Monday, 19 September 2022

Phyllo Cane and the Magical Menagerie - Sharn W Hutton


"Magically magnificent, fantastic and ferocious
at least, that’s what you’d expect of a fire-breathing dragon.

But what if yours won’t come out of its pen to perform? What if the Ringmaster thinks it’s worth more in the apothecary chop-shop than as part of the troupe?

The Beast Whisperer of the Circus of Wonder must bring her beloved dragon back up to its performing peak fast, if she’s to save it, and she thinks she knows what to do.

The unhappy creature needs a mate, but the male sand dragon is a rare beast indeed, and she’ll never be able to catch one alone.

Time for Phyllo to become the Beast Whisperer’s apprentice…"

Well! This was a whole heap of fun 😊 I was fortunate to receive both books in the series for review (Circus of Wonder being the first) so read them back to back. Our main protagonist here is Phyllo Cane, a young chap who comes from a family of Circus Confectioners. After a series of scrapes, incidents and bad luck PC finds the only way to stay with the Circus is to become an apprentice - but not just once, oh no! In Circus of Wonder he became an apprentice Trapeze Artist (with a fear of heights) while with Magical Menagerie he is apprenticed to the Beast Whisperer Tamer Venor and her collection of magical creatures. 

Thanks to Phyllo having to build a portal (part of his training) we get to see more of the world here as he is able to venture out into it in search of new creatures, especially a mate for a depressed Sand Dragon, so the scope is much wider here than with book 1.

Magical Menagerie is a cracking read (for all ages) in a well realised world setting with a lead character it's fun to spend time with.

A well deserved 5/5* (4.7/5 for book 1) Highly Recommended 

Many thanks to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for inviting me onto the Blogtour and providing the review copies (which did not influence my opinions at all!)

My review is the last on the tour so all the other reviews (below) are available for your perusal - please have a read of them if you can.

Thursday, 15 September 2022

The Calculations of Rational Men - Daniel Godfrey


December, 1962. Just months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the five hundred men of HMP Queen’s Bench have found themselves in the midst of a new thermonuclear nightmare.

Prisoners, wardens and soldiers must now work together to forge a new future, even if some inside the shelter can only think of how to turn the situation to their personal advantage.

Caught in the very centre of the power struggles is Dr Joseph Marr. Just days into serving a life sentence for murder, he is given the responsibility for the health of all the men of HMP Queen’s Bench. But the question for him now is: how does he ensure those in the shelter survive?


Well, this was a brutal read but hey, it's set in a prison and the nuclear option has just been...well ...optioned I guess. What was once a society where prisoners and guards were on separate sides there is no other choice now but for them to work together. 

The status of the outside world is unknown, these could be the end days, the people of HMP Queen's Bench could be all that is left but even for them time and essentials are going to run out eventually. It's up to our lead Dr Marr to do what he can. 

Claustrophobic and tense this alternative history thriller grips from the off and never lets up right to the end - another winner from Dan Godfrey - 4/5*

Thanks to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for inviting me onto this blog tour and please have a look at the posts by the other bloggers involved (below)

Wednesday, 14 September 2022

Fellstones - Ramsey Campbell


'Fellstones takes its name from seven objects on the village green. It’s where Paul Dunstan was adopted by the Staveleys after his parents died in an accident for which he blames himself. The way the Staveleys tried to control him made him move away and change his name. Why were they obsessed with a strange song he seemed to have made up as a child?

Now their daughter Adele has found him. By the time he discovers the cosmic truth about the stones, he may be trapped. There are other dark secrets he’ll discover, and memories to confront. The Fellstones dream, but they’re about to waken.'

 Ever since I was young I've had a leaning towards stories with remote villages and standing stones (I blame Children of the Stones, a weekly serial on kids TV in the 70s) so Fellstones was a winner for me straight away because it has all that and more.

 Paul Dunstan was brought up in the village of Fellstones by The Staveleys after his parents died but left as soon as he was able to - and it's easy to see why. They seem ok but certainly have a plan for Paul's future and to that end are very controlling. So much so that Paul changes his name when he leaves in the hopes they will never be able to track him down. There's something 'off' about the whole village to be fair, not just The Staveleys and although Paul blames himself for his parents deaths it's kinda obvious that other forces were at work.

 Anyhow, The Staveleys daughter, Adele, finds him and begs him to come 'home' to say goodbye to a dying parent. He doesn't want to but goes anyway. On arrival things are as weird as he remembers but there are other things too, memories he'd rather stayed hidden. 

 And the stones, those tall silent sentinels, benign and peaceful looking but not for long. . .

 What Ramsey Campbell gives us here is Folk Horror and Cosmic Horror at it's best. A slow burner, true, but the sense of impending doom pervades throughout, that feeling that you want to turn the page but also you are nervous to do so - and I do so love that feeling.

 I've been a fan of Campbell's books since the 80s and rate this as one of his best. A definite 5* read.


 Thanks to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for inviting me to review this book and to Flame Tree Press for providing a review file. All opinions are my own.

 Please take time, if you can, to read the reviews by the other bloggers on the tour (below).

Sunday, 4 September 2022

The Children of Gods and Fighting Men - Shauna Lawless


'They think they've killed the last of us...

981 AD. The Viking King of Dublin is dead. His young widow, Gormflaith, has ambitions for her son – and herself – but Ireland is a dangerous place and kings tend not to stay kings for long. Gormflaith also has a secret. She is one of the Fomorians, an immortal race who can do fire-magic. She has kept her powers hidden at all costs, for there are other immortals in this world – like the Tuatha Dé Danann, a race of warriors who are sworn to kill Fomorians.

Fódla is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann with the gift of healing. Her kind dwell hidden in a fortress, forbidden to live amongst the mortals. Fódla agrees to help her kin by going to spy on Brian Boru, a powerful man who aims to be High King of Ireland. She finds a land on the brink of war – a war she is desperate to stop. However, preventing the loss of mortal lives is not easy with Ireland in turmoil and the Fomorians now on the rise...'


 First things first I have to say that despite my best efforts I have not finished this book yet so this is only a 'my thoughts so far' post rather than a full review. But I can see a few late nights ahead as it is a story that grips from the off and isn't easy to put down. 

  Ireland (981AD) feels a magical, mystical place, the perfect setting for the battles, both physical and political between the Fomorians and the Tuatha Dé Danann. The story felt a bit Game of Thrones like to me (which plays right into my wheelhouse) mainly down to one of the viewpoint characters, Gormflaith, the king's widow, doing everything she can to seat her son on the throne (like a certain Lannister). But TCOGAFM is not a Thrones rip-off, it is very much it's own story - and a very well told one at that (and it is only the start of a series, yay!!😃).

 I've often struggled with Irish name pronunciation and if you are the same then worry not - as well as map in the front of the book there is a cast list with full pronunciation guide. I found it a godsend.

 So, ancient Irish historical fantasy with Immortal races, politics and battles in an atmospheric and well told tale. I'm only just over the halfway point but it's certainly looking like it's going to be a 5* read.

Many thanks to Head of Zeus for inviting me onto the Blogtour and providing the review copy. All opinions are mine and mine alone.

 Please have a look at the reviews by the other bloggers (below) and come back later for my full review.

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

The Last Girl To Die - Helen Fields


 'In search of a new life, seventeen-year-old Adriana Clark’s family moves to the ancient, ocean-battered Isle of Mull, far off the coast of Scotland. Then she goes missing. Faced with hostile locals and indifferent police, her desperate parents turn to private investigator Sadie Levesque.

Sadie is the best at what she does. But when she finds Adriana’s body in a cliffside cave, a seaweed crown carefully arranged on her head, she knows she’s dealing with something she’s never encountered before.

The deeper she digs into the island’s secrets, the closer danger creeps – and the more urgent her quest to find the killer grows. Because what if Adriana is not the last girl to die?'

 I don't know why but I seem to be really drawn to Scottish crime fiction. And when it moves from the usual spots (Edinburgh, Glasgow etc) even more so. There's something about those isolated areas that make things feel just that bit more off. TLGTD is set on the island of Mull and the 'offness' is certainly strong here.

 Our heroine in this standalone (for now at least) is Canadian PI Sadie Levesque who specialises in finding missing teens. She is brought in by the parents of 17 year old Adriana Clark in the hopes that she will be able to do what it seems the local police cannot be bothered to and find their daughter. Unfortunately, as you'd expect from the title, the search doesn't end well.

 The family of the missing (ok, dead) girl are American and only recently arrived on the island. The locals are standoffish at best and weirdly odd at worst so adding a Canadian PI to the mix doesn't make for good relationships between them and the islanders but I'll tell you what, it makes for a good, twisty tale. I had several guesses as to the final outcome but I'm glad to say I was wrong and the end caught me out.

 I would highly recommend this novel (and the author - I enjoyed this so much I'm going on the hunt for her other novels straight away)


Thanks to Avon Books for the review copy and Midas PR for inviting me onto the tour. All views are my own and not influenced in any way. Also, big ❤️ to the people of Mull - I hope I haven't insulted or upset any of you in any way. My comments are only on the characters in the novel and I am sure you are all lovely people.

 The Last Girl To Die is published in the UK on September 1st 2022.

Thursday, 18 August 2022

The Generation Killer - Adam Simcox


Welcome to my spot on the Blogtour for Adam Simcox's The Generation Killer (aka The Dying Squad 2) and first off let me apologise for being a day late (work's been busy and I lost track of the date). 

I was itching to get hold of this as soon as I heard about it as The Dying Squad was an absolute corker. So, to start off here's the blurb . . .

'There's a new serial killer on the streets of Manchester - and only a dead cop can stop them.

 Detective Joe Lazarus works for the Dying Squad, solving crimes the living police can't. When the Generation Killer starts wiping out Manchester's innocents, Joe and his new partner Bits have mere hours to catch the murderer. A young woman's life depends on it.

 Joe's former partner Daisy-May has her own problems. Children are going missing in the afterlife, and she's the only one who seems to care. Her investigation uncovers a conspiracy so vast, it threatens both the living and the dead.

 Her predecessor the Duchess can't help this time; she's tracked her treacherous sister, Hanna, to Tokyo, where she's been recruiting the dead. The Duchess must enlist the help of a local detective if she's to have any choice of stopping her.

 Time is running out for the Dying Squad. And if they can't crack their cases, it's the living that will pay...'

 Sounds like a fun ride yeah? Trust me, it was.

  I'll try not to give spoilers but would advise reading The Dying Squad first as coming into The Generation Killer cold will most likely confuse you.

 The Dying Squad are the police of the afterlife - they investigate crimes back in the real world (or The Soil as they call it) that the still living police are unable to and working for the DS is new(ish)ly dead ex copper Joe Lazarus. Joe's whole backstory is covered in book 1 so yeah, go read that first because, y'know, SPOILERS!!

 Back on The Soil there's a new serial killer (the Generation Killer of the title) and the police are baffled. Time to call for The Dying Squad - but there's a problem, the way back is blocked to Joe and co. after events in book 1. It's no real spoiler to say a way back is be found and then the supernatural sleuthing can begin.

 On this case Joe has a new partner, Bits, as his previous partner, Daisy-May, is now the big boss dead side. Bits took a little getting used to for me but he grew on me in the end.

 This could have been a really confusing book as there are three different investigations going on - 2 soul side, and one for Daisy in the Pens (a kind of afterlife holding area between being alive and where you eventually end up) but Simcox handles it all well.

 Did I enjoy it as much as The Dying Squad? Probably more actually, which bodes well for DS3 (please let there be a DS3)

Highly recommend 5/5* (but read book 1 if you haven't already, also a 5* read).

Thursday, 4 August 2022

The Book of Gothel - Mary McMyne


Everyone knows the story of Rapunzel in the tower, but do you know the tale of the witch who put her there?

Enter a world of dark magic, mysterious woods and evil princes. This is the truth they never wanted you to know, as only a witch might tell it.

With her strange black eyes and even stranger fainting spells, Haelewise is shunned by her village, and her only solace lies in the stories her mother tells of child-stealing witches, of princes in wolf-skins, of an ancient tower cloaked in mist where women will find shelter if they are brave enough to seek it.

But when her mother dies, Haelewise is left unmoored. With nothing left for her in her village, she sets out to find the tower of legend-a place called Gothel, where Haelewise meets a wise woman willing to take her under her wing.

But Haelewise is not the only woman to seek refuge at Gothel. It's also a haven for a girl named Rika, who carries with her a secret the Church strives to keep hidden. A secret that reveals a dark world of ancient spells and murderous nobles behind the world Haelewise has always known.

                           My Thoughts

 Rapunzel is one of the first fairy tales I remember so the chance to read the origin story behind the witch who put Rapunzel in the tower was one I couldn't really refuse. The story follows Haelewise (aka The Witch) from her younger days. Early on she loses her mother and from then on is treat badly by her fellow villagers who do not understand her fainting fits. Her one shot at happiness is her friendship with Matthaus, she thinks her future is all mapped out with him but his father soon puts a stop to that.

  She leaves the village in search of a tower which offers refuge and hopes to learn about herself and her fainting fits. And there the journey to becoming the witch we know begins.

 I found this to be a comfy read and rather enjoyed it. The setting of ancient Germany felt right and I was rooting for Haelewise from the off. 

 Recommended 4/5*

The Book of Gothel is published by Orbit and is out now