blog tour


Guest Post: Claire McFall

What Inspires Me

I talk a lot about finding inspiration for stories when I go out to schools and libraries and Ferryman_RGBtalk to you readers. The key thing I tell them is that inspiration can come from anywhere. Ferryman was inspired by a strange dream and the landscape I had to drive through on my long commute to school every day. Bombmaker was sparked by a Clive Owen film I saw called Children of Men. And Black Cairn Point was inspired by a camping trip my husband took me on. (What about Trespassers? Well… it was inspired by Ferryman! ) My point is, you can get that jolt of inspiration from anywhere and anything and anyone.

Other stories and other writers are definitely a source of inspiration.

One of the writers I admire the most is Malorie Blackman. I’ve talked before about how much I love Noughts & Crosses (Oh Callum, sigh), but that book is actually the start of a four-book series. Across the four books, Malorie Blackman manages to weave in a seamless development in the society the book is set in – where white people are the underclass and black people hold all the wealth and power – until, by the end of the fourth book, you can see real progress towards equality. This theme runs beautifully under four really exciting stories. It’s so clever.

A question I’m asked quite frequently whenever I do writer interviews is what book do you wish you’d written? The answer to that is Crossing the Line by Gillian Philip. It was a finalist in the Scottish Children’s Book Awards in 2010/2011 and I read it when I was taking part in the awards with one of my classes. It didn’t win in the end, but I loved it. The main character is a boy called Nick Geddes and he’s a bit of a bad lad. Not underneath, but no one really gets to see that. Male leads in YA fiction are much less Trespassers_RGBcommon, but what struck me was just how real the main character was – I could see echoes of lots of the boys I taught in his supposed hard-man manner. He was a thug with a heart and I loved him. I wish I’d created him.

Lastly, writers I really admire are those who can create a whole new world for me to enter. I read a lot of fantasy because I like escaping somewhere completely different. The best writers create not just people and places, but rich cultures that make the story seems so believable, I can imagine this world really does exist. The most famous example is J. R. R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings, but more recently George R. Martin’s Game of Thrones has come to the fore. I also love The Iron Seas books by Meljean Brooks (adult content alert!) which are steampunk and so cool. Graceling by Kristin Cashore is another good (much more YA!) example. I’d love to have a go at high fantasy – creating my own world – someday, but I worry that I’ll struggle to think outside the box, that our world will be too ingrained in my head. I’m waiting for a really cool idea to strike, then I’m going to have a bash. Because you should always attempt something that scares you – otherwise how would you grow?

ClaireMcFallClaire McFall is a writer and a teacher who lives and works in the Scottish Borders. She is the author of paranormal thriller Black Cairn Point, winner of the inaugural Scottish Teenage Book Prize 2017. Her debut novel Ferryman won a Scottish Children’s Book Award, and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the Branford Boase award. Her other books include dystopian thriller Bombmaker. Trespassers, the much-anticipated sequel to Ferryman, will be published on 14th September 2017.

 

Thanks so much to Claire for her fabulous guest post, and check back next week for a review of the stunning Ferryman!


Blog Tour: The Final Correction – Alec Birri

 

Release Date: July 28th 2017
Publisher: Troubadour Publishing
Pages: 273
Find it On: Amazon. Goodreads
Source: I was kindly sent a copy of this book by Bookollective for this blog tour.

Synopsis:

What if all brain disorders were treatable? No one would lament the passing of dementia or autism, but what if the twisted mind of a sex-offender or murderer could be cured too? Or how about a terrorist or maybe a political extremist? What if we could all be ‘corrected’?

So, Professor Savage has been unmasked as the monster Alex Salib always knew he was. But what was their agreement and why is she still determined to see it through? The war on terror appears to be back on track but why does President Kalten seem hell bent on ramping it up – are the Americans seriously intent on starting World War Three?

And what of the treatment itself? Despite Savage’s arrest, the ‘corrections’ go on but to what end? The laws of unintended consequences are about to cause a seismic shift in the very nature of our existence. But then our new masters know that and won’t let it happen until we’re ready…
…Ready to accept the unacceptable.

Review:

Welcome to my stop on The Final Correction blog tour, run by the lovely folks over at Bookollective! The Final Correction is the third book in the Condition series, ending a trilogy of mysterious medical thrillers. I really loved the premise, the idea that brain disorders were treatable. But it’s so much more than just treating brain disorders, those with thoughts that are not what society wants them to be – murderers, those with extreme views, their ‘brain disorders’ can also be treated. I think with the advancement of technology and how rapidly medicine is advancing this is quite a realistic premise, and as a result that made the book even more enjoyable because it felt infinitely possible.

As stated this is the third book in the series. I haven’t personally read the other two books, and this one can be read as a stand alone. After having read the book I do feel like I’d like to go back and read books one and two, because although I enjoyed the story I felt there were some things I had missed out on in the first parts of the series.

The one thing about this book is that it constantly surprised me. Just when I thought I knew where things were headed, they twisted off in another direction. It’s a really enjoyable story, and the more you read the more intrigued you get – as the reader you definitely want to know more. The book is well written and paced excellently, giving the reader time to comprehend the multi-layered plot that is going on. Although there aren’t too many characters, they are very well portrayed, showing plenty of depth and emotion.

After finishing the book I went to do a little research before I wrote my blog post and was stunned to find that this series is actually based on the authors own experience in command of a top secret government organisation. For me this made the book all the more frightening and realistic. If that doesn’t give you food for thought, I don’t know what will!

Thanks for checking out my stop on The Final Correction blog tour, be sure to check out the other stops listed on the banner above! 


Blog Tour: The Woman in the Shadows – Carol McGrath

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Release Date: 4th August 2017
Pages: 400
Publisher: Accent Press
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.

Synopsis:

The powerful, evocative new novel by the critically acclaimed author of The Handfasted Wife, The Woman in the Shadows presents the rise of Thomas Cromwell, Tudor England’s most powerful statesman, through the eyes of his wife Elizabeth.

When beautiful cloth merchant’s daughter Elizabeth Williams is widowed at the age of twenty-two, she is determined to make herself a success in the business she has learned from her father. But there are those who oppose a woman making her own way in the world, and soon Elizabeth realises she may have some powerful enemies – enemies who also know the truth about her late husband…

Security – and happiness – comes when Elizabeth is introduced to kindly, ambitious merchant turned lawyer, Thomas Cromwell. Their marriage is one based on mutual love and respect…but it isn’t always easy being the wife of an influential, headstrong man in Henry VIII’s London. The city is filled with ruthless people and strange delights – and Elizabeth realises she must adjust to the life she has chosen…or risk losing everything.

Guest Post: My Favourite Historical Novels

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Thank you Nicole for hosting me on this my fourth hop on The Woman in the Shadows Blog Tour. Today I am delighted to write about historical novels I love, many of which I find inspirational for my own writing. 

My all-time favourite historical novel is Katherine by Anya Seton. This novel is about Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt. It tells the true story of a love affair that lasted for decades. I read it when I was studying Chaucer for A level. Katherine’s sister, Philippa, was married to the poet. I adored this novel and knew after I had read it that one day I wanted to write Historical Fiction. Many years on, I have realised that dream. Katherine also inspired my interest in The Middle Ages which I studied at University. I have never lost my passion for The High Medieval Period. 

 

An epic novel that has influenced my writing is Dr Zhivago by Boris7831611 Pasternak. I studied the novel at University where I read Russian Studies as well as History and English. I have read this book at least four times. It is set during The Russian Revolution which is also on my list of historical events to write about. The Betrothed Sister, my third novel is set in Medieval Russia. Zhivago is beautiful with a wide political scope, personalising these dramatic events through a famous love triangle: Yuri, Lara and Tonya. I love its emotional pulse. It is possibly the most moving Historical novel I have ever read. 

6101138I was, without doubt, influenced by Hilary Mantel’s eloquent Wolf Hall when I decided to write a novel about Elizabeth Cromwell. I wrote about Wolf Hall on my MPhil thesis, analysing the touches of romance that tempered realism in the novel. By this I mean the Gothic touches, the romance structure, many descriptions, rather than a romance between two individuals. The parts in Wolf Hall that I was interested in were those concerning Thomas Cromwell’s family and I wanted to know more. I wanted to imagine more too. My research journey began then and I think that The Woman in the Shadows is very different to Hilary Mantel’s work. It is the portrait of an early Tudor woman who was a cloth merchant and a housewife. Through Elizabeth I examine Cromwell’s early career before the fall of Thomas Wolsey and I examine what I suspect their marriage might have been. I take a further glimpse at their family life. 

I love The Queen of Subtleties by Suzannah Dunn. It is told by and is about two women, 625678Anne Boleyn, and Lucy Cornwallis, the King’s confectioner. Lucy made the centrepieces for all the King’s feasts. Mark Smeaton is another link between Anne and Lucy. It is a wonderful novel with superb characterisation and brilliant witty dialogue. It is a very unusual take on an old story. I thought it unique, though I would have liked to see more praise for this fabulous story. Moreover, I was honoured when Suzannah both read and gave me comment for The Woman in the Shadows. I also love The Confessions of Katherine Howard by Suzannah Dunn. This is an exceptionally poignant and beautiful novel, delicately told. 

18362312The Visitors by Sally Beauman is a recent find. It is an intriguing novel filled with secrets, the tale of intertwined lives, set in Egypt in 1922 and is about one of the twentieth century’s most famous archaeological events, the amazing search for King Tut’s tomb. It looks at these events through a child’s eyes, one as precocious as Masie in Henry James’s excellent What Masie Knew. It is also about growing up through major events during the twentieth century. I loved it for its masterful narrative tension. I learned much about layered characterisation and the building up of narrative that covers large swaths of time from reading this book. I shall re read it. 

Finally a mention for a few other books that I have enjoyed reading and re reading this 35289167year. Jane Johnson’s Court of Lions about the fall of Granada to Isabella and Ferdinand has captivated me as do her previous novels set in Morocco. She is a mistress of the two time narrative in a novel with two interrelated stories, always beautifully told. I love Karen Maitland’s The Vanishing Witch and her book Company of Liars set during the Plague of the fourteenth century. I highly recommend The World is Not Enough by Zoe Oldenbourg, an intricate picture of twelfth century France, at the time of the third Crusade. It is another classic Historical Novel.  

A writer of Historical Fiction can hone her craft by reading other writers widely. I am grateful to all the fine writers I have read this year and in the past for their treasury of great stories. The best of these are always inspiring and illuminating.

About Carol:

Carol McGrath has an MA in Creative Writing from The Seamus Heaney Centre, Queens University Belfast, followed by an MPhil in Creative Writing from University of London. The Handfasted Wife, first in a trilogy about the royal women of 1066 was shortlisted for the RoNAs in 2014. The Swan-Daughter and The Betrothed Sister complete this best-selling trilogy. The Woman in the Shadows, a novel that considers Henry VIII’s statesman, Thomas Cromwell, through the eyes of Elizabeth his wife, will be published on August 4th, 2017. Carol is working on a new medieval Trilogy, The Rose Trilogy, set in the High Middle Ages. It subject matter is three linked medieval queens, sometimes considered ‘She Wolves’.

She speaks at events and conferences on the subject of medieval women, writing Historical Fiction, The Bayeux Tapestry, and Fabrics, Tapestry and Embroidery as incorporated into fiction. Carol was the co-ordinator of the Historical Novels Association Conference, Oxford in September 2016 and reviews for the HNS. Find Carol on her website: www.carolcmcgrath.co.uk.

Many thanks to Carol for this fabulous guest post. I absolutely loved Court of Lions myself and I now have more than a few new books to add to my wishlist. Thanks everyone for checking out my stop on The Woman in the Shadows blog tour, and be sure to check back in a few days for a review of this gorgeous book!

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Blog Tour: Dare to Fall – Estelle Markame

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Release Date: 27th July 2017
Pages: 325
Publisher: Ink Road Books
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads. 
Source: Ink Road kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

Death.
She was afraid of it.
He was used to it.

There’s not much that MacKenzie Rivers is afraid of. In the small town of Windsor, Colorado, she is known for her easygoing, strong personality, some would even say she isn’t afraid of anything. But MacKenzie knows that’s not true. She’s afraid of losing those closest to her. Recovering from a family tragedy, Kenzie is fully aware of just how big an impact death can have on those it leaves behind. Seeing its effects on other people is something she just can’t quite handle. From now on, Kenzie is her own priority.

There are not many things that Jaden Hunter can make sense of. He doesn’t understand why it was his parents who lost their lives last year. He doesn’t understand why his friends don’t crack jokes around him any more. He doesn’t understand why his teachers still insist on letting him skip assignments. He doesn’t understand why MacKenzie, the girl he was falling for last year, has suddenly distanced herself from him.

Too afraid to get wrapped up in Jaden’s world as he deals with the tragic death of his parents, Kenzie has stayed away from him as best she can, until one night when they unexpectedly come face-to-face for the first time in months. As old feelings resurface and new memories are made, both MacKenzie and Jaden show each other how to appreciate the little things in life, the moments that are taken for granted. But will MacKenzie dare to fall for the one person she’s so afraid of growing close to?

Review:

This book will tug on your heartstrings like nothing else. Dare to Fall is a beautifully written, profound book that you absolutely have to read. Now I have to say I haven’t read Estelle’s first series the DIMILY books, but I know they’re very popular and have a big following. Dare to Fall caught my eye because of that beautiful cover and as soon as I read the blurb I absolutely knew I had to read it. Since finishing Dare to Fall I’ve ordered the DIMILY series online, because I need more of Estelle Markame’s writing!

The thing that struck me most if the beautiful and realistic writing of this book. The story very much focuses on the idea of grief, and how every person copes differently with it. The characters are all very realistically portrayed, and that’s something that I felt was really important for a book like this.  From the outset I was rooting for Mackenzie and Jaden, wanting their relationship to succeed. The book touches on a number of difficult subjects – not just grief but also alcoholism as well, and it handles them in excellently. Dare to Fall is a fantastic read, that will make you smile and sob in equal measure.

I think the fact that Dare to Fall moved me to physical tears is a sign of how powerful this book is. The book certainly sucked me in right at the beginning, and I found it difficult to put it down. It’s a bittersweet story, but one which I think will appeal to lots of different people. There are a few twists that I didn’t see coming and that made me read the last section of the book in pretty much one sitting. If you’re looking for a powerful story that is bittersweet and moving, look no further than Estelle Markame’s Dare to Fall. I predict great things for this fabulous book.

Thanks for checking out my stop on the Dare to Fall blog tour, be sure to check out the other stops listed below!


Blog Tour: Blackwing – Ed McDonald

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Series: Raven’s Mark #1
Release Date: 27th of July 2017
Pages: 384
Publisher: Gollancz
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Gollancz kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

Nothing in the Misery lasts…

Under a cracked and wailing sky, the Misery is a vast and blighted expanse, created when the Engine, the most powerful weapon in the world, was unleashed against the immortal Deep Kings. Across the wasteland, teeming with corrupted magic and malevolent wraiths, the Deep Kings and their armies are still watching—and still waiting.

Ryhalt Galharrow is no stranger to the Misery. The bounty hunter journeys to a remote outpost, armed for killing both men and monsters, and searching for a mysterious noblewoman. He finds himself in the middle of a shocking attack by the Deep Kings, one that should not be possible. Only a fearsome show of power from the very woman he is seeking saves him.

Once, long ago, he knew the woman well, and together they stumble onto a web of conspiracy that threatens to unmake everything they hold dear and end the fragile peace the Engine has provided. Galharrow is not ready for the truth about the blood he’s spilled and the gods he’s supposed to serve…

Review:

What can I say? This is one bloody brilliant book. Blackwing is set in a sort of post apocalyptic land, The Misery is a wasteland fraught with danger, monsters and who knows what else. The story follows Captain Galharrow, a man tasked with finding and executing any criminals who have fled into The Misery.

The book is full of action and excitement. It’s also very dark and vivid. Ed McDonald certainly holds nothing back and the reader is treated to all the sights, sounds and smells of life in this world. It felt like a very unique read, and unlike any other fantasy book I’ve ever read.

Blackwing also has quite a lot of terminology and names relevant to the story such as ‘Spinners’, ‘gracked’ and ‘darlings’. This was a little confusing at first, but you quickly pick up who is who as you delve into this absorbing story. This book is really fantastically written and in between the action the reader is treated to plenty of world building and explanation about the magic and monsters of The Misery.

The story’s main protagonist – Captain Galharrow is also a truly fascinating character. He’s straight to the point and unlikeable to many, but he’s also loyal and stands by those in his team. Galharrow is supported by some other really excellent characters – Nenn who I just loved, she’s battle crazy and has no nose, as well as Tnota who can find the team a route of just about anywhere, and Ezabeth the mysterious Spinner that Galharrow has to protect. The chracters were all really excellently portrayed as flawed human beings, and the story was all the more enjoyable for that.

Blackwing is a magnificent read. I was sucked in by the first few chapters and before I knew it I’d read half the book in one sitting. It has easily jumped into my top books for 2017. If you love books by authors like Mark Lawrence and Joe Abercrombie, you should pre-order this one now. It’s dark, gory and full of action and magic. I mean honestly what more could you possibly need? This is a stunning debut, and I definitely cannot wait to see what’s in store next!

Thanks for checking out my stop on the Blackwing blog tour, make sure to check out the other stops listed on the banner below!

 

 


Blog Tour: Court of Lions – Jane Johnson

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Release Date: July 6th 2017
Publisher: Heads of Zeus
Pages: 496
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Heads of Zeus kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

Kate Fordham, escaping terrible trauma, has fled to the beautiful sunlit city of Granada, the ancient capital of the Moors in Spain, where she is scraping by with an unfulfilling job in a busy bar. One day in the glorious gardens of the Alhambra, once home to Sultan Abu Abdullah Mohammed, also known as Boabdil, Kate finds a scrap of paper hidden in one of the ancient walls. Upon it, in strange symbol

s, has been inscribed a message from another age. It has lain undiscovered since before the Fall of Granada in 1492, when the city was surrendered to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Born of love, in a time of danger and desperation, the fragment will be the catalyst that changes Kate’s life forever.

Review:

Welcome to my stop on the Court of Lions blog tour! This is such a beautifully written book, and the first I’ve read from Jane Johnson, but it definitely will not be the last. This book engrossed me from start to finish and seamlessly combines two fascinating narratives.

One narrative is set in Spain, during the 15th century, and the other in present day, and they work very well together. Both times and settings are very well portrayed, and the characters – Abdullah and Kate, are equally interesting and well depicted. They’re both very realistic characters, with plenty of emotion and hopes for the future.

The one thing that particularly struck me about Court of Lions is the great amount of detail and research that makes up the book. Jane Johnson has certainly made the history come alive, and I appreciated the story all the more for the immense amount of detail that was included.

The book covers a whole host of themes, from loyalty and betrayal, to love and friendship. It is a very moving and passionate story, and I enjoyed it from start to finish. It also has one of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen, and I really loved taking it out and about with me. History is also something that I find really fascinating, and I loved the opportunity to gain some insight into a period I know so little about. Court of Lions is quite a long read – it comes in at just under 500 pages – but it is well worth reading. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, or looking for a really absorbing read, Court of Lions will be exactly what you’re looking for.

Thanks for checking out my stop on the Court of Lions blog tour, be sure to check out the others listed on the banner above!


Blog Tour: An Act of Silence – Colette McBeth

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Release Date: June 29th 2017
Pages: 352
Publisher: Wildfire Books
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Wildfire Books kindly sent me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:


These are the facts I collect.
 

My son Gabriel met a woman called Mariela in a bar. She went home with him. They next morning she was found in an allotment.

Mariela is dead.


Gabriel has been asked to report to Camden Police station in six hours for questioning

Linda Moscow loves her son; it’s her biological instinct to keep him safe. But if she’s not sure of his innocence, how can she stand by him? Should she go against everything she believes in to protect him?

She’s done it before, and the guilt nearly killed her.

Now, the past is catching up with them. As old secrets resurface, Lind is faced with another impossible choice. Only this time, it’s her life on the line…

Review:

This book literally had me on the edge of my seat. This is a fantastically written psychological thriller that kept me hooked from the opening chapter to the very last page. The premise is a really fascinating one: If your child is accused of committing a crime, and you’re not sure whether or not he’s innocent how do you stand by them? The book very much focuses on the parent child relationship, and the effects such a situation has on it.

I thought that the plot and pacing of this book was really excellent. The deeper you delve into the story, the more enveloped you are until you just can’t tear yourself away from the book. With psychological thrillers it’s often easy to guess where the story is heading, but that definitely wasn’t the case for An Act of Silence. This story is full of twists and turns – some of which you’ll never see coming.

The story feels very realistic and believable and I think that’s a really important aspect of a psychological thriller. It’s a hard hitting story, but it’s also beautifully written too. There are aspects of the story that are currently in the media frequently, and the story hits home all the more for that reason. The book is very much character driven, and that makes the story come alive all the more. I also really liked the way that it alternated between both Linda’s perspective and Gabriel, giving two sides to every situation. Linda is probably the character I was interested in most, she’s determined to find out the truth, no matter how horrifying that might turn out to be.

This really is an unputdownable book, and it’s also the first book I’ve read by Colette McBeth. I’m definitely now itching to pick up some of her other titles, because I really enjoyed this one. If you’re looking for a really twisty unique thriller, An Act of Silence is definitely a book for you. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Thanks for checking out my stop on the An Act of Silence blog tour, be sure to check out the other stops below!


Blog Tour: Chaos Queen Series – Christopher Husberg

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Duskfall

Pages: 557
Release Date: June 21st 2016
Publisher: Titan Books
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I was given a free copy of the book by Titian Books, in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis:

Stuck with arrows and close to death, a man is pulled from the icy waters of the Gulf of Nahl. Winter, a seemingly quiet young fisherman’s daughter, harbours a secret addiction that threatens to destroy her. A young priestess, Cinzia, must face a long journey home to protect her church from rebellion. A rebellion sparked by her sister.

Three characters on different paths will be brought together by fate on one thrilling and perilous adventure.

Review:

This dark fantasy epic really hooked me in from the beginning, particularly with it’s wide array of fascinating characters. There’s a whole host of different ones that weave seamlessly together, but the plot focuses in on three main ones: Cinzia a priestess who returns home to find her home in the midst of a rebellion, Winter a young woman who on the outside appears to be just a quiet fisherman’s daughter and Knot, a man who is pulled from the Gulf of Nahl with no memory of his past. Sometimes when you have so many characters who have different quests and adventures going on the story can get a little muddled, but it flows seamlessly in Duskfall, and you quickly become attached to the characters.  Duskfall is a very character driven book, and is all the more enjoyable for that reason. Husberg really takes the time to let you get to know the characters and the three are very likeable and interesting to see develop.

World building is important in any fantasy novel, and it’s extremely well done in the Chaos Queen series. I felt that everything was explained and laid out nicely, I was never confused with what was going on and who was what and where. Husberg also lays out plenty of grounding in terms of the history and culture of the setting, and throwing this in with the mix of action, adventure and suspense, as well as plenty of magic, elves (and even a vampire) makes for a really intense and exciting mix.

For a debut novel this is a really impressive book, and the first in a long running series. The plot is well paced, and there’s never a dull moment in this story – there’s always something to keep you wanting more. I was addicted to this book from the get go, and absolutely cannot wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the series. If you love dark fantasy, this should definitely be on your wishlist.

Dark Immolation

Pages: 556
Release Date: June 20th 2017
Publisher: Titan Books
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I was given a free copy of the book by Titan Books, in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis:

There are rumours in Ashta – a new religion is rising, and Cinzia, one-time Cantic priestess, has escaped the Holy Crucible. Fleeing from Navone, Cinzia travels with Knot, a man of many parts, and Astrid, the child-like vampire. They are gathering followers, but the murderous Nazaniin are still on their trail. Meanwhile, Winter is losing her grip on sanity, grappling with immense powers beyond her understanding. Where she goes, chaos and death follow.

Review:

Sometimes when you read big fantasy epics you forget quite what has happened at the end of the previous book. Luckily for me I picked Dark Immolation up right after I finished Duskfall and the action picks up right where the previous book tailed off. If you read Duskfall and loved it, you’re going to enjoy Dark Immolation even more. I often feel that the second book is never as good as the first, but this one was just as intense and exciting, and I was completely drawn in again.

This instalment in the Chaos Queen series (which I have learned is to be five books in total, so plenty more to come) features the same characters as before – Winter, Knot, Astrid – as they continue on their adventures. I won’t say too much about where they have ended up, because I don’t want to spoil book one for anyone. We do get answers to some questions that have been lingering since book one though, and there’s plenty more fighting and magic to leave you desperate for more.

Dark Immolation is just as character driven as Duskfall is, and again it makes for truly wonderful reading. I loved that this gave the reader the opportunity to watch the characters grow, to see relationships form and  to watch as these fantastic characters changed and adapted as the story continues. The plot is similarly well paced, allowing the reader the chance to immerse themselves in the world, but with plenty of action to keep them hooked in.

If the fantastically written characters and intriguing plot wasn’t enough to have you desperate to read this series, there’s also plenty of countries looking for a fight, some not so friendly demons running lose, and more than a bit of magic flying around. So what are you waiting for? The Chaos Queen series is magnificent, and I can only hope we don’t have to wait too long for book three to come out!


Blog Tour: Secrets of the Italian Gardener – Andrew Crofts

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Release Date: June 11th 2015
Pages: 145
Publisher: Red Door
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Red Door kindly provided me with a copy of this book for the blog tour

Synopsis:

Mo, the wealthy dictator of a volatile Middle Eastern country, enlists a ghostwriter to tell his story to the world and enshrine him in history as a glorious ruler. Inside Mo’s besieged palace the ghost forms an unlikely friendship with a wise and seemingly innocent Italian gardener who slowly reveals that the regime isn’t all it appears to be. As a violent rebellion threatens all their lives the ghost struggles to cope with a personal secret too painful to bear. Secrets of the Italian Gardener takes the reader on a heart-pounding journey through the bloody downfall of a doomed tyrant in the company of a young couple struggling to cope with the greatest private tragedy imaginable.

Review:

Welcome to my stop on the Secrets of the Italian Gardener blog tour! This little novella completely surprised me in the best way. It may only be 145 pages long, but it manages to explore a whole lot in that short period. It managed to keep me guessing the whole way though, and there was more than a few shock twists. If you’re looking for a quick read that will grip you from the get go, Secrets of the Italian Gardener will definitely be the book for you!

I think this book has a really interesting premise. Mo is a wealthy dictator of a country dealing with civil unrest, who hires a ghostwriter in order to tell his story. He lives in a beautiful palace, and I found the depictions of the beautiful gardens versus the sounds of explosions and gunfire really striking.  There is that sense of unease that lingers throughout the ghost writer’s time in the palace. There is definitely more going on than meets the eye, and he is unable to find out more due to the extreme amount of security. The writing is really beautiful, and it definitely keeps the reader wanting more. The books characters are all extremely well portrayed, from Mo, the elusive dictator who only wants the good aspects of his character to come out, to Caroline, the wife of the main character. I really liked Lo, who was once Mo’s second in command, but decided that life as a gardener was much simpler.

For such a short novella, the book deals with a lot of different themes. It deals with grief, and the loss of a family member and what that does to those left behind. It also deals with political unrest, and what happens when a country needs to see change in their systems. But most importantly, Secrets of the Italian Gardner deals with family and friendships, and how these are the most important things in life, far more than money, fame and success. I also found it really interesting that Crofts managed to slip in a discussion on the morals of taking such a job as ghostwriting the autobiography of a wealthy dictator. The character’s wife Caroline scoffs and suggests he shouldn’t take it, they only want him for his credible reputation, however he takes it, which raises the question of how far someone will go for a large sum of money, even if it is outwith their beliefs.

Secrets of the Italian Gardener is a very powerful novel, and one that stayed with me long after I’d finished reading. I wasn’t as keen on the ending of the book as I was the rest of the story, but I think that was partly because it was the complete opposite of what I expected to happen. I enjoyed it from beginning to end and it is probably my favourite piece of literary fiction that I’ve read this year. A powerful and thought provoking book!

Thanks for checking out my stop on the Secrets of the Italian Gardener blog tour, be sure to check out the other stops below!


Blog Tour: A Gathering of Ravens – Scott Oden

31450847Release Date: 29th June 2017
Publisher: Bantam Press
Pages: 320
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I was kindly sent a copy of this book by Transworld Books to review.

Synopsis:

To the Danes, he is skraelingr; to the English, he is orcneas; to the Irish, he is fomoraig. He is Corpse-maker and Life-quencher, the Bringer of Night, the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent. He is Grimnir, and he is the last of his kind–the last in a long line of monsters who have plagued humanity since the Elder Days.

Drawn from his lair by a thirst for vengeance against the Dane who slew his brother, Grimnir emerges into a world that’s changed. A new faith has arisen. The Old Ways are dying, and their followers retreating into the shadows; even still, Grimnir’s vengeance cannot be denied.

Taking a young Christian hostage to be his guide, Grimnir embarks on a journey that takes him from the hinterlands of Denmark, where the wisdom of the ancient dwarves has given way to madness, to the war-torn heart of southern England, where the spirits of the land make violence on one another. And thence to the green shores of Ireland and the Viking stronghold of Dubhlinn, where his enemy awaits.

But, unless Grimnir can set aside his hatreds, his dream of retribution will come to nothing. For Dubhlinn is set to be the site of a reckoning–the Old Ways versus the New–and Grimnir, the last of his kind left to plague mankind, must choose: stand with the Christian King of Ireland and see his vengeance done or stand against him and see it slip away.

Review:

This book absolutely blew me away. I first heard about this book on Twitter, with the tag line ‘Lord of the Rings meets Beowulf.’ If I wasn’t already champing at the bit to read it after that, the exciting synopsis (and that gorgeous cover) had me really eager to read A Gathering of Ravens. I started reading it pretty much as soon as it arrived, and I was instantly hooked. The blend of mythology and fantasy is just stunning, and I loved every second of it.

One of the things that particularly struck me about A Gathering of Ravens is the setting, it’s meticulously researched, with the  medieval Europe setting instantly comes alive in Oden’s writing. The atmosphere is dark and bitter, and the cold icy landscapes of Europe definitely made me shiver once or twice. There’s also plenty of battles and bloodshed,  making this book a really incredible story.

To be perfectly honest mythology is not something I knew too much about, I definitely find it interesting but I’m not as familiar with the different beliefs as some readers might be. That didn’t stop me enjoying this book though, the mixing of fantasy and mythology making that it a dark and enticing story, regardless if you’re familiar with the gods or not.

The characters are also similarly fascinating. Grimnir is such an interesting character, the last of his kind and determined to see his vengeance done. I also loved the fact that he was an Orc. He does a lot of not so nice things, and doesn’t let anyone stand in his way. Having Grimnir as the main protagonist is intense and interesting perspective to see things from. I loved the mix of other characters as well, from fae folk to dwarves. It all comes together to create a wonderful mix, that is seamless in its execution.

I will also say that while this isn’t an overly large book, it did take me a fair while to read. It’s such a complex story with so many different elements, I really wanted to take my time and savour every moment. The beginning of the novel is quite a slow burner, but I found that quite helpful as it gave me the chance to wrap my head around the different beliefs. The second half of the book does ramp up a bit more, particularly as you become more invested in the characters. I have seen online that this is the first of three stand-alone titles with Grimnir threading through them all, and I am very much looking forward to seeing what’s in store next. I loved this book from beginning to end, and if you’re a fan of fantasy fiction and mythology, this is an absolute must read.

Thanks for checking out my stop on the A Gathering of Ravens blog tour, be sure to check out the other stops below!