Wednesday 30 November 2016

Blog-Tour: Winter Halo by Keri Arthur

Today is my turn on the Blog-Tour for Winter Halo by Keri Arthur. It is the second book in the Outcast series. (The first is City of Light). Enjoy the fantastic Q&A with Keri Arthur and my review!
About the author
Keri Arthur is the New York Times bestselling author of the Outcast series, including City of Light, as well as the Souls of Fire, Dark Angels, and Riley Jenson Guardian series. She has written more than thirty books and has been nominated in the Best Contemporary Paranormal category of the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Awards and has won a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for urban fantasy.

About the book
From the New York Times bestselling author of the Souls of Fire novels comes the second in the futuristic fantasy series that will make you want to keep the lights on... When the bombs that stopped the species war tore holes in the veil between worlds, they allowed entry to the Others. Now, a hundred years later, humans and shifters alike live in artificially lit cities designed to keep the darkness at bay.... The humanoid supersoldiers known as the déchet were almost eradicated by the war. Ever since, Tiger has tried to live her life in peace in hiding. But in the wake of her discovery that Central City’s children are being kidnapped and experimented on, Tiger’s conscience won’t let her look the other way. The key to saving them lies within the walls of a pharmaceutical company called Winter Halo. But as she learns more about the facility, Tiger’s mission is derailed by a complication: Winter Halo’s female security guards are being systematically attacked by an unknown force.  Now Tiger must summon all her gifts to stop those responsible for both atrocities—no matter the cost to herself.

Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call 'Breaking the Ice.' (readers love to get to know all about their favourite authors)
The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms want to know)
Anne Gracie’s The Summer Bride. I waited so long for Daisy’s story, and I loved it!

The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, name it)
I recently watched Spectre on Blu-ray, and was ever so glad I missed it at the movies! I couldn’t believe how bland/blah it was. I’m a huge James Bond fan, but in this, Daniel Craig wasn’t even trying.

Are you more of a Game of Thrones or Outlander, a movie night or sitcom kind of  gal? (Combinations are possible)
I haven’t watched either Game of Thrones or Outlander, and have no intentions of ever watching the former. I do, however, love Westworld. I’m also a huge lifestyle program fan (mostly British--Great British Bake-off, Escape to the Country, Location Location, etc). I also love the Aussie versions of those shows.

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet?
I’d love to have met Dick Francis, because he is one of my all time favourite authors. And for one out of left field, I would love to have met John Constable, and have him teach me how to paint just like him.

Something you treat yourself to, now and again? (Cream éclairs, doughnuts and chocolate totally count)
Shoes. Totally shoes. I have something of a fetish for them  :D

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk about Winter Halo.

I really enjoyed the mixture of genres in Winter Halo, a dystopian tale with sci-fi elements and a portion of urban fantasy. Was mixing the genres something you set out to do or did the ideas evolve as you were writing?
I’ve never been a planner when it comes to my writing. I usually set out with a vague idea and the story and setting develop from there. That’s what I love about writing--the discovery of where it’s going!

Was it your intention to get both the readers and even the characters to question the humanity of the genetically modified dechets or to be more specific questioning Tiger's humanity?
That developed as the story developed. In truth, what does make us human? Is it as simple as the nature of our birth? Is it higher brain capacity, the ability to think and feel? Or is it something more indefinable? Why are we considered human, and yet the great apes, who share something like 98% of our DNA, are not? I’m not sure The Outcast Series answers these questions, but I’d like to think it at least gets those who read it thinking about things like acceptance and tolerance. We really need a lot more people thinking about those in the current clime.

Staying with that line of questioning, Tiger was created with a specific purpose in mind, and although she acts as programmed she is also capable of acting independently. Is her initial programming the reason why she was engineered the reason some characters don't trust her or is it because she doesn't conform to their preconceived ideas of the dechet?
Most humans and shifters only ever had contact with the soldier dechets. Very few people outside the Humanoid Development Program ever knew about the existence of dechets such as Tiger, who was developed as a lure--a seductress designed to infiltrate shifter encampments and steal battle information. The other characters views are tainted by their experiences with the soldiers; they’re having to battle ingrained beliefs about what dechets are with the reality Tiger presents to them.

Tiger carries around an extreme amount of guilt about the ghosts (children). She seems to blame herself for their deaths. Is that why she is willing to go the extra mile to try and save the living children?
Yes. She’d been assigned as the children’s guardian while waiting reassignment, and she believes she failed in that duty, even though she almost died trying to save them. It’s that guilt that drives her to save Penny and Jonas, and keeps her involved in not only the quest to find the rest of the missing children, but to stop those who want to give the vampires and wraiths light immunity.

Tiger and her relationship to sex is quite an intriguing aspect of the story. Tiger uses sex to obtain information and achieve her goals. Her relationship with it is very calculated. Will we see her experience sex in a different way when and if she finally does have intercourse because she wants to and not because she has to?
I really can’t answer this question, because it would step into spoiler territory!

Will we be seeing/reading more about Tiger? If the answer is yes (hopefully) will it be soon (no pressure *laugh*)?
I’ve planned the Outcast Series as three books, so yes, there will be more of Tiger after Winter Halo. The third book is tentatively called The Black Tide, but I’m not sure when it’ll be out yet. Hopefully by the end of 2017 or beginning of 2018.

Thank you for answering all of my questions, especially the odd ones!
You’re welcome--and the odd ones were fun!

Despite being a successful award winning author I don't believe Keri Arthur really gets the recognition or attention she deserves for her writing. Regardless of the genre, sub-genre or the topic, Arthur always gives her readers a run for their money.

Winter Halo, which is the second book in the Outcast series, is a perfect example of her ability to flow seamlessly from one genre to the other within the same story. It's a dystopian extravaganza with sci-fi elements and an urban fantasy flair.

It is set in a world of genetically enhanced soldiers, shifters, ghosts, vampires and perhaps a few humans. Tiger is determined to save a small group of children, who have been kidnapped with the intent of committing unimaginable atrocities.

Watch this space for the Tiger and Jonas saga, because it is definitely coming. The sexual tension between the two of them is like a volcano set to erupt. No pun intended. Okay that's a lie it's totally intended. Jonas can't help but be drawn to the feisty dechet, perhaps because she is the complete opposite of what he thinks she should be like.

Instead of hard cold reasoning there is a strong compassionate vein, and her ability to communicate with ghosts makes her seem more humane instead of like the genetically enhanced soldier she actually is.

One of the more fascinating aspects of Tiger is the way she compartmentalizes her actions, emotions and choices. Her sexual activities are sorted into boxes labelled 'a means to an end.' All business all the time. Maybe it is time she did it for herself and for the pleasure instead.

I am looking forward to the third part in this series, especially a possible Tiger and Jonas relationship. Winter Halo is an action driven read with creative ideas, intricate world-building and plenty of potential for further development.

It was, as always with a Keri Arthur book, a read I would recommend.

Buy Winter Halo at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Readers from the US and Canada ONLY also have the fantastic opportunity to take part in a giveaway for City of Light and Winter Halo by Keri Arthur by retweeting the giveaway on Twitter. Or just comment below. (Winner will be notified at the end of the tour) Good Luck!

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson

I don't really have the time to read many children's books anymore, however I  will always gladly make an exception for Wilson.

I think any author who can inspire children to pick up a book and read is worth their weight in gold. Jacqueline Wilson was a favourite of one of my daughters when she was younger. She is a voracious reader and she would literally consume the Wilson books.

Clover looks for consolation with the local odd guy. The doll-maker understands they way Clover often needs a place to hide away from the real world. He also sees her natural talent for the finer artistic detail when she helps to paint the dolls.

Clover doesn't get on with her stepmother and is often the recipient of brutal beatings courtesy of the woman who is supposed to be a mother to her. She often takes the brunt and the blame of things her siblings have done, because as the eldest she feels she has to protect them. Her life is difficult at the best of times, but a personal tragedy rocks her world and changes everything for Clover. She makes a decision which will have repercussions for both herself and the rest of her family.

Wilson is popular because she writes characters and situations her young readers can relate to. Fans of Wilson will be happy to hear that Hetty puts in an appearance, albeit a short one. Clover Moon gives us a glimpse of the harsh reality the little girl lives in and her attempt to change her destiny.
Buy Clover Moon at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Monday 28 November 2016

Starting today! Blog-Tour for Winter Halo by Keri Arthur

I am super excited to be part of the Blog-Tour for Winter Halo by Keri Arthur. It is the second book in the Outcast series. On the 30th I will be featuring a fantastic Q&A by Keri Arthur and my review of Winter Halo.

Hope to see you here on the 30th of November for my review of Winter Halo!

Buy Winter Halo at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Thursday 24 November 2016

Dear Charlie by N.D. Gomes

There are plenty of fictional approaches to school shootings and massacres, and quite a few of them are really good.What makes Dear Charlie an interesting read is the fact it is written from a different perspective. Instead of the voice of the victims or the survivors, it's the voice of the killer's family.

In general they tend to be absolutely slated and portrayed in an overwhelmingly negative light by the media, the world and the people around them. In the majority of cases they are just as shocked by the actions of their children, siblings, grandchildren or family members, as every other person. Tragically they are also often the first victims in these kind of situations.

Sam has gone from being the younger brother of the artistic and supposedly happy Charlie, to the brother of a killer. His mother and father are now the parents of a killer. People look to them for answers and they also blame all three of them.

Pair those emotions, projected on them by others, with their own feelings of guilt, inadequacy and shame, and it's no wonder they all begin to fall apart. To top it all off both Sam and his mother have to contend with the reactions of the people they interact with on a daily basis. Sam suffers terribly at the hands of his cruel peers.

In a way you can almost see how someone could be pushed to breaking point, although it does take a specific combination of events, triggers, characteristics and perhaps even mental health issues for a mass-killer to emerge and act upon their dark fantasies.

I enjoyed the way Gomes shows the disintegration and isolation of the family unit, the difficulty Sam experiences and his search for answers, all in equal measure. The reader experiences the confusion and the constant question of why, and of course the realisation that sometimes you don't get the answers you need or want.

It was almost a perfect read except for a slight deviation into an en vogue YA narrative towards the end. Up to that point Gomes keeps it brutally realistic and void of any superfluous information, scenes and emotions. It is a really good read.

Buy Dear Charlie at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sunday 20 November 2016

You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris

I remember reading Antoine's Facebook status and thinking how right he was, and how poignant his words were in the aftermath of the Paris attacks on the 13th of November 2015.

More so than those of any politician, religious leader, bystander or any other person personally affected by the atrocities.

I knew I would find it an emotional read. Antoine Leiris writes as he feels and experiences. His words and descriptions are focused solely on his son and himself.

In the aftermath, and during such attacks, the focus tends to be on the who, the why and the how. How many are dead? How exactly did they die? Who took their lives and why? Leiris doesn't do that at all. Instead we get the reality of loved ones learning to deal with the absence the death has created. The normality of having to cook, go to sleep, return to work and of having to live without the person they loved.
Antoine & Melvil

The read was accompanied by tears, which wasn't a surprise, as I said I knew it would be an emotional read. I was surprised by what made me cry though. It wasn't when Antoine was finally reunited with his wife after two days or the funeral. It was the baby food pots.

The compassion of the parents in the nursery school, and the way he accepts their need to help. Their need supersedes his own and that of his child.

It's a strange thing grief, especially in the case of mass tragedy. It often becomes about the bystanders and those on the periphery, as opposed to those who are actually involved in the incidents. It's almost as if you and I need to feel and work through the emotional distress,because the stark reality of the event is so frightening. Subconsciously we are glad it wasn't us, but simultaneously we feel ashamed and guilty for those thoughts. The guilt is appeased via compassionate words, gestures and actions.

Hence the cards, letters, the baby pots, food and messages he receives. Antoine describes this process really well without actually coming out and saying it. Even within these pages he is still careful of taking away from others. He isn't necessarily braver than anyone else, he perhaps just has better insight into what everyone else needs in this awful situation. Hopefully he can learn to put his own needs and those of Melvil first.

The book is a lovely testament to his wife Hélène, his son Melvil and himself. A fresh breath of humanity embedded in a whirlwind of grief and loss. A short yet very poignant read.

Hélène & Melvil

Buy You Will Not Have My Hate at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

All Fall Down by Tom Bale

Rob isn't exactly the type of character who elicits sympathy or empathy. He seems to have too many secrets and dodgy deals going on in the background.

A seemingly random act of violence throws the family into a quagmire of danger, and Rob into a tailspin of panic and guilt. What does he know that he isn't telling anyone? Will his silence put his family into the kind of dangerous situation you can't emerge unscathed from?

What Bale does try to examine, is the question of nature vs nurture when it comes to the propensity to violence. Can trauma, fear or an extreme situation make someone cross boundaries other people wouldn't or is it simply a question of DNA? Does abuse and violence rewire our brains and teach us coping mechanisms or rather a lack of impulse control?

From a technical standpoint Bale delivers, however the read just didn't do it for me. I found it slightly disjointed and the characters didn't evoke any interest. Now that might just be his personal style, a slightly abstract looking inwards from the outside type of style. Personally I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on the girl, her actions and the why. More explanation of the why of the group and their agenda perhaps.

Bale has some interesting ideas, albeit it slightly disturbing ones, and he makes the reader question certain things. He insists that we look beyond the facade of normality and our presumptions.

Buy All Fall Down at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

This review is based on the sneak peek of The Girl Before.

Well I have to hand it to Delaney, the story is somewhere between intriguing, disturbing and 'don't go into the basement there is creepy music playing in the background' kind of gut instinct evoking.

It's interesting to watch both Jane and Emma decide to shelve all their gut reactions and the warning signs, just because the house is a perfect example of 21st century futuristic design.

Personally it would be a no no for me. The intrusive questionnaire is just way too revealing and the really odd rules are huge red flags. On top of that I don't think the mega minimalistic approach to living would be my cup of tea.

Imagine if right here and right now you had to make a list of the most important items to take with you, and you have to leave everything else behind. Then imagine living a life restricted by rules, such as no mess, clutter, accessories or random objects. The deal would have been null and void as soon as I read the 'no books' rule. Now that is just cruel.

It is suitably eerie and Delaney reels the reader in with the unusual premise and the promise of even stranger things to come. I can't wait to read what happens next.

Pre-order/Buy The Girl Before at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sunday 13 November 2016

The Devil's Work by Mark Edwards

If there is anything to take away from this story then it is definitely to trust your gut instinct. If it walks and talks like a duck then chances are it probably is a duck. Or in this case perhaps just a manipulative and ambitious colleague.

Sophie should have left the past where it was, despite the fabulous career prospects. Sometimes you should just leave dirty little secrets hidden instead of handing someone a shovel to dig them up.

Make no mistake Sophie seems to have plenty of sordid little mistakes and secrets she would rather forget and keep to herself. Unfortunately not everyone feels the same way, and a twisted game of cat and mouse ensues.

I must admit I was more than a little annoyed during the scene with Sophie's child. The way everyone treated her like some escaped lunatic. Her reaction wasn't odd considering the circumstances.

But then that tends to be Sophie's problem overall, the way people are very eager to accept failure on her part and assume the worst. It takes her a while to start to question everything and also herself.

Edwards does a really good job of making the reader question the whole scenario and even the main character. Red herrings galore and buried secrets are his thing.

Buy The Devil's Work at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Saturday 12 November 2016

An Almond For a Parrot by Wray Delaney

I adored the way Delaney mixed an aura of Victorian era with a hint of modern. For me it definitely had shades of Fanny Hill and Moll Flanders, and to be fair the author does give the books a nudge, wink and its dues.

How to give you an idea of what this book is like? Imagine the aura and setting of an old book mixed with themes of urban fantasy, magic, ghosts and necromancy with an 19th century setting.

The story starts with our main character sat in jail reflecting upon the past and the choices that have led to her facing the noose. The reader is then invited to follow Tully Truegood, as she is taught to control the passion within her.

She is taught the art of pleasure and how to pleasure others, which unfortunately also means heartbreak and disappointment. In her profession it can also mean violence and having to endure or watch violations and intimate betrayals.

Subtly interwoven into the story is a fascinating element of necromancy and ghostly magic. Tully can see the sins of the past, the horrors that haunt us and the mistakes everyone keeps very well hidden. It's a talent and also a curse.

Delaney also writes with the eloquence of a writer of the 19th century. Her writing goes down like hot chocolate on a cold day. It's simply a pleasure to read.

Hopefully this was the first of many for Delaney. I know I will be both recommending this book and looking forward to the next.

Buy An Almond For a Parrot at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Saturday 5 November 2016

The Spy by Paulo Coelho

I think this is definitely a story worth telling. Mata Hari has been given quite a bad rap. Convicted and executed based on lies and circumstantial evidence.

You know what they say, if you repeat something often enough eventually it becomes the truth. The myth of Mata Hari is ten times bigger than the actual boring and yet also sordid truth.

The truth is she became a pawn in a political game during WW1. She was the means to an end to make sure a certain high profile individual person could remain relevant and in a position of power. The only positive aspect of this tale of betrayal is that he got his dues soon after her death.

Coelho writes from her perspective and alsp from that of her lawyer. Their voices make the reader feel as if they are listening to them tell their story in a personal one-on-one setting.

What emerges is the tragedy of a young girl who was abused at an early age and who fled into the arms of an abusive husband. Then in the strict confines of a colonial lifestyle she lives through the murder of her child and subsequently the loss of her surviving child via a custody battle.

It really is no wonder she ends up embarking on a path of self-destructive behaviour. She equates attention and sex with love, because she has never experienced anything else. Reinventing her whole persona was a way of escaping the mundane, the pain and the stark reality of her life.

Coelho readily admits to changing the chronological order of quite a few events to suit the narrative. Some of those events, for instance the birth order of her children, made little sense but hey ho artistic license and all that.

Again, it's time the great myth of the seductress and manipulative spy was dispelled. Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (Mata Hari) or Griet was a victim of circumstance and of the men who chose to use her as an object and a political tool.

After reading this I feel pity for her and also angered by the way the myth is still alive and well after all these years, but then perhaps Mata Hari would have preferred the mythical image. Margaretha perhaps not so much. She would probably have chosen not to be shot at dawn by a firing squad.

Buy The Spy at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Mata Hari

Friday 4 November 2016

Curse on the Land by Faith Hunter

I've read and enjoyed Hunter's Jane Yellowrock series, and liked her ideas and writing style.

In the Soulwood series Hunter goes above and beyond when it comes to the intricate world-building and plot-weaving. It is anything other than a light and fluffy urban fantasy.

As a main character Nell is quite unusual. Growing up in a polygamist cult church and married off as a young girl to one of the elders, I'd say that is a very unusual background indeed.

Even more fascinating is the fact Nell and some of her siblings aren't human and have no idea what they are. She is inexplicably drawn to the land, as is the land to her. Her blood seems to feed the soil that surrounds her.

The team tasked with solving supernatural events has accepted Nell into the inner sanctum, but she remains wary and uncertain of the their individual motives. Saying that, there are members of the team who have developed more than a passing interest in Nell, something she is unprepared for and yet enjoys it at the same time.

It is a fast-paced story with an intriguing premise and plenty of opportunity for further development. I enjoyed the sheer depth of this read and will be following the series with great interest.

Buy Curse on the Land at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.