Tag Archives: feisty heroines

Great Science Fiction Series I’ve Discovered in 2020 #Brainfluffbookrecommendations #SciFiMonth2020

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It’s been a truly dreadful year – like everyone else, I cannot wait to see the back of it. But in one respect, it’s been wonderful – I have discovered some fabulous science fiction reads. Some are relatively newly published, others are a bit older. But the one thing they all have in common is that they provided me with an engrossing read that took me right away from the daily grind of social distancing, masks and lockdowns… Have you read any of these? I’m linking this post to #Sci Fi Month 2020.

Ancestral Night – Book 1 of the White Space series by Elizabeth Bear
Haimey Dz thinks she knows what she wants. She thinks she knows who she is. She is wrong.

A routine salvage mission uncovers evidence of a terrible crime and relics of powerful ancient technology. Haimey and her small crew run afoul of pirates at the outer limits of the Milky Way, and find themselves on the run and in possession of universe-changing information. When authorities prove corrupt, Haimey realizes that she is the only one who can protect her galaxy-spanning civilization from the implications of this ancient technology—and the revolutionaries who want to use it for terror and war. Her quest will take her careening from the event horizon of the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s core to the infinite, empty spaces at its edge. To save everything that matters, she will need to uncover the secrets of ancient intelligences lost to time—and her own lost secrets, which she will wish had remained hidden from her forever.
Yes… I don’t deny there are some pacing issues. And that Bear does tend to muse about all sorts of philosophical issues that her character is chewing over – evidently being in a small tin can light years away from everyone else other than your own small crew can do that to you. But listening to this one, where the world seeped into my dreams and Haimey and I hung out together for a handful of days, was such a blessing… see my review. I’m currently listening to Machine, the second book in the series and enjoying that one, too.

Skyward and Starsight of the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson
Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.
This one has more of a YA feel as Spensa is a teenager with family issues that make her reckless and a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Humanity is clinging onto existence, anyway as constant alien attacks are besieging their ghetto on a planet ringed by ordnance. I loved the sentient ship – and also where the adventure went in the second book. See my mini-reviews of Skyward and Starsight.

Termination Shock and Interdicted Space of the Interstellar Enforcement Agency series by Gillian Andrews
Ryler Mallivan’s comfortable life as an upstanding young freighter captain has just imploded. Avaraks are storming the training ship he is on and the bullets being fired are not blanks. Interstellar war has broken out and unless he moves fast they will all be as stone dead as the instructor lying at his feet. But this is one conflict they can never escape. The cause of the trouble is far closer than they know and will bring Mallivan and his ragbag fledgling crew under ferocious attack from all sides. They are going to need all their wits about them if they are to stay alive. And they have to, because there is nobody else to save all their worlds from a doomsday weapon which is set to obliterate the entire universe.
Just how much can one lone spaceship do?
This is a lot of fun with loads of action and engaging characters – see my reviews of Termination Shock and Interdicted Space. I’m looking forward to reading the third book in the series – Exceptional Point sometime in the New Year…

The Book of Koli and The Trials of Koli – of the Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey
Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies an unrecognizable world. A world where overgrown forests are filled with choker trees and deadly vines and seeds that will kill you where you stand. And if they don’t get you, one of the dangerous shunned men will.
Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He knows the first rule of survival is that you don’t venture beyond the walls. What he doesn’t know is – what happens when you aren’t given a choice?
I absolutely loved this series. The slightly degraded English in Koli’s first-person narrative is beautifully handled and works very well. Too much more and it have been annoying, but it is an effective part of the worldbuilding. I’m really looking forward to reading the third book in the series – see my reviews of The Book of Koli and The Trials of Koli.

A Memory Called Empire – Book 1 of the Teixcalaan series by Arkady Martine
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 who is behind the murder, 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.
I have a particular fondness for stories where there are whodunits set in the future – done well, it makes for a wonderful, gripping read. And this is excellent – one of my outstanding reads of the year – see my review which is also going live today. I’m looking forward to getting hold of A Desolation Called Peace next year.

Relatively Strange, Even Stranger and Stranger Still – the Strange series by Marilyn Messik
It’s tricky to know what’s normal if you’re not, But Stella’s north west London upbringing is average enough, and her eccentric, protective (paranoid?) family are not given to making a fuss. Only when she finds herself smack dab in the middle of a situation, face to face with the stark reality of medical experimentation and its horrifying consequences, does she realise how sure she is of one thing. This hero stuff just isn’t her. Normal, or as near as damn it is what she wants for the future, and if that means smothering her instincts, so be it. At least she’ll know, should she slip off the wagon occasionally, it’ll be choice not chance.
Isn’t it a fact though, just when you think you’ve got yourself back on track, events can overtake and derail you.
This series has been one of the major reading highlights of my year – at a time when my need for enjoyable escapism has been intense, diving into these books was like a long cold drink of water on a steaming hot day… Love, love, love them all – here are my reviews – Relatively Strange, Even Stranger, Stranger Still.

The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky and The Relentless Moon of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal
On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process. Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too. Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.
This classy, alternate history where a meteorite accelerates Humanity’s reach for the stars is another highlight of the year. I loved Elma – and Nicole, who we get to spend more time with in the final book. See my reviews of The Calculating Stars and The Fated SkyThe Relentless Moon is to follow.

Have you read any of these series? Have you any other discoveries you’ve made this year, too? I have left off some others – Seven DevilsEmbers of WarUnconquerable SunEvery Sky A Gravewhich I also loved!




Sunday Post – 15th November, 2020 #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.

We weren’t around last Sunday, hence my absence. It’s been a busy week. On Tuesday night we helped celebrate my grandson’s 11th birthday – I can’t quite believe it… Where has the time gone? My writing club had a Zoom get-together on Wednesday, where I read out my very lame lyrics of an imaginary 1980s pop song, and we chatted about our writing projects. And tried to recall what it was like when we used to sit around a real kitchen table, eating cake and downing mugs of tea. On Thursday, I gave a short presentation via Zoom, again, to the West Sussex Writers’ meeting on the results of the Non-Fiction Competition, which I’d been judging. It was lovely to see many familiar faces, including a number of former Creative Writing students. And on Friday, I went over to look after little Eliza while my daughter listened to a lecture on… you guessed it – Zoom! We brought the boys back here to stay overnight and took them back home yesterday.

I am loving Sci Fi Month – thank you so much to Imyril at There’s Always Room for One More and Lisa at Dear Geek Place for hosting this marvellous event. On the writing front, I’m still working on Picky Eaters 2 – though it’s turning out to be rather too long to be a quick, easy read, so I’m probably going to be splitting up Castellan’s adventures.

My photos this week are from a rather soggy garden…


Last week I read:

The Thief on the Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas
The Kendrick family have been making world-famous dolls since the early 1800s. But their dolls aren’t coveted for the craftmanship alone. Each one has a specific emotion laid on it by its creator. A magic that can make you feel bucolic bliss or consuming paranoia at a single touch. Though founded by sisters, now only men may know the secrets of the workshop.

Persephone Kendrick longs to break tradition and learn the family craft, and when a handsome stranger arrives claiming doll-making talent and a blood tie to the Kendricks, she sees a chance to grasp all she desires.
This quirky fantasy with a difference was an engrossing, enjoyable read, while the story went off in unexpected directions.


Angel Six Echo by Robert Appleton
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.
This military sci fi adventure, featuring a super-soldier wife who goes rogue to rescue her clever, geeky husband, who ill-advisedly joins up, is an entertaining, action-packed read. I just couldn’t figure out exactly why happily married Dalton wanted to join up in the first place… Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK The Son of Neptune – Book 2 of The Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan
PERCY IS CONFUSED. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn’t know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa told him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn’t ring any bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth.

HAZEL IS SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD. When she lived before, she didn’t do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother was possessed by greed. But that was the problem—when the Voice took over her mother and commanded Hazel to use her “gift” for an evil purpose, Hazel couldn’t say no. Now because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wishes she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams.

FRANK IS A KLUTZ. His grandmother says he is descended from heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery—although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially in front of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely—enough to share the secret he holds close to his heart.

Beginning at the “other” camp for half-bloods and extending as far as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment of the Heroes of Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all destined to play a part in the Prophesy of Seven.
This spinoff from the Percy Jackson series delivers the same witty, action-packed adventures that made the original series so much fun to listen to – and I’m delighted we’ve more Riordan goodness stored on my Kindle. Mini-review to follow.


My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

Review of Hammered – Book 1 of the Wetwired series by Elizabeth Bear

Friday Face-off featuring Synners by Pat Cadigan

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Thief on the Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas

Covet the Covers featuring the Vorkosigan Saga covers by Lois McMaster Bujold

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Expert System’s Champion by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Review of INDIE Ebook Even Stranger – Book 2 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik

Tuesday Treasures – 19

Review of The Fated Sky – Book 1 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Griffiths


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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Thief on the Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheThiefontheWingedHorsebookreview

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I was very impressed by the quality of writing in Mascarenhas’s novel The Psychology of Time Travel see my review. So when I saw this one and realised it was by the same author, I requested it.

BLURB: The Kendrick family have been making world-famous dolls for over 200 years. But their dolls aren’t coveted for the craftmanship alone. Each one has a specific emotion laid on it by its creator. A magic that can make you feel bucolic bliss or consuming paranoia at a single touch. Though founded by sisters, now only men may know the secrets of the workshop. Persephone Kendrick longs to break tradition and learn the family craft, and when a handsome stranger arrives claiming doll-making talent and a blood tie to the Kendricks, she sees a chance to grasp all she desires. But then, one night, the family’s most valuable doll is stolen. Only someone with knowledge of magic could have taken her. Only a Kendrick could have committed this crime…

REVIEW: This book may be fantasy, rather than science fiction, but there were a couple of aspects of the writing that I recognised in common with The Psychology of Time Travel. The main protagonists were women and they weren’t innately likeable. However, that didn’t stop me bonding with both Hazel and, in particular, Persephone. Mostly because she has had a very raw deal.

Ironically, although the founders of the Kendricks famous doll-making business were all women, these days it is the men who get to be Sorcerers and take the key roles for themselves. Persephone is convinced that she is destined to become a doll-maker – including adding the vital magical ingredient that is denied all the women now working within the business, no matter how talented they are. However, she is only permitted to work in the shop and when she isn’t, it is taken for granted by the rest of the Family that she will, somehow, keep her embittered and drunken father, Briar, in check. The gamechanger is the sudden appearance of a handsome stranger, who claims to be the long-lost descendant of the sister who was thought to have died in childbirth.

Larkin is taken on, though treated with great suspicion by the current CEO of Kendricks, and is expected to work on more mundane tasks while he proves his worth. I love the accumulation of incidents and details – until a certain event crashes across this small, close-knit community with the force of a grenade. I was thoroughly caught up by the fallout and stayed up far too late to discover what happened next – and no… Whatever else this book is, it isn’t remotely predictable.

I loved the passion and ambition exhibited by the two main female protagonists. Persephone is socially awkward – the last person you’d want to be the face of Kendricks – but she is tenacious, clever and doggedly persistent. All the characters in this intriguing, different story ping off the page with their almost Dickensian vividness. I’m going to remember this one for a very long time – an accomplished story which went in an unexpected direction and took me to a surprising ending, that nonetheless was very satisfying. Highly recommended for fans of unusual fantasy tales in a contemporary setting. While I obtained an arc of The Thief on the Winged Horse from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10



*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Postscript Murders – Book 2 of the Harbinder Kaur series by Elly Griffiths #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #ThePostscriptMurdersbookreview

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I am a real fan of Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series – her interesting, nuanced characters and strongly atmospheric settings have entertained me for years. So I was delighted to be approved to read this second book in her new series, featuring another spiky female protagonist. See my review of The Stranger Diaries, the first book in the series.

BLURB: PS: thanks for the murders.
The death of a ninety-year-old woman with a heart condition should absolutely not be suspicious. DS Harbinder Kaur certainly sees nothing to concern her in carer Natalka’s account of Peggy Smith’s death.
But when Natalka reveals that Peggy lied about her heart condition and that she had been sure someone was following her…
And that Peggy Smith had been a ‘murder consultant’ who plotted deaths for authors, and knew more about murder than anyone has any right to…
And when clearing out Peggy’s flat ends in Natalka being held at gunpoint by a masked figure…
Well then DS Harbinder Kaur thinks that maybe there is no such thing as an unsuspicious death after all.

REVIEW: This book continues the strong literary theme that started in the first book, The Stranger Diaries. Peggy, an old lady who lived in sheltered accommodation in Shoreham-by-Sea, is involved with a number of crime writers. As Harbinder starts to investigate her death to try and clear up whether her death is natural, she finds herself dealing with the publishing industry. It is great fun to see what a successful writer (Griffiths) thinks of the industry that assists her in getting her books out to her readers – I very much enjoyed the crime writing conference set in Scotland.

However, it wouldn’t be much of a murder mystery if that was the high point of the story. What I loved with this one is the sheer puzzle that initial death poses and what happens subsequently. There is a fabulous cast of characters. Oddly, Harbinder very much takes a back seat during the investigation of this one, but I found that I didn’t mind. Natalka and the odd crew she gathers around her do a reasonably good job of tracking potential suspects. While Harbinder grits her teeth and gets on with trying to sort out the latest death that occurred in Shoreham, not having the freedom to go flitting off to Scotland after a tenuous lead.

I found it difficult to put down this quirky, entertaining murder mystery with an enjoyable denouement that managed to give those caught up in the investigation, an extra dimension to their lives that they had been lacking before the first murder. It’s a neat trick to pull off and one I thoroughly enjoyed. Highly recommended for fans of well-crafted contemporary murder mysteries without too much gritty grimness or gore. While I obtained an arc of The Postscript Murders via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheOnceandFutureWitchesbookreview

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I loved the cover of this one – and the premise, which sounded great. However, I don’t think I’d appreciated just how gritty a read it would prove to be – but that’s down to me rather than Harrow. It’s not her fault that this book appeared at a time when all our lives are being twisted into something we can no longer call normal, with no end in sight. So I have put all those considerations into my back pocket as much as possible, because a book of this calibre deserves to be read mindfully.

BLURB: In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box. But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.

REVIEW: This is an alternate history, of sorts. Because just imagine that instead of women being discriminated against because they are physically weaker and often objects of desire, often encumbered by helpless children – there is an extra twist of fear. That they are witches. And when they were witches, women were often in charge. Until the nexus of their power was burnt, along with every practitioner the witch-hunters could get hold of. But many women still have a few household charms that they whisper to their daughters, when no one is looking, with bits of advice on how to stay safe. Except for the Eastwood sisters, who’s mother died in childbirth, leaving them to the mercy of their brutal father – and a beloved grandmother, who lived in a tumbledown cottage in a forest. Theirs was an upbringing you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy – and from being a tight-knit unit, they were finally ripped apart in a welter of anger and betrayal.

And this is where the book starts… I found it initially a hard read. The setting is in the middle of the Industrial Revolution, where capitalism is red in tooth and claw and workers’ rights are simply not considered. Especially if those workers are women and children. The writing is beguiling – poetic and beautiful and each sister’s strength and weaknesses are portrayed with insightful compassion. I did worry that this was going to be one of those beautifully written books with an ultimately bleak ending. And I hope it won’t be regarded as a spoiler if I reveal that I was mightily relieved when it didn’t turn out to be the case.

I am also conscious that this review sounds as if there isn’t much going on – but this book is packed with intrigue, tension and sudden, violent bursts of action that had me reading far later than I’d wanted to. In short, it is a stunning portrayal of a lovely premise – I particularly enjoyed Harrow’s playing about with the wording of nursery rhymes. And I highly recommend this passionate, moving book to anyone who enjoys reading about witches. While I obtained an arc of The Once and Future Witches via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10




*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Unconquerable Sun – Book 1 of The Sun Chronicles by Kate Elliott #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #UnconquerableSunbookreview

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I have been a fan of Kate Elliott’s writing for a long time – see my reviews of the Crown of Stars series and Cold Magic. So when I heard that she was writing a space opera, reverse-gender version of Alexander the Great’s life – I was extremely excited.

BLURB: GENDER-SWAPPED ALEXANDER THE GREAT ON AN INTERSTELLAR SCALE
Princess Sun has finally come of age. Growing up in the shadow of her mother, Eirene, has been no easy task. The legendary queen-marshal did what everyone thought impossible: expel the invaders and build Chaonia into a magnificent republic, one to be respected—and feared. But the cutthroat ambassador corps and conniving noble houses have never ceased to scheme—and they have plans that need Sun to be removed as heir, or better yet, dead. To survive, the princess must rely on her wits and companions: her biggest rival, her secret lover, and a dangerous prisoner of war.

REVIEW: I don’t know all that much about Alexander the Great’s life, especially his upbringing. But if he had even half of the issues to deal with when growing up that poor Sun is confronted with, then it’s hardly surprising that he grew up to conquer a goodly chunk of the known world. After all, it would be the only way to keep himself and those he cared about safe.

This full-scale adventure set in space has a fairly complicated setup, and I needed to pay attention, as Elliott doesn’t do large info-dumps (yippee!). It is also in multiple point of view, though the first-person viewpoint is in Persephone Lee, who is trying to escape from a toxic upbringing, where love and approval are in short supply.

Sun, the fiery and charismatic heir of a charismatic and fiery ruler, isn’t in any danger of getting too much parental praise, either. Her mother, the legendary queen-marshal, who managed to stabilise Chaonia and turn it into a state to be reckoned with, tends to spectacularly butt heads with her daughter. And there are plenty around her who are only too willing to see Sun disinherited and disgraced for their own political ends. Initially, I had thought this was going to be one of those tense, court intrigues where a single misstep or unguarded remark can have dire consequences. I wasn’t unhappy with the prospect as I rather enjoy that dynamic – but when it all kicked off, the full-tilt forward momentum was breathless, sharpened when several of Sun’s beloved and trusted companions die.

I loved this one. It’s over 500 pages long, but it certainly didn’t feel like it and I reached the climactic and satisfying ending with a sense of loss. I wanted more, which is always a good sign. Elliott hits all the main tropes of space opera with panache, including a cracking space battle that had me holding my breath as I turned the pages – and I’m now really, really looking forward to the next book in the series.

Very highly recommended for fans of fast-moving space opera with dynamic characters and plenty of plot twists. While I obtained an arc of Unconquerable Sun from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Seven Devils – Book 1 of the Seven Devils series by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May #BrinfluffNETGALLEYreview #SevenDevilsbookreview

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I was thrilled to be approved for an arc for this book. However, when I started reading it, I had a massive struggle getting into the story – because throughout the text all through the book were the words NOT FOR SALE OR DISTRIBUTION randomly appearing in the middle of sentences. It made it very difficult to connect with the story. After appealing to Orion, they did send me a PDF which had watermarked pages, instead, making it much easier to read – but the catch was that I could only read that on my desktop. I spend HOURS in front of my computer every day – I read for fun and relaxation on my Kindle. I did try… but it wasn’t fun, so in the end I returned to the version with the phrase running through it and persevered. Though I won’t be using the word DISTRIBUTION in my own writing any time soon.

I know piracy is an ongoing issue for publishers and I am aware that a few reviewers abuse the privilege we’ve been given in being allowed to read advance copies, but I’m not sure this is the answer. It is a cracking story – but being constantly yanked out of the story really hampered my enjoyment. I have tried my best to not allow this issue to influence my honest opinion of the book, but I’m not sure if this would have been a solid 10 from me if I hadn’t had such a struggle. If that’s the case, what a shame…

BLURB: When Eris faked her death, she thought she had left her old life as the heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Novantaen Resistance, an organization opposed to the empire’s voracious expansion, throws her right back into the fray. Eris has been assigned a new mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return the intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But her partner for the mission, mechanic and hotshot pilot Cloelia, bears an old grudge against Eris, making an already difficult infiltration even more complicated.

When they find the ship, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with firsthand knowledge of the corrupt empire’s inner workings.

REVIEW: This is an ensemble narrative, as this group of desperate women of driven to face overwhelming odds to try and fight back a corrupt and inhuman system. I loved the dynamic and real danger posed by the deep programming inserted in every loyal Tholosian, who won’t hesitate to attack if they suspect they are facing a traitor. Life is both cheap and merciless – this dystopian society is rotten right to the top.

It would have been so easy for either author to have resorted to chunks of info-dumping. However, they manage to avoid such measures by giving us chapters in alternating viewpoints and also providing flashbacks to show how each character arrived at the stage where they’re prepared to risk all. It’s well done. Not only have May and Lam managed to keep the plot moving forward, those flashbacks heighten the stakes and strengthen readers’ bonding with the protagonists, which is always more of a challenge when there are more than one or two protagonists in the mix.

The gathering sense of drama as this book moved to the final denouement is what really sets it apart, however. I love May’s writing – it was the prospect of reading a space opera adventure written by her that prompted me to request this book, after her fabulous Falconer trilogy – see my review of The Falconer, The Vanishing Throne and The Fallen Kingdom. She writes with the brakes off – and this book is imbued with that madcap energy I have grown to associate with her style and works brilliantly during the closing climactic scenes. I couldn’t put this one down as that ending played out – and I do hope we don’t have to wait too long for the second book, because it ends on a real cliffhanger that had me dreaming of the world. Highly recommended for all space opera fans. The ebook arc copy of Seven Devils was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.

9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of INDIE EBOOK After Seth by Caron Garrod #Brainfluffbookreview #AfterSethbookreview

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I have to declare an interest regarding this book – Caron was one of my Creative Writing students at the Worthing campus of the Greater Brighton Metropolitan College and I have seen earlier drafts of After Seth. It was another student who contacted me to say that she had published it, and it was available on Amazon. Naturally, I was keen to read the final version – and then felt I wanted to spread the word about this gripping, intense read. This is my honest unbiased opinion of the book.

BLURB: At Seth Jameson’s funeral, three women gather at the graveside… But they aren’t there to mourn him. Detective Inspector Beatrice (Billie) Nixon is about to retire. Her last job is to investigate whether Seth’s death was misadventure, as previously thought, or murder.
As she hears their stories, a different picture of Seth emerges from the one presented to the world.
•Roz – driven to alcoholism after years of physical, mental and financial abuse.
•Eleanor – withdrawn from the world after a terrifying and life changing experience.
•Imogen – obsessed and delusional.
And Beatrice begins to wonder not did anyone kill him, but why did they wait so long? But there were other women in Seth’s life and, as she hears all their experiences, Beatrice discovers a story of strength, friendship and love. And after a lifetime dedicated to the law, she is forced to ask herself… Can murder ever be justified?

I really enjoyed reading this one. All too often, it is those who wreak the damage that somehow seem to prevail by kicking over the rules that keep society and individuals civilised, but while Garrod doesn’t flinch from showing some of the darker consequences of Seth’s actions, I enjoyed the powerful feeling of hope in what could have otherwise been a bleak read. It doesn’t hurt that both Roz and Eleanor both have a wry sense of humour that comes to the fore when the going gets tough.

Of course, this is ultimately a murder mystery. Or is it? Has Seth actually been murdered? Even that is up for debate, and it is only as the book progresses and Billie Nixon continues taking the statements of the women involved in Seth’s life, that she learns the truth. There are some nice twists, particularly as the story progresses, that gives the reader an entirely different take on what is happening, which is always satisfying in a whodunit. I think the ending is beautiful – it not only ties everything up entirely satisfactorily, but left me with a lump in my throat.

Highly recommended for fans of psychological thrillers with a whodunit mystery.
9/10

Sunday Post – 2nd February, 2020 #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.

This week was the first since Christmas which was just routine – and I was very grateful for it. I’ve now recovered from my stomach upset, other than the occasional uncomfortable twinge. Other than that, so far we are both okay healthwise, which is a plus with all the nasty colds and illnesses going the rounds. I taught Tim as usual on Monday, which went well. Though I missed Pilates – again! Something always seems to come up on a Monday afternoon, but at least I made Fitstep on Wednesday.

On Thursday morning, Himself and I had breakfast together at the Look and Sea centre, enjoying the river views, although I’m not convinced by the refurbishment. At least the food was good. On Friday, I spent the day with my daughter and little Eliza, who is full of cold. I had a lovely time with them both and also managed to stay long enough to see the older grandchildren, too. Yesterday I worked all day on an editing project with a friend and had a lazy lie-in this morning, listening to a lovely audiobook…

Last week I read:

Bone Silence – Book 3 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds
Two sisters ran away from home to join the crew of a spaceship. They took on pirates, faced down monsters and survived massacres . . . and now they’re in charge. Captaining a fearsome ship of their own, adventures are theirs for the taking. But Captain Bosa’s fearsome reputation still dogs their heels, and they’re about to discover that, out in space, no one forgives, and no one forgets . . .
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It was a really solid finish to an unusual and dark-toned space opera adventure that featured on a sibling relationship, rather than a romantic one.

 

Crownbreaker – Book 6 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell
Once an outlaw spellslinger, Kellen Argos has made a life for himself as the Daroman Queen’s protector. A little magic and a handful of tricks are all it takes to deal with the constant threats to her reign. But when rumors of an empire-shattering war begin to stir, Kellen is asked to commit an unimaginable act to protect his queen…
I have thoroughly enjoyed this quirky fantasy series featuring a young failed mage and his ferocious squirrel cat, so put off this one in case it didn’t bring the whole adventure to a proper conclusion. However, I needn’t have worried – it was wound up with plenty of adventure and flourish, leaving me with a lump in my throat. Review to follow.

 

Ribbonworld – Book 1 of The Balcom Dynasty series by Richard Dee
Miles Goram has a problem. All the down-on-his-luck journalist planned on doing was writing a hotel review and now there’s a body in his bathroom. Far from home on a strange planet, Miles must deal with the fact that somebody wants him dead. Welcome to Reevis, a planet without days or nights where life is only possible under a vast pressure dome.
The murder mystery was well plotted, though nothing extraordinary – but the worldbuilding of the ribbonworld described in this story was amazing.

 

AUDIOBOOK Ancestral Night – Book 1 of the White Space series by Elizabeth Bear
Haimey Dz thinks she knows what she wants. She thinks she knows who she is. She is wrong. A routine salvage mission uncovers evidence of a terrible crime and relics of powerful ancient technology. Haimey and her small crew run afoul of pirates at the outer limits of the Milky Way, and find themselves on the run and in possession of universe-changing information.
I really enjoyed this twisty space opera thriller, which really drilled down into what it means to have your brain chemistry altered to suit society’s needs. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring Foreigner – Book 1of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Bone Silence – Book 3 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds

Series I Completed in 2019

Sunday Post 26th January 2020

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

My Favourite Books of 2019 https://notesfromareaderholic.com/2020/01/20/my-favorite-books-of-2019/ I got a shoutout with my reviewing hat on, as someone who regularly recommends authors Jan enjoys reading. Even better – Mantivore Dreams made her list of favourite reads of the year! Thank you, Jan😊.

Fantastic Find at the Bookstore #7: Chosen https://platformnumber4.com/2020/01/22/fantastic-find-at-the-bookstore-7-chosen/ Becky clearly has a nose for finding books – but this is remarkable discovery…

5 New Poetry Collections to Watch Out For https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2020/01/29/5-new-poetry-collections-to-watch-out-for-4/ This award-winning library site is always worth a visit…

The Benefits of Sensory Deprivation for Writers https://writerunboxed.com/2020/01/27/the-benefits-of-sensory-deprivation-for-writers/ I particularly noticed this one, as I’m writing a character whose senses of smell and colour are heightened – and found it fascinating reading…

Splitting a Novel http://melfka.com/archives/30282 As someone who has frequently felt obliged to perform major surgery on my manuscripts, it was interesting to read someone else’s experience…

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

Review of NETGALLEY arc Bone Silence – Book 3 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds #Brainfluffbookreview #BoneSilencebookreview #Netgalley

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Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this gothic YA space opera, Revenger and Shadow Captain. I was delighted to be approved to read this final instalment, Bone Silence, as I really wanted to know what happened to the Ness sisters.

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

Firstly, I’d recommend that if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading at least one of the previous books in this series, then don’t start with this one – put it back on the shelf and go looking for Revenger instead. While this story is still full of space battles, weird aliens fighting amongst themselves, and struggles to overcome peculiarly horrible diseases – a fair chunk of the book is taken up with resolving some of the big mysteries regarding the world and how it has come to be the way it is. If you haven’t read at least one of the previous books, not only will you find it difficult to understand what is going on – at least initially – you also won’t care as much as you should about the ongoing chaos and how to resolve it. I think Reynolds has managed to pull off a difficult balancing act – providing plenty of action and adventure with two spiky but ultimately sympathetic protagonists and yet also giving us a complicated world where the initial rules don’t actually apply. It is in this book we learn exactly what the dynamic is.

I am impressed at how much I still cared for both girls, given they aren’t particularly nice, which isn’t a surprise, given what they’ve gone through, and their own conflicted feelings about each other. There is a fair amount of sibling rivalry that causes friction and distrust, particularly at times when things are getting tricky. The characterisation is well handled throughout and I particularly liked the truly horrible antagonist Reynolds managed to produce in this book. After the horrors of Captain Bosa, I had thought that any other baddie in this series would be something of an anti-climax, but nasty Incer managed to be someone I loved to hate.

One of the outstanding aspects of this series is the dark, brooding Gothic quality of the writing which is sustained throughout all three books particularly effectively. This is a dystopian world where bad things happen to good people, however, there are enough shafts of light that it didn’t become too overwhelmingly grim, which is a tricky balance to accomplish. The ending worked, tying everything up satisfactorily, but without making it too tidy, which would have jarred in this universe. Highly recommended for fans of space opera with a bit of a difference. The ebook arc copy of Bone Silence was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10