Tag Archives: troubled young hero

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Nophek Gloss – Book 1 of The Graven series by Essa Hansen #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #NophekGlossbookreview #SciFiMonth2020

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It was the cover of this one that caught my eye – it looked intriguing and the premise was great. So I was delighted to be approved for it. Would I enjoy it – I’ve been a bit disappointed with some of the space opera I’ve been reading, recently. And I’m linking this post to #Sci Fi Month 2020.

BLURB: Caiden’s planet is destroyed. His family gone. And, his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that seems to have a soul and a universe of its own. Together they will show him that the universe is much bigger, much more advanced, and much more mysterious than Caiden had ever imagined. But the universe hides dangers as well, and soon Caiden has his own plans. He vows to do anything it takes to get revenge on the slavers who murdered his people and took away his home. To destroy their regime, he must infiltrate and dismantle them from the inside, or die trying.

REVIEW: Well this one started with a bang! The book starts with the terrifying experience in young Caiden’s life that defines most of the resultant action within the story – I liked that. It meant that I knew exactly what had driven him.

While there are the usual tropes that occur within the genre, Hansen takes them and gives them an interesting spin. I liked the idea of the various universes – and an alien race whose relationship with them is quite different. I also liked the fact that rampant capitalism, which is a staple of this genre, is more nuanced and complicated within this world. In fact the worldbuilding works really well, which isn’t always the case in a book where the character development is so well done. I loved the crew of the ship that rescues Caiden. Each one of them has dark backstories of their own and were either able to use their own experiences to help the boy – or found interacting with him simply too painful.
Hansen’s layered characterisation, so that none of the protagonists are completely good or bad, shone through. As for Threi – Caiden’s initial antagonist – he has to be one of the standout villains of the year, for me.

One of the major themes in this book is how to cope with a terrible trauma. How do you avoid being twisted into a ball of vengeful fury? How do you overcome the pain and anger of injustice so you don’t go on reproducing that on others you interact with? And no… Hansen doesn’t fall back on Pollyanna-ish truisms to help Caiden fight his inner demons.

The plotting in this one is also spot on. I always love it when you are introduced to a person or creature at the beginning of the book as one thing, to find that actually, it is something quite different. Hansen uses this throughout the story to continue producing fresh plot twists throughout. In short, this is one of my favourite space opera adventures of the year – accomplished, well-crafted and packed full of action. It held me throughout and I’m very much looking forward to reading the next in the series. Highly recommended for fans of well written, character-led space opera set in a strong world.
10/10

Friday Faceoff – Let’s take our hearts for a walk in the woods… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffforestcovers

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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 being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with FORESTS OR JUNGLES. I’ve selected Hatchet – Book 1 in the Brian’s Saga series by Gary Paulsen.

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, April 2000

This offering was produced by Atheneum Books for Young Readers in April 2000, but as it is one of the default covers for this successful book, over the years a number of publishers have used this design. I can see why – the young protagonist is featured on the cover with the thick Canadian wilderness in the background and the hatchet featured as an overlay. The blocky treatment of the artwork ensures that it stays eye-catching even when in thumbnail and the blue title font is still readable. That said, I don’t particularly love it – and it isn’t the cover that induced me to buy the book for my son, when he was a struggling reader and I was trying to encourage him to persevere.

Simon Schuster Books, December 2006

Published in December 2006 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, this is the cover that came to mind when I saw this week’s FF theme. And the one on the cover of the book I bought my son all those years ago, as this is the other default cover. I love the forested landscape with the hatchet superimposed across it. It gives a sense of the scale of poor Brian’s plight in a way I don’t think the other one does. I also prefer the punchy title and author font. What I don’t like is that nasty silver blob that detracts from the overall design. Just look at the two covers without the blob and you can see the entirety of the designs and much better they look. This one is so nearly my favourite.

Simon Pulse, December 2006

This edition, published in December 2006 by Simon Pulse books, has flipped the previous design into night-time mode – and what a difference it makes to the tone and mood of the book. I love it and think it is beautiful – but that’s why this one isn’t getting my vote. This cover sings out paranormal shapeshifter to me – which is completely the wrong genre.

Macmillan Children’s Books, 1996

This edition, published in 1996 by Macmillan Children’s Books, is a stunning cover. The hatchet isn’t being used to chop wood, or build shelters – a desperate Brian is using the hatchet to make fire… I love this one. It’s eye-catching, beautiful and absolutely sums up the struggle for survival. The notch in this blade is apparently designed for a ‘hardcore survivalist hatchet, underlining that this is probably the different between life and death for Brian. This one is my favourite.

Pan Macmillan UK, March 2017

This 30th Anniversary edition, published by Pan Macmillan UK in March 2017, is another fabulous cover. The huge grizzly, with the isolated landscape and the small plane flying against a setting sun is stunningly beautiful. I don’t like to nitpick – though I’m going to anyway – but I don’t recall this book being allll about a grizzly bear called Hatchet. And I think that’s the impression you might come away with, when you see this cover. Or perhaps, because it’s the anniversary edition of a much-loved book, the publishers figured most people buying it would know the basic story. But I don’t think that’s an assumption publishers can afford to make. What do you think?


*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Trials of Koli – Book 2 of The Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this post-apocalyptic adventure set in England in a ruined landscape where scattered remnants of humanity try to eke out a precarious existence – see my review of The Book of Koli. Though the overall tone of this one isn’t as bleak as that scenario might suggest – and if you’ve read his best-seller The Girl with all the Gifts or The Boy on the Bridge, then be aware that this series isn’t as doom-laden as those stories. For me, that’s a plus.

BLURB: Beyond the walls of Koli’s small village lies a fearsome landscape filled with choker trees, vicious beasts and shunned men. As an exile, Koli’s been forced to journey out into this mysterious, hostile world. But he heard a story, once. A story about lost London, and the mysterious tech of the Old Times that may still be there. If Koli can find it, there may still be a way for him to redeem himself – by saving what’s left of humankind.

REVIEW: The previous book, The Book of Koli, was solely in our young protagonist’s head, and the major difference here is that we also learn of what befalls the small community that exiled Koli, as we are also in the first-person viewpoint of Spinner. She featured largely in Koli’s life before he went on the run, so it was interesting to see her take on what happened. I would just mention that there are series where you can crash midway into them without too much trouble – this isn’t one of them. Essentially this is an overarching narrative that has been chopped into book-sized segments and if you try picking up what is going on, while you’ll probably get the gist, there is far too much of importance that you’ll have missed.

Once again, we have the broken, ungrammatical language that helps define the worldbuilding, partly to give an indication of the length of time that has elapsed and partly to show rather than tell of the lack of education and erosion of knowledge. It’s an issue that is bound to divide readers – some tolerate, some loathe, and others absolutely love it. I’m in the latter category and find it really helps me get immersed in the world. Koli isn’t travelling alone. He’s accompanied by a grumpy older woman who is a travelling healer and has come to a grim conclusion about the viability of humankind – hence the journey to try and locate a more organised settlement with a large population.

I really enjoyed this second slice of the adventure. We see and learn more about Koli’s companions, as well as also discovering more about the capabilities of the technology they are using. I particularly enjoyed seeing how another community, living near the sea, manages to exist. And it was refreshing to also realise that not every settlement in this dystopian view of the future is innately hostile or aggressive.

This second book is well paced, with plenty going on, as well as increasing what is at stake and how important it is that Koli and his companions succeed. If I have a concern, it’s how Carey is going to combine the two strands of his story – that of Mythen Rood and Koli’s fortunes – in the final book, The Fall of Koli, which is due to come out in March next year. While I obtained an arc of The Trials of Koli from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Sunday Post – 6th September, 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.

Most of the first half of the week was dominated by the launch of Mantivore Warrior on Monday, which went really well. Thank you to everyone who retweeted and mentioned that Warrior is now live and let loose on the world.

The weather was a lot better – though not good enough for our Writing Group to get together on Wednesday evening, which was a real shame. It had been bright and warm all day, until the evening when it started raining, so we were Zooming once more. Though it was a really productive meeting, where several of us shared our work and I got some valuable feedback on the beginning of Picky Eaters 2.

Unfortunately, I am now struggling with a very sore back and my usual strategies for dealing with it aren’t working, so I’ve a physio appointment on Tuesday. I was supposed to travel down to Ringwood yesterday to see my in-laws with my husband – but I woke up feeling too sore and car journeys are never my friend, anyway. I’d travelled to Brighton on Thursday to see my daughter and the children and brought back the boys to stay overnight – a last sleepover before they go back to school. It was lovely to see them and their stay was rounded off by going out for a meal together at a local pub restaurant with a vegan menu, where my daughter and little Eliza joined us on Friday afternoon. Today is my husband’s birthday, and today’s photos are from the big wheel which was recently installed on Littlehampton foreshore. We are planning to have a lazy day together and go out for a meal with my sister tonight.


Last week I read an astonishingly strong selection of books:

Ink & Sigil – Book 1 of the Ink & Sigil series by Kevin Hearne
Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails – and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae. But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse.

But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective – while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It was so refreshing to read of a sixty-something protagonist, who isn’t magically enhanced or rejuvenated and Hearne’s trademark humour is evident in this series, too. Recommended, particularly for fans of the Iron Druid series.


AUDIOBOOK – The Delirium Brief – Book 8 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
Bob Howard’s career in the Laundry, the secret British government agency dedicated to protecting the world from unspeakable horrors from beyond spacetime, has entailed high combat, brilliant hacking, ancient magic, and combat with indescribably repellent creatures of pure evil. It has also involved a wearying amount of paperwork and office politics, and his expense reports are still a mess.
Now, following the invasion of Yorkshire by the Host of Air and Darkness, the Laundry’s existence has become public, and Bob is being trotted out on TV to answer pointed questions about elven asylum seekers. What neither Bob nor his managers have foreseen is that their organization has earned the attention of a horror far more terrifying than any demon: a British government looking for public services to privatize.
This was huge fun to listen to – and has made me determined to get hold of the next one in the series sooner, rather than later as this one ended on something of a cliffhanger. I’d forgotten just how smart and darkly funny Charles Stross’s writing can be. Review to follow.


The Trials of Koli – Book 2 of the Rampart Trilogy by M.R. Carey
Beyond the walls of Koli’s small village lies a fearsome landscape filled with choker trees, vicious beasts and shunned men. As an exile, Koli’s been forced to journey out into this mysterious, hostile world. But he heard a story, once. A story about lost London, and the mysterious tech of the Old Times that may still be there. If Koli can find it, there may still be a way for him to redeem himself – by saving what’s left of humankind.
Carey keeps the tension up and expands the story by giving us an insight into what is going on in the village that exiled Koli in the first place, as well as taking Koli’s adventures further. The world is brilliantly depicted and I enjoyed the characters.

The Green Man’s Silence – Book 3 of the Green Man series by Juliet E. McKenna
Daniel Mackmain has always been a loner. As a dryad’s son, he can see the supernatural alongside everyday reality, and that’s not something he can easily share. Perhaps visiting East Anglia to stay with Finele Wicken and her family will be different. They have their own ties to the uncanny.

But something is amiss in the depths of the Fens. Creatures Dan has never encountered outside folk tales are growing uneasy, even hostile. He soon learns they have good reason. Can he help them before they retaliate and disaster strikes the unsuspecting locals? Can the Green Man help Dan in a landscape dominated by water for centuries, where the oaks were cut down aeons ago? A modern fantasy rooted in the ancient myths and folklore of the British Isles.
I thoroughly enjoyed Dan’s latest adventure, which takes place in a corner of England that is rich with history and folklore. I loved that Finele was once again part of the story and found this one impossible to put down. Review to follow.



My posts last week:

A Déjà vu Review of Dangerous Waters – Book 1 of the Hadrumal Crisis series by Juliet E. McKenna

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Tips on Food and Drink

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Deadly Waters by Dot Hutchison

Friday Face-off featuring Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Ink & Sigil – Book 1 of the Ink & Sigil series by Kevin Hearne

Cover Love #3 featuring the covers of Juliet E. McKenna

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Grave Secrets – Book 1 of the Lavington Windsor mysteries by Alice James

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Kept from Cages – Book 1 of The Ikiri duology by Phil Williams

Two Sci Fi Mini-Reviews: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers and Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

Tuesday Treasures – 11

MANTIVORE WARRIOR is published today!

Sunday Post – 30th August 2020


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

Everyday Items We’ve Been Using Wrong the Whole Time https://brain-sharper.com/social/everyday-items-using-wrong-tw/?utm_campaign=Everyday%20Items%20Elena%20V1%20VV%3E1%20En%20-%20Desktop%20WW%20TW&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=WC&psl=i_5486fa There are all sorts of tips and tricks here that I will be using in future! The pasta spoon tip is a revelation – and how to open a keyring without breaking nails…

What Counts as Speculative? https://specpo.wordpress.com/2020/09/03/what-counts-as-speculative/ This infographic is going to divide many SFF readers, I think…

Fantasy and Sci Fi to review for free 1-30 September https://storyoriginapp.com/bundles/09afb25c-d13e-11ea-bc51-0f1a41c9edf0?bundleLinkId=G1i79S8 If you’re looking for more SFF reads and enjoy helping authors out by leaving a review – then this might be just what you’re looking for…

Sci Fi Month 2020: the future is calling https://onemore.org/2020/09/01/announcing-scifimonth-2020/ I LOVE Sci Fi Month! If you also enjoy it and want to get in on the ground floor – here’s how to do it…

On Boundaries and Doors to Magical Realms https://jeanleesworld.com/2020/09/01/a-writers-thoughts-on-boundaries-in-magic-plus-a-coverreveal-and-arc-access-to-my-new-ya-fantasy-novel/ Jean Lee’s articles are always worth reading – and as she is shortly to release a new book – yippee! – she is considering this intriguing aspect of many fantasy tropes…

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

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 26th August, 2020 #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 – The Trials of Koli – Book 2 of the Rampart trilogy by Carey – release date 17th September

#science fiction #post apocalyptic #troubled young hero

BLURB: Beyond the walls of Koli’s small village lies a fearsome landscape filled with choker trees, vicious beasts and shunned men. As an exile, Koli’s been forced to journey out into this mysterious, hostile world. But he heard a story, once. A story about lost London, and the mysterious tech of the Old Times that may still be there. If Koli can find it, there may still be a way for him to redeem himself – by saving what’s left of humankind.

I loved the first book in this series – see my review of The Book of Koli – so I’m really excited by the sequel coming out so soon after the first book. And I was delighted to get hold of an arc – yippee! Carey is very good at writing shattered societies – I was blown away by his enthralling The Girl with All the Gifts – see my review.





Review of AUDIOBOOK The Last Olympian – Book 5 of Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan #Brainfluffaudiobookreview #TheLastOlympianaudiobookreview

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I have been listening to this series throughout 2019 and thoroughly enjoying this modern take on the Greek myths from the perspective of a dyslexic demi-god, who is aged twelve when the series starts with Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.

BLURB: All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of a victory are grim. Kronos’s army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan’s power only grows. While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it’s up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time.

REVIEW: If you’re thinking there seems to be some striking similarities to Harry Potter, another magical youngster, you’d be right – there are. But there are also some important differences. Riordan’s stitching of Percy’s rather fractured family life and learning difficulties onto the ancient Greek myths is the vital ingredient that lifts this series into something really special. I think it’s been done very well, so that now Percy is approaching his sixteenth birthday, which is surrounded by a particularly doom-laden prophesy, just as the gods and titans are set for a bloody rematch of their first apocalyptic battle – you’ll realise the stakes couldn’t be higher. Whatever you do, don’t plunge into this book without reading at least the previous two first, although ideally you’d go back to the beginning, as there is a linked narrative running across the books. While each story encapsulates a single adventure, there is an ongoing progression all leading towards this, the final book.

This means the scene-setting and battles all have to be sufficiently climactic and engrossing to satisfy the reader’s raised expectations, or this series will end with a whimper, rather than a bang. Riordan triumphantly achieves this by writing a series of fabulous battles in Manhattan, not just featuring Percy, but also satisfactorily concluding the narrative arcs of all the main cast that have accompanied Percy on his journey. In amongst the mayhem and desperate fighting, with inevitable losses and heartbreak, there are a steady stream of sardonic asides that provide welcome shafts of humour throughout.

As this falls somewhere between a children’s and YA read, there is also a bit of romance, which has been bubbling away in the background through the previous two books, in particular. There were two girls Percy was attracted to – not that he did all that much about it, so thank goodness we have no dreaded love triangle. I find it endearing that our skilled swordsman turns into a clammy mess in the presence of the girls in his life… Needless to say, that strand is also wrapped up. Overall, this is a really strong conclusion to an entertaining series that also teaches a fair bit about the ancient Greek gods along the way. Highly recommended for children of all ages.
9/10


Series I’ve Completed So Far in 2020… #Brainfluffbookblog #SeriesCompletedSoFar-2020

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Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger duology by Marie Brennan
Created by the merging of witch and doppelganger, Mirei is a unique being. Her extraordinary magic makes her the most poweful witch alive—and a notorious social outcast. While Satomi, the leader of the witches’ ruling Primes, hails Mirei as a miracle, rival Primes proclaim that Mirei is an evil abomination… and that those who champion her must be destroyed. Now the different witch factions engage in a bloody war with magic, treachery, and murder. But both sides may be fighting for nothing. For the power that the rebel Primes fear, the magic that Mirei alone possesses, is killing her.

Thoroughly enjoyed this one. This is a series that deserves to be better known.

Bone Silence – Book 3 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds
Two sisters ran away from home to join the crew of a spaceship. They took on pirates, faced down monsters and survived massacres . . . and now they’re in charge. Captaining a fearsome ship of their own, adventures are theirs for the taking. But Captain Bosa’s fearsome reputation still dogs their heels, and they’re about to discover that, out in space, no one forgives, and no one forgets . . .

This was quite a gritty, creepy read that took some of the established tropes for this sub-genre – and twisted them into something completely different. Enjoyable and unpredictable.

Crownbreaker – Book 6 of the Spellslinger series by Sebatien de Castell
Kellen and Reichis are settling into their new lives as protectors of the young queen and dealing with the constantly shifting threats to her reign and to her life. For the first time in his life, Kellen feels as if he’s becoming the kind of man that his mentor Ferius had wanted him to be. Even Reichis has come to appreciate having a noble purpose – so long as no one minds him committing the occasional act of theft from the royal treasury. But what seems to be a simple card game between Kellen and an old man is soon revealed to be a deadly game of wits in which a powerful mage has trapped the queen’s spellslinger in order to kill him.

I really enjoyed this series. Kellen is an engaging protagonist and his relationship with the savage little squirrel cat, Reichis, prevented the tone getting too darkly dismal, despite the stakes being raised ever higher.


Sacred Bride – Book 3 of the Olympus trilogy by David Hair & Cath Mayo
Prince Odysseus and the daemon Bria must penetrate the haunted caverns beneath Dodona, seeking a way to save their doomed nation, Achaea, from the might of Troy.
The startling revelation that follows will set Odysseus on his most daunting mission yet, as he seeks to reunite the divided Achaean kingdoms before the rapacious Trojans strike. His journey will pit him against wrathful gods and legendary heroes, in a deadly contest for the hand of Helen of Sparta, the daughter of Zeus, upon whose choice the fate of Achaea rests…

I am a real sucker for Greek myth retellings and 2019 was an outstanding year for this genre, what with this series and Madeline Miller’s wonderful tales. So it was a real treat to revisit this world to complete the series, which is highly recommended for fans of this sub-genre.

The Last Emperox – Book 3 of the Interdependency series
The collapse of The Flow, the interstellar pathway between the planets of the Interdependency, has accelerated. Entire star systems—and billions of people—are becoming cut off from the rest of human civilization. This collapse was foretold through scientific prediction… and yet, even as the evidence is obvious and insurmountable, many still try to rationalize, delay and profit from, these final days of one of the greatest empires humanity has ever known. Emperox Grayland II has finally wrested control of her empire from those who oppose her and who deny the reality of this collapse. But “control” is a slippery thing, and even as Grayland strives to save as many of her people from impoverished isolation, the forces opposing her rule will make a final, desperate push to topple her from her throne and power, by any means necessary. Grayland and her thinning list of allies must use every tool at their disposal to save themselves, and all of humanity. And yet it may not be enough. Will Grayland become the savior of her civilization… or the last emperox to wear the crown?

I thoroughly enjoyed this unusual space opera adventure – but I did find the ending jarring. And as time goes by, my feeling about it haven’t grown any less raw, which is unusual. I’m not going to claim that Scalzi short-changed his readers, because I don’t think he did – but he came mightily close…

The Empire of Gold – Book 3 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakrobarty
Daevabad has fallen.
After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people. But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.

I’ve such a soft spot for sand and sorcery books – and this series is outstanding. I loved each book and despite the fact that I found Dara’s actions shocking, Chakraborty managed to make me really care for him.

End Game – Book 8 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
Alisa Marchenko has reunited with her daughter, and even though she hasn’t figured out how to get Jelena to accept Leonidas yet, she dreams of the three of them starting a new life together. They can return the Star Nomad to its original purpose of running freight and staying out of trouble (mostly). Before that can happen, Alisa must fulfill the promise she made to Jelena: that she and her crew will retrieve young Prince Thorian, the boy who has become Jelena’s best friend. But Thorian was kidnapped by the rogue Starseer Tymoteusz, the man who wants to use the Staff of Lore to take over the entire system—and the man who may have the power to do it. Alisa doesn’t know why he kidnapped Thorian, but Tymoteusz once promised to kill the prince, so she fears they don’t have much time. Unfortunately, Tymoteusz hasn’t left a trail of breadcrumbs. Finding him will be difficult, and even if they’re successful, facing him could be suicidal. To have a chance of surviving, Alisa will have to come up with her greatest scheme yet.

This was so much fun! I loved that the dynamic with this entertaining space opera adventure was a desperate mother looking for her kidnapped daughter. But while that may sound rather bleak – this was nothing of the sort. Full of battles and all sorts of exciting action, including blowing up illegal laboratories and hunting savage dinosaurs – I completed this one with a real sense of loss.

It was one of my targets for 2020 to roll up my sleeves and complete more of the ongoing series I’ve been reading. Though I rather lost my head and requested faaar too many new shiny arcs during March and April, which derailed my good intentions, somewhat. However, I’m reasonably happy that I’ve managed to finish seven series so far. Have you read any of these?









Friday Faceoff – There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the way out is through… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFacetunnelcovers

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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 being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers depicting TUNNELS. I’ve selected Tunnel in the Sky – Book 9 of Heinlein’s Juveniles by Robert A. Heinlein.

Well gosh! This spiffy adventure is a real blast from the past and this range of covers are either celebrating its age, or attempting to update its appeal to a new generation… You decide which option works best. This first offering, published by Pocket Books in April 2005 is firmly in the latter camp. There is definitely a tunnel there – in a very techy, cool way… It’s the cover that attracted me to this book for this subject in the first place and I do love the colours and the visual effect – if it was a book designed for adults.

Published in October 1987 by Ace Books, this cover is definitely of its time. I have a really soft spot for it – I love the determined look on the young man’s face. He is definitely out to subdue this landscape, rather than work with it! No environmental concerns in evidence here… I also like the sci fi font, which works well with the design, though I’d prefer the title font to be just a tad larger.

This edition, published by Ace Books in January 1972 is a real contender. I am always a sucker for spacescapes and I love the planet in the background as our plucky young protagonist stands on the edge of his adventure. I also like the way the author font matches the colouring in the planet, which gives strong visual coherence to the overall design. And though there is persuasive chatter in evidence – for once someone has given thought to how to present it so that it works with, rather than detracts from, the overall visual effect.

This Russian edition, published by Эксмо in November 2015, highlights the difference between the modern approach and the vintage covers. It’s far more about the technical equipment making this journey possible, full of cool-looking details. And I love that beam lighting up the backdrop, providing a really beautiful effect… It is a wonderful effort. And then some fool went and plonked that nasty acidic yellow blob in the middle of it, presumably assuring prospective readers that it is worth picking up. Really?? Why do publishers assume readers aren’t capable of judging a book’s merits by checking out the opening pages, or reading the blurb? Not that this winds me up. At all…

This audiobook edition, published by Brilliance Audio in March 2015, is the only one to feature the young protagonist as black – which is how Heinlein wrote him. Kudos to Brilliance for not whitewashing him. I also like the colourful backdrop, with plenty of pleasing detail, while the portal is effectively depicted, too. And while I wince at the ugly black strip across the top, at least it is difficult to ignore the important message – that this is a CD audiobook. This design, with its nod to the vintage feel of the story and picking up many of the important elements with respect, and presenting them in an exciting, visually appealing design, is my favourite. Which is yours?


*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Book of Koli – Book 1 of the Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey #Brainfluffbookreview #TheBookofKolibookreview

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I was delighted when Tammy of Books, Bones and Buffy mentioned on her excellent blog that this one was coming up – and even more thrilled when I was approved to read it. I’m a fan of Carey’s writing – see my reviews of The Girl with All the Gifts, The Boy on the Bridge and The Devil You Know, which is part of his wonderful Felix Castor urban fantasy series, when he was writing as Mike Carey.

BLURB: Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies an unrecognizable world. A world where overgrown forests are filled with choker trees and deadly vines and seeds that will kill you where you stand. And if they don’t get you, one of the dangerous shunned men will. Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He knows the first rule of survival is that you don’t venture beyond the walls. What he doesn’t know is – what happens when you aren’t given a choice?

I enjoyed Carey’s previous post-apocalyptic world – he is a master storyteller – but I loved this one even more. For starters, this time around we stay in Koli’s viewpoint throughout in first-person POV, which is always my favourite narrative mode anyway. And Koli is a lovely protagonist – a teenager in a small community facing a vicious world, where even the trees are trying to kill you… The narrative voice is just right, different enough from our everyday speech to remind us that we are in a different time – a time where education is spotty and syntax doesn’t matter – adding to the worldbuilding without being annoying. It’s a far trickier feat to pull off than Carey makes it look. It also didn’t hurt for this one to be based in England, rather than in the US, as place names I recognised helped me to envisage the landscape, though I’m very relieved the wildlife is completely different!

When everything starts to go wrong, I was still very much alongside Koli and willing him to be okay – I know Carey is capable of killing off much-loved characters – and found this one difficult to put down. The adventure that unspools is a solid delight. I particularly loved Monono, whose burbling, light-hearted input stopped the book descending into an unduly grim read. And I would like to reassure fans of TGWATG, that the tone of this one is far less bleak. I feel that reassurance is important, because right now I’m quite happy to escape into a challenging, difficult world – but I don’t want to be pulled down by it, and I’m guessing that I’m not the only one.

The ending nicely tied up the current adventure, but also left a dangling plotpoint to take the story onward. This is highly recommended for fans of post-apocalyptic adventures with enjoyable protagonists and a vividly, believable world. The ebook arc copy of The Book of Koli was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

Review of AUDIOBOOK Dark Summer by Ali Sparkes #Brainfluffbookreview #DarkSummerbookreview

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This delightful children’s book was one of the Frankie’s Audible offerings, and given how much I’d enjoyed Sparkes’ Frozen in Time – see my review – I was happy to tuck into it.

BLURB: When Eddie discovers a secret passage in Wookey Hole caves, he just has to find out where it goes. But his amazement quickly turns to horror when he gets lost in the dark. He’s underground, on his own, and nobody knows where he is …Until a hand reaches out of the blackness. A strange, pale girl helps Eddie get back to the surface, but she can’t seem to leave the caves herself. Who is she? Or rather …what is she? And what other secrets is she hiding? Only one thing is certain – this is a summer Eddie will never forget.

I love Sparkes punchy, readable prose which pulled me right into the middle of this adventure from the first word. It didn’t hurt that the narration by Tom Lawrence was excellent and Eddie is a thoroughly likeable boy. He’s in a hard place at the start of the book – sent off to stay with his aunt while his mother recovers from a gruelling round of chemotherapy. Sparkes doesn’t go into major details about the treatment, but during the course of the book there are enough clues for us to draw that conclusion. I like the fact she didn’t spell out exactly what the illness was, giving parents and carers the option of going into more detail if the young reader is at all curious. It doesn’t help that his cousin, Darren is a bullying thug who thinks nothing of regularly beating Eddie up, mostly because of his ginger hair. Eddie is an only child who is close to his parents, and you get the sense that he is highly intelligent and probably more comfortable with adults than with his peers.

A peculiar and slightly scary encounter during an outing to Wookey caves leaves Eddie with a season ticket and a need to return to find out whether it had all been some weird waking dream. It wasn’t. I don’t want to go into the plot too much more, because it would be a real shame to spoil this tightly structured, clever story which gripped me throughout. All the characters rang true – something that doesn’t always happen in children’s fiction – and most were doing their best under difficult circumstances. There are also flashes of humour throughout, which help defuse some of the darker elements, without whitewashing them.
The villain in the story was chillingly normal. I do get fed up with pantomime baddies that so often occur in children’s fiction, and I think does them a real disservice. Sparkes’ antagonist is very plausible, who manages to persuade most people that she is just trying to do her “Christian duty”.

While the overall pacing starts off being reasonably measured, as the story progresses, the action ramps up along with the tension, so that by the end I was finding it difficult to turn this one off and walk away when my chores were done. The ending works really well and I found it unexpectedly moving. All in all, this is another stormingly good read by an excellent author who deserves to be far better known.
10/10