blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line – Ruth Thomas*

Hidden within the confines of the Royal Institute of Prehistorical Studies, Sybil is happy enough with her work – and her love life. Then to her dismay, her old adversary, assertive and glamorous Helen Hansen, is appointed Head of Trustees. To add insult, Helen promptly seduces Sybil’s boyfriend. Betrayed and broken-hearted, Sybil becomes obsessed with exposing Helen as a fraud, no matter the cost.

Ruth Thomas is the author of three short story collections and two novels, as well as many short stories which have been anthologised and broadcast on the BBC. The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line is her third novel. Her writing has won and been shortlisted for various prizes, including the John Llewellyn Rhys Award, the Saltire First Book Award and the VS Pritchett Prize, and long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. She lives in Edinburgh and is currently an Advisory Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund.

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We’re delighted that The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line is being read on BBC Radio 4 throughout the blog tour! If you’d like to share a link to the episode guide so your readers can give it a listen, that’s available here

My thoughts:

This is rather lovely, if a little sad, with Sybil trying to work out what she wants from her life while dealing with a break up and the fact that a rather awful woman, a former uni professor of hers, is now both her boss and the woman who stole her boyfriend.

She’s found herself working in a museum classifying various collections of pots, rocks and other archaeological items. She’s also been compiling the index for her boss’ book, which now has a new section thanks to the ghastly Helen.

But Helen’s supposed find of all finds seems a little off to Sybil, it reminds her of a comment she made in her own university dissertation, about ten years before.

In order to process her break up she joins a poetry writing class, but she’s not very good and doesn’t really feel like there’s much point.

This is a really lovely book about life and finding yourself again.

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

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Blog Tour: Clipped Wings – Molly Merryman*

In her exhilerating book Clipped Wings: The Rise and Fall of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of WWII, author Molly Merryman shines light on the critical and dangerous work of the daring female aviators who changed history. New York University Press classics series has just updated the book with Merryman’s reflections on the changes in women’s aviation in the past twenty years. A documentary based on Merryman’s work, Coming Home: Fight For A Legacy, is currently in production.

The WASP directly challenged the assumptions of male supremacy in wartime culture. They flew the fastest fighter planes and heaviest bombers; they test-piloted experimental models and worked in the development of weapons systems. Yet the WASP were the only women’s auxiliary within the armed services of World War II that was not militarized.

In Clipped Wings, Merryman draws upon finally-declassified military documents, congressional records, and interviews with the women who served as WASP during World War II to trace the history of the over one thousand pilots who served their country as the first women to fly military planes. She examines the social pressures that culminated in their disbandment in 1944—even though a wartime need for their services still existed—and documents their struggles and eventual success, in 1977, to gain military status and receive veterans’ benefits.

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WASP Missions

Airplane ferrying was the initial mission for which WASPs were created, and it would occupy nearly half of all active WASP graduates when the program ended in December 1944. Planes produced in the United States needed to be flown from the factories to air bases at home, in Canada, and overseas. To handle this transportation demand, the ATC hired thousands of male civilian pilots to ferry planes. These male pilots were later commissioned directly into the AAF if they met the requirement and desired commissioning. The WASPs were brought on as ferrying pilots, and by the time they were disbanded in December 1944, they had delivered 12,652 planes on domestic missions. By that time, 141 WASPs were assigned to the ATC. Although they comprised a small percentage of the total Ferrying Division pilots, WASPs had a significant impact. By 1944, WASPs were ferrying the majority of all pursuit planes and were so integrated into the Ferrying Division that their disbandment caused delays in pursuit deliveries.

The days of ferrying pilots were long and unpredictable. At bases that handled a range of planes, pilots did not know from one day to the next what planes they would be flying or how long of a flight to expect. In Minton’s words, “We usually reported to the flight line at seven o’clock in the morning and looked at the board to see what had been assigned us in the way of an airplane, where it went and what we would need in the way of equipment to take along, and then we would go out to find our airplane and sign it out at operations and check it over to be sure everything was okay with the airplane. And then we would take off to wherever the plane was supposed to go.”

Ferrying military aircraft during World War II was not an easy task. The majority of these planes were not equipped with radios, so pilots navigated by comparing air maps with physical cues (highways, mountains, rivers, etc.) or by flying the beam. (The “beam” was a radio transmission of Morse code signals. A grid of such beams was established across the United States. To follow the beam, a pilot would listen on her headphone for aural “blips” or tones to direct her. This required a great deal of concentration and was not always accurate.) Both navigational techniques were difficult, and this was compounded by the facts that many air bases and factories were camouflaged, blackouts were maintained in coastal areas, and the navigational beams were prone to breaking down. Problems sometimes arose with the planes themselves, which ha d been tested at the factories but never flown. Cross-continental flights often took several days, depending on the planes being flown and weather conditions.

In addition, planes equipped with top secret munitions or accessories had to be guarded while on the ground, and WASPs received orders to protect these planes at all cost. WASPs flying these planes were issued .45 caliber pistols and were trained to fire machine guns.

Molly Merryman, Ph.D. is the founding director of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality and an Associate Professor at Kent State University. She is the Historical Research Producer on the upcoming Red Door Films documentary about the WASP, Coming Home: Fight For A Legacy. She has directed and produced nine documentaries that have been broadcast and screened in the United States and United Kingdom. She is the research director for the Queer Britain national LGBT+ museum and is a visiting professor and advisory board member for the Queer History Centre at Goldsmiths, University of London. Merryman is the vice president of the International Visual Sociology Association.

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My thoughts:

This was really interesting and packed with details from Congressional hearings, people’s memories and official records of the WASPS. At times it was a little hard to engage with all the facts and figures, but I feel like I learnt an awful lot about the fight to allow women to fly, from WW2, right up to recent times.

I am always fascinated by incredibly brave and determined women who repeatedly get shot down and “put in their place” by often incredibly ignorant men who have completely lost sight of the big picture. These women were extraordinary and wanted to fly in combat, just like men, and being smaller and lighter were probably better built for such roles.

A really fascinating insight into the battle for recognition and understanding of how much female pilots could, and indeed have, contributed.

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

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Cover Reveal: The Place Beyond Her Dreams – Oby Aligwekwe

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I am so excited to share this beautiful cover for Oby Aligwekwe’s debut YA Fantasy, The Place Beyond her Dreams! Pre-order a copy today!

THE PLACE BEYOND HER DREAMS 2020 FINAL (1)

The Place Beyond Her Dreams

Expected Publication Date: March 16, 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy/ Coming-of-Age

Publisher: Eclat Books 

At the sudden death of her grandfather, Ona’s pain drives her to mystical Luenah—a place of infinite possibilities. There, she discovers she is an Eri, chosen to accomplish a special purpose on earth, and is handed a box in exchange for what she desires the most.

Burdened by her quest, Ona learns that dreams carry a hefty price, and no one is who they seem. As evil looms, she must unmask the villain and save the one she loves, even at the risk of losing everything she holds dear.

Set against the backdrop of two warring towns, The Place Beyond Her Dreams delivers life lessons using a powerful fable. This coming-of-age fantasy takes the reader on the path to self-discovery and demonstrates the transformation one must go through to realize and eventually occupy their purpose. 

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Oby Aligwekwe is the author of Nfudu and Hazel House. The Place Beyond Her Dreams is her Young Adult debut. A talented writer, Oby is also an inspirational speaker and a chartered accountant. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her family and supports her community through her charity Éclat Beginnings.

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Blog Tour: Up The Creek – Alissa Grosso*

An unsolved murder. Disturbing dreams. A missing child.

Caitlin Walker hasn’t had a dream in nine years. But now nightmares torture her son Adam and awaken in Caitlin buried memories and a dark secret. Her husband Lance has a secret of his own, one that his son’s nightmares threaten to reveal.

In Culver Creek newly hired detective Sage Dorian works to unravel the small town’s notorious cold case, the grisly murder of a young girl.

How are Caitlin and Lance connected to the horrific crime? And how far will they go to make sure their secrets stay hidden? Find out in this riveting thriller.

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Excerpt from Up the Creek by Alissa Grosso

Caitlin emerged from a black, dreamless sleep to screams. Adam’s tortured cries sounded almost otherworldly. They turned her blood to ice and made her heart race. She sat straight up, then bolted from bed, blinking sleep from her eyes as she raced toward the door, banging her shin on the dresser as she went. She yanked on the doorknob and almost toppled over when it didn’t yield as she expected. Goddammit. Lance had locked the door again.

She spared a glance toward the bed, but her husband wasn’t there. Instead he was standing, looking out the window. For a moment she thought she was mistaken. Were the screams coming from outside?

“Lance?” she asked.

He turned to her, but his eyes looked past her at some point on the wall.

“What’s going on?” he mumbled, barely awake.

“Adam’s having a nightmare,” she said.

“Again?” he asked. “Maybe we should just let him sleep it off.”

The screams had subsided now, but she could still hear her son’s whimpers from down the hall. Sleep it off? Could Lance really be that clueless? She unlocked the door and flung it open. It bounced almost silently off the rubber doorstopper, which didn’t really give her the dramatic exit she was hoping for.

She still couldn’t quite wrap her head around her husband just standing there looking out the window while Adam cried for them. Usually Lance was the one who woke up first. Maybe he had already gone to comfort Adam and came back to their bedroom by the time she awoke. He seemed so out of it, though. Well, that’s what a lack of sleep could do to a person.

Adam sat on his bed in a nest of tangled sheets. His face was damp with tears and sweat, his dark hair plastered to his forehead. The hippo nightlight cast large, ominous shadows when she stepped into his room. He looked up with a start, then relaxed when he saw it was her.

She sat down beside him and pulled his small body to her, wrapping her arms around him and rocking him gently back and forth. The tears subsided, but he still felt tense.

“Mommy, I’m scared of the bad boy,” he said. “The bad boy’s going to hurt me.”

“Nobody’s going to hurt you,” she assured him. “You’re safe. It was just a dream. Look, you’re safe in your bedroom.”

At this, Adam pulled away from her a little to study the dimly lit bedroom. Maybe they should get a different nightlight. She had never realized how spooky that hippo light made everything look.

“There were trees,” Adam said, “and a river. She was playing in the river.”

Caitlin stiffened. Adam noticed it and looked up at her. She smiled at him.

“It was just a dream,” she said, as much to reassure herself as him. “It wasn’t real.”

There were lots of rivers out there, and wasn’t Adam just watching a cartoon show with cute animals that had to get across a river? That was probably where that detail came from. Plus, she reminded herself, it hadn’t been a river. It had been a creek. She wasn’t sure Adam knew the difference between a river and a creek, though. But a little girl playing in a river? No, wait, was that what he had said? He said only “she.” For all Caitlin knew, this she could have been a girl river otter. Maybe he had been having a cute dream about river creatures.

And a “bad boy,” she reminded herself. She remembered his bloodcurdling screams. There was nothing cute about the dream he had. Still, she clung to the “bad boy” detail. Was he talking about a child? If so, then the river was just a coincidence. She wanted to ask him more about the bad boy, but this was the worst thing she could do. He was already starting to calm down, starting to forget the details of his nightmare. She couldn’t go dredging things back up again.

“Mommy, can I sleep in your room?” Adam asked.

* * *

Lance was fully awake and in bed when Caitlin returned with Adam in her arms.

“Hey there, champ,” Lance said. “Have a bad dream?”

“Daddy, he hurt her,” Adam said. “He hurt her head. She was bleeding.”

Her son’s tiny body stiffened again in Caitlin’s arms, and she gave Lance an exasperated look as she set Adam down in the middle of the bed.

“We’d already gotten past that,” she said in a whispered hiss.

“Obviously,” Lance said with a roll of his eyes, “which is why he’s sleeping in our bed. Again.”

She slid into the bed beside Adam and adjusted the covers, ignoring her husband. She petted Adam’s head and made soft, soothing noises.

“Remember, that wasn’t real, just make believe, like a movie.” She didn’t want him to get himself worked up again talking about the dream, but it wasn’t just that. She didn’t want to hear any more details from the nightmare because the bit about the bad boy hurting the girl’s head and the blood felt a touch too familiar.

She stroked his face, and his eyelids slowly drooped closed. He looked so calm and peaceful when he slept.

“I thought we said we weren’t going to do this anymore,” Lance said. Even whispering, his voice was too loud. She held her finger to her lips. He continued more quietly, “I’m just saying, I think it would be better for him if he sleeps in his own bed.”

“It’s already after three,” she said. “It’s only for a few hours.”

“That’s not the point,” Lance said. “He’s nearly five years old. We can’t keep babying him.”

It was like the school argument all over again, and Caitlin didn’t want to get into it. Not now. She was still tired and groggy and needed more sleep.

“I want to get him a new nightlight,” she said to change the subject. “The one he has makes these creepy shadows.”

“A new nightlight,” Lance repeated in a skeptical voice. “Sure, that will solve everything.”

“The important thing,” she said, “is that we have to remind him that his dreams are not real. That they’re make believe. We have to be united on this.”

Lance made a dismissive noise and lay back down on his pillow, turning his body away from her and Adam. He muttered something, but his voice was muffled by the pillow.

“Lance, this is important,” she said. “We have to make it clear that his dreams are not real. He has to know they aren’t true.”

He sighed. “What kind of moron do you think I am? Do you really think I’m going to start telling him his dreams about boogeymen are real?” He squirmed around and pulled the covers up in an attempt to get comfortable. She thought he was done, but he stopped shifting around long enough to add, “It’s not exactly like you’re the foremost expert in dreams.”

Alissa Grosso is the author of several books for adults and teens. Originally from New Jersey, she now resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. You can find out more about her and her books at AlissaGrosso.com.

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My thoughts:

This was an interesting take on the crime novel, with a focus on dreams and sleep. Detective Sage Dorian is haunted by his missing sister and sees parallels with the death of twenty year old case of Lily Esposito, who drowned in Culver Creek in front of her sister who couldn’t identify the killer.

Caitlin used to have strange dreams, and her mother was convinced she was psychic. Her husband Lance keeps waking up in places he can’t remember going to and now their young son Adam is having nightmares.

It took me a little while to get into the story but once I did, I was hooked. As the pace picked up and another child was at risk, it was gripping and I could not guess what had happened and who was involved. A very clever and enjoyable read.

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

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Blog Tour: The War Girls – Rosie Jones*

Can their friendship survive the darkest days of war?

When Abigail arrives for a new start in Bristol in the late 1930s, she knows life won’t be easy – particularly as she is the unmarried mother of three-year-old Emily Grace.

But as the war starts to take over the city and threaten their very existence, will Abigail’s new friends, Carrie and Eileen, be enough to keep herself and her daughter safe?

My thoughts:

I’m not a huge fan of war fiction but I do love a story about friendship and this is definitely one of those. My favourite bond in the book is little Emily’s with ‘Mrs Gladys’, Eileen’s mother, it’s so sweet and delightful.

The three young women have a wonderful friendship which sees them through the bombing of Bristol, working in a munitions factory, finding love, and beyond.

A heartwarming and cosy book, curl up under a warm blanket on a freezing evening and enjoy.


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

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Blog Tour: The Cronian Incident – Matthew Williams

TheCronianIncident

To celebrate the upcoming release of the final installment of The Formist series, we’re going back to where it all started in The Cronian Incident

Read on for details, excerpt, and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!

The Cronian Incident FINAL 150dpiThe Cronian Incident ( The Formist #1)

Publication Date: September 2017

Genre: Science Fiction

Jeremiah Ward was just another convict, a disgraced investigator who once worked the Martian beat, now serving his sentence in a mining colony on Mercury. When a member of a powerful faction goes missing on Titan, Ward is given an opportunity he cannot pass up. In exchange for investigating the disappearance of this figure, he gets a clean slate and a second chance.

But, the deeper Ward digs the more secrets he finds. Instead of investigating a missing person’s case he becomes embroiled in a centuries-old conspiracy and Ward comes to realize his one shot at redemption may cost him his life.

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Prologue

They stood two by two. In standard squad formation, moving onto their target area.

In front, Bern and Valeri stood, there arms held squarely at their sides. Durand could see that their hands were twitching. Valeri was attempting to hide it by crossing her arms and tapping out the rhythm of some unheard melody against her bicep. Bern however couldn’t decide what to do with his hands, and kept wiping them against his trouser legs.

Durand and Chayond were fortunate that way. In their hands, the equipment bags hung. Though relatively light, they were just burdensome enough to require both hands to carry them. They did not have to worry about idle hands or telltale signs of nervousness as they waited for the elevator to finish descending.

“Remember, no talking,” said Valeri, reminding them as the elevator came to a stop. The doors slid open to admit them to the station’s main hub. Bern nodded forward, and the four stepped out onto the platform.

Evening was now upon them, with several bright lights shining down from the station’s vaulted ceiling. Through the station’s dome, a thick grey haze was just visible. The faint traces of light reflected off of Saturn’s disc turned what would have been the black night into a deep, murky twilight.

The four of them were quickly swallowed up by the din of chatter, footsteps, and the sounds of a computerized voice making announcements in Anglish, Franz, Deutsch, Chin and Swahili.

The station was filled with hundreds of locals milling about, moving from one transit lane to another. Few paid them any attention as they walked through the crowds. Why should they? To onlookers, the group’s blue and orange coveralls designated them as maintenance staff. To all recording devices and sensors in the area, their ID tags also designed them as such.

Still, Chayond felt a tinge of panic every time the bag he carried rattled. None of their party would fare too well if they were stopped for inspection. Chayond felt himself looking at the few Gendarmes mixed in with the commuters out of the corner of his eye. If Bern saw him, she would certainly backhand him across the face. Of course, she would wait until they were no longer in public before doing so.

It seemed to take a terribly long time to cross the main floor. At the far end, they began to descend a flight of stairs, and Chayond felt a little better. The bag was rattling louder, luckily it was being drowned out by the whooshing noise of hypertrains coming and going inside their tubes. The dull, monotone computerized voice continued to announce the arrival and departure of trains, though it was becoming more difficult to hear. The noise was like a cushion that began to cloak their every move.

Valerni motioned to their left as they reached the bottom of the stairs. Commuter traffic continued to pour around them, which made maintaining their tight formation somewhat difficult. Still, they held in their two-by-two stance, moving towards the left track – and to the small door that led to the maintenance tunnel. No one followed them there. All the commuter traffic was drawn to the tubes and left what appeared to be a maintenance crew alone.

As soon as they were through the hatch, the noise stopped. The busy station was now sealed behind the pressure door. The only sounds now the gentle hissing of the tunnel’s pressure controls.  of course, Valeri’s commanding voice. Checking her chrono, she made a quick consult of their timetable.

“We’re on schedule,” she said. “Let’s keep it that way. Move out.”

The four collapsed into a single line, moving down the tight tunnel as quickly as they could. Durand threw the strap of his bag over his shoulder and Chayond did the same. Their steps became fast and heavy, their work boots striking hard against the metal grates that lined the floor. Heavy pipes and ducts controlling the settlements flow of fresh water and air whizzed by their heads. The high pressure and heat combined to make the going very uncomfortable.

Yet still, they moved. Rigid discipline and a clear purpose driving them onward. Until they reached their destination and set up, they could not relax.

When they finally came to the hatch that would admit them onto the platform that they wanted, they had all broken a good sweat. Only Valeri appeared to not be out of breath.

“Alright, pay attention because we don’t have time to dither.” Reaching into the pocket of her coveralls, she retrieved a small handheld. She held the transparent device up. Displayed on it was a single-frame. A man’s face.

“This is David Lee,” Valeri said. “He’s the Formist the Chandrasekhar’s sent on ahead to do their dirty work. Our intel says he’ll be travelling alone by the time he gets to the line. So that’s when we take him down.”

She tapped the screen. Lee’s image was replaced by a video feed of him standing with a woman. They stood close to each other, a degree of intimacy clearly implied by their body language.

“This is our contact. She is the one who provided us with Lee’s itinerary. According to her, Lee will be here at the time indicated, and he will be alone. However, if we find that they are together, then something’s gone wrong and we’ll need to take them both down. There can’t be any suspicion on her.”

“Who is she?” Durand asked.

Valeri shrugged. “Didn’t ask.  neither should you. All you need to know is, she’s not our target. If it comes down to it, we take them both down.  we leave her behind for the authorities to collect. Any other stupid questions?”

Durand was sufficiently shamed and shut up. Bern though had some thoughts on that score and offered them freely.

“Probably some just whore from the Yellow Light District. Point is, she’s a fucking patriot and gave us this information. So she’ll understand, I’m sure.”

All heads in the group nodded. A rumble shook the tube, indicating that a hypertrain was going by. It was nothing more than a passing tremor. No sound made it through the sealed pressure doors.

“That’ll be the 2115 to Cassini now,” she said, smiling. “Our Dr. Lee will be making the next one. Better suit up.”

Durand dropped his equipment bag on the ground, kneeling down to open it. Chayond did the same, placing his bag on the floor and separating the tabs on the seal. As Durand began removing their change of clothes, the others began to disrobe. The suits Durand passed out looked like something reptilian, scaly surfaces the same color as mercury. They were thin, no heavier than a stack of thermal blankets, with hoods at the top and small terminals on the left arms.

Valeri and Bern quickly became half-naked, their sweating frames glistening from the tube’s lighting. Quickly, they pulled the silver skins over their coveralls and began doing up all the clasps, sealing the suits around themselves and firing up the cells that powered them.

Durand tossed a suit aside for himself before handing one over to Chayond, who hesitated. His head was swimming from all the heat, the run had left him drained and full of endorphins. Still, he was aware enough to feel damn apprehensive. Accepting the suit seemed like a terrible step, one from which there was no turning back.

Durand noticed his hesitation. “Hey, you good?” he asked. Chayond glanced quickly in Valeri direction. She looked up from her suit to shoot him a look of disapproval and he quickly averted his eyes.

“Yeah, I’m good,” he replied, taking the suit in hand and unzipping his coveralls. Somehow, one look from Vslero was enough to silence any doubts, or enough to scare him into compliance.

A moment later, all four members of the team were suited up in their new vestments. Everything from their necks down was now covered in specialized material. Valeri pulled the last piece into place, pulling the hood up and covering her hair.

“Remember,” she admonished. “Make sure your sticks are charged just right. Too much, and his implants might rupture.  that’s the last thing we want.”

All heads nodded again. Chayond interpreted the mention of the sticks as an order to distribute them. Reaching down into the bag, he began pulling them out, one by one. Four slender truncheons, a small console on one side, contained a power indicator, an electrical port, and a few controls. He handed the first to Valeri, passed out the second and third, kept the fourth for himself.

Each team member inspected the sticks to ensure that they were set at exactly the right power level before sliding them neatly into the waistband of their outfits. Each stick connected with the suit’s internal power supply.

“Alright, let’s power them up,” ordered Valeri. “Let’s see if these things were worth the price.”

“Doubt that,” Bern said sarcastically. “ they still better work.”

As one, Bern, Durand and Chayond pulled the hoods up over their heads and engaged the suit’s power supply. Three low-frequency squeals sounded out in the tube, and where three men with silver skins stood, suddenly there were just three faces. The rest of their heads, like their bodies, were now cloaked in advanced stealth fields.

Valeri smiled. “Not bad.” She pulled her mask into place over her mouth and eyes and put her finger to the terminal on her arm. It took less than a second before she completely disappeared from view.

“How do I look?” she asked, her voice filtered and modulated by the mask.

“Like nothing at all,” replied Durand.

“Good.” She suddenly reappeared, removing the mask and hood. “Then be ready. If the target escapes, we may not get another chance. So make this one count.”

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About the Author

Matthew Williams Headshot

Growing up in the 80s and 90s Matthew Williams was born in to science fiction. He enjoyed many of the infamous SF franchises of the time and read many of sci-fi’s most influential works. As an adult, Matt marvelled at those SF novels which stood the test of time, while making valuable observations of the human condition, and he decided to create his own novels.

As a professional writer for Universe Today, Matt is well-versed in many nerdy topics ranging from: spaceflight to terraforming, Earth sciences to physics, and the future of human space exploration. He has interviewed many of today’s top scientific minds and NASA personnel, and been a featured speaker at astronomy societies. His articles have appeared in such publications as Business Insider, Science Alert, Phys.org, HeroXPionicGizmodoFuturism and IO9.

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Blog Tour: Through the Waters and the Wild – Greg Fields*

“I was hungry, seeing myself starving for want of something I could not define. I sought it constantly, sought it at every turn, searched every face I met for hints of it, looked everywhere I could conceive. I lost time trying to slake this unquenchable thirst, trying to satisfy an endlessly burning hunger. But in the end I knew precisely what I had been after all along. It is the folly of the young, part of their particular curse, to be so unaware, to be blind as well as hungry. To be in exile from themselves and not know they are away.”

Haunted by lost loves and limping through a lifeless career, Conor Finnegan’s discontent mirrors the restlessness of his grandfather Liam, caught as a young man in the crossfire of the Irish Civil War. Drawing from Liam’s wisdom and courage, Conor seeks to reinvent his character and reclaim passions made numb by neglect and loss.

Through the Waters and the Wild addresses the timeless questions, “Where shall I go now? What shall I do?”

Q&A with Greg Fields

Author of Through the Waters and the Wild

Question: Congratulations on your new novel, Through the Waters and the Wild! Tell us what the book is about.

Greg Fields: Coursing through several decades, Through the Waters and the Wild spans the farmlands of Ireland, the Irish Civil War, the corridors of power in Washington, DC, and the interior landscapes against which we all seek to craft identity and meaning. With well-drawn, complex characters, a strong narrative arc, and a poetic sense of place, Through the Waters and the Wild not only takes readers on an epic journey, but addresses the timeless questions, “Where shall I go now? What shall I do?”

Q: Through the Waters and the Wild picks up where your last book, Arc of the Comet, left off but can also work as a stand-alone. Why did you decide to return to Conor’s story and what will fans of your first novel be most excited by?

Fields: Conor’s story was nowhere near closure at the end of Arc of the Comet. That was, in fact, the point of it, that there are no final, neat, tidy resolutions and that we all need to continue defining who and what we are. It made sense to carry Conor’s journey forward and to explore how he reacted to the losses he experienced. He’s a different person now – bruised, more cautious, less given to the passions and spontaneity that marked his earlier years. He’s become more like the rest of us.

Q: What made you decide to feature the Irish culture and Ireland prominently in your books?

Fields: I believe that there’s no such thing as complete fiction. Much of Conor Finnegan’s career as described in the book reflects my own experiences, especially his experiences overseas in international development. My grandfather emigrated from Ireland, as did Liam Finnegan, but Liam’s story is not my grandfather’s. Still, I was inspired by the courage of leaving everything behind, the conscious choice to abandon the only world one has ever known.

Q: Exile and redemption are some of the recurring themes in the novel. But what do you hope readers take away most from your writing?

Fields: Most of my writing revolves around the central questions that I believe each of us must constantly ask ourselves. I would hope readers would come away with at least a recognition of those questions in their own context. But what matters, and what’s subtly stressed throughout both novels, is that the answers to these questions are not nearly as important as the asking of them. When we fail to ask ourselves those questions, we cease to be truly alive.

Q: You once had a memorable and fateful encounter with a big literary inspiration of yours, Pat Conroy, who quickly became a fan of your words after you recited a few lines for him. What was it about the meeting that inspired you to become a writer yourself?

Fields: I had written fiction for years, but the demands of a career always pushed that pursuit to the corner. A chance meeting with Pat Conroy as I was developing Arc of the Comet changed all that. Pat saw something in my writing that I did not know was there, and from that point I committed myself to giving every chance to prove the possibility that I might actually be a writer.

My wife, knowing how I loved Conroy’s work, surprised me with tickets to one of his talks and the VIP reception afterward. Knowing absolutely no one at the reception, I headed to the hors d’oeuvres table. Pat approached me from behind, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “We’ve not met. I’m Pat Conroy.” Something intuitive there, and we ended up talking one-on-one for nearly 20 minutes while the other guests circled around and glared at me. Pat was gracious, and we learned that we shared the same birthday, the same literary influences, and the same jump shot on the basketball court. He asked me to recite some of my work, and I was able to do so, after which he got quite serious and said that he wanted to read what I had. We corresponded, and Pat Conroy made me a writer. I’ve told this story many times, in greater detail, as an homage to my generation’s brightest literary life, and a man I came to love.

Q: What’s next for you? Will you be writing another book around Conor’s story?

Fields: I’m working on the next novel. I can’t completely abandon Finnegan, but I think his story has run his course. He’ll make a few cameo appearances in a narrative centering on fresh characters. But the questions, the themes, will be similar to what’s come before, even though they’ll be pursued through different eyes.

Greg Fields is the author of Arc of the Comet, a lyrical, evocative examination of promise, potential and loss, published by Koehler Books in October 2017. Arc of the Comet explores universal themes in a precise, lyrical style inspired by the work of Niall Williams, Colm Toibin and the best of Pat Conroy, who had offered a jacket quote for the book shortly before his death. The book has been nominated for the Cabell First Novelist Award, the Sue Kaufman First Fiction Prize and the Kindle Book of the Year in Literary Fiction. He is also the co-author with Maya Ajmera of Invisible Children: Reimagining International Development from the Grassroots. He has won recognition for his written work in presenting the plight of marginalized young people through his tenure at the Global Fund for Children, and has had articles published in the Harvard International Review, as well as numerous periodicals, including The Washington Post and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. His short nonfiction has appeared in The Door Is A Jar and Gettysburg Review literary reviews. Greg holds degrees from Rutgers College and the University of Notre Dame. He lives with his wife Lynn and their son Michael in Manassas, Virginia. For more information, please visit www.gregfields.net or connect with him on Instagram and Facebook.

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My thoughts:

This is a lyrical, thoughtful book, stepping from the slightly adrift in his own life Conor back into the past and the life of his grandfather, Liam, as a young man in rural Ireland during the 1920s, a time of uprisings and conflict.

Drawn into the fight for independence, Liam loses the woman he loves and then has to head out West, across the Atlantic to Chicago, where he remains.

His life story inspires Conor to make some changes in his own and pursue a different way of thinking and search for the things he really wants in his career and in his love life.

This is a powerful and moving book, the Liam section especially, and encourages the reader to think about their own life and happiness. Beautifully written and tenderly constructed, it lingers in your mind long after the final page.

*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 Unadjusteds – Marisa Noelle*

Sixteen-year-old Silver Melody lives in a world where 80% of the population has modified their DNA. Known as the altereds, those people now possess enhancements like wings, tails, and increased strength or intelligence. Although Silver’s parents created the nanite pill used to deliver these genetic modifications, Silver is proud of her unadjusted state.

However, when the president declares all unadjusteds must take a nanite, Silver has no choice but to flee the city with her father and some friends to prevent the extinction of the unadjusteds.With Silver’s mother in prison for treason, Silver’s father is the unadjusteds’ only hope at finding a cure. But time is running out as Silver’s father is captured by the president’s almost immortal army. Vicious hellhounds are on Silver’s trail, and her only chance to recover her father involves teaming up with a new group of unlikely friends before all humanity is lost.

My thoughts:This was a high octane YA sci-fi thriller, set in a world where nanites can embue people with strange powers and abilities – mostly derived from animal DNA.Unfortunately instead of only using this new technology for good, to cure disease and benefit humanity, greed has caused many to go too far and it has caused corruption and harm. It’s also mutated some beyond human and turned them into disturbing hybrid creatures.Silver Melody’s parents are scientists and deeply involved in this new nanite tech, but also trying to find a way to reverse it. She is unadjusted, or so she believes. With a band of fellow outsiders she plans to bring down the corrupt President and rescue her parents.This was a fun, fast paced and engaging book, I liked Silver and her friends, a group of smart, determined young people, and the plot was intriguing and enjoyable.*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 Art of Dying – Ambrose Parry*

Edinburgh, 1849. Hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. And a campaign seeks to paint Dr James Simpson, pioneer of medical chloroform, as a murderer.

Determined to clear Simpson’s name, his protégé Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher must plunge into Edinburgh’s deadliest streets and find out who or what is behind the deaths. Soon they discover that the cause of the deaths has evaded detection purely because it is so unthinkable.

Ambrose Parry is a pseudonym for a collaboration between Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. The couple are married and live in Scotland. Chris Brookmyre is the international bestselling and multi-award-winning author of over twenty novels.

Dr Marisa Haetzman is a consultant anaesthetist of twenty years’ experience, whose research for her Master’s degree in the History of Medicine uncovered the material upon which this series, which began with

Chris Brookmyre is the international bestselling and multi-award-winning author of over twenty novels.

Dr Marisa Haetzman is a consultant anaesthetist of twenty years’ experience, whose research for her Master’s degree in the History of Medicine uncovered the material upon which this series, which began with The Way of All Flesh, is based.
The Way of All Flesh was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year and longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award.

My thoughts:

This was a cracking historical thriller, as Dr Raven and the super smart Sarah (I hope she gets to medical school, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson graduated from Middlesex in 1865, so there’s hope!) try to solve a series of apparently natural deaths with no obvious symptoms.

They also pursue the truth around an accusation of professional misconduct made against their employer, Dr Simpson, and seek out the thief stealing from the Simpson household. As well as doing their actual jobs!

I really enjoyed this book, and am going to go back and read it’s predecessor, The Way of All Flesh too.

*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 Jagged Edge – A.J. Frazer*

A thriller with a conscience, The Jagged Edge does for climate change what John Grisham has done for the law, cutting to the heart of humanity’s greatest threat.

The harrowing loss of a woman and child in a Californian wildfire. A madman hellbent on revenge. A former British war correspondent, desperate to find his old edge. A clandestine meeting somewhere in the Austrian Alps. A devastating missile attack on an Italian steel mill. A nail-biting standoff in the Australian Outback. Merciless government agents willing to do anything to stop a weapon that has already been set in motion. And the countdown to the end of the world as we know it begins.

Action, technology and the might of Mother Nature come together in a heart-stopping thrill ride that you won’t be able to put down.

Amazon

Born and raised on New Zealand’s South Island, AJ experienced raw nature at its most sublime. Later, as a volunteer bush firefighter in Sydney, he saw firsthand nature at its most destructive. Something that too many people in Australia and California have had to endure.

His writing intent is simple: to bring thriller (non)sensibilities to the serious, though often dry, science of climate change.
He now lives on the Sapphire Coast of Australia with his wife and their two children. He admits to being a lazy activist who avoids confrontation. Writing is his form of environmental activism.

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My thoughts:

This was a heck of a ride, from Mont Blanc to genteel Surrey, the Austrian Alps to the wild Australian Outback, to the middle of the ocean.

Contacted by a notorious eco-terrorist, media titan, ex-Marine and former journalist Dominic is wildly out of his depth as an electronic weapon, Biblical, is unleashed and takes down society, without caring about the human cost.

Earth Ghost claim this is needed, a hard reset to remind humanity that the planet is at risk, that global warming, pollution levels, melting ice caps and growing numbers of pandemics are all signs of Earth in crisis. They’ve moved on from blowing up refineries and factories, if needed, they’ll destroy all infrastructure and force us back to pre-industrial times.

Dominic’s media company, Jagged Edge, is the only one apparently unaffected by Biblical, the sole voice in the wilderness of a world dependant on the Internet. But he’s seen the dark side of Sagen, Earth Ghost’s founder and prophet, as well as the lengths some government agencies are willing to go.

He appreciates the need for change but doesn’t agree that the rampant chaos of Biblical is the way to go.

A thriller that touches on recent events such as our current pandemic and of course the terrible climate emergency we’re not reacting to fast enough. While things need to change, a massive terrorist attack like this is not the way to go.

Instead maybe we need to use the technology at our fingertips to effect change, to hold our leaders accountable and to do communicate globally ways to support and aid those most affected by climate change.

This is certainly a timely reminder wrapped in a smart and gripping book.

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