Tag Archives: feisty heroines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Against All Gods – Book 1 of The Age of Bronze series by Miles Cameron #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #AgainstAllGodsbookreview

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I’m a fan of Miles Cameron’s writing – see my reviews of The Traitor Son series – The Red Knight, The Fell Sword, The Dread Wyrm and The Fall of Dragons – as well as his space opera adventure Artifact Space, which I very much hope he is going to continue. So when I saw this one on Netgalley, I was delighted to be approved for it.

BLURB: The gods play their games, looking down on the mortal realm and moving men as pawns. Sacrificing lives, towns, even civilisations as they make moves against each other, oblivious to and uncaring of the suffering it causes. They are above it all: worshipped, emulated and admired.

Yet there is one among them who exists to sow chaos, to challenge the way of things, and to stir up trouble. One who sees the gods growing indolent and contented and selfish . . . and who is ready to meddle in the world of men. Not as part of the immortal game, but because they believe it’s possible for men to challenge . . . and even topple . . . the gods themselves.

REVIEW: I’ve seen this book compared to Madeline Miller and her novels set within the Greek pantheon and I’m rather uncomfortable with that comparison – this one is far closer in tone and style to Dan Simmons, the other author cited in the strapline. While the Greek gods are certainly a self-absorbed lot, who don’t treat their mortal worshippers with much regard – they are frankly paragons of virtue when set against the sorry lot who feature in Cameron’s Heaven. Every single one of them is busy plotting to gain power or in revenge against another of their number. Most look upon humanity as merely insects to be disposed of with as little thought or care. And some of the bloody deeds that are suffered by said humanity are horrible – all the more so because the gods simply don’t care.

It took me a while to get through this one, despite it being well written with an engrossing plot – because I found the sheer bloodiness a bit of a problem at times. I’m well aware that is probably more about my own mindset at present, rather than an issue with the storytelling. But I’m giving it a mention because if you are a tad squeamish about scenes of senseless brutality and torture, then this one might not be for you. That said, out of the carnage stagger a number of characters who somehow survive the sacking of a city and terrible punishments designed to act as a deterrent. There is a dancer, an orphan boy and his donkey, a warrior, a former warlord and a scribe who end up on a boat managed and crewed by a merchanting family who belong to a sect of pacifists. And when together, there is a fair amount of humour within their interactions, albeit sometimes on the grim side. Some of these characters also have magical abilities they can wield with varying amounts of skill and strength. I do like the fact that any magic is very draining and can only be wielded for a finite amount of time, before it uses up the practitioner. They also have an extraordinary passenger – one of the Bright Ones, who often attack and kill travellers in the desert, except this creature seems intent on saving their lives.

This unlikely group are plunged into all sorts of extreme adventures which are described with verve and vividness. No one writes battle scenes better than Cameron, who is also an experienced historical battle re-enactor who has fought in armour. As the story gained momentum, I got to a point when I found this one difficult to put down – but do be warned, it does end on a cliff-hanger with a number of important plot points left dangling. Recommended for fans of epic fantasy stories featuring gods and plenty of action. While I obtained an arc of Against All Gods from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #18

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

I’m aware that it has been quite a while since I’ve touched base with everyone here. In the past, that generally meant I’d been enduring another prolonged spell in bed, utterly exhausted. And while I’ve had to spend the occasional day lying down – mostly this time around, there are other reasons.

Firstly, at the end of June I celebrated a significant birthday – not one I was particularly looking forward to, I have to add. The upside was that I shared my party with my youngest granddaughter, Eliza, who was very thrilled to turn four. The pics are of her side of the party – we adults generally just sat around and chatted, so were far less photogenic. Our boomerang boy is back with us again, as he enjoys our company and he lights up the house with his joking and fun. Thirdly, my lovely sister had a nasty car accident a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately she wasn’t seriously injured but she was bruised and shaken and her beloved car was written off. Her guardian angel was definitely sitting on her shoulder that day, as it so easily could have been so much worse. And we have just come to the end of Wimbledon fortnight. I’m not a huge sports fan, but I do love watching grass court tennis – and it’s been a joy being able to fully engage with the tournament. Last year while I went through the motions of watching, I really didn’t have the energy to care, and in 2020 it was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Before I was ill, I was able to cope with doing several things at once – that no longer is that case. I’m hoping this is temporary and there will come a time when I can once again keep up with writing, blogging, reading AND watching Wimbledon. But that isn’t happening, right now. Not that I’m too upset, as it isn’t all that long ago that I was regularly stuck in bed too tired to do much before 2 pm in the afternoon. Now, I’m getting up at 7 am on schooldays – sometimes I go back to bed once the school run is over, but often I stay up for the rest of the day. This is amazing progress, but I’m aware that I still have a mountain to climb. One of my current issues is how stiff and sore I am after spending over a year largely in bed. I will be adding exercises to get stronger and fitter in due course, but right now everything hurts too much! My electric massager has been a huge help to loosen sore muscles first thing in the morning, especially in my lower back, thighs and upper arms and if it gets too miserable, I take the occasional ibuprofen tablet.

We are enjoying a spell of really warm weather – we haven’t had any rain for over a week now and the temperature has been up in the 70s and it looks as though it’s set to stay that way for the coming week. I enjoy it, but Himself is suffering as he doesn’t get on with too much heat. What with everything that’s been going on, I haven’t been doing all that much reading recently, although I’m still listening to audiobooks as I drift off to sleep – they’re a lifesaver!

This past fortnight I’ve read:-

Stuck in Magic – Book 1 of the Stuck in Magic series by Christopher G. Nuttall
Elliot Richardson thought he’d lost everything. He’d come home from deployment to find his wife cheating on him, his sons strangers and his life in tatters. Driving away, unsure where he was going, he fell through an interdimensional rift and found himself in a very different world, a city of magic and mystery and dangers beyond his comprehension, a land spinning out of control as innovations from the distant west unsettle the monarchy and challenge the position of the aristocrats and warlords that hold the kingdom in their grasp.

Powerless and alone, with no way home, Elliot struggles to survive long enough to make a new life. But as war looms on the horizon, he finds himself forced to use his skills to make a name for himself, all too aware that the slightest slip will mean instant death – or worse.
This is a spinoff from the superb long-running Schooled in Magic series that has been one of my lifeline reads throughout the last year. I love the contrast between poor old Elliot and Emily, who are both refugees from Earth. Elliot is a vet from Afghanistan with no magical powers or powerful allies. I’m delighted to discover there is another book in the series. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows – Book 1 of the James Lovegrove’s Sherlock Holmes series
In the stews of London’s East End, an outbreak of insanity sees ordinary men and women reduced to gibbering, incoherent wrecks; a mysterious creeping fog hides terrifying apparitions within that rob the wits of all who see them and even inspire suicide.

Sherlock Holmes, in the infancy of his detecting career, deduces a connection between these sinister “shadows” and an Oriental drug lord who is bent on expanding his criminal empire. Yet there are even more sinister forces at work, as the great detective faces a challenge so fearsome and deadly that his career may be over almost as soon as it has begun.
I am a solid fan of Lovegrove’s writing and his take on Sherlock Holmes’ adventures is a joy. It’s especially clever as there are two versions. One series of books are straightforward additions to the Conan Doyle canon, while the other puts a Lovecraftian spin on them… It’s done very cleverly and even uses Lovegrove’s name as part of the backstory. This is the first of the fantasy adventures that Holmes and Watson tackle. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – Rotten to the Core – Book 8 of the Lady Hardcastle Mysteries by T.E. Kinsey
Summer 1911. A scorching heatwave engulfs the quiet town of Littleton Cotterell and brings about an unusually early harvest. The villagers are thrilled, but events quickly turn sour when one of them turns up dead in an apple orchard, stabbed through the heart. Amateur sleuth Lady Hardcastle and her trusty lady’s maid, Flo, suddenly have a juicy case on their hands. Might the mysterious stranger they recently met in the village be to blame?

When a second cider-related murder takes place, it quickly becomes clear that there’s more to these mysterious deaths than meets the eye. The daring duo uncover whispers of an ancient order and moonlit rituals. And evidence points to a macabre secret in the village stretching back years. A secret someone will do anything―anything at all―to keep hidden.
I’ve been pining for more Littleton Cotterell delight. And this one picks up just a day after The Fatal Flying Affair. While I do enjoy following the well crafted murder mysteries in this series – for me, it’s really about the delightful relationship between Lady H and Flo. And for a long-lost time before the horrors of WWI… This one is particularly good, with a lovely twisty plot and lots of enjoyable shafts of gentle humour throughout. 10/10

AUDIOBOOK – Deliverer – Book 9 (Sequence 3, Book 3) of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh
In the aftermath of civil war, the world of the atevi is still perilously unstable. Tabini-aiji, powerful ruler of the Western Association, along with his son and heir Cajeiri, and his human paidhi, Bren Cameron, have returned to the seat of power. The usurper, Murini, has escaped to the lands of his supporters, but the danger these rebels pose is far from over. Ilisidi, Tabini’s grandmother, the aiji-dowager, has returned to her ancient castle in the East, for she has powerful ties in the lands of the rebels, and she seeks to muster whatever support for her grandson that she can from among those enemy strongholds.

The long-running Foreigner series can also be enjoyed by more casual genre readers in sub-trilogy installments. Deliverer is the 9th Foreigner novel. It is also the 3rd book in the third subtrilogy.
This is yet another excellent audiobook series I’m following that never disappoints. Daniel May has nailed bringing to life the various crises that come in the wake of the attempted rebellion, so that Cherryh’s wonderful aliens are solidly three-dimensional characters. As for Bren, he is once again plunged right in the middle of this latest emergency, as the only human translator and ambassador living on the mainland amongst this lethal and fascinating species. 9/10

This last week I have posted:

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Last Feather by Shameez Patel Papathanasiou

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of What Rough Beast by Michael R. Johnston

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Under Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #UnderFortunateStarsbookreview

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It was the cover of this one that initially drew my attention – I’m always a sucker for a beautiful spacescape. And then I was further intrigued by reading the blurb…

BLURB: Fleeing the final days of the generations-long war with the alien Felen, smuggler Jereth Keeven’s freighter the Jonah breaks down in a strange rift in deep space, with little chance of rescue—until they encounter the research vessel Gallion, which claims to be from 152 years in the future.

The Gallion’s chief engineer Uma Ozakka has always been fascinated with the past, especially the tale of the Fortunate Five, who ended the war with the Felen. When the Gallion rescues a run-down junk freighter, Ozakka is shocked to recognize the Five’s legendary ship—and the Five’s famed leader, Eldric Leesongronski, among the crew. But nothing else about Leesongronski and his crewmates seems to match up with the historical record. With their ships running out of power in the rift, more than the lives of both crews may be at stake.

REVIEW: This is an intriguing premise. Two ships separated by 150 years get caught up in a mysterious rift where nothing is getting in or out. So far, so average. What has everyone on the Gallion completely freaked out is that the battered little trader they eventually haul aboard is the most famous ship in recent history – the Jonah. It played a crucial role in saving two species from destroying themselves. However… the crew aren’t remotely similar to the brave Five depicted in the history books. In fact, several key figures appear to be missing.

I really enjoyed where this one goes, particularly as I am a bit of a History buff. This book skips between timelines, as we gradually build up a more complete picture of the main characters involved in this key event – and what actually has happened to them, as opposed to what the history books say about them. There are also some nice touches of humour – I particularly like Hutchings’ depiction of the corporate space liner and its risk-averse policy.

The descriptions of the ships, the steadily building tension as time runs out, the characterisation of the main protagonists – these aspects of the story are all very well handled. But I did have a problem with the pacing. Right at the start of the story, we learn of the crucial role of the Jonah and its five crew members, so the reader is ahead of the little ship’s crew for quite a chunk of the book. While I was never tempted to DNF this one, as I enjoyed the overall premise, there was a middle section when I wanted to story to speed up. Once we got past a certain stage where I no longer could predict what would happen, I once again found the story a wholly engrossing and pleasurable read. And the ending packs a real emotional punch which I found very moving. Recommended for space opera fans who appreciate something a bit different in their alien encounters. While I obtained an arc of Under Fortunate Stars from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Shattered Skies – Book 2 of The Cruel Stars series by John Birmingham #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheShatteredSkiesbookreview

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The gorgeous spacescape adorning the cover first snagged my attention when browsing – and for a change I also clocked the fact that this was the second book in the series. So before requesting it, I got hold of The Cruel Stars, which I thoroughly enjoyed. So when I was approved for a copy of The Shattered Skies, I was genuinely pleased – and reread The Cruel Stars just before tucking into this military space opera adventure.

BLURB: The Sturm, a group of “species purists” intent on destroying any human with genetic or cybernetic enhancements, returned from the far reaches of Dark Space to strike a devastating blow against humanity. Though their victory seemed inevitable, a small group of reluctant heroes managed to beat back the invading force. Now left with the remains of a crippled civilization, they must work together to rebuild–and to stand guard, in case those weren’t the only enemies hiding in the dark…

REVIEW: The first book is full of action right from the start, as the Sturm’s horrific weapon incapacitates all the crucial personnel holding power throughout the galaxy by dint of a terrifying attack that scrambles their brains. However in The Shattered Skies that impetus takes a while to get going. But it was a pleasure to get reacquainted with Commander Lucinda Hardy, who finds herself captaining the only surviving warship that can hold its own against the Sturm; Booker3, a super-soldier slated for total deletion before the hammer falls; Princess Alessia, the 12-year-old sole survivor of the most powerful ruling house throughout the system; Sephina L’trel, outlaw and smuggler with a small crew of misfits who have slipped through the cracks; and finally an elderly living legend – former war hero Admiral Frazer McLennan, who has been studying the crash site of the Sturm’s dreadnought to glean whatever information he can about their society. He is accompanied by an A.I. who looks after McLennan’s needs, while the two of them spend their time exchanging insults.

Inevitably in a cast of five protagonists, I had favourites. During The Cruel Stars, it was poor little Alessia’s plight that snagged my attention. Birmingham’s riveting depiction of her kidnap by the Sturm was the highlight of the book for me, as it was written with power and emotion without sliding into sentimentality. My least favourite character was Frazer McLennan and his Intellect, whose constant bickering became a tad tiresome. I was pleased to see that Birmingham was smart enough in The Shattered Skies to have Lucinda Hardy also find these exchanges annoying, too.

While it’s always better to read the first book in a series, particularly as The Cruel Skies is a cracking adventure from start to finish, Birmingham makes sure readers who haven’t had the pleasure won’t flounder too much. But once The Shattered Skies hit its stride, once again I was swept up in the conflict, though there were times when I felt the pacing could have been tightened up. The battles are vividly depicted with plenty of action and tension, so that I could easily visualise who was doing what to whom. Deaths are given plenty of emotional heft and matter to the protagonists, making me care, too – something that doesn’t always happen in this genre.

In this book, there is also the addition of an intriguing antagonist emerging from the ranks of the Sturm who is on the trail of our plucky freedom fighters. He is suitably menacing without sliding into the cliché of a pantomime villain. I liked the fact that he absolutely believes in the rightness of his cause and that we are given clear evidence to back up his point of view. Birmingham’s multi-layered society with its various factions convinced me and provided a strong backdrop for the unfolding story. I’m very much looking forward to reading the final book in this series and recommend this series to military sci fi fans looking for vivid, convincing characters and a high-stakes space war. While I obtained an arc of The Shattered Skies from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc World’s Edge – Book 2 of The Tethered Citadel series by David Hair #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #World’sEdgebookreview

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Over the last few years, I’ve become a solid fan of Hair’s writing – see my reviews of the Olympus trilogy, Athena’s Champion, Oracle’s War and Sacred Bride which he co-wrote with Cath Mayo. I was also fortunate enough to be approved to read an arc of the first book in this adventure, Map’s Edgesee my review here.

BLURB: Chasing a dream of wealth and freedom, Raythe Vyre’s ragtag caravan of refugees from imperial oppression went off the map, into the frozen wastes of the north. What they found there was beyond all their expectations: Rath Argentium, the legendary city of the long-vanished Aldar, complete with its fabled floating citadel.

Even more unexpectedly, they encountered the Tangato, the remnants of the people who served the Aldar, who are shocked to learn that they’re not alone in the world – and hostile to Raythe’s interlopers. What awaits Raythe’s people in the haunted castle that floats above them, the lair of the last Aldar king? Everlasting wealth – or eternal damnation?

REVIEW: Firstly, if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the first book, Map’s Edge, I strongly advise that you do so before tucking into this one. The action picks up right where Map’s Edge left off and you’ll probably be floundering at the start. That said, if you did read the first book a while ago and can’t quite recall all the important details, Hair has thoughtfully provided a very useful ‘Story So Far’ which handily jogs the memory. However, I don’t recommend that you rely on it instead of reading the first book – you’ll lose far too much of the detail, nuances and sheer energy of this cracking fantasy adventure for that to be a remotely satisfactory substitute for the actual book.

Once again, we are plunged into the middle of the unfolding emergency as two cultures collide. One group is on the run from a powerful regime committed to stamping their own way of doing things onto the subjects of a recently defeated nation, while the other group is the remnant of a mighty magical people responsible for the environmental catastrophe that has overtaken the planet. Hair explores this fascinating dynamic through a number of vivid, well written characters whose adventures and experiences had me reading far later than I’d intended. And at a climactic part of the story, my stomach was churning as I kept turning the pages – which doesn’t happen all that often.

I loved the directions in which the story went – and while there are some villains in the story that I loved to hate, I could understand why they made the choices they did. It takes a storyteller with power and charisma to provide that depth of characterisation and clarity of vision within a narrative crammed with action. I’ve found myself thinking a lot about this one since I put it down – the powerful characters and the discovery of a lost civilisation has resonated with me. Very highly recommended for fans of epic fantasy full of memorable characters, a riveting setting and a twisting plot full of action. While I obtained an arc of World’s Edge from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of ARC Given to Darkness – Book 2 of the Ikiri duology by Phil Williams #BrainfluffARCreview #GiventoDarknessbookreview

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I enjoy Phil’s quirky writing – see my reviews of his Ordshaw series – Under Ordshaw, Blue Angel and The Violent Fae. So I was delighted to also tuck into the first book in this duology last year, Kept in Cages and when Phil contacted me and asked if I’d like a review copy of Given to Darkness, I was delighted.

BLURB: Ikiri demands blood. Whose will it be?

A malevolent force stirs from the heart of the Congo. One child can stop it – but everyone wants her dead. Reece Coburn’s gang have travelled half the world to protect Zipporah, only to find her in more danger than ever. Her violent father is missing, his murderous enemies are coming for them, and her brother’s power is growing stronger. Entire communities are being slaughtered, and it’s only getting worse.

They have to reach Ikiri before its corruption spreads. But there’s a long journey ahead, past ferocious killers and unnatural creatures – and very few people can be trusted along the way.
Can two criminal musicians, an unstable assassin and a compromised spy reach Ikiri alive? What will it cost them along the way?

REVIEW: I’m aware the cover and the blurb make this one sound really dark. And while I cannot deny that there is a lot of mayhem and death – there is also a madcap energy running through the book that means it isn’t an unduly bleak, depressing read. Partly, the lighter tone is down to the magnificently eccentric characters. Of course the classic trope of talented child with awesome powers is personified in Zip – but in this book, she is also shown to be more vulnerable. As her father disappears off, leaving her without a backward glance, it’s down to the American musicians, Leigh-Ann and Reece, to look after her. And then, there’s Katryzna, the Russian assassin – who is now trying to adapt within this group brought together while trying to fight a terrible evil.

Of course, coping with the monsters and constant danger facing them is a major part of the book. But for me, the highlight was watching the members of the group become closer as they end up trying to protect each other. The character forced to make the greatest change is former lone killer, Katryzna. Now aware that she needs to take into account the needs of the other team members, she often ends up having loud arguments with her conscience – a character named Rurik. The dynamic is often very funny as well as poignant, without tipping into caricature. It’s a fine line and Phil walks it well.

There is also the tragedy of what has happened to Zip’s shattered family, which looms over the book in a dark counterpoint, making this one hard to put down. As ever, the action scenes pop and the vivid depiction of the dark evil crawling through the African landscape as they get ever closer to Ikiri nicely winds up the tension. And the climactic denouement doesn’t disappoint. All in all, I really enjoyed this series – Williams’ accomplished writing spins a story full of light and dark, good and evil without ever trying to be moralistic. A memorable read that is highly recommended for fantasy readers looking for something different. The author provided me with a review copy, which in no way has compromised my honest opinion of Given To Darkness.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Women of Troy – Book 2 of The Women of Troy series by Pat Barker #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheWomenofTroybookreview

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I encountered The Silence of the Girls last September – see my review – and it blew me away. While it was a powerful, disturbing read, I have always had a soft spot of Greek myths and this retelling really stayed with me. So I was thrilled to see this turn up on Netgalley – and even more thrilled to be approved to read it.

BLURB: Troy has fallen. The Greeks have won their bitter war. They can return home as victors – all they need is a good wind to lift their sails. But the wind has vanished, the seas becalmed by vengeful gods, and so the warriors remain in limbo – camped in the shadow of the city they destroyed, kept company by the women they stole from it.

The women of Troy.

Helen – poor Helen. All that beauty, all that grace – and she was just a mouldy old bone for feral dogs to fight over.

Cassandra, who has learned not to be too attached to her own prophecies. They have only ever been believed when she can get a man to deliver them.

Stubborn Amina, with her gaze still fixed on the ruined towers of Troy, determined to avenge the slaughter of her king.

Hecuba, howling and clawing her cheeks on the silent shore, as if she could make her cries heard in the gloomy halls of Hades. As if she could wake the dead.

And Briseis, carrying her future in her womb: the unborn child of the dead hero Achilles. Once again caught up in the disputes of violent men. Once again faced with the chance to shape history.

REVIEW: As should be evident from the punchy blurb, there are trigger warnings for rape and violence. Although I’d like to emphasise that there is nothing graphic or sensationalised about the plight of the women who find themselves part of the booty looted from Troy. Probably the most visceral scene is King Priam’s death – and that isn’t as grisly as some of the vicious hand-to-hand fighting depicted in epic fantasies written by the likes of John Gwynne, Joe Abercrombie and Miles Cameron.

What is undeniable is the power of Barker’s prose, as she immerses us in the daily lives of the captured women, experienced in first-person pov by former Princess Briseis, who witnessed the death of her family at the hands of Achilles in the early stages of the Trojan campaign. And was then captured by him. Now he’s dead, her life has once more become uncertain – particularly as she is carrying his child. It’s Briseis who tries to make life easier for the newly captive women, traumatised by the death of their husbands, fathers and sons – and are now having to cope with being owned by those responsible for killing their families. Barker could have so easily turned this into a sensational, stomach-churning read, but her immersive, intelligent writing – while not in any way belittling what is going on – gives us a ringside seat in the camp where the Greeks are still living. For despite being the victors, they are now imprisoned on the shores where they’ve been living for the past decade…

The unfolding story of what happens within that camp, as political alliances shift and rebalance in the light of the Greek victory, makes a riveting read. I fell in love with beautiful, brave Briseis in The Silence of the Girls and this book has only strengthened my admiration for her. If you enjoyed The Silence of the Girls, then this sequel comes very highly recommended. And if you like the idea of reading a retelling of the Trojan war and haven’t yet done so, then I suggest you look out The Silence of the Girls. This engrossing series gives you a version of the story from the viewpoint of the women caught up in it – something the Greek canon never bothered to do. While I obtained an arc of The Women of Troy from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Assassin’s Orbit by John Appel #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #AssassinsOrbitbookreview

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That amazing cover caught my eye, as did the intriguing blurb. And as I’m a sucker for good space opera, I immediately requested this one.

BLURB: Murder forces unlikely allies

On the eve of the planet Ileri’s historic vote to join the Commonwealth, the assassination of a government minister threatens to shatter everything. Private investigator Noo Okereke and spy Meiko Ogawa join forces with police chief Toiwa to investigate – and discover clues that point disturbingly toward a threat humanity thought they had escaped. A threat that could destroy Ileri and spark an interplanetary war… unless the disparate team can work together to solve the mystery.

REVIEW: The strapline for this book is: Golden Girls meets The Expanse with a side of Babylon Five… Hm – not sure about that one. The older women that feature in this sci-fi adventure thriller are far tougher and grimmer than the protagonists in Golden Girls. In fact, the only thing they have in common is that they are women of a certain age. I liked both Noo Okereke and Meiko Ogawa very much – though it took me a while to nail the names. The author didn’t do his western readers any favours by insisting on giving us two unfamiliar surnames starting with the same consonant.

I did enjoy the social dynamic and the political setup. As this story is character-led, it took a while for the full scope of the world to unfold – but once things started really kicking off, the narrative moved forward at full pelt. It was difficult to put this one down, as the stakes just kept on piling up against our plucky protagonists. Appel writes the action really well – I liked the weaponry and tech toys, as well as the cultural differences between the factions which were well portrayed.

All in all, this is a cracking story, full of incident and tension that works well with a solidly depicted world and strong characters. My main concern is that the story leaves some dangling plotpoints that need to be cleared up – and there’s no indication that this is the first book in a series. I would be very sorry if this turns out to be a standalone. Highly recommended for space opera fans. While I obtained an arc of Assassin’s Orbit from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Sunday Post – 4th July, 2021 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

A very happy Fourth of July to all my American friends – I hope you have a lovely day.

It’s been an odd week. On the plus side, we celebrated little Eliza’s birthday on Wednesday – I can’t quite believe that she is already three years old – where has the time gone? My daughter arranged for her to have a session at Outward Bound, where there is a huge soft play area. Her brothers crawled through tunnels with her, helped her up steps and ushered her down slides, while she duly bossed them around and generally had a wonderful time. I was able to drive myself there, as it is only ten minutes up the road from where I live. Now I have a walking stick, I was able to get out of the car and walk across the endless acreage of the car park without any help. Though it’s surprising how much BIGGER everywhere seems when you move at the speed of a dozing snail. It was lovely being able to see the birthday girl and give her a present and card (a batgirl dress in black and gold netting, with mask), and also see the rest of the family, who I really miss. The pics this week show Eliza and her brothers on their birthday outing, and more wilderness scenes from my overgrown garden.

The rest of the week, I’ve been watching Wimbledon and trying – and failing – to do more than move between the bed and the settee. I’m aware that I’ve so much to be grateful for – but this week, I’ve found it tough. My life is on hold and I’ve no idea when I will become well enough to resume my former busy schedule. Or if I will ever recover sufficiently to do so. I need to cling to the fact that I am able to occasionally write reviews and post them. Though depressingly my wordage for June didn’t even make 10,000 words, which is the lowest I’ve recorded since I started keeping track of my annual wordcount in 2013. When is a writer not a writer – when she doesn’t write!! Thank goodness for books. If I couldn’t regularly escape between the covers of a variety of lovely reads, I’d be a gibbering wreck by now.

Last week I read:

Patterns in the Dark – Book 4 of the Dragon Blood series by Lindsay Buroker
Everyone knows dragons have been extinct for over a thousand years. Everyone is wrong. At least one dragon remains, and military scientists from the Cofah Empire are experimenting with its blood, using the magical substance to power deadly new weapons that could be used to bring the world to its knees.

That’s a concern for Zirkander, Cas, and the rest of the Iskandians, but all Tolemek wants is to find his missing sister. The last time he saw her, their father had locked her in an asylum because of a mental illness with no cure. Now the military has taken her. What use the Cofah have for her, Tolemek can only guess, but he is certain she is in danger. He must save her before it’s too late. But her fate is inexplicably tied to the dragon’s, and he must find it to find her.
I’m working my way through this series far too fast! And that’s because it’s becoming addictive, as Buroker keeps on delivering books full of action, enjoyable characters and quirky humour. The big bonus in this one is that we finally come face to face with a dragon – yay! Unsurprisingly, Buroker is now one of my favourite authors – and I’m delighted to see that she’s written a LOT😊.

Assassin’s Orbit by John Appel
On the eve of the planet Ileri’s historic vote to join the Commonwealth, the assassination of a government minister threatens to shatter everything. Private investigator Noo Okereke and spy Meiko Ogawa join forces with police chief Toiwa to investigate – and discover clues that point disturbingly toward a threat humanity thought they had escaped.

A threat that could destroy Ileri and spark an interplanetary war… unless the disparate team can work together to solve the mystery.
This was another enjoyable, action-packed read, full of incident and appealing characters. I loved the nuanced, political world. And I really loved that the main characters were of a certain age – though still willing and able to mix it up with the wrong-headed youngsters. Review to follow.

Paladin’s Grace – Book 1 of The Saint of Steel series by T. Kingfisher
Stephen’s god died on the longest day of the year…

Three years later, Stephen is a broken paladin, living only for the chance to be useful before he dies. But all that changes when he encounters a fugitive named Grace in an alley and witnesses an assassination attempt gone wrong. Now the pair must navigate a web of treachery, beset on all sides by spies and poisoners, while a cryptic killer stalks one step behind…

And yet, ANOTHER lovely, entertaining read – this one had me howling with laughter during some of the romance scenes. I love it when an author successfully highlights just how funny passion can be😊. And yet, there is also plenty of adventure and tension, too. And I’m delighted to note that there are two more books in this series, so I now know where some of my birthday money is going…

The Daydreamer Detective Opens a Tea Shop – Book 3 of the Miso Cosy Mystery series by Steph Gennaro
Mei Yamagawa’s bad luck is almost at an end…

Her tea shop is a week away from opening, she and Yasahiro have planned a trip away, and the future is looking bright and hopeful. But when Yasahiro’s ex-fiancée, Amanda, shows up unexpectedly, demanding his time and presence, all of their plans dissolve…
Annoyingly, it wasn’t until I’d nearly finished this one that I realised I’d read Books 2 and 3 out of sequence. However, that didn’t prevent me from thoroughly enjoying this cosy contemporary murder mystery set in Japan. I really like Mei’s character – and I’ve edited the blurb somewhat, because I didn’t bother to read it before tucking into the book. And got a real shock when I discovered who exactly had been murdered… A charming, engrossing read that has me keen to return to this quirky and different world. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and his Wise Draconic Tips on Life

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Stranding by Kate Sawyer

Friday Face-off featuring Dragonfly in Amber – Book 2 of the Outlander series by Diane Gabaldon

Review of NETGALLEY arc Willow – Book 1 of The Pepper Lane Club by Grace Parks

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Antiques Carry On – Book 15 of the Trash n’Treasures series by Barbara Allan

Tuesday Treasures – 34

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Artifact Space by Miles Cameron

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