

 

Journaled to Death by Heather Redmond
Divorced single mom Mandy Meadows scrapes by working as a barista and receiving payments from her cousin, Ryan, who rents her basement apartment. At night, she and her teenage daughter Vellum run a successful home business creating journaling content on their popular social media channels. But Mandy’s carefully organized world is about to come crashing down. While filming their latest journaling tutorial, Mandy and Vellum hear a loud noise on the basement stairs, and Mandy makes a horrifying discovery…
I’ve tweaked the rather spoilery blurb to this rather twisty whodunit. I’m not sure I’d classify this one as a cosy murder mystery. While it isn’t drenched in gore or horrific action scenes, Mandy’s life is frankly a slog while she struggles to balance two jobs and the needs of a teenager, living a hand-to-mouth existence. I really enjoyed the overall story, though, and will be reviewing it.

My posts last week:

Review of Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Friday Faceoff featuring Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Review of The Mysterious Howling – Book 1 of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood

Teaser Tuesday featuring Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Review of Fall of Dragons – Book 5 of The Traitor Son by Miles Cameron

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

SciFi Month 2019: Plot Your Course https://onemore.org/2019/10/17/scifimonth-2019-plot-your-course/ This is running throughout November and as a big fan of science fiction, I’ve been reading and writing reviews I hope to feature during the month. And read plenty of other folks’ too😊

Jerpoint Abbey Tour https://inesemjphotography.com/2019/09/14/jerpoint-abbey-tour/ It’s always a treat when Inessa features another picture tour on her wonderful blog – and this one is just magical…

The Perils and Pitfalls of Research https://writerunboxed.com/2019/10/30/the-perils-and-pitfalls-of-research/ If you need to research some additional material before starting the novel – at what point do you decide you have enough? Some really good advice here…

The Best Poems for November https://interestingliterature.com/2019/10/30/the-best-poems-for-november/ As ever, another interesting article from this invaluable site – I would just add that the Thomas Hood poem ‘November’ has a longer form, vividly describing the seasonal smogs that regularly used to envelope the larger cities at this time of year.

The Evolution of Dragons in Western Literature: A History by Yvonne Shiau https://www.tor.com/2019/10/23/the-evolution-of-dragons-in-western-literature-a-history/ I stumbled across this article by accident and loved it. I hope you do, too…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Dark Matter by Blake Crouch #Brainfluffbookreview #DarkMatterbookreview #@SciFiMonth

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I was aware the rest of the universe had read and raved about this one and was all set to somewhat sulkily shun it for that very reason, but one of my book blogging buddies persuaded me to give it a go. Sorry if it was you and I haven’t namechecked you, but I have the memory of a goldfish. I am also linking this review to @SciFiMonth, where you can find lots of sci fi goodness.

BLURB: Jason Dessen is walking home through the chilly Chicago streets one night, looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the fireplace with his wife, Daniela, and their son, Charlie—when his reality shatters. It starts with a man in a mask kidnapping him at gunpoint, for reasons Jason can’t begin to fathom—what would anyone want with an ordinary physics professor?—and grows even more terrifying from there, as Jason’s abductor injects him with some unknown drug and watches while he loses consciousness.

When Jason awakes, he’s in a lab, strapped to a gurney—and a man he’s never seen before is cheerily telling him “welcome back!”. Jason soon learns that in this world he’s woken up to, his house is not his house. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And someone is hunting him.

And if that sounds like a rather creepy thriller, you’d be right – it is. But there is also a solid sci fi element nested within the plot that I thoroughly enjoyed. As the story unfolded, I found this one difficult to put down as I had thoroughly identified with solidly nice Jason, loving husband and father. Crouch has a knack of writing the familiar and everyday with conviction and colour, so that when everything suddenly upends into violence and sci fi weirdness, the reader is truly shocked. This reader was, anyway…

I very much enjoyed the characterisation of Jason and his lovely wife, whose promising artistic career was cut short by debilitating post-natal depression, which lost her openings and opportunities when she was ‘a coming talent’. I also liked the fact that nice, solid Jason also had darker depths that become all too apparent in the final stages of this thriller.

Any grizzles? Hm. Call me very, very picky – but I wasn’t absolutely happy with the ending. Having spent a fair amount of time close-up and personal with teen boys, I’m not sure the finale would work successfully under those conditions. He was the one character who, I felt, was a little sketchy and lacking in depth. That said, for most of the novel he didn’t need much fleshing out. Therefore I’ve knocked a point off, though that still makes it a five- star review – and quite right too.

Highly recommended for fans of thriller adventures who would appreciate a sci fi element in their story, along with those who generally enjoy the SFF genre.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 22nd October, 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:

Shadow Captain – Book 2 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds
p. 269 It was late morning in Port Endless – well into what passed for day in this gloomy place. Perhaps one or two more sky facets had been turned on, or their brightness increased, so that the prevailing illumination was a fraction less sepulchral than the night before. The rains, too, had decreased. Parts of the sky were still emitting steam, but the former torrents were being held in moderate check. The streets below were still wet, though, and the puddles and drainage channels and sluices remained waterlogged, embedded in roads and alleys like little chips and slivers of highly reflective material.

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.

I read the first book in the series – see my review of Revenger – which I very much enjoyed. I’m about two-thirds of the way through this tension-filled, twitchy sequel which is an engrossing read. And I’m so, so hoping that the two sisters don’t end up betraying each other… I’m also delighted to see that the third book, Bone Silence, is due out in January.

Teaser Tuesday – 15th October, 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:

Empire Games – Book 1 of the Empire Games series by Charles Stross
p. 123 Two months after her abortive kidnapping, Rita was allowed a weekend trip home to visit her family. In fact, she was urged to do so. “E-mail and Facebook aren’t enough,” explained her supervisor, an affable African American named Patrick O-Neill who’d worked surveillance operations when he was in the FBI. “If you vanish off the face of the earth for weeks, then send them vaguely reassuring messages, your parents will worry that you’ve been abducted; it’s entirely natural. But you’ve been through basic orientation and briefing now, and it’ll make life a lot easier for us – and for them – if you go home and explain what’s happened.”

“Easier for you?” Rita asked dubiously.

BLURB: The year is 2020. It’s seventeen years since the Revolution overthrew the last king of the New British Empire, and the newly-reconstituted North American Commonwealth is developing rapidly, on course to defeat the French and bring democracy to a troubled world. Two nuclear superpowers are set on a collision course. Two increasingly desperate paratime espionage agencies are fumbling around in the dark, trying to find a solution to the first contact problem that doesn’t result in a nuclear holocaust. And two women—a mother and her long-lost, adopted daughter—are about to find themselves on opposite sides of the confrontation.
I’ve performed major surgery on the blurb, which reads more like a mini-synopsis and the names won’t mean anything to you, anyway.

This is the first book in a spinoff series from Stross’s rightly successful Merchant Princes portal fantasy thriller, which deals with a measure of rigour and intelligence to the premise – what if there were parallel worlds that a few people could access? I had an unfortunate attempt to read this book back in 2017 – see here. But now I have managed to get hold of it in my local library and am enjoying it.