Tag Archives: romance

Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK The Windweaver’s Storm – Book 2 of T.J. Young and the Orishas series by Antoine Bandele #BrainfluffNETGALLEYAUDIOBOOKreview #TheWindweaversStormbookreview

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It was the setting of this one that caught my eye. There are plenty of magical schools out there, which I love by the way, but set in Africa? Drawing on West African culture and origin myths? It was this difference that snagged my attention and made me particularly want to listen to this YA adventure.

BLURB: TJ Young spent last summer fighting to unlock the secrets behind his sister’s mysterious death but found himself battling the magic of the ancient Orishas instead. And some of the answers he sought came with a promise he may not be able to keep: to dismantle new human construction on the coastline of Lagos, Nigeria by the start of spring.

But how does a teenager do away with decades of infrastructure in only half a year? He’ll need to enlist the help of new allies, mortal and immortal alike. And thankfully, after surviving the grueling magical curriculum of Camp Olosa, he’s now headed to the most prestigious magic school in West Africa: Ifa Academy for Tomorrow’s Diviners.
But will that be enough as he prepares for what can only end in an all-out war between mortals and gods?

REVIEW: It didn’t take me long to realise that this was the second in the series – but at that stage, I wasn’t sure I would like this one enough to spend one of my precious book credits on listenng to the first book. While T.J. seemed an engaging and sympathetic protagonist, initially the leisurely pace took some getting used to.

That said, the production values on this audiobook are very high – I enjoyed the sound effects at the start of each chapter, as the birdsong, in particular, served as a handy reminder that we’re in Nigeria. And Nekia Renee Martin does a wonderful job narrating this tale. Once I got used to the depth of description, I was able to relax into the story as T.J. struggles to settle into this prestigious magical school. I liked the fact that he battled in most of the lessons and didn’t find much of the magic easy to control, given his evident talent in quirky yet powerful ways. It would have been all too easy to turn him into a Gary Stu and I’m very glad that Bandele didn’t.

The tension continues to crank up throughout the story – the ongoing reminders on T.J.’s phone worked nicely to highlight the countdown to the cataclysmic event. Of course, if you build up such a catastrophe, when the hammer falls it needs to be spectacular. And Bandele’s writing didn’t disappoint. Indeed, I was shaken by the sheer extent of the devastation and some of the deaths – Bandele isn’t afraid to off some of his cast of characters that have played a significant role in the story. In fact, I stayed up later than I should to hear what happened next.

Any niggles? Well, I could have done without the love triangle. I understand that teenage romances are often messy due to the strong emotions and inexperience of those caught up in such feelings – but frankly, I wanted to shake T.J. until his teeth rattled at the upset and hurt he was causing. And he got off far too lightly, in my opinion. So I have taken off a point for that. But otherwise, it’s a cracking YA adventure with a lushly portrayed setting that is both unusual and effective. So, yes – I shall be spending one of my precious credits to read the first book in this engaging fantasy, The Gatekeeper’s Staff, as I want to spend more time with T.J. and those Orishas. While I obtained an audiobook arc of The Windweaver’s Storm from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Review of NETGALLEY arc Mindwalker by Kate Dylan #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #Mindwalkerbookreview

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That eye-catching cover snagged my attention and I thought the premise looked intriguing – though I have tweaked and shortened the rather chatty blurb.

BLURB: Eighteen-year-old Sil Sarrah is determined to die a legend. In the ten years she’s been rescuing imperilled field agents for the Syntex Corporation—by commandeering their minds from afar and leading them to safety—Sil hasn’t lost a single life. And she’s not about to start now.

She’s got twelve months left on the clock before the supercomputer grafted to her brain kills her, and she’s hell-bent on using that time to cement her legacy. Sil’s going to be the only Mindwalker to ever pitch a perfect game—even despite the debilitating glitches she’s experiencing. But when a critical mission goes south, Sil is forced into a situation that for all her tactical knowhow and experience – came as a complete and very unpleasant surprise…

REVIEW: I really liked the premise that Sil’s impressive additions come at a huge cost. It made sense to me that a child’s brain, with its inherent plasticity, would be ideal to work on. And the fact that Syntex has managed to find a way around the law so their representatives can persuade suitable eight-year-olds to sign all the permissions necessary to be turned into a super-agent also rings true. As for Sil – I found her grim acceptance of her impending death at the ripe old age of nineteen both poignant and gutsy.

This is aimed at the YA market, so the narration is in first person and the overall story arc follows a familiar route. That said, Sil isn’t as emotional or self-absorbed as YA heroines often are. And while I wasn’t particularly invested in the inevitable romance, as it wasn’t the aspect of the book that really interested me, it was well handled and I believed in the ups and downs of the relationship between two wary, battle-scarred young people.

What did drive me to keep turning the pages in this well-paced, enjoyable science fiction adventure, was Sil’s ongoing battle to stay ahead of those who wanted to get hold of her and shut her down. And while I did see the final twist coming before it finally dropped – there were ramifications that still managed to surprise me and raise the stakes still higher. All in all, this is an engrossing read about a post-apocalyptic future that is frightening and plausible, which I found hard to put down. Recommended for fans of dystopian near-future adventures featuring a likeable heroine. While I obtained an arc of Mindwalkers from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 26th October, 2022 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – AUDIOBOOK Orbs of Wisdom – Book 6 of the Dragon Gate series by Lindsay Buroker – release date – hm… probably end of December 2022/beginning January 2023 (judging by the comparative release dates of the audiobooks to the ebooks in the series).

#fantasy adventure #dragons #magic #delightful mother and son protagonists

BLURB: The final installment in the Dragon Gate saga!

With his mother’s life at stake and the entire world threatened by powerful dragons, the sand in the hour glass is running out for Jak Freedar. He and his allies must find the ancient Orbs of Wisdom and hope they hold the solutions to the problems plaguing humanity and the dragons before it’s too late.
I’ve LOVED listening to the first four books in this gripping epic fantasy series featuring Jak and his archaeologist mother, who get snatched by greedy, ambitious mage King Uthari and have been swept up in the amazing adventure that follows. It is chockful of engaging characters who I’ve grown to love, such as Rookie Tezzy and her enchanted axe – as well as some really nasty antagonists I love to hate. I was thrilled to discover that the fifth book, Sky on Fire, is now available as an audiobook and have just finished listening again to the fourth book, Chosen for Power before tucking into it. So I am thoroughly looking forward to the sixth and final book with a familiar mixture of emotions. I’m desperate to know what happens, yet… I don’t want this series to end!

SUNDAY POST – 16th October, 2022 #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 they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.

I did wonder if I was tempting Fate by writing about my experiences with Long Covid, given the up and down nature of the illness. But though I’d been feeling rather tired recently, I hadn’t had a proper relapse since August. Until this week, when I went to get out of bed on Thursday morning and the minute I put my foot to the floor, the world spun, my stomach roiled and I knew I wouldn’t be going anywhere for the rest of the day except back to bed. And so it proved. I felt too ill to shower or change my clothes, though I did manage to stagger downstairs and have tea with the family. Meanwhile Himself was having to look after me, on top of doing the school run. Fortunately, it was his day off – but it wasn’t remotely restful. In the meantime, I dosed and slept. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was reading or listening to books, feeling too tired to watch TV. I woke up on Friday, feeling much the same – though as the day wore on, I did feel well enough to have a shower.

Then suddenly, at about 10.30 pm, I felt better. As if a huge muffling blanket had been lifted away from me. I’m writing this on Saturday, having got up, showered and dressed. I still feel a little groggy and I don’t have all that much stamina, but the nausea has gone. I think I need to face the fact that I will have to keep managing my energy for the foreseeable future. One of the issues is that I haven’t been getting enough sleep, as years of being an insomniac makes it difficult to wind down and go to bed at a reasonable time. And while I’m doing better than I used to – it’s still not good enough for my body’s needs. I average between five and six hours of sleep a night and I reckon that these days, I need more than that.

The boys have stepped up and helped out, as they always do when I’m ill. Both have had a busy week and today Ethan is out meeting up with friends, while Oscar is recovering from a very hectic football practice. Tomorrow (Sunday) we are meeting up with my parents, who are taking us out for a meal to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary. It’s actually a little early – their anniversary is near the end of next month, but Dad isn’t all that keen on doing the drive home in the dark, which it will be by then as the day length continues to shorten. I am so very excited – I haven’t seen Mum since September 2020 and I cannot recall when the boys last saw her. So it will be a very special reunion for us and my sister, who is joining us.

Last week I read:-

The First Binding – Book 1 of the Tales of Tremaine series by R.R. Virdi
All legends are born of truths. And just as much lies. These are mine. Judge me for what you will. But you will hear my story first.

I buried the village of Ampur under a mountain of ice and snow. Then I killed their god. I’ve stolen old magics and been cursed for it. I started a war with those that walked before mankind and lost the princess I loved, and wanted to save. I’ve called lightning and bound fire. I am legend. And I am a monster. My name is Ari. And this is the story of how I let loose the first evil.
And if this blurb makes you think of The Name of the Wind, then you’re absolutely right – it definitely has a feel of that fantasy classic. It’s also a hefty size, being 800+ pages. That said, while it took me a while to get through it, at no time was I tempted to break off and read something else instead. Review to follow.

Unraveller by Frances Hardinge
Kellen and Nettle live in a world where anyone can create a life-destroying curse, but only one person has the power to unravel them. But not everyone is happy he can do so and, suddenly, he’s in a race to save both himself and all those who have been touched by magic…

I love Hardinge’s writing – see my review of Deeplight. So I immediately requested this arc and was thrilled to receive a copy. And my instincts were spot on – it’s a cracking read. Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK – The Elf Tangent by Lindsay Buroker
As a princess in the impoverished kingdom of Delantria, it’s Aldari’s job to look pretty, speak little, and marry a prince. Studying mathematics and writing papers on economic theory in an effort to fix her people’s financial woes? Her father has forbidden it. With war on the horizon, they must focus on the immediate threat.

Reluctantly, Aldari agrees to marry a prince in a neighboring kingdom to secure an alliance her people desperately need. All is going to plan until the handsome elven mercenary captain hired to guard her marriage caravan turns into her kidnapper. His people are in trouble, and he believes she has the knowledge to help.

But with an invasion force approaching Delantria, Aldari’s own people need her. She must do everything in her power to escape the elves and make it to her wedding in time. Never mind that her kidnapper is witty, clever, and offers her a challenge that intrigues her mind even as his easy smile intrigues her heart… Aldari can’t let herself develop feelings for him. To fall in love and walk away from her wedding would mean the end of her kingdom and everyone she cares about.
I’ve read the ebook, but when I had the opportunity to get hold of an audiobook of this engaging fantasy adventure with a splash of romance, I couldn’t resist it. I really enjoy Buroker’s characters and this particular story was lovely to listen to at a time when I needed an escapist read. 9/10

What Song the Sirens Sang – Book 3 of the Gideon Sable series by Simon R. Green
You can find everything you’ve ever dreamed of in the strange, old magical shop known as Old Harry’s Place. The problem is, not all dreams are kind.

Gideon Sable – legendary master thief, conman and well-dressed rogue – and his partner in crime Annie Anybody don’t want to be shopkeepers, but when the enigmatic Harry decides to retire, he blackmails the pair into taking the store on.

Before the grand reopening can happen, however, a menacing stranger arrives – with a rare and deadly item for them to appraise. A small piece of rock, with an unnerving aura, which ‘Smith’ claims contains the last echoes of the legendary sirens’ song. Before they can find out more, however, Smith vanishes . . . leaving only the stone. Some valuables are more trouble than they’re worth. But before Gideon and Annie can work out if they’ve been set up, the stone is stolen from its impregnable hiding place. How? And why? Gideon only knows one thing for certain: no one steals from him and gets away with it . . .
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this entertaining fantasy heist series – and this next slice of the adventure manages to give yet another twist, without getting steadily darker, as so often happens in ongoing series. Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK – Murder by Other Means – Book 2 of The Dispatcher series by John Scalzi
In the world of the Dispatchers, a natural or accidental death is an endpoint; a murder pushes the do-over button and 99.99% of the time the victim comes back to life. Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher who’s been taking shadier and shadier gigs in financial tough times, and after witnessing a crime gone wrong, he finds people around him permanently dying in a way that implicates him. He has to solve the mystery of these deaths to save the lives of others–and keep himself out of trouble with the law.

I loved Scalzi’s Lock In series – it’s one of the best sci fi murder mystery series I’ve read. So when I saw this Audible exclusive, I scooped up a copy and thoroughly enjoyed it. It isn’t all that long, but the pacing and voice are perfect and there are twists and action throughout. I will be looking out for more in The Dispatcher series for sure. 9/10

Bryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher
Bryony and her sisters have come down in the world. Their merchant father died trying to reclaim his fortune and left them to eke out a living in a village far from their home in the city.

But when Bryony is caught in a snowstorm and takes refuge in an abandoned manor, she stumbles into a house full of dark enchantments. Is the Beast that lives there her captor, or a fellow prisoner? Is the house her enemy or her ally? And why are roses blooming out of season in the courtyard?

Armed only with gardening shears and her wits, Bryony must untangle the secrets of the house before she—or the Beast—are swallowed by them.
This is an intriguing retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a tougher heroine than poor Beauty. Bryony is a gardener, who has already had a far too interesting life to date, which has made her resilient and resourceful. Which is just as well, because she’s up against a terrifying magical opponent. This is a cracking read that had me turning the pages until I came to the end. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – Persuasion by Jane Austen
At twenty-seven, Anne Elliot is no longer young and has few romantic prospects. Eight years earlier, she had been persuaded by her friend Lady Russell to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a handsome naval captain with neither fortune nor rank. What happens when they encounter each other again is movingly told in Jane Austen’s last completed novel. Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, but, above all, it is a love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities.

This is one of my favourite Austen novels – and listening to the version produced by the partly dramatised Jane Austen Collection was a real treat. I love Austen’s take on Bath society and her depiction of Lyme Regis, somewhere I used to know very well. The second-chance romance is beautifully done and while Anne is clearly beset by an uncaring family, she manages not to be too victimised. 9/10

My posts last week:

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Edge of Catastrophe: Terraforming Mars by Jane Killick

Sunday Post – 9th October, 2022

Wishing you all a happy, health week😊.

SUNDAY POST – 2nd October, 2022 #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 they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.

Oscar is now back at school and so we have returned to our usual busy routine. He has been cycling in on the days when the weather is good, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect him to sit in wet clothes throughout the school day on the days when it’s raining, as it’s a 3-mile ride. We had a couple of days like that last week, and as the weather continues to cool and worsen, I’m expecting we’ll need to give him lifts more often. I am still worried about Ethan’s cough, which hasn’t eased up all that much despite having had a course of antibiotics, so I think we will need another trip to the doctor. He is also working very hard, so doesn’t rest all that much.

When I took Oscar to the gym on Wednesday, I managed to have a chat with the trainer who takes the classes for people recovering from Long Covid. She was so kind and encouraging, and assured me that she would be able to help me get back to my former fitness – to the extent that I found I was nearly in tears. It was only then that I realised how much I’ve been worrying that I’d never regain my previous condition. I’ve also been writing my account of my Long Covid journey this week – it’s a long, long piece, but I’ve broken it up into sub-headings. It was difficult to write, as it brought back a host of unhappy memories, but I do want to set out my own experiences and how I dealt with them, in the hope that someone else might find at least some of it useful.

Last weekend, Strictly Come Dancing returned to our screens and the first show was simply amazing. For starters, it’s the first time since the pandemic they’ve had a full studio audience, so the atmosphere was buzzing – and the standard was astounding, given it was the very first show of the series. I watched the dancers with a huge grin on my face – it has to be the most joyful programme on TV and has brought a lovely glittery shaft of light into my life😊.

Last week I read:-

Becoming Crone – Book 1 of The Crone Wars series by Lydia M. Hawke
For Claire Emerson, there is nothing ordinary about turning sixty. First, there are the crows. Then, a pendant that unlocks a gate to a house in the woods–which comes with a snarky gargoyle, an entirely too-sexy wolf shifter claiming to be Claire’s protector, and a legacy that turns her reality upside down.

Because divorced, menopausal grandmothers with creaky hips and hot flashes? They don’t just randomly discover they’re next in a long line of powerful women protecting the world from the dark magick of Mages.
Claire’s first instinct is to turn tail and run back to the safety of baking cookies and reading bedtime stories. But when it becomes clear the Mages have targeted her, she may have no choice but to accept her calling. There’s just one problem: she never got the lifetime of training she was supposed to have, and her magick is… well, unreliable would be an understatement. With the Mages threatening everything she loves, can Claire learn what she needs to in time to become Crone? Or will she be the one to lose an ancient war—and her life?
This entertaining urban fantasy adventure is a great deal of fun. I particularly liked Claire, who is both convincing and funny, which prevented her from turning into too much of a victim. I’m looking forward to tucking into the next book in the series. 8/10

A Killer’s Kiss – Book 6 of the Firebrand series by Helen Harper
A twisted killer is making his mark in London, leaving a trail of blood and devastation in his wake. It’s not only humans who are being targeted. Vampires, werewolves and pixies are in mortal danger too.

I’ve been called in to help with the investigation but I can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to the murders. Someone is playing a very sick game – and it’s up to me to put a stop to it.
I love this series! Helen Harper is one of my favourite authors and supernatural detective Emma is one of my favourite protagonists. Set in London, this urban fantasy is punchy, fast-paced and packed with enjoyable characters. But whatever you do, don’t start here – go back to the first book, Brimstone Bound, to get the maximum enjoyment out of this entertaining murder mystery. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – The Grief of Stones – Book 2 of The Cemeteries of Amalo series by Katherine Addison
Celehar’s life as the Witness for the Dead of Amalo grows less isolated as his circle of friends grows larger. He has been given an apprentice to teach, and he has stumbled over a scandal of the city—the foundling girls. Orphans with no family to claim them and no funds to buy an apprenticeship. Foundling boys go to the Prelacies; foundling girls are sold into service, or worse.

At once touching and shattering, Celehar’s witnessing for one of these girls will lead him into the depths of his own losses. The love of his friends will lead him out again.
I think I actually squealed with joy when I encountered this one. The Goblin Emperor and The Witness For the Dead are both on my Outstanding Books list, so I was thrilled to see this is the sequel to The Witness For the Dead. And it didn’t disappoint, especially as Liam Gerrad’s wonderful narration only added to the quality of an exceptional listen. Very highly recommended for those who like their murder mysteries with a fantastic twist. 10/10

AUDIOBOOK – Eye of Truth – Book 1 of the Agents of the Crown series by Lindsay Buroker
After 10 years at war, Jev Dharrow looks forward to hanging up his sword, relaxing with a cool mug of ale, and forgetting that the love of his life married another man while he was gone. But when his ship sails into port, a beautiful woman wearing the garb of an inquisitor from one of the religious orders waits to arrest him. His crime? He’s accused of stealing an ancient artifact with the power to start another war. Jev would gladly hand over the artifact to stop more suffering, but he has no idea where it is or even what it looks like. The inquisitor woman definitely has the wrong person.

Inquisitor Zenia Cham grew up with nothing, but she has distinguished herself as one of the most capable law enforcers in the city, and she’s next in line to become archmage of the temple. All she has to do is find the Eye of Truth, and her superiors are certain Jev has it.
He tries to charm her with his twinkling eyes and easy smile, but she’s not letting any man get between her and her dreams. Especially not a thief.

If Jev can’t convince Zenia they’re on the same side, find the artifact, and clear his name, his homecoming will turn into a jail sentence. Or worse.
Nobody works this dynamic with more humour and adventure than Buroker. I was delighted to discover this enjoyable start to the series tucked in amongst my audiobooks and sniggered throughout, even while wondering where the next twist was going to take the story. And I was delighted at the unexpectedness of the main antagonist. If you’re looking for a thoroughly engaging fantasy adventure with a splash of romance, then this one comes very highly recommended. 9/10

My posts last week:

Review of NETGALLEY arc Becoming Crone – Book 1 of The Crone Wars series by Lydia M. Hawke

Review of KINDLE arc Sol 2781 – Book 4 of the Drago Tell Dramis series by Janet Edwards

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring And Justice for Mall – Book 4 of the Jersey Girl series by E.J. Copperman
Sunday Post – 25th September, 2022

Wishing you all a happy, health week😊.


*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna #BrainfluffNETGALLEYAUDIOBOOKreview #TheVerySecretSocietyofIrregularWitchesbookreview

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I have read quite a few fantasy book featuring witches recently in my quest for enjoyable, escapist reads. So I was delighted to see this offering featured and even more chuffed when I was approved for an audio arc.

BLURB: As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat. As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for…

REVIEW: It always helps if the narrator is good – and Samara MacLaren’s voice and reading style has become a solid favourite. So it was a bonus to discover her dulcet tones when I first tucked into this enjoyable offering.

Mika is a delightful protagonist. She’s had a tough time as a child. Due to a spell that went wrong several hundred years ago, all witches are orphaned early in their lives so are brought up by guardians instead of their parents. After the horrendous witch burnings of the 16th century, the community of witches scattered and now they only meet up very occasionally. For magic tends to gather around witches, making it easier for them to be discovered. So it’s deemed safer by formidable leaders like Primrose for witches to stay away from each other, making life lonely for adult witches who wish to continue to practise their magic. It would have been all too easy for Mika to have been portrayed as a classically tragic heroine – so I was very pleased to find her resolutely sunny-natured in all but the toughest situations.

Her three charges are funny without being too cute, unrealistically awful or revoltingly good – which is harder to achieve than Mandanna makes it look. There is also a rather sweet love story that unfolds in the middle of all the magical shenanigans, which I also enjoyed. However – there is a warning. The F-word is liberally sprinkled throughout, which didn’t really fit with the overall feel of the story. I certainly didn’t appreciate its use in front of the children, for instance. Apart from that one niggle, this is an enjoyable, often humorous and ultimately uplifting fantasy adventure with a dollop of romance with one steamy scene I fast-forwarded through. While I obtained an arc of The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID – 23

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This is my update on how I’m coping with Long Covid now it’s been nearly eighteen months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.

This is something of a momentous post. I’ve taken the decision that this will be the final Sunday Post where I’ll be focusing on the Long Covid that I’ve been dealing with since I got sick with Covid-19, back on 6th March 2021. That’s not to say I’m fully recovered. Yesterday, I needed to take it really easy as I suddenly ran out of energy the previous evening. But while I must always take into consideration how I’m feeling – the constant exhaustion that once blanketed me and turned me into a bedridden invalid is no longer defining my life and every single action I take. I will be writing another post, where I’ll sum up my experience with Long Covid and include the things that helped and those that didn’t. But unless I have a catastrophic relapse (fingers crossed that doesn’t happen!!) my regular account of my struggles with the ‘weird beast’, as my doctor calls it, are now ending. I want to thank everyone here. Many of you have been so supportive with encouraging words, while some have even been praying for me. Not being able to leave the house for months meant that all my interactions were online – and your kind comments and the knowledge that you were there and cared at a time when I didn’t know if I’d ever get better often gave me a burst of positivity and courage when I most needed it. Thank you, all of you, for being here and letting me know that you were thinking of me. Book people are the best😊.

We are now busy getting ready for school, as Oscar goes back tomorrow. He’s not looking forward to it, but I’m hoping that once he gets back into the swing of the daily routine, he will find it’s not quite as bad as he thinks. Ethan finished his summer job yesterday and resumes college next week. We are thrilled that he got a Distinction for his final first year project, which is such an achievement given his severe dyslexia.

I’m not quite sure where the summer went – I’m sure that when I was a girl, six weeks lasted a lot longer. Given the shoddy quality of politicians these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if the scallywags in the Government have gone and devalued the length of days behind our backs. It seems the sort of shifty nonsense they’d get up to. While the weather is now pleasantly cooler, we are still seeing plenty of sunshine, with temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s during the day. I just wish we were getting more rain – which is something I never thought I’d say…

Last week I read:-

AUDIOBOOK – Her Majesty’s Royal Coven – Book 1 of Her Majesty’s Royal Coven series by Juno Dawson, narrated by Nicola Coughlan
If you look hard enough at old photographs, we’re there in the background: healers in the trenches; Suffragettes; Bletchley Park oracles; land girls and resistance fighters. Why is it we help in times of crisis? We have a gift. We are stronger than Mundanes, plain and simple.

At the dawn of their adolescence, on the eve of the summer solstice, four young girls–Helena, Leonie, Niamh and Elle–took the oath to join Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, established by Queen Elizabeth I as a covert government department. Now, decades later, the witch community is still reeling from a civil war and Helena is now the reigning High Priestess of the organization. Yet Helena is the only one of her friend group still enmeshed in the stale bureaucracy of HMRC. Elle is trying to pretend she’s a normal housewife, and Niamh has become a country vet, using her powers to heal sick animals. In what Helena perceives as the deepest betrayal, Leonie has defected to start her own more inclusive and intersectional coven, Diaspora. And now Helena has a bigger problem. A young warlock of extraordinary capabilities has been captured by authorities and seems to threaten the very existence of HMRC. With conflicting beliefs over the best course of action, the four friends must decide where their loyalties lie: with preserving tradition, or doing what is right.
This has been one of the reading highlights of the summer. I’ve been suffering from a real book hangover since I finished listening to this one. The cracking story with plenty of drama and magic, alongside relevant contemporary issues has left me yearning for the next one in the series. Very highly recommended. 10/10

Witchy Reservations: A Paranormal Cozy Mystery – Book 1 of the Mystic Inn Mystery series by Stephanie Damore
There’s nothing practical about magic—which is why I ditched my wand years ago.

Thirteen years, to be exact. The day I left Silverlake.

Except now, a family emergency has called me back home, and quite frankly, I’d rather be anywhere but here. But when my aunt raises her wand to cure a friend and he ends up dead, it becomes abundantly clear I’m not leaving anytime soon.
This cosy murder mystery is escapist fun with plenty of twists and suspects along the way. I liked the engaging protagonist, whose first-person narrative makes the story go with a swing. 8/10

AUDIOBOOK – The Accidental Alchemist – Book 1 of The Accidental Alchemist series by Gigi Pandian, narrated by Julia Motyka
Unpacking her belongings in her new hometown of Portland, Oregon, herbalist and reformed alchemist Zoe Faust can’t help but notice she’s picked up a stowaway. Dorian Robert-Houdin is a living, breathing three-and-half-foot gargoyle – not to mention a master of French cuisine – and he needs Zoe’s expertise to decipher a centuries-old text. Zoe, who’s trying to put her old life behind her, isn’t so sure she wants to reopen her alchemical past… until the dead man on her porch leaves her no choice.

Includes recipes!
This is huge fun. And I loved the fact that the very scrummy-sounding recipes are all vegan😊. Apart from the food, other enjoyable ingredients are a quirky gargoyle, nicely snarky teenagers and a sympathetic protagonist with a long, sad past, who is desperate to escape official notice. I really cared for the characters and enjoyed listening to this one, as Portlanders begin to succumb to mysterious poisoning. 8/10

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean
Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries.

Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairytales and cautionary stories.

But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger—not for books, but for human minds.
This is another reading highlight – I really have had a wonderful reading week. This dark fantasy packs a punch – it grabbed me by the collar and wouldn’t let go. I’ve seen comparisons with The Handmaid’s Tale and while I don’t agree, as there are far too many significant differences, I can see why some readers went there. Review to follow.

Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m beginning to be able to visit more sites, although it all depends on whether I’ve enough energy – so I appreciate your patience if you’ve dropped by and I haven’t immediately responded. Take care and have a lovely week.

Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK Her Majesty’s Royal Coven – Book 1 of Her Majesty’s Royal Coven series by Juno Dawson #BrainfluffNETGALLEYaudiobookreview #HerMajestysRoyalCovenbookreview

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I saw the title and cover and immediately requested this one. It seemed like such a very cool premise and with that pink, I was sure I was getting a reasonably light book to listen to. So I was delighted to be approved – however, this one wasn’t what I was expecting…

BLURB: If you look hard enough at old photographs, we’re there in the background: healers in the trenches; Suffragettes; Bletchley Park oracles; land girls and resistance fighters. Why is it we help in times of crisis? We have a gift. We are stronger than Mundanes, plain and simple.

At the dawn of their adolescence, on the eve of the summer solstice, four young girls–Helena, Leonie, Niamh and Elle–took the oath to join Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, established by Queen Elizabeth I as a covert government department. Now, decades later, the witch community is still reeling from a civil war and Helena is now the reigning High Priestess of the organization. Yet Helena is the only one of her friend group still enmeshed in the stale bureaucracy of HMRC. Elle is trying to pretend she’s a normal housewife, and Niamh has become a country vet, using her powers to heal sick animals. In what Helena perceives as the deepest betrayal, Leonie has defected to start her own more inclusive and intersectional coven, Diaspora. And now Helena has a bigger problem. A young warlock of extraordinary capabilities has been captured by authorities and seems to threaten the very existence of HMRC. With conflicting beliefs over the best course of action, the four friends must decide where their loyalties lie: with preserving tradition, or doing what is right.

REVIEW: Looking at the shocking pink cover of the audiobook, I’d assumed that I was getting a reasonably light-hearted exploration of witchcraft and what it means to be a woman in the contemporary world. It’s nothing of the sort. Instead, nested within a cracking story that had me listening far later than I should, is a searing and comprehensive examination of female loyalties and expectations within our modern society. Just because the four young women are imbued with powerful magic, they aren’t insulated from the pressures the rest of us wrestle with on a daily basis. Issues such as dealing with chauvinist and abusive behaviour, racism, juggling work with motherhood, the push/pull of whether to settle down to have a family or prioritise a chosen career are all very recognisable problems also experienced by us non-magical Mundanes. In addition to dealing with these ongoing life decisions – our four protagonists are also still recovering from a savage war within the magical community between those who believed the magically gifted should be ruling the world and those who felt the status quo should prevail. Two of our heroines lost partners in the conflict, while Niamh’s twin sister was also on the opposing side, so the cost was high.

When a young, traumatised warlock is discovered after a destructive fire, Helena and Niamh initially agree on a course of action. However, as events unfold, the former allies suddenly find themselves on opposing sides of an issue that is also ripping apart Feminists – that of transgenderism. It was brilliant to see this difficult, emotive topic so effectively covered within a gripping tale, where both sides of the argument were so well covered.

I’m conscious that I’ve given the impression that this is a worthy story, full of pertinent issues that affect modern women within Western society. But what I’ve perhaps omitted to tell you is that all this goes on within a wonderful tale full of drama and some fabulous action scenes, shot through with wry humour that occasionally had me laughing aloud. And there was one particular scene that had me close to tears. The book also finishes on a doozy of a plot twist that has me desperate to read the sequel RIGHT NOW – because I’ve got to know my all-time favourite character is alright. In short, this is a fabulous tale that gives us four nuanced, believable characters facing familiar and contemporary problems with an extra, complicating twist of magic that makes the story leap off the page. I can’t wait to get hold of the next book. Very highly recommended. While I obtained an audiobook arc of Her Majesty’s Royal Coven from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 24th August, 2022 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Mindwalker by Kate Dylan – release date – 1st September, 2022

#science fiction #feisty heroine #romance #YA

BLURB: Eighteen-year-old Sil Sarrah is determined to die a legend. In the ten years she’s been rescuing imperilled field agents for the Syntex Corporation—by commandeering their minds from afar and leading them to safety—Sil hasn’t lost a single life. And she’s not about to start now.

She’s got twelve months left on the clock before the supercomputer grafted to her brain kills her, and she’s hell-bent on using that time to cement her legacy. Sil’s going to be the only Mindwalker to ever pitch a perfect game—even despite the debilitating glitches she’s experiencing. But when a critical mission goes south, Sil is forced to flee the very company she once called home.

Desperate to prove she’s no traitor, Sil infiltrates the Analog Army, an activist faction working to bring Syntex down. Her plan is to win back her employer’s trust by destroying the group from within. Instead, she and the Army’s reckless leader, Ryder, uncover a horrifying truth that threatens to undo all the good Sil’s ever done.

With her tech rapidly degrading and her new ally keeping dangerous secrets of his own, Sil must find a way to stop Syntex in order to save her friends, her reputation—and maybe even herself.
This one sounds like a lot of high-action fun. I am particularly drawn by the fact that young Sil is running out of time before she dies – and that sense of the clock ticking and having unfinished business always produces tension in the best possible way.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK The Gilded Wolves – Book 1 of The Gilded Wolves series by Roshani Chokshi #Brainfluffbookreview #TheGildedWolvesbookreview

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I was delighted to see this offering in Netgalley’s audio section, as I’d read the ebook and really enjoyed it – see my review. So I expected to be completely engrossed in the audiobook.

BLURB: Paris, 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: an engineer with a debt to pay; a historian banished from his home; a dancer with a sinister past; and a brother in arms if not blood.

Together they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history—but only if they can stay alive.

REVIEW: I knew exactly what I was getting with this one and expected to tuck right into it. But I hit an unexpected snag with this fantasy heist adventure – I found narrator P.J. Ochlan’s narration rather difficult to listen to. While his command of the various character voices is excellent, his delivery of the text tended to fall into a slightly sing-song cadence that I found very irritating. While there were times when it worked for me – for instance when I felt it matched the rhythm of the writing. But particularly during some of the descriptive passages, I felt Ochlan’s delivery diminished the lushness of Chokshi’s prose. This led me to limit the length of time I listened to the story, especially in the early stages when there is a significant amount of scene-setting and description. Fortunately as the book progressed, this issue became less of a problem due to the gathering pace of the story and the heightened tension as the stakes grew ever larger. Once again, I was struck by Chokshi’s deft characterisation as each one of the gang was well drawn, with both strengths and weaknesses that were highlighted throughout the story.

I would mention that this story definitely falls within the YA genre – the young protagonists are still struggling to discover who they are within the wider world. Emotions within the team are ramped up as they also are trying to work out how they feel about each other. Interestingly, listening to this story had me far less sympathetic to Séverin than when I read it. In fact, I wanted to shake him until his teeth rattled to snap him out of his self-pitying fugue, whereby he seemed to think it was fine to hurt others around because he was also in pain.

However, despite my issues with one of the narrators, I still became caught up in the twisting plot and enjoyed the vivid depiction of a fantastical Paris where magic and a decadent pursuit of pleasure collide to produce a bright world, full of colour and enchantment. Now I have once again been drawn into the story, I want to discover what happens next to this disparate group. Recommended for those who enjoy a richly depicted fantastical world and a magical heist adventure full of twists and turns. While I obtained an audiobook arc of The Gilded Wolves from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10