Tag Archives: S.J. Higbee

MANTIVORE DREAMS Cover Reveal and available ARCS #MantivoreDreams #GriffinwingPublishingbooks

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I am delighted to announce that I am about to release the first book in a new series, Mantivore Dreams. The Arcadian Chronicles follows the fortunes of a forgotten human colony and what happens to the aliens already living there.

Again, the cover has been designed by my awesome buddy Mhairi Simpson and I think she’s done a fabulous job. While continuing the branded look she has created for me, this design also gives a clear idea of the story with Vrox’s mantivore eyes lurking behind young Kyrillia.

I am also offering review copies for anyone who would like to read and review this book – there are currently 15 arcs available and here is the link where you can download a copy:
https://booksprout.co/arc/19092/mantivore-dreams

As I am offering it through Booksprout, there is a final date by which the review has to be posted, which is 10th September on Amazon – it doesn’t have to be more than a few lines.

I know many of my readers have fallen in love with Lizzy, so I am hoping that some of you will also find a place in your heart for Kyrillia and grumpy old Vrox, who I personally care about far too much. I’ve included the blurb and the opening scene to give you some idea of whether this one will tick your box…

BLURB: Seventeen-year-old Kyrillia Brarian has an imaginary friend, a kindly mantivore called Vrox. She can’t recall a time when he wasn’t there. And over the years, Vrox has been her main source of comfort and strength as she drudged for her mother and nursed her brain-damaged uncle, so she’s never given much thought as to how he got there. Of course, he can’t be real. But when only three or four other people in her dusty village even smile at her, Kyrillia isn’t about to turn her back on the happy, warm images crowding her mind.

Until a family quarrel spirals into something darker – and Kyrillia is forced to wonder if Vrox is imaginary, or even friendly…

CHAPTER ONE

I held my breath. At last! I’d begun to think I’d never track down this music site. A picklist unfolded and I gawked at the strange words. Classical. Youth Cultures. Popular Cultures. Devotional. Ethnic.
What did they mean? Surely music was just a dance tune, or a song? I jabbed at the first one. Yet another picklist unpeeled onto the mat. Much longer. The words tasted strange as I sounded the musicians’ names aloud. “Beethave- no -hoven… Mozz-art…Ta-ch— simply don’t have the time to sound that one out.” I went for a short name – Bach. What did his Family do, to earn a Name like that?
My eyes slid down the picklist of his tunes and found a piece about organs with something about a minor D. Probably a comedy. I hoped so – I could do with a laugh.
“Play.” I breathed in the thick, sweet smell, storing up the sensation of Facs-mining on the Node – something I didn’t do nearly enough. Looking across at the bubbling organi-packs glowing in their transparent tanks, I wished I could spend more time here, rather than snatch these forbidden stints when Mother was away.
The sound pealed out. What was the instrument? The notes seemed to stop, then to stack up on each other as they roared around the room, making Mother’s flower vases buzz on the stone floor. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard. Torrents of melody attacked, drowning me in a rush of yearning. Everything seemed bright, and achingly beautiful.
The final crashing chord faded into silence.
Vrox sways, crooning with delight…
“Again.” I closed my eyes as the monumental music thundered around me. I was Tranced by Vrox’s joy as his emotion rolled through me, swept along by the reverberating climax—
I was stunned by a hard blow. And another. My hurt-hot ear rang with the impact. My cheek felt numb and heavy; my mouth filled with blood.
Vrox rears up, startled – sorry he hadn’t noticed her approach…
“Turn it off! Turn it off!” Mother shrieked over the music. Her distorted face shivered in my vision for a shock-stalled eternity. Snatches of her rant filtered through Bach’s bone-buzzing crescendo, making her fury seem even worse, “…-icked girl… -ways think you know best… –dare to override my passwor…” The organ tune stopped abruptly, just as she screamed, “…ate you! I hate you…
Her words echoed horribly in the small room.
I jerked to my feet. She’s finally admitted it. Axe-sharp hurt immediately snuffed out the flicker of relief, that I’d been right all these years. “Think I don’t know?” My voice shook, on the edge of tears. But grown girls of seventeen shouldn’t cry in front of their mothers. I spun round, stumbling over a vase, and ran. Out into the hot sunlight. Past the stable, whose sharp smell reminded me I still hadn’t mucked out the camel stall or goat pens. I scrabbled at the keycode on the sidegate, my shaking fingers making a hash of it.
She ran after me, yelling my name. Her panting echoed between the house and high fence, getting closer. Finally, as Vrox focused, I got the sequence right. The gate snicked open as she grabbed for my arm. I twisted away, the burn of her nails raking my skin. Skidding through the gate, I slammed it shut in her face. I sprinted across the front yard and past the first startled Node enquirer of the day, over the village courtyard, heading for Westgate. Heat settled like a greasy coat as I raced down Main Street, dust clotting my nose and throat.
At Westgate, Cupert Peaceman, the village security guard, dodged out of the way. Just as well, because I wasn’t stopping for him, or anyone else. Ignoring several calls, driven by the need to get away, I finally slowed, winded and hurting, on the open road where the verges were widened to discourage hostile wildlife. The sun beat down in a suffocating sheet.
Haven’t got a sunscreen – better find some shade. I tottered along on chewed-string legs, coughing up dust. Mother would say it was my punishment. The thought of her pushed me on.
Turning onto Mantivore Way was a relief. The palm tree clumps offered shade and the smell of the water strengthened my legs. I pushed through the shoulder-high reeds, which used to swish over my head, swallowing me whole. Moist leaves slapped against my sore legs. I broke off a brown-brittled stem, whipping it around and stamping noisily to frighten off any lone jaspers or nemmets sheltering from the sun. River silt seeped through my sandals, soothing my feet as I paddled in the murky water. Reaching my sanctuary – a stranded treetrunk – I sat down and rested my eyes on the river.
Sunslit water glitters through the swaying stalks. Scents of river ooze and crushed leaves tickle Vrox’s nostrils. Wind rocks the reeds with a sighing rattle…
See? I was right. She really hates me… For once Vrox, my imaginary childhood companion, was wrong. He reckoned mothers found their daughters annoying, but that, deep down, they cared.
Vrox croons comfort noises, his vari-colour scales flickering in shades of green and blue.
His image flashed on my inscape, while his sympathy finally broke my resolve not to cry. I buried my face in my hands and sobbed until no more tears would come, while the mantivore paced and huffed his sympathy. Finally, I wiped my eyes, blew my nose and stared across the river, where a cargo boat laden with olives throbbed downstream, headed for Reseda. I watched it disappear around the bend, wishing I was on the deck. But then I’d forfeit my right to be Brarian. Waste Uncle Osmar’s painful effort. Besides, I wanted the job – the Node was the only place I felt truly happy. Other than this place. I stared hungrily at the peaceful patterning of light and water. If I came here more often maybe life would seem worth the effort it takes to breathe.
Vrox churrs a strong agreement…
A swishing of reeds warned me, so he faded from my consciousness before I heard the voice. “Kyrillia?”
I relaxed. “Here, Onice.”
“You braced?”
“I’ve been better.”
She high-stepped into the small space surrounding the treetrunk, and carefully sat on the trunk, lifting her skirts clear of the muddy water. “Saw you pelting down the road, so I figured you’d be here.” Handing me a sunscreen, she added, “You’d better borrow this.”
Typical of Onice to worry about me getting fried to a greasy spot. “Oh! Many thanks. I’ll get it back to you tomorrow.”
“She on to you, again?” Onice’s forehead creased in concern.
Grabbing at a reed stem, I rolled it between my fingers.
I hate you… Mother’s wrath-reddened face blazed through my mind as I opened my mouth to frame the words. And closed it. What could I say? I’d watched Onice bask in her parents’ affection with shocked envy ever since I’d been old enough to understand it. She knew that Mother and I fought – she regularly tangled with her own father. But she’d never make sense of Mother’s loathing for me.
And if she did, maybe she’d realise I wasn’t worth her friendship. I stared at the river. “Found that Music site on the Node and played a song. That was when she caught me.”
Onice clicked her tongue. “Bet what had her steaming was you breaking through her passwords and sneaking onto the Node. Again.”
“Hm.” The reed stem mashed to a papery pulp between my fingers. Onice never understood why I persisted in using the Node, despite Mother’s strict ban. But then, I hadn’t told her about Vrox and his constant longing for the Node, either.
“There’s talk about restarting an inter-village apprentice network, Da says. Some girl drowned herself last month in Pistacia cos of her family’s beatings. Maybe you could get yourself signed up for it.” So Onice figures I’ve angered Mother to breaking point.
I hate you… I pushed the memory away, trying to think straight.
“And if I get apprenticed away from here, what happens to Uncle Osmar? She wouldn’t take proper care of him.” I tore at another reed stem.
Onice shrugged. “You got to live your own life. Your Uncle’s had his chances.”
I sighed. It seemed a hard way to treat the old man, especially after all he’d taught me. But it was a sharp-edged situation and if there’d been an easy option I’d already have taken it.
Onice stood up. “Got to get back. Just wanted to make sure you were alright.”
She’s worried I might follow that poor girl into the river. So she dropped all her chores and came after me. I let go of the reed and hugged her. Hard. “Thanks for coming.” I struggled for a solid way to show my gratitude. “If you’re working late, I’ll come by and lend a hand.”
She shook her head, laughing. “Well if I’m working late, you’ll be slogging even later, you crip-wit!”
“S’pose so.” I shakily joined in the laughter, before she left to face certain punishment from her parents, who didn’t like me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highly recommended.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 20th August, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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

This is my choice of the day:

Sweep of the Blade – Book 4 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
81% A moment passed.

Another.

The sticky coffee slid down her neck, dripping from her hair.

Another.

Seveline bared her fangs in a vicious grimace, spun on her heel, and stomped off. The door hissed shut behind her.

Maud sat very still. This could still go bad. If they came at her now, her best bet would be to jump out the window. It was a thirty-foot fall to the ledge below, but she could survive it.

Kavaline opened her mouth. Every pair of eyes watched her.

“My lady, we are dreadfully sorry. I do not know what came over her.”

“Clearly,” Maud said, her tone dry, “some people just can’t handle their coffee.”

BLURB: Maud Demille is a daughter of Innkeepers—a special group who provide ‘lodging’ to other-planetary visitors—so she knows that a simple life isn’t in the cards. But even Maud could never have anticipated what Fate would throw at her.

Once a wife to a powerful vampire knight, Maud and her young daughter, Helen, were exiled with him for his treachery to the desolate, savage planet of Karhari. Karhari killed her husband, and Maud—completely abandoned by his family—has spent over a year avenging his debts. Rescued by her sister Dina, she’s sworn off all things vampire.

Except… In helping Dina save the world, she met Arland, the Marshal of House Krahr, one of the most powerful vampire houses. One thing led to another and he asked for her hand in marriage. She declined. Arland is not used to hearing the word ‘no;’ and try as she might, Maud can’t just walk away from Arland…

I love this world. I love the characters… the adventures… the non-stop action and excitement… and the humour. I was so excited when I realised there was another book in the series and promised it to myself as a treat when the rewrite to Mantivore Prey was finished. So – here I am, treating myself:).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Post – 18th August, 2019 #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.

On Monday, my daughter came over to pick up my grandson and take him back home – the house seemed a lot emptier without him, as it always does when the grandchildren first go home.

So I got down to work. It’s been a really good week. I’ve been sending out arc copies of Netted after revealing the wonderful cover that superfriend and fellow writer Mhairi designed. I then completed formatting the updated paperback version of Dying for Space, uploaded it and am currently waiting for the proof copy. Hopefully this time around the spacing on the spine will be perfect.

I then started work on the revisions for Mantivore Prey, bracing myself for all sorts of major plot anomalies… poor characterisation… clunky dialogue – and to my delighted surprise, apart from some small alterations necessary to ensure one of the main antagonists is already suitably sneaky right from the start of the book, it read quite smoothly. It took me two days to work through the manuscript, fixing any major problems and by then I was sufficiently fired up to start work on the plot outline for Mantivore Warrior. I’d known the character and some of the main plotpoints, as well as more or less where I wanted the book to end. Now I’ve worked out the whole narrative arc, who all the major characters are and the beginning, the middle and the end. It’s been wonderful to know that this creative upsurge is not going to be hampered by having to break off and produce Creative Writing handouts for the coming term. In fact, it’s going so well, I am seriously considering bringing forward my soft launch of Mantivore Dreams, the first book in the series, to the last week in August.

Yesterday, I took a break from all this work to meet up my sister and have a coffee together and a catchup. Though we didn’t go walking along the beach as it looked like rain – again… The long hot spell we’d enjoyed all through July is a distant memory. The wind and rain we’ve had throughout the week finally snapped off the top two feet of my tallest echium, though fortunately it has more or less finished flowering – I’m grateful that is the only damage we sustained!

Last week I read:

Bright Shards – Book 2 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick
Linguist Avery Alcott has spent three months proving herself to her Vardeshi companions and earning their respect. She arrives at Arkhati, the space station halfway between Earth and Vardesh Prime, eager to continue her adventure. But the next stage of her mission brings its own challenges. In the months to come, new alliances and old friendships will be tested. Avery will question her purpose and her place among the Vardeshi, and she will discover that the most memorable journeys are the ones we can’t predict.
I loved the first book in the series, which I’ve reviewed this week, and this sequel doesn’t disappoint.

 

The Empty Grave – Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud
After the dramatic events of The Creeping Shadow, the Lockwood team (plus Quill Kipps) deserve some well-earned rest. So naturally they break into the Fittes Mausoleum, on a perilous mission to discover the truth about London’s top ghost-hunting agency, and its sinister leader. What they discover will change everything.

But there’s little time to ponder. A near-miss at a haunted fairground is only the start – as the Fittes agency closes in on the team, an epic struggle commences. With the help of some unexpected, and rather ghostly, allies, Lockwood & Co must battle their greatest enemy yet, as they move ever closer to the moment when the earth-shattering secret of ‘the problem’ will finally be revealed.
I’ve been putting this one off… Because once it’s over, I will have finished this cracking paranormal ghost-busting series which has been one of my listening highlights of the year.

 

Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Sun is bloated, diseased, dying perhaps. Beneath its baneful light, Shadrapur, last of all cities, harbours fewer than 100,000 human souls. Built on the ruins of countless civilisations, surviving on the debris of its long-dead progenitors, Shadrapur is a museum, a midden, an asylum, a prison on a world that is ever more alien to humanity.

Bearing witness to the desperate struggle for existence between life old and new, is Stefan Advani, rebel, outlaw, prisoner, survivor. This is his testament, an account of the journey that took him into the blazing desolation of the western deserts; that transported him east down the river and imprisoned him in verdant hell of the jungle’s darkest heart; that led him deep into the labyrinths and caverns of the underworld. He will treat with monsters, madman, mutants. The question is, which one of them will inherit this Earth?

As ever, the sheer versatility of this gifted author impresses as this grim, dystopian vision of a dying society struggles to come to terms with itself held me right to the end.

My posts last week:

Review of INDIE Ebook Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga series by Meg Pechenick

Friday Faceoff featuring The Devil’s Feathers by Minette Walters

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Warehouse by Rob Hart

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman

Teaser Tuesday featuring Bright Shards by Meg Pechenick

Netted Cover Reveal & Extract

Sunday Post – 11th August 2019

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

What is a K-drama? https://perspectiveofawriter.com/2017/08/03/k-drama-primer/ Perhaps you already know what a K-drama is – I didn’t and this excellent, entertaining article told me all about it…

Top Ten Tuesday: Book characters I’d Befriend https://hamletsandhyperspace.wordpress.com/2019/08/13/top-ten-tuesday-characters-id-befriend/ I thoroughly enjoy reading the various TTT articles – but this one was particularly entertaining – though Sarah’s choice of Reichis, a certain squirrelcat had me scratching my head. And she wasn’t the only one to choose the ferocious little beast!

Favorite Books A-Z – Male Writers http://booksbonesbuffy.com/2019/08/13/favorite-books-a-z-male-writers/ A great list – and in the interests of fairness, I would add that at the top of the article, Tammy also adds the link to her list of Female Writers, too.

Short Story Review: THE DEAD, Michael Swanwick https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2019/08/13/short-story-review-the-dead-michael-swanwick/ And I make absolutely no apologies for including a link to this site two weeks running – for here is another marvellous, mind-bending short story to wrap your head around…

Frozen Wavelets – summary of July submissions https://earthianhivemind.net/2019/08/11/frozen-wavelets-summary-of-july-submissions/ For those of you who read and enjoy short stories and those of you who write them – spare a thought for the hapless editor who had to wade through all those submissions…

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

Review of INDIE EBOOK Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick #Brainfluffbookreview #Ascendingbookreview

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Himself picked this one up – and recommended that I read it. After trudging through a couple of hefty fantasy reads, I was yearning for a sci fi space opera adventure and reached for this one…

Twenty-five years ago the Vardeshi came to Earth. Then they vanished without a trace. Graduate student Avery Alcott always knew they would return. When they do, she’s the only one who can speak their language. She’s quickly recruited to join the crew of an 11-man starship on a one-year mission into the depths of space.

What an impressive debut! I loved the character of Avery – bookish, quiet and introverted, which doesn’t stop her being driven and single-minded with hidden resources. Which she certainly needs… She is a linguistic student selected by a brilliant college professor to learn the Vardeshi language just in case they return. And then they do – and she is the only person of an eligible age who can speak their language.

The preparation for a mission where she will be travelling on a Vardeshi ship as a member of their crew as part of the cultural exchange is so very well depicted. I found this book hard to put down as Avery finds herself tackling hand to hand combat, learning how to send secret messages and cooking her own meals on portable equipment as no one knew whether alien foodstuffs would be poisonous to humans, or vice versa. I also loved her struggles to acclimatise – finding the lighting, slight gravity differences, the fact that everything around her isn’t designed for a human body – an issue that she has to cope with.

When things begin to escalate, I’ll admit my heart sank for a while, as I had a horrible feeling this was going to slide into a Hollywood scenario where the whole situation would become overblown and unrealistic, after it had started so strongly. Fortunately, I think Pechenick manages to avoid that one. The nightmarish situation Avery finds herself in is, after all, believable – as is the fallout.

I tore through this one, unable to put it down until I reached the end – when I was adrift with longing for more… I’ve just read the next book, Bright Shards, in this series which I will also be reviewing. Very highly recommended for fans of well-written first contact adventures.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – Hope is a thing with feathers… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceofffeathercovers

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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 currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is FEATHERS. I’ve selected The Devil’s Feather by Minette Walters as I think at least two of the covers are extraordinarily good…

 

This edition was produced by Alfred A. Knopf in August 2006 and is a strong contender. I love the drama of that red feather against the black background – a classic colour combination that always works well. For once, I’m not complaining about the rather ordinary white font, because with the red strands of feathers threaded through them, it gives that special lift so many title and author fonts lack. Overall, this classy offering is eye-catching and clever, with a strong clue as to the genre – what more could you ask from a cover?

 

Published in October 2006 by Pan Books (UK), this is also a really stylish design. The feather with the girl’s eye looking through is both arresting and original. I also very much like the author font – and given that is the book’s selling point, it makes sense to make that the major feature. However I’m less impressed with the chatter in the middle of the design, cluttering it up and diminishing the visual effect.

 

This edition, published by Macmillan in September 2005, shows what a huge impact colours can have. While the previous cover with the white background and tawny feather was eye-catching – this one with the black background and that single feather with the eye looking through is sheer class. Much as I love the first cover, this is the one that actually lifted the hair on the back of my neck. And no chatter across the cover to spoil that fabulous effect either!

 

This Dutch edition, produced by De Boekerij in 2006, is also an interesting cover. The view has the reader trapped behind a screen watching birds wheeling in the sky – the greenish hue and the whole design is really disturbing. While it isn’t my favourite, I do think it is effective at making me stop and look twice at what is going on. If I have a peeve, I think the small title font is underwhelming and an odd choice.

 

This Croatian edition, published in 2006 by Mozaik knjiga, is the most disappointing of all my choices and has more of a feel of someone let loose with photoshop. While a plain white background can be effective – as in the second choice – this time around it simply looks as if they couldn’t be bothered to add another layer of visual interest. And though I appreciate that the wing chopped off like that is supposed to somehow look wrong – it isn’t the right kind of wrongness, more that the design doesn’t hang together. Which is your favourite?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman #Brainfluffbookreview #TheHeartoftheCirclebookreview

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This one was recommended by one of my book blogging friends, so I scampered across to Netgalley and requested it. I’m so sorry I can’t recall who exactly it was who suggested it – but do please let me know and claim the glory – so I can heartily thank you…

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

This book is set in Tel Aviv – Landsman is an Israeli author – and the different setting is just one of a range of aspects that sets this book apart. It is set in an alternate dystopian setting where magic-users around the world face a variety of measures designed to limit their freedom. In the US, they are forced to live in ghettos and while apparently Israeli society is more liberal, it doesn’t prevent many attacks on sorcerers, with most police turning a blind eye to such crimes. Reed is one of those fighting for equal rights for the magical community, putting himself at risk as he serves in a coffee bar. I found his edgy character, with his ability to read and diffuse people’s moods, appealing and sympathetic – even when he was being a bit of a prat, which is when you know the author has nailed her protagonist.

There is also a strong cast of supporting characters, notably his flatmate, Daphne, who is a seer. I like the gritty detail that people who can see into the future or become assailed with other people’s strong emotions are prone to depression and mental illness with a high suicide rate among them – it makes sense. I felt that Landsman had thought through carefully what would be the ongoing consequences for someone cursed with such a gift. In the middle of all this turbulence, Reed falls desperately, helplessly in love with another empath. His same-sex relationship with Lee, an American, grows steadily more intense throughout the book and described with passion and tenderness and while this isn’t principally a romance, this relationship plays a pivotal role in the narrative.

I burned through this book in just over two days, staying awake faaar too long to find out what happens next. I like Landsman’s layered characterisation and trick of writing a situation from the inside out – and would happily read anything else she has written. This is one of my favourite reads of the year so far and is highly recommended for anyone who likes reading about magical worlds with a difference. The ebook arc copy of The Heart of the Circle was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 13th August, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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

This is my choice of the day:

Bright Shards – Book 2 of the Vardeshi series by Meg Pechenick

96% The two drinks I’d had during the reception had long since burned away, leaving me clear-headed and alert. Our launch was scheduled for midday, a mere eight hours from now. I wasn’t about to waste a single moment of my final night on Rikasa sleeping. I rinsed off in the shower and put on matching underwear, a rare occurrence in my life, then jeans and a T-shirt, white to set off my tan. I laughed a bit uncomfortably at myself as I did so. It was an after-party outfit and I hadn’t been invited to any after-parties.

BLURB: Linguist Avery Alcott has spent three months proving herself to her Vardeshi companions and earning their respect. She arrives at Arkhati, the space station halfway between Earth and Vardesh Prime, eager to continue her adventure. But the next stage of her mission brings its own challenges. In the months to come, new alliances and old friendships will be tested. Avery will question her purpose and her place among the Vardeshi, and she will discover that the most memorable journeys are the ones we can’t predict.

This is the sequel to Ascending, which I loved – and now I’m right near the end, I can report that this ongoing first-contact adventure is as good as the first book. I will mention there is a romantic sub-plot for those who either love or loathe that addition to their sci fic adventures. Review to follow…