Tag Archives: oustanding book

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






Review of AUDIOBOOK Deep Roots – Book 2 of The Innsmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys #BrainfluffAUDIOBOOKreview #OutstandingAUDIOBOOKofthemonth #DeepRootsbookreview

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I absolutely loved Winter Tide, which is a gem of a book – see my review – and so impressed me that it made my 2017 Outstanding Reads List. Would Deep Roots be as compellingly good?

BLURB: Aphra Marsh, descendant of the People of the Water, has survived Deep One internment camps and made a grudging peace with the government that destroyed her home and exterminated her people on land. “Deep Roots” continues Aphra’s journey to rebuild her life and family on land, as she tracks down long-lost relatives. She must repopulate Innsmouth or risk seeing it torn down by greedy developers, but as she searches she discovers that people have been going missing. She will have to unravel the mystery, or risk seeing her way of life slip away.

REVIEW: This series is marvellous and deserves to be far better known. Aphra is desperately searching for more relatives, as far too many houses stand empty in Innsmouth after most of the town was wiped out by the Government years earlier. Such unused real estate is starting to draw unwelcome attention. If Aphra cannot find more of her own kind, they not only risk dying out, but she will no longer be able to meet up on the beaches of her childhood with her Grandfather and the other Deep Ones, who have now transformed and live below the waves. So she is in New York with her brother and a small band of friends, following up on reports of a cousin who has the same bulbous eyes and odd skull configuration as Aphra and her brother.

Gabra Zackman’s excellent narration helped weave the pervading sense of tension throughout this gripping fantasy, imbued with Lovecraftian monsters. I love Aphra’s character and was delighted that this book continues in her viewpoint. She is still coming to terms with the loss of her parents and community, but trying to move on and recreate a safe place for others like herself and her brother. This book is set in 1940s America, just as the Cold War with Russia is starting to gather pace – indeed there is a point in the book where there is an announcement that the USSR has detonated a nuclear device – and there is also increasing paranoia about anyone who looks are sounds different. Emrys has nailed the sense of time, just as she has also beautifully woven Lovecraft’s pantheon through this engrossing, well written fantasy.

I love books that creak with tension – but then the author has to deliver sufficient plot and action to merit the buildup, which Emrys does in spades. I loved the pacing, which works really well. At no stage was anything unduly hurried, yet the story clips along with plenty happening along the way and the reader fully aware of the consequences should it all go wrong. The supporting characters work well – there were several that I’d encountered in the first book and I was pleased to see that one in particular, who was badly injured, is still battling with the fallout from her encounter in this book, too. All in all, this is another accomplished, utterly engrossing read that left me longing for more in this world. Highly recommended for fans of intelligent, well crafted fantasy with Lovecraftian overtones – though whatever you do, start with Winter Tide.
10/10

Review of AUDIOBOOK Mythos written and narrated by Stephen Fry #Brainfluffbookreview #Mythosbookreview

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When I saw this book featured by Audible, it was a no-brainer. I’m still spinning out the major work (76 listening hours) of Stephen Fry’s narration of the Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes – the man could make the telephone directory compulsive listening. As an early fan of Greek mythology, I was sure this would make marvellous listening – and I wasn’t wrong…

The Greek myths are the greatest stories ever told, passed down through millennia and inspiring writers and artists as varied as Shakespeare, Michelangelo, James Joyce and Walt Disney. They are embedded deeply in the traditions, tales and cultural DNA of the West. In Stephen Fry’s hands the stories of the titans and gods become a brilliantly entertaining account of ribaldry and revelry, warfare and worship, debauchery, love affairs and life lessons, slayings and suicides, triumphs and tragedies.

Yep. All of the above. In a chatty, unthreatening manner, Fry charts the doings of those Greek gods, from the violent beginnings in the creation stories, to the establishment of the pantheon and on into the creation of mortals. Throughout, in addition to telling the stories, Fry ensures we also understand how the names of various gods, goddesses, demi-gods, muses and nymphs has impacted upon our language, by pointing out the words that have sprung up around the various names, as well as giving the Roman versions. I also liked how he not only mentions classical power couples – but also cites Kim and Kanye West…

Just a warning for those of you with small people in your household – these stories contain a lot of violence and death. So I’d advise you to listen through this alone to decide whether it would make suitable family listening on a long car journey, for instance. I certainly wouldn’t be happy for my nine-year-old grandson to hear many of the stories as they would raise far too many awkward questions around sexual violence that I wouldn’t want to answer at this stage in his development. Those conversations and decisions need to be directed by his parents, not me.

I was also struck at how few of the stories ended happily. Most seem to be warning mortals not to be too boastful – or too good at anything. And whatever you do, receive wandering, scruffy strangers into your home and treat them well – oh, and ideally, don’t be too beautiful – that rarely ended well if you happened to take the fancy of a god, or goddess, especially Zeus. What I especially enjoyed was how Fry is at pains to depict the ongoing consequences of a particular event – even if you, the listener, may have lost track of exactly who this new character is, if he or she is related to a former protagonist, he points it out, joining up the dots.

All in all, this is an outstanding book – and I am warmly convinced that actually hearing it is by far the best way to experience all those complicated Greek names and torrid stories. This is probably one that I shall want to hear again – something I very rarely ever do – because there is just so much richness and depth of perspective that I am sure that while decorating the bathroom, I lost track of some of those nuances. Highly recommended for anyone with any kind of curiosity about some of the linguistic, moral and cultural beginnings of Western civilisation.
10/10

Review of Ebook NOVELLA Anachronism by Jennifer Lee Rossman #Brainfluffbookreview #Anachronismbookreview

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I obtained an advanced reader copy of this novella from the author on the understanding I would provide an honest review. This is another of those quirky offerings from the award-winning Grimbold stable – they certainly have an eye for intriguing reads…

It’s the same old story: Time traveler meets girl, time traveler tells girl she’s the future president, time traveler and girl go on a road trip to prevent a war…

Petra Vincent is at the end of her rope – or rather, the edge of a bridge. Her world is falling apart around her and she sees no way out of the meaningless existence the future has in store. But when stranded time traveler Moses Morgan tells her that she will one day lead the country out of the rubble of a nuclear civil war as President of the United States, she’s intrigued – and when another time traveler starts trying to preemptively assassinate her, she realizes Moses might be telling the truth…

So this is an action-packed story where the main protagonist, Petra, finds her life turned upside down by an encounter with Moses, just at a point in her life where everything is going wrong. I found Petra sympathetic as her problems were immediately believable and contemporary and I also liked the fact that it took her some time and a frightening encounter before she began to accept that he might be back from the future with a very important message.

Unfortunately, his appearance draws down other attention, which is far less welcome. Davenport was a convincing villain and I was really rooting for Petra to survive so that she could become the great leader Moses knows from his history books. As she goes on a desperate road trip to meet her estranged father, this turns into a classic chase. What I hadn’t expected, was the ultimate twist at the end – I certainly didn’t see it coming and it was a doozy. I went back and reread the start just to ensure that Rossman hadn’t cheated in any way – she hadn’t. It’s really clever and memorable and turns the book into something else altogether.

This is an entertaining, well-written take on the time travelling trope and if you enjoy those types of stories and want a fast-paced read, then I highly recommend this one.
10/10

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – June Roundup

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After reading Jo Hall’s post on the problems women authors have with getting discovered, I’ve been taking part in the challenge to read and review at least 24 books by female authors each year that were previously unknown to me for the last two years. During June, I read three books towards my 2017 Discovery Challenge, which brings my annual number of books written by women writers I hadn’t read before to nineteen. They are:

River of Teeth – Book 1 of the River of Teeth novella series by Sarah Gailey
In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true. Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two. This was a terrible plan. Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.
This is a real roller-coaster ride with plenty of mayhem and violence along the way. That said, there is also a large dollop of humour amid the tension – think of The Magnificent Seven set in a swamp with hippos. See my review here.

Sherlock Mars by Jackie Kingon
Molly Marbles runs a successful bistro on terraformed Mars. But a virtual restaurant opens near her place, offering the experience of delicacies from across the Solar System with none of the calories. What will this do to her business? Then its owner is murdered in her kitchen. Molly, an amateur detective, springs into action to help the police solve the mystery, while also planning her pop-star daughter’s wedding, keeping her kitchen staff from feuding, and protecting her cyborg friend from the humans-only mob. Meanwhile, the infamous Cereal Serial Killer has escaped prison on Pluto and has everyone worried. Things are getting hectic, but Molly is a resilient and resourceful woman. And her knack for mysteries sees her nick-named ‘Sherlock Mars’.
This is basically a cosy mystery set in space. It has the classic ingredients – a victim that no one seems to care all that much about; a quirky, successful restaurant owner who inexplicably has sufficient time to shoot off here, there and everywhere to run down a number of clues; a friendly law enforcement officer who is happy to let Molly have crucial details of the ongoing case; lots of foodie details along the way. See my review here.

The Invisible Library – Book 1 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Gogman
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book. Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.
I really enjoyed Irene’s character – brought up knowing that she would eventually always work for the Library as her parents were both Librarians, she is slightly apart from many of her colleagues. She is also cool-headed and used to keeping her own counsel – quite different from many of the rather emotional protagonists we are used to seeing in fantasy adventure. Review to follow.

I also managed to clear two books from my TBR pile. They are:

The Dog Walker – Book 5 of The Detective’s Daughter series by Lesley Thomson
January, 1987. In the depths of winter, only joggers and dog walkers brave the Thames towpath after dark. Helen Honeysett, a young newlywed, sets off for an evening run from her riverside cottage and disappears. Twenty-nine years later, Helen’s body has never been found. Her husband has asked Stella Darnell, a private detective, and her side-kick Jack Harmon, to find out what happened all those years ago. But when the five households on that desolate stretch of towpath refuse to give up their secrets, Stella and Jack find themselves hunting a killer whose trail has long gone cold.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Thomson’s atmospheric writing this time around has taken us to another obscure corner of London – she seems to specialise in those – where a crime was committed that shatters one family and blights the lives of others, including the husband of the victim. See my review here.

The Invisible Library – Book 1 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman
See above

This means I’ve managed to clear thirty-two books from my teetering TBR pile so far this year – a lot better than last year so far. Have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Winter Tide – Book 1 of The Innsmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys

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After attacking Devil’s Reef in 1928, the U.S. Government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future. The government that stole Aphra’s life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant, and hasten the end of the human race. Aphra must return to the ruins of her home, gather scraps of her stolen history, and assemble a new family to face the darkness of human nature.

For those of you who don’t recognise the references, Winter Tide is set in the world of H.P. Lovecraft, the famous horror and dark fantasy short story writer and novelist. Though he died unknown and poverty-stricken, Lovecraft is popularly regarded as the father of dark fantasy due to his vivid and disturbing world where creatures from another dimension inimical to humans are on the verge of breaking through to our world. Emrys manages to give us an insight in the life of one of the two survivors of the Government attack on Innsmouth in 1928, which is reported and written about in Lovecraft’s writing.

I fell in love with this spare, gripping tale within a couple of pages – the character and premise immediately pulled me into the story where a paranoid and jittery US Government are seeing threats from anyone who looks different, back in 1949. Of course, part of the power of this story is that that febrile fearstoked political atmosphere so well depicted in this thriller also uncomfortably reflects the same mindset pervading mainstream thinking now in the 21st century.

Aphra is a marvellous character and the first person viewpoint (I) gives the reader a ringside seat into her sense of isolation, her anger at the loss of all her family with the exception of her brother and her constant, prickling feeling of danger whenever in a new situation, given her odd appearance. This could have so easily descended into a bleak trudge – but her spiky determination not to be overwhelmed by her grim circumstances gives us a clue as to why she survived while so many others died.

The story, without any apparent headlong rush, nonetheless steadily unspools, gathering momentum as this odd, compulsive world continues to beguile. The parent race, the Yith, are also represented and there are some welcome shafts of humour in amongst the turmoil and danger. I read way longer than I should have done to find out what happens next and climactic scene on the beach when Aphra meets her grandfather fully displays Emrys’s impressive talent. When I finally finished, I was dazed and excited in equal measure. And I cannot stop thinking about this one… In short, another outstanding read that has me humming with pleasure and excitement. Ruthanna Emrys. Remember the name – she is a talent to be reckoned with and this is a series that shouldn’t be missed by science fiction and fantasy fans.

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

Friday Faceoff – Nomad is an Island…

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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 week we have to find a book featuring a wanderer I have chosen the amazing The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, as I reckon that poor old Harry, wandering through Time has to be the ultimate wanderer.

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This is the definitive cover of the book and was the original, published in April 2014 by Orbit. I really like this one – it’s unusual and eye-catching and gives a sense of the temporal confusion that circles this memorable book.

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This is the hardback version published by Redhook, also in April 2014 is nice enough. The effect of the stippling around the title is attractive, but personally I don’t think it compares with the striking image of the previous cover.

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This is the paperback version, published by Redhook in October 2014 – and what a difference a splash of colour makes… This offering looks far less distinctive than the first cover.

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This rather disturbing Italian cover was released in May 2015 by NN Editore. It certainly captures something of the book, but I find it difficult to look at for long. However, that might be because my poor overtaxed eyes blur too often…

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This German offering, also released in 2015 by Bastei Lübbe is far more effective. I really like this one – it exactly reflects the premise of the book in an eye-catching and appealing form. I think it’s beautiful – the clock face detail with the different silhouettes sing off the cover. This runs the original cover a VERY close second as favourite…

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I also like this Estonion cover, produced in 2015 by Varrak. The spiralling clockface grabs attention and gives a sense of the book’s temporal theme, though I’m not as attracted to it as a couple of the others. What about you – which is your favourite?