books, reviews

Book Review: Howling Dark – Christopher Ruocchio*

Howling Dark (Sun Eater) by [Ruocchio, Christopher]

Following on from the first volume of the Sun Eater Sequence (Empire of Silence – I suggest reading it first so this one makes more sense), Howling Dark finds Hadrian Marlowe travelling through space with his ragtag band of fake mercenaries, the Crimson Company, having entangled himself with the Sollan Empire again.

He is on a quest for the lost planet of Vorgossos, a place of myth, hoping it holds the keys to resolving the conflict with the Ceilcin – an alien race determined to destroy anyone who stands in their way.

Hadrian, being Hadrian, doesn’t exactly go about this in a calm and rational manner, all sorts of chaos and carnage ensue, as Hadrian and his friends ricochet around the far reaches of the galaxy following leads, both useful and not, trying to be a diplomat and not always succeeding.

I loved Empire of Silence and couldn’t wait to get stuck into this chunky boi. Hadrian is a brilliant protagonist, eminently flawed and prone to acting like an idiot, despite his previous experiences. There were fewer new locations than book one, as he bounces around following leads, but the world building (or galaxy building) is strong and while I can’t quite picture the creepy Ceilcin, I see them as a bit like the alien in Alien, but creepier.

The ending twists and turns, and I am not remotely sure what will happen next!

 

*This book was kindly gifted to me by the publisher with no requirement to review but as I enjoyed it, I thought I’d share!

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Sinner’s Prayer – M.P. Wright*

The last book in the JT Ellington series, set in 1970s Bristol, featuring PI turned school caretaker Ellington.

Drawn back into the world of criminals and life under the radar by an old acquaintance in the police, Ellington is asked to look into the disappearance of a young Indian man who disappears hours before his wedding.

Ellington uncovers links to the underworld and gang kingpins, murders and secrets around every corner. His own family become targets as someone works against him to keep hidden things hidden.

The author has had a fascinating career history, including a stint as a PI himself, lending realism to his writing.

I enjoyed this book, I have been in a crime thriller kind of mood of late, and this did the trick.

Well written, clever and pacey, I was drawn swiftly into the world Ellington is so determined to leave.

*I was gifted this book to take part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Shadows of Short Days – Alexander Dan Vilhjàlmsson*

A slice of Icelandic fantasy today, in a version of Reykjavik where humans live alongside an oppressed minority of faerie folk. Saemunder was studying magic at the university but was expelled for breaking rules and getting too deeply in galdur – a form of magic that if unleashed could cause chaos.

His friend Garün is a half human, half huldafólk, an outcast on a solo war against the government utilising her artistic skills with magic infused graffiti.

As things build to a head and the friends become more entangled with the growing protest movement against the regime, their lives will be changed forever.

This an interesting, original fantasy world influenced by Icelandic folklore and culture. I don’t know a huge amount about Icelandic mythology and history, but this is a fully realised piece of world building and I hope the author revisits it; although it’s a standalone book, the concept could support multiple stories.

This is an accomplished first novel from a talented new writer and hopefully between his editorship of Icelanfic SFF magazine Furôusögur (Weird Stories) and career as vocalist and lyricist of black metal band Carpe Noctem, he will be writing something interesting for book two.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Closer I Get – Paul Buston*

Tom is a successful author, but for the first time in his life, he has writer’s block. His main distraction is an online admirer, Evie, who simply won’t leave him alone. Evie is smart, well read and unstable; she lives with her sick father and her social media friendships are not only her escape, but everything she has. When she’s hit with a restraining order, her world collapses, whilst Tom is free to live his life again, and to concentrate on writing. But things aren’t adding up. For Tom is also addicted to his online relationships, and when they take a darker, more menacing turn, he’s powerless to change things. Because maybe he needs Evie more than he’s letting on. A compulsive, disturbingly relevant, twisty and powerful psychological thriller, The Closer I Get is also a searing commentary on the fragility and insincerity of online relationships, and the danger that can lurk on the other side of a screen…

Paul Burston is the author of five novels and the editor of two short story collections. His most recent novel The Black Path, was a WHSmith bestseller. His first novel, Shameless, was shortlisted for the State of Britain Award. His third novel, Lovers & Losers was shortlisted for a Stonewall Award. His fourth, The Gay Divorcee, was optioned for television. He was a founding editor of Attitude magazine and has written for many publications including Guardian, Independent, Time Out, The Times and Sunday Times. In March 2016, he was featured in the British Council’s #FiveFilms4Freedom Global List 2016, celebrating “33 visionary people who are promoting freedom, equality and LGBT rights around the world”. He is the founder and host of London’s award-winning LGBT+ literary salon Polari and founder and chair of The Polari First Book Prize for new writing and the newly announced Polari Prize.

My thoughts: no spoilers here, this is a twisty, compelling thriller. Well paced and clever, I read this in one sitting. If you like smart psychological thrill rides then do yourself a favour and get a copy.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Life Ruins – Danuta Kot*

A body, briefly glimpsed at the bottom of an abandoned mineshaft, vanishes when the police investigate.

Jared, recovering from an almost fatal injury and addicted to painkillers, knows he saw something terrible in that mine… but he has no evidence, and fears he’s losing his grip on reality.

A girl is attacked so savagely she can’t be identified, and dumped late at night in an isolated campground.

She’s alive, but only just.

Becca, tossed out of university and just let go from her dead-end job, is certain she knows who the victim is. But no one will believe her, and she can hardly even trust herself.

Kay, recently widowed and coming to terms with life on her own, suddenly finds herself forced to get involved.

For years she and her husband fostered difficult children – including Becca, whom trouble follows like a stray puppy. And now Becca seems to be in the worst trouble of her life.

And then Jared and Becca meet.

Becca, strong-minded and fiercely independent, is confident they can figure out what’s going on. She pulls Kay into the mix, knowing they’ll need all the help they can get…

because the police don’t believe them.

And more girls are vanishing.

Separately, Kay, Becca and Jared believe their lives have hit rock bottom. But drawn together under extraordinary circumstances, they’ll discover the strength to fight back… and ultimately rebuild their lives from the ruins.

Danuta Kot grew up with stories. Her Irish mother and her Polish father kept their own cultures alive with traditional tales they shared with their children. For many years, she worked with young people in Yorkshire who were growing up in the aftermath of sudden industrial decline. She uses this background in her books to explore some of the issues that confront modern, urban society: poverty, alienation and social breakdown, using the contexts of the modern crime novel. She has previously written under the names, Danuta Reah and Carla Banks. Danuta was also a former chair of the Crime Writers’ Association. She now works as a senior education consultant, work that involves travel to establish education and training in other parts of the world. She is a regular academic speaker at conferences and literary festivals, and has appeared on radio and television.

My thoughts:

I think I’m starting to prefer not-cops investigating crimes. They have to be smarter, more resourceful and use their wits, rather than relying on back up and the ability to shout “Stop, police”.

Becca and Jared definitely fall into this category, they have no back up, no way to convince the police to help them. Both have reasons to stay away from the authorities, but they’re smart and capable.

I couldn’t work out how all the disparate threads tied together, something I’m usually quite good at, and there were some truly shocking moments.

If you like a clever thriller, complete with twists you won’t spot, then this is the book for you.

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

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Blog Tour: The Cherries – D.B Carter*

When they have broken you, when you have been humiliated, bullied, deserted and destitute, can you find a place where you may dare to be happy?

Susan travels with her mother, escaping a life of heartbreak and poverty in the city, to live with their one remaining friend in a small rural village.

At twenty Susan is still bound by the trauma of her youth, but starts to blossom into womanhood, thanks to the tender encouragement of Luke, the eccentric occupant of ‘The Cherries’, who lives surrounded by books and art. It is a journey of tears and laughter, helping to heal mind and spirit.

But can the past ever be truly behind you?

Feeling safe and secure at last, mother and daughter nurture artistic talents that they had long since thought worthless, and their lives take directions they could never have imagined.

Yet, amongst the kindness and love in their new community, there lies hidden grief and a long-suppressed secret that must come to light. Something that might force Susan to another life beyond the confines of the village.

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D B Carter writes contemporary drama and romance novels, dealing with difficult subjects as well has happier themes. A son of two painters, he grew up surrounded by art and through that world, he met many interesting characters. Later, he ran his own successful company for over 20 years, before taking up his life-long desire to be a writer.
He lives with his wife of 30 years in rural Devon, England. A lifelong bibliophile, he loves reading classical literature, including Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Thomas Hardy and Anthony Trollope; a childhood of Saturday afternoon black-and-white movies added to his appreciation of sagas and drama.
His world view is, “If we look for the good, we will find it.”

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My thoughts:

This was a very thoughtful, moving book. The characters are well written and feel very real as they deal with life’s challenges and curveballs.

Susan’s life has been hard and she has struggled with it but on moving with her mum to a old friend’s home, she learns to trust people again and find her place in the world.

I found the characters, especially Susan, very relatable and empathetic.

The writing is crisp and inviting, flowing along well, taking you with it.

*this book was gifted to me in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: I Hold Your Heart – Karen Gregory*

‘You make me feel like there’s something good in the world I can hold on to,’ Aaron says. He kisses me again, draws me so close it’s almost hard to breathe. ‘I love you, Gem. And I promise I’ll hold your heart forever.’

When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-others kind. The kind you write songs about.

But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma’s life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control?

Told in both Gemma’s and Aaron’s words, this is a raw, moving exploration of gaslighting in teenage relationships that skewers our ideas of what love looks like.

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Karen Gregory has been a confirmed bookworm since early childhood. She wrote her first story about Bantra the mouse aged twelve, then put away the word processor until her first child was born, when she was overtaken by the urge to write. Her first novel, Countless, published in 2017, was shortlisted for the Leeds Book Award and longlisted for the Branford Boase. Her second novel, Skylarks, was published in 2018. Karen lives in Wiltshire with her family.

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My thoughts:

With coercive control becoming more widely recognised as a function of domestic abusers, this is a timely and thoughtful account of how such manipulation works told through the relationship of teenagers Gemma and Aaron.

At times shocking and painful to read, the well written novel illustrates how easy it is to fall for an abuser and how hard it can be to see the reality of that abuse.

Gregory writes with passion and care, sympathetic to her readers, some of whom may recognise themselves in her characters, and perhaps be encouraged to seek help. This is a difficult subject handled with immense care and not given over to easy caricatures as a less skilled writer might. I hope many teenagers pick up a copy.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in order to take part in the blog tour.