blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Carnival of Ash – Tom Beckerlegge

An extravagant, lyrical fantasy about a city of poets and librarians. A city that never was.

Cadenza is the City of Words, a city run by poets, its skyline dominated by the steepled towers of its libraries, its heart beating to the stamp and thrum of the printing presses in the Printing Quarter.

Carlo Mazzoni, a young wordsmith arrives at the city gates intent on making his name as the bells ring out with the news of the death of the city’s poet-leader. Instead, he finds himself embroiled with the intrigues of a city in turmoil, the looming prospect of war with their rival Venice ever-present. A war that threatens not only to destroy Cadenza but remove it from history altogether…

Amazon Goodreads

Tom Beckerlegge grew up in the northwest of England in a house filled with books. Writing as Tom Becker, he won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize with his debut novel; The Carnival of Ash is his first adult book. He lives in Enfield with his wife and young son.

My thoughts: this was an interesting collection of tales set in my mysterious city of words Cadenza, rival of Venice, home of poets. Building into an over-arcing story of the destruction of the city by its inhabitants.

From poet turned gravedigger’s apprentice Carlo, to the Duelling Counts, a murder in the monastery, dungeons beneath the ruler’s palace, Cadenza’s secrets and hidden terrors are revealed as the city slowly heads towards its end.

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

books, reviews

Book Review: Regency Romance trilogy – Katy Moran

This trio of books is set in an alternate version of history where Wellington lost the battle of Waterloo and Britain became part of Napoleon’s empire.

1817 Cornwall and London

Heir to an aristocratic family scorched by scandal and scarred by war, the Earl of Lamorna (known to friends as Crow) is as dangerous as he is self-destructive. As a spy, he treads a fine line between loyalty and treachery, with a haunting secret in his past that threatens to destroy not only Crow himself, but those he loves. It’s only going to take a single spark to set his world aflame. So when Crow’s wild and impetuous young brother catches him in flagrante with their widowed stepmother, a lethal chain of events is set in motion.

Heiress Hester Harewood has problems of her own, on the run from the men who shot her father. The last thing she needs is to get involved with a complicated aristocrat, even if he does offer her his unconditional protection. But who is more dangerous? Those she is running from? Or Crow himself: charismatic, unpredictable, and yet with the capacity for such tenderness that Hester’s heart is in just as much danger as her life.

Game of Hearts was previously published as False Lights by K.J. Whittaker and on Kindle as Hester and Crow by Katy Moran

In high society England, gossip and scandal are traded over afternoon tea and the country is awash with rumour.

In Lady Hester’s opinion, it’s just typical that the wickedest gossip of all focuses on her beautiful, impossible husband Crow. Damaged aristocrat, soldier, spy, Crow loves Hester fiercely, but he has a wild past and rumours of a child with his black hair and grey eyes wound Hester more deeply than she is willing to admit. And yet London blazes with a far more lethal whispering campaign that threatens the safety of their own little daughter, Morwenna. Crow’s enemies want him tried for treason and soon Morwenna herself is in mortal danger. Hester may love Crow as much as he loves her, but now their baby’s life is at risk. There’s nothing she won’t do to protect their child. So when clever, worldly-wise Countess Lieven drops her guard and says, ‘Run… take your baby, Hester, and run,’ Hester does exactly that.

Accused of high treason, Crow will do anything to save Hester and Morwenna, even if that means accepting a final mission that might just end in losing them both for good.

1825
FONTAINEBLEAU, FRANCE

Clemency Arwenack never dreamed she would be appointed lady-in-waiting to the notorious Princess Royal. A soldier’s daughter, Clemency has aristocratic connections that she could quite frankly do without, and catering to the whims of an impetuous heir to the throne is the last thing she wants. Even so, Clemency’s ambitious godmother forces her to accept the position. Always a keeper of other people’s confidences, Clemency has a secret of her own, and Georgiana, Lady Boscobel, is only too ready to use it against her.

Worse still, the Honourable Lieutenant Colonel Kit Helford is now captain of the royal guard – and so Clemency can’t avoid the one childhood friend who might just see through her dangerous web of deceit. Kit Helford is just as wild and handsome as he’s always been. And Clemency knows only too well that he’s just as much trouble.

My thoughts: I loved this trilogy, I want more Hester and Crow and Kit and Clemency. I have questions – where on earth did Arkwright disappear to? Does Kitto retire his commission and rear horses instead? Is Clemency still running a book bindery? What happened to Nadezdha – did she become queen? There’s too many loose threads, book 4 please!

Alternate history novels are a lot of fun – all the what ifs, completely flipping things on their head. With Wellington a prisoner in the first book (Game of Hearts), all looks lost, but Crow, dashing, handsome, dangerous Crow is tasked with rescuing him and increasing his own infamy in the process. Hester provides some balance but those wild Cornish Lamorna men are tricky to tame.

I have a great love for Cornwall, my grandmother came from the West Country, and I’ve been to several of the places mentioned – I even own Lamorna pottery with its distinctive blue colouring. So I enjoyed going “been there!” as various locations enter the story. I’ve also been to France and Russia, I could easily picture St Petersburg (Wicked by Design) and the Neva River, frozen over and glittering. I think this added an extra dimension for me, but even if you haven’t a clue what any of these places might look like, Katy Moran brings the courts of Europe in all their gossiping, back stabbing delight to full life.

A big thank you to Head of Zeus for sending me these lovely books.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Remedy in Time – Jennifer Macaire*

To save the future, she must turn to the past . . .

San Francisco, Year 3377. A deadly virus has taken the world by storm. Scientists are desperately working to develop a vaccine. And Robin Johnson – genius, high-functioning, and perhaps a little bit single-minded – is delighted. Because, to cure the disease, she’s given the chance to travel back in time.

But when Robin arrives at the last Ice Age hoping to stop the virus at its source, she finds more there than she bargained for. And just as her own chilly exterior is beginning to thaw, she realises it’s not only sabre-toothed tigers that are in danger of extinction . . .

Amazon UK Amazon US Publisher

Jennifer Macaire lives in France with her husband, three children, & various dogs & horses. She loves chocolate, biking, & reading.

She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St. Peter and Paul high school in St. Thomas and moved to NYC where she modeled for five years for Elite.

She went to France and met her husband at the polo club.
All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories.

Twitter Facebook

Giveaway to Win a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate (Open INT)

My thoughts:

This was a fun read, a time travelling, antibody searching, conspiracy revealing romp of a book. Robin is a scientist and is chosen to go back in time to search for a potential cure for a deadly typhus outbreak that’s killing people and has no current cure.

Which in 2021 feels a little familiar, shame we can’t nip back in time, extract some sabre tooth tiger blood and whizz up a cure, but that’s the plan Robin thinks her trip has. Unfortunately some unscrupulous types have other ideas.

Robin is a resourceful, smart woman and when things go pear shaped she doesn’t freak out, she makes plans and even finds a few new friends along the way.

I really enjoyed reading this, it was fun, funny, charming and clever.

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

**Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box . The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be
notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random
Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Poleaxed – Peter Tyrer*

It is 1967. A mysterious disease appears in an English town. People fall down suddenly, poleaxed, and many die. Is it caused by a bacterium, a virus, a poison? Nobody knows, and top doctors squabble over its cause. But then two junior doctors and a young anthropology student, who has recovered from the disease, join together.

The three investigators continue their work to find out the cause of the disease, a virus whose worst effects are only shown in those who are very anxious. They think they have found the cause and the solution. But will they be in time?

This is a gripping dystopian tale, very much relevant to events unfolding today and written by Emeritus Professor of Community Psychiatry at Imperial College, London, Peter Tyrer whose long-standing interest in the connections between mental and physical health informed the novel.

My thoughts:

I seem to have read a lot of books recently about pandemics and diseases, real and imaginary, which considering this year’s stellar performance of These Are The End Times, seems to make some sense.

This book, written in 2018/19, is very interesting in that the infection is highly localised and the town takes the decision to close its borders and see if they can wait out the virus, while also continuing to look for both the origin and a treatment. This isn’t a new idea, famously a village in Derbyshire, Eyam, chose to completely cut itself off during an outbreak of plague in 1665, rather than risk spreading the Black Death beyond its borders.

What’s most interesting, and for me somewhat unnerving, is the idea that this virus, Poleaxe, affects people with underlying anxiety disorders far more seriously than anyone else. I have anxiety disorder and panic disorder, as well as depression, so were Poleaxe a real disease I’d be struck down very quickly and struggle to recover.

Luckily the protagonist of this novel, the very clever anthropology student Barbara, does recover and indeed identifies the origin of the virus and the link between anxiety and the more serious symptoms. This allows the health authorities to lift the quarantine and treat the afflicted.

Written by an expert psychiatrist lends a certain air of knowledge and expertise to the novel – if this was a real disease I know who I’d want working alongside the other doctors, someone who has a great understanding of the link between mental and physical health, a fact that has been thrown into sharp focus by the current pandemic and lockdown, but is often overlooked when treating medical conditions.

This book is both timely and also, thankfully, very much science fiction as opposed to fact, I hope.

*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 Once and Future Witches – Alix E. Harrow*

In the late 1800s, three sisters use witchcraft to change the course of history in a Hugo award-winning author’s powerful novel of magic amid the suffragette movement.
In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.
But when the Eastwood sisters — James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna — join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote — and perhaps not even to live — the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.
There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.

My thoughts:

I loved The Ten Thousand Doors of January and had high hopes for this beautiful looking book and oh I’m so pleased by it. It’s just marvellous stuff.

An alternative history plot, with women having been the dominant sex for years, the gender swapped writers and famous figures were a particular delight.

Magic has been repressed and denied – women have died for possessing it but it’s still there, hidden, waiting.

The three Eastwood sisters reunite in New Salem and their bond wakes something, not just in them but in many of the women and even some of the men in the city.

The story weaves around you, with folkloric elements and slightly altered fairytales between the chapters. There is something incredibly enchanting and seductive about the narrative, I was completely drawn in and couldn’t put it down.

Absolutely delightful and wonderfully done.

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

books, reviews

Book Review – The Left-Handed Booksellers of London – Garth Nix

I was very kindly sent a copy of this book by the publisher with no requirement to review.


Eighteen-year-old art student Susan Arkshaw arrives in London in search of her father. But before she can question crime boss Frank Thringley he’s turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin. Merlin is one of the youngest members of a secret society of booksellers with magical powers who police the mythic Old World wherever it impinges on the New World – in addition to running several bookshops, of course! Merlin also has a quest of his own: to find the Old World entity who arranged the murder of his mother. Their investigations attract attention from enemies of the Old and New Worlds. Soon they become involved in an even more urgent task to recover the grail that is the source of the left-handed booksellers’ power, before it is used to destroy the booksellers and rouse the hordes of the mythic past. As the search for the grail becomes strangely intertwined with both their quests, they start to wonder… Is Susan’s long-lost father a bookseller, or something altogether more mysterious?

My thoughts:

As a left-handed book reader of London, I was very excited about the title of this book. One of my favourite sub-genres of books is books about books/libraries/bookshops and when things are set in London, I enjoy going “I know there!” like a small child. Part of the action even takes place just up the road from me in Totteridge (although I don’t know it very well).

Finally left-handers (10% of the population fyi) are getting some recognition – we have certain skills like using things designed for right-handers that are a struggle the other way round! (Lefties of the UK, and possibly elsewhere, google Anything Left-Handed and buy some scissors etc to make life easier for yourself, and also stab any righty who tries to borrow them, it wrecks the bolt that holds the blades together!)

Back to the book – this is tremendous fun, set in an alternate 1983, Susan comes to London for art school, and also to try and locate her long lost dad, her mum hasn’t been exactly forthcoming with the details.

She ends up getting mixed up with criminal elements, both human and otherworldly, and being rescued by a young Merlin, the aforementioned Left-Handed Bookseller of London. One of many it turns out.

He’s part of a secret organisation that keeps things from the Old World from popping up in the modern one. And when they do break through, the booksellers send them back. They also run two bookshops.

I really enjoyed this book, with all its literary references and the vital importance of books in helping the booksellers maintain order, even if fantasy writers are a complete nuisance!

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Sterling Directive – Tim Standish*

Captain Charles Maddox returns secretly to London from an exile in disgrace only to be arrested, imprisoned and threatened with the death penalty. He is rescued by a shadowy government agency called the Map Room who give him a choice: return to prison or become an agent, codenamed Sterling, and help them uncover a government conspiracy connected to the Ripper murders.

Led by the coolly calculating Milady and her associate Collier, and aided by fellow agent Church and mechanical computer expert Patience, the freshly appointed Agent Sterling must rapidly learn his new trade if he is to survive the murky and violent fringes of Victorian life and uncover a secret that threatens the Empire itself.

Set in 1896 in an alternative Victorian timeline where mechanical computers are a part of everyday life, The Sterling Directive blends fact and fiction to create a gripping thriller for fans of espionage and historical adventure alike.

Tim Standish grew up in England, Scotland and Egypt. Following a degree in Psychology, his career has included teaching English in Spain, working as a researcher on an early computer games project, and working with groups and individuals on business planning, teamworking and personal development. He has travelled extensively throughout his life and when not working or writing, he enjoys long walks under big skies and is never one to pass up a jaunt across a field in search of an obscure historic site. He has recently discovered the more-exciting-than-you-would-think world of overly-complicated boardgames.

Twitter

My thoughts:

This was a fun read, set in a Steampunk dystopian Victorian London, where rival secretive organisations carry out strange investigations and hire thugs and killers to do their dirty work.

Into this world comes Charles Maddox, disgraced aristocrat and acclaimed military Captain, having spent eight years in the Canadian wilderness.

He’s assigned an alias and a mission – solve the Ripper killings.

Via a mix of clever insights and solid investigation, the Map Room soon uncovers a dark conspiracy, with links all the way to the Crown.

A rip roaring adventure across London and the English countryside ensues as Sterling and Church pursue the man behind the plot.

Tremendous fun to read, and with an intriguing theory, this is an excellent addition to the growing genre of Steampunk Victoriana.


*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: Rodham – Curtis Sittenfeld*

‘Awfully opinionated for a girl’ is what they call Hillary as she grows up in her Chicago suburb. Smart, diligent, and a bit plain, that’s the general consensus. Then Hillary goes to college, and her star rises. At Yale Law School, she continues to be a leader— and catches the eye of driven, handsome and charismatic Bill. But when he asks her to marry him, Hillary gives him a firm ‘No’. The rest, as they say, isn’t history. How might things have turned out for them, for America, for the world itself, if Hillary Rodham had really turned down Bill Clinton? With her sharp but always compassionate eye, Sittenfeld explores the loneliness, moral ambivalence and iron determination that characterise the quest for high office, as well as the painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world ruled by men. Uncannily astute and witty in the telling, RODHAM is a brilliant reimagining – an unmissable literary landmark and truly a novel of our times.

In addition to Rodham, Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of the Sunday Times bestseller American Wife, in which she painted a picture of an ordinary American girl – a thinly-disguised Laura Bush – who found herself married to a President. It was longlisted for the Orange Prize, as was her debut novel Prep. Her other books are Man of My Dreams, Sisterland (a Richard & Judy Book Club pick), Eligible, and the acclaimed short story collection You Think It, I’ll Say It. Her books are translated into 30 languages. She lives with her family in the American Mid-West.

My thoughts:

I was really intrigued by the premise of this book – what if Hillary didn’t marry Bill, didn’t become First Lady and instead did her own thing?

Having read American Wife, a more straightforward fictionalised life of Laura Bush, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Sittenfeld, whose first book was the criminally underrated Prep (which I really like).

Having said that, I really struggled with the narrative voice of Hillary. I don’t know if it’s based on her own written voice (I haven’t read any of her own books) but I found it oddly detached and emotionless while relaying her life’s events.

It made it extremely hard to relate to or connect with the character, she was so dry and distant. Maybe that’s how the author felt she was as a politician and speaker. Who knows?

Hillary herself has said it took 3 proposals before she said yes to being Mrs Clinton and moving to Arkansas.

Is their marriage the American love story? I don’t have a clue. She stood by him when he cheated and publically humiliated her. She seems like a very strong person. The fictionalised version certainly has that steel in her core, but it puts her at a distance to the reader and I don’t think it ever shortens.

The fact that much of the novel continues to revolve around Bill Clinton is frustrating and the decision to never marry or have children but focus on her career, which feels very hollow, is equally frustrating. Is it Bill or nothing? Why not invent another law professor she can actually build something with? Why make her personal life so lonely?

As a thought experiment it’s a clever and interesting idea, as a novel it struggles with the fact that Hillary Rodham is as closed a book as the real Hillary Clinton. That’s not to say it’s badly written, it isn’t, Sittenfeld is a great writer, but I think the subject matter is just so big and it just struggles with the what ifs of a real life.

I enjoyed aspects of it more than others and I really want to know if Hillary C reads it and what she thinks.

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

books, reviews

Book Review: The Devil’s Blade – Mark Alder

The story of Julie D’Aubigny is well known. Her tumultuous childhood, her powerful lovers, her celebrated voice. Connected to most of the nobility of 17th century Paris, feted for her performance, unwilling to live by the rules of her society, she took female lovers, fought duels with noblemen and fled from city to country and back again.

But now the real truth can be told. She also made a deal with the devil. He gave her no powers or help, but he kept her alive for only one reason. To take revenge…

My thoughts:

This was such a fun read, spinning the real events of Julie D’Aubigny’s life into a fantasy featuring the Devil, the Duc D’Orleans and the Royal Court, all with sword fights, love affairs, ghosts and dripping with vengeance and blood.

books, reviews

Book Review: The Sin Eater – Megan Campisi

A Sin Eater’s duty is a necessary evil: she hears the final private confessions of the dying, eats their sins as a funeral rite, and so guarantees their souls access to heaven. It is always women who eat sins – since it was Eve who first ate the Forbidden Fruit – and every town has at least one, not that they are publicly acknowledged. Stained by the sins they are obliged to consume, the Sin Eater is shunned and silenced, doomed to live in exile at the edge of town.

Recently orphaned May Owens is just fourteen, and has never considered what it might be like to be so ostracized; she’s more concerned with where her next meal is coming from. When she’s arrested for stealing a loaf of bread, however, and subsequently sentenced to become a Sin Eater, finding food is suddenly the last of her worries.

It’s a devastating sentence, but May’s new invisibility opens new doors. And when first one then two of the Queen’s courtiers suddenly grow ill, May hears their deathbed confessions – and begins to investigate a terrible rumour that is only whispered of amid palace corridors.

Publishing: July 2020 Mantle Books

My thoughts:

This was a really interesting alternative history (Queen Bethany instead of Elizabeth I) and May is a brave and resourceful character.

Forced into the role of sin eater, she turns investigator, determined to solve a series of suspicious deaths at court.

The writing is confident and assured, the narrative flows and carries the reader into the squalor of the 16th Century, alive with stench and mud.

The imagery is vivid and you feel as though you’re at May’s shoulder as she roams through the corridors of power and the narrow slum streets.

I look forward to seeing what Campisi does next after such a strong first novel.

I was kindly gifted a copy of this book with no obligation to review and all opinions remain my own.