Wednesday, 2 October 2019

The Black Hawks by David Wragg

Welcome to Day 3 of this Blogtour. Today is an excerpt post with part of the first chapter so I can't really say much about the story as...well, it starts here. There will be a proper review post on this very blog in the next week or so but until then, suffice to say I absolutely loved this book and I think you will too.

So, here we go with The Black Hawks chapter one

Chel ran. His feet slapped against the dusty pale stone of the winter palace ramparts, blood thumping at his temples and breath rasping his throat, while gulls wheeled above and the sleepless harbour bustled beneath. He rounded a corner, the yawning guards on the tower watching his progress with vague interest at best.
A mound of refuse lay stacked against the sea wall, a pile of ashen rags with a long stick propped beside it. Chel shifted to round it, teeth gritted, when the pile moved. It became abruptly man-shaped, and its stick swung out into his path. Before he could react, the stick smashed into his shin. He tumbled, arms outstretched, and sprawled head-first into the stones. A blast of pain tore up his shoulder.
Cursing and swearing vengeance, he tried to whirl, but his vision went purple and the combination of running, falling, and a pounding hangover sent him retching back into the dust. By the time the convulsions passed, the rag-pile man and his stick were gone, the ramparts empty.
‘Thrice-damned pig-fucker!’ Chel spat onto the ground, still leaning on one arm. 
A pair of boots stepped to fill his vision, their laces intricately bound, the soft leather grime-free. 
‘I admit it, I did not expect to find you on the walls this time.’ 
He squinted up at the figure blotting the pink-flecked morning sky. ‘Marekhi,’ he coughed. ‘Was just on my way to you.’ 
His liege’s first sworn regarded him steadily. Her face was placid, her tone light. ‘What did they challenge you with this time? A brandy cask? The barrel-dregs? Did you even make it back to the barracks?’ 
Chel coughed again by way of answer, wiped at his mouth as he pushed back on his haunches. His shoulder throbbed in time with his headache. 
The slightest lip-curl marred Marekhi’s flawless cheek, although her tone remained even. ‘Lord Sokol will be expecting to see his festival robes at ten bells. You will be present, as will the robes, and you will look as though you belong.’ 
‘Oh, he’ll be up by then, will he?’ 
‘Your odour will also be much improved. Am I understood, Master Chel?’ 
He sat back against the flagstones, no longer trying to stand. Her silhouette glowed golden in the morning light. ‘Come on, Marekhi, where’s your festival spirit?’ he croaked. 
‘These petty defiances are a stain on our liege’s name, Master Chel.’ Her chin tilted. Her voice was quiet but carried clear over the sounds of the clamour of the port below. ‘You are a man in sworn service to a lord who is a guest at this palace, and your deeds and . . . presentation are those of our liege. It’s time you acted like it.’ 
‘I can take a beating, if Sokol wishes to make me an example.’

‘That should not be a point of pride,’ she said, her voice steel-edged. ‘You swore an oath. This behaviour shames your uncle and your family.’ 
‘If my step-uncle wants the value of my service, he can earn it.’ 
‘Boy, how much do you think your service is worth?’ 
For a moment she was snarling, then calm swept over her face. She turned and began striding away, boots clicking on the flagstones. ‘Ten bells, Vedren Chel, with the robes,’ she called over her shoulder. ‘Obey, or don’t. But attend to your stench.’ 
A breeze ruffled the palms in the courtyard, and they slapped together like a round of sarcastic applause. Chel caught a whiff of himself, recoiled, then nodded his thudding head in bitter acknowledgement. 
Chel bent over one of the stables’ water-troughs, scooping handfuls of cool, musty water over his face. A palace horse watched him from the dark of its stable. Chel did his best to ignore it. He felt disapproved of enough already. 
‘You’re up, Master Chel! Up-ish, at least.’ A broad and beaming figure in a battered guardsman’s uniform was at his elbow. ‘Didn’t think we’d be seeing you for a good while this morning.’ 
‘Ungh,’ Chel grunted, and wiped himself down with a horse blanket. ‘Heali.’ 
‘So,’ the guardsman said, leaning forward, in a conspiratorial fashion. ‘Did you win?’ 
Chel pressed one palm to his thudding temple. ‘In a manner of speaking.’

Heali chuckled, a sound like marbles rattling. ‘Can’t say no to a challenge, can you, my boy?’ 
Chel grunted again and leaned back against the stable wall. The stable-yard churned with a gathering retinue, another of the minor lords assembling his host now that the campaigning season was drawing to a close. Chel watched the formation of their column with envious eyes. Within the hour, the column would be on the road, and its host would be back in their homes before winter hit. 
‘They’re not staying for the festival, then,’ Heali said with a nod to the milling horse. ‘Any chance your lot . . .?’ 
Chel spat a wad of sticky dust. ‘Sokol’s so obsessed with rubbing up against royalty that he’s hanging on for the court’s arrival, and he’s chummy enough with the grand duke that we’ll not be kicked onto the road any time soon. I’m not that lucky.’ He flicked away a spherical fly, hangover sweat mixed with trough water dripping from his brow. ‘Five hells, how can you stand this heat?’ 
Heali chuckled again. ‘How can you not, Master Chel? Thought you Andriz were the blooms of the desert?’ 
‘Give it a rest, Heali. I grew up in the south. It’s not that hot down there, not like this – by the harvest festivals we’re usually a month or two into the rains.’ 
Heali cast a glance up at the pristine, punishingly cloudless sky. ‘Doesn’t look like rain any time soon, Master Chel. So happens, I was heading down to the kitchen to muster a bit of breakfast – care to join me? You look like a man in need of a feed.’ 
Chel’s stomach hissed bile. His hangover agreed.

Please check out the other bloggers on this tour if you get the chance

A Savage Generation by David Tallerman

Welcome to the final day of the Blogtour for A Savage Generation.

You'd be forgiven for starting this and thinking 'oh no, not another end of the world zombie apocalypse'. It does indeed start out with an unknown disease striking down mankind, those infected become bloodthirsty savages, if you are bit you become one etc. In a time when it seems a very other horror novel is another ZA it takes something a bit better than the rest to stand out. This is that book.

 Ben, his Girlfriend and son are trying to get out of their quarantined city (SPOILER - they do) and head to a former  prison, now known as Funland. But Funland might just not be all they were hoping for. It has already become something of a survivalist camp under the rule of former prisoner Plan John who may well be a bigger monster than the 'sickers' on the outside.

The setting feels reminiscent of early years The Walking Dead but doesn't suffer for that. It is a well written tale that focuses more on the characters and their personal situations more than the sickers.

I'll admit I'm a big fan of Tallerman and his writing in various genres, I've been reading him for years but I don't let that colour my judgement. I tell it as it is and this is one of his best.

Thanks, as always, to Anne Cater for inviting me onto this tour and to Flame Tree Press for providing the copy.
Please, if you get the chance, have a look at the posts of the other bloggers on this tour.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

The Secret Of Cold Hill by Peter James

You wait ages for a good haunted house story and then two come along at once - not that I'm complaining.

In this story a new housing estate is being built on the site of an old Manor house. The first two houses have been sold, the owners have moved in and the previous tenants aren't happy. It isn't long before both households sense the presence of others in their homes and learn of the curse "no-one ever leaves and no-one lives beyond 40" - and from their it just gets weirder and creepier.

By the mid point of the story the lead character wonders if he is going crazy. He can't fathom what is going on and, to be honest it wasn't clear to me either but that not knowing worked for me.

Reminiscent of the novels of James Herbert this was a good read, just the thing now the nights are drawing in

One by One - D W Gillespie

 Welcome to Day 11 of the blog tour for D W Gillespie's One By One.

I do like a good haunted house story and thankfully this, from Flame Tree Press, certainly falls into that bracket. Our protaganists are The Eastons (dad, mum, and two kids, Alice and Dean), a family down on their luck. Dad finds a fixer-upper for them to live in while he...well, fixes it up. Right from the off the house seems to give off bad vibes to everyone but dad (Frank).

It's no real spoiler (it's on the back cover!) that Alice discovers a hidden painting that relates to the Eastons and not long after that, one by one, they start to disappear 😱

I have to say, I really enjoyed this book. The house was creepy, the family (apart from Alice thankfully) were quite annoying, especially the brother, Dean. Everything I would want from a ghost/horror story. There's just something quite satisfying about unlikable characters 'getting there's.

Thankfully the character we spend most time with is Alice and as she is a 10 year old child it makes for an interesting angle to the story telling.

So, how creepy/scary is it as a story? I read this on holiday in 30+ degree heat and it still gave me chills so that's a pretty good testament to how good Gillespie's writing is (and I got through it in two afternoons. Very much recommended.

 Thanks as always to Anne Cater for inviting me onto this tour and Flame Tree Press for providing a copy of the book. Please, if you get chance, have a look at the other bloggers posts on the tour.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

The Regret by Dan Malakin

OK, I'll start by making it clear that the author contacted me, as a reviewer and blogger to ask if I would be interested in having a look at his book. I agreed and he sent me a copy. I also bought a copy for kindle as it was on offer and I was going on holiday (and prefer to use my kindle then)

Anyhoo, onto the book itself. This is an, at times, dark read. The lead character, Rachel, is a recovering anorexic who was stalked as a teenager (which lead to her problems). The stalker was sent to jail but now he's out and the stalking starts again but online this time. Her life quickly spirals downwards and old habits return. But is it her former stalker ruining her life or someone else?

Several times I worked out 'whodunit' and each time I changed my mind again and only sussed out the culprit just before the reveal. It did get a little bit silly towards the end to be fair but I didn't mind that as the story kept me hooked. How hooked? Well, I started it poolside on Thursday afternoon, read all the way on the flight home, then the train journey. I was exhausted by the time we got back but I had to keep on reading, so I took it to bed with me (but had to stop as I kept dropping it). Eventually, just short of 24 hours after starting it I was done - that's how hooked.

I guess this book should maybe come with trigger warnings for those that need them but I enjoyed the darkness of it and the author obviously knows what he is talking about.

Would I read this author again? Damn right I would


Friday, 27 September 2019

Fuck Yeah Video Games by Daniel Hardcastle

 Welcome to Day 9 of the Blogtour for Fuck Yeah Video Games

Subtitled The Life and Extra Lives of a Professional Nerd this book does exactly what it says on the cover. This is the life of Dan as he approaches his 30th birthday, looking back at his time through some of the video games, friends, people he's met etc. Looking back at some of these weird and (sometimes) bizarre games brought back a lot of good memories of hours spent playing them myself so it will certainly appeal to all gamers, not just the hardcore.

But it's not just the games, there's a history of the hardwear too, looking at the consoles that have enabled us to play the games we love.

This book is fun, funny, entertaining and a real love letter to gaming. And gorgeously illustrated too. Highly recommended
 Thanks, as always, to Anne Cater for inviting me to this tour, Unbound for providing the copy and please, if you can find the time to have a look at the blog posts of the others on this tour.

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie

Welcome to Day 5 of the Blogtour for A Little Hatred, the first book in a new series by Lord Grimdark himself, Joe Abercrombie. 

A Little Hatred is set in the same world as his First Law books but things have moved on slightly. We are now in a time where machinery is starting to become more of 'a thing' so I'd say Industrial Revolution. Machinery and Magic in a Grimdark setting... maybe this will start a genre offshoot - Grimdarker.

As it starts we meet Rikke who has the gift of foreseeing, 'the long eye' and a prophecy...but hey, I wouldn't have it any other way, I love prophecy in my fiction. And as that prophecy comes to fruition things take a turn. There is war coming, there is politic s and wrangling - basically there is everything you would expect from a Joe Abercrombie novel with the added joy of knowing there is more to come. 

Where Abercrombie excels is his characters, even the horrible ones you kinda like. From lords and nobles to lowly soldiers and the mad Hill-woman all have their part to play and all feel they deserve their place in the story. 

Now, I have to go finish the last 100 or so pages (it's been a busy couple of weeks) 

Thanks to Patricia Deever for inviting me onto the tour and Gollancz for the copy. Please, if you can, try and have a look at the blog posts by the other bloggers on the tour