Tag Archives: Tarquin Hall

June 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffJune2020Roundup

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Lockdown has continued throughout June, though we have been able to see more of our family, which has been wonderful. We were particularly thrilled to be able to meet up on my birthday and have a picnic. Most of the time, though, we have been continuing with the new normal. Himself going off to work, while I have stayed at home reading and writing… While we have had some wonderful warm weather, the cooler windy episodes means spending time with visitors outside hasn’t been practical.

Reading

I read seventeen books in June, which is still more than usual – though I am increasingly unsure what usual means anymore. I had a single DNF and once again, I’m struck by the overall quality of the books I’ve read. My Outstanding Books of the Month were TUYO by Rachel Neumeier and The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal. Neither were audiobooks, as most of the month I’ve been in the thickets of The Priory of the Orange Tree, which I am listening to at 1.5x slower as the narrator’s voice is quiet. I might have completed it by Christmas…

My reads during June were:

AUDIOBOOK The Naturalist – Book 1 of The Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne

Hostile Takeover – Book 1 of the Vale Investigation series by Cristelle Comby – see my review

The House on Widows Hill – Book 9 of the Ishmael Jones mysteries by Simon R. Green – see my review

Set My Heart To Five by Simon Stephenson – see my review

The Empire of Gold – Book 3 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty – see my review

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – see my review

Flower Power Trip – Book 3 of the Braxton Campus mysteries by James J. Cudney

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken – Book 3 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall

NOVELLA To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

The Ruthless – Book 2 of The Deathless series by Peter Newman

Entangled Secrets – Book 3 of the Northern Circle Coven series by Pat Esden

Perilous Hunt – Book 7 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker

TUYO – Book 1 of the Tuyo series by Rachel Neumeier – see my review – Outstanding book of the month

The Calculating Stars – Book 1 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi

The Fated Sky – Book 2 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal – Outstanding book of the month

Ghost Ups Her Game – Book 9 of the Bailey Ruth mysteries by Carolyn Hart



Writing and Editing

I worked on editing a friend’s book for the first quarter of the month, then turned to a space opera adventure I’d written several years ago to see if it was any good. I worked on rewriting and tidying it up and hopefully will have it ready to publish before the end of the year.

I then published my short story Picky Eaters about a grumpy elderly dragon, who suddenly finds himself in the middle of family life when he gets unexpectedly evicted from his lair and has to move in with his daughter. I have been really pleased with the reception, as I’d hoped it would provide an enjoyable escapist read. All proceeds will go to mental health charities.

Because I was editing and rewriting, my wordcount is far smaller this month, but that’s how it goes. Overall, I wrote just under 31,000 words in June, with just over 21,000 on the blog, and just under 10,000 on my writing projects.


Blogging

I am finding being able to chat about books a great comfort on my blog, but as Himself is now on holiday from the last week in June, I haven’t been around to comment and visit as much as I’d like – sorry about that. Hopefully once we get back to normal, I will be around more. I hope you are all keeping well, both physically and mentally. It’s an ongoing strain and I’ve been rather frayed at times, even though I’m also aware we have been very lucky… so far. Take care and stay safe.x






Three MURDER MYSTERY Mini-reviews: The Case of the Missing Servant; Dying Fall; The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing #BrainfluffMini-reviewsblog

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The Case of the Missing Servant – Book 1 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
BLURB: The Case of the Missing Servant shows Puri (“Chubby” to his friends) and his wonderfully nicknamed employees (among them, Handbrake, Flush, and Handcream) hired for two investigations. The first is into the background of a man surprisingly willing to wed a woman her father considers unmarriageable, and the second is into the disappearance six months earlier of a servant to a prominent Punjabi lawyer, a young woman known only as Mary.

The Most Private Investigator novels offer a delicious combination of ingenious stories, brilliant writing, sharp wit, and a vivid, unsentimental picture of contemporary India. And from the first to the last page run an affectionate humour and intelligent insights into both the subtleties of Indian culture and the mysteries of human behaviour.

Yes, there is a lot of hype and enthusiasm above, but I think that it’s warranted. I loved this murder mystery adventure. Contemporary India is vividly portrayed as Puri endeavours to deal with a couple of important cases. Though, as far as he is concerned, they are all vital. Imagine a portly, more gregarious version of Sherlock Holmes, with the same dogged determination to solve his cases and the same very high opinion of his own abilities. Though instead of Watson, Puri has a team working for him who are skilled at going undercover, as well as a very interfering mother, who is far better at this type of work than Puri wants to acknowledge. This series is definitely an addition to my reading list – I love the characters and the bustling, energetic world skilfully depicted by Hall. Highly recommended for murder mystery fans looking for something different. 9/10


A Dying Fall – Book 5 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths
BLURB: Ruth’s old friend Dan Golding dies in a house fire. But before he died Dan wrote to Ruth telling her that he had made a ground-breaking archaeological discovery. Could this find be linked to his death and who are the sinister neo-Nazi group who were threatening Dan? Ruth makes the trip to Blackpool to investigate, wary of encroaching on DCI Harry Nelson’s home ground. Soon Ruth is embroiled in a mystery that involves the Pendle Witches, King Arthur and – scariest of all – Nelson’s mother.

There are forces at work in the town that that threaten all that Ruth holds dear. But, in the final showdown on Blackpool Pleasure Beach, it is Cathbad who faces the greatest danger of all.
This is a well-written entertaining continuation of this police procedural murder mystery series. I loved the progression of the main characters that we have all come to know – particularly Ruth’s ongoing struggle to continue working with a very small child. And it struck me how rarely we see the protagonist coping with the ongoing challenge of holding down a demanding job with having a small child. BUT I was struck by an anomaly… In the last book, Ruth takes a painful decision not to see someone who badly needed her, due to the possible risk to Kate. And yet, despite threatening emails, she is happy to take her off to Blackpool for a combined holiday and investigation? Hm. I have knocked off a point for that inconsistency – but other than that, I loved it. Griffiths is really hitting her stride with this series, I feel.
8/10


The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing – Book 2 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
BLURB: Murder is no laughing matter. Yet a prominent Indian scientist dies in a fit of giggles when a Hindu goddess appears from a mist and plunges a sword into his chest.

The only one laughing now is the main suspect, a powerful guru named Maharaj Swami, who seems to have done away with his most vocal critic. Vish Puri, India’s Most Private Investigator, master of disguise and lover of all things fried and spicy, doesn’t believe the murder is a supernatural occurrence, and proving who really killed Dr. Suresh Jha will require all the detective’s earthly faculties. To get at the truth, he and his team of undercover operatives—Facecream, Tubelight, and Flush—travel from the slum where India’s hereditary magicians must be persuaded to reveal their secrets to the holy city of Haridwar on the Ganges.

I enjoyed the first book so much, I was almost afraid to dive back into the bustling crowded world that Vish Puri inhabits, just in case this book didn’t deliver on the colour, diversity and sheer exuberance of modern Indian society depicted by Hall. Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed – once again not only did I thorough enjoy the vivid backdrop, there were two wonderful crimes for Puri and his mother to unravel. Up to this point, while the investigations have been well crafted and enjoyable – it is in this book that I was completely gripped by the crimes. Highly recommended for all fans of murder mysteries – especially if you are looking for something different.
9/10


Sunday Post – 21st June, 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.

And finally I’m feeling back to normal, again. No more thick head, sore joints, scratchy throat and the taste of petrol. I also managed to touch base with both children. They are both doing well – I’m so proud of them both for entirely different reasons. My daughter has been thrown SUCH a curved ball and she has been coping brilliantly. While my son is happier than I’ve ever seen him and long may it continue. I just wish he wasn’t quite so far away…

The weeds are taking hold after the rain we’ve had, though we are hoping to get out into the garden in the coming week and get it back under control. The echiums hum with bees and we have lavender in flower and strawberries in the garden… My very favourite time of year!

On the writing front, I have been working on a new space opera adventure, Unearthly Things Above and I am looking forward to Picky Eaters being released tomorrow. Below is a lovely review written by Hayley at Rather Too Fond of Books.

Last week I read:
Flower Power Trip – Book 3 of the Braxton Campus mysteries by James J. Cudney
At a masquerade ball to raise money for renovations to Memorial Library, Kellan finds a dead body dressed in a Dr. Evil costume. Did one of Maggie’s sisters kill the annoying guest who’d been staying at the Roarke and Daughters Inn, or does the victim have a closer connection to someone else at Braxton College?
I thoroughly enjoy this cosy mystery series featuring a single father trying to bring up his small daughter in between holding down a job and solving the murders that keep turning up at his university. And this is yet another well-plotted whodunit, with a steady stream of convincing suspects, entertaining characters, and a sympathetic protagonist with secrets of his own… See my reviews of Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack.

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken – Book 3 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
Vish Puri is as fond of butter chicken as the next Punjabi. So when it’s served at the Delhi Durbar hotel at an India Premier League cricket match dinner, he’s the first to tuck in. Faheem Khan, father of Pakistani star cricketer Kamran Khan, can’t resist either. But the creamy dish proves his undoing. After a few mouthfuls, he collapses on the floor, dead…
This series is another firm favourite – I fell in love with this one after reviewing The Case of the Reincarnated Client as a Netgalley arc and was so impressed that I went out and bought the rest of the series. I’m now working my way through it and loving the vivid Indian setting, which is beautifully evoked by Hall’s wonderful writing.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate – NOVELLA by Becky Chambers
In her new novella, Sunday Times best-selling author Becky Chambers imagines a future in which, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of the solar system instead transform themselves. Ariadne is one such explorer. As an astronaut on an extrasolar research vessel, she and her fellow crewmates sleep between worlds and wake up each time with different features. Her experience is one of fluid body and stable mind and of a unique perspective on the passage of time. Back on Earth, society changes dramatically from decade to decade, as it always does. Ariadne may awaken to find that support for space exploration back home has waned, or that her country of birth no longer exists, or that a cult has arisen around their cosmic findings, only to dissolve once more by the next waking. But the moods of Earth have little bearing on their mission: to explore, to study, and to send their learnings home.
I loved this one. It takes great technical skill to successfully write a novella – and Chambers nails it. I finished this one with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat and whatever you do, please read the Afterword – because there you find the reason for that striking title… See my reviews of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit.

The Ruthless – Book 2 of The Deathless series by Peter Newman
THE REBEL.
For years, Vasin Sapphire has been waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Now, as other Deathless families come under constant assault from the monsters that roam the Wild, that time has come.
THE RUTHLESS.
In the floating castle of Rochant Sapphire, loyal subjects await the ceremony to return their rule to his rightful place. But the child raised to give up his body to Lord Rochant is no ordinary servant. Strange ad savage, he will stop at nothing to escape his gilded prison.
AND THE RETURNED…
Far below, another child yearns to see the human world. Raised by a creature of the Wild, he knows its secrets better than any other. As he enters into the struggle between the Deathless houses, he may be the key to protecting their power or destroying it completely.
THE WILD HAS BEGUN TO RISE.
I loved The Deathlesssee my review. So when I was reminded of this series, I tracked down this second book, which had all the taut tension and atmospheric worldbuilding of the first book, with a cast of vivid characters and a suitably twisty plot. As it left everything on a cliffhanger, I’m relieved that the third book is being released in August.


My posts last week:


Review of Relatively Strange – Book 1 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik

Friday Face-off featuring The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Book Character Quarantine Tag

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Entangled Secrets – Book 3 of the Northern Circle Coven by Pat Esden

Review of NETGALLEY arc Hostile Takeover – Book 1 of the Vale Investigation series by Cristell Comby

Sunday Post – 14th June 2020



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

A Summary and Analysis of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
https://interestingliterature.com/2020/06/shakespeare-midsummer-nights-dream-summary-analysis/ One of my favourite Shakespeare plays – along with The Tempest…

When You Want to Help Someone: What Helps, What Doesn’t https://mrsozzie.wordpress.com/2020/06/15/when-you-want-to-help-someone-what-helps-what-doesnt/ The hard fact is that in these times, we are more likely to encounter someone in serious trouble. And often we are unprepared and don’t really know what to say or do for the best. This helpful article provides great advice…

Regarding Privilege, Empathy and Voice https://writerunboxed.com/2020/06/15/regarding-privilege-empathy-and-voice/ As I’ve said before – I don’t generally get involved in politics on this blog. But this article written by a white, middle-aged man on what is going on right now has some important things to say for those of us who desperately want to do something to help things change, but because of our colour and privilege, we don’t quite know how or what. I also recommend you read the comments…

Rose Garden Haiku https://mythsofthemirror.com/2020/06/11/chaos/ Diana also turns to her garden when she finds the world too hard to take – but in addition to taking photos, she writes beautiful poetry, too…

Book review: Picky Eaters by S.J. Higbee @sjhigbee https://rathertoofondofbooks.com/2020/06/19/picky-eaters-s-j-higbee/ This is a lovely review by Hayley for my short story Picky Eaters, which is due to be released tomorrow… All proceeds are going mental health charities for the duration of this book’s publication life.

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

April 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffApril2020Roundup

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I’m conscious that I’ve never experienced a month like it in the whole of my life – and I’m not sure I ever will again… Or perhaps I will. Perhaps May and June will continue being in social isolation with lots of handwashing and staying at home. But what has kept my head straight is my love of reading and writing – thank goodness for both! I’ve also loved the wonderful sunny weather – it’s been a joy being able to sit in the garden and watch Spring springing… I’m conscious that I am very blessed. And given that none of us can guarantee if we will survive this, I’ve determined to be as thankful for every coming day as I can be. So despite everything, this has been a very precious April.

Reading
I read eighteen books in April, which isn’t quite as marvellous as it sounds, as one of those was a short story and another was a novella. This is the list:

The Book of Koli – Book 1 of the Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey
The Last Emperox – Book 3 of the Interdependency series by John Scalzi
Shorefall – Book 2 of The Founders Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett
Scythe – Dimension Drift prequel NOVELLA #1 by Christina Bauer
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. This is my EBOOK read of the month
Dead Eye – Book 1 of the Tiger’s Eye Mystery series by Alyssa Day
Arkadian Skies – Book 6 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
Q by Christina Dalcher
The Hedgeway SHORT STORY by Vivienne Tuffnell
A Little Bit Witchy – Book 1 of the Riddler’s Edge series by A.A. Albright
The Dark Side of the Road – Book 1 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
Firewalkers by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel. This is my AUDIOBOOK read of the month
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing – Book 2 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
The Palm Tree Messiah by Sarah Palmer – manuscript read
Witch Dust – Book 1 of the Witch series by Marilyn Messik
Girls of Paper and Fire – Book 1 of Girls of Paper and Fire series by Natasha Ngan
After Seth by Caron Garrod

Writing
I continued working on my Creative Writing How-To Book on Characterisation and I’m pleased with the progress, but I woke up on 11th April with an epiphany about some issues that had been niggling me with Mantivore Warrior – so I dropped my How-To book and immediately dived back into the manuscript to fix it. I’ve learnt from hard experience not to ever put those kinds of moments off – otherwise they pass and I forget!

I have also been working on another project that I’m hoping to be able to discuss in another couple of weeks. I don’t normally flit between so many different writing projects – but right now everything is extraordinary. So it makes sense that my writing patterns would suddenly go AWOL, too… Overall, I wrote just over 43,000 words in April, with just under 17,000 words on my blog and just under 25,500 words going towards my writing projects, which brings my yearly total to just under 180,000 words so far.

Blogging
I have found keeping up with my blog such a source of comfort and encouragement – I know social media can be responsible for some dark acts, but I happen to be fortunate enough to inhabit a really lovely corner, where I meet some of the nicest people on the planet. But that’s not a surprise, because they are readers, or writers, or both. I hope May is a good month for you and that you stay safe. Take care.xxx






Sunday Post – 3rd May, 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.

While we needed the rain, I found it really hard to suddenly have to deal with the lower light levels and colder temperatures. Thank goodness I woke up yesterday to find bright sunshine pouring in through the window, so we went out into the garden to do some weeding and move some plants. The fresh, shiny leaves are bursting into life and they look fabulous. I am wrapping my head around the fact that during this terrible time, this has been the most beautiful Spring I can remember. Our echiums just go from strength to strength…

Non-gardening news: I sat in my sister’s garden last weekend more than 6 feet apart from her and caught up – I miss her so… She is still working flat-out at the chemists and returns home each night exhausted, as she finds wearing all the protective clothing hot and stifling – although she is very aware how important it is. Upsettingly, some customers have been incredibly rude. One man told her colleague that she looked ‘ugly and ridiculous in that get-up’ – as if it was some kind of fashion choice! Thank goodness people like that are in the minority…

Last week I read:

AUDIOBOOK The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel
England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen before Jane dies giving birth to the male heir he most craves. Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to the breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?
This has been a complete joy. My only sorrow is that my journey with this wonderfully realised, complex man is now over. Review to follow.


The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing – Book 2 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
Murder is no laughing matter. Yet a prominent Indian scientist dies in a fit of giggles when a Hindu goddess appears from a mist and plunges a sword into his chest. The only one laughing now is the main suspect, a powerful guru named Maharaj Swami, who seems to have done away with his most vocal critic. Vish Puri, India’s Most Private Investigator, master of disguise and lover of all things fried and spicy, doesn’t believe the murder is a supernatural occurrence, and proving who really killed Dr. Suresh Jha will require all the detective’s earthly faculties. To get at the truth, he and his team of undercover operatives—Facecream, Tubelight, and Flush—travel from the slum where India’s hereditary magicians must be persuaded to reveal their secrets to the holy city of Haridwar on the Ganges.
This has been another entertaining read in an excellent series that so far has delivered every time – but I think this one is my favourite so far…


Witch Dust by Marilyn Messik
For Sandra, daughter of illusionists, Adam and Ophelia, life’s never been run of the mill! But when Adam’s wandering eye lights on yet another conquest, it proves a chorus girl too far, and Sandra’s caught in the reverberations of her parents acrimonious parting. Coerced into restoring her depressed Mother to the bosom of a family Sandra never knew existed, she’s sucked into a situation that even for her is unnerving.
From being without a single relative, she suddenly acquires several she’d rather do without, and learns a few home truths she’d prefer not to know.
This was fun! I loved the paranormal hi-jinks that Sandra was plunged into, the humour and real creepy tension was nicely balanced. Review to follow.


Girls of Paper and Fire – Book 1 of Girls of Paper and Fire series by Natasha Ngan
Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.
I enjoyed this lush YA fantasy adventure, though I did feel that perhaps another character would have made a more effective protagonist. Review to follow.




After Seth by Caron Garrod
At Seth Jameson’s funeral, three women gather at the graveside… But they aren’t there to mourn him. Detective Inspector Beatrice (Billie) Nixon is about to retire. Her last job is to investigate whether Seth’s death was misadventure, as previously thought, or murder. As she hears their stories, a different picture of Seth emerges from the one presented to the world.
•Roz – driven to alcoholism after years of physical, mental and financial abuse.
•Eleanor – withdrawn from the world after a terrifying and life changing experience.
•Imogen – obsessed and delusional.
And Beatrice begins to wonder not did anyone kill him, but why did they wait so long? But there were other women in Seth’s life and, as she hears all their experiences, Beatrice discovers a story of strength, friendship and love. And after a lifetime dedicated to the law, she is forced to ask herself… Can murder ever be justified?
It was a wonderful treat to discover that one of my former writing students has released a novel she was working on when attending my class. I have read it to discover how it turned out – and I was so impressed! Review to follow.


My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Dark Side of the Road – Book 1 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green

Friday Face-off featuring Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Q by Christina Dalcher

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson

Review of INDIE Ebook Bringing Stella Home – Book 1 of the Gaia Nova series by Joe Vasick

Sunday Post – 26th April 2020

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

My crazy challenge to play and sing the whole Cats musical without words or music in one go https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agBiKQm5zbM&feature=youtu.be My student has been finding ways to occupy his musical talent during lockdown…

Wyrd and Wonder: adventurers wanted https://onemore.org/2020/03/01/wyrd-and-wonder-2020/ If you enjoy reading and reviewing or discussing fantasy books of any description – then check this out…

Taking care of others vs taking care of ourselves https://www.michellescrazybusylife.net/index.php/2020/04/28/taking-care-of-others-v-s-taking-care-of-ourselves/#.Xq6u4Jl7kaE Michelle raises an important point here…

The Wee Lassie’s Top Ten Foods that keep your Immune System Healthy https://weewritinglassie.home.blog/2020/04/26/the-wee-lassies-top-ten-foods-that-keep-your-immune-system-healthy/ It’s more important than ever, to keep yourself as fit as possible, given the new information about COVID-19…

The #parenting and #writing #lifeathome: #Music to #write by, #laugh by, and #hope by https://jeanleesworld.com/2020/04/27/the-parenting-and-writing-lifeathome-music-to-write-by-laugh-by-and-hope-by/ Writing buddy Jean suggests uplifting music when you hit that wall of misery…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

March 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffMarch2020Roundup

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I’ve just read my roundup for February with a sense of unreality, because I didn’t once mention COVID 19. And whatever else I was chatting about, it didn’t include social isolation, daily death tolls and endless hand-washing. And now I’m going to take a deep breath and make that the last time I talk about that stuff. Because this is about carrying on as best we can, despite all that misery and fear. And maybe it’s rank cowardice, but I’m turning to the biggest consolation in my life, when the going gets tough. The one thing that never lets me down – books.

Reading
I read nineteen books in March, which I think is a record number. It was a really good month, with some cracking reads. This is the list:

Death of a Bean Counter – Book 12 of the Maggy Thorsen mystery series by Sandra Balzo – Review to follow

Song of Achilles AUDIOBOOK by Madeline Miller – this is my oustanding audiobook read of the month. Review to follow.

Feathertide by Beth Cartwright. Review to follow.

The Last Protector – Book 4 of the Lovett and Marwood series by Andrew Taylor

A Dying Fall – Book 5 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths.

Longbourn AUDIOBOOK by Jo Baker. Review to follow.

On Writing by Stephen King

Minimum Wage Magic – Book 1 of the DFZ series by Rachel Aaron

By the Pricking of her Thumb – Book 2 of the Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts

The Case of the Missing Servant – Book 1 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer AUDIOBOOK – Book 1 of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series by Rick Riordan

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished – Book 3 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron. Review to follow

Interdicted Space – Book 2 of the Interstellar Space Agency by Gillian Andrews

War of the Maps by Paul McAuley

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

The Clutter Corpse – Book 1 of the Decluttering Mysteries by Simon Brett. Review to follow

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey – this is my outstanding book of the month. Review to follow.

A Dragon of a Different Colour – Book 4 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron

Writing
I finally completed the first draft of Mantivore Warrior in the second week of March. The book ended up being just over 103,000 words long – so much for thinking I was nearing the end at the 75,000 words mark! It took another 12,500 words to finish it and then I was quite ill for nearly a fortnight. I do need to learn to pace myself…

I’ve put it on one side and have been working on my first Creative Writing How-To book on Characterisation. It’s going reasonably well, I’ve just finished Chapter Five on Viewpoint, but it’s very different to writing fiction. I’m hoping to have it completed by the end of April – but with all that’s going on, inevitably that has to be more of a hope than a solid target. Overall, I wrote just over 48,000 words in March, with just over 15,000 words on my blog and just under 30,000 words going towards my writing projects, which brings my yearly total to just over 136,000 words so far.

Blogging
Like many others, I’m finding my online friends a real source of consolation. I can’t tell you how grateful I feel having so many lovely people around me from the book blogging community to talk books with. It’s at times like these that you discover what really matters and who has your back… Wishing everyone a peaceful, healthy April and stay safe.xx






Sunday Post – 15th March, 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.

It’s been an up and down week. I’m still not fully recovered, so didn’t feel up to any fitness regime. We treated ourselves to a smart TV, so have been tucking into Picard, The Crossing, The Expanse and Outlander – all of which I’m loving. It seems a very good time to binge-watch escapist adventures, given how terrifyingly interesting Real Life is becoming. My thoughts go out to everyone, hoping you are all remaining safe and well…

On Wednesday, Himself and I went out for lunch at Haskins, enjoying the swathes of daffodils growing on the roadside and on Friday I drove to Brighton to spend the day with my daughter. It was a lovely sunny day and I thoroughly enjoyed watching my granddaughter having her swimming lesson – what a great age to become water confident. Only just walking, she is learning to enjoy putting her head under the water, splash about in the pool and hold onto the side. This morning, I met up with my sister and we had breakfast together at our favourite riverside café, putting the world to rights – which took some doing. I am making the most of getting out and about while I can and spending time with the people I love.

Last week I read:
AUDIOBOOK Longbourn by Jo Baker
In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.
I’m a bit torn by this one. While the worldbuilding was brilliantly done and I very much appreciated seeing the Bennet family through the lens of the servants, the pacing was too slow in places – and that ending…! Review to follow.



On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.
This was a reread, given I’ve started writing my own How-To book on Characterisation. It was just as enjoyably chatty and informative as I recalled, though some of the advice on how to get your work noticed is outdated.



Minimum Wage Magic – Book 1 of the DFZ series by Rachel Aaron
My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I’m a Cleaner: a freelance mage with an art history degree who’s employed by the DFZ to sort through the mountains of magical junk people leave behind. It’s not a pretty job, or a safe one—there’s a reason I wear bite-proof gloves—but when you’re deep in debt in a lawless city where gods are real, dragons are traffic hazards, and buildings move around on their own, you don’t get to be picky about where your money comes from. You just have to make it work, even when the only thing of value in your latest repossessed apartment is the dead body of the mage who used to live there.
This is a spinoff from the amazing Heartstriker series – though you don’t need to read one to appreciate the other. Seeing as I’m loving the quirky world Aaron has forged, I was happy to dive into this offering. Review to follow.



By the Pricking of Her Thumb – Book 2 of the Real-Town Murders series by Adam Roberts
Private Investigator Alma is caught up in another impossible murder. One of the world’s four richest people may be dead – but nobody is sure which one. Hired to discover the truth behind the increasingly bizarre behaviour of the ultra-rich, Alma must juggle treating her terminally ill lover with a case which may not have a victim.
Another gnarly case for the amazing Alma, set in a dystopian world. I loved the character and the mystery – but Roberts does drift away from the main plot to eulogise about Stanley Kubrick’s films and discuss theories on the role of money in society…

 




The Case of the Missing Servant – Book 1 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
The Case of the Missing Servant shows Puri (“Chubby” to his friends) and his wonderfully nicknamed employees (among them, Handbrake, Flush, and Handcream) hired for two investigations. The first is into the background of a man surprisingly willing to wed a woman her father considers unmarriageable, and the second is into the disappearance six months earlier of a servant to a prominent Punjabi lawyer, a young woman known only as Mary.
This book was part of my Valentine’s pressie from Himself – and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hall’s depiction of contemporary India is vivid, unflinching, yet without being overly bleak or judgemental. I fell in love with Chubby when I read The Case of the Reincarnated Client and this book has cemented my affection for him.


My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring WWW: Wake Book 1 of the WWW series by Robert Sawyer

February 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Winterbourn Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Murder Your Darlings – Book 3 of the Francis Meadowes series by Mark McCrum

Sunday Post – 7th March 2020

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

How To Overcome Self Doubt as a Writer https://lorraineambers.com/2020/01/16/how-to-overcome-self-doubt-as-a-writer/ Having taught Creative Writing for 10 years, and written for more years than I care to recall – I’m aware just how crippling self doubt can be…

Women Building Art! https://platformnumber4.com/2020/03/07/women-building-art/ A lovely good news story about women achieving the highest accolade in a largely male-dominated industry…

Paul Brady, Arty McGlynn, Matt Molloy: Crazy Dreams (Hail St Patrick 2) https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2020/03/11/paul-brady-arty-mcglynn-matt-molloy-crazy-dreams-hail-st-patrick-2/ A fabulous article on Irish music from the awesome Thom Hickey

Thursday Doors – Cavan County Museum 5 https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2020/03/09/thursday-doors-cavan-county-museum-5/ Jean takes us back into the past…

Coronavirus and Parenting: What You Need to Know https://www.npr.org/2020/03/13/814615866/coronavirus-and-parenting-what-you-need-to-know-now?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social Given the nature of this unfolding emergency, arming our children with the knowledge to help them without overwhelming or terrifying them is a challenge. I thought this article was very helpful…

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

February 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffFebruary2020Roundup

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And here we are in March, already… The final week of February proved to be a bit grim as I became ill and rather miserable. The unending rain didn’t help, either… Nonetheless, it proved to be a reasonably productive month as I wrote just over 49,000 words altogether, with nearly 35,500 words on Mantivore Warrior, just over 11,500 words on the blog and just over 2,000 in lesson planning and evaluations.

Reading
I read twelve books in February and DNF’d an audiobook because I couldn’t get on with the narrator – the first time that’s happened to me. This is the list of twelve books I completed:

You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce – my outstanding read of the month
The Case of the Reincarnated Client – Book 5 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
AUDIOBOOK Uprooted by Naomi Novi – audio read of the month
A Blight of Blackwings – Book 2 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearne
P is for Pluto – Book 3 of the Molly Marbles series by Jackie Kingon
AUDIOBOOK Salt Lane – Book 1 of the DS Alexander Cupidi series by William Shaw
Sacred Bride – Book 3 of the Olympus series by David Hair & Cat Mayo
Skyward – Book 1 of the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson
The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter
Murder Your Darlings – Book 3 of the Francis Meadowes series by Mark McCrum
Magic Bites – Book 1 of the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews

Writing
I was some 75,000 words into Mantivore Warrior and decided that I was within touching distance of the end – so decided to blast for the finishing line. A mistake – I was nothing of the sort, given that I had a fair amount to tie up in this the last of the trilogy. And as I tried to prioritise my writing to the exclusion of everything else – I was a bit dismayed at just what a struggle it was as there are still a lot of calls on my time. And the stress of trying to push so hard pitchforked me back to feeling dreadful, both physically and mentally… Let’s hope I’ve learnt that lesson and don’t make the same mistake next time around.

Blogging
Given the car-crash I made of managing my work/life balance at the end of the month (I didn’t…) it won’t be a surprise to learn that keeping the blog going was an almighty fail. Sorry folks. It doesn’t help to drop all the balls, I know. But hopefully this won’t happen again! On the plus side, I’ve been buoyed and comforted by the kind messages and encouragement that I’ve been receiving about my decision to ease down on my blogging frequency. Thank you so much for taking the time to send said comfort – it’s been mightily appreciated and certainly justifies my decision NOT to completely walk away from my blog.






*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Case of the Reincarnated Client – Book 5 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall #Brainfluffbookreview #TheCaseoftheReincarnatedClientbookreview

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Well this was a delightful surprise! Once again, I went looking for another interesting murder mystery after a heavy SFF diet – and came across this one…

BLURB: When a young woman comes forward claiming to be the reincarnation of Riya Kaur, a wife and mother who vanished during the bloody 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Puri is dismissive. He’s busy enough dealing with an irate matrimonial client whose daughter is complaining about her groom’s thunderous snoring. Puri’s indomitable Mummy-ji however is adamant the client is genuine. How else could she so accurately describe under hypnosis Riya Kaur’s life and final hours? Driven by a sense of duty – the original case was his late father’s – Puri manages to acquire the police file only to find that someone powerful has orchestrated a cover-up. Forced into an alliance with his mother that tests his beliefs and high blood pressure as never before, it’s only by delving into the past the help of his reincarnated client that Puri can hope to unlock the truth.

I loved this one. Puri is a very busy and increasingly successful private investigator. But this isn’t the usual setting of somewhere in the US or UK – this is bustling India. It would have been so easy to have got this disastrously wrong and it’s a credit to the author and his in-depth knowledge of Indian society and its faultlines that it worked so well. I didn’t always like Puri. He is often impatient, argumentative, and horribly dismissive of his clearly very clever mother, but he’s also loyal, essentially kind-hearted and tenacious in trying to unravel wrongdoing in a society where corruption is deep-seated and people in the highest places often look the other way.

Despite the fact I crashed midway into this series – this is Book Five and I hadn’t read any of the previous offerings in this series – I didn’t at any stage find myself floundering. Hall has a deft writing style that focused on the setting and mystery so that I was swiftly caught up in Puri’s world and didn’t want to put this one down until I had finished it.

The worldbuilding is exceptional. Not only could I clearly visualise it all – I could taste and hear Puri’s surroundings, the pollution, the constant traffic and ceaseless churn of people struggling to earn a living. While Puri’s love of food gave me an insight into its role in Indian society, as well as succeeding in making my mouth water. All this was achieved without holding up the pace or getting in the way of the narrative arc – which is a whole lot harder to pull off than Hall makes it look. As for the two crimes, running side by side, they were brought to a satisfactory enjoyable conclusion without being too tidy. I absolutely loved this one – to the extent that Himself has gone out and bought me the first four books in the series as an early Valentine’s present – no wonder I love the man so much! Highly recommended for fans of murder mysteries in enjoyable and different settings. The ebook arc copy of The Case of the Reincarnated Client was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

Sunday Post – 9th February, 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.

Another busy week… It didn’t start all that well as I woke up on Monday morning with a headache, and took the decision to cancel my lesson with Tim. I probably could have struggled through it – but didn’t seem fair to either of us. Fortunately, resting up and looking after it meant that come lunchtime it had faded, so I was able to go to Pilates, at long last. But oh my – wasn’t I creaking on Tuesday! Fortunately Fitstep on Wednesday sorted that out… My poor sister woke up on Wednesday to no heating, so on Thursday afternoon I nipped up the road and waited for the engineers to come and sort it out – and she took me out for a meal at The Arun View in the evening. We had a lovely time – she’s been under the weather with a heavy cold that won’t leave, so we haven’t had a chance to get together recently, so it was lovely to be able to have a good old natter.

On Friday, Himself and I travelled up to Brighton to see Frankie perform in the school production of Bugsy Malone – he was Doodles and so got splurged early on, but we both thoroughly enjoyed the show. And on Saturday, we were back up in Brighton – this time to look after the three grandchildren, while Gareth took Rebecca to see Upstart Crow in London. It was quite a big deal – obviously the older two are very used to us – but this was the first time we’d looked after little Eliza alone, giving her supper, bathing and putting her to bed. It went like clockwork and the children were all a delight, although poor Frankie was very much under the weather with a feverish cold. It was the dogs who disgraced themselves by messing in the house!

We got home after 1 am, so I didn’t rise very early this morning – but decided to have a walk along the seafront as Storm Ciara was blowing a hoolie, and the rain hadn’t yet started lashing down. Which are the pics… Thinking of everyone at risk of flooding around the country and hoping those affected are safe.

Last week I read:
You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce
Everyone knew bestselling novelist Cassandra Tipp had twice got away with murder. Even her family were convinced of her guilt. So when she disappears, leaving only a long letter behind, they can but suspect that her conscience finally killed her. But the letter is not what anyone expected. It tells two chilling, darkly disturbing stories. One is a story of bloody nights and magical gifts, of children lost to the woods, of husbands made from twigs and leaves and feathers and bones . . . The other is the story of a little girl who was cruelly treated and grew up crooked in the shadows . . . But which story is true? And where is Cassie now?
I was drawn to this one by the paranormal element – and didn’t expect it to be such a heartbreaking, disturbing read. That said – despite the darker aspect, this is a beautifully written book and one that has stayed with me. Review to follow.

The Case of the Reincarnated Client – Book 5 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
When a young woman comes forward claiming to be the reincarnation of Riya Kaur, a wife and mother who vanished during the bloody 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Puri is dismissive. He’s busy enough dealing with an irate matrimonial client whose daughter is complaining about her groom’s thunderous snoring. Puri’s indomitable Mummy-ji however is adamant the client is genuine. How else could she so accurately describe under hypnosis Riya Kaur’s life and final hours? Driven by a sense of duty – the original case was his late father’s – Puri manages to acquire the police file only to find that someone powerful has orchestrated a cover-up…
I thoroughly enjoyed this quirky book set in India, following the adventures of P.I. Vish Puri, a middle-aged private detective. To the extent that Himself went and bought the previous four books in the series for me as an early Valentine’s present. I love that man!

AUDIOBOOK Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood. But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
I’d read this one back when it first came out and absolutely loved it – though was a bit horrified at just how much of the story I’d forgotten, as I listened to it all over again… It was a real treat – and made me grateful for having the chance to get lost in books, even as I’m cleaning the bathroom.

 

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Last Smile in Sunder City – Book 1 of the Fletch Phillips Archives by Luke Arnold

Friday Faceoff featuring The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Journaled to Death by Heather Redmond

Sunday Post 2nd February 2020

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

William Gibson talks at Bristol’s Festival of Ideas https://rosieoliver.wordpress.com/2020/02/04/william-gibson-talks-at-bristols-festival-of-ideas/ Rosie did a very good job in summing up this fascinating get-together.

Frozen Wavelets presents: Waiting for Beauty by Marie Brennan https://earthianhivemind.net/2020/01/17/frozen-wavelets-presents-waiting-for-beauty-by-marie-brennan/ Steph gives us this gem of a story by one of my favourite authors – proving she can also handle the demands of short fiction as well as novels…

The Silvery Sands of Rosehearty Beach https://ailishsinclair.com/2020/02/rosehearty-beach/ What lovely pics of a beautiful place with an intriguing name…

Writing a Novel When You’re Too Busy to Write a Novel https://writerunboxed.com/2020/02/03/writing-a-novel-when-youre-too-busy-to-write-a-novel-video/ This quirky animated video is fun, whether you’re struggling to write said book, or not. Then you can just thank your luck stars you haven’t boxed yourself into this kind of impossible corner…

Screen Time vs Serene Tim https://wandaluthman.wordpress.com/2020/02/03/screen-time-vs-serene-time/ This practical tips might prove helpful when faced with setting boundaries around this vexed issue with our children…

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