Tag Archives: gods

Review of NETGALLEY arc Hostile Takeover – Book 1 of the Vale Investigation series by Cristell Comby #BrainfluffNetgalleybookreview #HostileTakeoverbookreview

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I was looking for more fantasy crime goodness, when this striking cover caught my eye, so I was delighted when I was approved to read it…

BLURB: He’s done a deal with Death herself. But unless he can send beasts back to the Otherworld, losing his life will be the least of his worries… PI Bellamy Vale’s near-immortality doesn’t give him a moment to rest. Completely worn down as Death’s supernatural detective, he’s starting to think he got the short-end of his do-or-die deal. So when a string of savage attacks grip the city, Vale abandons all hope of sleep and sets out to discover who let the Otherworld beast free…

REVIEW: I have cut the rather chatty blurb, because I think the above nicely sums up where things stand at the start of this entertaining whodunit. Bellamy Vale, known as Bell to his friends, is a sympathetic protagonist, with a nice line in humour which goes over well in the middle of his various adventures. He is an agent for Lady McDeath, who issues him with tasks and gives him suitable magical protections to carry them out.

It was an enjoyable read – Cold City is an interesting place with plenty of corruption going on behind the scenes. There are a number of scary antagonists, while Bell has his own set of friends to help – my favourite characters were computer geek Zian, who also happens to be Greek god Hermes’ son. And Hermes is very protective of him, to the extent that Bell is left in no doubt that he’ll die an agonising death, should anything nasty happen to Zian. Given that Bell is given highly dangerous jobs by his immortal patron, this is an ongoing problem for him.

The plot was well constructed. I didn’t see the solution – and to be honest, for me this one was all about the journey, anyway. While the trope and setup is very familiar, the story is peopled with a host of memorable, quirky characters brimming with personality so that I turned the pages to find out who would pitch up next. The book ended with an interesting development about to happen and fortunately, Himself, who is a gem, had already got hold of the second book in this series, so I don’t have to wait too long to find out what happens next. Recommended for fans of enjoyable urban fantasy. While I obtained an arc of Hostile Takeover from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10


Review of AUDIOBOOK The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller #Brainfluffbookreview #TheSongofAchillesbookreview #WyrdandWonder2020

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I was blown away by Circe last year, which made my list of Outstanding Reads 2019. So treated myself to the Audible edition of this offering, hoping I’d like it as much. I am including this review in the Wyrd and Wonder 2020 event.

BLURB: Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess…

I’ve truncated the blurb, because I’m not going to assume that everyone who reads this review knows the complete story of the Trojan War and if you don’t, then the second half of the blurb gets far too spoilery, in my view. I loved the narration – Frazer Douglas does a stormingly good job of depicting awkward, sensitive Patroclus, who is the opposite of Achilles in almost every way. I always enjoy a story told in first person viewpoint if it’s done well – and Miller’s writing is sublime. We see, taste and smell ancient Greece without sacrificing any of the narrative drive or characterisation. I particularly loved how Douglas portrays the other characters, such as Chiron, the wise centaur who taught the boys on Mount Peilion, and particularly, smooth-tongued Odysseus.

There was a point in the story, given it is told in Patroclus’s viewpoint, where I wondered how Miller was going to cope with taking the story forward. But she dealt with it extremely well and made it entirely believable. In short, this was another masterful retelling, that had me gripped right to the end. And given that I knew what was going to happen – that’s a huge achievement. This book has garnered a great deal of attention and praise, which is richly deserved. I’m conscious that I’m late to the party, probably only next door’s dog hasn’t yet read this one, but in the unlikely event that you haven’t yet manged to fit it into your reading schedule, I highly recommend it – whether you enjoy Greek myth retellings or not.
10/10






Five 5-Star Books in Five Words – Twice Over #five5-starbooksin5wordsx2 #BrainfluffWyrdandWonderChallenge2020

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The aim of this one is to select five of your all-time favourite books and sum each one up in five words as part of this year’s Wyrd and Wonder challenges. I read this fun challenge on one of my fellow blogger’s site (sorry – I made a note of who it was, then lost it…) and decided that I really, really wanted to have a bash at it. Then Himself also wanted a go and so I’ve added his choices, too.

My Selection

 

Among Others by Jo Walton
Battle-scarred schoolgirl seeking solace.
See review…

 

How to Train Your Dragon – Book 1 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
Naughty dragon trains small Viking.
See review…

 

Spiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Heroic quest – or is it?
See review…

 

Small Gods – Book 13 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Pratchett does religion. Profound silliness.

 

The Fifth Season – Book 1 of The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin
Mother’s mission – rescue her daughter.
See review…



Himself’s Selection

 

Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkein
The first, greatest epic fantasy

 

The Curse of Chalion – Book 1 of the World of the Five Gods series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Tattered hero dies three times.

 

Night Watch – Book 29 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Vimes’ timeloop saves his family.

 

Furies of Calderon – Book 1 of the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher
Powerless hero surviving powerful world.

 

Dead Heat – Book 4 of the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs
Ancient werewolf visits old friend.

March 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffMarch2020Roundup

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I’ve just read my roundup for February with a sense of unreality, because I didn’t once mention COVID 19. And whatever else I was chatting about, it didn’t include social isolation, daily death tolls and endless hand-washing. And now I’m going to take a deep breath and make that the last time I talk about that stuff. Because this is about carrying on as best we can, despite all that misery and fear. And maybe it’s rank cowardice, but I’m turning to the biggest consolation in my life, when the going gets tough. The one thing that never lets me down – books.

Reading
I read nineteen books in March, which I think is a record number. It was a really good month, with some cracking reads. This is the list:

Death of a Bean Counter – Book 12 of the Maggy Thorsen mystery series by Sandra Balzo – Review to follow

Song of Achilles AUDIOBOOK by Madeline Miller – this is my oustanding audiobook read of the month. Review to follow.

Feathertide by Beth Cartwright. Review to follow.

The Last Protector – Book 4 of the Lovett and Marwood series by Andrew Taylor

A Dying Fall – Book 5 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths.

Longbourn AUDIOBOOK by Jo Baker. Review to follow.

On Writing by Stephen King

Minimum Wage Magic – Book 1 of the DFZ series by Rachel Aaron

By the Pricking of her Thumb – Book 2 of the Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts

The Case of the Missing Servant – Book 1 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer AUDIOBOOK – Book 1 of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series by Rick Riordan

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished – Book 3 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron. Review to follow

Interdicted Space – Book 2 of the Interstellar Space Agency by Gillian Andrews

War of the Maps by Paul McAuley

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

The Clutter Corpse – Book 1 of the Decluttering Mysteries by Simon Brett. Review to follow

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey – this is my outstanding book of the month. Review to follow.

A Dragon of a Different Colour – Book 4 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron

Writing
I finally completed the first draft of Mantivore Warrior in the second week of March. The book ended up being just over 103,000 words long – so much for thinking I was nearing the end at the 75,000 words mark! It took another 12,500 words to finish it and then I was quite ill for nearly a fortnight. I do need to learn to pace myself…

I’ve put it on one side and have been working on my first Creative Writing How-To book on Characterisation. It’s going reasonably well, I’ve just finished Chapter Five on Viewpoint, but it’s very different to writing fiction. I’m hoping to have it completed by the end of April – but with all that’s going on, inevitably that has to be more of a hope than a solid target. Overall, I wrote just over 48,000 words in March, with just over 15,000 words on my blog and just under 30,000 words going towards my writing projects, which brings my yearly total to just over 136,000 words so far.

Blogging
Like many others, I’m finding my online friends a real source of consolation. I can’t tell you how grateful I feel having so many lovely people around me from the book blogging community to talk books with. It’s at times like these that you discover what really matters and who has your back… Wishing everyone a peaceful, healthy April and stay safe.xx






Sunday Post – 29th March, 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.

Like most people, I’m staying at home, though Himself is still out driving trains. We’ve worked out a system whereby he puts his uniform into the washing machine before coming into the house and so far… so good.

Last Monday, on her second day in the new house, my daughter woke up with a temperature, joint and stomach pains and a cough. So she ended up being quarantined in the house without the children. She is now feeling a lot better, but it’s been a long week for her. Thank goodness she is recovering and the children don’t seem to have had any symptoms. Other than that, we keep in touch with family via Skype and Zoom. It was a huge relief to hear my brother-in-law caught one of the last flights from Melbourne and is now back home safely. And we go on praying none of the vulnerable members of the family go down with the illness…

Still enjoying Outlander – but mightily disappointed with that DREADFUL last episode of Picard, when it had been going so well. Thank goodness for marvellous books – I’m listening to Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light – so very, very good! And I’m working on my book on Characterisation, which is growing slowly but surely. It’s interesting how different my writing patterns are for non-fiction, as opposed to fiction.

Last week I read:
The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie
For centuries, the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by the god known as the Raven. He watches over his territory from atop a tower in the powerful port of Vastai. His will is enacted through the Raven’s Lease, a human ruler chosen by the god himself. His magic is sustained via the blood sacrifice that every Lease must offer. And under the Raven’s watch, the city flourishes. But the power of the Raven is weakening. A usurper has claimed the throne. The kingdom borders are tested by invaders who long for the prosperity that Vastai boasts. And they have made their own alliances with other gods. It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo–aide to Mawat, the true Lease–arrives. And in seeking to help Mawat reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven’s Tower holds a secret.
This fascinating story, told from an unusual viewpoint – using the second person (you) pov – caught me from the start. I loved the tension and Leckie’s handling of the perspective from a god who has lived a very long time.


The Clutter Corpse – Book 1 of the Decluttering Mysteries series by Simon Brett
Introducing an engaging new amateur sleuth, declutterer Ellen Curtis, in the first of a brilliant new mystery series.
That’s all the blurb there is – and this intriguing cosy mystery does just that – sets up Ellen as an engaging, competent protagonist with a doozy of a backstory. While I enjoyed the whodunit aspect, I was even more engrossed in Ellen as a fascinating protagonist and very much look forward to reading more about her. Review to follow.

 



Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother’s grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change. Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared.
I burned through this one, finding it impossible to put down. It’s an amazing read in many ways. For starters, the prose is absolutely beautiful and I enjoyed so much about this one… But for me, the pacing and narrative stuttered in the final stages, leaving me unhappy with the ending, both with its execution and the outcome.


The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey
A book of hope for uncertain times.
Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons. The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.
My lovely sister-in-law sent this to me and I absolutely love it – the beautiful drawings and the messages of truth and hope that shone off the pages. It had me weeping and laughing at the same time. It isn’t long, but I shall be returning to it regularly. Especially in the coming days and weeks…


My posts last week:

Friday Face-off featuring Circe by Madeline Miller

Review of A Season of Spells – Book 3 of the Noctis Magicae series by Sylvia Hunter

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of War of the Maps by Paul McAuley

Review of AUDIOBOOK A Hat Full of Sky – Book 32 of the Discworld series, Book 2 of the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett

Sunday Post – 22nd March 2020

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

Books That Made Me Smile, Laugh, Inspired Me & Gave Me Hope https://hookedonbookz.com/2020/03/26/books-that-made-me-smile-laugh-inspired-me-gave-me-hope/ A very useful list – that includes The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse…

Coping Tools https://randomactsofwriting.wordpress.com/2020/03/25/coping-tools/
Another useful and uplifting article that I really appreciated and thought others, too, might enjoy reading…

Book Tag – The Secret World of a Book Blogger https://comfortreadsbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/03/26/book-tag-secret-life-of-a-book-blogger/ I’m a nosy person – my excuse is that I’m a writer, but I couldn’t pass up this insight into a fellow book blogger’s process behind the articles…

House Arrest https://jaceybedford.wordpress.com/2020/03/24/house-arrest/ Another great insight into how successful sci fi/fantasy author is coping with self isolating…

Giving Up Oxford https://infjphd.org/2020/03/24/giving-up-oxford/ A beautiful homage to one of our loveliest cities and a thoughtful article about lost opportunities and curtailed plans due to the virus…

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

Friday Faceoff – Off the leash… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceofffreebiecovers

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring FREEBIE covers. I’ve selected Circe by Madeline Miller, which I absolutely loved. And I also love every one of these covers…

This edition was produced by Boomsbury Publishing UK in April 2018. Isn’t it gorgeous? I love the warm colours that reference the Greek art on ancient pottery and the beautiful title font running from top to bottom of the urn, giving it a strikingly different look. And those flowers with the shading and beautiful detail… I think this is one of my all-time favourite covers and it was this design that prompted me to buy this one. I’m so glad I did…

 

Published in April 2018 by Little, Brown and Company, this is also a wonderfully striking effort. That Grecian face staring out at us, both imperious and slightly sad, draws our gaze. Once again, the warm orange and black colour scheme is both attractive and references Greek artefacts, as does the border detailing. I also like the title font, which works well. However, I do think it’s a shame to clutter this lovely design with unnecessary chatter, compromising the look and feel of the cover.

 

This edition, published by Bloomsbury Publishing in April 2019, is another wonderful design, given it’s a pared-down, less luscious version of the first cover. Once again, the colour scheme just sings out – and I love the Grecian urn with that lovely raised title font. It would look even more stunning if we didn’t, have that wonderful jar-shaped space stuffed with a load of pointless chatter, which despoils this cover more than any of the others, I think. I also love the background, directly referencing some of the ancient Greek figures depicted on artefacts.

 

This edition, produced by Pocket in May 2019, is another fabulous effort. A wonderful, subtle design that has stolen my heart. And NO annoying chatter to compromise and detract from the intended visual impact – and doesn’t it just look so much better for it? Not that I’m ranting. At all. Nope. This was so very nearly my favourite…


This French edition, published by Rue Fromentin in May 2018, is a bit different from the rest – for starters, it has broken away from the orange and black colour scheme. I love the soft-focus figure offering up a charger, presumably to a god. Though I’m guessing it wouldn’t be Zeus… It’s a beautiful image, the shape of the woman and colouring working well in making this a cover full of mystery. So this is my freebie selection – which is your favourite?

Sunday Post – 16th 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.

No Pilates or Fitstep this week, as our teaching is on a scuba diving holiday on the other side of the world – she surely picked a good time to go! On Tuesday, the Sleep Clinic contacted us to say that the sleep mask Himself had been waiting for had arrived, so we drove to Worthing hospital to pick it up. On the way back, we stopped at the Sea Lane Café and enjoyed a delicious vegan burger for lunch, looking out over the sea in lovely sunshine, though it was raining again by the time we got home.

On Friday, I travelled to Brighton to see Rebecca and little Eliza, who ran up to me – and went on going, past me, calling ‘Papa! Papa!’ She scrambled onto the settee to look out of the window and see if he was outside, ignoring me. And when we went over last week to babysit – did he play with her? Get her tea and feed her? Give her a bath and put her to bed? Nope, that was yours truly. Instead, he read his Kindle, looking up from time to time to acknowledge her chatter as she all but stood on her head to get his attention… Rebecca was in fits of laughter😊. That evening Himself made me a special meal for Valentine’s Day and you’ll be shocked to learn we exchanged books as presents to show how much we love each other…

Yesterday, I tackled the middle bedroom where Rob had put all the stuff he’d brought back from Cambridge, before flying out to LA, as we are expecting the children to stay during half term this coming week. By evening, Storm Dennis was howling around the house with rain lashing the windows, when I got a text from my sister to say that as she’d opened her back door, the wind took hold of it, swung it round and hit her in the face. She is now only ten minutes up the road, so driving through the height of the storm wasn’t too bad, though I wouldn’t have wanted to travel much further. She has a lump on her forehead the size of an egg, cuts across her nose and had bitten through her tongue. She is lucky to have escaped concussion and a broken nose, though she is developing two black eyes. Fortunately, although shocked and in a lot of pain, she was okay, however I stayed the night just in case. We had a cosy breakfast together, and I returned home mid-morning, though the pouring rain – though at least the wind has dropped. My thoughts are with all the poor souls who have suffered damage and flooding for the second weekend in a row…

Last week I read:
A Blight of Blackwings – Book 2 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearne
SOLDIER AND AVENGER
Daryck is from a city that was devastated by the war with the Bone Giants, and now he and a band of warriors seek revenge against the giants for the loved ones they lost. But will vengeance be enough to salve their grief?
DREAMER AND LEADER
Hanima is part of a new generation with extraordinary magical talents: She can speak to fantastical animals. But when this gift becomes a threat to the powers-that-be, Hanima becomes the leader of a movement to use this magic to bring power to the people.
SISTER AND SEEKER
Koesha is the captain of an all-female crew on a perilous voyage to explore unknown waters. Though Koesha’s crew is seeking a path around the globe, Koesha is also looking for her sister, lost at sea two years ago. But what lies beyond the edges of the map is far more dangerous than storms and sea monsters. . . .
I thoroughly enjoyed this epic fantasy sequel to A Plague of Giants with a nifty plot device which works really well.

AUDIOBOOK Salt Lane – Book 1 of the DS Alexandra Cupidi series by William Shaw
DS Alexandra Cupidi has done it again. She should have learnt to keep her big mouth shut, after the scandal that sent her packing – resentful teenager in tow – from the London Met to the lonely Kent coastline. Even murder looks different in this landscape of fens, ditches and stark beaches, shadowed by the towers of Dungeness power station. Murder looks a lot less pretty. The man drowned in the slurry pit had been herded there like an animal. He was North African, like many of the fruit pickers that work the fields. The more Cupidi discovers, the more she wants to ask – but these people are suspicious of questions. It will take an understanding of this strange place – its old ways and new crimes – to uncover the dark conspiracy behind the murder. Cupidi is not afraid to travel that road. But she should be. She should, by now, have learnt.
This is a well written, strongly plotted contemporary murder mystery set in the striking setting of Dungeness, which I loved listening to. Ideal for fans of Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series.

Sacred Bride – Book 3 of the Olympus trilogy by David Hair & Cath Mayo
Prince Odysseus and the daemon Bria must penetrate the haunted caverns beneath Dodona, seeking a way to save their doomed nation, Achaea, from the might of Troy. The startling revelation that follows will set Odysseus on his most daunting mission yet, as he seeks to reunite the divided Achaean kingdoms before the rapacious Trojans strike. His journey will pit him against wrathful gods and legendary heroes, in a deadly contest for the hand of Helen of Sparta, the daughter of Zeus, upon whose choice the fate of Achaea rests…
This is the third book in the series charting the adventures of Odysseus in the run-up to the Trojan War. I love Greek myth retellings. The characterisation, worldbuilding and explanation of how the gods work and the political and financial pressures all leading to the war is done exceptionally well. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Shoot for the Moon 2020

Friday Faceoff featuring Club Dead – Book 3 of the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of A Blight of Blackwings – Book 2 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearne

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Case of the Reincarnated Client – Book 5 of the Vish Puri series by Taquin Hall

Sunday Post 9th February 2020

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

#writerproblems #writingawesome #characterdesign in three sentences or less https://jeanleesworld.com/2020/02/02/writerproblems-writing-awesome-characterdesign-in-three-sentences-or-less/ Jean’s writing advice and discussions are always worth reading – but this one particularly chimed with me. So very true!

My Favorite Books of the Decade: 2009-2019 https://coffeeandcatsblog.wordpress.com/2020/02/12/my-favorite-books-of-the-decade-2009-2019/ I loved this list, and agreed with a couple of the choices – but then also started wondering which books I’d include on my own list. What about you?

An Interesting Character Study: Malvolio from Twelfth Night https://interestingliterature.com/2020/02/character-study-malvolio-twelfth-night/ 
I recall seeing Ken Dodd perform the final speech of Malvolio’s during a Variety performance and being transfixed at just how WELL he did it. This intriguing article explains what drew him to the character…

John Gorka: Semper Fi https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2020/02/09/john-gorka-semper-fi/ Once again, a warm, wonderful piece of writing that makes you think. Thom’s blog epitomises the best in blogging…

Thursday Photo Prompt #Choice #writephoto https://indishe.wordpress.com/2020/02/09/thursday-photo-promptchoicewritephoto/ These posts are always gold for writers seeking inspiration – and I love this one…

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

My Outstanding Reads of 2019 #Brainfluffbookblogger #2019OutstandingReads

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I have had another stormingly good reading year. The highlight being my immediate love affair with audiobooks, once I got hold of a Kindle Fire which could cope with the selection I’d already bought my dyslexic grandson to encourage him to keep reading. Needless to say, I’ve added to that list…

During 2019 I read 168 books and wrote 129 full reviews, with 26 still to be published. In no particular order, these are the books that have stood out for me. It might be that I didn’t originally give a 10 – but something about these books has stayed with me and won’t let go, which is why they have made the cut. And none of this top ten rubbish – I can’t possibly whittle down my list any further.

 

Oracle’s War – Book 2 of The Olympus series by David Hair and Cath Mayo
I loved the layered characterisation of Odysseus and his complex relationships in this intelligent and politically aware retelling of events leading up to the Trojan War. This one has stayed in my memory and I’ve found myself often thinking about it. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones
I’d read this book before – but listening to the excellent narration by Jonathan Broadbent brought home the darker side of the story. It certainly isn’t a children’s read – as the exploitation of the magic kingdom takes some shocking turns, and while Wynne Jones doesn’t go into graphic detail, they are still there. Riveting and thought provoking. See my review.

 

Atlas Alone – Book 4 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
This has been one of the outstanding science fiction series of the last few years for me and this latest slice in the adventure held me to the end. Dee’s driven, edgy character is so compelling – Newman writes these tricky protagonists with amazing skill. See my review.

 

Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick
Alien first contact tales are a staple of science fiction, but rarely have they been covered with such skilled detail, featuring such a self-effacing protagonist as Avery. The second book is also an excellent read. See my review.

 

Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Wildest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer
I picked up this true tale of adventure by accident – and I’m so pleased I did. The author opted to take part on a whim and even at the beginning, was clearly not really prepared for what followed. This fascinating account stayed with me throughout the year. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK Mythos: the Greek Myths retold, written and narrated by Stephen Fry
Listening to this offering while decorating the bathroom sweetened hours of tedious work as Fry’s smooth, chatty manner belied the scholarship and rigor that has gone into this retelling. See my review.

 

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
This is probably the most quirky, extraordinary read of this year’s selection. A series of letters between two protagonists on either side of a savage war – think Romeo and Juliet with knobs on – drives the narrative in this beautiful, desperate book. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK A Room Full of Bones – Book 4 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths
This offering took me completely by surprise. In fact, I’d felt rather fed up with Ruth’s struggles in the previous book – but this story took all the ingredients and ramped up the tension to an unexpectedly heart-rending degree that I still think about… See my review.

 

Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence by James Lovelock
The second non-fiction book in this list, I found Lovelock’s take on our future absolutely fascinating and unexpectedly uplifting. Given he is now over a hundred years old and has been working in a variety of scientific fields until very recently, his opinion is worth reading. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Empty Grave – Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud
This was an unexpected treat. One of Frankie’s chosen series, I wasn’t prepared for the sheer quality of the characterisation and worldbuilding, although I should have been, after thoroughly enjoying the Bartimaeus Trilogy. This final book brought the outstanding series to a triumphant conclusion. It goes without saying that you MUST read the previous four books first. See my review.

 

Sweep of the Blade – Book 4 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
I find this quirky science fiction/fantasy mash-up just goes on getting better and better. I really suffered a profound book hangover after I finished this one – and that doesn’t happen to me all that often. See my review.

 

Circe by Madeline Miller
I’m conscious there is rather a strong Greek myth theme running through this list – but that just goes to show how well-written these books are. And this one is a total joy. The protagonist isn’t pretty or charismatic, so finetunes her magical skills in an effort to prevail alongside sneering relations. And then it all goes wrong… Fabulous, layered characterisation of a powerful woman who has endured a shedload of suffering without it being bleak or self-pitying. See my mini-review.

 

Akin by Emma Donoghue
In these days of serial monogamy and blended families, this interesting, unsentimental book drills down into what – exactly – makes up family. Brilliantly executed and thought provoking. See my review.

 

Lent by Jo Walton
This author is one of the finest, most talented writers in the SFF genre today, so I was thrilled when this one came out. Settling in to read it, I was happily engrossed in 15th century Florence – until a THING happens that changes the whole dynamic. Brilliantly written and completely engrossing, if you were to force me to choose a single outstanding read this year – you’d be a cruel beast for doing so and I’d probably never speak to you again – it would be this one. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK How To Fight a Dragon’s Fury – Book 12 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
While I’d read a number of these books to the grandchildren, for one reason or another, I’d never reached the end, so when I realised we had the complete series on Audible, I started listening to the wonderful David Tennant’s narration. And then came the end… I was listening to this one with tears pouring down my face, unable to complete my chores. Epic fantasy of this calibre, written for reluctant primary school readers, is a rarity. Review to follow.

 

AUDIOBOOK To Say Nothing of the Dog – Book 2 of the Oxford Time Travel series by Connie Willis
This quirky, humorous homage to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat is funny and completely engrossing – a thumping good listen. I loved it and though it isn’t quite as spectacular as her classic, Doomsday Book, that doesn’t prevent it making this list. See my review.

Have you read any of these offerings? What did you think of them? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these books! Wishing everyone a very happy, book-filled 2020…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Trail of Lightning – Book 1 of The Sixth World series by Rebecca Roanhorse #Brainfluffbookreview #TrailofLightningbookreview

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It was Tammy at Books, Bones and Buffy that first enthused about this one and had me scurrying to track it down – to find it was only available as a paperback. So I was thrilled when subsequently, I discovered that not only was it about to become available as a Kindle edition, it was also a Netgalley arc…

BLURB: While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters. Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

There’s a snag to a highly anticipated read – it might not live up to my excited expectations. So I was very relieved when I quickly discovered that for all her edges, I really cared about poor, damaged Maggie and wanted her to succeed. This is important, because she spends a great deal of time pushing away those she cares about, convinced that she is also a monster.

In this post-apocalyptic world, everyone has edges. As catastrophic flooding swept away civilisation and families, those that survived had to become tough and resourceful. Roanhorse’s descriptions of this aftermath is well done. I loved the setting of a parched land that has been reshaped once more for the rise of the Native American nations and their gods – the Sixth World.

I was quickly completely immersed in this world and spend a happy afternoon relaxing while the pages turned by themselves as I was caught up in Maggie’s adventures. Alongside the monster-hunting and killing, she is also trying to cope with her own emotional problems. Actually, that’s not quite true – all she wants to do is get on and kill the monsters, but those emotional issues won’t leave her alone, as she has to confront those messing with her head.

If you enjoy richly drawn fantasy landscapes with plenty of action featuring a sympathetic, nicely complex heroine, who battles all sorts of odds without becoming whiny or pathetic, then this one comes very highly recommended. Thank you, Tammy!
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Deeplight by Frances Hardinge #Brainfluffbookreview #Deeplightbookreview

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Those of you know who know me won’t be shocked when I admit it was this lovely cover that prompted me to request this one – and that I’d heard a lot of good things about this author…

BLURB: For centuries the gods of the Undersea ruled the islands of the Myriad through awe and terror: they were very real, and very dangerous. Sacrifices were hurled into the waters to appease them, and every boat was painted with pleading eyes to entreat their mercy. They were served, feared and adored. Then, thirty years ago, the gods rose up in madness and tore each other apart. Now, none remain. The islands have recovered and the people have patched their battered ships and moved on. On one of these islands live Hark and his best friend Jelt. To them, the gods are nothing but a collection of valuable scraps to be scavenged from the ocean and sold. But now something is pulsing beneath the waves, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it.

At long last – a really good blurb that gives a sense of the world and the stakes without deciding to spill all the major plotpoints in the first half of the book. And it would have been a crying shame if they had Spoiled this one, because it’s a real gem. I very quickly fell in love with dear little Hark, a streetkid who has been forced to live on his wits from a very early age. The main reason why he is still alive is because his bigger, smarter best friend Jelt has always looked out for him. Of course, nothing is for free and in return, Jelt expects him to fall in with his schemes to earn more. More money, more of a reputation… the kind of life that Jelt believes he should have – and Hark needs to be there alongside, whether he really wants to or not.

The story of these two boys unspools against the backdrop of a busy port, an increasingly profitable trading post now the savage sea gods who used to roam the Undersea are now all gone. Though there are still traces of them littering the seabed, or caught up in the barriers to keep out some of the more normal sea monsters, so there is a brisk trade in their remains littering the bed. As society is still adjusting to the apocalyptic changes caused by the death of the gods, more merchants arrive from other parts while there are factions still mourning the loss of the gods…

The depth of the worldbuilding is impressive and engrossing, given it is achieved without any holdup in the narrative, which gripped me throughout. I also loved the unpredictability, as just as I’d figured in which direction the story was going – it suddenly changed direction, dragging poor old Hark in its wake. The cast of supporting characters were all beautifully drawn, adding to the enjoyment and drama. I may have been initially attracted to this one because of the lovely cover, but it was the amazing writing that held me. I’ll definitely be tracking down more books by this talented author. Highly recommended for fantasy fans of wonderful worldbuilding and great storytelling.

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