Wednesday 30 June 2021

Pariah's Lament by Richie Billing


Book Description:

“So often it’s the forgotten who possess the power to change the world.”

When an attempt is made on the life of Ashara, Keeper of Yurr, his young, hapless advisor Edvar must uncover and stop those behind it. With enemies in the capital city and the belligerent Tesh, Keeper of neighboring kingdom Karrabar stirring trouble in the Borderlands, can Edvar hold together Ashara’s brittle reign? 

The troubles ripple throughout Yurr, affecting an ancient race of people known as the Amast, who in their time of utmost need, turn to pariah Isy for salvation. Rejected by society, kith and kin, can Isy guide the Amast to safety during the greatest turmoil Yurr has known since the War of the Damned?

My thoughts:

One of my big favourites with fantasy fiction is World Building, opening the pages of a new book and being taken somewhere different. If it's done right you can start to feel 'at home' straight away and that was certainly the case with Pariah's Lament. 

 Seeing the two lead characters; Edvar, advisor to The Keeper, and Isy, outcast from her people because they thing her facial birth mark is a curse, grow throughout the novel - yup, my kind of fantasy story. 

 Edvar in particular fitted well with me as he seems to have a problem with believing in his abilities but has to do what needs doing to find out who is behind the assassination attempt on the keeper. 

Richie Billing has created something a bit special here (in my opinion) 5/5*

Thanks as always to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for inviting me onto this Blogtour and apologies for the lateness in posting. Please have a look at the posts by the other bloggers on the tour (below) 

The Secret War by Louise Burfitt-Dons


Book Description:

A confident China plans to alter the world order.

Border expansion for her burgeoning population is an essential element.   

Bioweapons will be used as a first tester in the US.

An underground laboratory. A claustrophobic liner. A trail of dead mistresses.

Karen Andersen, private investigator, stumbles across intelligence in a Liverpool University that an ultra-right faction of the CCP plan to release the hyper contagious virus on an unsuspecting New York City. 

Heading out of Southampton on a luxury cruise, she has just seven days to disrupt the strategy. In the turmoil on board, Karen struggles to unravel the complexities.

My thoughts:

Well, this was a busy book. Spycraft, China making plans for World domination, biological warfare, covid, social media - it's all there and, for such a busy book the author managed to keep the pace steady and not overcompicate things too much. 

A lot of the story was set on an ocean liner heading to NYC and I'm not a fan of stories set on boats/liners (or planes, or submarines - basically any kind of confined transport) but Burfitt-Dons managed to keep it interesting so that's a plus for me. 

 China always seem a secretive country and that certainly comes across here. 

 The book consists of short chapters which would usually make it easy to reach a 'stopping point' to put the book down but the bits that move the plot forward are dribbled out in a way that kept me wanting 'just one more chapter' time after time. 

 This is the third book to feature PI Karen Anderson and the first I've read in the series but I've enjoyed it enough that after finishing it (about an hour ago) I'm heading straight over to Amazon to get the previous 2

 As thrillers go you really can't get much more up to the minute than this


Thanks, as ever, to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for inviting me to review this and providing the review copy. Please, if you can, take a look at the posts by the other bloggers on the tour (below) 

Artefact Space by Miles Cameron


Artifact Space sets off at a good pace and somehow manages to keep it going throughout. Marca Nbara is on the run from what seems to be an orphanage of sorts and is determined to worm her way onto one of the Greatships and leave her old life behind. With knowledge gained from simulations and false papers she pulls it off... And the adventure begins!

  I'll say from the off that my kind of Sci-fi reading is the less techy/sciencey type. I like stories rather than something I need 3 degrees in astrophysics to understand (but hey, that's just me - I was never more than an average student in sciences and those days are long behind me). That was no worry here though as this is very much a story based tale. I guess it felt a bit like something Netflix or the likes would pick up (they really should). As  little bits of character background  are slowly revealed and Nbara's reasons for running become clearer I grew more and more hooked - yup, more late nights reading when I should be sleeping.

 What I really liked was the idea of the Greatships - they are huge sword shaped vessels that carry thousands of passengers and have a cargo hold that seems the size of Warehouse 13. Yup, they're called Greatships for a reason. But the downside to all the carrying capability of these vast vessels is that with all that cargo and all that life something out there is always going to want what you have and that is certainly the case here as something alien is targeting these massive interstellar craft. 

 I said earlier that I am picky about my Sci-fi novels so what made me go for Artifact Space? That's an easy answer - the author. I've read all Miles Cameron's Fantasy Fiction and really enjoyed them. The guy knows how to tell a good character driven story and how to get his hooks into you early on - and with Artifact Space he's done it again. This deserves to be massive and will certainly be in my 'Books of the Year' lists I'm sure


Thanks go out to Gollancz for inviting me to take part in this tour and for supplying the review copy (which in no way influenced my views on the book). Please have a look at the posts by the other bloggers who have taken part. 

Monday 21 June 2021

Dragon Mage by ML Spencer


One thing I really love about fantasy fiction is the size and scope of the thing. Nothing ever needs to be too big or too wide ranging. And size was one of the things that struck me about Dragon Mage when I first saw it. I mean, look at that cover art!! Epic in every sense of the word. 

And it gets better - the book is an absolute chonker. It's massive. And obviously, something that big and that stunning looking, I had to have it. 

The story is set in a world (or two worlds that were one) torn apart with a practically impenetrable 'veil' between them. In one our hero, Aram Raythe, is a misfit (pretty much on the autistic spectrum) who has a fixation of sorts with knots. Long story short he unpicks a part of the veil and ends up in 'world 2' where his skills/ability mean he may be able to become the titular Dragon Mage, the first in many, many years - and just what they need right now as trouble comes a knocking in the shape of a dark god. 

What really impressed me with DM (apart from the size and the cover art) 
was just how visual the whole thing was. It takes a special kind of author to not only take me into the story but also to put me side by side with the characters and scenery, to make the whole thing a living, breathing experience. The moment I stood on the cliff edge and looked down into the chasm below really sealed the deal for me. 

It's no surprise to say I fell in love with this book and cannot recommend it highly enough. If anything is going to beat it to my Book of the Year for 2021 it's going to have to be exceptional 

7/5* (my blog, my rules 😉) 

Thanks to Storytellers on Tour for inviting me to be a part of this Blogtour and please, if you have time, have a look at the posts by the other wonderful bloggers below

Wolfe Trap by Matt Cost


Clay Wolfe leaves Boston, where he was a Homicide cop to return home to Maine, where he can look after his grandfather and set up a little detective agency. Definitely an easier life... 

*Dude, don't do it!!! You know these things never turn out well *

Anyhow, before too long Wolfe is looking into a new case - find out who supplied the drugs that led to the death of a six month old baby. Before long he is up to his neck in dealers, gangland bosses - basically all the evil you can throw at him... 

*See, I told you it never turns out the way you hope*

This was a cracking read that passed by much quicker than I would have expected (gone in two sittings). The setting of small town Maine worked well for me and, with the depth of the back cast I can see this becoming a popular series. 

Certainly worth a look 4/5*

Thanks as always to Anne Cater for inviting me onto the tour 

Getaway by Rod Humphris


I first read one of Rod Humphris Simon Ellice books (well, ok, four on the bounce - I enjoyed them that much) last year as part of a blog tour and liked the idea of there being novels (2) and  novellas in the series as you can choose just how much 'Simon Ellice' you want at any time. 

Getaway follows on from the last in the series, Bloodstock, and sees Si sailing up towards Corsica with the woman he rescued then. As always, trouble is never far away and our hero is soon tangling with the Corsican mafia. It's brutal but Ellice can look after himself... hopefully! 

Ellice is not always a nice person, but he knows how to get the job done, the kind of guy you want on your side. 

Getaway is novella size but packs plenty in for it's size and has me itching for the next in the series. Thoroughly enjoyed it 5/5* 

Also a quick nod to the publishers, Rats Tails, who have, again, produced a lovely edition

Thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on to the tour and to Rats Tails for providing the review copy. 

Preacher Boy by Gwyn GB


I'll be honest, meeting Dr Harrison Lane for the first time in Preacher Boy I didn't think I was going to like the character. Whooshing in on his big, powerful motorbike like some supercool dude, the women seem to like him, the main male character seems to be really jealous of him...

 But the premise of the book appealed to me so I kept an open mind and carried on. Which is a good thing really as I enjoyed the book immensely.

Lane is the head of the Met's Ritualistic Behavioural Crime Unit, the guy the cops call on when things get really dark and that's just how it is when he attends the site where a young boy is staked out in what looks like a murder with satanic overtones. Before long another boy is missing and it's the usual 'race against the clock' type of scenario but 'usual'  doesn't detract from the impact of the story (I'll be reading more of this author again for sure).

What I really enjoyed was seeing Lane at work, he kind of switches a lot of the world off and sees things others don't which leads to him picking up clues others would miss and seeing 'inside' the murderers mindset.

Highly recommended 4.5/5*

Thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me onto this tour

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