Blog Tour: The Last – Hanna Jameson

Blog Tour: The Last – Hanna Jameson

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Release Date: 31/01/19
Publisher: Viking
Pages: 392
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

Breaking: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington

Breaking: London hit, thousands feared dead

Breaking: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm.

Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilization, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.

Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.

Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.

As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?

Review

book cover (38)This story follows the events of in which a series of nuclear bombings occur which triggers the end of the world as we know it. Jon Keller is attending a conference at a hotel in the middle of nowhere in Switzerland and so survives the attack along with 19 other people. Jon decides to document his time at the hotel in an attempt to process what has happened to the world. Whilst checking the water tanks the boy of a young girl is found and Jon begins to investigate her murder – but how will he get justice for her murder when the world as they know it no longer exists?

I loved this quiet and fascinating story because it was so unlike the typical end of the world books I’ve read. It really gripped me from the outset and it has immediately become one of my favourites of the genre. The story felt so realistic and I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. The world ends because of politicians that make the wrong decision – something that could easily happen given the current political climate. We never find out much about why the bombings occur and the story very much focuses on the creepy setting of this old hotel and the twenty strangers that are surviving there.

The story was well paced and I really liked the characters. It’s really interesting to see them change as the story develops, as panic and paranoia sets in about which one of them could have murdered the young girl. While it’s a really gripping story it is very much character focused and the action mostly happens elsewhere. There’s plenty of really interesting interactions between the characters and I loved the realistic way everyone was portrayed.

If you’re a fan of post-apocalyptic stories this is a must read. The Last is a dark, tense and originally told story that feels incredibly real, so if you’re looking for something on the scarier side, this will certainly do the trick.
4 stars
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Blog Tour: Slay On Tour – Kim Curran

Blog Tour: Slay On Tour – Kim Curran

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Series:
SLAY #2 (See my review of the first book in the series here!)
Release Date: January 10th 2019
Publisher: Usborne
Pages: 304
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review

Synopsis

SLAY are BACK…and this time they’re headed to Tokyo to track down another hell-raising demon. When they’re invited on tour with a super-cool band of holographic girls, SLAY find themselves whisked off around Japan – until strange things start happening on their tour train. Suddenly it seems it’s not just SLAY’s fans following their every move…

Review

book cover (100)Slay are back with even more adventures and demon killing! I read the first book in this series last year and adored it so I was so excited to get back to this fun and exciting story. This time round the band are in Tokyo and are joined by a band of holographic girls. Of course some odd things start happening and the band find themselves dealing with a new enemy – what could possibly go wrong?

Reading the first book I fell in love with Milly and the band and it was so wonderful to be back following their story again. Milly has become a member of the band and it’s wonderful to see her character develop as she takes on the role of Milo. The characters are all really well fleshed out and I love all the banter and fun moments between the band and of course their manager Gail.

As can be expected the story is full to the brim with action and adventure and I loved the sense of mystery – attempting to discover who was behind all the goings on. There were a few twists and turns too which definitely kept me hooked and eager to know more. I loved the new setting for this story, Curran weaves in the sights and sounds of Japan and it adds for another fascinating layer to this addictive tale.

Curran creates a multi-layered plot with the demon slaying, the band leading a double life, Milly pretending to be a boy and love triangle that has been developing throughout both books. I loved the way it all meshed together to create such a fun and exhilarating story. If you’re looking for a fun and fresh new series, these books are perfect for a weekend binge read.
4 stars
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Blog Tour: Shadow of the Fox – Julie Kagawa

Blog Tour: Shadow of the Fox – Julie Kagawa

BOOK REVIEW (27)
Series: Shadow of the Fox #1
Release Date: 1st November 2018
Publisher: HQ Stories
Pages: 454
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review

Synopsis

A single wish will spark a new dawn. Every millennium, one age ends and another age dawns…and whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers holds the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for any one wish. The time is near and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto. The holder of the first piece is a humble, unknown peasant girl with a dangerous secret. Demons have burned the temple Yumeko was raised in to the ground, killing everyone within, including the master who trained her to both use and hide her kitsune powers. Yumeko escapes with the temple’s greatest treasure – one part of the ancient scroll. Fate thrusts her into the path of a mysterious samurai, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan. Yumeko knows he seeks what she has and is under orders to kill anything and anyone who stands between him and the scroll.

Review

This is the first book in an all new fantasy series from renowned fantasy author Julie Kagawa. The story is told in alternating points of view, following characters with pieces of an ancient scroll that has the power to awaken the great Kami Dragon. This story is exquisitely told and complexly weaved with mythology and lore.

Untitled design (93)This is my first book by Julie Kagawa and I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to her work. I loved her characters – Yumeko is a kitsune, a half fox demon. She’s not altogether human and I love her mischievous cunning side. Kage too was really fascinating and unusually I enjoyed both characters perspectives equally – something that I find doesn’t often happen when you have multiple POVS. Her characters were well developed and I enjoyed the amount of character depth as they found themselves on this wild adventure.

I thoroughly enjoyed Kagawa’s writing style. The story is quick paced and continues to ramp up as the story progresses. The book touches on some really important themes, like friendship, family and ultimately doing what is right. It’s a really gorgeous fantasy story and I loved learning more about Japanese mythology. The setting was beautiful and I loved the sense of atmosphere that shines through in the book. The story is very much a journey, and I am already dying to know what’s going to happen next. If you’re looking for a new own voices fantasy that’s chalk full of fantasy and mythology, Shadow of the Fox is definitely the book for you.
5 stars
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Blog Tour: Skyward – Brandon Sanderson

Blog Tour: Skyward – Brandon Sanderson

BOOK REVIEW (15)
Series: Skyward #1
Release Date: 6th November 2018
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 528
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.

Review

Skyward is the first in an all new Science Fiction trilogy from acclaimed author Brandon Sanderson. Now I’m going to hang my head in shame and say I’m not totally familiar with Brandon Sanderson’s back catalogue. I own quite a few of his books and I recently read and loved Snapshot, but other than that I don’t know too much about his books. I can safely say that after just the first few chapters of Skyward I was planning to read everything he’s ever written.

Untitled design (51)This book was just… wow. It was honestly like someone had asked me ‘what would be your perfect sci-fi book?’ and Skyward was the end result. I couldn’t put this book down and I didn’t want to put it down. I loved everything about this book. Brandon Sanderson is a master writer, weaving the many layers of the plot seamlessly together. The story starts off slowly, giving you the chance to learn about the world and set up for some of my new favourite characters of all time. Spensa is a magnificent protagonist. She’s brave and strong and determined to reach her dream of becoming a starfighter pilot. She’s an outcast who finds new friendships and she shows an immense amount of character growth as she changes from a brass and cocky student to someone who knows the value of friendship. I definitely grew attached to her and her ragtag bunch of flightmates. As the story ramped up and the pacing quickened, I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen to them next.

Brandon Sanderson finds the perfect balance with this book. The characters are well crafted and there were so many beings Spensa that I adored. The engaging plot and the detailed world building combine to make a story that you aren’t going to forget in a hurry. If you’re a fan of Brandon Sanderson’s work already you will no doubt adore this book and if you’re a little late to the party like me, this will leave you desperate for more of his books.
5 stars
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Blog Tour: Sleeper: The Red Storm – J. D. Fennell

Blog Tour: Sleeper: The Red Storm – J. D. Fennell

BOOK REVIEW (7)
Series: Sleeper #2
Release Date: 25th October 2018
Publisher: The Dome Press
Pages: 288
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.

Synopsis

Sleeper spy Will Starling has been drafted in to the SOE, joining forces with the French Resistance in the fight against the Nazis; but Will’s memory is fractured and only occasional flashbacks reveal fragments of his past. Despite this, he has not forgotten his pledge to find and rescue his sister, Rose – if she is still alive. When his mission in France is compromised, Will suspects he’s been betrayed.

Back in London he hears that VIPER are in league with the Axis powers and are developing a new and deadly weapon. As he and MI5 agent Anna Wilder set out to destroy it, their every move is anticipated by their enemies. Who is the mole in the British Secret Service? As they close in on VIPER’s Swiss headquarters, it seems no one can be trusted. Are Will and Anna able to prevent the unleashing of the Red Storm that will bring mass destruction on a scale even the Nazis haven’t dreamt of?

While Will tries to save the world, Rose has become the key to VIPER’s future plans and is drugged to dull her kinetic powers. But Rose faces danger from an unexpected enemy and her time is running out.

Excerpt

A Sniff of Betrayal

Chartres, France, 14th July 1943, the following evening,

Untitled design (22)Will Starling lies on his belly, concealed under bushes and weighed down by a backpack crammed with twenty-five pounds of Nobel 808 explosive. It is a warm summer evening, his clammy face mists up the lenses of his contact, Canadian, 6×30 binoculars. He blows on them before wiping the glass with the cuff of his shirt. Adjusting the focus, he watches the blurred shades of green and grey form into lush green meadows and the sturdy steels legs of a towering pylon, an immense obelisk transmitting power from Paris through to Chartres and beyond – power the Nazis were using to their advantage. Will takes stock of the tower, sweeping the binoculars up the ugly lattice structure. It would take a lot of explosive to bring it down.

‘Is it clear?’ asks Emile.

Will nods. ‘It’s clear.’

‘We should hurry, no?’ whispers Claudette.

‘Not just yet,’ says Will. His eyes follow the sun as it sinks and disappears behind a distant forest. The sky is brushed with an amber glow and provides enough light for them to carry out the operation without attracting unwanted attention with torches.

Emile and Claudette huddle on either side of them. Despite being the leader of this mission, he can’t help feeling like a spare wheel. His companions are newlyweds. Emile is athletic and handsome in a typical Gallic way and Claudette is pretty with dark hair and a wicked sense of humour that has Will laughing out loud sometimes. They are hopelessly in love, living each day as if it were their last. It is the perfect disguise for being amongst the occupying German forces, who find them innocuous and therefore ignore them.

Untitled design (23)Behind the smiles and sunny expressions, however, Emile and Claudette detest the Nazis, their feelings buried deep, emerging in the hidden meeting rooms of back-street bars and cafes where Will and other members of the Special

Operations Executive and French Resistance meet to discuss the latest orders from London.

‘Before we go, I have something to ask you, mon cher,’ says Claudette.

Will hands the binoculars to Emile.

‘Oui, ma cherie?’ says Emile, scouring the landscape.

Claudette snorts. ‘I was talking to Will.’

Like Will, Claudette has just turned eighteen. She has become like a sister to him and, despite remembering almost nothing about his real sister, he has, on occasion, had to stop himself from calling Claudette by Rose’s name. He knows he should have kept his distance, but Claudette’s personality, her humour and passion are just too seductive.

He often thinks about Rose and wonders if she is like Claudette. In his dreams she appears in snapshots. She seems innocent, fragile, but also stubborn – nothing unusual in any of those traits. However, Rose was not like other girls. Will had acquired secret research papers authored by his father, which revealed a little more about his past. His father had worked for Teleken – a VIPER-funded, scientific organisation that had developed a wonder drug, which allegedly gave the user kinetic powers. Will’s father had championed it and his mother had agreed to be one of the guinea pigs. However, the drug had been a failure. None of the guinea pigs had developed anything other than the need to vomit for three hours after taking it. All except Will’s mother, that is. She had vomited the morning before taking the drug, unaware that she was pregnant with Rose.

Neither Will’s father nor his mother could have anticipated what fate had in store for them. The drug had fed the foetus and seemingly modified Rose’s genetic make-up. Will’s father had no explanation as to how this could have happened. A miracle of modern science, he had concluded.

In the paper, Will’s father described how, at the age of five, Rose had lost her temper and her scream had caused all the windows in the house to shatter. Reading this had stirred an uncomfortable and frightening memory for Will. He remembered his parents being confused, scared even, and recalled a terrified Rose sobbing and apologising for something she knew she had caused but had not been able to control.

In another episode they had been in a local park on a sunny afternoon. Their mother had been unpacking a picnic and an eight-year-old Rose watched on as Will and his father tried out a new cricket bat. His father had bowled a googly, catching Will off-guard. Will had whacked the ball with fervour and accidentally sent it spinning towards his mother. As he panicked and cried out, the ball suddenly stopped in mid-air and spun slowly before flying obediently into a smiling Rose’s waiting hands. To his parents’ horror, other people had witnessed this event. This had been the beginning of the end. Soon after that, the agents of VIPER had come for Rose and the family.

Review

Sleeper: The Red Storm is the second instalment in the series following sleeper agent Will Starling as he attempts to fight against the Nazis in World War II. The first book in the series is an explosive, action packed story and I was so excited to find out what was in store next for Will and his friends. If it’s possible The Red Storm is even more of an intense wild ride, and I loved every second of this thrilling story.

The story picks up several years after the events in the first book. Will has grown but he’s still searching for his sister. The plot hits the ground running and doesn’t let up the entire time. There’s twists and turns and plenty of exciting moments. I really enjoying getting to see the characters I’ve become familiar with, especially seeing Will continue to grow and learn new skills. Along with the old faces there were a few new characters which added another dynamic to the plot. The characters, like the plot are well developed and expertly created. I can’t wait to see what’s coming next for them.

In this series J. D. Fennell has created a really fantastic setting. Europe during the Second World War really comes alive and you can easily become completely absorbed in the explosions, fighting and espionage. I certainly found myself saying ‘oh just one more chapter’ more than a few times in my desperation to know what was going to happen. It’s intense, action packed and unputdownable. The Red Storm certainly lives up to the first book in the series and ends on a bit of a cliff hanger, making me desperate to know what’s coming next in this well crafted series.
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Blog Tour: Strange Ink – Gary Kemble

Blog Tour: Strange Ink – Gary Kemble

BOOK REVIEW (5)
Release Date: 9th October 2018
Publisher: Titan Books
Pages: 391
Find it on: Goodreads. Amazon. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

After moving into a new house, journalist Harry Hendrick wakes up with tattoos that aren’t his…

When washed-up journalist Harry Hendrick wakes one morning with a hangover and a strange symbol tattooed on his neck, he shrugs it off as a bad night out. But soon more tattoos appear: grisly, violent images which come accompanied by horrific nightmares – so he begins to dig deeper. Harry’s search leads him to a sinister disappearance, torment from beyond the grave, and a web of corruption and violence tangled with his own past. One way or another, he has to right the wrongs.

Review

Untitled design (12)This is a hard hitting thriller that is completely unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The story follows a journalist struggling with his career who one day wakes up with a tattoo he has no memory of getting. He believes it to be a drunken mistake but as more tattoos begin to appear he learns that something much darker is going on. The idea of tattoos appearing that weren’t yours really intrigued me and I’m so glad I picked this up. It’s a dark mysterious story that hooks you from the very first chapter.

The plot is intricately weaved and incredibly clever. It’s a mystery/thriller with a pinch of horror and a dash of romance. It mixes together to create a really memorable and enjoyable read.

Harry is a really fascinating protagonist. His job at the Chronicle leaves much to be desired and things aren’t really going his way. I really enjoyed watching him progressed as the story went on, and there’s an impressive amount of character growth in this story. He’s a complex character and one that readers are really going to grow attached to.

The story is pretty quick paced with short chapters that make you keep saying “one more chapter.” Strange Ink’s original concept, gripping writing and beautiful cover should certainly make it top of your wish list this autumn.
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Blog Tour: A Remedy For All Things – Jan Fortune

Blog Tour: A Remedy For All Things – Jan Fortune

Book Review (27)

Synopsis

In the dream she is not herself.

Belief is Catherine’s gift, or it was once, growing up in the shadow of an extraordinary friendship amongst a cacophony of voices trying to tell her who to be. Now, in her thirties, Catherine knows what she has lost and what she has survived. Her professional life is on course and she has a new relationship with Simon, a writer who shares her imaginative and creative worlds. But when Catherine arrives in Budapest in winter 1993 to begin researching a novel based on the poet, Attila József, she starts dreaming the life of a young woman imprisoned after the 1956 Uprising. More disconcertingly, by day this woman, Selene Virág, is with her, dreaming Catherine’s life just as she dreams Selene’s. Obsessed with uncovering the facts, Catherine discovers that Selene was a real person who lived through the persecution of Jews in Hungary during WW2, but what is most disorienting is that Selene believed Attila József to be the father of her daughter, Miriam, despite the fact that József committed suicide in December 1937, eighteen years before Miriam was born. How do the three lives of Catherine, Selene and Attila fit together?

Now take a look at our guest post from author Jan Fortune on what anchors our characters!

remedy front coverAs someone who works as an editor and runs a busy independent press, carving out time to write can be difficult. A trilogy of novels is a particularly ambitious undertaking when time is limited, but the Casilda trilogy has had hold of my subconscious for a long time and had to be written. Day to day, I write first thing every morning, but this tends to be ideas, journalling, notes, rather than actually writing the book I’m working on.

For that, I have to grab evenings and parts of weekends, but to write well I’m someone who needs big stretches of time. So, whilst the evening and weekend writing is fine for first drafts and later editing, to get into flow I generally go away from home. I work from home so this shift in environment seems to signal to my brain that this is time for deep work and creativity.

A Remedy for All Things was largely written in Budapest, where it’s based, and, in addition to providing local detail and texture, moving place altered my perspective of the novel I was writing. I’ve found that having the space to go into that wonderful trance state, that only long blocks of writing provide, was essential to putting together a trilogy.

Of course, any novel with a complex timeline demands lots of work on continuity and threading its themes. Doing this across three novels has been a fascinating challenge and I discovered early on that one of the most powerful techniques for keeping the continuity tight was not only time away to write, but also using physical objects that related to character development. The objects that appear and re-appear across the trilogy are like threads on which the story is woven.

So several objects assumed importance in communicating themes through the novels and particularly in A Remedy for All Things, which acts as the bridge around which the whole trilogy hangs.

My protagonist, Catherine wears a pendant that first appears in This is the End of the this_is_the_end-300x300Story. She finds it beside her bed, during a trip to Toledo to search for traces of the 11th century Muslim-princess-turned-saint, Casilda — she dreams that her friend, Miriam, is with her and wakes to find a tiny hamsa, a hand of Miriam symbol.

The necklace becomes not only Catherine’s link back to Miriam but to Selene, another main character, who is imprisoned at the end of the 1950s after the Hungarian Uprising and whose life Catherine begins to dream when she visits Budapest in the early 90s.

Objects ground us. People often use objects as parts of how they identify themselves and how they want others to perceive them. Objects also hold memories.

There’s an antique pen in A Remedy for All Things, which Catherine gives to Simon after a visit to the artists’ colony at Szentendre. It will re-appear in the

third book in the trilogy, For Hope is Always Born. It’s personal, says something about the user, adds texture and depth to the narrative, shows the reader some vital detail without telling her what to think or see …

Similarly, there’s a sketchbook given to Catherine in Paris that once belonged to Selene’s father. It becomes not only a symbol of a better way of life that Selene and her family (and so many Jewish families lost in the years before, during and after WWII) but also a motif for the future.

Objects don’t always have to be momentous to add richness to a novel. Some of them are simply everyday artefacts that nonetheless communicate something of a person or a period. I was keenly aware of this when I visited the Attila József Museum. In A Remedy for All Things, Catherine is in Budapest researching her own book, a fictionalised account of the life of Attila József, so I wanted to know more about the poet who committed suicide in 1937.

Not only were examples of his hand-writing on display, but other personal objects. The retractable pencil he wrote with; a facsimile of a rocking horse that was his only toy as a young child and which he gave to his mother for firewood when they had none. And a small change purse. The purse subsequently went into a scene when the Attila of my novel first meets Selene, adding a detail that is unobtrusive but hopefully one of the many details that build into an authentic image of the character.

Catherine traces Attila’s surviving relatives and is shown a book he once owned, by my fictionalised version of Zsuzsanna Makai, Attila József’s niece. There’s something very strange about this book. It looks like an ordinary copy of Carson McCullers’ The Ballad of the Sad Café, yet on this object the plot might turn. To find out how I hope you’ll read the book …

The Remedy For All Things is available now from Cinnamon Press! Thank you so much to Jan for writing this piece and you can find lots more about her books over at https://janfortune.com/