Wednesday 30 October 2019

Angel Mage by Garth Nix

Welcome to the blog tour for Garth Nix's first adult novel. Following on from his previous young adult series this story starts over a century after the end of the last series.

Liliath, our villain, has woken from her magical sleep and, looking just as she did when she crept into the sarcophagus that was her resting place for all that time is now looking to with Palleniel, her archangel lover.

As things have moved on she will need the help of 4 strangers, all unknown to each other but also, in a way, feeling a kindred spirit when they meet. They may not know they are being manipulated but they know something is happening and they are part of it. With Angelic magic, action reminiscent of The Three Musketeers and a magic system that feels very religion based this large tome is a very fast moving tale and certainly one that will appeal to Nix's fans and, I think will win him an army of new ones.

4/5 *

Thanks to Stevie Finegan at Gollancz for the invite onto this tour and supplying the review copy. Please, if you get the chance, have a read of the posts by the other bloggers on the tour

Beyond Kidding by Lynda Clark

Rob's life is in a bit of a rut. Working in his friend's 'adult entertainment' shop, the marvelously named 'Empornium', drinking and takeaways is all there is. After a falling out he applies for a job at  Credit Co, embellishing his life to date in the hopes of making a better impression.

Part of that embellishment is inventing a son he doesn't have, which is all well and good until people want to meet him. Thinking on his feet (not his best idea!) Rob tells his colleagues his son, Brodie, has been kidnapped. As folk rally round to help him in his 'hour of need' Rob digs himself ever deeper until a situation that was already drifting out of control really goes off the rails. Rob gets a call from the police saying they've found his son... Everybody is happy now apart from Rob

Who is the little boy fitting the exact (made up) description of Brodie? How can people remember a boy who never existed? Is Rob going insane? 

This is a good, weird story, quite humorous in places and quite 'laddish' in it's characterisation. And although the ending was kinda what I expected it still wrapped up well.

3.5/5 stars 

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Doing Time by Jodi Taylor

 Welcome to the final day of the Blogtour for Doing Time, the first in a new series by Jodi Taylor.

Set in the same world as the author's other series (The rather wonderful St Mary's books) this is, in a way, more of the same but it's so much more than that too. The Time Police, for this is their story, are responsible for keeping the time lines straight as, now that time travel is 'available' to all trouble is never far away. Much like the Star Trek Redshirts new recruits are easily lost in action so the need for replacements is constant.

Enter our 'heroes' Jane, Luke and Matthew, three totally different characters whose very differences mean they will never get on so, of course, they are put together and forced to do so.

Jane is very timid but wants to be more, Matthew is the geek kid whose parents are part of St Mary's (The Time Police's 'rivals') and Luke is a bit of a playboy type whose father has enrolled him to teach him a lesson but who is determined to get through his probation and leave with as little effort put in as usual. When one of the 3 is accused of a crime they may or may not have committed only by coming together can our bunch of misfits find the answers they need. Yup, they'll never get on but events don't give them much choice.

If you've read the St Mary's books you'll have an idea of what you are getting - time travel, historical settings, humour and great characters. If you haven't I truly recommend you start at the beginning as this is really entertaining stuff.

How much did I enjoy it though? Well, let's just say I had this with me on holiday and got through it in 2 days. Yeah, I guess you could say I enjoyed it.

Thanks as always to Anne Cater for inviting me onto this tour and please, if you get a chance check out the other bloggers posts.

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Effin Birds

Welcome to Day 2 of the Blogtour for Effin' Birds by Aaron Reynolds.

Have you ever strolled down a country lane hearing nothing but the sweet song of the birds? If so you probably think they are twittering away about the joys of life, a warm nest and the juicy worm they had for breakfast. This is the book to show you how wrong you may be

Billed as A Field Guide to Identification this rather lovely book is a hearty chuckle on every page. What the author has done, with gorgeous illustrations to boot, is give us his take on what the birds are really saying. Such things as

"Can this shit be someone else's problem"

"It must be dickhead season"

"Listen to my opinions"

Added to this are descriptions and where to find such joys as

The Abstruse Heron

The Snub Gull

The Truculent Hawk

So, yes, this is very much a tongue in cheek (tongue in Bill?) look at nature's minstrels but it's really good fun, beautifully illustrated and just the thing to brighten the day.

You'll never listen to birdsong in quite the same way again

Thanks, as always to Anne Cater for inviting me onto this tour, Unbound for providing the review copy and please have a look at the blog posts by the other bloggers on this tour

Monday 14 October 2019

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

This could have been a confusing read. The story, as it begins, is framed as a conversation between jailer and prisoner and both tell their part, in alternating chapters and in separate timelines. Our hero, Khirin, tells the tale of how he got to where he is now. Talon, his jailer tells what is basically Khirin, the earlier years.

And then it all comes together in an ending that just blows everything else out of the water.

The Ruin of Kings has everything you need and want from a fantasy classic - prophecy, artefacts, Gods and Demons etc etc plus a healthy dollop of politics (though not heavy and boring) and world building that is up there with the best of the best. Oh, and a humongous dragon, can't forget the dragon.

It takes a few chapters to get into the rhythm of the different timelines but the end result is well worth it.

Another name to add to the list of awesome ladies who are taking fantasy fiction by storm. Thankfully I have book 2, The Name Of All Things with me now so expect that review soon

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.