‘Are Snakes Necessary?’ by Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman.

A huge thanks to @TitanBooks and @HardCaseCrime for sending me a copy to read and chat about. For those that don’t know who Brian De Palma is, he’s the world-famous director of more than 30 films! These include ‘Carrie’, ‘Scarface’, ‘The Untouchables’ and the original ‘Mission: Impossible.’ He is considered to be one of the most accomplished filmmakers of the last fifty-years, a peer to Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese.

Susan Lehman is a former editor of the New York Times and author whose writing has appeared in the Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, The New Yorker, and Spy magazine. An attorney by training, she also served as communications director at the Brennan Center for Justice.

‘Are Snakes Necessary?’ is their first novel.

Hard Case Crime ‘brings you the best in hard-boiled crime fiction, from lost pulp classics to new work by today’s most powerful writers.’

The Blurb

When the beautiful young videographer offered to join his campaign, Senator Lee Rogers should’ve known better. But saying no would have taken a stronger man than Rogers, with his ailing wife and his robust libido. Enter Barton Brock, the senator’s fixer. He’s already gotten rid of one troublesome young woman – how hard could this new one turn out to be?

Pursued from Washington D.C. to the streets of Paris, 18 year-old Fanny Cours knows her reputation and budding career are on the line. But what she doesn’t realise is that her life might be as well…

My thoughts

I was genuinely excited to receive a copy of ‘Are Snakes Necessary?’, particularly with a recommendation from Martin Scorsese on the cover (lots of Scorsese fans in my house). We’re a film watching household, and my daughter is studying film for A’Level, so there’s lots of talk of directors, and in particular auteurs. This made a new Hard Case Crime read co-written by Brian De Palma something to look forward to.

Firstly, I read a lot, so I had to adjust myself to the narrative style of this book – it’s very tell and not show. This inevitably leads to surface level characterisations, or types. It that sense, I often felt the book was a little like a ‘pitch’ at times. The characters are introduced, justified and then pulled along as plot devices, rather than being developed. They have ‘through-lines’ but they all seems subservient to the action and plot structure. But with the style of this book, it seems to work.

I found it generally fun, and like the sub-plots feeding the main narrative; the link to Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ (and other film references) was great, and really was full on towards the end. It absolutely reads like a film, I did find it a little unbalanced at times, and much preferred the last 40% of the story – but it is really readable.

It’s a thriller; a dark comedy; a cynicism of human nature, with an intense murder plot orchestrated by a cast of Film Noir-fed caricatures. I think it’s a fitting addition to the Hard Case Crime collection.

‘Bloodshot’ – the official movie novelisation by Gavin Smith, published by Titan Books.

BEING A HERO IS IN HIS BLOOD.

After he and his wife are murdered, Marine Ray Garrison is resurrected by a secret team of scientists. Enhanced with nanotechnology, he becomes a superhuman, biotech killing machine – “Bloodshot” – without any memory of his previous life.

But some things can’t stay buried, and Ray refuses to back down when his memories begin to surface. Haunted by the face of his family’s killer, he will stop at nothing to take his revenge. And discovers a conspiracy going deeper than he could have possibly imagined…

My thoughts…

I love watching movies, not as much as I love reading, but it’s a favourite pastime, so when Titan Books released a movie novelisation for Bloodshot, I was intrigued. I do enjoy an action film, evident from the fact I’ve recently bought a John McClane Funko Pop for the top of our Christmas Tree – lol! I also loved the 1980s Cult Sci-fi film ‘Robocop’, and the premise of this movie seemed similar, on the surface. However, there’s more of a sinister depth to the technology that resurrects Bloodshot.

This novel is exactly as you expect it to be, pretty much non-stop action, battles, conflict, bloodshed, trauma and surface level relationships. It’s a short read and I enjoyed it, it certainly plays like a movie in your head as you turn the pages. The ‘hero’ is a fascinating construct, and whose embedded nanotechnology enables him to reconstruct himself in battle (watch the trailer for how dramatic this is). The other biotech soldiers are creative and perfect for this kind of action fest! One of them is played by Outlander’s Sam Heughan, so a bit of eye-candy for the ladies! (But sadly his character is nothing like Jamie Fraser) I think this was a really well-written movie novelisation, there’s enough depth to satisfy readers, and to add detail to the watching of the movie. There’s also a bonus short story at the end called ‘Into the Fire’ and features one of Bloodshot’s female characters.

A high octane read, that drives you through the pages into the deadly and dramatic climax – it’s certainly entertaining and recommended for those who enjoy action movies and of course the original comic book character.

The Movie

This book is from the hotly anticipated action movie, Bloodshot, based on the bestselling Valiant comic series and starring Vin Diesel, Guy Pearce, Sam Heughan, and Eiza Gonzalez, and directed by Dave Wilson.

Sony Pictures’ Bloodshot is scheduled to rollout worldwide beginning February 2020 and is scheduled to hit North American cinemas on March 13, 2020. Based on the bestselling comic book, the film stars Vin Diesel as Ray Garrison, a soldier recently killed in action and brought back to life as the superhero Bloodshot by the RST corporation. With an army of nanotechnology in his veins, he’s an unstoppable force – stronger than ever and able to heal instantly. But in controlling his body, the company has sway over his mind and memories, too. Now, Ray doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not – but he’s on a mission to find out.

Trailer link above

Guest Post for ‘The Golden Key’ by Marian Womack @titanbooks – WELCOME!

I’m really happy to be hosting a ‘Guest Post’ today from Marian Womack, author of the fabulous ‘The Golden Key‘ and published by one of my favourite publishing houses, Titan Books, on 18th February 2020. Marian Womack is writing about the real life inspirations behind the characters in her novel – scroll down to read.

The book blurb:

After the death of Queen Victoria, England heaves with the uncanny. Séances are held and the dead are called upon from darker realms.
Helena Walton-Cisneros, known for her ability to find the lost and the displaced, is hired by the elusive Lady Matthews to solve a twenty-year-old mystery: the disappearance of her three stepdaughters who vanished without a trace on the Norfolk Fens.

But the Fens are an age-old land, where folk tales and dark magic still linger. The locals speak of devilmen and catatonic children are found on the Broads. Here, Helena finds what she was sent for, as the Fenland always gives up its secrets, in the end…

GUEST POST

The Golden Key – Real Life Inspirations

by Marian Womack

My new novel, The Golden Key, is a work of fiction. Its protagonist, the detective Helena Walton-Cisneros, came to me gradually, over the course of many years. I wanted to explore a world in which things are not what they seem, in which women are forced to perform a role in society, at times hiding their real abilities. I soon realized that, in order to make this world more plausible, it would help if I populated it with real-life people and events. Luckily, my research for the novel helped a lot, as it uncovered many interesting people and events that spoke so much of the epoch, of the trials women feared and the tribulations they faced, that it was no problem to pick a few and include them in the book. These real-life inspirations, both people and places, include the following:

George MacDonald: I have always loved fairy-tales. The first short stories that I ever wrote were fairy-tale retellings, as dark and strange and unnerving as I could manage. I have a large collection of fairy-tale books from around the world, covering many cultures and epochs. I am not an expert, though, and my knowledge of the vast Victorian fairy-tale corpus was patchy, composed of what had found its way to my hands via second hand bookshops. I was introduced to George MacDonald’s work as an adult, and it shook my entire conception of what “a story in the fairy-fashion” should be. I became obsessed with MacDonald. He seemed to speak to my deeper concerns as a writer: the unavoidable sense of indeterminacy of his tales, of porous borders surrounding us, between the real and the unreal. I think it is fair to call MacDonald a true weird-fiction fairy-tale writer. His world found its way into my novel, partly because I could not write about worlds that mixed together without recognising a huge debt to him.

Peter Henry Emerson: I thought I had seen Norfolk, I thought that I knew Norfolk. Then I was introduced to the work of the early photographer, Peter Henry Emerson. The eeriness of his Norfolk images helped redefine the “feeling” of the entire novel. Here was a pictorial representation of everything I had felt about the place since I first set foot on it in 2002-2003: a haunting, ghostly feeling about the Fens and the Broads; a sense of more things, hidden, happening beyond the frames of the pictures. Even in his more “normal” rural scenes, one has the sense of looking upon another realm, a sort of parallel world. True, he did not own a camera until 1881, so it is a stretch to think that he might have photographed the hunting weekend for the Matthews family, but a writer has to imagine, after all, and my active imagination placed him firmly in the middle of the events.

Eunice Foote: Foote is perhaps the most important real character mentioned in the novel. An American physicist, she was the first person to establish a connection between the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and what we now identify as climate change. However, she has been swallowed by history, and now it is John Tyndall whom everyone associates with this scientific discovery.

https://titanbooks.com/

Blog Tour: ‘Death Deserved’ by Jorn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger (translated by Anne Bruce)

Huge thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for the blog tour invite!

Police officer Alexander Blix and celebrity blogger Emma Ramm join forces to track down a serial killer with a thirst for attention and high profile murders, in the first episode of a gripping new Nordic Noir series…

The Book Blurb

Oslo, 2018. Former long-distance runner Sonja Nordstrøm never shows at
the launch of her controversial autobiography, Always Number One. When
celebrity blogger Emma Ramm visits Nordstrøm’s home later that day, she
finds the door unlocked and signs of a struggle inside. A bib with the
number ‘one’ has been pinned to the TV.
Police officer Alexander Blix is appointed to head up the missing-persons
investigation, but he still bears the emotional scars of a hostage situation
nineteen years earlier, when he killed the father of a five-year-old girl.
Traces of Nordstrøm soon show up at different locations, but the
appearance of the clues appear to be carefully calculated … evidence of a
bigger picture that he’s just not seeing…
Blix and Ramm soon join forces, determined to find and stop a merciless
killer with a flare for the dramatic, and thirst for attention.
Trouble is, he’s just got his first taste of it…

My thoughts…

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Death Deserved’, the first book in the Blix and Ramm crime series, and steeped in Nordic Noir. I’ve read a few books recently that link the blogging world into the crime genre, but this brings something fresh to the table. It’s smart, intricately plotted and boosted by several moments of high tension. I really liked the characters of both Blix and Ramm, and look forward to reading more of the series. Both characters have vulnerabilities that create some fascinating depth and their developing relationship is unusual, so I’m curious to see where this may lead.

The serial killer in this book certainly has a flair for the dramatic, which is great for us readers! I loved trailing the crime scenes and attempting to work out who was behind it all. A challenging puzzle!

All in all, this book’s great. I didn’t want to put it down and would highly recommend it to crime novel fans. It’s smart, expertly paced, fuelled by tension and blooming fun to read!

Highly recommended.

The Authors

Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger are the internationally bestselling
Norwegian authors of the William Wisting and Henning Juul series
respectively.

Jorn Lier Horst

Jørn Lier Horst first rose to literary fame with his No. 1
internationally bestselling William Wisting series. A former investigator in
the Norwegian police, Horst imbues all his works with an unparalleled
realism and suspense.

Thonas Enger

Thomas Enger is the journalist-turned-author behind
the internationally acclaimed and bestselling Henning Juul series. Enger’s
trademark has become a darkly gritty voice paired with key social
messages and tight plotting. Besides writing fiction for both adults and
young adults, Enger also works as a music composer. Death Deserved is
Jørn Lier Horst & Thomas Enger’s first co-written thriller.

PUBLISHED BY ORENDA BOOKS http://orendabooks.co.uk/

Blog Tour: ‘The Aosawa Murders’ by Riku Onda

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for the blog tour invite, and the publishers Bitter Lemon Press. This novel has been translated from the Japanese by Alison Watts. ‘The Aosawa Murders’ won the 59th Mystery Writers of Japan Award for best novel.

Blurb:

On a stormy summer day in the 1970s the Aosawas, owners of a prominent local hospital, host a large birthday party in their villa on the Sea of Japan. The occasion turns into tragedy when 17 people die from cyanide in their drinks. The only surviving links to what might have happened are a cryptic verse that could be the killer’s, and the physician’s bewitching blind daughter, Hisako, the only family member spared death. The youth who emerges as the prime suspect commits suicide that October, effectively sealing his guilt while consigning his motives to mystery.

Inspector Teru is convinced that Hisako had a role in the crime, as are many in the town, including the author of a bestselling book about the murders written a decade after the incident. The truth is revealed through a skilful juggling of testimony by different voices: family members, witnesses and neighbours, police investigators and of course the mesmerising Hisako herself.

My thoughts…

This is a steadily paced read that draws you in by beautifully directed prose and takes you through a journey of questions and puzzles to the final pages. Through the accounts of an author, an assistant, a housekeeper’s daughter, a detective, an elder brother, a young master, a tobacconist’s grandson, an editor, a friend and some other snippets of prose, poetry, diaries and file extracts – we are introduced to a horrific mass murder during an aggressive deluge of rain at a birthday party on the Sea of Japan and its sombre aftermath.

Each narrative voice opens up more information and pulls the reader into the complexities of the event and the psychologies of everyone involved. The delicacies and nuances in the writing are lovely, despite the pain and brutality of the deaths in the umbrella arc of the story.

What I really enjoyed is the distance some of our narrators have from the actual event, for example, the housekeeper’s daughter is recalling events via her mother, who was at the party and one of the only survivors. Another is the young master observing a man who holds his interest and keeps drawing his attention, and who we find is wrapped up in the shocking events. I do enjoy novels that offer varying perspectives on a single event, and this novel is a joy in how the reveals are constructed.

I think this book would suit readers who enjoy unusual mysteries. The final conclusions I found were ambiguous and there are gaps in the story when you read the closing lines, but I feel this book is more about the people affected by the shocking crime; I found more fascination from their viewpoints than in the hunt for the perpetrator. There’s also the bonus of insight into Japanese crime literature and culture that reading this novel brings.

A complex, ambiguous puzzle of a crime novel with a darkness at its core.

The Author – Riku Onda

Riku Onda, born in 1964, is the professional name of Nanae Kumagai. She has been writing fiction since 1991 and has won the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers, the Japan Booksellers’ Award, the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Best Novel for The Aosawa Murders, the Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize, and the Naoki Prize. Her work has been adapted for film and television. This is her first crime novel and the first time she is translated
into English.

Translated by Alison Watts, who is an Australian-born Japanese to English translator and long time resident of Japan. She has translated Aya Goda’s TAO: On the Road and On the Run in Outlaw China (Portobello, 2007) and Durian Sukegawa’s Sweet Bean Paste (Oneworld Publications, 2017), and her translations of The Aosawa Murders and Spark (Pushkin Press, 2020) by Naoki Matayaoshi are forthcoming.

Blog Tour

Check out these other brilliant bloggers posting now until the 3rd of March.

Beast by Matt Wesolowski

I’m very pleased to be part of this Blog Tour for ‘Beast’, with thanks to the lovely Anne and Orenda Books.

Beast will unveil a darkness from which you may never
return…

The Blurb

In the wake of the ‘Beast from the East ’ cold snap that ravaged the UK in 2018, a grisly discovery was made in a ruin on the Northumbrian coast. Twenty-four-year-old vlogger, Elizabeth Barton, had been barricaded inside what locals refer to as ‘ The Vampire Tower ’, where she was later found frozen to death.

Three young men, part of an alleged cult, were convicted of this terrible crime, which they described as a ‘prank gone wrong ’. However, in the small town of Ergarth, questions have been raised about the nature of Elizabeth Barton’s death and whether the three convicted youths were even responsible.

Elusive online journalist Scott King speaks to six witnesses – people who knew both the victim and the three killers – to peer beneath the surface of the case. He uncovers whispers of a shocking online craze that held the young of Ergarth in its thrall and drove them to escalate a series of pranks in the name of internet fame. He hears of an abattoir on the edge of town, which held more than simple slaughter behind its walls, and the tragic and chilling legend of the Ergarth Vampire…

My thoughts…

This is, in a nutshell, brilliant storytelling. It’s the fourth book in a series of similarly presented books: ‘Six Stories’, ‘Hydra’ and ‘Changeling’. I haven’t read any of the other books, so ‘Beast’ is my first taste of Matt Wesolowski’s work. I am hugely impressed, what a dark and addictive read. It’s one of those books that would work brilliantly as an audio-book (just checked and I can see the first are all available on Audible – so I’ll be adding them to my collection soon), as it’s designed around a series of six interviews for a podcast. I must admit, I’m only a minor book blogger, and I don’t completely understand the more commercial blogging world, so I found the concepts running through this book fascinating, and particularly as a social study of our ever-modernising world. It also contains the central theme of power and the impact social media has on people, and considering the awful news about Caroline Flack this week, the resonances are incredibly disturbing. This awful power-play for importance and ‘deemed’ value is very scary, and as a parent slightly terrifying. I’m currently in a room with a teenager who is flicking through her phone, and I have no idea what’s going on in her mind and on her phone screen (she’s 17, and we’ve had many discussions and I am 99.9% sure she is honest, caring and compassionate to others).

But back to ‘Beast’ which is built around the brutal murder of a blogger in a site connected with the legend of a local vampire, and considering she was beheaded, it builds questions and fear from the local community. Her crime is solved, and the perpetrators imprisoned, so when a new question arises, a new interest in her cases emerges. This introduces our online journalist Scott King and we follow his investigation via six reports. It’s clear I have missed something about Scott’s personal life from the previous books, but it by no way affects the read, it does make me want to order the previous three books pretty pronto though.

I really do recommend you pick up this book, it’s addictive and underneath the witness accounts there festers a dark and gothic tale of elusive, satanic behaviour waiting to inflict pain and misery. There’s also the valid and current debate of our modern society and its narcissistic and needful personalities thriving in the world of social media and the consequences of this. I was hooked from start to finish. Loved the mystery, the darkness and the debate it raises.

Highly recommended!

The Author

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is
an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in
horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an
US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End
of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller

The Publisher

Orenda Books is a small independent publishing company specialising in literary fiction with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, and approximately half the list in translation. They’ve been twice shortlisted for the Nick Robinson Best Newcomer Award at the IPG awards, and publisher
and owner Karen Sullivan was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016. In 2018, they were awarded a prestigious Creative Europe grant for their translated books programme. Three authors, including Agnes Ravatn, Matt Wesolowski and Amanda Jennings have been WHSmith Fresh Talent picks, and Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, won an English PEN Translation Award, and adapted for BBC Radio Four ’s Book at Bedtime. Six titles have been shortor long-listed for the CWA Daggers. Launched in 2014 with a mission to bring more international
literature to the UK market, Orenda Books publishes a host of debuts, many of which have gone on to sell millions worldwide, and looks for fresh, exciting new voices that push the genre in new directions. Bestselling authors include Ragnar Jonasson, Antti Tuomainen, Gunnar Staalesen,
Michael J. Malone, Kjell Ola Dahl, Louise Beech, Johana Gustawsson, Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Sarah Stovell.
http://www.orendabooks.co.uk
@OrendaBooks

‘The Woman Downstairs’ by Elizabeth Carpenter

I’m delighted to be on the blog tour for ‘The Woman Downstairs’ with thanks to Orion Fiction and Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers.

Published by Orion on 6th February 2020

The Blurb

Can you ever really know your neighbours?

When human remains are found in a ground floor flat, the residents of Nelson Heights are shocked to learn that there was a dead body in their building for over three years.

Sarah lives at the flat above and after the remains are found, she feels threatened by a stranger hanging around the building.

Laura has lived in the building for as long as she can remember, caring for her elderly father, though there is more to her story than she is letting on.

As the investigation starts to heat up, and the two women become more involved, it’s clear that someone isn’t telling the truth about what went on all those years ago…

My thoughts…

‘The Woman Downstairs’ is a story told by two women, Sarah and Laura. The book is split into two parts, and once you begin to read part two it’s practically impossible to book this book down!

Sarah is training to be a journalist, whilst trying to support herself and her teenage son after splitting from her husband. We find her in a new relationship with the elusive and questionable Rob. However, her ex-husband Andy is also popping in and out of her life.

Laura, on the other hand, has led an isolated life, looking after her ailing father. After her father died, she had to build the confidence to find employment and meet new people. She soon attracts attention, from new colleagues and a past school friend. Her life soon changes and there’s the potential of a relationship… but it soon it becomes clear that maybe she’d have been safer staying at home!

These two women’s stories overlap in the book’s central mystery of a body found in a ground floor flat.

For me, this read took its time to get to the addictive stage (this is by no means a negative comment), but when it did, wow, it completely hooks you in. What a page turner! It’ll also make you think more carefully about those around you, about what are truths and what could be lies. Who is hiding behind a ‘mask’?.

With embedded themes of appearance and reality, this is a thoroughly enjoyable mystery thriller that wraps its hooks into the readers and demands you keep turning its pages.

A thumbs up from me!

The Author

Elisabeth Carpenter lives in Preston with her family. She completed a BA in English Literature and Language with the Open University in 2011.

Elisabeth was awarded a Northern Writers’ New Fiction award and was longlisted for the Yeovil Literary Prize (2015 and 2016) and the MsLexia Women’s Novel award (2015). She loves living in the north of England and sets most of her stories in the area, including the novel she is writing at the moment. She currently works as a bookkeeper.

Published by Orion on 6th February

#blogtour ‘Never Look Back’ by A.L. Gaylin

It’s lovely being on the blog tour for ‘Never Look Back’ with Compulsive Readers – thanks to Tracy and Orion Books.

She was the most brutal killer of our time. And she may have been my mother…

Blurb

When Robin Diamond is contacted by true crime podcast producer Quentin Garrison, she assumes it’s a business matter.

It’s not.

Quentin’s podcast focuses on a series of murders in the 1970s committed by a teen couple and Quentin has reason to believe Robin’s mother may be intimately connected with the killings.

Robin thinks Quentin’s claim is absurd. But is it?

Robin knows her mother better than anyone. Or does she?

My thoughts

This story is told via a split narrative of letters to ‘my future child, Aurora Grace’ from Alice Cooper throughout the year of 1976 and the central dual perspectives of Quentin and Robin with some supporting points of view as the story develops. Quentin being a true crime podcast producer, and Robin, whose mother Quentin suspects could be one half of the infamous Inland Empire Killers. The significant issue here, is both the Inland Empire Killers both died in a fire.

I was thoroughly fascinated reading this book; the inclusion of the letter form worked brilliantly and told the events of the story from a completely different time-frame perspective. It’s gripping, addictive and thoroughly entertaining.

This is one of those great reads, that steadily lays trails of information and points of view for the reader to piece together. I really enjoyed the diverse group of characters who are all caught up in some awful events and the steady climb to the big reveal.

A highly recommended character driven, compulsive psychological crime thriller. Read it! I’m certainly going to be working my way through Gaylin’s back-list. Huge thanks to the author and publishing team for inviting me to join in the chat about ‘Never Look Back’.

About the author
Alison Gaylin is the award-winning author of ‘Hide Your Eyes’ and its sequel, ‘You Kill Me’; the standalones ‘Trashed’, ‘Heartless’, ‘What Remains Of Me’ and ‘If I Die Tonight’; and the ‘Brenna Spector’ series: ‘And She Was, Into the Dark’, and ‘Stay with Me’. A graduate of Northwestern University and of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, she lives with her husband and daughter in Woodstock, New York

Check out these other great blogger posts

#NewBookAlert – the YA fantasy ‘The Stars We Steal’ by Alexa Donne, published today 4th Feb by #TitanBooks

Publishing today is ‘The Stars We Steal’ by Alexa Donne. It’s a new standalone, set in the farthest reaches of space and earth is remembered as ancient history. Described as a sci-fi romance that ’embraces the idealism that true love exists under the most cutthroat of scenarios’.

Blurb

Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, has only one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?

But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love, Elliot, returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one who got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself falling for her first love in a game of love, lies and past regrets.

My thoughts

This is a charming and entertaining YA fantasy read, set in space many years after the earth is made uninhabitable by an environmental disaster. It’s also charming, as it’s a reinvention of Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’. The tragic relationship between Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth is brought to life again through Princess Leo and Eliott on-board a spaceship.

If you’re unaware of Austen’s ‘Persuasion’ then in a nutshell, it’s about second chances and regrets of the past being healed; it’s a beautiful love story. In Alexa Donne’s version love is at the heart of this narrative too. ‘The Stars We Steal’ begins with a space version of a marriage mart, where Leo is being forced to attend to attract the attention of a potential husband. It some becomes clear that there’s trouble ahead, particularly when she meets Elliot, and their past bitterness causes new conflict.

This YA fantasy book will suit readers who enjoy an enemies to love story line; Sci-fi, (although there’s not too much of this in the action, it serves more as the setting) a bit of political intrigue and plotting, with a large dash of adventure.

Out now from @Titanbooks

Also out today is ‘Double Feature’ by Donald E. Westlake – publishing for the first time in 40 years! I’ll be chatting about this book soon.

The movie star and the movie critic – how far would they go to keep their secrets buried?

‘Dreamland’ by Nancy Bilyeau

I read ‘Dreamland’ with the Pigeonhole reading community and loved the entire journey; there’s something extra special about shared reading. We also had the author join us, always a treat, and the additional bonus on Nancy’s Bilyeau’s photographs from research and modern day Coney Island.

The Blurb:

The year is 1911 when twenty-year-old heiress Peggy Batternberg is invited to spend the summer in America’s Playground.

The invitation to Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore than keeping up appearances with New York City socialites and her snobbish, controlling family.

But soon it transpires that the hedonism of Coney Island affords Peggy the freedom she has been yearning for, and it’s not long before she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of.

Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal, and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamor of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything… even murder.

Extravagant, intoxicating, and thumping with suspense, bestselling Nancy Bilyeau’s magnificent Dreamland is a story of corruption, class, and dangerous obsession.

My thoughts:

This is a novel that explores excessive elitist lifestyles, of people living in privileged bubbles where wealth monopolises their lives but also sucks out their humanity.

Our perspective is through the eyes of one of the privileged class, Peggy, a young daughter from the wealthy Batternberg family – but Peggy is a protagonist who fights against the claustrophobic and restrictive life of a woman in an elite class. Peggy is very modern and desires independence and freedom from the controlling and watchful eyes of her domineering family.

Counteracting this is the world of Coney Island and its working class, liberal community. Both are set side by side on the coastline and the contrast couldn’t be sharper. I loved the backdrop and historical detail in the story.

There’s a lot going on in ‘Dreamland’, there’s the story of a young woman’s fight for independence; the story of the wealthy elite’s battle in a changing world to keep their archaic and blindness to reality and, the inner corruption and brutality this world creates wrapped up in a brilliantly crafted murder mystery read.

I found myself immersed Bilyeau’s deliciously vivid prose and into Peggy’s world; following her journey to leave the privileges of her class and make something of herself and into a dangerous path through Coney Island and Dreamland. This book is an adventure and a murder mystery; it’s about first love, loss, addiction, power, corruption, and the battle for independence.

Thoroughly recommended read for those who enjoy historical fiction and mystery genres.