Tag Archives: feisty heroine

Sunday Post – 29th November, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

Standard

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

The week started overcast and dull, but the last couple of days has been brighter and sunnier – and doesn’t that make a difference? Himself has been on annual leave and we planned to clean, tidy and declutter. The great news is that we have made a bit of progress! The kitchen and the lounge are now looking a LOT better. Yay! My eldest grandson is now out of quarantine and returns to school this week to his Drama exam, so I am very relieved. And in this week’s links below, I have included Tim’s mix of the song ‘Let It Go’ using 103 clips from films and TV programmes, which he has also edited himself – I think he’s done a magnificent job. Do nip along and check it out…

I have now successfully disentangled my monster manuscript and have the complete first draft of Picky Eaters 2, which is now called Flame & Blame. I also have two-thirds of the next book written, entitled Trouble With Dwarves and I’ve been working on completing the plan for that one and the next book in the series, which will be entitled, A Conspiracy of Dragons. So enough to keep me happily occupied for the rest of the year and into 2021…

I have also been loving Sci Fi Month and I’m very sorry that it’s coming to an end – but I’ve picked up so many recommendations for exciting new sci fi reads. A huge thank you to thank you so much to Imyril at There’s Always Room for One More and Lisa at Dear Geek Place for all their hard work and if you are looking for more science fiction goodness in your life – here’s the link to the Master Schedule for a quick browse.

The photos this week come from a rather soggy walk along the beach with Himself, when we talked through the plans for Trouble With Dwarves. Notice the shingle and seaweed up across the sea front after a recent storm…


Last week I read:

Fallen – Book 10 of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka
Once Alex Verus was a diviner trying to live quietly under the radar. Now he’s a member of the Light Council who’s found success, friends…and love. But it’s come with a price–the Council is investigating him, and if they find out the truth, he’ll lose everything.

Meanwhile, Alex’s old master, Richard Drakh, is waging a war against the Council, and he’s preparing a move that will bring Alex and the life mage, Anne, under his control. Caught between Richard and the Council, Alex’s time is running out. To protect those he cares for, Alex will have to become something different. Something darker…
I was delighted to dive back into this excellent Brit-based urban fantasy adventure, which is one of the smartest I’ve come across. Needless to say, Verus is in a bucketful of trouble and things are steadily getting worse… I’ve an arc for the next book, which I’m looking forward to, after an intriguing ending. Review to follow…

Lifelode by Jo Walton
Lifelode is the Mythopoeic Award Winning novel from Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Award winning author Jo Walton. It was published in hardcover in 2009 by NESFA Press and is now available for the first time as an ebook.

At its heart, Lifelode is the story of a comfortable manor house family. The four adults of the household are happily polygamous, each fulfilling their ‘lifelode’ or life’s purpose: Ferrand is the lord of the manor, his sweetmate Taveth runs the household, his wife Chayra makes ceramics, and Taveth’s husband Ranal works the farm. Their children are a joyful bunch, running around in the sunshine days of the harvest and wondering what their own lifelodes will be.

Their lives changed with the arrival of two visitors to Applekirk: Jankin the scholar and Hanethe, Ferrand’s great grandmother and the former lord of the manor, who has been living for many generations in the East, a place where the gods walk and yeya (magic) is so powerful that those who wield it are not quite human.
Walton is one of my all-time favourite authors, so I was thrilled to discover this gem that I hadn’t yet read. As ever, it’s a masterpiece… Review to follow.

The Dark Archive – Book 7 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Gogman
Irene is teaching her new assistant the fundamentals of a Librarian’s job, and finding that training a young Fae is more difficult than she expected. But when they both narrowly avoid getting killed in an assassination attempt, she decides that learning by doing is the only option they have left – especially when the assassins keep coming for them, and for Irene’s other friends as well…

In order to protect themselves, Irene and her friends must do what they do best: search for information to defeat the overwhelming threat they face and identify their unseen enemy. To do that, Irene will have to delve deeper into her own history than she ever has before, face an ancient foe, and uncover secrets that will change her life and the course of the Library forever.
It was a real treat to get hold of the arc of this latest offering in this engaging portal fantasy. Irene is one of my favourite protagonists – cool, clever and generally in command of the situation. I loved the major plot twist, but I’m not too sure about that Epilogue… I’m hoping it isn’t a massive misstep! Review to follow.


My posts last week:

Review of The Sculpted Ship by K.M. O’Brien

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

Friday Face-off featuring Embers of War – Book 1 of the Embers of War series by Gareth L. Powell

Great Science Fiction Series I’ve Discovered in 2020

Review of A Memory Called Empire – Book 1 of the Teixcalaan series by Arkady Martine

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring A Desolation Called Peace – Book 2 of the Teixcalaan series by Arkady Martine

Review of Stranger Still – Book 3 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik

Covet the Covers 12 – featuring the sci fi covers of Elizabeth Moon

Two mini-reviews: Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell and Ribbonworld by Richard Dee

Sunday Post – 22nd November 2020


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

Crotty’s Lake I https://inesemjphotography.com/2020/11/26/crottys-lake-i/ Inese’s fabulous photos capture the wonderful landscape and wildlife – such a treat at this time…

Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’ Sung by 103 Movies and TV Shows https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZC4et1M8T_I&feature=youtu.be And here is Tim’s rendition of ‘Let It Go’ – one of his recent projects… Though I teach him – I want to make it clear that I had nothing to do with this achievement. This is his own talent and hard work shining through!

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Sci Fi Month edition: My Top Ten Sci-Fi tv series – #SciFiMonth https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2020/11/24/top-ten-tuesday-scifi-month-edition-mytop-ten-sci-fi-tv-series-scifimonth/ Someone else joining in the Sci Fi Month jollity – reading this list brought back some very happy memories – as well as a reminder to get stuck into The Expanse…

The Tale of Two (or more) Rockets https://earthianhivemind.net/2020/11/22/the-tale-of-two-or-more-rockets/ I always enjoy Steph’s articles about what is happening in the world of science…

Top Ten Tuesday: Reading in a time of COVID… https://lynns-books.com/2020/11/24/top-ten-tuesday-reading-in-a-time-of-covid/ Lynn provides a list of the books that provided her with comfort during this difficult year – have you changed your reading habits during 2020?

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

Review of INDIE Ebook The Sculpted Ship by K.M. O’Brien #Brainfluffbookreview #TheSculptedShipbookreview #SciFiMonth2020

Standard

Himself recommended this one – he’d read it and thought I would enjoy how different it was, and he was right. Because, being the shallow sort, I would never have picked it up as I don’t like the cover. I’m linking this review with #Sci Fi Month 2020.

BLURB: Starship engineer Anailu Xindar dreamed of owning her own ship, but she didn’t find the courage to actually go for it until she was forced out of her safe, comfortable job. She goes shopping for a cheap, practical freighter, but she ends up buying a rare, beautiful, but crippled luxury ship. Getting it into space will take more than her technical skills. She’ll have to go way outside her comfort zone to brave the dangers of safaris, formal dinners, a rude professor, and worst of all, a fashion designer. She may even have to make some friends… and enemies.

REVIEW: This is charming and after reading a fair number of foot-to-the-floor, non-stop action space opera adventures (I’m looking at you, Seven Devils and The Unconquerable Sun) it was a real pleasure to tuck into something far more sedately paced.

Anailu is a young engineer, who suddenly finds herself no longer part of a ship’s crew when she refuses to sign the new Contract that her corporate employer wants to lock her into. So with her savings, she decides to find a suitable ship and start up her own cargo business. This book charts her adventures along the way. And I found myself turning the pages and reading far later into the night than I’d planned to discover what happened next.

There is a charm and bounce to this book. I liked the world and the fact that most of the characters we encounter are largely decent folks, who are trying to get along the best way they know how – and if they can lend someone else a helping hand, they do so. Which is quite a contrast to the tone of many books in this genre. The feel reminded me, in places, of Becky Chambers’ books – although the writing isn’t as fluid or accomplished.

Nonetheless, I was completely won over by Anailu and enjoyed learning more about her and her remarkable ship. This book is clearly the start of a series, though I note that as yet a sequel hasn’t appeared. I’ll be keeping an eye out, though. I have really enjoyed this one and was very sorry to get to the end of this entertaining adventure. Highly recommended for space opera fans who also appreciate their space opera a little more low key and upbeat.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook A Memory Called Empire – Book 1 of the Teixcalaan series by Arkady Martine #Brainfluffbookreview #AMemoryCalledEmpirebookreview #SciFiMonth2020

Standard

I’d seen glowing reviews for this book – and when someone compared Martine’s writing to that of C.J. Cherryh, then I had to get hold of it. It has languished on my TBR list for longer than it should have, so I’m very glad to finally read it. I have linked this review to #Sci Fi Month 2020.

BLURB: Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court. Now, Mahit must discover the truth about her predecessor’s death, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion—all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret—one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life—or rescue it from annihilation.

REVIEW: I can see the similarity with Cherryh’s dynamic. Mahit is flung into the middle of a tense, potentially deadly situation, where not only her own fate, but the fate of all those she cares about is at stake. She has no one who she can confide in, or trust – for the one source of support that was provided proves to be unreliable in a way that utterly compromises her. So she is conflicted and frightened, while dealing with a sophisticated group of people who immediately patronise and belittle her, simply because she isn’t one of them.

I absolutely loved it. This is science fiction at its beguiling best. A different culture, which is far more alien to Mahit, brought up on a space station, than she had ever imagined, even though she has spent most of her life preparing for this. I loved her character and how we were alongside her and in her thoughts. It would have been so easy to get the pacing wrong – either speed up the action so that there wasn’t time for her reactions to the unfolding sequence of events. Or to allow the story to stutter as Mahit’s thoughts and fears prevailed at the expense of the narrative.

The worldbuilding is beautifully handled. Mahit’s culture shock at the difference in surroundings, the clothing and food, is visceral. And I also very much enjoyed the cast of supporting characters, particularly the wonderful Three Seagrass, who is Mahit’s cultural aide. I found this one difficult to put down as the situation continued to grow in intensity and complexity – to the extent that I was afraid the conclusion would be something of an anti-climax. It wasn’t. The final denouement was both unexpected and surprising – and completely satisfying.

This immersive, memorable read won’t be for all sci fi fans. While plenty goes on, it is interspersed with periods of reflection by Mahit as to the possible consequences, in the manner of C.J. Cherryh. However, I adore this form of writing and am very much looking forward to reading the second half of this duology in 2021. Highly recommended for those who enjoy this form of story-telling.
10/10

Review of INDIE Ebook Stranger Still – Book 3 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik #Brainfluffbookreview #StrangerStillbookreview #SciFiMonth2020

Standard

I love, love, LOVED the first two book in this series so much that it physically hurt when I got to the end. See my reviews of Relatively Strange and Even Stranger. Would this third offering provide the same insane happy longing? I have linked my review of this psi-fi adventure to #Sci Fi Month 2020.

BLURB: Telepathy, along with sundry other odd abilities, have landed Stella more than once, in situations at best controversial, at worst life-threatening. But she’s always known; you have to fight your own corner as best you can, no point beating yourself up about it. Now though, times have changed, different priorities. She’s married, with a baby on the way and a flourishing business. She simply has to deal with a couple of worrying issues and then all should be smooth sailing. But, isn’t it a fact; just when you think you’ve got all your ducks in a row, life can turn right around and bite you on the bottom?

REVIEW: Stella is my new best friend – it’s official. Opinionated and often cranky, she has been defying expectations throughout her life. Firstly there’s those odd abilities of hers that have caused as many problems as they may have solved, though she is scaldingly aware that she was remarkably lucky to have been born into such a tough-minded, loving family. It doesn’t help that most of the time, all she wants is to lead a perfectly normal life and now she has found her niche, with her own business, and someone who loves her for who she is, it looks as though she is set fair.

But as the blurb makes clear, just when she starts to relax and assume everything is – more or less – okay, that’s when it generally goes wrong. I loved this one even more than the others. It’s when I realised how rarely we see a pregnant woman feature as a main protagonist – and it’s done very well. As is the growing sense of wrongness, which could be put down to the pregnancy, after all Stella isn’t sure if her baby has the same abilities and if they could be affecting her mind. It’s always a tricky balance, building up a slow-burn issue in this manner – too much and it becomes a boring repetitive mantra that holds up the pace; too little and the reader feels ambushed and a bit bamboozled when the enormity of the Big Bad slams into view. Messik nails it.

It doesn’t hurt that Stella is surrounded by a cast of vivid characters, many of them magnificently eccentric, ranging from her almost indestructible Aunt Kitty, who has somehow inserted herself into Stella’s business, to Laura, her pill-popping mother-in-law, whose appalled horror at her son’s marriage to Stella is hilarious. In fact, despite the fact that some of Stella’s adventures explore the darker side of human nature, the chippy humour throughout frequently had me laughing aloud. Though there were a couple of poignant moments that also had me tearing up. It’s a special book that makes you laugh and cry…

There is a doozy of a twist right at the end of this one, that has me yearning for more Messik goodness RIGHT NOW! Because I am struggling badly with a major book hangover.

Highly recommended for anyone who likes their paranormal thrillers narrated by a feisty, humorous woman who leaps off the page so vividly, I’ve been dreaming of her…
10/10

Sunday Post – 22nd November, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

Standard

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

This was a much quieter week. I spent part of Thursday afternoon at my sister’s place, because she’d woken up in the morning to no heating or hot water – so I went along to let the heating engineer in, armed with my little plug-in heater as it was rather on the nippy side. Fortunately, it was a case of topping up the boiler with water, which was a huge relief – she doesn’t need the expense and upheaval of replacing the boiler in the runup to Christmas… So I popped back in yesterday, after she returned from work, to show her where the relevant taps are and for a natter. She is part of our bubble, as she lives alone. On Friday, I taught Tim. He’s working on a lovely project – making a song by using words from a variety of films. He’s already some 30 secs into it and having huge fun. My grandson is isolating, as one of the children in his class tested positive for COVID – I’m hoping that he will be fine, and that the school will find a way for him to resit the GCSE Drama exam that he and the rest of his class have now missed. Who’d be a teacher right now??

My big news this week – I’ve finally completed the first draft of Picky Eaters Part 2. I got a tad carried away, to I’ll need to split it. The manuscript has ended up at a monster of 115,500 words, which is far too long. But that will be a case of reorganising various narrative arcs and subplots so it all makes sense and hangs together. I will probably be writing an article about that in due course. In the meantime, I’m still thoroughly enjoying Sci Fi Month and topping up my wish list of authors I want to tuck into.

No photos this week, I’m afraid. Every time I looked up, intending to get out for a walk – it was raining!

Last week I read:

Nophek Gloss – Book 1 of The Graven series by Essa Hansen
When a young man’s planet is destroyed, he sets out on a single-minded quest for revenge across the galaxy in Nophek Gloss, the first book in this epic space opera trilogy by debut author Essa Hansen, for fans of Revenger and Children of Time.
Caiden’s planet is destroyed. His family gone. And, his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that seems to have a soul and a universe of its own. Together they will show him that the universe is much bigger, much more advanced, and much more mysterious than Caiden had ever imagined. But the universe hides dangers as well, and soon Caiden has his own plans.

He vows to do anything it takes to get revenge on the slavers who murdered his people and took away his home. To destroy their regime, he must infiltrate and dismantle them from the inside, or die trying.
I thoroughly enjoyed this full-on, action-packed space opera adventure. Not only does it deliver a great deal of enjoyable, nail-biting action, but also asks questions about the nature of revenge and coming to terms with the hand you’ve been given.


The Sculpted Ship by K.M. O’Brien
Starship engineer Anailu Xindar dreamed of owning her own ship, but she didn’t find the courage to actually go for it until she was forced out of her safe, comfortable job. She goes shopping for a cheap, practical freighter, but she ends up buying a rare, beautiful, but crippled luxury ship. Getting it into space will take more than her technical skills. She’ll have to go way outside her comfort zone to brave the dangers of safaris, formal dinners, a rude professor, and worst of all, a fashion designer. She may even have to make some friends… and enemies.
This gentle story about likeable young engineer, Anailu Xindar, was a complete contrast to the adrenaline ride I had with Nophek Gloss, but no less enjoyable or readable. At present, there isn’t another book – but I’ll be keeping an eye out. I had far too much fun with this one not to want to dive back into this world. Review to follow.

Aftermath – Book 5 of the Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre
Sirantha Jax has the right genes—ones that enable her to “jump” faster-than-light ships through grimspace. But it’s also in her genetic makeup to go it alone. It’s a character trait that has gotten her into—and out of—hot water time and time again, but now she’s caused one of the most horrific events in military history…

During the war against murderous, flesh-eating aliens, Sirantha went AWOL and shifted grimspace beacons to keep the enemy from invading humanity’s homeworld. The cost of her actions: the destruction of modern interstellar travel—and the lives of six hundred Conglomerate soldiers.

Accused of dereliction of duty, desertion, mass murder, and high treason, Sirantha is on trial for her life. And only time will tell if she’s one of the Conglomerate’s greatest heroes—or most infamous criminals…
I let this series lapse for some reason – and I’m so glad that I got back in touch with it! This is a lovely episode, providing a poignant and moving time where Jax does her best to try and make amends for a terrible decision she was forced into during the heat of war. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

Review of AUDIOBOOK Finder – Book 1 of the Finder series by Suzanne Palmer

Review of Perilous Hunt – Book 7 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker

Friday Face-off featuring Artemis by Andy Weir

Thursday Treasures

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Nophek Gloss – Book 1 of The Graven series by Essa Hansen

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Doors of Sleep: Journals of Zaxony Delatree by Tim Pratt

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Angel Six Echo by Robert Appleton

Review of The Valhalla Call – Book 4 of The Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie

Sunday Post – 15th November 2020


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

You Just Won a Giveaway – Now What? https://booksbonesbuffy.com/2013/10/04/you-just-won-a-giveaway-now-what/ Tammy raises the issue of what happens if your anticipated prize doesn’t materialise…

The World Is Still a Pretty Awesome Place Photos https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2016/03/15/the-world-is-still-a-pretty-awesome-place-photos/ It’s worth swinging by and taking a look at this post if you’re slightly in despair over the way things have panned out during this year…

November 19 – Children’s Grief Awareness Day https://wandaluthman.wordpress.com/2020/11/19/november-19-childrens-grief-awareness-day/ Wanda’s thoughtful post here highlights a hidden problem. And a statistic that I found horrifying…

Escape… https://cindyknoke.com/2020/11/14/escape/ If, like me, you love looking at wonderful photos of nature, then Cindy’s blog is always worth a visit…

The problem with (space) debris https://earthianhivemind.net/2020/11/08/the-problem-with-space-debris/ During Sci Fi Month, I thought this was a timely reminder of some of the issues we are stacking up for ourselves when we do want to make that big push out into the stars…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

Review of INDIE Ebook Perilous Hunt – Book 7 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker #Brainfluffbookreview #PerilousHuntbookreview #SciFiMonth2020

Standard

I have been enjoying the adventures of Alisa and the disparate collection of people she has accumulated during her search for her daughter. Filled with action and excitement, I’ve been impressed at the variety of scenarios Buroker has managed to provide to prevent this series becoming remotely repetitive. See my reviews of Star Normad, Honor’s Flight and Cleon Moon. So where would this penultimate book take us? I have linked this post to #Sci Fi Month 2020.

BLURB: After failing to catch up with her daughter Jelena so many times, Alisa’s optimism is battered, but her determination has never waned. She, Leonidas, and their eclectic crew are hunting down a Starseer research station in the heart of the Kir Asteroid belt—Jelena’s supposed location. Alisa vows that she will find her daughter if she has to search a million asteroids to do so. But Jelena and her close friend, Prince Thorian, have attracted the interest of many factions, and the Star Nomad isn’t the only ship on the hunt…

REVIEW: My ongoing criticism of this series has been that Alisa’s search for her daughter has seemed somewhat leisurely, missing the edge of desperation that I felt should have been there. It has been a minor niggle, rather than a major grumble – but this book fixed that issue, as Alisa confronts her guilt for leaving her family in the first place to join the Alliance as a pilot. Those creepy Starseers, who can see into people’s minds, are no less threatening this time around and the pace and action scenes acquired extra energy as this book.

There is also progress in the relationship between Alisa and her cyborg hunk, Leonidas, which has been stalled by a major impediment that prevented them getting any closer. I was pleased to see Alisa conflicted between her sense of responsibility towards her young daughter – feeling guilty that in amongst all of that, she has also been pursuing her own happiness. Yep – welcome to the world of motherhood! I am conscious that I have been giving the impression that this book has been mired in some fairly angsty topics, which is the case. But that hasn’t prevented large dollops of humour surfacing, as Alisa tends to inappropriate drollery when things get difficult or dangerous. And once again, there have been difficulties and danger in spades, which didn’t stop me sniggering at the interchanges between Alisa and her spiky engineer Mica, who keeps threatening to leave – but somehow doesn’t quite get around to it.

Throughout this book is a sense that everything is winding up towards the final denouement – and like all thoroughly enjoyable series, that leaves me feeling quite torn. On one hand, I’m looking forward to Alisa getting back her daughter and perhaps a bit of respite from all the ongoing problems besetting her – on the other hand, I’m not looking forward coming to the end of spending time alongside an entertaining cast of characters who have provided a lot of escapist pleasure over the last two years. Highly recommended – but do read the other books first, or you’ll miss out on far too much of the story.
9/10

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

Standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review of INDIE Ebook The Valhalla Call – Book 4 of the Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie #Brainfluffbookreview #TheValhallaCallbookreview #SciFiMonth2020

Standard

I really enjoy Currie’s writing – see my reviews of the first two book in The Scourwind Legacy series – Heirs of Empire and An Empire Asunder. But during the last year, I’ve chosen to follow his military sci fi series, featuring super-soldier Aida Sorilla, given it’s light years away from our current worries. See my reviews of On Silver Wings, Valkyrie Rising, and Valkyrie Burning. I am linking this review to #Sci Fi Month 2020.

BLURB: Lieutenant Sorilla Aida has a new mission and new allies, gear, and support as she is tasked with a job that could ensure that the human race stands a chance of reaching a technical parity with the mysterious alien alliance. Humans and SOLCOM are not the only ones making moves, however, and the Alliance has brought up their varsity to end the little side war before it gets out of hand. Are they really interested in humanity or human worlds, however, or is something more at play?

REVIEW: If you have encountered this offering before reading any of the previous books in this series, my firm advice would be to park it and then go and get hold of On Silver Wings, the first book in the series. This is essentially one long story broken up into smaller sections, despite the time lapses between each adventure. So you will be missing far too much of the context and by the time you are able to pick up sufficient knowledge of who is doing what to whom, the chances are you won’t be in a position to fully appreciate what is going on anyway.

I appreciated getting more of Sorilla and her new challenges with her latest piece of tech. As she was the principal protagonist in the first couple of books, it has been something of an adjustment as the focus of the story shifts into a more epic narrative with viewpoints from both human and alien commanders. The science is very well handled, with sufficient detail to satisfy the nerd in me yet without being overwhelming or silting up the narrative pace. And I don’t think that anyone does space battles better than Currie, including the build-up and making sure his readers are aware of the stakes. It is this superpower of his that makes me happy to overlook the fact that some of his aliens think and act uncannily like their human counterparts. The only other niggle is that this book could do with a bit more editing, as there are too many misspelt words. But it wasn’t a dealbreaker, as years of reading arcs with shocking formatting issues has trained me to cope with such glitches without throwing up my hands.

Overall, this is a cracking addition to an enjoyable adventure and I am happy to report that you can ignore the comments about this being the final book in the series – it isn’t. Which is just as well, as it does leave everything on something of a cliffhanger ending. I am also happy to report that I have the next book in the series already lined up on my Kindle, waiting to be read. Recommended for fans of enjoyable military science fiction.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Hammered – Book 1 of the Wetwired series by Elizabeth Bear #Brainfluffbookreview #Hammeredbookreview #Sci Fi Month 2020

Standard

I was blown away by Ancestral Nightsee my review – and then realised that was the first book I’d read by this remarkable author. I clearly needed to fix that one, so I was delighted when I discovered this series available. I have linked this review with #Sci Fi Month.

BLURB: Jenny Casey is a former Canadian special forces warrior living on the hellish streets of Hartford, Connecticut, in the year 2062. Her artificially reconstructed body is failing her, but a government scientist from her old life thinks she is perfect for his high-stakes project. Suddenly Jenny is a pawn in a battle being waged on the Internet, the streets, and in the complex wirings of her man-made nervous system. And she needs to gain control of the game before a brave new future spins completely out of control.

REVIEW: There is so much to love about this book, starting with the heroine. I love the fact that we jumped into her life after she’d already endured a lifechanging series of events that had left her physically and emotionally compromised. I love that she turns fifty in the middle of the novel – how cool to have a major middle-aged female protagonist in a science fiction cyberpunk thriller!

This near-future dystopian view of Earth has climate change having redistributed the political power dynamic and you won’t be surprised to learn that government departments are every bit as ruthlessly determined to get hold of the latest tech to give their struggling countries some advantage. Jenny is a casualty of a previous entanglement and has been living with the consequences, ever since. Facing premature death from a systemic failure in her cybernetic implants, she is determined to end it herself before she is left a drooling dementia patient. But that is before people from her old life crash back into her current existence. Bear’s writing style grabs my head and heart and won’t let go until the end. I’m aware that there are places where the pacing could be tighter, but I didn’t care. I am pulled into this world of shifting loyalties, where old fury and hurt is hauled into the light and re-examined in the light of new priorities.

For me, the triumph of Bear’s writing is that in a sub-genre exploring the interface between Man and machine, it’s the humanity of her characters that leaps off the page, in all their complexity and differing needs. It’s one heck of a trick to pull off and while this isn’t a flawless book, it is a glorious read. Highly recommended for fans of intelligently written near-future sci fi adventures.
9/10

Review of INDIE Ebook Even Stranger – Book 2 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik #Brainfluffbookreview #EvenStrangerbookreview #SciFiMonth2020

Standard

There is just something about this author’s writing that gets right under my skin. I feel so miserable when I finish reading one of her books – that I’ve broken one of my rules. I’ve gone straight from this book onto reading the next one in the series – read my review of Relatively Strange. I’m linking this review to #Sci Fi Month 2020, as this quirky series is one of my reading highlights of the year and deserves to be FAR better known. And I want to spread the joy…

BLURB: With the swinging sixties staggering, shamefaced and flustered, into the slightly staider seventies, life for Stella, isn’t going as smoothly as she’d like. As an ordinary person, who happens to have some extraordinary abilities, it’s frustrating to find that something as simple as holding down a job, throws up unexpected hurdles. She’d be a darn sight better off if she could ditch the conviction she knows best which, together with a chronic inability to keep her mouth shut and her nose out of other people’s business, has led her more than once off the straight and narrow into the dodgy and dangerous. Plans for a safer future, include setting herself up in business, squashing her over-active conscience and steering clear of risky and unpleasant. Unfortunately, the best laid plans can lead to the darkest places.

REVIEW: I just love Stella. The depiction of this bossy, short-fused, and unwilling telepath is absolutely gripping, as well as being both funny and terrifying by turns. Messik has managed to produce one of the most compelling protagonists I’ve read in a long time and I can’t get enough of her. In addition, I find the prose absolutely addictive, which is a real shame because I am inhaling this series, far too fast. I want to know there are more books due to be published – because by the time I finished the next one in this series I am going to come down so hard, I’m liable to crack my reading glasses.

The writer in me is still scrambling to work out just why these books have got me in their thrall. No doubt the sparky, clever first person narrative has drawn me in; the series of hair raising adventures that teeter between farce and danger certainly kept me turning the pages right through into the early morning; and it’s also got to have something to do with the fact that the 1960s and 70s are portrayed with pin sharp accuracy. There is also a lovely group of supporting characters – it’s a pleasant change to find a character with such unusual powers surrounded by a very tight-knit, loving family and friends, who completely accept her for what she is, even if most of them aren’t aware of exactly what she is. No wonder she has such a strong sense of her own worth – and quite right too.

As ever, when confronted with such a wholly delightful reading experience, I’m conscious that anything I say here won’t fully convey the full measure of my emotional response. I’m not going to claim that these books are high literature – they aren’t. But they are a thumping good read that has completely transported me away from my own issues and into Stella’s world. Highly recommended.
10/10