Tag Archives: humour

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #CityofLastChancesbookreview

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I’m a huge fan of Tchaikovsky’s writing – there are few SFF authors whose prolific output encompasses such a varied range of topics and styles. See my reviews of Children of Time, The Tiger and the Wolf – Book 1 of the Echoes of the Fall series, Redemption’s Blade: After the War, The Expert System’s Brother, Ironclads, Dogs of War, The Doors of Eden, Firewalkers, Cage of Souls Guns of Dawn, Shards of Earth – Book 1 of the Architects of Earth series and Spiderlight to get a feel for the sheer variety of his writing. So this offering piqued my interest, along with the glorious cover.

BLURB: There has always been a darkness to Ilmar, but never more so than now. The city chafes under the heavy hand of the Palleseen occupation, the choke-hold of its criminal underworld, the boot of its factory owners, the weight of its wretched poor and the burden of its ancient curse.

What will be the spark that lights the conflagration? Despite the city’s refugees, wanderers, murderers, madmen, fanatics and thieves, the catalyst, as always, will be the Anchorwood – that dark grove of trees, that primeval remnant, that portal, when the moon is full, to strange and distant shores. Ilmar, some say, is the worst place in the world and the gateway to a thousand worse places.

Ilmar,
City of Long Shadows.
City of Bad Decisions.
City of Last Chances.

REVIEW: This story unfolds via multiple viewpoints, with italicised inserts in semi-omniscient point of view. So as the situation within the city steadily deteriorates, while we follow the fortunes of a handful of its citizens from various walks of life, there are also short sections covering a number of characters who only make fleeting appearances and then are gone, not to return. It takes significant technical skill to successfully pull off this type of structure without either losing the reader’s interest or sympathy. Fortunately, Tchaikovsky has that skill – to the extent that I was hooked throughout, even though this is far from my favourite narrative style.

What makes it work is that Ilmar is a fascinating society. In many ways, it’s all too familiar for those of us who studied the likes of Manchester and London during the Industrial Revolution, with the same wretched working conditions for far too many of the population. Then Tchaikovsky adds a twist that demons are also enslaved within factories by the kings of the Underworld, contracted to use their mighty strength and stamina to power the machines that are turning out uniforms for the invading soldiers. For Ilmar is also a city under occupation by a totalitarian regime that is obsessed with bringing Perfection to an imperfect world. And of course, the only way to do that is to conquer all those imperfect states and corral their culture, religion and way of life to the striving for Perfection, right down to altering their language.

In addition to the conquered aristocrats that in theory are running much of the city much of time, despite the occupation – there is also a powerful underclass of criminal gangs that are constantly fighting for supremacy. And one of the places where that battle particularly plays out is in the deserted areas of the city, where not even the occupying Palleseens venture called The Reproach. Ilmar was originally built far too close to a vast forest where vicious, enchanted beings live and the then ruling family made a dynastic pact with the denizens of this wood, which turned them dangerously peculiar. So they were slaughtered in favour of the Duke. But instead of doing the decent thing and fading decorously into the history books, the court of the ruling family is still… alive. And anyone wandering in the wrong part of the woods at the wrong time is apt to be subsumed into their court, to dance until they die, while inhabited by the consciousness of ancient, aristocratic family members.

This could so easily have been a rather charming, fey read. It isn’t. This world is peopled by folks eking out a living in a dangerous society, who have survived by putting themselves first. The powerplays amongst those running the city are all about personal advancement over the wellbeing of those they are responsible for – the Palleseens aren’t too fussy about killing Ilmar’s citizens, anyway. So don’t expect a cast of characters who are either wholly good or bad – everyone is doing the best they can to stay alive, except for a handful carried away by the old stories of glory, who want to see the end of the current occupation. I found it a riveting read, that – despite the grim situation and casual violence – isn’t remotely dreary. I suspect Tchaikovsky’s vivid descriptions, strong control of his narrative drive and flashes of dark humour has a lot to do with that.

As ever when completing one of Tchaikovsky’s books, I came away from this one thinking a lot about the themes of social injustice, the nature of good and evil and what it takes to live a decent life in difficult times. Highly recommended for those who enjoy their fantasy layered with social commentary amidst a vibrantly depicted society. While I obtained an audiobook arc of City of Last Chances from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Waste of a Life – Book 3 of the Decluttering Mysteries by Simon Brett #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #WasteofaLifebookreview

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I always enjoy Brett’s twisty plotting and sardonic view on contemporary life in England – see my reviews of 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. But I’ve a particularly soft spot for his current heroine, Ellen Curtis in the Decluttering Mysteries, see my reviews of The Clutter Corpse and An Untidy Death. So I was delighted to discover that another book in this entertaining series is hitting the shelves.

BLURB: Declutterer Ellen Curtis has been working to bring order into the life of Cedric Waites, a recluse in his eighties who hasn’t left his house or let anyone inside it since his wife died. On one of her regular visits, Ellen finds the old man dead.

Sad but, given his age, perhaps not unexpected. Nothing to get worked up about . . . until the police raise the suspicion that Cedric might have been poisoned! The cause seems be something he ate, and as Ellen cleared away the old man’s food containers, she is under suspicion. As is Dodge, who works for Ellen and has unhelpfully done a runner . . .

Meanwhile, a rival declutterer is out to sabotage Ellen’s reputable business, her two grown-up children are back home and in crisis, and she has a potential love interest. Ellen’s life has taken on a chaotic turn of its own! Can she uncover the killer and bring order back to her own life?

REVIEW: Before I go further, I need to mention a trigger warning – in Ellen’s past there is a suicide. While this book doesn’t go into huge detail about the event, ten years later it still reverberates through Ellen’s life in a poignant and realistic manner.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the previous two books, don’t be deterred from enjoying this one. Like many murder mystery series, while there is a narrative arc for the main protagonist, each whodunit is resolved within the book so you won’t be left to flounder. And an author of Brett’s skill and experience doesn’t do such things to his readers, anyway. I have huge affection for Ellen. She is at an age where she is of the middle generation squeeze – still looking after grown-up children, neither of whom are particularly thriving, as well as confronted with an ageing and increasingly frail mother. It doesn’t help that she isn’t on particularly good terms with her mother or her daughter.

I like Brett’s unsentimental approach to family life. There is often a rather unrealistic gloss around the key relationship between mothers and daughters in genre fiction, unless it is the darker psychological sort, or gritty murder mysteries. But while there is definitely a bedrock of love and concern in the relationship between Ellen and her children, she is also extremely careful to step around their adult sensibilities. The result is often poignant and humorous. In amongst all this family angst, Ellen is having to continue her daily routine – also refreshingly realistic.

The murder mystery in this story is a slow burn that gradually gains momentum. I won’t claim that the murderer is a huge surprise. But I wasn’t sure they would be satisfactorily uncovered so the police could step in – and I’m not telling you if that happens, as then we’d be lurching into Spoiler territory. Once more, I was pulled into this story to the extent that I didn’t put it down until I’d reached the end, so I read it in two greedy gulps. Highly recommended for fans of the gentler sort of murder mystery that nonetheless has an edged look at modern life. While I obtained an arc of Waste of a Life from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK Murder Most Royal – Book 3 of Her Majesty the Queen Investigates series by S.J. Bennett #BrainfluffNETGALLEYAUDIOBOOKreview #MurderMostRoyalbookreview

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I was in the mood for something a bit different, when this offering caught my eye. I was initially a bit hesitant – until I saw that Samantha Bond was narrating this one which gave me confidence to go for it. I particularly didn’t want to plough through some second-rate parody of Her Majesty, especially in the wake of her sudden death.

BLURB: December 2016 – A severed hand is found washed up on a beach next to the Queen’s estate at Sandringham. Elizabeth has become quite accustomed to solving even the most complex of murders. And though she quickly identifies the 70-year-old victim, Edward St Cyr, from his signet ring, the search for his killer is not so straightforward. St Cyr led an unconventional, often controversial life, making many enemies along the way in the quiet, rural world of North Norfolk, where everyone knows each other’s business.

But when a second man is found dead, and a prominent local woman is nearly killed in a hit-and-run, the mystery takes an even darker turn. With the Christmas break coming to an end, the Queen and her trusted assistant Rozie must race to discover how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Or the next victim may be found even closer to home.

REVIEW: I’m so glad that I went for this one. It’s a joy. Although it’s the third book in the series, I was blissfully unaware of the previous two books until I came to write up this review so don’t worry if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the other books – neither have I. Yet.

Set in 2016, the Queen is a battling a head cold as she and Prince Philip travel to Sandringham for the usual Christmas festivities. I loved the little additions, like the Queen’s chat with the PM. In fact, Bennett’s writing is enormously clever – she manages to avoid pinning the Queen down to any strong political opinion, which is entirely realistic. But neither does Her Majesty come across as too wishy-washy either. The only moment when I wasn’t completely happy with the depiction of the Queen is when she chooses to go wandering across the field, when the sensible option would be to stay in the Range Rover. But that is a minor niggle set against the rest of the book. In addition to the Queen, I loved Prince Philip’s character and the staff. I thought the relationship between the Queen and the royal household was very well done, particularly Rozie Oshodi, her Assistant Private Secretary.

As for the murder mystery, it’s a slow burn affair that throws out all sorts of puzzling details which at once stage had me wondering how the murder mystery was going to be wrapped up. I needn’t have worried. Bennett is clearly an experienced and able writer, who delivers a thoroughly enjoyable denouement. There were times when I listened to this with a lump in my throat for the loss of the amazing lady who ruled over us for a whole generation. Highly recommended for fans of quirky murder mysteries that is also well researched with a wealth of historical detail. I’m looking forward to tracking down the previous two books. While I obtained an audiobook arc of Murder Most Royal from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 26th October, 2022 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – AUDIOBOOK Orbs of Wisdom – Book 6 of the Dragon Gate series by Lindsay Buroker – release date – hm… probably end of December 2022/beginning January 2023 (judging by the comparative release dates of the audiobooks to the ebooks in the series).

#fantasy adventure #dragons #magic #delightful mother and son protagonists

BLURB: The final installment in the Dragon Gate saga!

With his mother’s life at stake and the entire world threatened by powerful dragons, the sand in the hour glass is running out for Jak Freedar. He and his allies must find the ancient Orbs of Wisdom and hope they hold the solutions to the problems plaguing humanity and the dragons before it’s too late.
I’ve LOVED listening to the first four books in this gripping epic fantasy series featuring Jak and his archaeologist mother, who get snatched by greedy, ambitious mage King Uthari and have been swept up in the amazing adventure that follows. It is chockful of engaging characters who I’ve grown to love, such as Rookie Tezzy and her enchanted axe – as well as some really nasty antagonists I love to hate. I was thrilled to discover that the fifth book, Sky on Fire, is now available as an audiobook and have just finished listening again to the fourth book, Chosen for Power before tucking into it. So I am thoroughly looking forward to the sixth and final book with a familiar mixture of emotions. I’m desperate to know what happens, yet… I don’t want this series to end!

Review of NETGALLEY arc Becoming Crone – Book 1 of The Crone Wars by Lydia M. Hawke #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #BecomingCronebookreview

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Having reached a certain age, I’m always looking out for entertaining fantasy books with older protagonists – and this one caught my eye. Apart from the pretty cover, I also liked the sound of the blurb – would I enjoy the book as much as the premise?

BLURB: For Claire Emerson, there is nothing ordinary about turning sixty. First, there are the crows. Then, a pendant that unlocks a gate to a house in the woods–which comes with a snarky gargoyle, an entirely too-sexy wolf shifter claiming to be Claire’s protector, and a legacy that turns her reality upside down.

Because divorced, menopausal grandmothers with creaky hips and hot flashes? They don’t just randomly discover they’re next in a long line of powerful women protecting the world from the dark magick of Mages.

Claire’s first instinct is to turn tail and run back to the safety of baking cookies and reading bedtime stories. But when it becomes clear the Mages have targeted her, she may have no choice but to accept her calling. There’s just one problem: she never got the lifetime of training she was supposed to have, and her magick is… well, unreliable would be an understatement. With the Mages threatening everything she loves, can Claire learn what she needs to in time to become Crone? Or will she be the one to lose an ancient war—and her life?

REVIEW: I am always delighted to come across heroines of a certain age who feature in fantasy adventure stories, especially as I’ve now also reached that certain age. That said, I’m allergic to the trope whereby they suddenly have access to an elixir that helps them overcome creaking joints and smooths out the wrinkles. Or find themselves wielding a magic sword with the skill and ease of a thirty-something swordmaster. So my track record with this sub-genre is a tad patchy.

I’m delighted to report that Claire is none of the above. In fact, at the start of the book she is hosting her own sixtieth birthday party with nothing much to celebrate. Her ex-husband has left her for a much younger woman with whom he has started a second family, her son and daughter-in-law are increasingly treating her as an elderly nonentity and she feels as if she’s spent her life putting everyone else first with not much to show for it. The problem is – on the cusp of becoming properly old, she has no idea what she really wants for herself… This could have been a really dismal opening, but for Claire’s wry humour which I found very appealing. The story starts quite slowly, something I didn’t mind as it gave me plenty of opportunity to bond with Claire. This is important, as she narrates the tale in first-person viewpoint.

However, once the action does start rolling it quickly picks up speed. I liked the fact that her transition from the normal everyday to the fantastic isn’t smooth or easy. Her attempts at magick are either non-existent or overwhelming to the point of catastrophic and she’s hopeless in any physical fight. Although she does have a gorgeous werewolf protector and a gargoyle assigned to train her. Hawke writes action vividly with some nicely original touches – I’ll never look at a garden gnome in the same way again – and while the shafts of humour continue, there is also loss and heartbreak.

Claire’s journey throughout the book is well handled, so that I believed in the character throughout. I’m keen to continue reading this series to discover what happens next. And the bonus is that the next two books are already available, so I won’t have to wait to tuck into A Gathering of Crones. Highly recommended for urban fantasy fans who enjoy older protagonists. While I obtained an arc of Becoming Crone from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 28th September, 2022 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – And Justice for Mall – Book 4 of the Jersey Girl series by E.J. Copperman – release date – 1st November, 2022

#crime #cosy whodunit #legal murder mystery #feisty heroine #humour

BLURB: When Riley Schoenberg strides into family lawyer Sandy Moss’s office without knocking and coolly sits down, Sandy’s more irritated than amused. She has a client meeting to prepare for, and being interrupted by an eleven-year-old girl is not on her to-do list.

But then Sandy hears Riley’s pitch, and it’s a killer one: Riley’s father’s been convicted of murdering her mother . . . and the oddly intimidating pre-teen will do anything to get him out of jail.

Sandy, in turn, will do anything to get Riley out of her office. Which includes agreeing to look into her dad’s case for free. A decision she regrets when it turns out Riley’s inheritance has made her a multi-millionaire. Still, Sandy’s determined to get Riley the answers she needs. There’s just one tiny problem: Riley might be convinced her father’s innocent, but Jack Schoenberg is insisting he did it.

I was delighted when I saw this one pop up on Netgalley, as I’ve previously enjoyed other books in the series – see my reviews of Inherit the Shoes and Justice for the Persecution. I’ve a real soft spot for Sandy Moss and Copperman’s steady injection of humour throughout makes the ongoing puzzle as to whodunit always more enjoyable. So the fact that an eleven-year-old child is desperately fighting to free her remaining parent won’t be quite as grim as it initially sounds. I hope…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna #BrainfluffNETGALLEYAUDIOBOOKreview #TheVerySecretSocietyofIrregularWitchesbookreview

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I have read quite a few fantasy book featuring witches recently in my quest for enjoyable, escapist reads. So I was delighted to see this offering featured and even more chuffed when I was approved for an audio arc.

BLURB: As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat. As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for…

REVIEW: It always helps if the narrator is good – and Samara MacLaren’s voice and reading style has become a solid favourite. So it was a bonus to discover her dulcet tones when I first tucked into this enjoyable offering.

Mika is a delightful protagonist. She’s had a tough time as a child. Due to a spell that went wrong several hundred years ago, all witches are orphaned early in their lives so are brought up by guardians instead of their parents. After the horrendous witch burnings of the 16th century, the community of witches scattered and now they only meet up very occasionally. For magic tends to gather around witches, making it easier for them to be discovered. So it’s deemed safer by formidable leaders like Primrose for witches to stay away from each other, making life lonely for adult witches who wish to continue to practise their magic. It would have been all too easy for Mika to have been portrayed as a classically tragic heroine – so I was very pleased to find her resolutely sunny-natured in all but the toughest situations.

Her three charges are funny without being too cute, unrealistically awful or revoltingly good – which is harder to achieve than Mandanna makes it look. There is also a rather sweet love story that unfolds in the middle of all the magical shenanigans, which I also enjoyed. However – there is a warning. The F-word is liberally sprinkled throughout, which didn’t really fit with the overall feel of the story. I certainly didn’t appreciate its use in front of the children, for instance. Apart from that one niggle, this is an enjoyable, often humorous and ultimately uplifting fantasy adventure with a dollop of romance with one steamy scene I fast-forwarded through. While I obtained an arc of The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Augusta Hawke – Book 1 of the Augusta Hawke series by G.M. Malliet #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #AugustaHawkebookreview

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I’ve been reading a lot of murder mystery series recently – and my attention was snagged by the concept of a writer of detective novels turning amateur sleuth. Yes… I know it’s not remotely original, but I’ve recently thoroughly enjoyed a TV series based on that premise and wanted to see if Malliet’s version would be similarly entertaining.

BLURB: Where are Niko and Zora Norman? Crime writer Augusta Hawke puts her sleuthing skills to the test to solve the mystery of her disappearing neighbors in the first entry in a new series. While Augusta Hawke is a successful author of eighteen crime novels, since her husband’s death she’s been living vicariously through her Jules Maigret-like detective Claude and his assistant Caroline. Then a handsome police detective appears investigating a real-life mystery.

Where are her neighbors, the Normans? No one has a clue what’s happened – except Augusta. Although she isn’t nosy, spending all day staring out the windows for inspiration means she does notice things. Like the Normans arguing. And that they’ve been missing a week.

REVIEW: Let’s get one thing straight – if you’re looking for an action-packed, foot-to-the-floor thriller, then pass on this one. Instead, you get a slow-burn building sense of wrongness that gradually develops into an investigation – although Augusta is the first to admit that she largely started looking into her neighbours’ disappearance because she’d hit a bit of a wall with her latest manuscript. Indeed, it’s debatable whether the pacing is a tad too slow at times, though I was never in any danger of abandoning this one. Augusta’s dry humour held me throughout. Her personality and my liking for her is the outstanding aspect of this book – I definitely am looking forward to reading more in the series.

Not in the first flush of youth, Augusta was widowed when her beloved husband died in a car crash. Upsettingly, the circumstances of his death led to very hurtful discoveries about him hand the double life he was leading. And since his death, she has retreated into her writing, watching the world from her window and her regular walks with her dog. I liked how the devastation of Marcus’s death slowly is revealed – this aspect of the story could have so easily slid into a self-pitying whine. However, Augusta uses humour as her defence and refuge, which had me grinning and thoroughly rooting for her. The writing is accomplished and Malliet is clearly an experienced storyteller with a particular talent for writing a strong, sympathetic protagonist capable of engaging this reader’s affection – I really cared about Augusta.

That is particularly important when the stakes suddenly become a whole lot higher as the book suddenly shifts up a couple of gears during the climactic denouement. And while I’d a suspicion about the actual villain – the backstory and extent of the antagonist’s wrongdoing came as a shock. Recommended for fans of contemporary mysteries that aren’t too gritty or dripping with gore and feature a strong female protagonist. While I obtained an arc of Augusta Hawke from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*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

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #19

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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’ve always loved the heat and found the lack of light and warmth in English winters an ongoing challenge. But as with so many other things that have changed since I had covid last March, that apparently is no longer the case. I was a bit taken aback last winter when I kept having to turn down the heating – and now I’m finding the warm nights and hot days simply exhausting, whereas before, they used to fire me up and fill me full of energy. So I spent two days in bed last week, though I did manage to get up to see our boomerang boy off to school in the mornings without too much difficulty.

I never used to have any windows open at night, even in the warmest weather. And that was partly because I was never that hot, but also because the cooler weather would bring down the pollen and trigger my hay fever, which otherwise these days is very well behaved. We’ll have to go back to keeping those windows shut as I’m now in a position where I could take a role in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves as Sneezy. And I’m here to tell you that sneezing 20+ times in a row leaves you wrung out. Thank goodness I wasn’t trying to drive the car! Today is supposed to be the start of the hottest spell we’ve ever endured in the UK – and I’m dreading it. I don’t like to think of the poor souls living in big cities, as at least we get the benefit of the onshore sea breeze most afternoons which helps a bit. We also live in a brick-built house, so it tends to keep warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. In common with almost everyone else in the UK, we don’t have aircon although we do use fans throughout the night.

I have been watching a bit more TV in this heat – Boomerang Boy and I are enjoying Stranger Things together and I’ve just finished watching The Midwich Cuckoos, which I thought was brilliantly updated and adapted for a contemporary audience.

This week I’ve read:-

AUDIOBOOK – Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen – The Jane Austen Collection: an Audible original
Pride and Prejudice – narrated by Claire Foy

Pride and Prejudice is centred around the Bennet family, their five unmarried daughters and their mother’s desperation for at least one of them to make a wealthy match to save the family from destitution. When Charles Bingley moves into Netherfield, a nearby estate, it seems that Jane, the eldest daughter, may have found her match, but it also introduces our heroine Elizabeth to Bingley’s friend, the aloof Mr Darcy.

Directed by Nicolette Chin. With Tarrick Benham, Nicole Davis, Barnaby Edwards, Billie Fulford-Brown, Rebecca Front, Emma Gregory, Ferdinand Kingsley, Chris Lew Kum Hoi, Tim McInnerny, Heather Nicol, Sarah Ovens, Janet Prince, Jenny Rainsford, Jennifer Saayeng, Sam Stafford, Katy Sobey, Homer Todiwala, Patience Tomlinson and Simon Yadoo.
I’ve already had the pleasure of listening to Sense and Sensibility and this offering is the next one in this excellent collection of Jane Austen novels to listen to. It’s a solid favourite and has been dramatised very well. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – A Free Man of Color – Book 1 of the Benjamin January series by Barbara Hambly
It is 1833. In the midst of Mardi Gras, Benjamin January, a Creole physician and music teacher, is playing piano at the Salle d’Orleans when the evenings festivities are interrupted by murder.

Ravishing Angelique Crozat, a notorious octoroon who travels in the city’s finest company, has been strangled to death. With the authorities reluctant to become involved, Ben begins his own inquiry, which will take him through the seamy haunts of riverboatmen and into the huts of voodoo-worshipping slaves.

But soon the eyes of suspicion turn toward Ben for, black as the slave who fathered him, this free man of color is still the perfect scapegoat. . . .
And this is why I’m such a huge fan of Netgalley. Not long ago, I read and thoroughly enjoyed Death and Hard Cider, which was the nineteenth book in the series. So I went hunting and discovered the audiobook of this, the first book. What an absolute treat! A cracking murder mystery in a decadent and luscious setting with a thoroughly likeable protagonist. I’m definitely going to be revisiting this series again. 10/10

Against All Gods – Book 1 of The Age of Bronze series by Miles Cameron
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.
I am a fan of Cameron’s writing – I thoroughly enjoyed The Traitor Son series and last year his space opera adventure Artifact Space was a reading highlight of the year. But this one was very bloody, despite being well written, which I found a tad difficult at times. I also would have liked at least one of the plotpoints to be tied up by the end, rather than the whole storyline left on a cliff-hanger. 8/10

Last Wish – Book 4 of the Highland Magic series by Helen Harper
It’s not easy pretending to be dead – especially when it feels as if you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Between an unfulfilled prophecy, the demon-occupied Lowlands, the continuing power of murderous Aifric Moncrieffe – not to mention her constant yearnings for Byron – Integrity Adair has a lot to worry about.

Still, how hard can it really be to save Scotland, maintain her morals, get the guy and keep her sense of humour?
This is the last book in this delightfully quirky fantasy series. I suppose it’s urban fantasy as it hits many of the genre tropes – a feisty heroine, lots of snark, a few steamy interludes. But it’s set in a Scotland where the Lowlands, including Edinburgh, have been occupied by demons for the past 300 years. Integrity Adair is huge fun and this was one of those reads where I was torn between wanting to know what happens next – and wanting the book to go on for a long, long time, as I didn’t want to part company with Integrity. Or Bob the genie. Or Tipsy. Or May the demon… It takes skill and technique to successfully bring an entertaining series to a satisfying close, but then Harper never disappoints. She has become one of my go-to authors when I want a fun-filled read full of action and humour.
10/10

Half a Soul – Book 1 of the Regency Faerie Tales series by Olivia Atwater
Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.

If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.
This was another enjoyable escapist read full of fun and tension. Dora is beautifully written – compromised protagonists take a lot of skill to get right and Atwater nails it. I loved the unfolding romance and the social reform aspect, which was very well depicted within the narrative. Review to follow. 9/10

This week I have posted:

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The First Binding – Book 1 of the Tales of Tremaine series by R.R. Virdi

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Against All Gods – Book 1 of The Age of Bronze series by Miles Cameron

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.