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/

Blog Tour: A Blade So Black – L. L. McKinney

Blog Tour: A Blade So Black – L. L. McKinney

Book Review (25)
Synopsis

The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice’s handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she’ll need to use everything she’s learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally.

Excerpt

 Now check out an exclusive excerpt from this beautiful book!

“Hatta”. Louder this time, but not enough. Leaves and branches slapped at her as she ran blind through the forest. Twigs stung her face and tugged at her hair. She lifted her hands to guard her head as her legs pumped and her heart hammered. A sudden drop into a ditch took her feet out from under her. She cried out when she hit the ground and tumbled down the incline. She dropped off a short overhang and landed in a trench on her side. Agony spiked through her torso. Something hard dug into her hip. Her injured leg felt like little more than wrenched nerves and torn flesh engulfed in hot hurt, but she forced it and her other one under herself. They barely held her weight.
The Nightmare bellowed as it slammed into the ditch behind her. Branches snapped. Rocks tumbled. Alice’s heart jackknifed between her lungs. The monster flailed, trying to regain its feet.

Her lips pursed, locked between her teeth. Blood coated her tongue, copper sweet. Her scream welled up from her gut, scorched her throat, and nearly knocked her teeth loose as it tore free. “Hatta!” His name echoed through gunk and mud, her mind frantic with terror. He couldn’t hear her. She was too far away from the Gateway.

She tried to run, but her now-useless leg gave completely. She fell against a boulder lodged in the dirt, barely pushing away in time to avoid being impaled as talons raked along stone with a shriek. Sparks flew.

Scrambling, she rolled in under the Nightmare’s arm and hurled herself at its body. Inky fur stuck wet to her skin as she drove the knife into its belly. The beast howled but couldn’t get at her, not with its movements restricted by the high, close trench walls.

What looked like tar and smelled like rotting flesh spilled over her hands and forearms as she gritted her teeth, pushing, trying to reach the core with her blade. The Nightmare twisted and turned, finally able to get a swing in. The swipe caught her across the face. Stars exploded against the backs of her eyes. Her teeth rattled. She staggered away, her weapon still lodged in the beast. It slapped at the hilt with massive paws.

Alice’s vision speckled. She dropped to the ground, her ears ringing. Blinking did little to clear the haze over her eyes. Somehow, she saw the knife, saw how it caused the beast pain.

Hauling herself upright, nearly losing her head to another swipe in the process, Alice gripped a root jutting out from a wall of dirt overhead with both hands and flung her good leg out. Her heel caught the dagger’s hilt like a hammer on a nail and drove it into the beast.

It loosed a wail, tearing at its flesh with one arm, the other trapped by the trench. The knife was too deep and couldn’t be pulled out. The monster bucked and thrashed, putrid pus pouring to the mud beneath it.

I’m currently reading A Blade So Black now and it’s a fantastic action packed read. A Blade So Black is available now from Titan Books so you can pick up a copy now!

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Review: Puzzle Girl – Rachael Featherstone

Review: Puzzle Girl – Rachael Featherstone

Book Review (8)
Release Date: 2nd August 2018
Publisher: The Dome Press
Pages: 320
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones
Souce: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

Clued-up career girl Cassy Brookes has life under control until one disastrous morning changes everything.

When she finds herself stuck in a doctor’s surgery, a cryptic message left in a crossword magazine sends her on a search to find the mysterious ‘puzzle-man’ behind it.

Cassy is soon torn between tracking down her elusive dream guy, and outwitting her nightmare workmate, the devious Martin.

Facing a puzzling love-life, will she ever be able to fit the pieces together and discover the truth behind this enigmatic man?

Review

This is a fun and enjoyable read and one that I absolutely raced through. I enjoyed it because it was a fresh take on the finding Mr right story.

The story centres on a surprise conversation through a puzzle book, and the protagonists subsequent attempts to find out who the person writing back is. I don’t read an awful lot of chick-lit but I this struck me as a really interesting and unique take, so I was really excited to pick it up. It was definitely worth it, I really enjoyed Cassy’s antics as she attempts to juggle her work life and find out who this mystery man is.

As for Cassy herself she’s the perfect protagonist. Fond of making lists (much like myself) and prepared for almost every occasion, it’s really fascinating to watch as her obsession with solving the puzzle begins to take over her life. She spends less time with her friends and family, and begins to lose sight of what is really important, in order to solve the puzzle. She’s also far from perfect, she makes mistakes does things wrong and definitely lands herself in a few tricky situations.

I really enjoyed the work place rivalry within the story too. Cassy is up for a big promotion, but she’s not the only one. Her and Martin don’t really get along and it’s fascinating watching the plot develop as they attempt to undermine each other and get ahead.

Puzzle Girl is also set in London, and the mentions of the DLR and other little London landmarks make for a really nice touch, and add to the overall feel of the book.

The story develops at a good pace, and gives the reader time to come up with different theories, without being too obvious at who the mystery man is. For me that is often the down-fall of chick-lit reads, I can guess the ending before the first few chapters are over and that somewhat spoils my enjoyment. That didn’t happen with Puzzle Girl, you pick up little pieces of information along the way, and that makes for a really fantastic story.

If you’re looking for a fun and clever book to read – especially now the that the sun is shining a bit more – this is definitely one to pick up!
untitled-design-4.jpg*This post originally appeared as part of the Puzzle Girl blog tour in August. I recently lost a lot of my content when I migrated sites and so am reposting as many of them as possible!
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