blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Doing Time – Jodi Taylor*

Introducing The Time Police, the brand-new series by international bestselling author, Jodi Taylor – an irresistible spinoff from the much-loved Chronicles of St Mary’s series. Perfect reading for fans of Doctor Who, Ben Aaronovitch and Jasper Fforde.

A long time ago in the future, the secret of time travel became known to all. Everyone seized the opportunity – and the world nearly ended. There will always be idiots who want to change history.And so, the Time Police were formed. An all-powerful, international organisation tasked with keeping the timeline straight. At all costs.Their success is legendary, and the Time Wars are over.

But now the Time Police must fight to save a very different future – their own.This is the story of Jane, Luke and Matthew – arguably the worst recruits in Time Police history. Or, very possibly, three young people who might just change everything.

Jodi Taylor is the internationally bestselling author of the Chronicles of St Mary’s series, the story of a bunch of disaster-prone individuals who investigate major historical events in contemporary time. Do NOT call it time travel!

Born in Bristol and now living in Gloucester (facts both cities vigorously deny), she spent many years with her head somewhere else, much to the dismay of family, teachers and employers, before finally deciding to put all that daydreaming to good use and write a novel. Nearly twenty books later, she still has no idea what she wants to do when she grows up.

My thoughts:

I love the disaster magnets of St Mary’s and was thrilled to get the chance to read this book ahead of publication and tell you it is brilliant. The Time Police are often the thorn in St Mary’s side, refusing to even try to blend in when they appear to arrest people for time crimes.

Here the tables are turned somewhat; with three new recruits trying not to mess up the timeline while carrying out their duties. One of them is Matthew Farrell, son of Maxwell and Leon from St Mary’s, genetically attracting chaos!

Funny, silly, brilliantly written and completely marvellous.


*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Sapphire Smyth & The Shadow Five Part One – R.J. Furness*

SHADOWS: Sapphire Smyth & The Shadow Five (Part One) by [Furness, R.J.]

Have you ever seen something you can’t explain? Did it vanish as fast as it appeared?
Perhaps that thing you saw was lurking in the shadows, and you caught a glimpse of it before it went back into hiding.
There’s a good chance, of course, that the thing you saw simply emerged from your imagination.
Or maybe, just maybe, it didn’t…

Sapphire Smyth is no stranger to rejection. When she was only a baby, her father abandoned her after her mother died. Since then, Sapphire has never felt like she belonged anywhere, or with anyone. To make things worse, her foster carers have now turned their back on her – on her eighteenth birthday. After living with them throughout her childhood, Sapphire has to find a new home. Is it any wonder she finds it hard to trust people?

Abandoned by the people she called family, Sapphire is alone and searching for some meaning in her life. Except that meaning has already come looking for her. When she discovers mysterious creatures lurking in the shadows, Sapphire soon realises that her fate is unlike anything she had ever imagined.

My thoughts:

The serial novel isn’t something new, Charles Dickens serialised his stories in magazines, as did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, back in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. We don’t really do the same thing nowadays, but the rise of e-books could potentially be a new way to serialise stories for a modern readership.

However, I don’t think this particular story needed that treatment, in fact I think it could have done without it. This first tranche is weak, needing to pack a lot of information into its pages, and with multiple chapters, perhaps gives too much. Tighter editing would have been a real blessing as the concept and ideas within the story are pretty sound.

Sapphire Smyth turns 18, inherits an unusual heirloom, and discovers the world beneath the humdrum existence that she never knew was there. That’s a pretty decent concept, and one that could have been really interesting to play with.

But, the plot is all over the place, as is the characterisation. Sapphire isn’t very empathetic or relatable, she’s just a spoilt brat really. And the other characters are so weak as to be non-existent, where they needed to be stronger, in order to balance Sapphire out.

I have the next two instalments to read, and hopefully it improves and becomes a much more interesting and enjoyable read, and this uneven and overly exposition heavy first section is just a glitch as I really did want to enjoy this.

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*I was kindly gifted a copy of this e-book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Cage – Lilja Sigurđardóttir*

The prison doors slam shut behind Agla, when her sentence for financial misconduct ends, but her lover Sonja is not there to meet her. As a group of foreign businessmen tries to draw Agla into an ingenious fraud that stretches from Iceland around the world, Agla and her former nemesis María find the stakes being raised at a terrifying speed. Ruthless entrepreneur Ingimar will stop at nothing to protect his empire, but he has no idea about the powder keg he is sitting on in his own home. And at the same time, a deadly threat to Sonja and her family brings her from London back to Iceland, where she needs to settle scores with longstanding adversaries if she wants to stay alive… The lives of these characters are about to collide in a shocking crescendo, until the winner takes it all…

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, including Snare and Trap, the first two books in the Reykjavik Noir trilogy, which have hit bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

My thoughts:

I really liked the two women at the centre of this; Agla, a criminal financier and Maria, an investigative journalist. Their relationship is complicated but in this case beneficial to both – but more deadly for Maria.

The writing is slick and compelling, the plot clever and intriguing. I wolfed this down in one sitting, driven to find out what was going to happen next.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Don’t Get Involved – Fiona Curlew*

A missing shipment of cocaine

Three street-kids fighting for their lives

A Mafia hitman intent on killing them

A naïve expat who gets in their way

Who would you bet on?

Ukraine, 2001. A time of lawlessness and corruption. Three street-kids stumble upon a holdall full of cocaine, belonging to the Mafia. Mafia hitman, Leonid, is given the job of retrieving the cocaine and disposing of the street-kids. To do so he is forced to step back into his old life and he doesn’t like it. The children run on their wits. Leonid hunts them down. Nadia, a young woman with her own dark past, arrives in Ukraine looking for a fresh start. She wasn’t expecting this!

“She had no idea of what, or who, she was supposed to be running from. Right now everything was a threat. Definitely militsiya, but who else? Everyone. Right now it felt like everyone.”

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Fiona spent fifteen years working as an international school teacher, predominantly in Eastern Europe. Much of her inspiration comes from her travels. Her writing has been described as, “Human experience impacted upon by political situation, interwoven with a love of nature.”

She now lives on the East Coast of Scotland with Brockie the Springer, and Fingal the rescued Portuguese street-cat. Her days are divided between dog-walking in beautiful places and working on her stories. Not a bad life!

Don’t Get Involved is her third book.

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My thoughts:

This was a really interesting read, I am always interested to read books set in other countries, and see the contrast between the UK and abroad. I also happen to have a specific interest in Ukraine (and Russia) following several years studying their history. So this was very specific to my interests.

A clever, pacy thriller, I was definitely rooting for the kids involved. Well written, with exactly enough attention to detail to really place you in the action, and the plot grips hold tight, dragging you into a world you would probably manage to ignore otherwise.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour, but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Birthday House – Jill Treseder*

The year is 1955, the location picturesque Devon.

In a house by the River Dart, schoolgirl Josephine Kennedy posts invitations to her twelfth birthday party – a party that never takes place.

Horrific violence is committed that night in the family home, leaving all of its occupants dead.

Based on a disturbing real-life crime, this compelling story explores Josephine’s fate through the prism of friends and family – the victims and survivors who unwittingly influenced the events that led up to the tragedy.

Josephine’s best friend, Susan, is haunted by the secrets of the birthday house. Can she ever find a way of making peace with the past?

Amazon

I started writing in a red shiny exercise book when I was seven years old. But in that time and place it was an ‘invalid’ activity, was overlooked, but never went away. It was many years before I felt able to call myself ‘writer’.

But there came a day when the phrase ‘I am a writer’ no longer sounded pretentious, but legitimate, and even necessary. Was it because I had a writing room instead of the corner of a landing? Or because I spent more time writing? Or because I’d got better at it? Or because I get miserable and bad-tempered if I don’t write? Probably a combination of all of the above.

Writing is my third career. The first was as a social worker with children and families, a job I loved, but left because I could no longer cope with the system.

This led to a freelance career as an independent management consultant, helping people to handle emotions in the work context. I worked in the IT industry, in companies large and small, as well as public organisations. Later I became involved in research projects concerned with the multi-disciplinary approach to social problems such as child abuse. So, in a sense, I had come full-circle.

All these experiences feed into the process of writing fiction, while my non-fiction book The Wise Woman Within resulted indirectly from the consultancy work and my subsequent PhD thesis,‘Bridging Incommensurable Paradigms’, which is available from the School of Management at the University of Bath.

I live in Devon and visit Cornwall frequently and these land and seascapes are powerful influences which demand a presence in my writing.

Writers’ groups and workshops are a further invaluable source of inspiration and support and I attend various groups locally and sign up for creative courses in stunning locations whenever I can. I try doing writing practice at home but there is no substitute for the focus and discipline achieved among others in a group.

I have written some short stories and recently signed up for a short story writing course to explore this genre in more depth.

I live with my husband in South Devon and enjoy being involved in a lively local community.

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My thoughts:

This novella may be slim but it packs a punch. Based on the real life death of the author’s childhood friend, told from a variety of viewpoints, including the killer and his victims, Treseder attempts to unpack the reasons a man would destroy his family. Powerful, direct and shocking, the gentle title hides a hell of a narrative.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Museum of Lost Love – Gary Barker*

In Zagreb is an unusual museum: it displays mementos of broken relationships. Each exhibit describes a unique story of a broken heart, of love gone awry.

When Katia and Goran visit the museum, Goran stumbles upon an exhibit that seems to be addressed to him, from a girl he met in a Sarajevo refugee camp at age fourteen. A reminder of two days spent together while he and his mother and brother waited anxiously for visas to America to escape the war.

Encouraged by Katia, a therapist, to reconnect with his lost past, Goran confronts the youth he lost during the Yugoslav Wars. Similarly Katia, adopted by Americans at one week old after her birth mother was murdered in a gangland killing in Brazil, heads back to Brazil to uncover her own family history.

Meanwhile Tyler, a military veteran and one of Katia’s patients, attempts to put the Afghan war behind him, and finds love in unexpected circumstances.

Drawing upon his own experiences working in conflict zones, Gary Barker’s powerful novels dive deep into human love and longing. Crossing continents, and set against backdrops of war, deprivation, and violence, The Museum of Lost Love is a soulful testament to the resilience of the human heart.

GARY BARKER is an author, researcher, and human rights activist. He is founder and director of Promundo, an international organization that works with men and boys in more than 25 countries to achieve gender equality and end violence against women. He has been awarded an Ashoka Fellowship and an Open Society Fellowship for his work in conflict zones. His previous novels include Luisa’s Last Words, Mary of Kivu, and The Afghan Vampires Book Club (co-written with Michael Kaufman). Barker lives in Washington, DC.

Website

My thoughts:

I remember reading a piece in the newspaper about the museum at the heart of this book, a place where people send in things that remind them of lost loves. Weaving in between the narratives of Katia, Goran and Tyler, are those of the displays in the museum.

Katia and Goran both look into their own pasts to find answers to questions they didn’t admit to having; while Tyler is trying to look forward, putting his new life and son first, moving on from his wartime experiences.

Each goes on a journey, literally and figuratively into themselves in order to find a way forward, to put lost loves to right and find out who they truly are.

Goran returns to Bosnia and seeks out first his father and then his first love, filling in the past, both of his country and the people he left behind.

Katia goes in search of her birth mother’s family, and finds not only that she is part of a family but also a tragic history.

Finally Tyler unexpectedly finds himself in love and raising the son he never knew he had, when tragedy strikes and he discovers the man he really is.

This book is slight but powerful, love is an incredibly potent emotion and Barker looks at all its forms; from familial, to sexual and innocent romance. He is interested in how people interact and the importance of someone’s capacity to sustain themselves.

The characters are well written and believable, the plots intersect nicely and flow well, swapping comfortably between the three protagonists without any jarring.

I found it an interesting way to look at violent parts of history (the war in Sarajevo, the gang violence in Brazil’s favelas, the recent conflict in Afghanistan) and show that love can blossom even under the shadow of such tragedy and suffering.

*I was kindly gifted this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: North – Lucas Ehrenhaus*

After one of the most decisive warring campaigns in European history between Barbarians and Romance, the sheer possibility of a full-scale Roman invasion into Barbarian lands launches a lifelong recruitment process, which drives to the re-discovery of old mighty forces in the long forgotten North.

The most apolocalyptic pan-tribal conflict amongst central and northern European natives will ensue.

Amazon

My thoughts:

This was a really interesting book, complete with historical dates and illustrations, featuring some of the most well known (and some of the lesser known) Norse gods and myths. We think of the Romans as the civilising force of history, bringing culture and hygiene to swathes of the then known world. But those that they forcibly civilised had other opinions, and this tells of one.

The Norsemen were not interested in the Roman way of things, of their religious beliefs and gods, they wanted to be left alone.

Ehrenhaus attempts to simplify Snorri Sturlusson’s work, The Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda (I have read chunks of both and they are not easy), and I think he mostly succeeds, by focusing on the gods and dwarves at the heart of Norse mythology, the great stories that were passed down from campfire to hearth fire.

I found the book a little simplistic at times and they layout of the pages annoying to try and follow, as a lot is imparted in a small space. However I was pleased with this overall. While Greco-Roman mythology is taught in most schools, Norse mythology often seems a bit forgotten, which is a shame as many of us have Anglo-Saxon roots and not knowing the stories of our ancestors seems a shame. Most people think Marvel invented Thor, god of thunder when he really pre-dates comic books by several centuries!

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour.