Tag Archives: romance

Sunday Post – 19th January, 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.

This week was one I’ve been looking forward to with really mixed feelings. On Monday, Himself drove up to Cambridge to collect up Robbie’s possessions and bring them back here, as he was moving out, so that when he travelled down on the train on Wednesday evening, he only had a light bag to carry. Thursday was spent sorting out Robbie’s clothes – what he was going to take with him, and what he was going to leave behind for the clothing bank or his nephews. But Friday morning pitched up far too fast, when came the time to load everything in the car, drive him up to Gatwick airport and see him off on his journey to L.A. I am so thrilled for him that he has found a lovely girl and his career is falling into place. But so sad that from now on, I can’t just hop on a train and get a fix of that huge personality of his…

Thank goodness I didn’t have time to brood – because that evening, I was off to Chichester Festival Theatre with my daughter and grandson to see Six, the hit musical about Henry VIII’s six wives. I can see what the fuss is about – it was absolutely brilliant. We were on our feet whooping and clapping till our hands stung at the end and as the show is about to embark on an international tour, I recommend you go and see it if you get the chance. Afterwards, we went for a meal together and agreed we must do this more often.

On Saturday, I was running a Poetry Day here at the house for a few folks, so we were both up early, flying around and getting the kitchen presentable – it frankly looked as though a bomb had hit it. And organising the casserole and apple pudding I was serving for lunch. It was a lovely day – wonderful to catch up with the five folks who attended, hear their work and immerse myself back into another world. Rob has arrived safely in L.A. and today we need to start dealing with the pile of stuff in the spare room, as I have Mhairi arriving tomorrow… Thank goodness for busyness. And the amazing rock in my life – Himself.

Last week I read:

Termination Shock – Book 1 of the Interstellar Enforcement Agency by Gillian Andrews
Ryler Mallivan’s comfortable life as an upstanding young freighter captain has just imploded. Avaraks are storming the training ship he is on and the bullets being fired are not blanks. Interstellar war has broken out and unless he moves fast they will all be as stone dead as the instructor lying at his feet. But this is one conflict they can never escape. The cause of the trouble is far closer than they know and will bring Mallivan and his ragbag fledgling crew under ferocious attack from all sides
I spotted this one on Netgalley, and wanted a bit of space opera goodness, so requested it. Great fun – full of action and an engaging protagonists – but also including a really annoying alien child… Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK Over Sea, Under Stone – Book 1 of The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper

On holiday in Cornwall, the three Drew children discover an ancient map in the attic of the house that they are staying in. They know immediately that it is special…
This classic fantasy adventure is one I never got around to reading as a child, but as it was on Frankie’s audiobook list, I gave it a go. While in places it showed its age, I nonetheless thoroughly enjoyed it, aided by the excellent narration.

 

The Last Smile in Sunder City – Book 1 of the Fetch Phillips Archives by Luke Arnold
I’m Fetch Phillips, just like it says on the window. There are a few things you should know before you hire me:
1. Sobriety costs extra.
2. My services are confidential – the cops can never make me talk.
3. I don’t work for humans.
It’s nothing personal – I’m human myself. But after what happened, Humans don’t need my help. Not like every other creature who had the magic ripped out of them when the Coda came…
I just want one real case. One chance to do something good.
Because it’s my fault the magic is never coming back.
I was attracted by the premise and quirky cover. I haven’t seen Black Sails, so the author’s other life as an actor wasn’t a factor in my picking this one up. The world didn’t disappoint – wonderfully described dystopian landscape where magic has abruptly disappeared. Review to follow.

A Longer Fall – Book 2 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris
Lizbeth Rose is hired onto a new crew for a seemingly easy protection job, transporting a crate into Dixie, just about the last part of the former United States of America she wants to visit. But what seemed like a straight-forward job turns into a massacre as the crate is stolen.
I really enjoyed my second visit to this dystopian world, following the twists and turns of the plot as Rose tries to find out why so many people had to die.

 

My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring Heavy Time – Book 4 of The Company Wars by C.J. Cherryh

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of A Longer Fall – Book 2 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Apollo Deception by Mitch Silver

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Rules of Magic – prequel to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Sunday Post 12th January 2020

 

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

10 of the Best and Most Famous Opening Lines in English Poetry https://interestingliterature.com/2020/01/famous-opening-lines-poetry/ There are some lovely examples here – but do you think a great opening line has been unfairly left out?

Thursday Doors – Boats https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2020/01/16/thursday-doors-boats/ Jean rings the changes – we get to see a number of boats, instead of doors. And you’ll NEVER guess what is growing on the cabin roof of one little motor cruiser…

Tidings from the Crew – galaxy quest (1999) movie review – old sci fi movies reviews continue! https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordpress.com/2020/01/15/tidings-from-the-crew-galaxy-quest-1999-movie-review-old-sci-fi-movie-reviews-continue/ This is a lovely, affectionate review of one of my all-time favourite films…

The brilliance of RUNNING UP THAT HILL by Meg Myers https://redpenofdoom.com/the-brilliance-of-running-up-that-hill-by-meg-myers/ I loved this tribute to both Kate Bush (whose work I ADORE) and this fabulous cover version – including the remarkable video to accompany it…

A Little Bit Like Grandpa https://writersite.org/2020/01/13/like-grandpa/ I really enjoyed this slice of family history, along with Luanne’s musings on her writing…

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook A Longer Fall – Book 2 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris #Brainfluffbookreview #ALongerFallbookreview

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I loved An Easy Death, as Charlaine Harris has been a solid favourite of mine for years – see reviews of Grave Sight, Dead Reackoning, Shakespeare’s Landlord, Midnight Crossroad, Day Shift and Night Shift, so I was extremely excited to hear that A Longer Fall was due and Himself insisted that we pre-order it. I do love that man!

BLURB: Lizbeth Rose is hired onto a new crew for a seemingly easy protection job, transporting a crate into Dixie, just about the last part of the former United States of America she wants to visit. But what seemed like a straight-forward job turns into a massacre as the crate is stolen…

The blurb goes on for a bit longer, but you get the gist. I love Rose and the way we are right inside the character from the first page – Harris has a knack of drawing me right into the middle of her worlds in no time flat and this time around was no exception. This dystopian, alternate history where the Russian monarchy managed to flee before they were all massacred and are now living in a corner of a very different America, works really well. The magical element is also deftly introduced and I enjoy the tension and dislike that surrounds these magic-users, which makes complete sense.

I was hooked and read late into the night and early morning to discover what happened next. Rose teams up with a former colleague while plot twists come thick and fast as they fend off a variety of threats. In the meantime, there is also an interesting romantic thread running alongside the adventure which somewhat complicates things for Rose. One of the delights of this one, is that I simply didn’t know what was going to happen next.

However, I wasn’t completely won over by the MacGuffin that very abruptly stopped all the mayhem and violence. I recently had a rant about female protagonists in fantasy books who suddenly are riding into battle alongside the men, without there having been any real attempt to explain what dynamic has changed to make this possible. I felt in a similar fashion here, that a whole bunch of deep-seated, difficult issues in the small town of Sally were given a flimsy makeover in order to bring the story to a rather unsatisfying conclusion that didn’t convince me. It didn’t mean the book went flying across the room, and I still very much enjoyed Rose’s personal journey, which was brilliantly explored throughout the book – but I have knocked a point off for the way the main plot gets wrapped up. That doesn’t prevent this being an action-packed, western-flavoured fantasy adventure well worth picking up – and we’ll certainly be pre-ordering the next instalment.
8/10

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Rules of Magic – prequel to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman #Brainfluffbookreview #TheRulesofMagicbookreview

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I’ve heard so many good things about this series, so decided to treat myself to the Audible version of this Alice Hoffman book.

BLURB: For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk. From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

This is such a cool premise and I particularly loved the blurb. I started listening, all set to be blown away by the intensity of the situation, as this skilled, adept writer pulled me right into the middle of this appealing story. And it didn’t happen. Unfortunately, two aspects of Hoffman’s writing really caused me a problem. I am a tad allergic to reams of exposition, where the author sees fit to tell me her version of what is happening, rather than allowing the characters to define the circumstances and explain it through their eyes. The other dealbreaker for me is head hopping and this is also part of Hoffman’s style. In adult fiction, I find it both jarring and irritating as it invariably knocks me out of the story while I work out why I am listening to two viewpoints within the same scene.

Once I realised these traits would continue throughout the book, I had to decide whether my aggravation with the style would result in this book being a DNF – and it is a testament to Hoffman’s writing skill that this didn’t happen. As the excellent narration by Laurence Bouvard gradually pulled me further into the story, I found I wanted to know what happened to Vincent, Franny and Jet. While my enjoyment of the characters was compromised, I cannot fault the worldbuilding and sense of otherness Hoffman manages to evoke with her stylish prose. I particularly liked her continual referencing of the smells around her characters and how they changed depending on what was happening or about to happen – in fact, the richness and sensuality of the writing in general was a huge plus throughout.

The other strength of this interesting book was the narrative arc for each character. As I wasn’t particularly emotionally involved, there were occasions when listening, I wondered if I would ultimately regret my decision to continue with it. Right now, I am not in the mood to listen to an unfurling tragedy, wherein each of these protagonists was going to endure a life of constant loss and grief, and there were times when I thought that would be the case. However, while there are certainly a number of shocking and sad events that take place within the story, it is ultimately an uplifting book and I felt the ending was very well handled. Overall, I am glad I persevered. There is much to admire in this book – I just wish I could have loved it more.
7/10

Sunday Post – 12th January, 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.

This week I started back to work with Tim, who came for his lessons on Monday and Wednesday. As ever, teaching him was enjoyable – and the icing on the cake was that right at the end of his Monday lesson, Sally phoned to say that he’d passed his Functional Skills Level 2 English Reading exam – in fact, he didn’t only pass it, he smashed it by achieving 25/30! We are so proud of him – and ourselves, to be honest😊.

Wednesday evening was also our first Writing Group get-together since our Christmas meal – it was great to see everyone, except poor Katie who was smitten with a cold. I was also supposed to attend the West Sussex Writers’ meeting on Thursday evening, but to be honest, I was a bit shattered so I didn’t go. I haven’t been sleeping all that well as Himself’s sleep mask badly needed a service so was making a lot of noise (he suffers from sleep apnea). I can’t believe the difference – it’s so much easier to get to sleep since it’s been overhauled.

On Friday, I spent the day with my daughter and little Eliza. Poor Oscar was also at home as he wasn’t well, and while I want him feeling a lot better, it was a bonus to see him, too. Eliza is now starting to walk, and chatter. It was lovely playing with her and it was also great to catch up with Rebecca, too. On Saturday, Sally and I had an editing day together, where we worked on her manuscript. Today I want to get stuck into working on Mantivore Warrior – this coming week is going to be crazy-busy, so I need to push on with it!

Last week I read:

Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky
First, Denland’s revolutionaries assassinated their king, launching a wave of bloodshed after generations of peace. Next they clashed with Lascanne, their royalist neighbour, pitching war-machines against warlocks in a fiercely fought conflict. Genteel Emily Marshwic watched as the hostilities stole her family’s young men. But then came the call for yet more Lascanne soldiers in a ravaged kingdom with none left to give. Emily must join the ranks of conscripted women and march toward the front lines.
This one has been languishing on my TBR pile for far too long – and I’m delighted that I finally got around to reading it. This one has been absolutely marvellous – definitely the best book of the year so far… Review to follow.

Broken Flyght – Book 2 of The Flyght series by S.J. Pajonas
With her ship secure and her old boyfriend back in good graces, Vivian Kawabata only needs one thing to move forward: money. Money, though, is hard to come by when you’re an infamous disgraced heiress. Vivian’s only move is to enlist the help of her matchmaker, Marcelo, and find another wealthy man to add to her relationship network. He not only has to be a master in the bedroom, but he must be a pro with ships, too. Her ship needs a mechanic before they start taking on real clients for Flyght, the lucrative ship-sharing startup.
This was an eventful, enjoyable continuation of this entertaining space opera adventure with an intriguingly slow burn romance. I will definitely be getting my hands on the next book. Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK Dark Summer by Ali Sparkes
When Eddie discovers a secret passage in Wookey Hole caves, he just has to find out where it goes. But his amazement quickly turns to horror when he gets lost in the dark. He’s underground, on his own, and nobody knows where he is …Until a hand reaches out of the blackness. A strange, pale girl helps Eddie get back to the surface, but she can’t seem to leave the caves herself. Who is she? Or rather …what is she? And what other secrets is she hiding? Only one thing is certain – this is a summer Eddie will never forget.
I thoroughly enjoyed this children’s adventure by this entertaining, clever writer. See my review of Frozen in Time. I was gripped by the story and found the ending both moving and very satisfying. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring Have Space Suit – Will Travel by Robert Heinlein

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Bone Silence – Book 3 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton

Review of Indie Ebook Valkyrie Burning – Book 3 of the Hayden War Cycle series by Evan Currie

Sunday Post 5th January 2020

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

Wordless Wednesday: Lovingly Lillian https://applegategenealogy.wordpress.com/2020/01/08/wordless-wednesday-lovingly-lillian/
Some pictures stay with you – this one is simply beautiful…

The Hard Truth & Sad Reality of Social Media – Devices That Consume Us https://talinorfali.wordpress.com/2020/01/07/the-hard-truth-sad-reality-of-social-media-devices-that-consume-us/ Talin writes a thoughtful article about her concerns about this aspect of modern life…

Hand in Hand https://storyshucker.wordpress.com/2020/01/07/hand-in-hand/ I loved this moving tribute Stuart wrote to his grandmother…

Tom Waits: What’s He Building? https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2020/01/07/tom-waits-whats-he-building/ If you love inspired writing and great music, then swing by this site – once again, Thom nails it.

12 Vegan Meals Made by a Complete Amateur https://weewritinglassie.home.blog/2020/01/06/12-vegan-meals-made-by-a-complete-amateur/ Given it is now Veganuary and you like the idea of trying out some vegan recipes – then this might inspire you.

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson #Brainfluffbookreview #LadyoftheRavensbookreview

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I was feeling in the mood for a historical adventure, when this one caught my eye with that very pretty cover. So I was delighted when I was approved…

BLURB: My baptismal name may be Giovanna but here in my mother’s adopted country I have become plain Joan; I am not pink-cheeked and golden-haired like the beauties they admire. I have olive skin and dark features – black brows over ebony eyes and hair the colour of a raven’s wing…

When Joan Vaux is sent to live in the shadow of the Tower of London, she must learn to navigate the treacherous waters of this new England under the Tudors. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, if Henry and his new dynasty are to prosper and thrive.

I very quickly bonded with this intelligent, sparky young woman, whose unfashionable looks didn’t bother her all that much, as she had developed a horror of marriage and childbirth. Through her eyes, in first person viewpoint, we get a real sense of her life as an attendant of Elizabeth of York, betrothed to Henry VII, the first Tudor king after years of savage fighting during the Wars of the Roses that tore apart the kingdom. I’d studied this period of history, so knew a lot about the events Hickson covers in the book – but it was a real joy having such a ringside seat to this fascinating time. Through Joan’s eyes, we see Elizabeth’s life unfold as the Yorkist princess, having to put aside her grief for her lost brothers (the princes in the Tower) and her dead father, as it is her place to found a new dynasty.

Hickson’s thorough research builds up a vivid sense of daily life, where Joan is at the beck and call of her royal mistress, learning of events that shake the kingdom through the people at the centre of it all. I knew that childbirth was a major issue for women up until medical advances made it safer, but this book brought home to me the sheer terror of facing such an ordeal with no effective painkillers and a high death toll from the likes of breech births and secondary infections. There was also the heartbreak of losing babies and children, who also were carried off by diseases and infections in very high numbers.

I’m aware that I’ve made this book sound a rather dreary round of catastrophes and death – and it’s nothing of the sort. Joan is a bright, engaging character with plenty of spirit and is strangely drawn to the ravens who roost around The Tower. She is aware of her good fortune, has a loving relationship with her mother and her benefactor, the Lady Margaret who looked after her while her mother was busy at court. It was interesting to see that Tudor working women had the same strains on their personal lives that we experience in modern life.

I’ve noticed that Hickson has written a number of other books centred on this period and I’m going to see if I can get my hands on them. Her deft, lively writing style and detailed knowledge that gave the book such a strong period feel without compromising the pace or narrative arc meant that I found this one difficult to put down. Highly recommended for those who enjoy historical adventures set around the Tudor period. The ebook arc copy of Lady of the Ravens was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

My Outstanding Reads of 2019 #Brainfluffbookblogger #2019OutstandingReads

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I have had another stormingly good reading year. The highlight being my immediate love affair with audiobooks, once I got hold of a Kindle Fire which could cope with the selection I’d already bought my dyslexic grandson to encourage him to keep reading. Needless to say, I’ve added to that list…

During 2019 I read 168 books and wrote 129 full reviews, with 26 still to be published. In no particular order, these are the books that have stood out for me. It might be that I didn’t originally give a 10 – but something about these books has stayed with me and won’t let go, which is why they have made the cut. And none of this top ten rubbish – I can’t possibly whittle down my list any further.

 

Oracle’s War – Book 2 of The Olympus series by David Hair and Cath Mayo
I loved the layered characterisation of Odysseus and his complex relationships in this intelligent and politically aware retelling of events leading up to the Trojan War. This one has stayed in my memory and I’ve found myself often thinking about it. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones
I’d read this book before – but listening to the excellent narration by Jonathan Broadbent brought home the darker side of the story. It certainly isn’t a children’s read – as the exploitation of the magic kingdom takes some shocking turns, and while Wynne Jones doesn’t go into graphic detail, they are still there. Riveting and thought provoking. See my review.

 

Atlas Alone – Book 4 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
This has been one of the outstanding science fiction series of the last few years for me and this latest slice in the adventure held me to the end. Dee’s driven, edgy character is so compelling – Newman writes these tricky protagonists with amazing skill. See my review.

 

Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick
Alien first contact tales are a staple of science fiction, but rarely have they been covered with such skilled detail, featuring such a self-effacing protagonist as Avery. The second book is also an excellent read. See my review.

 

Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Wildest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer
I picked up this true tale of adventure by accident – and I’m so pleased I did. The author opted to take part on a whim and even at the beginning, was clearly not really prepared for what followed. This fascinating account stayed with me throughout the year. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK Mythos: the Greek Myths retold, written and narrated by Stephen Fry
Listening to this offering while decorating the bathroom sweetened hours of tedious work as Fry’s smooth, chatty manner belied the scholarship and rigor that has gone into this retelling. See my review.

 

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
This is probably the most quirky, extraordinary read of this year’s selection. A series of letters between two protagonists on either side of a savage war – think Romeo and Juliet with knobs on – drives the narrative in this beautiful, desperate book. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK A Room Full of Bones – Book 4 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths
This offering took me completely by surprise. In fact, I’d felt rather fed up with Ruth’s struggles in the previous book – but this story took all the ingredients and ramped up the tension to an unexpectedly heart-rending degree that I still think about… See my review.

 

Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence by James Lovelock
The second non-fiction book in this list, I found Lovelock’s take on our future absolutely fascinating and unexpectedly uplifting. Given he is now over a hundred years old and has been working in a variety of scientific fields until very recently, his opinion is worth reading. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK The Empty Grave – Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud
This was an unexpected treat. One of Frankie’s chosen series, I wasn’t prepared for the sheer quality of the characterisation and worldbuilding, although I should have been, after thoroughly enjoying the Bartimaeus Trilogy. This final book brought the outstanding series to a triumphant conclusion. It goes without saying that you MUST read the previous four books first. See my review.

 

Sweep of the Blade – Book 4 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
I find this quirky science fiction/fantasy mash-up just goes on getting better and better. I really suffered a profound book hangover after I finished this one – and that doesn’t happen to me all that often. See my review.

 

Circe by Madeline Miller
I’m conscious there is rather a strong Greek myth theme running through this list – but that just goes to show how well-written these books are. And this one is a total joy. The protagonist isn’t pretty or charismatic, so finetunes her magical skills in an effort to prevail alongside sneering relations. And then it all goes wrong… Fabulous, layered characterisation of a powerful woman who has endured a shedload of suffering without it being bleak or self-pitying. See my mini-review.

 

Akin by Emma Donoghue
In these days of serial monogamy and blended families, this interesting, unsentimental book drills down into what – exactly – makes up family. Brilliantly executed and thought provoking. See my review.

 

Lent by Jo Walton
This author is one of the finest, most talented writers in the SFF genre today, so I was thrilled when this one came out. Settling in to read it, I was happily engrossed in 15th century Florence – until a THING happens that changes the whole dynamic. Brilliantly written and completely engrossing, if you were to force me to choose a single outstanding read this year – you’d be a cruel beast for doing so and I’d probably never speak to you again – it would be this one. See my review.

 

AUDIOBOOK How To Fight a Dragon’s Fury – Book 12 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
While I’d read a number of these books to the grandchildren, for one reason or another, I’d never reached the end, so when I realised we had the complete series on Audible, I started listening to the wonderful David Tennant’s narration. And then came the end… I was listening to this one with tears pouring down my face, unable to complete my chores. Epic fantasy of this calibre, written for reluctant primary school readers, is a rarity. Review to follow.

 

AUDIOBOOK To Say Nothing of the Dog – Book 2 of the Oxford Time Travel series by Connie Willis
This quirky, humorous homage to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat is funny and completely engrossing – a thumping good listen. I loved it and though it isn’t quite as spectacular as her classic, Doomsday Book, that doesn’t prevent it making this list. See my review.

Have you read any of these offerings? What did you think of them? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these books! Wishing everyone a very happy, book-filled 2020…

Review of AUDIOBOOK To Say Nothing of the Dog – Book 2 of the Oxford Time Travel series by Connie Willis #Brainfluffbookreview #ToSayNothingoftheDogbookreview

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I always enjoy this author’s writing – see my review of Crosstalk and her masterful book, the first in this series, Doomsday Book. So when the Cap from Captain’s Quarters reviewed this book in glowing terms – I needed to track it down, and when I saw there was an audio version of it, I promptly bought it. I’m so glad I did…

BLURB: When too many jumps back to 1940 leave 21st century Oxford history student Ned Henry exhausted, a relaxing trip to Victorian England seems the perfect solution. But complexities like recalcitrant rowboats, missing cats, and love at first sight make Ned’s holiday anything but restful – to say nothing of the way hideous pieces of Victorian art can jeopardize the entire course of history.

This is a complete joy, perfectly narrated by Stephen Crossley. Poor Ned finds himself on a river trip that borrows a lot from Jerome K Jerome’s wonderful classic Three Men in a Boat – to the extent that Ned even has a fleeting meeting between the characters featured in the book and himself. Humour is highly subjective and I’m always a bit hesitant when the blurb blithely assures me I will find this book hilarious, as far too often I find it just annoying. But Willis’s lovely humour runs through this book in a rich vein without ever expecting it to prop up the story or be an adequate replacement for a decent plot – something far too many comedic books try to do. In fact, the plotting of this offering is one of its major strengths. Lady Sharples has tasked Ned to find a piece of artwork called The Bishop’s Bird Stump, which is supposed to have survived the WWII bombing of Coventry Cathedral. While boating up the Thames, Ned finds himself caught up in an entanglement caused by another historian who manages to save a cat and bring it forward in time – something not supposed to happen. Time travelling can be problematical as a plot device, but I really like the fact there are strict rules regarding what can and cannot happen in this version of time travel.

Events spiral out of control as there is one muddle and misunderstanding after another, all perfectly paced so that I didn’t get tired or fed up with any type of improbability. Apart from anything else, the characters are all the joy with their quirky eccentricity and sheer likeability. All in all, this is one of my favourite reads of the year and gave me some wonderful shafts of humour at a time when I really needed it. I love it when books do that.

Very highly recommended for fans of time travelling stories, or anyone with a fondness for Three Men in Boat.
10/10

Friday Faceoff – Spread a little Sparkle Wherever you go… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffSparklingcovers

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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 now nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring SPARKLING covers. I’ve selected the sci fi YA adventure Across the Universe – Book 1 of the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis.

 

This edition was produced by Razorbill in January 2011. I love this cover’s backdrop with the beautiful, glittering nebulae, although the two faces juxtaposed into an upside- down kiss doesn’t really do it for me. Someone mentioned it looks like two fish kissing and now that’s all I can see.

 

This paperback edition, published in November 2011 by Razorbill, has taken a different aspect of the story, rather than featuring the romance. I really like the image of Amy wandering along the corridor of the ship Godspeed all alone. It certainly gives a good sense of the plot.

 

Published by Razorbill in January 2011, this Kindle edition is my favourite. I really love the image of the ice-crusted hull with a lump that has fallen away. The font is also suitably futuristic and funky, which works really well with the space opera feel of this one. It’s original, beautiful and eye-catching. My one grizzle is that the chatter plonked in the top right shouldn’t be there, but it isn’t a dealbreaker.

 

This French edition, published by Pocket Jeunesse in September 2014, reverts to featuring the romance in the story. It is a beautiful cover with the two lovers gazing longingly into each others’ eyes with the starscape as a backdrop. However, I really don’t like the twirling font which is at odds with the sci fi setting – while this story does feature a romance, it isn’t the plotline that powers the narrative arc. So I believe the strong romantic feel is slightly misleading for those predominantly seeking a girl-meets-boy story.

 

This Greek edition, published in November 2011 by Πατάκης is more than a nod in the direction of the first cover. I really like the simplicity of the stylised outlines against the spacescape, but the issue I have with it is that the artwork effectively stops two-thirds down, so that the bottom third is essentially a textbox. This has been cluttered with a rather random logo and the series information with little thought as to how it blends with the rest of the cover design. Which is your favourite?

Review of KINDLE Ebook Navigating the Stars – Book 1 of the Sentinels of the Galaxy series by Maria V. Snyder #Brainfluffbookreview #NavigatingtheStarsbookreview

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I have enjoyed Snyder’s writing for a while – see my reviews of Poison Study, Scent of Magic and Taste of Darkness. This one somehow by-passed me completely, but when I saw the buzz about the second book in this YA science fiction series, I got hold of this one when it was one special offer…

BLURB: Seventeen-year-old Lyra Daniels can’t truly blame Einstein or her parents for their impending move across the Milky Way Galaxy. It’s all due to the invention of the Q-net, which made traveling the vast distances in space possible—with one big caveat: the time dilation. But that never stopped Lyra’s ancestors from exploring the Milky Way, searching for resources and exoplanets to colonize. What they didn’t expect to find is life-sized terracotta Warriors buried on twenty-one different exoplanets.
… Make that twenty-two. As the Galaxy’s leading experts on the Warriors, Lyra’s parents are thrilled by the new discovery, sending them—and her—fifty years into the future.

I shortened the rather chatty blurb, but you get a sense of the tone of the story at the beginning of this thoroughly entertaining, bouncy science fiction adventure. Lyra is an incredibly resilient character, whose initial grief at losing her friends when moving away with her parents, doesn’t stop her for long. Ultra-bright and with a low boredom threshold, she soon gets herself into some bother by illegally hacking (Snyder calls it worming) into the powerful information system, the Q-net. This has consequences… I will not go into further detail because I don’t want to spoil the plot.

I was thoroughly held by the eventful story that whipped along with plenty of pace and action, while providing interesting characterisation along the way. I love it when an author manages to achieve a cracking good tale peopled by solidly rounded characters. The romance is well handled with some sweet moments, yet doesn’t hijack the story with too much angst. And thank goodness there is no love triangle.

Any niggles? I do think that Lyra is verging on being a Mary Sue. It’s her Q-net skills that trigger some major investigations and she also is the only one that is able to see a hidden, lethal risk to those living on the planet. But while I registered this issue, it wasn’t a dealbreaker and I relaxed into Snyder’s pacey storytelling, thoroughly enjoying the ride. And I will be looking around for the next book in the series, given that while the initial story was satisfactorily, concluded those dangling plotpoints leave me wanting more.

Recommended for fans of YA science fiction adventure with plenty of incident and excitement.
8/10

MINI-REVIEWS: Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky; Circe by Madeline Miller; and The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman #Brainfluffbookmini-reviews

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These are books which I completed during a reading period when writing a full review wasn’t an option as I was too busy – but are still worthy of recommendation and notice.

Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky
This offering clearly demonstrates Tchaikovsky’s talent and ability to write in a variety of different styles as this bleak examination of an exhausted society essentially waiting for the planet to die, taking them with it, nonetheless is an engrossing read.

The first person protagonist is completely believable as an academic who has somehow managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and therefore undergo a whole series of dangerous adventures that he never intended to encounter. The worldbuilding is excellent and I loved how the very apt title ties into the overall arc of the book. Yet another accomplished offering by one of the major talents of his generation.
8/10

 

Circe by Madeline Miller
No wonder this one has garnered so much attention and so many awards. The characterisation of this awkward, neglected child in a society where men are prized for their strength and aggression and women are prized for their beauty, charisma and guile, is wonderful. A protagonist who isn’t particularly beautiful or cunning, so develops a skill with potions and witchcraft, instead…

Once more, I was struck at just what a raw deal women got in this very masculine world where might was a done deal and if a woman started running and shouting ‘no’ – she was regarded as a challenge to be chased down… This could have been a bleak, traumatic read, but it isn’t partly because of the beauty of the prose and partly because of the wonderful, layered first-person depiction of a complicated immortal living in a world in which she really doesn’t fit. I found her take on Odysseus absolutely fascinating.

One of my outstanding reads of the year.
10/10

 

Illuminae – Book 1 of the Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
I thoroughly enjoyed this roller-coaster dystopian space opera YA adventure, which started with a bang and simply didn’t let up. The epistolary structure worked well, although I did have to whack the font size right up for the text conversations and some of the reports, which for some reason had a miniscule font size.

The plot twists kept coming and the finale worked really well – especially that last surprise. A warning though – don’t get too attached to many of the characters in this adventure, as lots of folks die! Highly recommended for fans of mayhem in space featuring gutsy teens.
8/10