Tempted By… Bookshine and Readbows: The Eye of the North by Sinead O’Hart

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Emmeline Widget has never left Widget Manor – and that’s the way she likes it. But when her scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself being packed off on a ship to France, heading for a safe house in Paris. Onboard she is befriended by an urchin stowaway called Thing. But before she can reach her destination she is kidnapped by the sinister Dr Siegfried Bauer.

Dr Bauer is bound for the ice fields of Greenland to summon a legendary monster from the deep. And he isn’t the only one determined to unleash the creature. The Northwitch has laid claim to the beast, too.

Can Emmeline and Thing stop their fiendish plans and save the world?

Today’s Tempted By is long overdue, but better late than never I believe and it has been worth waiting for. I don’t often get enticed into buying middle grade books, unless it is for my daughters, but I really loved the sound of The Eye of the North by Sinead O’Hart.

The book was brought to my attention by this review, written by the lovely Steph over at Bookshine and Readbows blog. I didn’t really need to read further than the line ‘This the book I wanted Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials series to be’ to know that I wanted to read it, but then she goes on to describe the book as ‘steampunk-ish’ in style which sealed the deal. I really love her descriptions of the writing as having a bit of snark (I am all about the snark) and then references some of my all time favourite authors as comparators – Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams? How could I not want to pick up this book?

Steph waxed lyrical about this book, and when Steph waxes lyrical, I am always listening. I love Steph’s cheery blog – that name alone let’s you know that this a cup-half-full person doesn’t it – she has been one of my longest and most avidly-followed blogs since I first discovered this community and she is a generous and supportive blogger too. People like her are the reason I love this community so much. Make sure to pay her blog a visit at https://bookshineandreadbows.wordpress.com.

If you would like to get a copy of The Eye of the North by Sinead O’Hart for yourself, or anyone else, you can buy it here.

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Book Review: Mordew by Alex Pheby

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GOD IS DEAD, his corpse hidden in the catacombs beneath Mordew.

In the slums of the sea-battered city a young boy called Nathan Treeves lives with his parents, eking out a meagre existence by picking treasures from the Living Mud and the half-formed, short-lived creatures it spawns. Until one day his desperate mother sells him to the mysterious Master of Mordew. 

The Master derives his magical power from feeding on the corpse of God. But Nathan, despite his fear and lowly station, has his own strength and it is greater than the Master has ever known. Great enough to destroy everything the Master has built. If only Nathan can discover how to use it. 

So it is that the Master begins to scheme against him and Nathan has to fight his way through the betrayals, secrets, and vendettas of the city where God was murdered, and darkness reigns… 

…WELCOME TO MORDEW THE FIRST IN A MONUMENTAL NEW TRILOGY

I can tell you exactly when I fell in love with this book. It was on page 13, before I even got to the start of the story and I was reading the Dramatis Personae. I came across a reference to ‘a family of elephants, unfamiliarly labelled,’ and that was it. I knew then that this was an author in whose imagination I was really going to enjoy getting lost. (Although, I’m not happy at how the unfamiliarly labelled elephants’ story turns out, Mr Pheby!)

Mordew is an amazing feat of a novel. Dense, rich, complex, perplexing and rewarding, it requires a commitment of reading and is not going to be for everyone. However, if you are a fan of gothic fantasy, dedicated and imaginative world-building, challenging characters and ideas that ask questions of you, a book that demands participation from the reader, rather than sitting as an idle bystander to the story, you will love this. It reminded me so much of my first experience of reading Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake, and left me with the same desperate anticipation to read more that I felt at the start of that trilogy.

The book describes a complicated world that is an entirely new creation and takes some time to ease yourself into. There are so many new ideas and new terms to get your head around (the glossary for this books runs to a massive 84 pages), and it is all so alien at first that the less-than-intrepid reader may be tempted to give up, feeling the going too hard. Don’t do that. Once you get over the first hurdles and suss out the terrain, the writing has such cadence you will ease into its rhythm, it will sweep you along and the sights to be found up ahead are more than worth any early effort. I promise you, this book will reward you one hundredfold for perseverance and you will be desperate for more, even once you reach the end of the 500+ pages.

The book isn’t always easy, there are some shocking developments that will rock the reader to the core. Sacrifices are made. Disturbing imagery abounds. Unfamiliarly labelled elephants! It is hard at times to know who to trust, who to pity, who to love. Good characters do bad things. Bad characters do good things, no one is entirely virtuous or entirely contemptible. In this way, if no other, Mordew is as our world and this is how we go on an emotional journey with Nathan through the pages and the streets of Mordew.

The ending may not be as you would expect or wish, but the author has set it up brilliantly for the second part of the projected trilogy and, I am hoping that it is well underway and we are not going to have to wait Game-of-Thrones-esque lengths of time for part two. This can’t be the end, it just can’t. There has to be more, an alternative, a salvation. I need to know what it is, I’m fully invested in this world, this journey now.

I had high hopes for this novel and it delivered on them in every respect, and then some. I’ve not read anything like this for a long time and it deserves wide attention and respect. Pick up a copy today and you’ll be thanking me tomorrow.

Mordew is out now in hardback and as an ebook, and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Alex was born in Essex, but moved to Worcester in his early childhood. He has masters degrees in critical theory (Manchester Metropolitan University) and creative writing (Goldsmiths) and a doctorate in critical and creative writing from the UEA. He currently lives with his wife and two children in Greenwich.

Alex’s work deals with madness and social exclusion, loss, and the middle ground between reality and fantasy. Critics have described his writing style as strange, poignant, and luminous.

Connect with Alex:

Twitter: @alexpheby

Instagram: @alexpheby

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Desert Island Books: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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The circus arrives without warning. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Against the grey sky the towering tents are striped black and white. A sign hanging upon iron gates reads:

Opens at Nightfall
Closes at Dawn

As dusk shifts to twilight, tiny lights begin to flicker all over the tents, as though the whole circus is covered in fireflies. When the tents are aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign lights up:

Le Cirque des Rêves
The Circus of Dreams

The gates shudder and unlock, seemingly by their own volition.
They swing outward, inviting the crowd inside.

Now the circus is open.
Now you may enter.

Discover this amazing fantasy read with a different kind of magic.

Like a lot of people my age, or any age I guess since my daughters loved them too, my first introduction to independent reading, and the very first books I fell hopelessly in love with, were The Magic Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton. Those magical stories of three children who discover a fantastical tree in a wood near their house, populated with fairy creatures and with a rotating roster of enchanted lands that they could visit at the top, transported me into my wildest dreams.

When I first read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, it is the closest I have felt as an adult to those transformative moments when I first lost myself in the pages of The Enchanted Wood and was taken to Fairyland. This book is a wondrous adult fairytale full of magic and enchantment and this is why it is number seven on my list of books I would take to my desert island, and the most recently-published book on the list.

If you haven’t read this book, it takes place at the turn of the nineteenth century and involves two people locked in a game of skill which takes place in a magical nighttime circus that travels the world. It is also a passionate love story. But none of this truly captures the essence of why I love this book so much, or why it is one I return to again and again.

It is the magic with which Erin Morgenstern has managed to imbue every word of this novel, the intricate detail of her descriptions of every aspect of the story, the way she stimulates every sense of the reader throughout and fully transports you to this wondrous place that can’t possibly exist, but she makes you feel like it does, and the sheer audacity of her imagination, the way she has let it run completely and unashamedly wild in creating the circus and everything in it.

This book is rich and opulent and amazing, in the truest sense of the word. Since I started writing myself, my latest reading of the book in preparation for drafting this post had me stepping back slightly and admiring the breadth of Erin’s imagination in conjuring this magical circus, and also the complex tale of competition she has woven around it. The character development, the way she suggests, rather than overtly explains, many of the plot devices, allowing the reader scope to stretch their own imagination, all of these are writerly skills that I covet greatly and can appreciate the ease with which she wields them, whilst marvelling at the sheer amount of work that must have gone in to creating such a detailed and intricate novel. At the same time, this book makes it impossible for me to remain dispassionate, it pulls me in every time and transports me fully into the illusion she has created, losing myself completely in the Labyrinth of her creation.

I defy anyone to read this book and not wish with their whole heart that the circus were real and you could visit it. Taste the cinnamon pastry twists, watch the Twins and their performing kittens, jump through the Cloud Maze, ride the Stargazer and breathe in the stories in the tent of boxes and bottles (have I dropped enough tantalising hints to make you want to pick up this book yet?) If the Night Circus were real, I would be a reveur for sure.

This book is the closest thing to magic I have come across as an adult, the book that has taken me nearest to recapturing that magic you feel as a child losing yourself in a fairytale. The only other experience I have had that has given me similar tingles, is visiting Disney World. This is childhood magic captured and distilled to perfect in a very grownup story and I absolutely adore it.

If you would like to get your own copy of The Night Circus, you can buy it here.

About the Author

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ERIN MORGENSTERN is the author of The Night Circus, a number-one national best seller that has been sold around the world and translated into thirty-seven languages. She has a degree in theater from Smith College and lives in Massachusetts.

Website: https://erinmorgenstern.com

Facebook: Erin Morgenstern Books

Twitter: @erinmorgenstern

Instagram: @erinmorgenstern

Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi; Narrated by Bahni Turpin #AudiobookReview

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They killed my mother.They took our magic.They tried to bury us. Now we rise.

Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled – Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoning forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden. 

Zélie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where strange creatures prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic – and her growing feelings for an enemy.

I don’t often review young adult or fantasy novels on this blog, but sometimes a book comes along with such a buzz that it can’t be ignored. Children of Blood and Bone is one such book and, given the events that have occurred over the past few months, there has never been a better or more important time to read it.

Children of Blood and Bone is a young adult fantasy novel, the likes of which you won’t have read before. Quite a startling and ambitious novel in terms of breadth, scope, world-building and social commentary, it is a book that impresses  and informs on so many levels. Adeyemi has taken traditions from West African folklore and woven them into a fantasy world that is beautiful, detailed and all-enveloping, under-scored with a palpable anger that the author freely admits is what powered her desire to write the book.

The novel is set in the imaginary world of Orisha, which has its foundations clearly in Nigeria, where the maji people once possessed powerful magic, until that was taken from them and their leaders were brutally slaughtered by the king, the remnants of the race now living under oppression in a land where the colour of your skin determines your social standing. The story is told from the perspectives of three protagonists; Zelie, the daughter of a powerful maji leader who finds a way to tap into the remnants of her magic and the opportunity to bring it back to all he maji in the land; Amari, the daughter of the brutal king who has suffered her own form of oppression; and Inan, the son and heir of the kind who pursues Zelie in an attempt to apprehend her, whilst hiding his own dark secret. Each of these voices is clear and well-developed, and brings a different perspective to the story that helps the reader understand this world, its tensions and difficulties from all angles. It is a masterful technique.

The world that the author has built here is beautiful and evocative and detailed and fascinating, but also with recognisable parallels to our society and the fundamental inequalities that exist in it and have so recently resulted in uprising. Adeyemi explores all aspects of oppression and inequality through the story of Orisha, including addressing some of the misconceptions that arise on all sides and, interestingly, how inequalities of race, power, economic standing and gender intersect. Whilst this book is sold as a young adult fantasy novel, the book has so much to say to people of all ages and interests, I would urge anyone to read it, even if you think this genre is not usually for you. In addition to the social messaging, the book also involves a tender, enemies to lovers romance, which is developed beautifully and convincingly, in a way that enhances, rather than detracts from, the quest storyline.

The novel garnered a six-figure advance and has already been placed in production as a movie. It is the first book in a planned trilogy, with book two already in print, and which I cannot wait to read. I can completely understand why the book has merited all of this buzz, it is totally deserved. It is impressive, pacy and entertaining, but at the same time goes much deeper and rewards the reader with a complex reading experience. For anyone looking for a fiction book that explores the issues raised by the BLM movement, you can do no better than this.

The book is long, but does not lack in action at any point. I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator was absolutely wonderful, she really brought each of the voices to life in an authentic way and I can highly recommend the audio version as a great value for money use of an Audible credit.

Children of Blood and Bone is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here. The sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance is also available now in all formats.

About the Author

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Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American writer and creative writing coach based in San Diego, California. After graduating Harvard University with an honours degree in English literature, she studied West African mythology and culture in Salvador, Brazil. When not writing novels or watching Scandal, Tomi teaches and blogs about creative writing on her website, named one of the 101 best websites for writers by Writer’s Digest. Children of Blood and Bone is her debut novel.

Connect with Tomi:

Website: https://www.tomiadeyemi.com

Facebook: Tomi Adeyemi

Twitter: @tomi_adeyemi

Instagram: @tomiadeyemi

Book Review: The Owl Service by Alan Garner #ThrowbackReview

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It all begins with the scratching in the ceiling. From the moment Alison discovers the dinner service in the attic, with its curious pattern of floral owls, a chain of events is set in progress that is to effect everybody’s lives.

Relentlessly, Alison, her step-brother Roger and Welsh boy Gwyn are drawn into the replay of a tragic Welsh legend – a modern drama played out against a background of ancient jealousies. As the tension mounts, it becomes apparent that only by accepting and facing the situation can it be resolved.

I read an article that a friend of mine had posted on Facebook recently about why people are turning to old, familiar, favourite books and TV series during lockdown, because they are comforting and known in a time of the new, strange and frightening. I, myself, have found this to be true, watching old episodes of Gilmore Girls and Midsomer Murders, and picking up copies of firm favourites from my bookshelf.

This may be initially why I was drawn to grab my copy of The Owl Service from my bookcase, but once I had read it again, I realised that this book no longer felt familiar to me at all and that coming back to this as an adult was a totally different reading experience, and not a comforting one at all. Somewhere between my last reading of this book, which must have been in my mid-teens, either I or the book had changed and become strangers who had to learn to relate to each other in a different way.

The book I remembered from my childhood was a slightly spooky story about a dinner service whose pattern came to life if you made the owls and odd things happened to the children who found it. When I read it now, I wondered why the book hadn’t terrified me as a child, and realised I had not really understood the story at all, because it is really about a trio of children being drawn against their will into an ancient magic that repeats itself by manifesting through a set of people down through the centuries.

This is marketed as a children’s book, but it isn’t really a book that can be properly understood by children. So much of what is going on in the story is inferred, rather than outwardly expressed, and would be much too complex and subtle for a child to understand. Alan Garner’s writing is very sparse, lacking description and embellishments, but this makes it all the more powerful in some ways, because there is so much room for the imagination to do its work, and we all know from childhood nightmares what our imaginations can conjure when given free rein. And, I think, that having lived and experienced so much, sometimes adult imaginations can produce some truly terrifying thoughts, especially in a time of heightened alarm such as we have at the moment.

This is a really powerful and evocative story, written in a bare writing style, which is a feat of magic in itself. But I don’t think I have had such a profoundly different reading experience from the one I expected as when I picked up this book after a gap of 34 years. Going back and rereading the same book does not always mean you get the same story.

The Owl Service is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Alan Garner was born in Congleton, Cheshire, in 1934. His began writing his first novel at the age of 22 and is renowned as one of Britain’s outstanding writers. He has won many prizes for his writing, and, in 2001 he was awarded the OBE for services to literature. He holds two honorary doctorates and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. In 2004 he co-founded The Blackden Trust http://www.theblackdentrust.org.uk

Blog Tour: Son of Secrets (The Indigo Chronicles #2) by N. J. Simmonds #BookReview

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This has been a long time coming, but today I am delighted to be finally taking part on the blog tour for the second book in the Indigo Chronicles Trilogy by N. J. Simmonds, Son of Secrets. Huge thanks to the author for inviting me to take part and for supplying me with a digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Ella has been waiting for Zac for three years. She’s convinced he’ll return for her, but fate has other plans. When Josh is thrown back into her life, Ella has a choice: step back on to her rightful path, or wait for the one who dared her to rebel.

But Ella’s not the only one missing Zac. Luci has been searching for her blue-eyed boy over two millennia and will stop at nothing to get him back. Even if that means hunting down the only girl he ever loved.

From Tuscany 5BC to 17th century witch hunts, Ella, Zac, Luci and Sebastian’s lives have been forever intertwined. The time has finally come to complete the circle.

In a fight against destiny – who will win?

I’ve been waiting a very long time for this book. So long, in fact, that I had to go back and re-read the first book in the Indigo Chronicles, The Path Keeper, to remind myself what had happened. I’d forgotten how good it was, and it whetted my appetite for the new one.

And, boy, was it worth the wait. I can say, hand on heart, without a shadow of doubt that the author exceeded all my expectations with the second book and it is even better than the first. There is so much going on in this series, so many themes to unpick, history to explore, so much subversion of expectation that it will excite and entertain the most sophisticated reader of any age.

For those who haven’t read the first book (and, if not, I suggest you do first, it is excellent and this book will provide a much richer reading experience if you have), it picks up three years on from the events of the previous book. Zac has not reappeared and Ella is trying, quite unsuccessfully, to make some kind of life for herself without him. Then a face from her past reappears and she realises that maybe fate has not finished with her yet and there is still a path to happiness available to her. At the same time. a new character appears to shake things up, and she has been waiting for Zac too.

As in the previous book, we are given flashbacks to other points in history that have influenced the place all the characters find themselves in in the present. It is hard to describe without giving away any spoilers, but the lives of the main characters are all intertwined, and their fates have been through the centuries. The author has obviously done her research, the scenes that occur have their basis in real events from history and her descriptions of them are rich in detail and sensation, bringing them to life on the page. If you come away from reading this book with the desire to do some more research into some of them, I will be surprised.

The base story of the series is a passionate love affair between two young people who are kept apart by powerful forces and circumstance beyond their control, but the strength of their love for one another keeps them fighting to reunite against the odds. These are the standard building blocks for many stories. What sets this series apart, aside from the quality of the writing which I will come to later, is the uniqueness and audacity of the particular plot machinations that keep this couple apart, and the complex themes that pepper the narrative to make the reader really think and question. This is so much more than just a love story.

The author has created a world that, firstly, uses an outlandish premise at its heart, and this was explored in detail in book one. This second book has taken that premise and elevated it to another level. It is very hard to go into in any detail without giving anything away but the author has taken some fundamental suppositions about the theories of good and evil, the way we perceive and understand them, the stories we have been told to explain their existence through time and completely turned them on their head. What is what we know is all untrue? What if the opposite were true and the lies had been spun as a means of maintaining power and control over people who threatened the status quo? Trying to work through the connotations of the story will make your head spin, but set your brain alight with thoughts and questions and have you racing through the pages to get more information.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this book is the way it explores feminist issues, the imbalance of power between the genders and the various ways that society has tried to suppress feminine power through the ages, and why. Lots of books have strong, female characters, but this one is quite strident and overt in its exploration of these issues, and has one of the best characters I have ever come across in young adult fiction to demonstrate this, and she isn’t the main character. She actually shows the main character up a little and makes you want to shake Ella and urge her to take control of her life and stop swaying in the winds of fate or doing what she thinks others or the universe expects. Actually, this is Ella’s real journey, I think, and I am interested to see what comes out of this in book three.

I know some of this is a little unclear, but it is very hard to describe the brilliance of this novel without giving away any spoilers. Let me just summarise. As well as having a cracking base story line of a doomed romance between two passionate people kept apart by monumental tribulations, this book is an exploration of some fascinating, historical events that demonstrate how the cause of female empowerment has been fought and opposed throughout the centuries, and how it still continues today. Having just watched the Jeffrey Epstein documentary at the same time as reading this, I have been left with a very unsettled feeling and a sense of wanting my daughters to understand their history and the difficulties they are still going to face in a world that has treated women as lesser than for centuries. There is also a fascinating subversion of our understanding of good and evil that plays into this, and the whole thing blends into an entertaining and complex novel that is one of the most intense and thought-provoking novels I have ever read. Cover this with the gloss of exquisite prose, and you are left with a book that is pure joy to read.

A quite stunning piece of work.

Son of Secrets is out now and you can buy a copy, here.  The first book in the Indigo Chronicles series, The Path Keeper, is available by following this link.

Please do check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour as well:

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About the Author

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N J Simmonds is the author of fantasy series The Indigo Chronicles – she also writes Manga comics and is one half of Caedis Knight. Her stories are magical, historical and full of complex women, page-turning twists and plenty of romance. Originally from London, she now lives with her family in the Netherlands.

Connect with the author:

Website: http://njsimmonds.com

Facebook: N J Simmonds Author

Twitter: @NJSimmondsTPK

Instagram: @njsimmonds_author

Desert Island Books: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams; Narrated by Stephen Fry

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It’s an ordinary Thursday lunchtime for Arthur Dent until his house gets demolished. The Earth follows shortly afterwards to make way for a new hyperspace express route, and his best friend has just announced that he’s an alien. At this moment, they’re hurtling through space with nothing but their towels and an innocuous-looking book inscribed, in large friendly letters, with the words: DON’T PANIC.

The weekend has only just begun . . .

Is there anyone who needs me to tell them why I would want to take Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a trilogy in five parts (Yes, I’m having all five books, I’ve got them in a version that is just one volume so it totally isn’t cheating) to my desert island with me? Presumably only someone who has never read it, because noone who has ever picked up these books could fail to fall in love with them.

Look, I know that science fiction isn’t a genre that appeals to everyone; indeed, I myself am not a huge reader of sci-fi, but these books are so, so much more than a simple sci-fi series. They are hilarious and clever and astute and a damning commentary on the ridiculousness of human beings and the futility of existence and a celebration of those very same things. There has never, in my opinion, been anything quite like it before or since and the phenomenal popularity of the series (they’ve been translated into more than 30 languages) bears witness to this. They were a no brainer as an addition to my Desert Island books.

The basic story follows the adventures of Arthur Dent, a rather boring man who is whisked away from Earth by his best friend, Ford Prefect,  moments before our planet is demolished by the Vogon constructor fleet to make way for a hyper-space bypass. It turns out Ford is not an out-of-work actor, as Arthur believed, but an alien from the plant Betelguise who is a field researcher for a kind of inter-planetary Lonely Planet handbook called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Arthur then accompanies Ford around the Universe, discovering all kinds of extraordinary things.

This sounds far from extraordinary, but the summary does not do justice to the wit and sharpness with which Adams imbues the text and the deft comedy and piercing observations that pepper the book. True fans absorb the comedic prose into their very beings and you will often find in-jokes from the books creeping in to all kinds of discussions and debates. A bunch of EU law experts were referencing the book (and in particular, the virtues, or lack thereof, of Vogon poetry) during a Twitter debate about Brexit last autumn and it made my soul sing. In fact, one of the category headings of my blog is a direct nod to the title of the third book in the series; this is how deeply the novel is woven in to my psyche.

I have recently inducted my fourteen-year-old daughter in to the joys of the book and was delighted to hear her laughing out loud during the same audio version I have just listened to. I must have been around the same age when I first discovered it, and I have been in love with the books ever since, and I will never get tired of them. They make me laugh, and their comedy fills me with joy. They are the perfect eternal companion on my desert island.

The audio version (of the reading of the book, not the original radio shows) is very well done. Stephen Fry is always a delight to listen to, although he is forever associated in my mind with Harry Potter now when I listen to him. I have only made it through the first audiobook so far, but I have The Restaurant at the End of the Universe ready to go and plan to get through them all again this year. These books make my heart happy, what more can I say?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Douglas Adams created all the various and contradictory manifestations of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: radio, novels, TV, computer game, stage adaptations, comic book and bath towel. He lectured and broadcast around the world and was a patron of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and Save the Rhino International. Douglas Adams was born in Cambridge, UK and lived with his wife and daughter in Islington, London, before moving to Santa Barbara, California, where he died suddenly in 2001. After Douglas died the movie of Hitchhiker moved out of development hell into the clear uplands of production, using much of Douglas’ original script and ideas. Douglas shares the writing credit for the movie with Karey Kirkpatrick.

FCBC Reading Challenge 2020: Neon Empire by Drew Minh #BookReview

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In a state-of-the-art city where social media drives every aspect of the economy, a has-been Hollywood director and an investigative journalist race to uncover the relationship between a rising tide of violence and corporate corruption.

Bold, colorful, and dangerously seductive, Eutopia is a new breed of hi-tech city. Rising out of the American desert, it’s a real-world manifestation of a social media network where fame-hungry desperados compete for likes and followers. But in Eutopia, the bloodier and more daring posts pay off the most. As crime rises, no one stands to gain more than Eutopia’s architects—and, of course, the shareholders who make the place possible.

This multiple-POV novel follows three characters as they navigate the city’s underworld. Cedric Travers, a has-been Hollywood director, comes to Eutopia looking for clues into his estranged wife’s disappearance. What he finds instead is a new career directing—not movies, but experiences. The star of the show: A’rore, the city’s icon and lead social media influencer. She’s panicking as her popularity wanes, and she’ll do anything do avoid obscurity. Sacha Villanova, a tech and culture reporter, is on assignment to profile A’rore—but as she digs into Eutopia’s inner workings, she unearths a tangle of corporate corruption that threatens to sacrifice Cedric, A’rore, and even the city itself on the altar of stockholder greed.

This is Book 6 for the 2020 Reading Challenge for my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club. The category was ‘A book which is a dystopian novel.’ The eagle-eyed amongst you will note that I have not reviewed book five in the challenge, ‘A book from my favourite genre.’ Unfortunately, the book I chose for this category was not to my tastes so, in line with my policy of not including negative reviews on the blog, I have decided I will not be reviewing it.

Neon Empire is a dystopian novel set in a not-too-distant future where the world’s increasing obsession with social media status has developed to the next level and a whole city has been constructed where popularity and social media influence are the sole currency and where flocks of people gather to pursue fame and fortune and hedonism. But the maintenance of status becomes all-consuming, and people’s desire to achieve or maintain their position drives them to further and further extremes and the corporations in control go to ever more desperate lengths to monetise experience to the last degree, regardless of the danger to human life. This all leads to a tautly-wound society that is only ever seconds away from violence and civil disobedience and it is only going to take one wrong move for the tinder-box to erupt.

The pace of the book is frenetic, and the story arc is spliced and jumbled and told by different voices and all angles, to reflect the fast, constantly-changing, crazy world of utopia, where things move and change from second to second and everyone is constantly reacting to changing stimuli and running to catch up. The world-building is detailed and evocative, in my mind Eutopia is a cross between Las Vegas on acid and Minority Report and, for some reason, a place where it is permanently night. Sometimes the text provides too much information to take in, and your brain is chasing the detail, unable to keep up, but again this is deliberate, to reflect the reality that the book presents, which makes for an exciting read, but it is not remotely relaxing!

This is an interesting exploration of where our society could go, given the trajectory we are on at the moment. Bearing in mind the scandals there have been with regard to data-mining and social media influencing of our decision-making in recent years, of how susceptible we all are to online marketing and rumour, how we know that the internet seems to predict our every move by monitoring our online interactions, the world portrayed here is no so far-fetched as to be unimaginable. It is not, however, a pretty or comfortable picture and should give us all pause for thought.

A future of online manipulation, superficiality and artifice is not a place I want to live, or for my children to grow up in. This book made me want to get out in the fresh air and touch something real.

Neon Empire is out now and you can buy a copy here.

 

#Blog Blitz: The Faerie Tree by Jane Cable #BookReview

The Faerie Tree

I’m very pleased to be taking part in this blog blitz for a book I have had sitting on my TBR since last summer when I bought a copy at the RNA Conference and the author was kind enough to sign it for me. It has finally reached the top of the pile and I am indebted to Rachel Gilbey for inviting me to take part in the blitz. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially. Make sure you check out the giveaway further down the post where you have the chance to win a copy of the book.

The Faerie Tree Cover

HOW CAN A MEMORY SO VIVID BE WRONG?

In the summer of 1986 Robin and Izzie hold hands under The Faerie Tree and wish for a future together. Within hours tragedy rips their dreams apart.

In the winter of 2006, each carrying their own burden of grief, they stumble back into each other’s lives and try to create a second chance. But why are their memories of 1986 so different? And which one of them is right?

I really did not know what to expect from this book, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be fantasy or magical realism, either of which I would have enjoyed, but it is neither. It is a surprising, powerful and emotional story of relationships, family, grief, loss and the way our minds react to trauma. I found the novel profoundly moving and was hooked from start to finish.

The author draws a trio of very strong and likeable characters in the novel, in Izzie and Robin, who tell the story in a dual narrative, and Izzie’s daughter, Claire, who is both an anchor and a catalyst in the tale. The story moves easily between Izzie and Robin’s recollection of events, and between current and historic happenings – it is incredibly well constructed. I thought the premise was fascinating and deftly explored, how reliable are our memories of events and how much does our psyche alter them to protect us from ordeals that we are not emotionally equipped to survive.

The Faerie Tree of the title is symbolic, and represents people’s hopes and dreams, a place where the protagonists come to reveal their innermost wishes, offload their concerns and voice their fears in the hope someone can hear them and help them process these desires. It then represents a place of blame and haunting, when those hopes and dreams are dashed and there is no one else to inculpate. It draws the focus of the family’s pain and becomes a way of them reaching out to it, and then each other, to share and understand and come together. I thought it was a really beautiful idea that was carried off without any mawkishness or sentimentality. The author explores the ideas of our connections to nature and spirituality through gratitude to the earth and its bounty, how this is important to some but misunderstood and ridiculed by others but, in the end, it is something that is likely to be fundamental to the survival of our species and our planet. Jane does this very cleverly and subtley, without any hint of preachiness, but I felt it through the narrative and it really resonated in present times.

The core of this story though, is love and relationships, how difficult they can be when people can’t make themselves understood by one another, or really understand themselves. In the end, success really comes down to openness, open-mindedness, trust and commitment. It feels to me a very true and very resonating story, and it left me warmed and thoughtful. It also contained some gorgeous pieces of description.

I really loved this book and I hope it finds its way to a large audience because it is a thoughtful, insightful and rewarding piece of work.

The Faerie Tree is out now and you can get a copy here.

Giveaway

If you would like to win paperback copies of The Faerie Tree and Jane’s first book, The Cheesemaker’s House, enter the giveaway by clicking on the Rafflecopter link below:

Rafflecopter

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  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.

Please make sure you follow the rest of the tour:

The Faerie Tree Full Tour Banner

About the Author

The Faerie Tree - Jane Cable 2019

Jane Cable writes romantic fiction with the over-riding theme that the past is never dead. She published her first two books independently (the multi award winning The Cheesemaker’s House and The Faerie Tree) and is now signed by Sapere Books. Two years ago she moved to Cornwall to concentrate on her writing full time, but struggles a little in such a beautiful location. Luckily she’s discovered the joys of the plot walk.

Connect with Jane:

Website: http://janecable.com

Facebook: Jane Cable

Twitter: @JaneCable

The Sapphire Society by L. C. Sarll #GuestPost (@c_sarll) @matadorbooks #TheSapphireSociety

9781838592325

A forgotten necklace… A far-off land… A fantasy she never imagined…

Savannah Wood doesn’t just think she’s an ordinary twelve-year-old, she knows she is. Eager to leave the bullies that have made her life unbearable, she jumps at the chance when her father suddenly announces they’re moving to the Faroe Islands for his new job. Savannah is ready to find new adventures – especially ones that can link her to her ancestry. Her grandmother was Faroese, and when in the move Savannah’s mother unearths a sapphire necklace that belonged to her, Savannah is drawn to it, little realising that this gem will change her life forever.

For there are dark secrets hiding beneath the waters surrounding her new home. Deep in the fjords exists the Hellson, an underwater volcano ruled over by Ragnar, a merciless Viking with a craving for power. With only a secret force called The Sapphire Society to stand in his way, Ragnar will stop at nothing to claim the islands and its inhabitants for his own. Told that her grandmother was an accomplished member, Savannah throws herself into the society, nurturing her own talents and making new friends. But when the Hellson threatens to erupt and Ragnar’s army strikes, Savannah must call on all her courage to stand up to her nightmares and face the threat head-on for the sake of the island – and the entire world.

When I was approached by Sophie Morgan at Troubador to see if I was interested in reviewing The Sapphire Society by L. C. Sarll, I was disappointed that I was unable to fit in a reading of this book at present, as the blurb really appealed to me. So I am delighted to bring you instead a guest post by the author, to whet your appetite and mine, for a future reading of the book.

Author Interview with L. C. Sarll

What inspired you to write this book?

The Sapphire Society was inspired by two lovely ladies; my daughter and my grandmother.

Why did you decide to set the book on the Faroe Islands?

The Faroe Islands are where my Grandmother was born. The magical stories she told me as a child are so inspirational; I felt duty bound to try and pass snippets on, albeit in my own way.

What did you learn when writing the book?

Perseverance.

What do you hope readers will take away from this story?

The world is a magical place; we need only see when we look.

What book from your childhood has shaped you most as a writer?

The Borrowers by Mary Norton. It changed the way I saw my own surroundings and appreciate the little things.

Are there any future books for you?

Yes! The Sapphire Society is the first of a four-book set sequence. ‘The Mother of the Sea’ will continue Savannah’s journey as she finds dark challenges ahead.

Thank you for answering my questions, I look forward to reading the book in the near future.

The Sapphire Society is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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L C Sarll is  passionate about children’s literature. ‘The Sapphire Society’ is her debut middle grade fiction, to be released in February 2020. Visit the mysterious Faroe Islands for a dash of magic, friendship and a fight for the world.

Connect with L. C. Sarll:

Website: http://www.lcsarll.co.uk

Twitter: @c_sarll