Tag Archives: new release special

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes #Brainfluffbookreview #TheGiverofStarsbookreview

Standard

When I saw this one available on Netgalley, how could I resist? I’ve never not enjoyed her books, while One Plus One and Me Before You got solid tens from me, and I still find myself thinking about the issues raised in The Girl You Left Behind. Would this one live up to that dazzlingly high standard?

BLURB: Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically. The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky.

There were actually Horseback Librarians of Kentucky, which was a mid-Depression drive by the US Government to try and lift some of the most isolated and deprived families out of the grinding poverty they were experiencing by giving them free access to books. And a group of courageous women volunteered to deliver these by horseback all over the Appalachians. Moyes extensively researched this book by visiting the area and I think it shines through the writing, as her descriptions are a joy.

She weaves an engrossing story in amongst these facts, highlighting the social inequalities and injustices of the time – something she’s a dab hand at doing without appearing to preach in any way. I expected the layered characterisation of her main protagonists and the fact we get to see their vulnerabilities as well as their strengths and though I don’t know the area, I was convinced by the setting. The attitude to women and Afro-Americans certainly seemed horribly realistic. I’d also expected a page-turning story full of tension and high stakes – and Moyes delivered on that, as well.

So why a 9 and not a 10? Because I felt the main antagonist lacked a certain amount of depth. While I loved to hate him, I wanted Moyes to get under his skin just a little bit more so that he was as fully developed as the main protagonists. It would have given the story just that extra emotional heft I know she is capable of. That said, it is a quibble – this is a wonderful, engrossing read I stayed up far too late to finish and highly recommend to anyone fond of reading historical adventures set in the last century.

The ebook arc copy of The Giver of Stars was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

Advertisements

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Forgotten Palace: An adventure in Presadia by Luke Aylen #Brainfluffbookreview #TheForgottenPalacebookreview

Standard

I can’t lie – once again it was the cover with that amazing dragon’s eye peering through the castle window that sucked me into requesting this one. Much to my surprise, this year I seem to have read a number of children’s books – would I enjoy this one?

BLURB: Deep in the heart of Presadia’s Great Forest lie many secrets, including the ancient ruins of a once-magnificent palace. A chance encounter with a bedraggled stranger and the discovery of broken shards of a magical mirror lead Antimony, an unusually tall dwarf, on a journey of discovery.

The blurb continues for another couple of paragraphs, busily letting drop a number of plotpoints I think would be better for the reader if they encountered them in the book, rather than waiting for them to happen. I like fourteen-year-old Luke, who is unusually tall for a dwarf with a flair for problem-solving and design and impatiently waiting for his beard to start growing. It was a refreshing change to find he comes from a close-knit community and has a loving mother who provides staunch support throughout, rather than the classic child protagonist without any positive adult in his life.

I did struggle a bit at the start of the book, even though I’m very used to being tipped sideways into adventures owing to my habit of crashing midway into series. Unhelpfully, neither Amazon, Goodreads, or the cover give any indication of the previous book The Mirror and the Mountain where we follow the fortunes of two children who have fallen through a portal into this medieval-type society. My advice would be to get hold of the first book before embarking on this one, as while I did sort out what was going on before it spoilt the story for me, I’m an experienced reader. It wouldn’t be fair to expect a youngster to pick their way through the various references to previous events and characters that they never meet.

Once I gathered exactly what was going on, I was able to relax into the story. Aylen writes an old-school epic fantasy, where Good and Evil are personified by the characters within the story and adventures are there to test their mettle.

I did like the way all the different races came together to rebuild the palace, despite the evident tensions between them. I would have liked a bit more discussion on how the task would provide all those toiling to rebuild it with protection and shelter, rather than focusing on how much the King wanted it rebuilt so he could fix the land. While this is clearly epic fantasy, there were times when the emphasis on the grand ambitions of peace and renewal gave this book a slightly old-fashioned feel and I’m intrigued to find out how today’s modern youngsters react to it.

That said, I enjoyed the characters and the story and would recommend it for independent readers from ten/eleven years old and upward – the battle scenes might be a bit too gory for younger readers. The ebook arc copy of The Forgotten Palace: An adventure in Presadia was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan #Brainfluffbookreview #TurningDarknessintoLightbookreview

Standard

When I saw this spinoff novel in the world of the Memoirs of Lady Trent series, I immediately bought it, even though we’re officially broke. There are limits, after all… we can always exist on fresh air and sunshine for a couple of weeks – but to go without a book like this? Nope – can’t do it.

BLURB: As the renowned granddaughter of Isabella Camherst (Lady Trent, of the riveting and daring Draconic adventure memoirs) Audrey Camherst has always known she, too, would want to make her scholarly mark upon a chosen field of study. When Lord Gleinheigh recruits Audrey to decipher a series of ancient tablets holding the secrets of the ancient Draconean civilization, she has no idea that her research will plunge her into an intricate conspiracy, one meant to incite rebellion and invoke war. Alongside dearest childhood friend and fellow archeologist Kudshayn, must find proof of the conspiracy before it’s too late.

Despite claims that this would be a good entry point to the Lady Trent series, my firm advice would be – don’t touch it until you have read the complete series, apart from anything else, the book contains big spoilers to Within the Sanctuary of Wings and frankly, because of the nature of the narrative, I think you’d be floundering a great deal of the time if you tried plunging into this world via this book. As it has an epistolary structure, containing diary entries, letters, notes and translations of ancient Draconean tablets, I think you need to already have a good idea of the world and the political structure.

That said, I really loved this one. Brennan’s writing talent pings off the page as I quickly bonded with Audrey, brought up to disregard the rigid conventions of polite society, and passionate about the Draconean civilisation. She also happens to have been born into a family of high achievers – her grandmother, Lady Trent, blazed a trail with her insights into the life cycles of a variety of dragon species and her father is a world-famous translator of ancient languages. Audrey, notwithstanding her youth, is desperate to also make her mark – more particularly since she was robbed of a claim to fame by someone she’d trusted. This need drives her more than it should – and leads her into making some major mistakes. Cora, unloved and disregarded, is also someone I fell for in a big way, as well as dear, kindly Kudshayn, the draconian translator who helps Audrey with her huge task in translating these tablets.

The translations are beautifully done and the scholarly exploration of the ancient religion compared with the modern variant is perfectly achieved, with the mythological stories so well written, it was a struggle at times to remember they were a fantastic conceit nested within a novel. The initial pacing is leisurely, but once the enormity of what is going on began to emerge, I simply couldn’t put this one down. While the theme of prejudice and bigotry was all too evident, the theme that caught my attention, was the way that intellectual arrogance is also a snare that caught most of the main characters in some way.

I found this a fascinating read that crawled under my skin – I’m sure it will be one of those that stays with me and the only reason it isn’t getting a solid 10 from me, is that I did find myself skimming some of the myths, particularly at the beginning. Highly recommended for fans of the Lady Trent Memoirs series.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Garden Club Murder by Amy Patricia Meade – Book 2 of the Tish Tarragon series #Brainfluffbookreview #TheGardenClubMurderbookreview

Standard

I requested this one as I hadn’t read anything by this author and recently I’ve read a number of cosy murder mysteries and thoroughly enjoyed them as a palette cleanser after reading something darker and heftier.

Literary caterer Letitia ‘Tish’ Tarragon is preparing her English Secret Garden-themed luncheon for Coleton Creek’s annual garden club awards, but when she is taken on a tour of some of the top contenders with the garden club’s president, Jim Ainsley, Tish is surprised at how seriously the residents take the awards – and how desperate they are to win. Wealthy, retired businessman Sloane Shackleford has won the coveted best garden category five years in a row, but he and his Bichon Frise, Biscuit, are universally despised. When Sloane’s bludgeoned body is discovered in his pristine garden, Tish soon learns that he was disliked for reasons that go beyond his green fingers. Have the hotly contested awards brought out a competitive and murderous streak in one of the residents?

This one started promisingly enough – Meade took us straight into the story and effectively introduced us to the main character. The setting was convincingly portrayed, I liked the supporting cast, the murder was committed with plenty of drama and a satisfying number of suspects with strong motives were introduced.

However I found Tish increasingly annoying – the woman was a veritable saint in all but name. Everyone immediately liked and trusted her, so tended to confide in her no matter how nosey and intrusive her questions became… the sheriff was suitably awestruck at her ability to winkle out telling details to the extent that he took her into his confidence… her gorgeous and implausibly nice lawyer boyfriend would have crawled to the Moon and back on his knees to please her… despite gadding off to sniff out said telling details, she still managed to whip up a delicious meal with her long-suffering staff without breaking a sweat. By the end, I was fed up to the back teeth with her.

Another detail that also jarred – Meade has evidently been told not to use the word said in speech tags, so we had all sorts of odd expressions. He deemed was the worst example, but there were plenty of other clunky phrases that marred the dialogue scenes. However, I probably could have overlooked these details if it wasn’t for the really odd way this story was wrapped up. I was very uncomfortable with the way the victim had taunted the perpetrator, so Meade ensured that no one could possibly feel any sympathy for him, and at the same time, neither was I entirely sure that the justice system would have played out in that way. And cosy mysteries aren’t supposed to leave those kinds of issues dangling in the wind. Though, given I am not a US citizen, there might be something going on here that I’m missing, therefore I haven’t taken off another point, which I otherwise would have done.

The ebook arc copy of The Garden Club Murder was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Killer in the Choir – Book 19 of The Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett #Brainfluffbookreview #TheKillerintheChoirbookreview

Standard

I was delighted to see this offering on Netgalley, having only recently had the pleasure of reading the previous book, The Liar in the Library – see my review here. So I was still in the groove with the Fethering regulars, as well as easily able to recall the foibles of the main protagonists, Jude and Carol.

Although she hadn’t known Leonard Mallett very well, nor liked him particularly, Carole Seddon feels duty bound to attend her fellow committee member’s funeral. As she suspected, the hymns, readings and sermon are all very predictable — not unlike Leonard himself. What she couldn’t have predicted was that the deceased’s daughter would use the occasion to publicly accuse her stepmother of murder. Did Heather Mallett really kill her husband, as many Fethering residents believe? Deciding to get to the heart of the matter, Carole’s neighbour Jude joins the new community choir – and discovers that amidst the clashing egos and petty resentments lurk some decidedly false notes. At least one chorister would appear to be hiding a deadly secret — and it’s up to Carole and Jude to unearth the truth.

What I particularly enjoy about this series, is that while the murder investigation is the engine that powers the plot, Brett also gives us a real slice of life within the Fethering community. We get an insight into what matters to this community – both good and bad – and Brett isn’t afraid to take a pop at the frailties of the characters he depicts. There is an edge to his observations and I enjoy seeing how he plays with our assumptions – and then throws in a twist, such as the fact that buttoned-up Carol previously had a fling with the village landlord. In fact, I don’t particularly like Carol, whose self-righteous, rather jealous behaviour frankly gets on my nerves – however those traits help to make her effective at worrying at a mystery until she has solved it to her satisfaction. It certainly doesn’t impact on my enjoyment, as her rather jaundiced, sour observations are also insightful and rather funny – and while I don’t like her, I do like the more easy-going, relaxed Jude.

I found this investigation even more enjoyable than the previous one – there were several real surprises that had me reading far into the night to find out what was going to happen next. I’d figured out what happened and why – until the denouement, when I realised that I’d got it completely wrong. Nonetheless, despite my complete misreading of the situation, the perpetrator and the reasons for the wicked deed made absolute sense – and the clues were there. In short, Brett writes a cracking whodunit with a very well-plotted mystery which is a joy to read.

I haven’t read all nineteen of these entertaining books – but given just how much I have enjoyed these last two, I am definitely going to be visiting Fethering again. This series is far too much fun to miss out on. While I obtained an arc of The Killer in the Choir from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Know Your Rites – Book 2 of the Inspector Paris Mystery series by Andy Redsmith #Brainfluffbookreview #KnowYourRitesbookreview

Standard

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Breaking the Lore, so immediately requested the arc when I saw this sequel come up on Netgalley – and was delighted to be approved.

Inspector Nick Paris, now also known as ‘the one who stopped the demons’, has become an unlikely celebrity in the magical world. He is desperate to return to tackling more ordinary crimes on his home turf of Manchester. However, the fates aren’t in his favour when he is called upon again by his more unusual police colleagues to solve a gruesome killing. The only suspect is a dwarf trying to make it in the rap business. But are there more mysterious matters afoot? Paris is thrust back into the world of magic and murder – but who will face the music?

I remembered the first book clearly so it was a pleasure to be reunited with Nick Paris, his magical girlfriend Cassandra, Bonetti his rather thick sergeant, and the team who helped him in the last desperate adventure. Once again, I found the contrast between Nick’s worldweary, rather cynical outlook and the world of elves, dwarves and talking crows an enjoyable one. The storyline carries on from the adventures in the previous book, so my firm advice would be to read Breaking the Lore first, otherwise you will be missing too much of the backstory to make sense of what is going on.

Humour is highly subjective. What has one person roaring with laughter will leave someone else blank-faced and yawning, so do be aware of that with regard to my following comments. While I initially enjoyed the humorous aspect of the story, I quickly decided that Redsmith is trying too hard to make me laugh, rather than immerse me in an engrossing portal fantasy whodunit. There are too many times when scenes are included or extended for the sole purpose of yet another pun or wordplay, rather than for the sake of deepening the characterisation or advancing the storyline. Consequently I felt that the jokes got in the way of the story, rather than embellishing it.

That said, I still had no trouble turning the pages and finishing this murder mystery and will be very happy to read another slice in Nick Paris’s adventures. Recommended for those who enjoy paranormal murder mysteries – but please be aware that this series is nothing like Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant mysteries. The ebook arc copy of Know Your Rites was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of HARDBACK Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence by James Lovelock #Brainfluffbookreview #Novacenebookreview

Standard

My lovely mother sent this one to me as a gift after hearing Lovelock’s fascinating interview on Radio Four…

James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia hypothesis and the greatest environmental thinker of our time, has produced an astounding new theory about future of life on Earth. He argues that the anthropocene – the age in which humans acquired planetary-scale technologies – is, after 300 years, coming to an end. A new age – the novacene – has already begun.

And that’s as much of the atrocious blurb that I’m willing to share. This isn’t a long book, but it posits some fascinating views – which are aptly summed up in the most blurting blurb I’ve read in a long time. Unfortunately, I had the bad luck to read it before I was aware I would be gifted the book.

However, I did my best to put the back cover matter out of my head, because as I read the book, I was aware that Lovelock is a one-off. His ideas are genuinely original and while I’m not convinced about all of them – I don’t agree with his stance regarding the existence of aliens, for instance – I did feel that his summary about the crisis surrounding climate change and our treatment of Earth is worth the book alone. To the extent that I am now converted to supporting the nuclear industry as a stopgap before discovering less toxic ways of generating energy, instead of continuing to use fossil fuels in any form.

I found his ideas about the future direction of our species and how hyperintelligence will continue to develop to be fascinating. I hope that governments around the world will listen to his warnings about keeping machine intelligence away from military applications, though I somehow doubt it – these days many major powers seem to led by braindead donkeys…

If I’ve given you the impression that this book is a doom-laden litany of impending disasters, then I need to correct that mistake. At 100 years old, Lovelock is not only still mentally pin-sharp, he is also largely optimistic about humanity’s future, believing that both machine and organic intelligence will need to unite to head off the threat of global warming endangering all life on the planet. Overall, I found this a readable, cogent analysis on the major issues confronting us as a species and Lovelock’s take on how that will probably pan out worth considering. After all, this is the man who explained that our environment worked as a highly complex, interrelated whole, at a time when other experts mocked the idea. We ignore him again at our peril.

Highly recommended.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Old Bones – A DCI Bill Slider Case by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles #Brainfluffbookreview #OldBonesbookreview

Standard

In case you are experiencing a slight case of deja vu, yes… this is a book I’ve previously reviewed back in 2017, which I didn’t realise when I requested the arc. There didn’t seem any point in writing a different review, given that when I reread it, nothing new jumped out at me…

‘You can’t upset anyone looking into old bones.’

DCI Bill Slider’s out of favour in the force – for accusing a senior Met officer of covering up an underage sex ring. As a punishment, he’s given a cold case to keep him busy: some old bones to rake through, found buried in a back garden, from a murder that happened two decades ago, and with most of the principal players already dead. Surely Bill Slider can’t unearth anything new or shocking with these tired old bones?

Slider’s desert-dry viewpoint is a joy. He is an old fashioned copper who is heartily sick of all the new management-speak, but nonetheless straight as a dye without being remotely starchy. His irreverent humour bubbles continually away in the background, annoying his superiors and exasperating his subordinates. For a nice change, he isn’t some grizzled loner but has a happy marriage to a professional musician.

I liked the fact that the loss of a little girl isn’t just treated as some dry academic puzzle – there is a real sense of poignancy of a life unfulfilled as Slider and his team try to grapple with who had murdered her and buried her in the back garden. I also enjoyed the fact that we don’t have a CSI-type approach where they have shedloads of forensic evidence to answer all the questions. In fact, there is precious little to go on, except the faulty memories of those involved all those years ago.

As with all the best police procedural mysteries, there are a number of candidates and possibilities, though I did guess one of the major twists well before it was revealed. Not that it mattered all that much – I was too invested in the main characters to mind and besides, there were still some interesting developments. There is a lovely subplot that develops regarding one of Slider’s team and a youngster caught up in the system.

I appreciated the absence of any grisly details, undue violence or gore – but I certainly wouldn’t peg this in the cosy mystery genre. All in all, a thoroughly entertaining read that comes highly recommended.

While I obtained the arc of Old Bones from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of NETGALLEY arc The Warehouse by Rob Hart #Brainfluffbookreview #TheWarehousebookreview

Standard

I found this a really, really uncomfortable read – and have been thinking about it a lot since I finished this one. Those of us who have increasingly got into the habit of shopping online in the comfort of our own homes need to think long and hard about the ongoing consequences on not just our local High Street – but the power we are ceding to powerful multi-national companies. This cautionary tale brought that home to me…

Paxton never thought he’d be working for Cloud, the giant tech company that’s eaten much of the American economy. Much less that he’d be moving into one of the company’s sprawling live-work facilities. But compared to what’s left outside, Cloud’s bland chainstore life of gleaming entertainment halls, open-plan offices, and vast warehouses…well, it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s more than anyone else is offering. Zinnia never thought she’d be infiltrating Cloud. But now she’s undercover, inside the walls, risking it all to ferret out the company’s darkest secrets. And Paxton, with his ordinary little hopes and fears? He just might make the perfect pawn. If she can bear to sacrifice him.

In this dystopian world, there has been a widespread collapse of the economy, taking all Government services and a lot of jobs with it. Cloud is still thriving, however – so its employees are hugely grateful for the accommodation, medical services and meals that go with the job. Surely working hard in return makes it a reasonable bargain…

Hart uses three protagonists to demonstrate just how the system works – Paxton, whose own small firm was squeezed out of existence by Cloud, who also took over his own nifty invention for a pittance; Zinnia, who has been employed as an undercover agent; and Gibson, founder and figurehead of Cloud, who has his own reasons for reflecting upon his life’s work.

As I continued to read, I felt a chilly recognition. I happen to be a historian by training and one of my study areas had been the early Industrial Revolution when runaway capitalism stripped workers of any rights and turned them into foundry-fodder. It took years of grinding poverty and degradation before workers in this country were able to band together and win back the dignity of a fair day’s wage in return for a fair day’s work.

Without any kind of political spin or widening the scope of this story, Hart skilfully depicts what happens when there aren’t any checks and balances on any large conglomerate where the profit margin is the sole goal. I couldn’t put this one down as the plausible chain of events led to a state of affairs that seems unstoppably to be just over the horizon. And neither can I forget it. I find myself less enthusiastic about online shopping, these days. The ebook arc copy of The Warehouse was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 6th August, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

Standard

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman
52% I shrugged. “All I’ve been hearing is ‘Reed’s going to die according to their plan so that…’” And I stopped. They had chosen me because I wasn’t significant enough, and yet I wasn’t just a random choice. I was someone who put himself in the line of fire, like Sherry said, but only for friends. Or for a worthy cause. And someone on the Sons of Simeon’s side knew this and intended to take advantage of it.

BLURB: Throughout human history there have always been sorcerers, once idolised and now exploited for their powers. In Israel, the Sons of Simeon, a group of religious extremists, persecute sorcerers while the government turns a blind eye. After a march for equal rights ends in brutal murder, empath, moodifier and reluctant waiter Reed becomes the next target. While his sorcerous and normie friends seek out his future killers, Reed complicates everything by falling hopelessly in love. As the battle for survival grows ever more personal, can Reed protect himself and his friends as the Sons of Simeon close in around them?

I am absolutely loving this one! I THINK someone recommended it – and me, having the memory of a goldfish cannot recall who. But if you did – let me know and I’ll happily let you take the credit.

Because unless it all slides away in the second half – this is set to be one of my favourite reads of the year so far. Clever, layered characterisation, a grimly convincing world and growing tension as Reed becomes aware that the risk to his ending up a shredded ruin after being blown up by terrorists is getting ever greater… All the more poignant as he also is falling in love with Lee, his ex’s ex.