Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Defender by G X Todd

Earlier this year, while attending Edge-Lit in Derby, I was lucky enough to be introduced to new author G X Todd. In short, she had a forthcoming book to push and I'm a reviewer so it was to be expected. Ms. Todd had a pamphlet which contained the opening pages of Defender and some other promotional bits and bobs. On the way home I opened said pamphlet and started to read.

Then I read it again.

When I got up the next morning I read it again, just to be sure.

Sometimes you just know when something comes along that is a bit special, and trust me, Defender is more than a bit special. That same day I got in touch with the author and made sure I could get my hands on a review copy when one became available. In due time one arrived - time to see if the whole thing matched up to the teaser.

The story is set seven years after an 'event' which saw a lot of the people suddenly hear a voice in their head that encouraged them to kill either themselves or each other. As a result of this 'event' the America in which this story is set is a much emptier place. There is a lot of mistrust, for obvious reasons - you can't always know who hears the voices and who doesn't.

Our heroes are Lacey, a 16 year old with a likeable attitude and Pilgrim, a solitary biker (who I saw as a cross between Jason Statham and The Undertaker). Two total opposites who are forced to get along when Lacey convinces Pilgrim to help her get to her sister's house 600 miles away.

At first it seemed a very easy going journey while I got to know the characters and get used to the voice in Pilgrim's head but then, around the 50 page mark (of 450 pages) everything exploded in a wealth of violence and horror and the whole pace of the story changed. From there on in it was a race to the end while not wanting it to be over. A lot of the characters we meet later in the story carry their own woes and troubles, making for an uncomfortable read at times - but, hey, it's the end of the world as we know it and (no matter what REM tell us) we're not expected to feel fine.

It will be compared, I guess, to the likes of King's 'The Stand' but for me there is one major difference - as much as I have enjoyed what I read of The Stand I have yet to finish it. Defender I just devoured.

G X Todd has written something a bit special here and, trust me, you are going to be hearing a lot about her and about Defender in 2017. G X Todd is not just going to be 'The Next Big Thing', she's going to be the benchmark for other 'Next Big Things'

And she drives a massive mobile library - how cool is that?????

So, I'm giving Defender 5* and marking it as one to watch for 2017.

Release date for Defender is January 12th 2017

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye by Tania Del Rio

Early in October this year I received a review package from Quirk Books which held 'Warren the 13th and The Whispering Wood' and a sampler of 'Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye'. 'Whispering Wood' is the second in the series so I started in on the sampler for 'Eye' - and I can say, quite confidently, that I enjoyed the three chapters provided. So much so that I requested the complete book.

It arrived and was just as much fun as I had hoped it would be.

Our Hero, Warren, is the latest in a long line of Warrens (hence 'the 13th') and, at only 12 years old is the bellhop, valet, groundskeeper and errand boy of the creepy family hotel, now run by his uncle and his uncle's new wife, Annaconda. As you would expect, Annaconda is very much the evil aunt, the uncle is pathetic and poor old Warren is very much put upon by her.

You see, there is a rumour that somewhere in the hotel is an artefact, the titular All-Seeing Eye and Annaconda wants it. She isn't going to do all the hard work herself though, oh no! That'll be for Warren to do.

This is a gorgeously put together book aimed, I would say, at readers between 8-15 yrs (but suitable for all really). The print is double columned on most pages and on those pages where it is only a single column that is only due to the glorious illustrations - and there are plenty of those (by Will Staehle). With puzzles and riddles to solve along the way and a cast of delightful (and dreadful) characters this is a really fun book. Imagine Harry Potter set in Gormenghast Castle and you won't go far wrong.

I'm going to put my copy to one side for my littlest niece, and I will pass it on to her when she is old enough to enjoy it - but I may just take it up for a reread or two before then

Highly Recommended

Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson - A Review

It would not be an understatement to say Brandon Sanderson is prolific. The scope of his imagination is unbelievable but the thing that stands out for me is that however much the guy writes the quality level never seems to drop.

Arcanum Unbounded is a collection of short(ish) fiction set in his Cosmere and encapsulating several of his series.

'What is the Cosmere?' I hear you ask.

Well, the best I can explain it is that The Cosmere is a series of different worlds and settings in which BS sets his stories and series. Somewhere along the line these stories and series are all going to come together to link all his worlds, making it into one epic universe (this is what I mean about Brandon's imagination!)

Over the past few years BS has published several of the stories included here either as e-book only versions or through his website. They are all stories that can be read separate from the main series. There are stories from his Elantris, Mistborn and Stormlight Archives series and, as all the different series vary in setting there is enough here to keep it fresh from story to story. Everybody who reads Sanderson will, I guess, have a different favourite series (for me it is Elantris - and yes, I know it is a single novel but as there are stories from that world included here I'm counting it as a series).

As for the book itself - well, what can I say, it is a really nicely put together volume. The stories have notes, appendixes (appendices?) and star maps for each system making it all so much more than just a rehash of his back catalogue with an extra story and part of a graphic novel thrown in.

So, in short, if you are new to Brandon Sanderson or have been thinking about trying out his books this is a good place to start. If, like me, you are a long time fan you'll want to own this anyway.

Unsurprisingly this gets 5* from me

And then there's the cover art. The copy I own is the UK version and the cover art would have been enough for me to want to own this.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Gemmell Awards 2017 at Edge-Lit 6

DAVID GEMMELL AWARDS FOR FANTASY TO BE PRESENTED AT QUAD AS PART OF DERBY’S EDGE-LIT 6 EVENT

The David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy are among the most prestigious awards in genre fiction, presenting prizes for the very best in fantasy novels and artwork each year. Presented in memory of one of epic fantasy’s biggest and most loved authors, the awards have been presented since 2009 and have a roll of honour including Brent Weeks, Patrick Rothfuss, Mark Lawrence, Brandon Sanderson and many more bestselling names in the field.The awards will be presented for the 9th time in 2017 as part of Edge-Lit 6, Derby’s annual fantasy, horror and science-fiction day. The prize-giving ceremony will see the award presented for Best Fantasy Novel of 2016 (the Legend Award), Best Fantasy Debut of 2016 (the Morningstar Award) and Best Fantasy Cover Art of 2016 (the Ravenheart Award).Edge-Lit 6 runs on the 15th July 2017 at QUAD, Derby’s independent cinema and art space, and each year brings together some of the finest UK talent in genre fiction. With a growing reputation for quality and an audience of 200+ each year, the event offers an array of panels, workshops and book launches as well as popular yearly features such as the live Edge-Lit raffle.Alex Davis, Literature Officer for QUAD, said: ‘Over the last decade the Gemmell Awards have become a high point in the genre calendar, and have been presented at some of the biggest conventions and fantasy events in the UK. I’m delighted to be working with them to bring the ceremony to Edge-Lit, which makes the 2017 running even more exciting!’Stan Nicholls, Chair of the David Gemmell Awards For Fantasy, said: ‘Edge-Lit has established itself as one of the highlight events of the genre year, and the Gemmell Awards are thrilled to be part of 2017’s line-up. Devoted as they both are to championing the best of speculative fiction, the Gemmells and Edge-Lit are a perfect match. Roll on next July!’Edge-Lit 6 runs from 10am-11pm on the 15th July 2017 at QUAD, Derby. Tickets are on sale at http://www.derbyquad.co.uk/film/edge-lit-6.aspx and cost £30, including access to all sessions on the day and an event goodie bag. For more information, or for any queries, simply email Alex Davis, Literature Officer for QUAD, at alexd@derbyquad.co.uk

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Runemarks by Joanne Harris - Blog Tour day 7


Today I am happy to be hosting day 7 of the Blog Tour for Joanne Harris's Runemarks. The excerpt below follows on from yesterday's


 The goblin looked at her with scorn. ‘Well, what, did you think would happen?’ he said. ‘Cast that kind of glam at World Below, and before you know it you’re knee-deep in bilge and vermin.’
Maddy stared at the hole in dismay. She had intended to summon only the goblin; but the cry – and that fast-flung rune –had apparently summoned everything within her range. Now, not only rats but beetles, spiders, woodlice, centipedes, whirligigs, earwigs and maggots squirted horribly out of the hole, along with a generous outpouring of foul water (possibly from a broken drain), to form a kind of verminous brew that poured and wriggled at alarming speed out of the burrow and across the floor.

And then, just when she was sure that nothing worse could possibly happen, there came the sound of a door opening abovestairs, and a high and slightly nasal voice came to Maddy from the kitchen.
‘Hey, madam! You going to stay down there all morning, or what?’



‘Oh, gods.’ It was Mrs Scattergood.

The goblin shot Maddy a cheery wink.

‘Did you hear me?’ said Mrs Scattergood. ‘There’s pots to wash up here, or am I supposed to do them an’ all?’

‘In a minute!’ called Maddy in haste, taking refuge on the cellar steps. ‘Just . . . sorting out a few things down here!’

‘Well, now you can come and fi nish things off  up here,’ said Mrs Scattergood. ‘Come up right now and see to them pots. And if that one-eyed scally good-for-nowt comes round again, you can tell him from me to shove off !’

Maddy’s heart leaped into her mouth. That one-eyed scally good-for-nowt – that must mean her old friend was back, after more than twelve months of wandering, and no amount of rats and cockroaches – or even goblins – was going to keep her from seeing him. ‘He was here?’ she said, taking the cellar steps at a run. ‘One-Eye was here?’ She emerged breathless into the kitchen.

‘Aye.’ Mrs Scattergood handed her a tea-towel. ‘Though I dunno what there is in that to look so pleased about. I’d have thought that you, of all people—’

She stopped and cocked her head to listen. ‘What’s that noise?’ she said sharply.

Maddy closed the cellar door. ‘It’s nothing, Mrs Scattergood.’

The landlady gave her a suspicious look. ‘What about them rats?’ she said. ‘Did you fix it right this time?’

‘I need to see him,’ Maddy said.

‘Who? The one-eyed scallyman?’

‘Please,’ she said. ‘I won’t be long.’

Mrs Scttergood pursed her lips. ‘Not on my penny, you won’t,’ she said. ‘I’m not paying you good money to go gallivanting around with thieves and beggars—’

‘One-Eye isn’t a thief,’ said Maddy.

‘Don’t you start giving yourself airs, madam,’ said Mrs Scattergood. ‘Laws knows you can’t help the way you’re made, but you might at least make an eff ort. For your father’s sake, you might, and for the memory of your sainted mother.’ She paused for breath for less than a second. ‘And you can take that look off  your face. Anyone would think you were proud to be a—’

And then she stopped, open-mouthed, as a sound came from behind the cellar door. It was, thought Mrs Sca ergood, a peculiar kind of scuttling noise, punctuated by the occasional thud. It made her feel quite uncomfortable – as if there might be something more down that cellar than barrels of ale. And what was that distant sloshing sound, like washday at the river?

‘Oh my Laws, what have you done?’ Mrs Scattergood made for the cellar door.




The Blog Tour continues tomorrow at the link below so be sure to click and follow http://ourfirstyearhere.wordpress.com/








Thursday, 24 November 2016

Shadow Moths by Cate Gardner

Shadow Moths is a chapbook containing two stories by Cate Gardner, 'Blood Moth Kiss' and 'We Make Our Own Monsters Here'.


And they are two cracking little tales.

First to the table is 'We Make Our Own Monsters Here', a really creepy tale of a puppeteer seeking out the best in the business to take him on as an 'apprentice' - be careful what you wish for. This had everything I want from a creepy story, in fact, how Ms. Gardner managed to get so much story into these few pages is quite an accomplishment. Very creepy and unsettling

Next up was 'Blood Moth Kiss', a total change of pace. Hard to explain without spoilers but what Cate did here has left me with an earworm that I never saw coming.

Highly recommended and has certainly left me wanting to find more Cate Gardner stories and more from the publisher - Frightful Horrors

'The Heart Of What Was Lost' by Tad Williams - some thoughts (spoiler free)

January 3rd 2017 sees the long awaited return of Tad Williams to the land of Osten Ard which was the setting for his mammoth beast of a trilogy (or quadrilogy if you bought the paperback version) Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. I was fortunate enough to get hold of an advance copy so here are my thoughts.

It has been 23 years (give or take) since Tad wrote in this setting and since then has gone on to write other series in other worlds - Otherland, Shadowmarch, The Bobby Dollar series - and the stand alone novel War of the Flowers. My main concerns when hearing of the return to writing in Osten Ard, I guess, were, would it be the same OA we left behind all those years ago, would the characters feel the same?

I can safely and happily say that after only a few pages reading THoWWL it was clear that we were back in Osten Ard I remember and all was good. I guess it was the literary equivalent of comfy slippers and a favourite arm chair.

The story is set just after events at Green Angel Tower. The day has been won, Ineluki, The Storm King, has been defeated and his Norn army are in retreat, heading north to their ancient citadel Nakkiga harried by an army led by Duke Isgrimnur.

Character views come from both sides and although the Norns are the obvious 'bad guys' Williams does a good job of making us bothered about them. You feel for their plight as they rush toward Stormspike and (hopefully) safety. Don't get me wrong though, there are still heinous acts performed by some of their number (one of which, quite early on, had me thinking for days 'did they really just do that?). But also there are moments of poetic beauty in here - the revelation of The Heart of What Was Lost (don't worry it'll all make sense when you read it) nearly moved me to tears.

All things, as they must, come to an end and as this chapter in the history of Osten Ard closes both sides are put through the wringer. How it all ends I will leave you to find out for yourselves but what I will say is, I'm glad Tad decided to return to Osten Ard and to allow us to travel the paths again with him, THoWWL leaves me waiting eagerly for The Witchwood Crown, the first in he series 'The Last King of Osten Ard (Spring 2017)

One final thought, and this is just a personal thing really. When I first picked up The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow and Thorn book 1) back in 1988 I was a mere strippling  of 21 years old. The character of Simon was very easy to associate with but now, with The Heart of What Was Lost more or less ending M,S and T I find myself knocking on the door of 50 and find myself associating more with Duke Isgrimnur (older and more weary I guess ;-D)