Tag Archives: Indie author

Review of INDIE Ebook The Zero Curse – Book 2 of The Zero Enigma by Christopher G. Nuttall #Brainfluffbookreview #TheZeroEnigmabookreview #Wyrd and Wonder 2020

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I was looking for something entertaining and escapist, given the current situation, so was delighted to find this one nestling in my TBR, as I particularly enjoyed the first book – see my review of The Zero Blessing. I enjoy Nuttall’s writing as his space opera adventure The Hyperspace Trap made my list of Outstanding Reads of 2018. I am linking this review to Wyrd and Wonder 2020.

BLURB: Caitlyn Aguirre is no magician … But that doesn’t make her useless. After discovering her true talent and uncovering the long-lost secret behind Objects of Power, Cat returns to school – intent on showing everyone what she can do. But her mere existence is a threat to the balance of power, convincing some to befriend her, some to try to use her … and some to remove her. And when she and her closest friends become the target of a deadly plot, she must use all her wits to save them and escape before she becomes the first casualty in a deadly war.

I thoroughly enjoy well-told fantasy school adventures and Nuttall’s first book in this series, The Zero Blessing, was an excellent start. If you haven’t yet read it, I recommend you go back and pick that one up before going any further, as there is a chunk of important backstory you’re missing. Caitlyn won’t make much sense to you if you don’t do so… Given the major twist at the end of the first book, I really liked the direction in which this one went – compared to the Molly Harper series, I think the sudden change in the dynamic is far more adroitly handled here.

While I wasn’t completely surprised when the shoe dropped and the stakes were abruptly raised, but I was impressed and gripped by the way the adventure then got a whole lot darker. I’m aware Nuttall is capable of killing off important supporting characters, so was on my toes throughout. As ever, I found it difficult to put this one down until it was over. I will definitely be continuing with this series during the year. He is an accomplished author, whose books are excellent value and this one is highly recommended for fans of exciting magical school adventures.

9/10

Review of INDIE Ebook One Good Dragon Deserves Another – Book 2 of the Heartstrikers series by Rachel Aaron #Brainfluffbookreview #OneGoodDragonDeservesAnotherbookreview #WyrdandWonder2020

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I read the first book in this delightful series, Nice Dragons Finish Lastsee my review longer ago than I care to think, fully intending to pick up the rest of them. But somehow Life and other books got in the way. But I’m back here now – and delighted to see the whole series is available on KU. I am linking this review with Wyrd and Wonder 2020.

BLURB: After barely escaping the machinations of his terrifying mother, two all knowing seers, and countless bloodthirsty siblings, the last thing Julius wants to see is another dragon. Unfortunately for him, the only thing more dangerous than being a useless Heartstriker is being a useful one, and now that he’s got an in with the Three Sisters, Julius has become a key pawn in Bethesda the Heartstriker’s gamble to put her clan on top.

This is a real delight. I love the partnership and unfolding romance developing between Julius and Marci – not that they have too much time to dwell on their feelings for one another. Julius belongs to one of the most ambitious Dragon clans on the planet. When one of his higher ranked siblings decides that he is somehow crucial to the crisis Estella is creating, he finds a steady stream of his brothers and sisters dropping in to complicate matters further.

One of the complicating matters is his mortal partner and mage, Marci, has not just got a nifty set of spells at her disposal, her otherworldly familiar, a ghost cat creatively named Ghost is more than he seems. In fact, this is one of the delights of this enjoyable series, Aaron is very good at delivering a cracking plot where you think one thing is happening, when it actually transpires that there was something else going on all the time. I do love it when authors successfully pull off this technique – and Aaron is a whizz at it.

Julius is an interesting protagonist. In a genre where power and talent are always highly prized and opens doors for our plucky heroes and heroines – all Julius has to offer is… niceness. Dragons are not nice. They are greedy, ambitious, ruthless, cunning and devoted to gaining more power at the expense of their competitors, who quickly transform into their enemies. It takes strong writing to make such a weak protagonist prevail against the might of far more powerful peers – and allow us to continue finding him interesting. Fortunately, Marci isn’t quite so nice, although her edges appear to be almost cosy in comparison to your average dragon.

The pages turned by themselves and I found myself facing the final page far too quickly. This is a classy, well executed urban fantasy full of my favourite creatures magnificently portrayed. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. Highly recommended for fans of quality urban fantasy.
9/10

April 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffApril2020Roundup

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I’m conscious that I’ve never experienced a month like it in the whole of my life – and I’m not sure I ever will again… Or perhaps I will. Perhaps May and June will continue being in social isolation with lots of handwashing and staying at home. But what has kept my head straight is my love of reading and writing – thank goodness for both! I’ve also loved the wonderful sunny weather – it’s been a joy being able to sit in the garden and watch Spring springing… I’m conscious that I am very blessed. And given that none of us can guarantee if we will survive this, I’ve determined to be as thankful for every coming day as I can be. So despite everything, this has been a very precious April.

Reading
I read eighteen books in April, which isn’t quite as marvellous as it sounds, as one of those was a short story and another was a novella. This is the list:

The Book of Koli – Book 1 of the Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey
The Last Emperox – Book 3 of the Interdependency series by John Scalzi
Shorefall – Book 2 of The Founders Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett
Scythe – Dimension Drift prequel NOVELLA #1 by Christina Bauer
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. This is my EBOOK read of the month
Dead Eye – Book 1 of the Tiger’s Eye Mystery series by Alyssa Day
Arkadian Skies – Book 6 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
Q by Christina Dalcher
The Hedgeway SHORT STORY by Vivienne Tuffnell
A Little Bit Witchy – Book 1 of the Riddler’s Edge series by A.A. Albright
The Dark Side of the Road – Book 1 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
Firewalkers by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel. This is my AUDIOBOOK read of the month
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing – Book 2 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
The Palm Tree Messiah by Sarah Palmer – manuscript read
Witch Dust – Book 1 of the Witch series by Marilyn Messik
Girls of Paper and Fire – Book 1 of Girls of Paper and Fire series by Natasha Ngan
After Seth by Caron Garrod

Writing
I continued working on my Creative Writing How-To Book on Characterisation and I’m pleased with the progress, but I woke up on 11th April with an epiphany about some issues that had been niggling me with Mantivore Warrior – so I dropped my How-To book and immediately dived back into the manuscript to fix it. I’ve learnt from hard experience not to ever put those kinds of moments off – otherwise they pass and I forget!

I have also been working on another project that I’m hoping to be able to discuss in another couple of weeks. I don’t normally flit between so many different writing projects – but right now everything is extraordinary. So it makes sense that my writing patterns would suddenly go AWOL, too… Overall, I wrote just over 43,000 words in April, with just under 17,000 words on my blog and just under 25,500 words going towards my writing projects, which brings my yearly total to just under 180,000 words so far.

Blogging
I have found keeping up with my blog such a source of comfort and encouragement – I know social media can be responsible for some dark acts, but I happen to be fortunate enough to inhabit a really lovely corner, where I meet some of the nicest people on the planet. But that’s not a surprise, because they are readers, or writers, or both. I hope May is a good month for you and that you stay safe. Take care.xxx






*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

Review of KINDLE Ebook P is for Pluto – Book 3 of the Molly Marbles mystery by Jackie Kingon #Brainfluffbookreview #PisforPlutobookreview

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This is the third offering in this quirky series, – see my reviews of Chocolate, Chocolate Moons and Sherlock Mars. The author contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in reading a review copy of P is for Pluto. I was intrigued to see where she’d take this story, after reading the previous books, so happily agreed…

BLURB: Molly is heading to Pluto. Send in the clones…
Molly’s Bistro is opening a new branch of the famous Martian restaurant on Pluto. But the opening is delayed when their chef is murdered. With the Pluto Police taking a relaxed approach to crime, Molly heads to Pluto to help crack the case and get the restaurant back on track. But she will have to face clone confusion, kidnapping chocolatiers, and the spice mafia if she is to solve this mystery.

Don’t let the fact that you haven’t read the previous two books in the series worry you – they are only very loosely linked and some time has gone by since the previous case, anyway, so you shouldn’t flounder if you crash midway into this series. I read quite a lot – but I can safely say that Kingon’s quirky mix of humour and space opera sci fi is completely original. To be honest, while the investigation bubbles along and is clearly the narrative drive for the story, it is more of a reason why Molly and eventually her family pitch up on Pluto. I didn’t really care all that much about who killed Herb Tarragon, although the denouement and explanation for the crime is well handled and it concludes entirely satisfactorily.

For me, the draw of this book and the reason why I kept turning the pages, was to find out what Molly and her two sidekicks, Trenton and Jersey would get up to, next. It’s an oddly uneven book. The characterisation is sketchy, as there are times when I would have liked to know more about Molly’s thoughts, particularly when she is in danger, which is frequently. There are random time jumps when days pass and we have no idea what the characters are doing – the sort of detail the picky editor in me notices and normally would make me seriously consider tossing the book aside in disgust. But I don’t. Because Kingon’s superpower is the weird blend she achieves when scene setting, managing to deliver a layered world and a lot of facts about it, wrapped up with some humorous asides including a fair dollop of science – often with a punning joke. Likewise, her world has entertainment, with stars and personalities, who are alluded to, along with historical details which are often comically wrong. I am struck by how much lighter her humorous touch is in this offering, which occasionally had me laughing out loud.

Molly is a foodie and while there are plenty of chocolate moments – there is nonetheless a slight bite to the writing which I really enjoyed. Molly’s friends, who often accompany her, are clearly loyal and concerned for her safety – but that doesn’t stop them freeloading wherever possible. Her twin daughters are very vain and her husband is a workaholic, but that’s alright, because so is Molly… Recommended for fans of quirky cosy mysteries set in space. The author provided me with a review copy, in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

Sunday Post – 1st December, 2019 #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.

It’s been a busy week. On Wednesday, Tim had his exam. I drove him and his mother to college and we waited for him in the canteen, praying and thinking positive thoughts at him. It would be marvellous if he could pass this one. On Wednesday evening, owing to a complete brainfade moment, I realised I had a major glitch with the publication of Mantivore Prey owing to the fact that I’d – somehow – managed to forget to upload the manuscript! So I was wrestling with that problem into the wee small hours… I have to say, Amazon were unfailingly nice and helpful about the whole thing – and it was a huge relief to have Mantivore Prey available by the original publication day!

On Thursday, Sally came over and we spent the afternoon editing her book, which is going well. And on Friday, which thankfully was a lovely sunny day, I finally made it up to my daughter’s to spend time with her and watch my eighteen-month-old granddaughter having a swimming lesson. Yesterday, my sister had all her furniture moved to her new home, which now looks wonderful with her own things in it. I spent some of the time with her, mostly providing moral support as her removal men were fantastic. And today I am back to Brighton to celebrate Frankie’s fifteenth birthday – where does the time go??

Himself is finally back to work, though still on the painkillers and far from fully recovered. He needs to keep moving – sitting still for any length of time is a problem – and keep doing the exercises.

As well as the publication of Mantivore Prey I’ve had a complete blast throughout November, taking part if Sci Fi Month, which was great fun. Thanks go to Imyril of There’s Always Room for One More and Lisa of Dear Geek Place for their hard work in making this blogging event such a success.

Last week I read:

Valkyrie Burning – Book 3 of the Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie
The war that began on Hayden’s World years ago has blossomed into a brawl across the stars, and yet that single and otherwise largely unimportant colony continues to be a central point in the conflagration. Human forces have pushed outward, now taking enemy worlds in response to the attacks on their own, but they don’t have the numbers or the power to hold what they take.
This third book nicely expands this initial flashpoint between the humans and the aliens in the military space opera adventure. And I was also pleased to see that the wonderful super-soldier Sorilla Aida has a key role in the story. Review to follow.

 

Navigating the Stars – Book 1 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy by Maria V. Snyder
Terra Cotta Warriors have been discovered on other planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. And Lyra Daniels’ parents are the archaeological Experts (yes with a capital E) on the Warriors and have dragged her to the various planets to study them despite the time dilation causing havoc with her social life.
When one of the many Warrior planets goes silent, and looters attack her research base, Lyra becomes involved in discovering why the Warriors were placed on these planets. And, more importantly, by who.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one – the ongoing puzzle of exactly what is going on, along with the issue of time dilation combined with Faster Than Light travel, makes for an engrossing read with some original aspects. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Mantivore Prey – Book 2 of The Arcadian Chronicles is now available!

Reblog – Parley with an author, S.J. Higbee by The Cap from Captain’s Quarters blog

Friday Faceoff featuring Chocky by John Wyndham

Reblog – Review of Breathing Space – Book 3 of The Sunblinded Trilogy by The Cap from Captain’s Quarters blog

Review of Sparrow Falling – Book 2 of The Gears of Empire series by Gaie Sebold

Reblog – Review of Dying for Space – Book 2 of The Sunblinded Trilogy by The Cap from Captain’s Quarters

Review of Shadow Captain – Book 2 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds

Reblog – Review of Running out of Space – Book 1 of The Sunblinded Trilogy by The Cap from Captain’s Quarters

Teaser Tuesday featuring Navigating the Stars – Book 1 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy by Maria V. Synder

Review of Pirate Bound – prequel to the Telepathic Space Pirate series by Carysa Locke

Sunday Post 24th November 2019

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

Frozen Wavelets presents: Standard Deviant by Holly Shofield https://earthianhivemind.net/2019/11/30/frozen-wavelets-presents-standard-deviant-by-holly-shofield/ This short story is a gem – I certainly didn’t see that ending coming!

The Best Poems About Islands https://interestingliterature.com/2019/11/30/the-best-poems-about-islands/ Living on a large island, this article caught my eye. Some of these I know and love – and some I need to check out…

#SPFBO Semi Finalists and Finalist Announcement https://lynns-books.com/2019/11/27/spfbo-semi-finalists-and-finalist-announcement/ I’m in awe of how my blogging buddy, Lynn, tackles the task of judging this competition that features some of the best indie fantasy reads – and this is the book that she has selected from an entry of 30 books…

Writing NETTED – What I’d Planned and How It Worked Out by S.J. Higbee https://www.sarah-ash.com/fantasy-and-science-fiction/2343/writing-netted-what-id-planned-and-how-it-worked-out-by-s-j-higbee/ I was honoured when Sarah Ash, talented fantasy author and manga expert, asked me to write a guest blog about my writing process – and this is the result…

99 Problems and #Fibromyalgia Is All of Them https://yadadarcyyada.com/2019/11/22/99-problems-and-fibromyalgia-is-all-of-them/ Donna uses edged humour to highlight just how difficult it is to live with a chronic condition with a slew of miserable symptoms. I found this both poignant and funny – and came away with a huge respect for her courage…

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

Review of INDIE Ebook Sweep of the Blade – Book 4 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews #Brainfluffbookreview #SweepoftheBladebookreview #@SciFiMonth2019

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I absolutely love this sci fi/fantasy mash-up, as it is so funny, smart and cleverly plotted – see my review of Clean Sweep. It has also stuck in my head, so I was absolutely thrilled when I saw this one was available – and treated it to myself once I’d completed the major rewrite of Mantivore Prey. I’m linking this review to the @SciFiMonth2019 event.

Maud Demille was a daughter of Innkeepers. She knew that a simple life wasn’t in the cards, but she never anticipated what Fate would throw at her. Once a wife to a powerful vampire knight, Maud and her daughter, Helen, had been exiled for the sins of her husband to the desolate planet of Karhari. Karhari killed her husband, and Maud had spent a year and a half avenging his debts. But now all the debts are paid. Rescued by her sister Dina, Maud had sworn off all things vampire. Except she met Arland, the Marshal of House Krahr. One thing led to another and he asked for her hand in marriage. She declined. Try as she might, she can’t just walk away from Arland. It doesn’t help that being human is a lot harder for Maud than being a vampire.

This is something of a spinoff, as this is the first book that doesn’t feature Dina, the young innkeeper, but instead follows the fortunes of her sister, Maud. We first meet with her and the adorable Helen in the previous book, but to be honest if you haven’t read any of the other innkeeper books, this would be a good entry point.

I love the fusion of fantasy and sci fi – because these vampires aren’t the blood-drinking batlike creatures that regularly turn up in urban fantasy, they are a space-faring alien species with a martial culture honed by spending generations battling a ferocious species intent on decimating their kind, while snacking on their children. They are larger and stronger than humans and value strength, cunning and awesome fighting skills. Maud happens to have those. And yes… there were times in the book when I was frankly sceptical at her fighting ability – until a certain point when it becomes clear how she manages to hold her own against these hulking fighters. It’s neatly done and if you don’t register it, there’s no explanation – you, the reader, are left to join up the dots.

The romance between her and Arland is well handled, given it is something of a slowburn affair, given that Maud had already been swept off her feet by a vampire warrior and it didn’t end well. There are reasons why she isn’t about to rush off into the sunset with yet another gorgeous vampire, no matter how well connected he is, or how attracted she is to him. After all, she now has a young daughter to consider, and she doesn’t want to end up exiled on another dusty hellhole struggling for survival, again. And yes – this made her one of the most sympathetic protagonists I’ve encountered in a while. I burned through this one far too fast and though the next book on my list is a cracking read, it’s taken longer to bond with it than it should, simply because the protagonist isn’t Maud and the world isn’t peopled with sharp-toothed predators who like fighting for fun…

Highly recommended for fans of both fantasy and science fiction adventure stories with a splash of romance.
10/10

Review of INDIE Ebook Bright Shards – Book 2 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick #Brainfluffbookreview #BrightShardsbookreview #Sci Fi Month 2019

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, Ascending – see my review, so was delighted when I heard that the next book was now available. Would it continue the quality of the first instalment? I will be adding this review to the Sci Fi Month 2019 Challenge.

BLURB: Linguist Avery Alcott has spent three months proving herself to her Vardeshi companions and earning their respect. She arrives at Arkhati, the space station halfway between Earth and Vardesh Prime, eager to continue her adventure. But the next stage of her mission brings its own challenges. In the months to come, new alliances and old friendships will be tested. Avery will question her purpose and her place among the Vardeshi, and she will discover that the most memorable journeys are the ones we can’t predict.

I read this one on a train journey and was fully engrossed to the extent that it was a relief that I wasn’t getting off before the train terminated – because I would have been at risk of missing my station. Avery isn’t a brilliant fighter and she is often far too self-effacing. She is stubbornly loyal, to the point where she is blind to the wider picture and given that she is part of an extended first-contact exchange visit, this isn’t just a quirky cuteness – it’s a major failing. And yet… I absolutely love her. She is also courageous and while she might not possess much in the way of kickass ninja fighting skills, she is physically tough and reasonably resilient.

The supporting characters are also well done. I particularly liked Avery’s interaction with Fletcher Simon, the language genius, who has eclipsed her own ability in picking up the Vardeshi dialects and we also get to meet up again with the likes of Zey and Hathan, the aliens serving on the disgraced ship, who are desperate to clear their reputations after the events that occurred during the first book.

I enjoyed the way that Pechenick isn’t focusing on big space battles or nasty invasions, but the ongoing wear and tear of being immersed in a culture in which you don’t belong and where you don’t instinctively understand the people around you – because they are aliens. The fact that in many ways they look very much like us only adds to the disconnect. All in all, this is a fascinating continuation of a really interesting series. I am now eagerly awaiting the third book.

Once again, Pechenick manages to keep this intriguing first contact adventure grittily realistic in attention to the details of food preparation, though it is a lot easier now as the scientific teams in the background have now cleared more of the alien foodstuffs as safe for human consumption. I love how there are many similarities – but it’s the jarring differences that can catch her out. Pechenick is also very good at serving up sudden twists and surprises in the storyline that ramps up the stakes and the narrative tension – I really didn’t want to put this one down.

There is a developing romantic sub-plot which is well handled and I enjoyed, though Himself was a bit grumpy about it, as he preferred the story without the mushy stuff. The thing that I liked about it – is there is no mushy stuff. It felt a very grown-up relationship and while there were no cliffhangers, I honestly don’t know whether this is a relationship that will be able to continue. Highly recommended for space opera fans who enjoy intelligent, character-led stories.
9/10

Authoring Annals 5 – Using Flashback – Mantivore Warrior – Book 3 of The Arcadian Chronicles #BrainfluffAuthoringAnnals5 #MantivoreWarrior #TheArcadianChronicles #AmWriting

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I was pleased that some of you took the time to let me know you found last week’s article interesting, thank you! So I thought I’d share a bit more of my writing process while working on my latest novel, Mantivore Warrior.

One of the structural issues I needed to overcome in this one, is that in both Mantivore Dreams and Mantivore Prey, the main protagonist is Kyrillia, who features on the cover of both books, while this book is told from the viewpoint of Jessob. Readers who read Mantivore Prey will have already encountered Jessob, but they won’t know much about him as he’s a minor character, even though he plays a pivotal role in one of the main action scenes. So while readers got to know Kyrillia organically as they were absorbing the world in Mantivore Dreams, now the pacing has been established over the previous two books, I can’t slow it down again just to enable folks to learn all about Jessob. Especially as they are already familiar with the other two major characters, Felina Keeper and Vrox, who are also driving the main narrative forward. This left me with the problem of how to give readers a detailed insight into Jessob’s strengths and vulnerabilities without resorting to excruciating dialogue scenes along the lines of, “Well, as you know, Vrox…”, or tedious info-dumps.

I decided to use a technique I’ve never before used – an extended flashback from the point in Jessob’s life where he first encounters mantivores. While I have used brief flashback scenes in Mantivore Dreams to show aspects of Vrox’s past, this is the first time I’ve ever interrupted the narrative timeline in a flashback that continues over a number of chapters. I’ve been wary of using this device to date. Done well, extended flashback can add a layer of characterisation and background that gives impact and purpose to the ongoing story. But if I get it wrong, it has the potential to turn into an irritating interruption to my story that I started with a lot of tension and a climactic scene. I risk losing all that momentum to provide the reader with details of Jessob’s backstory.

I decided it’s worth the risk, because Jessob’s journey is every bit as dramatic as the ongoing storyline and I felt the fractured flashbacks I used in Mantivore Dreams simply wouldn’t work. Those occur near the end of the book, when my readers are familiar with the characters and the world and fully aware of what the stakes are. Chopping up the narrative so early in Mantivore Warrior, when readers are still working out who is doing what to whom would simply be too confusing, especially as my writing style means I don’t tend to stop and explain much along the way.

At present, I’m about a third of the way through this flashback. Is it working? It’s a question that continually haunts me as I’m writing it. I think so – but I’ll be unable to tell until I’ve completed the narrative timeline and had a chance to evaluate its success within the overall story arc. Once again, it comes down to finishing the draft and trusting my instincts. In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted…

Review of INDIE Ebook Broken Heart Attack – Book 2 of the Braxton Campus Mysteries series by James J. Cudney #Brainfluffbookreview #BrokenHeartAttackbookreview

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, Academic Curveball – see my review here, so when I realised the second book was already out, and given the major cliff-hanger ending, I got hold of this one.

When an extra ticket becomes available to attend the dress rehearsal of Braxton’s King Lear production, Kellan tags along with Nana D and her buddies, sisters-in-law Eustacia and Gwendolyn Paddington, to show support for the rest of the Paddington family. When one of them appears to have a heart attack in the middle of the second act, Nana D raises her suspicions and asks Kellan to investigate who killed her friend. Amidst family members suddenly in debt and a secret rendezvous between an unlikely pair, Kellan learns the Paddingtons might not be as clean-cut as everyone thinks. But did one of them commit murder for an inheritance?

Cudney’s smooth, readable style scooped me up and swiftly drew me back into life on Braxton campus. While you might initially flounder slightly if you hadn’t had the pleasure of reading Academic Curveball, Cudney ensures you’ll soon make sense of what is going on – and indeed, there’s plenty to keep poor Kellen on the back foot.

His main relationship is with his feisty, sharp-tongued grandmother, Nana D. I really like the intergenerational dynamic within the story. Kellen’s grandmother isn’t introduced just to give us a few smiles at his expense as her snarky replies leaves him waving in the wind, Nana D is important to the story as a character in her own right. I also like the fact that the victim is one of her elderly friends – and that her death is investigated with the same rigour as the hapless youngster in the previous book. Far too much casual ageism is exhibited within this genre, so encountering Cudney’s take on the older characters in his story is refreshing change.

The mystery is nicely twisty, with plenty of potential suspects. I also liked the character development moving forward through the series – while the Sheriff was extremely hostile towards Kellen’s involvement in the previous book, she becomes less so during this investigation, as Kellen proves his worth and gains her rather grudging trust. Once more, Cudney’s skill in handling the whodunit is apparent, while I had a couple of candidates in mind for the wicked deed – neither of them were responsible and yet the culprit had a solid motive.

Any niggles? Well, I was floored by the revelation at the end of the first book and very eager to find out exactly what had happened – to the extent of skimming the first few pages to discover the outcome. If I have a grizzle, it would be that this major plotpoint was slightly squeezed out of the story at the expense of the investigation. So I’m hoping the next book will put Kellen’s personal issues right in the centre of the story, because I’m very keen to see him finally face up to that cauldron of regret, anger and thwarted love…
9/10