Tag Archives: near future

Two SCI FI Mini-reviews: The Last Astronaut by David Wellington & Scardown by Elizabeth Bear #BrainfluffSCIFImini-reviews #TheLastAstronautmini-review #Scardownmini-review

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The Last Astronaut by David Wellington

BLURB: Mission Commander Sally Jansen is Earth’s last astronaut–and last hope–in this gripping near-future thriller where a mission to make first contact becomes a terrifying struggle for survival in the depths of space.

Sally Jansen was NASA’s leading astronaut, until a mission to Mars ended in disaster. Haunted by her failure, she lives in quiet anonymity, convinced her days in space are over.
She’s wrong.

A large alien object has entered the solar system on a straight course toward Earth. It has made no attempt to communicate and is ignoring all incoming transmissions.
Out of time and out of options, NASA turns to Jansen. For all the dangers of the mission, it’s the shot at redemption she always longed for.

I’m generally not a huge fan of space horror, as it’s often done badly, with scant respect for the actual science part of the fiction. This time, however, Wellington nails it. He has worked hard on his alien, so that the tension-filled build up is worth the wait. I found it hard to put this one down as the situation slithers out of control. And that ending is absolutely brilliant. Highly recommended for fans of first contact adventures.
9/10

Scardown – Book 2 of the Wetwired series by Elizabeth Bear

BLURB: The year is 2062, and after years on the run, Jenny Casey is back in the Canadian armed forces. Those who were once her enemies are now her allies, and at fifty, she’s been handpicked for the most important mission of her life–a mission for which her artificially reconstructed body is perfectly suited. With the earth capable of sustaining life for just another century, Jenny–as pilot of the starship Montreal–must discover brave new worlds. And with time running out, she must succeed where others have failed.

Now Jenny is caught in a desperate battle where old resentments become bitter betrayals and justice takes the cruelest forms of vengeance. With the help of a brilliant AI, an ex—crime lord, and the man she loves, Jenny may just get her chance to save the world. If it doesn’t come to an end first…

I loved the first book, – see my review of Hammered – but found it more of a struggle to get into this one. But I’m also aware that when reading this, I was extremely stressed, so that could have had a bearing on my ability to focus. However, I do think the crucial bonding moment with the main protagonist should have been differently handled. The first two opening scenes ought to have been the other way around. Or merged, so that if – like me – your memory is currently operating at the level of a concussed goldfish, enough of the ongoing story is fed into that initial scene so the reader isn’t scrabbling to make sense of what is going on, instead of relaxing into the strong, engrossing writing. Once I recalled the story and characters, I enjoyed the ongoing adventure and look forward to continuing with this series. If you pick this one up before reading Hammered – whatever you do, go back and find it. Bear’s fast-paced, immersive style doesn’t hang around for the bemused or floundering.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Library of the Dead – Book 1 of the Edinburgh Nights by T.L. Huchu #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheLibraryoftheDeadbookreview

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I found the premise of this one fascinating – a post-apocalyptic Scotland and a young, gutsy protagonist straddling two cultures. And I can’t deny that the cover also blew me away.

BLURB: When a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, young Ropa investigates. She’ll need to call on Zimbabwean magic as well as her Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. But as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?

When ghosts talk, she will listen…

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children–leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world. She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan…), discovering an occult library and a taste for hidden magic. She’ll also experience dark times. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets, and Ropa’s gonna hunt them all down.

REVIEW: Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Ropa is an engaging protagonist and given the awful circumstances she finds herself battling with, the fact that she is only fourteen worked for me, although I am aware some reviewers had a bit of a problem with her youth. But children in difficult times grow up fast and she still demonstrated that odd mix of maturity and flashes of someone much younger that makes up a teen personality. I thought the characterisation of the protagonist was the main strength of the book, though I also liked the depiction of a civilisation steadily falling apart. It didn’t bother me that I wasn’t aware of exactly why everything was quite so dire – given we are in Ropa’s viewpoint, pages of explanation about the political situation would have been out of character.

I also liked the members of Ropa’s family – her relationship with her younger sister could have so easily become a bit treacly, and I was pleased that it didn’t. The constant friction between the girls over the use of her phone was nicely realistic, having had to step into the middle of similar fights between my grandchildren. Her granny is also an intriguing personality, who taught Ropa the magic she uses, drawing on her Zimbabwean culture to be able to speak to the departed and help them. All this worked really well for me.

However, I wasn’t quite so impressed with the plotting. The story was completely predictable and I guessed (successfully) what was going to happen from about halfway through the book. As you can see from the score, that wasn’t a huge dealbreaker for me as Ropa’s personality made this an entertaining read anyway. I’m not wholly convinced about the library angle of the story, either. To be honest, it felt a tad tacked on, and wasn’t in the same league as Ropa’s characterisation, and the interesting world she is forced to operate in. There are some fabulous magical libraries out there already – ranging from the hilariously dangerous version at the Unseen University in Pratchett’s Discworld with an orangutang for a librarian, through to Genevieve Cogman’s highly successful Invisible Library series. Huchu is going to have to work at making this version really stand out.

That said, I would happily read the second book in this series just to spend a bit more time with Ropa. Recommended for fans who particularly enjoy strong young protagonists operating in difficult circumstances. While I obtained an arc of The Library of the Dead from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Friday Faceoff –Perfect love is to feeling what perfect white is to color… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffwhitecovers

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week – the first of 2021 – we are featuring WHITE covers. I’ve selected The One by John Marrs – see my review.

Edbury Digital, January 2017

This is one of the default covers, produced by Edbury Digital in January 2017. It is my favourite cover, as I think the heart is eye-catching and clever and I also like the strapline. The detailing of the genetic sequencing around the edge in the blue also works well – a nicely subtle touch that finishes the cover with a pleasing border. It was always going to be a challenge to design a suitably appropriate cover that didn’t give the impression that this is a love story – and I think this one achieves that brief really effectively.

Hanover Square Press, March 2018

Published in March 2018 by Hanover Square Press, this design takes a variation on the previous cover, with the obvious main difference being the initial O becoming a splatter of blood containing a fingerprint. I do wonder if the blood spatter gives this design more of a horror vibe, which isn’t correct as this is more of a thriller. The border is still in place, though the use of the black rather than the pale blue gives the cover more of a grungy feel, I think.

Romanian edition, 2019

This Romanian edition, published in 2019 by Editura Trei, is the least successful of my selection, I think. The knife dripping with blood gives the impression that this a murder mystery, rather than a techno thriller. While the fontsfor both the author and title fonts are plain boring.  

Hanover Square Press, April 2019

Published by Hanover Square Press in April 2019, this is the only coloured cover in my selection. I think this one is strikingly attractive – and I like the red darts sticking out of it. The contrast between the blue and red works well. I also like the uncluttered look, though once again, I think the title font is overly plain and a tad boring, which is a shame given how successful the overall design is. This is a strong contender – I so nearly went for this one…

Maxim, June 2018

This Hungarian edition, published in June 2018 by Maxim, is also a contender. I really like how it has taken the default cover design and added His and Her. It gives the cover real interest – my only major concern is that it gives the impression that this is a romance. And while all the protagonists are searching for The One, the novel is more about the process that’s used. Which one do you prefer?

Review of KINDLE Ebook Hammered – Book 1 of the Wetwired series by Elizabeth Bear #Brainfluffbookreview #Hammeredbookreview #Sci Fi Month 2020

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I was blown away by Ancestral Nightsee my review – and then realised that was the first book I’d read by this remarkable author. I clearly needed to fix that one, so I was delighted when I discovered this series available. I have linked this review with #Sci Fi Month.

BLURB: Jenny Casey is a former Canadian special forces warrior living on the hellish streets of Hartford, Connecticut, in the year 2062. Her artificially reconstructed body is failing her, but a government scientist from her old life thinks she is perfect for his high-stakes project. Suddenly Jenny is a pawn in a battle being waged on the Internet, the streets, and in the complex wirings of her man-made nervous system. And she needs to gain control of the game before a brave new future spins completely out of control.

REVIEW: There is so much to love about this book, starting with the heroine. I love the fact that we jumped into her life after she’d already endured a lifechanging series of events that had left her physically and emotionally compromised. I love that she turns fifty in the middle of the novel – how cool to have a major middle-aged female protagonist in a science fiction cyberpunk thriller!

This near-future dystopian view of Earth has climate change having redistributed the political power dynamic and you won’t be surprised to learn that government departments are every bit as ruthlessly determined to get hold of the latest tech to give their struggling countries some advantage. Jenny is a casualty of a previous entanglement and has been living with the consequences, ever since. Facing premature death from a systemic failure in her cybernetic implants, she is determined to end it herself before she is left a drooling dementia patient. But that is before people from her old life crash back into her current existence. Bear’s writing style grabs my head and heart and won’t let go until the end. I’m aware that there are places where the pacing could be tighter, but I didn’t care. I am pulled into this world of shifting loyalties, where old fury and hurt is hauled into the light and re-examined in the light of new priorities.

For me, the triumph of Bear’s writing is that in a sub-genre exploring the interface between Man and machine, it’s the humanity of her characters that leaps off the page, in all their complexity and differing needs. It’s one heck of a trick to pull off and while this isn’t a flawless book, it is a glorious read. Highly recommended for fans of intelligently written near-future sci fi adventures.
9/10

Sunday Post – 25th October, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

All my frenetic activity of last week was slammed into reverse after Monday’s Pilates class – as I woke up on Tuesday very stiff, with a sore throat which has progressed into a cold (I think!). But whatever it is, my Fitstep teacher and hairdresser don’t deserve to find themselves having to quarantine ‘just in case’. So I’m staying in until it goes away. And writing… Work on Picky Eaters 2 is going well, and is great fun to write, but because I’m feel fairly awful – I’m not getting as much done as I want! My life has lit up with binge-watching The Big Bang Theory – what I’m going to do when I finally get through all 12 seasons, I’m not quite sure… And hurrah for The Great British Bakeoff and Strictly Come Dancing, as well as Portrait Artist of the Year

This week’s photos are from a walk I took along the beach at Bexhill.


Last week I read:

The Ministry For the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organization was simple: To advocate for the world’s future generations and to protect all living creatures, present and future. It soon became known as the Ministry for the Future, and this is its story. From legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson comes a vision of climate change unlike any ever imagined.

Told entirely through fictional eye-witness accounts, The Ministry For The Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, the story of how climate change will affect us all over the decades to come. Its setting is not a desolate, post-apocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us – and in which we might just overcome the extraordinary challenges we face.
Despite NOT being a post-apocalyptic horrorfest, the earlier stages of this interesting book did made tough reading. But I’m glad I persevered as it does provide a message of hope, along with a host of possible fixes. Review to follow.


NOVELLA Masquerade in Lodi – Book 9 of the Penric and Desdemona series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Bastard’s Eve is a night of celebration for most residents in the canal city of Lodi — but not for sorcerer Learned Penric and his Temple demon Desdemona, who find themselves caught up in the affairs of a shiplost madman, a dangerous ascendant demon, and a very unexpected saint of the fifth god.
It was a real treat to turn to more Penric and Desdemona goodness – this is an engaging fast-paced story that I tore through in a single sitting. Review to follow.


Map’s Edge – Book 1 of The Tethered Citadel by David Hair
Dashryn Cowl has run out of places to hide. The erstwhile sorcerer of the Imperial College fled the Bolgravian Empire when his high-flying family fell from grace, but the tyrannical empire is still hunting for him. So when he gets his hands on a map showing a place outside the known lands rich in istariol, the mineral that fuels sorcery, he sees a way back to power. There’s only one problem: it means masquerading as an Imperial Cartomancer (an instant death sentence) and finding some dupes to help him mine the istariol in secret, no questions asked.
But somehow, amid the dangers of the road (floods and avalanches, beasts, barbarians and monsters), a strange thing begins to happen: Dashryn starts to care about his ragtag followers and their strange odyssey into the ruins of an ancient forgotten civilisation. But his past won’t let him be: the implacable Imperial Bloodhound Toran Zorne has caught his scent, and Zorne has never yet failed to bring his quarry to ground. At the edge of the map, there’s no going forward and no going back . . .
If I’m a tad bleary-eyed today, it’s because I sat up faaar into the night, unable to put this delightful fantasy adventure down. It felt a bit like one of those wagon train Wild West stories I used to watch on TV when I was a girl – but with evil sorcerers, instead of corrupt sheriffs. Review to follow.


My posts last week:


Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

Review of NOVELLA Night’s Tooth – Book 1 of Tales of the River Vine series by Jean Lee

Friday Face-off featuring How To Break a Dragon’s Heart – Book 8 of the How To Train a Dragon series by Cressida Cowell

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Postscript Murders – Book 2 of the Harbinder Kaur series by Elly Griffiths

Cover Love – featuring the covers of Elly Griffiths

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Fallen Princeborn: Chosen – Book 2 of the Fallen Princeborn series by Jean Lee

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Tuesday Treasures – 16

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Stranger Diaries – Book 1 of the Harbinder Kaur series by Elly Griffiths

Sunday Post – 18th October 2020


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

Blogger Statistics: a Quick Look https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2020/10/23/blogger-statistics-a-quick-look/ If you’ve ever wondered who else enjoys blogging alongside you – here are some stats…

10 of the Best Poems About Absence https://interestingliterature.com/2020/10/poems-about-absence/ Do you agree with this selection?

My #BookLaunch #Countdown for #FallenPrinceborn: Chosen Continues with #WritingTips on #Plot and #Character https://jeanleesworld.com/2020/10/22/my-booklaunch-countdown-for-fallenprinceborn-chosen-continues-with-writingtips-on-plot-and-character/ Another interesting article, revealing the writing process of a talented author…

Soaring https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.com/2020/10/21/soaring/ Cindy’s pics are often featured here, as they are fabulous. But this time around I caught up with them on Charles French’s blog…

Kids Books That Share True Stories of Native Peoples https://platformnumber4.com/2020/10/11/kids-books-that-share-true-stories-of-native-peoples/ This list looks both instructive and delightful. And important…

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

Sunday Post – 20th September, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s been a quiet week. I had a minor sniffle and sore throat. Nothing remotely COVID, but it still seems very anti-social to start spreading whatever-it-is around, so I stayed at home. My youngest grandson, after three days at school, has had to quarantine for a fortnight as a child in his yeargroup cluster was discovered to have COVID-19. I’ve been busy catching up with my blog, and harvesting my fennel seeds, while still slightly buzzy about last week’s holiday.

The photos are from last week’s visit to Batemans, home of Rudyard Kipling for the last years of his life. Although the house was closed, we had a lovely time wandering through the gardens and along the small river running along the end of the property. The weather was absolutely fantastic, though it has continued to be dry and warm throughout this week, too. Long may it continue, if it keeps Winter at bay.


Last week I read:

Attack Surface – Book 3 of the Little Brother series by Cory Doctorow
Most days, Masha Maximow was sure she’d chosen the winning side. In her day job as a counterterrorism wizard for an transnational cybersecurity firm, she made the hacks that allowed repressive regimes to spy on dissidents, and manipulate their every move. The perks were fantastic, and the pay was obscene.

Just for fun, and to piss off her masters, Masha sometimes used her mad skills to help those same troublemakers evade detection, if their cause was just. It was a dangerous game and a hell of a rush. But seriously self-destructive. And unsustainable.

When her targets were strangers in faraway police states, it was easy to compartmentalize, to ignore the collateral damage of murder, rape, and torture. But when it hits close to home, and the hacks and exploits she’s devised are directed at her friends and family–including boy wonder Marcus Yallow, her old crush and archrival, and his entourage of naïve idealists–Masha realizes she has to choose. And whatever choice she makes, someone is going to get hurt.
I was blissfully unaware that this is a spinoff from a series – but it really doesn’t matter. Although another of the main characters features in the previous stories, this is essentially a standalone, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Review to follow.


Dead Man in a Ditch – Book 2 of the Fetch Phillips Archives by Luke Arnold
The name’s Fetch Phillips — what do you need? Cover a Gnome with a crossbow while he does a dodgy deal? Sure.

Find out who killed Lance Niles, the big-shot businessman who just arrived in town? I’ll give it shot.

Help an old-lady Elf track down her husband’s murderer? That’s right up my alley.

What I don’t do, because it’s impossible, is search for a way to bring the goddamn magic back.

Rumors got out about what happened with the Professor, so now people keep asking me to fix the world. But there’s no magic in this story. Just dead friends, twisted miracles, and a secret machine made to deliver a single shot of murder.
I’d enjoyed the first book, but I had a few issues with this one. Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK Finder – Book 1 of the Finder Chronicles by Suzanne Palmer
Fergus Ferguson has been called a lot of names: thief, con artist, repo man. He prefers the term finder.

His latest job should be simple. Find the spacecraft Venetia’s Sword and steal it back from Arum Gilger, ex-nobleman turned power-hungry trade boss. He’ll slip in, decode the ship’s compromised AI security, and get out of town, Sword in hand.

Fergus locates both Gilger and the ship in the farthest corner of human-inhabited space, a gas-giant-harvesting colony called Cernee. But Fergus’ arrival at the colony is anything but simple. A cable car explosion launches Cernee into civil war, and Fergus must ally with Gilger’s enemies to navigate a field of space mines and a small army of hostile mercenaries. What was supposed to be a routine job evolves into negotiating a power struggle between factions. Even worse, Fergus has become increasingly–and inconveniently–invested in the lives of the locals.
Well, this is fun! Lots of mayhem, well narrated and plenty of surprises and plot twists until the climax – and the good news is that it is the beginning of a series. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Tips on Childcare

Review of The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Déjà vu review of Earth Girl – Book 1 of the Earth Girl series by Janet Edwards

Friday Faceoff featuring The Hound of the Baskervilles – Book 5 of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Arthur Conan Doyle

Cover Love featuring the covers of Janet Edwards

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Trials of Koli – Book 2 of The Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Reblog of interview with S.J. Higbee by Jean Lee

Tuesday Treasures – 13

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Earth Prime – Book 1 of The Earth Girl Aftermath stories by Janet Edwards

Sunday Post – 13th September 2020

To my shame, I haven’t visited many blogs or interacted on Twitter all that much this week – so I don’t have anything to share ☹.

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Trials of Koli – Book 2 of The Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this post-apocalyptic adventure set in England in a ruined landscape where scattered remnants of humanity try to eke out a precarious existence – see my review of The Book of Koli. Though the overall tone of this one isn’t as bleak as that scenario might suggest – and if you’ve read his best-seller The Girl with all the Gifts or The Boy on the Bridge, then be aware that this series isn’t as doom-laden as those stories. For me, that’s a plus.

BLURB: Beyond the walls of Koli’s small village lies a fearsome landscape filled with choker trees, vicious beasts and shunned men. As an exile, Koli’s been forced to journey out into this mysterious, hostile world. But he heard a story, once. A story about lost London, and the mysterious tech of the Old Times that may still be there. If Koli can find it, there may still be a way for him to redeem himself – by saving what’s left of humankind.

REVIEW: The previous book, The Book of Koli, was solely in our young protagonist’s head, and the major difference here is that we also learn of what befalls the small community that exiled Koli, as we are also in the first-person viewpoint of Spinner. She featured largely in Koli’s life before he went on the run, so it was interesting to see her take on what happened. I would just mention that there are series where you can crash midway into them without too much trouble – this isn’t one of them. Essentially this is an overarching narrative that has been chopped into book-sized segments and if you try picking up what is going on, while you’ll probably get the gist, there is far too much of importance that you’ll have missed.

Once again, we have the broken, ungrammatical language that helps define the worldbuilding, partly to give an indication of the length of time that has elapsed and partly to show rather than tell of the lack of education and erosion of knowledge. It’s an issue that is bound to divide readers – some tolerate, some loathe, and others absolutely love it. I’m in the latter category and find it really helps me get immersed in the world. Koli isn’t travelling alone. He’s accompanied by a grumpy older woman who is a travelling healer and has come to a grim conclusion about the viability of humankind – hence the journey to try and locate a more organised settlement with a large population.

I really enjoyed this second slice of the adventure. We see and learn more about Koli’s companions, as well as also discovering more about the capabilities of the technology they are using. I particularly enjoyed seeing how another community, living near the sea, manages to exist. And it was refreshing to also realise that not every settlement in this dystopian view of the future is innately hostile or aggressive.

This second book is well paced, with plenty going on, as well as increasing what is at stake and how important it is that Koli and his companions succeed. If I have a concern, it’s how Carey is going to combine the two strands of his story – that of Mythen Rood and Koli’s fortunes – in the final book, The Fall of Koli, which is due to come out in March next year. While I obtained an arc of The Trials of Koli from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

August 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffAugust2020Roundup

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Life is steadily settling into some kind of normal – though not the one we were used to before Lockdown. My shopping expeditions are still infrequent and stressful and though we have been out for a few meals and cups of tea, it still feels odd. The big bonus continues to be that we can see family – although we have to be mindful of those who are shielding as Himself is a key worker.

Reading
I read sixteen books in August with again, no DNF’s. It’s turning into an outstanding reading year for SFF generally, which is just as well as 2020 is going to be remembered for all the wrong reasons, otherwise. My Outstanding Book of the Month is A Memory Called Empire – Book 1 of the Teixicalaan series by Arkady Martine and my Outstanding Audiobook of the Month is Charlotte Sometimes – Book 3 of the Aviary Hall series by Penelope Farmer. My reads during August were:

The Mother Code by Carol Stiverssee my review

AUDIOBOOK Finding the Fox – Book 1 of The Shapeshifter series by Ali Sparkes. Review to follow

The Last Astronaut by David Wellington. Review to follow

Deadly Waters by Dot Hutchison – see my review

The Ghost Fields – Book 7 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths – mini-review to follow

Chasing the Shadows – Book 2 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy series by Maria V. Snyder. Review to follow

Grave Secrets – Book 1 of the Lavington Windsor Mysteries by Alice James – see my review

NOVELLA Silver in the Wood – Book 1 of The Greenhollow Duology by Emily Tesh. Mini-review to follow

A Memory Called Empire – Book 1 of the Teixcalaan series by Arkady Martine – OUTSTANDING BOOK OF THE MONTH Review to follow

Afterland by Lauren Beukes – see my review

Snowspelled – Book 1 of The Harwood Spellbook by Stephanie Burgis. Mini-review to follow

AUDIOBOOK Starless by Jacqueline Carey. Review to follow

Every Sky a Grave – Book 1 of The Ascendance series by Jay Posey – see my review

AUDIOBOOK Charlotte Sometimes – Book 3 of the Aviary Hall series by Penelope Farmer – OUTSTANDING AUDIOBOOK OF THE MONTH. Review to follow

Fearless by Allen Stroud – see my review

Ink & Sigil – Book 1 of the Ink & Sigil series by Kevin Hearne – see my review


Writing and Editing
Mantivore Warrior was released at the end of August, as planned and overall I was pleased with the way it went. I worked on Picky Eater 2, between editing and preparing Warrior, editing my Creative Writing textbook How To Write Authentic Characters, and making a start on the series of short, instructional videos I shall be releasing alongside the book. So it won’t come as a surprise to learn that I haven’t made all that much progress on the second Picky Eaters book. And as I need to get the videos filmed during September, when the light levels are still good, I don’t foresee that much progress is going to be made in the coming month, either.

Overall, I wrote just under 38,000 words in August, with just over 20,000 on the blog, and 12,500 on my writing projects, which is fairly dire. No point in beating myself up about it, though – unless I can produce a writing clone, there are always going to be months when my productivity goes down. This brings my yearly wordcount to date to just over 321,500 words.

Blogging
I have spent more time on my blog, and I’m pleased with the new Cover Love feature and the ongoing Tuesday Treasures. It’s worth it, because during this year, I’ve found the blog a source of great comfort. Take care and stay safe.x






*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheSpaceBetweenWorldsbookreview

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I can’t lie – it was the beautiful cover that caught my eye – and then that quirky blurb nailed it, as I was looking for more science fiction goodness with a bit of a difference. And I got that, alright…

BLURB: Reasons Cara has died:
– The emperor of the wasteland wanted to make an example of her mother and started with her
– One of her mother’s boyfriends wanted to cover up what he did to her
– She was born addicted and her lungs didn’t develop
– She was left alone, and a stranger came along
– The runners came for a neighbour and she was in the way
– The runners came for her mother and she was in the way
– The runners came for her boyfriend and she was in the way
– The runners came for no one, serving nothing but chaos and fear, and she was what they found
– Her mother left her alone in a shed while she worked or got high and she fell asleep alone and hungry and forever

Reasons Cara has lived:
– She doesn’t know but there are 8.
The multiverse business is booming, but there’s just one catch: no one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive.
Enter Cara. Of the 382 realities that have been unlocked, Cara is dead in all but eight
But on this earth, she survived. Born in the wastelands where if a basic lack of resources didn’t kill you, violence would, Cara is happy to reap the benefits of a job and a safe place in the city to call home. But when one of her eight remaining doppelgangers dies under mysterious circumstances, Cara is plunged into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and future in ways she never could have imagined – and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.

REVIEW: I loved Cara, who is a gutsy survivor with a grim past which defines her and makes her valuable, giving her a lifestyle she couldn’t have dreamt of. She travels to parallel worlds where there isn’t her equivalent, because that would kill her, so she regularly visits other Earths where there are characters she grew up with – in some of them she has a surviving family – as well as those where her murderer thrives. Having been the victim of violent, abusive behaviour and regularly gone hungry and thirsty, she is keen to stay employed by the Eldridge Corporation. However, she becomes increasingly unhappy in the direction that the company is going. It doesn’t help that the role of traversers – people like her, who travel to parallel worlds – is steadily being pared down to a handful of operatives and the rumour is that in a few months, their job will be automated.

The worldbuilding is well done. I liked the premise and while there isn’t shedloads of science, the explanations offered are all cohesive and make sense. Cara can only travel to 372 of the possible 380 worlds available – and there aren’t more available, as those that become too misaligned from Earth Zero, the original world where the found of the Eldridge company made his breakthrough, they disappear and are no longer reachable. The gulf between the haves and have-nots is far too wide between Ashtown and Wiley City. Climate refugees and the descendants of the people end up in Ashtown, scrabbling to survive. Inevitably they are black and horribly poor, so are kept out of Wiley City by ferocious security. While there is trading between the two communities, it is limited and access to clean water and decent food in Ashtown depends on who you know and how strong you are.

The dystopian world was plausible and well depicted, though not overly original – that was left to the plot, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The dynamic Johnson sets up, where Cara’s traversing uncovers some unexpected surprises that forces her to re-examine her priorities, works well. I thought Cara’s harsh past was very well handled – it could have so easily tipped into victimhood and it didn’t, though do be warned, this book does deal with violent relationship abuse, in amongst the general murder and mayhem. I also liked the hopeless longing that portrays Cara’s romantic yearnings throughout most of the book, too.

The denouement is effectively handled, with plenty of tension as the stakes continue to grow – until the climactic ending, where all the plotpoints are satisfactorily tied up. Overall, this is a really strong debut novel and Micaiah Johnson is certainly One To Watch. Recommended for fans of multiverse science fiction in a near-future era. While I obtained an arc of The Space Between Worlds from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson #BrainfluffNetgalleybookreview #SetMyHeartToFivebookreview

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I was rather taken by both the quirky cover and the even more quirky blurb at a time when reading about anything remotely similar to what is going on around us was unbearable. So I was really pleased to be approved to read this one.

BLURB: 10/10 Jared does not have friends.
Because friends are a function of feelings.
Therefore friends are just one more human obligation that Jared never has to worry about.
But Jared is worrying. Which is worrying. He’s also started watching old films. And inexplicably crying in them. And even his Feelings Wheel (given to him by Dr Glundenstein, who definitely is not a friend) cannot guide him through the emotional minefield he now finds himself in.

REVIEW: The blurb rambles on for a bit longer – but to be honest, I don’t think it is particularly helpful as it manages to omit the bit that is important. Jared is a bot, built and designed to be a dentist – a job the humans in our future society don’t particularly want to do. This is set in the near future, where bot labour does most of the dangerous, difficult tasks. But most bots are encased within fast-growing human bodies and able to communicate fluently and reasonably naturally. The big difference is that they don’t have any feelings – don’t experience boredom, loneliness or unhappiness, or love, friendship and delight. As they are programmed to put human lives above their own, they are ideal as construction workers, firefighters and… dentists. While humans concentrate on creative and artistic pursuits, rather than the soul-sapping jobs they used to do.
Except that Jared starts to feel emotions… The story is told in first-person viewpoint and I absolutely loved the quirky voice of the bot, which I found absolutely enchanting. Though I’m aware it is something of a risk, because if that highly individual voice annoys a prospective reader, it would be impossible to get through this one. As it happens, I fell in love with it.

Naturally, Jared finds the world around him becomes quite a different place, as he learns to navigate the odd sensations assailing him, using the Feelings Wheel that Dr Glundenstein, his sympathetic human friend and neighbour gives him. Dr Glundenstein advises him to go the movies and watch films – not the modern rubbish which is all about killer bots on the rampage – but older films which get shown in small, shabby little cinemas. One of the ongoing delights is trying to identify classic films from Jared’s quirky descriptions throughout this story. As I cared about Jared, I quickly became invested in his story.

It won’t be a huge surprise that this book is actually an exploration of what makes us human, as well as what happens when we start to regard other folks living among us as less than human. While this is an oft-trodden favourite science fiction trope, I thought this particular take on the whole subject interesting and immersive. And while I was grinning through a lot of the book – there were also moments of great tenderness and sadness, with moments of lovely poetic beauty. All in all, this is a real gem and one of my favourite reads of the year so far. Highly recommended for fans of well-told A.I. tales. The ebook arc copy of Set My Heart to Five was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10