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


 ABOUT THE BOOK

THE UNITED KINGDOM AND HER ALLIES HAVE BEEN TARGETED IN A WIDESPREAD NUCLEAR ATTACK
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.

WE DO NOT KNOW THE STATUS OF OUR TOWNS AND CITIES. WE SHALL NOT KNOW THEIR FATE FOR SEVERAL DAYS
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.

RADIOACTIVE FALLOUT WILL PRESENT THE GREATEST RISK TO HEALTH. MEDICAL STAFF AND SUPPLIES ARE AVAILABLE.
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?


MY THOUGHTS

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)

4.5/5*


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

Thursday, 28 July 2022

Doctor Who - Empire of the Wolf - Titan Comics

 



This week's comic book takes us to one of my favourite subjects - Doctor Who. It's now 50 years since I first remember watching and I was hooked/addicted from that moment on. I devoured anything DW related - TV show, videos, DVDs, books (ah, all those target adaptations) and yes DW monthly magazine and the comic strips therein. And I enjoyed them all.

But as for comic strips - well, it's been a while.

This story has the eighth doctor teaming up with Rose Tyler (a face from his future) and the eleventh with an alternative Rose who is now The Bad Wolf Empress. This could have been confusing but the story (Jody Hauser) art (Roberta Ingranata) and colouring (Warnia K. Shadewa) kept everything clear. 

The characterisations of 8 and 11 were well done and believable - no shouty reliance on catchphrases here - and it was nice to see the 'human doctor' and Rose in their alternate universe and see how they had been getting on since we last saw them.

And yes, there is an old enemy that is thankfully not Daleks or Cybermen to add to the mix.

All round a highly enjoyable multi doctor tale 4.5/5*

Thanks to Will O'Mullane and Titan Comics for inviting me to review Empire of the Wolf and providing a review copy. All opinions, though, are my own and not influenced by either.

Friday, 22 July 2022

The Last Blade Priest W P Wiles

 


 Blurb

Inar is Master Builder for the Kingdom of Mishig-Tenh. Life is hard after the Kingdom lost the war against the League of Free Cities. Doubly so since his father betrayed the King and paid the ultimate price. And now the King’s terrifying chancellor and torturer in chief has arrived and instructed Inar to go and work for the League. And to spy for him. And any builder knows you don’t put yourself between a rock and a hard place.
 
Far away Anton, Blade Priest for Craithe, the God Mountain, is about to be caught up in a vicious internal war that will tear his religion apart. Chosen from infancy to conduct human sacrifice, he is secretly relieved that the practice has been abruptly stopped. But an ancient enemy has returned, an occult conspiracy is unfolding, and he will struggle to keep his hands clean in a world engulfed by bloodshed.
 
In a series of constantly surprising twists and turns that take the reader through a vividly imagined and original world full of familiar tensions and surprising perspectives on old tropes, Inar and Anton find that others in their story may have more influence on their lives, on the future of the League and on their whole world than they, or the reader imagined.


My thoughts 

The blurb sold me on this book - and it didn't disappoint (well, there was one 'disappointment' but I'll come to that later).

The 'style' of the story, especially from the point of view of Inar the builder, put me in mind of a massively expansive fantasy video game (you know the kind of thing where you just wander around the screen going 'Woooah, how cool is that') and for me that was a massive plus point. 

When Inar is sent to spy on The League, his people's conquerors, it made me wonder just what was going on as he seemed to be in a much better situation here - who are the 'good guys', who are the 'bad guys' am I going to be changing my mind every other page. Inar's part of the story was, I'll admit, my favourite - partly for the world building but also for his companion and comedy sidekick Lott, a great character who seems to lighten the mood at just the right time.

The other side of the story concerns the Blade Priest Craithe which, for the most part is more contained to the one area. This was a lot darker with sacrifice avian type Gods and the threat of an ancient Big Bad. When the book begins though the offering of human sacrifice is possibly coming to an end and the way this plays out between different factions made for an interesting read.

So, great characters, great plot, great world-building and a massive chonker of a book - 'what is there to disappoint?' you may well ask.

Well (and it's just a personal opinion) it could have really benefited from a map. That's it, a map, even though the world building was so good and so clear I knew more or less where I was for the majority of the time. What can I say, I like maps 😉

Two other things though - when Inar is first taken to The League they stay in a massive sprawling castle but the people who live there can find there way around as the corridors are all marked as are the individual doors - THEY BASICALLY HAVE A STREET GUIDE FOR THE CASTLE!! How cool is that idea? It may have been done before but I don't recall it.

Also, Evil Elves!!


So, when you put it all into context I guess the lack of a map is only a small thing really 

4.5/5* Highly Recommend (and the only reason it hasn't got 5* is that I feel the story is only going to get better in later volumes)









Monday, 4 July 2022

Rivers of London: Body Work Delux Writers Edition


 'CSI meets Harry Potter in this fantastic SPECIAL EDITION graphic novel from Ben Aaronovitch, writer of the bestselling Rivers of London supernatural police procedural crime novel series! This Deluxe Writers' Edition presents the full script of the graphic novel along with the unlettered, full-color artwork, allowing the reader to read the original script and see the artwork side-by-side.

Grant is part of a very special London police unit. Full-time cop and part time wizard he works on rather unusual crimes - those that involve magic and the general weirdness that permeates London's dark underbelly.

His latest case begins with a perfectly innocent car on a homicidal killing spree - without a driver. But, before you know it, there's a Bosnian refugee, the Most Haunted Car in England, a bunch of teenagers loaded on Ketamine and seemingly-harmless wooden bench with the darkest of pasts...'

                                    -

 So, last week I covered the origins of Spiderman from 1962. This week we come right up to date with Body Work pt1 the first graphic novel in Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London universe. And oh, my friends, it is so much more than that. This is the Delux Writers Edition and it is a thing of outstanding beauty.

 I've loved the RoL novels since day 1 but I've always been a sucker for 'magic London'. The series stars Peter Grant who is basically a wizard policeman and crimes with a supernatural leaning.

 With the graphic novels Lee Sullivan (pencils and inks) and Luis Guerrero (colours) bring the characters to life in Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel's story and I think I enjoyed the visual aspect of this even more than the novels (and I love the novels!).

 The story here is of a possessed car on a killing spree (reminded me of the King classic Christine) but there's so much more than just a killer car going on.

  The big thing about this edition though is the way it is presented. This is almost a masterclass on how a graphic novel is created and put together (I guess if Body Work were a dvd this would be one of the extras).
 


On each double spread we get the unlettered artwork on one side while the other has the dialogue, captions etc and such things as photo references that were taken to give the art accuracy. The book is printed on glorious feeling paper which gives it even more of a 'special book essence'.

And then, when you reach the end - another treat. Several 1 page shorts, Tales From The Folly, a collection of short stories featuring the side cast (Beverly Brook, Toby the Dog etc). It's amazing how much story you can get from 6 or so panels.

This book is a real gem and deserves pride of place on any book shelf but mostly it deserves to be in your hands as you treat your eyes to what I can only call a true work of art. 

5/5*

https://titan-comics.com/c/1651-rivers-of-london-vol-1-body-work-deluxe-writers-ed/

Thursday, 30 June 2022

Against All Gods - Miles Cameron


 

                      BOOK DESCRIPTION

The tyranny of the gods is absolute, and they are capricious, malevolent and almost all-powerful, playing cruel games with the fates of mortals for their own ends . . .


A vibrant and powerful epic set against an alternate Bronze Age, this tale of gods, men and monsters, conspiracy and war, is a rich, compelling and original read from a master of the historical and fantasy genres. The people caught up in toils of the gods are merely trying to survive. Victims of vicious whims, trapped by their circumstances or pushed beyond what the mortal frame can bear, a handful of god-touched mortals - a scribe, a warlord, a dancer and a child - are about to be brought together in a conspiracy of their own.


A conspiracy to reach the heavens, and take down the corrupt and aging gods . . . who are already facing troubles of their own . . .


                          MY THOUGHTS

 I've been reading Fantasy Fiction for a long, long time and it's a safe bet to say I know what I like. . . and I like Against All Gods a lot!

 The story kicks off in Heaven with a pantheon of Gods (in fact the whole thing starts with a line from the chief God himself, asking the lesser gods "What the f*ck just happened" - Yeah, I knew early on this was a winner). There is a lot of manipulation, plotting, scheming, carousing etc between the Gods - and there are a lot of them. There seems to be a God of almost everything.

 After the Gods we move to a bronze age era world where we meet a varied collection of characters from different parts of the continent who eventually come together to go up against the Gods.

The character bringing them all together is a boy named Daos who seems to be a cypher for, possibly, one of the Gods or maybe one of the Old God's (who were displaced by the present one after one almighty battle). Someone or something is telling him exactly where and when he needs to be to gather the 'gang' together. And he gets his messages through his teddy bear (which had a WTF just happened moment all to itself). And the gang are also joined on their adventures by a donkey who probably isn't all he seems (and is one of my favourite characters in the whole thing).

 With sections flitting between Heaven and the world below the story never starts to become stale. There is humour, there is sadness and there is a whole lot more story to tell in coming volumes.

 Where MC really excels though is in the battle scenes. These are brutal yet awesome. In time to come, when people have read the book I'll hopefully be able to elaborate on this but till then. . . Spoilers😉

 So, in short, Great world building, great characters, Gods, Demons, artefacts, awesome battles - all the things that make me a very happy Wyrm indeed 7/5* (my blog, my rules😉)

 Is it too early to say Book of the Year? Well we'll just have to wait and see about that but it's looking promising.

 Thanks to Gollancz for providing me with a review copy of Against All Gods. All views and opinions are my own.



Sunday, 26 June 2022

Comic Book Monday - Mighty Marvel Masterworks - The Amazing Spider-Man

 


So, here we are, Spider-Man's origin story from Amazing Fantasy #15. Yeah, I know, it's nothing we don't already know - Boffin schoolboy, bitten by radioactive spider, gets powers, "with great power comes great responsibility" etc, etc. We've seen the movies but there's something a little bit special about seeing it as it was originally drawn and written. This is from 1962 and people picking up AF#15 were meeting Spidey for the first time, and this is how they saw him. They weren't to know he'd still be slinging webs 60 years in the future.

After AF#15's introduction this volume gives us issues 1-10 of The Amazing Spider-Man with such villains as Doctor ish Octopus, Vulture, Electro, Sandman and the lesser known Terrible Tinkerer and The Living Brain. These are all stories I've never seen before and watching Peter Parker (or Peter Palmer as he's curiously called in Spider-Man Vs The Chameleon) come to terms with his powers and deciding on his future path has been an absolute treat. I'm certainly going to be looking for the other titles in the Mighty Marvel Masterworks series (Captain America, Fantastic Four, X-Men -but I think I'll give Daredevil a miss, wasn't a fan).

The 60's vibe is strong in this volume so the dialogue sometimes feels a bit off but hey, this was written 60 years ago - it's almost historical 😉. It'll be interesting to see how this develops in the decades that follow.


And speaking of which, next week sees Comic Book Monday come right up to the here and now with a look at Rivers of London: Bodywork, The Deluxe Writer's Edition and a chance to look at both how much comics have come on since Spidey first donned the Spandex and just how a graphic novel is constructed.

See you next week 


Friday, 24 June 2022

Twelve Percent Dread - Emily McGovern

 

       

                     ABOUT THE BOOK

Katie and Nas are best friends, exes, and co-dependents. They share everything, including a tiny room in a North London townhouse belonging to their landlord, Jeremy, former host of the hit 90s show Football Lads.

While Katie bounces from job to job and obsesses about falling behind in life, Nas has bigger things in mind, such as waiting endlessly for their visa to come through and working on a seismic art project that will revolutionize politics and society as we know it.

Their friend Emma, meanwhile, seems to have it all figured out – job, mortgage, engagement – yet the long hours working for tech giant Arko and endless wedding admin have left her similarly anxious and unsatisfied.

But when Katie’s latest job finds her tutoring the daughter of Arko’s formidable CEO, and Emma welcomes the eccentric and enigmatic Alicia to her team at Arko, neither are aware that all of their lives – and possibly the future of society itself – are about to change forever . . .


                            MY THOUGHTS


 Well, this was fun (in a good way, not a sarcastic one!). I'm fairly new to graphic novels, although I did read and enjoy McGovern's Bloodlust and Bonnets.

 This tale is set in a London where all seems to be run by tech giant Arco who are the producers/suppliers of the majority call the electronic gadgets - phones, screens etc. - that the populace just can't do without. Yeah, pretty much the world today but the names have been changed 😉. It flits between characters Katie, Nas and Emma quickly enough that you don't get bogged down in one particular storyline which makes for a quicker read than I was expecting (believe me this is a hefty book) and I got through it in 3 sittings (3 sunny afternoons, sat in the garden letting the day drift by gadget free). When the storylines start to come together is where the book is strongest although the ending felt a tad too neat and quick.

 As for the art, a very simplistic, uncluttered style really worked here. The wording and dialogue were clear and, again, uncluttered. A very enjoyable reading experience.

 There is a lot here that resonates with today's world and McGovern is able to get this into the story without being preachy about it, again making it enjoyable.


Thanks to the lovely people at Black Crow for sending me an early review copy (all views are my own). Please have a look at the posts by the other reviewers on the tour.



Wednesday, 22 June 2022

The Ballad of Perilous Graves - Alex Jennings

 


                      About The Book 

In a fantastical version of New Orleans where music is magic, a battle for the city’s soul brews between two young mages, a vengeful wraith, and one powerful song in this vibrant and imaginative debut.

Nola is a city full of wonders. A place of sky trolleys and dead cabs, where haints dance the night away and Wise Women keep the order, and where songs walk, talk and keep the spirit of the city alive. To those from Far Away, Nola might seem strange. To failed magician, Perilous Graves, it’s simply home. Then the rhythm stutters. 

Nine songs of power have escaped from the magical piano that maintains the city’s beat and without them, Nola will fail. Unexpectedly, Perry and his sister, Brendy, are tasked with saving the city. But a storm is brewing and the Haint of All Haints is awake. Even if they capture the songs, Nola’s time might be coming to an end.


                      My Thoughts 

I've always enjoyed books with music at their heart. Somehow the music makes the story feel even more alive, almost a soundtrack to the written word before me. When you throw in the Deep South I'm hooked before I've even looked at the first page and that was certainly the case here. And, my instincts were right.

There is so much going on in Nola (an alternative New Orleans). The music is alive, graffiti floats through the air and the dead share the streets with the living. It's almost, at times, like a massive 60's technicolour trip. But trouble is coming to Nola, the city is losing it's beat and Perilous "Perry" Graves and co might not be enough to save it! 

I'll be honest, there were times when I wasn't sure what the hell was going on. There were even times early on when I nearly gave up on it but something kept pulling me back in - and for that I'm grateful as it turned out to be a cracking read.

Alex Jennings has written something special here, I just feel I'm going to have to read it again to get the full benefit


4/5*


Monday, 20 June 2022

Comic Book Monday - an introduction on week 1

 Welcome friends to a new running theme at The Blogcave - Comic Book Mondays.

I've recently been sent some CBs for review thanks to Will at Titan Comics. Those titles will (Rivers of London, Phantom of the Opera, Yellow Submarine and Dr Who: Empire of the Wolf) will be reviewed in the weeks to come. But I thought I'd start by looking back on my history with comics and where my love of them started...

 ... it's the early to mid 1970's (wow, that's a long time back😲) and there's  little me coming back from the shops with the latest Marvel offering (most likely Spider-Man) in my grubby little mitts. I remember my mum telling me she didn't like comics as they were a waste of money, mainly because of those one frame pages that just had one image of Spidey and the word SPLAT! in massive letters from corner to corner. But even though she wasn't a fan she never stopped me getting them and always encouraged reading . So I carried on...

 The whole world of Marvel opened up to me but Spidey was still #1 and then I discovered the funnies Sparky, Whizzer and Chips, Krazy, Cheeky Weekly the list goes on, any new names came out and I was there to give them a try.

 The big one though, the one that felt like something special was 2000AD. That was an eye opener. Grittier than Marvel could ever hope to be, fantasy and Sci-Fi all in one cover. I read that avidly, week in, week out for probably the best part of 20 years and then, finally I stopped. I still picked Comics up occasionally (especially if it was a new chapter of Batman Vs Dredd) but went more to written word books.

 Since 1988/9 though I have been visiting Sheffield Space Centre, South Yorkshire's premier purveyor (in my opinion) of all things comic book so I've always kept up to date with the CB world (oh, yeah, and there's been some movies 😉).

 Now, I was wondering about how to start this series until today when I visited the aforementioned shop and happened upon this beauty...


Yup, it's the origin story of Spider-Man and some further adventures of ol' Webhead. I've seen it in countless films but this, THIS! is where it really all began. Is there any better place to begin than where it all began for me.

Comic Books - they never leave ya 

So, next week sees The Amazing Spider-Man reviewed - see you there 😉


Friday, 10 June 2022

The Mirror Man - Lars Keppler




                         About the book 


IF YOU SEE HIS REFLECTION

IT'S ALREADY TOO LATE . . .


Five years ago, Jenny Lind was abducted on her way home from school.


Now her lifeless body is found hanging in a playground. But there is no evidence and only one witness - a man who cannot remember what he saw.


With Detective Joona Linna and the police scrambling to find a lead, another girl goes missing. And as they close in on the killer, they discover that the Mirror Man's crimes are more shocking than they ever could have imagined . . .



                      My Thoughts 

 It's no surprise that I am a big fan of Nordic Noir and I happily put Lars Keppler up there as one of the top writers in the genre. The Mirror Man is the 8th in a series but works fine as a stand-alone novel so don't let that put you off.

 The story starts with the kidnapping of a young girl (seen through her eyes) and it's a pretty brutal start. 

 Move forward 5 years and the girl is discovered hanging in a children's playground . . . and another girl goes missing 

 The only person who could be a witness is a man who lost his daughter in a tragic accident around the time and is so traumatised he can neither recall what happened or speak. He has even spent time on a psych ward. Is he witness or suspect?

 Our 'hero' in this story is detective Joona Linna of the National Crime Unit, seen as a bit of a loose cannon. He is told to stay away from the case but is he going to listen? Let's be fair, we all know he won't - what would be the fun in that. Linne believes there could be a serial killer at large and, with the help of  hypnotist Erik Maria Bark sets out to solve the case and hopefully prevent more child deaths.

 This was a pretty brutal read but as always the excellent story telling makes the gruesomeness bearable enough that it kept me up a lot later than I should have been (and I missed my bus stop one day too!).


 Highly recommended both as an individual novel and as a series 5/5*


Thanks as always to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for inviting me onto this blogtour. Please check out the posts by the other bloggers taking part (below)





Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Cover Reveal for Dan Godfrey's The Calculations of Rational Men

15th August 2022 sees the release of Dan Godfrey's second self published novel (he's also had three rather excellent novels traditionally published ) and today I have the pleasure of revealing the cover for you to feast your eyes on. 

First up though, here's the blurb from the back page to whet your appetite...


'The United Kingdom and her allies have been targeted in a widespread nuclear attack.
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.

We do not know the status of our towns and cities. We shall not know their fate for several days.
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.

Radioactive fallout will present the greatest risk to health. Medical staff and supplies are available.

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?'


All sounds very promising eh 😉

Well, you've waited long enough I guess, so now it's time. Here is the cover for The Calculations of Rational Men and a bit about the design from Dan himself.








 

“I’ve had three books traditionally published, and one other self-published novel – but this is the first one I’ve had any great input into from a design perspective. We looked at a number of cold war and nuclear posters and material from the 1960s from the UK, US and Soviet Union to give us inspiration. After playing around with a few options around the key themes of radiation, prisoners and the nuclear threat, we came up with the final cover. I’m hoping this conveys clearly what the book is about!”

So, there we have it. I'm certainly looking forward to The Calculations of Rational Men and I hope this has whetted your appetite for it too.

Thanks to Dan for asking me to do this cover reveal at the BlogCave (it's my first one!!)


Thursday, 19 May 2022

The Stardust Thief - Chelsea Abdullah



                                 Synopsis

Inspired by stories from One Thousand and One NightsThe Stardust Thief weaves the gripping tale of a legendary smuggler, a cowardly prince and a dangerous quest across the desert to find a magical lamp.

Neither here nor there, but long ago...

Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp.

With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan's oldest son to find the artefact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen and confront a malicious killer from Loulie's past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything - her enemy, her magic, even her own past - is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality.

                             My Thoughts

 Well, where do I begin? I had my eye on this book as soon as I heard about it. I grew up loving stories like this with desert settings, genies (or djiin when I got older I guess). Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Aladdin and his magic lamp. The Stardust Thief took me back to the Lands of Sand and when it was over I really didn't want to leave.

 Loulie (The Midnight Merchant) is sent to find a magic lamp with the Sultan's older son but he doesn't want to go . . . and he has a plan to get out of the quest! And that my friends is where the magic really kicks in. The desert is a dangerous place and Chelsea Abdullah does a great job of making it almost a character in it's own right. The whole place feels alive, the scents and sounds coming straight off the page.

 The characters all seem to have secrets (don't they always) and you'll just have to see for yourselves how that turns out (Spoilers!!)

 I could go on about what a fantastic story this is but the best thing I can do is tell you go get this book now. You can thank me later 😉

 

 

 


The Stardust Thief is out now in Hardback (and here's my local Waterstones copies) from Orbit.


 Thanks to Orbit for providing me with a review copy - the fact that they did has no influence on my opinions on it though.