Tag Archives: Melissa Caruso

Sunday Post – 28th April, 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 another busy week. On Tuesday I returned to Northbrook to start the last course I’ll be teaching there – even as I type the words, it doesn’t quite seem real… I was delighted to be able to run all three classes again and meet up with my lovely students.

My friend, Mhairi also drove down from Lincolnshire and came to stay, so after arriving when I returned from college at around 9.30 pm, we stayed up until about 3 am in the wee small hours of Wednesday to catch up. Much later on Wednesday morning, we went out for breakfast to Morrisons and she joined in our Pilates session in the afternoon. After hobbling away, we both agreed we needed to go more often! On Thursday, I resumed teaching Tim, though last week I accompanied him and his mother when we went to the music college that has offered him a place on their songwriting course – the same course attended by Tom Odell… There are still a few issues to address, but whether he actually goes or not – it’s a massive achievement to have been offered the place.

Yesterday I went shopping with my sister in Worthing. Her 60th birthday is looming and we’re off to an all-expenses paid spa break together so some serious shopping needed doing… We were shattered by the time we finished and decided that it’s something we need to do more often! I was doing the driving so once I took her home, I stayed and we had a takeaway Chinese – yum – before I returned home.

Last week I read:

The Unbound Empire – Book 3 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso
While winter snows keep the Witch Lord Ruven’s invading armies at bay, Lady Amalia Cornaro and the fire warlock Zaira attempt to change the fate of mages in the Raverran Empire forever, earning the enmity of those in power who will do anything to keep all magic under tight imperial control. But in the season of the Serene City’s great masquerade, Ruven executes a devastating surprise strike at the heart of the Empire – and at everything Amalia holds most dear.
It’s always something of a risk, plunging into the final book of a much-loved series and I won’t deny that I was a bit apprehensive. But I needn’t have been – Caruso brought this outstanding series to a magnificent conclusion. This is one of my favourite series of the last few years…

Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection – Collected Short Stories
Ever since he made his first appearance in A Study In Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes has enthralled and delighted millions of fans throughout the world. Now Audible is proud to present Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection, read by Stephen Fry. A lifelong fan of Doyle’s detective fiction, Fry has narrated the complete works of Sherlock Holmes – four novels and five collections of short stories. And, exclusively for Audible, Stephen has written and narrated nine insightful, intimate and deeply personal introductions to each title.
If I don’t listen to anything else – ever, this gem has made my foray into the world of audiobooks worth it and represents fantastic value as it cost me all of one credit for 72 hours of fabulous listening. While I wouldn’t want to read through this – listening to it while cleaning the bathroom transforms a miserable chore into a wonderful pleasure. It has been split into six sections and I am prolonging the joy by listening to something else in between.

My posts last week:

Review of The Defiant Heir – Book 2 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso

Teaser Tuesday featuring Children of Ruin – Book 2 of the Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Emily Eternal by M.G. Wheaton

Friday Faceoff featuring A Hat Full of Sky – Book 2 of the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Unbound Empire – Book 3 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso

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

I don’t believe in diabetes https://writerunboxed.com/2019/04/26/i-dont-believe-in-diabetes/ This thoughtful, passionate article on writers’ block is something I also feel strongly about, having taught a number of students whose writing mojo suddenly deserted them.

Monday Musing: Fangirling https://randombookmuses.com/2019/04/22/monday-musing-fangirling/ This moving article highlights just how important books and the imaginative worlds they create can become to readers…

The International Extinction Rebellion https://acstark.net/2019/04/19/the-international-extinction-rebellion/ I am increasingly dismayed at the tardy, inadequate response to the gathering catastrophic climatic changes around the world and ongoing struggles of our wildlife by all the leading governments – particularly ours which is currently paralysed.

Rainy Day Reads: Top Ten Tuesday https://aquapages.wordpress.com/2019/04/16/rainy-day-reads-top-ten-tuesday/ It’s always useful to have some solid recommendations and this selection particularly caught my eye…

How to Plan Your Protagonist’s Journey https://lorraineambers.com/2019/04/18/how-to-plan-your-protagonists-journey/ I really like the way Lorraine has approached this subject. Whether you are a planner or a pantzer, this can still be an invaluable aid to sorting out your thoughts before plunging into your w.i.p.

Many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – I will catch up with you as soon as I can, so thank you also for your patience. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Unbound Empire – Book 2 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso #Brainfluffbookreview #TheUnboundEmpirebookreview

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I really enjoyed the first book in this series, The Tethered Mage, – see my review here – I thought the premise was a really smart one. The idea that lethal magic-users need to have their power curtailed from the time their talent becomes evident makes complete sense – as do the inevitable consequences following from that necessity… I recently read and reviewed the second book, The Defiant Heir, and liked it even more, so was delighted to be approved to read and review The Unbound Empire

While winter snows keep the Witch Lord Ruven’s invading armies at bay, Lady Amalia Cornaro and the fire warlock Zaira attempt to change the fate of mages in the Raverran Empire forever, earning the enmity of those in power who will do anything to keep all magic under tight imperial control. But in the season of the Serene City’s great masquerade, Ruven executes a devastating surprise strike at the heart of the Empire – and at everything Amalia holds most dear.

As with the second book, the political and personal stakes in this book continue to ramp up. Amalia continues to grow from the shy academic, whose real passion was studying magical practices, to a political player in her own right, determined to push through a piece of legislation that will impact every magic-user in the Empire. I love her character progression – along with the changes that every other major character undergoes. Caruso makes that aspect of writing a series look a lot easier than it is.

All the characters work well, but two in particular stand out – Ruven is a particularly satisfying villain, who I loved to hate. His arrogant dismissal of anyone non-magical and his tendency to inflict horrible tortures just because he can – as well as his targeting of our protagonist – makes him creepy and revolting. The cleverness in the writing is that Caruso manages also make the reader aware of what is powering his nastiness, so that he doesn’t come across as a pantomime villain. The other character I became a little in love with is one of those enigmatic, dangerous Witch Lords, Kathe. His entourage of crows, his courage, his love of games and his gradually emerging more vulnerable side made him very endearing. His odd courtship of Amalia made the romantic thread running through this series thoroughly entertaining.
Caruso’s other superpower is the pacing – I found The Unbound Empire almost impossible to put down because the narrative arc works so well. I quickly became caught up in her political fight – which then turned into something else far more challenging. Caruso’s ability to ramp up the stakes compelled me to keep reading far longer than I should. The final denouement in a series needs to be able to wrap everything up and give each of the major characters an ongoing path, so the reader gets a sense of their probable future, given the life-changing events they have undergone. Caruso manages to achieve this, making this trilogy one of my favourite, most memorable fantasy series I’ve read in recent years.

Please read these books in the correct order, though – it would a real shame to mess up such a well-crafted progression by crashing midway into this outstanding series. The ebook arc copy of The Unbound Empire was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

Review of Library book The Defiant Heir – Book 2 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso #Brainfluffbookreview #TheDefiantHeirbookreview #LibraryLoveChallenge

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This is the sequel to The Tethered Mage – see my review – which so very nearly made my Outstanding Reads list for last year – I loved the idea that mages with their magical power needed to be contained. While it isn’t a new idea, this version where each mage has a minder who can release their power or shut it down works very well.

Across the border, the Witch Lords of Vaskandar are preparing for war. But before an invasion can begin, they must call a rare gathering of all seventeen lords to decide a course of action. Lady Amalia Cornaro knows that this Conclave might be her only chance to stifle the growing flames of war, and she is ready to make any sacrifice if it means saving Raverra from destruction. Amalia and Zaira must go behind enemy lines, using every ounce of wit and cunning they have, to sway Vaskandar from war. Or else it will all come down to swords and fire.

Thoughout the book, we stay in the viewpoint of Lady Amalia, whose mother, La Contessa, rules Raverra with a canny intelligence. Right from the beginning, Amalia knew she was destined for a life in politics, despite her interest in studying forms of magic as an academic subject. And then she inadvertently ends up in a situation where that academic interest suddenly becomes far more practical when she crosses paths with a mage with a rare but lethal talent. I think it’s a clever move to make Amalia bookish and rather shy at the start of the series – her character progression is noticeable from The Tethered Mage through to this book.

However the political crisis, where Raverra is threatened by the terrifying Witch Lords who rule Vaskandar, now needs her to represent her mother on a diplomatic mission where thousands of lives are at stake. The gathering sense of danger and sense of fear at what the Witch Lords are capable of doing, with the hideous beasts they are able to enchant, is palpable. From the first page, I was snagged by this one and found it difficult to put down. While I thoroughly enjoyed The Tethered Mage, I think The Defiant Heir is even better. The supporting cast are all well written and nicely three-dimensional – particularly Zaire and the unpredictable Kathe, who controls the crows…

The pacing is beautifully judged throughout, so that by the end I stayed up waaay later than I should to discover what happens at the end and found the conclusion completely satisfying – though leaving me with a real hankering for more from this world. Thank goodness I shan’t have to wait too long for the next book, The Unbound Empire. Highly recommended for fans of well written swords and sorcery with a splash of romance.
10/10

Sunday Post – 27th January, 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.

The weather has been quite a bit colder this week, with several frosts and then it suddenly warmed up again to nearly 50°F. No wonder several students have been off sick and my writing buddy had to cut short our Friday together. On Wednesday evening, I attended our fortnightly writing group and touched base with everyone, though I didn’t take any writing. On Thursday, I had a planning meeting in the morning for the rest of the teaching year with Tim and then taught him for three hours in the afternoon. It was lovely catching up with him, as I hadn’t seen him since the beginning of December.

On Saturday morning, Himself and I went shopping and I also took a stack of books to the local library, who gratefully received them. It was lovely to catch up with the wonderful lady who reads stories to small children in the library on Saturday mornings – she always asks after Frankie and Oscar, who she regularly used to read to. She was amazed when I told her that Frankie is now taller than I am…

I spent the rest of the day working on Mantivore Prey. The first 1,000 words was like drawing teeth and took a looong time. However, I then got into the swing of the narrative – I’m now in the middle of an unexpected subplot which is going very well, though time will tell if it’s going to work out. Fingers crossed…

Last week I read:
The Warrior – Book 3 of The Immortal Dealers series by Sarah Fine
Ernestine “Ernie” Terwilliger never intended to live among the Immortal Dealers, much less to be party to an ongoing battle where the fate of humanity is in the draw of a card. And the stakes have gotten only higher now that a shady new Forger has been crowned.
Despite crashing into this series by picking up the final book, I enjoyed this world and the magic system, as well as being able to empathise with the sympathetic protagonist. Review to follow.

 

The Defiant Heir – Book 2 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso
Across the border, the Witch Lords of Vaskandar are preparing for war. But before an invasion can begin, they must call a rare gathering of all seventeen lords to decide a course of action. Lady Amalia Cornaro knows that this Conclave might be her only chance to stifle the growing flames of war, and she is ready to make any sacrifice if it means saving Raverra from destruction.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, but I really loved this one. The political situation is gripping and the supporting cast are fabulous. Review to follow.

 

Spacer’s Cinderella by Adria Rose
A broken shoe. A forbidden ball. A sexy cyborg with a secret. Born on an abandoned colony barely held together by sealant tape and hope, Aurora Sato is at the very bottom of the social pecking order. Hard work and brains got her into a coveted spot in the quadrant’s top university… But her new supervisor is a woman who’s not about to let an upstart like Aurora get anything close to a break.
This romance sci fi story has a gripping plotline that drew me in and held me, despite not generally reading this sub-genre.

 

Traveler in the Dark – Book 1 of the Ex Situ series by Deirdre Gould
Sixteen hundred years ago, they fled Earth. Now their long journey may finally be at an end. None of them have ever walked on soil, felt rain, or breathed unrecycled air. Their resources nearly spent, they sent a last exploratory mission to a new planet. It’s ideal… but they are not alone. In the struggle for survival, they must make a choice. Sacrifice another species or accept their own extinction. And time is running out.
This colony exploration tale took an unexpectedly dark turn, which also explored the moral issues of colonisation.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 20th January 2019

Review of Novella The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Friday Face-Off featuring The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Box Set – The Sunblinded Trilogy – Running Out of Space, Dying for Space, Breathing Space

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
The Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse of 2019 http://www.fundinmental.com/the-super-blood-wolf-moon-eclipse-of-2019-bloodwolfmoon-eclipse/#.XE2QhM3grb1 I tend to avoid the news these days with the Brexit nonsense going on – but then I miss events like this. Thank goodness I can comfort myself with these superb pics…

Thursday Doors https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2019/01/24/thursday-doors-121/ This quirky blog is rarely just about doors – and this week not only do we have pics of the cutest dog in the world, but a grim slice of history, too.

The U.L.S. The Underground Library Society Guest Post by Amanda Cade! https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com/2019/01/22/the-u-l-s-the-underground-library-society-guest-post-by-amanda-cade/ Academic and indie writer Charles French runs this meme on his excellent blog – and this week I was blown away by Amanda’s contribution.

Let’s get real about the hot mess of spell-check, grammar and editing tools https://redpenofdoom.com/lets-get-real-about-the-hot-mess-of-spell-check-grammar-and-editing-tools/ Given that effective editing is a large chunk of successful writing – I share Guy’s pain in this heartfelt article.

Twisted Conservation Education and Awareness http://chechewinnie.com/twisted-conservation-education-and-awareness/ I enjoy Cheche’s blog, and her insightful observations about conservation in Africa – this disturbing article highlights some of the challenges faced by those trying to make a difference…

In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – have a wonderful week!

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Tethered Mage – Book 1 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso #Brainfluffbookreview #TheTetheredMagebookreview

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I had some tokens and after reading a number of really enthusiastic reviews about this one, I decided to get hold of it. The marvellous cover influenced me, too…

Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire. Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations. But fate has bound the heir and the mage.

Amalia Cornaro lives in the shadow of her powerful, politically effective parent – and for a change, said parent is La Contessa. We don’t hear very much about Amalie’s father – it’s all about her trying to live up to her mother’s expectations. As the only child, those expectations weigh heavily. Especially as Amalia is more comfortable studying the art of magic and how to manufacture spells, even though she isn’t mage-touched. Because if she were, she wouldn’t be living in her mother’s palace – she would be residing in the fortified Mews with other magically-gifted individuals, wearing a small bracelet which would allow an ungifted companion to control her magical ability – her Falconer.

The story is about one such gifted individual, Zaira, whose magical gift is the ability to create balefire – a blue-flamed conflagration which feeds on the flesh of its victims and very quickly turns into a firestorm. Most balefire mages don’t make it past childhood without killing themselves. But Zaira has managed to eke out a living in the Tallows, the slums of Raverra – until an attempted kidnap draws her to the attention of the authorities running the Mews and she finds herself braceleted and carted off to live in luxury. The only catch being, she’s not free…

This approach to the whole issue of magic-users is a really intriguing one. I love the idea that they either run amok, becoming the entitled, despotic overlords – or the tools of the state, working for the greater good, while being magically tethered by their bracelets, or jesse. It’s a clever term, with its overtones of falconry, where the birds of prey are shackled by leather straps called a jesse.

I haven’t mentioned the story, or the plotting or even said much about the characters. And I should – because it’s a cracking tale, full of incident and adventure, narrated by Amalia, who is an engaging protagonist. While I enjoyed her character, my attention was inevitably drawn to Zaira – I thought it was a bold touch to have the main protagonist the less charismatic, gifted character, and it works very well. I also liked the fact that this world has a number of powerful women, alongside the men, who have agency.

I’m delighted I bought this one and look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Defiant Heir. Highly recommended for fantasy fans.
9/10

#Sunday Post – 10th June, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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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.

Firstly, a profound apology for the lack of any interaction, but after struggling to stay in touch using my laptop and my sister’s rather slow broadband speeds when our own internet wasn’t working, I decided last week that Life was too short to take so long to achieve so little… The good news is that I am now connected! And feeling an idiot. The new router that arrived on Saturday of last week didn’t get connected up, as I’d inadvertently plugged in the old, lightning-struck router instead! No wonder it wasn’t working and no one could figure out why…

On Friday, after teaching Tim, Himself and I drove up to Oxford to Waterstones’ book store for the launch of not just one, but three anthologies from Grimbold Publishing. My story, ‘A Dire Emergency’, is in Holding On By Our Fingertips, an anthology of stories written just twenty-four hours before the apocalypse – mine features an angry alien who has gone native… We decided to stay over and found a lovely hotel just a mile away from the centre of the city. It was a warm, sunny evening, with a number of readings from each anthology and it was lovely to meet up with the folks from Grimbold and I was particularly delighted to get a chance to chat to Jessica Rydill, author of Children of the Strange. I also met Lucy Hounsom, who was reading an extract from Charlotte Bond’s gripping story ‘Retreat’. They both produce the podcast Breaking the Glass Slipper which particularly features women within the SFF genre. I’ll be tracking it down, as one of my targets for the latter half of the year is to make time for listening to audiobooks and podcasts.

On Saturday, we wandered around Oxford, enjoying the amazing architecture and spent a long time in Blackwells, the famous book store. I resisted buying any books, though Himself bought one…

During the rest of the week, I bought a new car on Tuesday as borrowing my sister’s made us realise just how much extra time Himself spends at work when the shift-end doesn’t coincide with a train home, so we found a little white Ka I’ve named Twinkle. On Wednesday, I went to Chichester Theatre with a lovely friend to see a performance of The Chalk Garden starring Penelope Keith. It was a wonderful production and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s been Himself’s summer holiday, so we’ve also been working in the garden, hacking at the overgrown shrubbery and reclaiming the two main beds which are now looking colourful in shades of orange and bronze. Himself has been busy shredding some of the smaller branches from our severely pruned olive tree and we’re hoping to get the whole garden back into shape before the end of the summer.

This week I have read:

The Tethered Mage – Book 1 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso
Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.

Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations. But fate has bound the heir and the mage.

This is one of the books I treated myself to when I had some Amazon vouchers to spend – and I’m so glad I did. I love the idea that powerful magic-users either become unpleasant tyrants or serve the interests of the state by being magically shackled and used as necessary… I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

 

Windswept – Book 1 of the Windswept series Adam Rakunas
Labor organizer Padma Mehta is on the edge of space and the edge of burnout. All she wants is to buy out a little rum distillery and retire, but she’s supposed to recruit 500 people to the Union before she can. She’s only thirty-three short. So when a small-time con artist tells her about forty people ready to tumble down the space elevator to break free from her old bosses, she checks it out — against her better judgment. It turns out, of course, it was all lies.

This rollicking space colony adventure is packed with incident and punchy, enjoyable writing – I do enjoy Angry Robot’s books… I’ll be reviewing it in due course and hunting down the second book in the series

 

Time Was by Ian McDonald
Struggling second-hand book dealer, Emmet, is trying to survive in an increasingly difficult near future – and then comes across a small poetry collection called Time Was which includes a love letter from Tom to Ben, set in WWII. It sets him out on an astonishing search to discover who Tom and Ben are – a search that takes him to a tucked-away corner of England where odd stories abound about the seas catching fire…

This is a gem. I absolutely loved it. It’s one of my favourite reads of the year so far – I got to the end with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat…

 

The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin
In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire the ice dragon was a creature of legend and fear, for no man had ever tamed one. When it flew overhead, it left in its wake desolate cold and frozen land. But Adara was not afraid. For Adara was a winter child, born during the worst freeze that anyone, even the Old Ones, could remember.

I didn’t initially realise that this novella tired in with Martin’s famous fantasy series until I read the blurb. It is an entertaining story, but as far as I’m concerned, it takes a while to get going and then the ending is far too abrupt. I do hate it when novellas end too suddenly…

 

Ancell’s Quest by Tony Main
To his dismay, Ancell, a timid, dreaming hedgehog, is called to sail in search of someone in terrible trouble, who keeps calling to him in his dreams. Someone whose plight cannot wait – which leads him to the capable sea otter captain of the schooner, ‘Misty Dawn’ – and a whole series of adventures. At first the frightened landlubber finds life upon the waves difficult, but he soon learns to trust the crew and face the various dangers alongside them…

This adventure-filled tale held my attention throughout and I was genuinely sorry when I reached the end. I’ll be reviewing it in due course…

And that’s it… I didn’t visit any blogs and other than last week’s Sunday Post, I haven’t produced anything else on my blog, this week. This week, normal service will be resumed. Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site – and I promise to get back to you as soon as I can!