Friday, 18 June 2021

The Coward by Stephen Aryan


Kell Kressia is a hero, a legend. 10 years ago he set off in a party to fight the Ice Lich, they won, the Ice Lich was killed but Kell was the only survivor. Was he a skilled warrior though or just in the right place at the right time? (the book's title kinda gives it away). 

In the here and now a new threat is rising in the North and the people believe they have just the man for the job (Kell should have learnt one of the first rules of fantasy fiction - things always come back to bite you in the butt). The people want Hero Kell to save them again, use his legendary prowess and warrior skills to save the day but Kell is no hero and doesn't want to go. 

Anyway, long story short, as you would expect he goes off to save the day and picks up a rag tag bunch to help him on his quest. These don't always seem to be the best, the most suitable but when it comes to the nitty gritty they somehow seem just the right ones for the job in hand. 

For me I think it was this mis-matched gang that made this story for me. So often these quests set out with what seems like a perfect group with just the right person for each task before them, a noble bunch whereas Kell's group seemed more like vagabonds and rogues. As has been mentioned before it reminded me of Nicholas Eame's Kings of the Wyld and, trust me, that is not a bad thing. 

I've read Aryan's books before and found his world building to be really good and the same applies with The Coward but there is also a sense of there being a lot more to come as well. As this is the first in a series we'll just have to see but I, for one, will certainly be there for the next installment. 

A good fun quest novel 4/5*

Thanks to Caroline Lambe and Angry Robot for inviting me onto this tour and please have a look at the posts by the other bloggers taking part (below) 

Monday, 14 June 2021

The Mash House by Alan Gillespie


 OK, I'm being honest here, among my passions are Scottish crime fiction and single malt whisky. That being the case, the chance to review Gillespie's debut was a bit of a no-brainer for me. 

 The setting for the story, the (fictional) village of Cullrothes in the Scottish Highlands is a real hotbed of nastiness thanks to the people who live there. There are some glimmers of light but for the most part the locals are a dark bunch and that's probably why I enjoyed The Mash House so much. 

 The story flips from character to character in short chapters so you don't dwell on one point of view for too long (but the downside to this is that 'one more chapter' soon led to me reading into the small hours of the morning - ah, but I'm not complaining). There are Innes and Alice, a couple so unsuited for each other they deserve each other, the distillery owner almost hounded to sell his business, there are others of varying degrees of light and shade. This is their lives, their village, their story. 

 For all their nastiness though it was the darker characters that made for the more fun reading even if the prose was what some people may find a bit triggering (not me though, I loved it). 

 I'll give an appreciative nod to the cover art too, a really evocative piece that matched the writing and the description of the Highlands in the book.

 I will certainly be watching out for what this author does next. And I'll be raising a glass of malt tonight to toast a job well done by Alan Gillespie 

An atmospheric and dark read 4.3/5*

 Many thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me onto the tour and arranging the review copy. Please, if you have the time, have a look at the posts by the other bloggers on the tour (below) 

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Run ,Walk , Crawl by Tim Lebbon


 Welcome to the final leg of the Blogtour for Tim Lebbon's tale of change through endurance racing and training. 

 I'll start by saying I know Tim through social media through his (rather good) fiction writing and so have known of his 'sportiness' for a while but not the reason behind it. As it turns out that reason is a simple one and one many people will connect with. It was as simple as looking at himself and saying 'this is not good, something has to change' 

 This revelation happened as Lebbon turned 40 and the book follows him through the next decade from overweight to super athlete through marathons, triathlons, ultra runs etc. 

 For me books like this can go either way but thankfully RWC makes for a good and inspiring read. What probably helps is that TL is an author already so the book is well paced. I'll admit there are places the book made me wince (that could well be understatement of the Month) as his background in writing includes horror fiction so some of the injuries he picked up are well described (chaffing - ouch) but that just adds to the realism of the journey from fat to fit. 

 And a journey is just what it is. Tim goes from doing this just to change his lifestyle to becoming a passionate ultra athlete and really is an inspiration. 

 A highly recommended read


Thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me onto this tour and please have a look at the posts by the other bloggers (below) if you get the chance 

Monday, 7 June 2021

Crooked Shadow by Andy Maslen


The Blurb

Ex-SAS hero Wolfe wants vengeance for his parents’ deaths. But the killer he’s hunting has one last card to play

Gabriel Wolfe has seen many faces of evil, fought it, and won. On his latest mission, a stone-cold quest for vengeance, he’s flying solo. He's on administrative suspension after a car crash that almost cost a man his life. That means no backup from his boss, no support if things turn nasty, just him, his wits and his resolve to see justice done.

And what justice. Tracking down the corrupt cop who ripped Gabriel’s family apart, causing the deaths of his brother and his parents. And separating Gabriel from his sister for almost 40 years: the former triad bodyguard Wei Mei.

A former warlord drenched in the blood of innocents

Ratko Popović ran a vicious Serbian militia during the Bosnian war. The White Eagles were feared for their ruthless brutality. But when the wind changed and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia ground into gear, Popović bailed out, leaving his men to their fate. He now runs an organised crime gang called The Golden Bough and is about to become embroiled in Gabriel’s hunt for the bent cop.

Gabriel follows a trail that takes him from the deceptive calm of the Suffolk coast all the way back to Hong Kong, where he joins forces with Mei. Then on, in a dizzying chase, to southern Spain and finally deep into Serbia.

‘Do I?’

Gabriel is also struggling to accept the different life on offer thanks to his girlfriend Eli’s, proposal of marriage.

Can he continue to operate as a Department assassin when his wife would give his enemies additional leverage? As he wrestles with the risks and rewards of marriage, an old friend returns to interrogate him.

So many dead

Gabriel and Mei think they have cornered the man they came to kill, but life is never simple for the Wolfe siblings and a disaster ensues, splitting them apart.

With Mei’s life forfeit if he makes a single wrong move, Gabriel must draw deep on his well of courage and mental strength to save his sister. He know what it means to lose the ones he loves and is determined not to fail. But with the odds stacked against him, things are looking bleak for the ex-SAS hero.

The Review

 This is the twelfth book in the Gabriel Wolfe series so I guess if you've followed the story so far you kinda know what you are expecting.

 If, like me, you are new to Gabriel Wolfe you'll get the idea from the blurb. What we have in Wolfe is a one man War Machine, a guy who can take on anyone, anywhere - your typical action movie hero. And this time he's bringing his sister along to play. Together they make a formidable team, kicking butt in various countries until she is taken and Wolfe has to do whatever he can to get her back. He lost her as a child and he's not going to lose her again. 

 I'll be honest, it took me a bit of suspension of belief before I really got into this book but once I accepted it for what it was, especially with the OTT fight scenes the pages fair flew by. 

 I'll be going back to the earlier books pretty soon I think. 

 Would be an excellent holiday read


Tuesday, 25 May 2021

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman


 So, here we are, 2 days away from the UK launch for The Blacktongue Thief, the fantasy debut of Christopher Buehlman - and the book you didn't know you needed in your life. 

 What we have here is, in short, a quest story but also, so much more than that. The lands here are still recovering from the Goblin Wars and times, for many, are a tad desperate. That is why we find our 'hero' Kinch about to waylay a traveller in the woods on the road into town, a decision that is about to change his life's direction. 

 There are so many things that impressed me about this book. First up is the attention to detail both in the world building and the tiny 'extra' details (a prime example being money - different coins and different denominations from different areas could be really dull but the author has given Kinch a love of coins that makes it seem interesting). 

 The world itself reminded me a lot of Edding's Belgariad with lots of different peoples populating various lands and our gang passing through them. No two countries quite the same leaves the reader feeling they are part of a Grand Tour - and I absolutely loved it! There's a snap of the map below. 

Where the author really excels though is dialogue. Buehlman also does the Renaissance Fair circuit in the US as Christophe the Insultor - where people pay him to insult them (check out YouTube - he's very funny). It seems he has given CtI's word skills to Kinch who is the Narrator he and reading him is an absolute joy. I lost track of how many times I had to stop reading as I was laughing so much. 

 The Blacktongue Thief has the makings of a true genre classic and I cannot wait for more

 5/5* Must Read 

This is the first day of the tour (thanks for the invite Will O'Mullane) so make sure you check out the rest of the posts for more insights into the world of Kinch Na Shannack, The Blacktongue Thief. 

Thursday, 20 May 2021

And It's A Beautiful Day - A Fargo Companion by Nige Tassell


 This wonderful little book is, as the title suggests, a companion guide to the film that made the Coen's - Fargo. It's hard to believe that the film is 25 years old (but that may be, to me, because I only got to watching it after seeing the first series of the TV show) 

 Over 43 chapters the author takes us through the movie, starting with when he first saw it on the opening day right through to 'the afterlife' where he looks at what happened to the characters, the location and the actors when the cameras stopped rolling and also takes a look at the 'True Story' Fargo is based around. 

 As a former Minessota resident Tassel is well placed to tell of the area, the places and the weather of the State so it brings for an insightful depth of vision to the book. Studying the characters and asking what makes them tick, why did they do what they did but in short chapters means the flow of the book continues at a steady pace but doesn't leave the reader bogged down in details. 

 I enjoyed Fargo when I first saw it but watched it again after finishing this book and loved it even more so I guess Mr Tassell has done what he set out to achieve, giving the reader and the viewer a deeper understanding of the wonderful world of Fargo



Thanks, as always to Anne Cater for inviting me onto the tour and for Polaris for supplying the review copy. 
 Please have a look at the posts from the other bloggers on the tour (below) 

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

The Robert B Parker Showcase with No Exit Press

 Welcome to my spot the Blogtour for 3 new releases from No Exit Press which are all set in the 'world' of Robert B Parker's crime novels


 First up is Ace Atkin's Someone To Watch Over Me. This novel features Parker's most popular creation Spenser and has the Boston PI investigating a 'billionaire money manager who is also into providing under age girls for his clients' needs' - and his own.

 I'll admit this was a tough read in places, especially as it is quite reminiscent of a recent high profile case in the real world, but I did enjoy the writing. At just over 200 pages this was a quickish read but one that sticks with you afterwards


 Next up is the first of two from Mike Lupica - Grudge Match featuring the PI Sunny Randall. Grudge Match has Sunny searching for the girlfriend of her gangster 'friend' missing. If Sunny helps find her Tony will 'clear the slate' and all favours owed will be forgotten.

 At first it seems like maybe she doesn't want to be found but after Sunny starts digging deeper it turns out things could run a lot deeper and Sunny may well have her work cut out to find her in time.

 I really enjoyed this one, a proper pocket sized thriller (again just over 200 pages) with characters that felt like I knew them from the start.


Finally, in Fool's Paradise we meet Police Chief Jesse Stone. A body is discovered with links to Stone and it's not long before he and his friends become targets too. Someone's out to get the Paradise Police Department.

 I think that, of the three, Fool's Paradise is my favourite. It is late on into the series (19th?) but reads ok as a stand-alone but I will be going back to the earlier books I believe.

 I first discovered Robert B Parker when he finished Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe novel Poodle Springs after Chandler's death so to rediscover him through the authors who are continuing his own legacy (Parker himself died in 2010) has a certain kind of pleasing symmetry to it.


 I would certainly recommend all 3 of these and will be searching out more

 Thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me onto the tour and No Exit Press for providing the review copies. Please have a look at the posts by the other reviewers (below)