Welcome to my book-blog. I spend as much time as I can within the pages of a book and hope you'll get some reading inspiration from my library. Catch me on Instagram as well as books.tea.and.me – I'm always looking for recommendations!
Thanks to Titan Books and Sarah for sending a copy of ‘Together We Burn’ to review – from the atmospheric and passionate cover design to the fantasy escapism inside, everything was a readers’ delight. For some book blurb and chat about this Spanish inspired fantasy adventure, do keep scrolling…
An ancient city plagued by dragons.
Eighteen-year-old Zarela Zalvidar is a talented flamenco dancer and daughter of the most famous Dragonador in Hispalia. People come from miles to see him fight in their arena, which will one day be hers. But disaster strikes during one celebratory show, and in the carnage, Zarela’s life changes in an instant.
A flamenco dancer determined to save her ancestral home.
Facing punishment from the Dragon Guild, Zarela must keep the arena―her ancestral home and inheritance―safe from their greedy hands. She has no choice but to train to become a Dragonador. When the infuriatingly handsome dragon hunter, Arturo Díaz de Montserrat, withholds his help, she refuses to take no for an answer. Without him, her world will burn.
But even if he agrees, there’s someone out to ruin the Zalvidar family, and Zarela will have to do whatever it takes in order to prevent the Dragon Guild from taking away her birthright.
‘Together We Burn’ by Isabel Ibanez is set in a Spanish fantasy land of dragons and its Dragonadors – laced with the flair of flamenco and a brooding, reluctant hero who matches the fire and determination of the heroine. I’ve a soft spot for books featuring dragons and ‘Together We Burn’ is bursting with them.
Dragonadors are the warriors of the arena in the land, Hispalia. Dragons of all shapes and temperaments, from a Morcego – a black, ivory horned dragon, the size of a bull with great bat wings, to the elusive Escarlata – ruby red with giant wings, who can breathe fire continuously for thirty seconds, are hunted in this country. People from far and wide fill the arenas to watch the battle between man and beast. I really felt for the dragons from the start – of how they were hunted, caged and clipped before being essentially slaughtered for entertainment. Most reminiscent of the cruel bull fighting world. Ibanez slowly weaves in a new perspective from Arturo Diaz de Montserrat, a Dragonador who gave up fighting in the ring and who know plays a very different role in this dragon infested world.
After an appalling incident in Zarela Zalvidar’s family arena, both Arturo and Zarela are reluctantly joined out of necessity and this alters the course of the novel. Banter and fiery fuelled moments begin to fizz and we enter pages of secrets, romance and challenges.
Lurking in the background is the Dragon Guild, controlled by its Dragon Master – Don Eduardo Del Pino and they want answers about the tragic disaster of the Zalvidar’s celebratory show, which turned into carnage and bloodshed. Nothing is what it seems and the reader soon questions the behaviour of some of the characters and what lies are being told.
It’s a passionately fuelled fantasy adventure, teeming with romance and bursting with magic and, of course, stunning dragons!
Some great fantasy reads to check out from Titan Books – keep scrolling to find out more…
In an ancient matriarchal world of magic, gods and warriors, the last girl – unbeknownst to the five queendoms – has just been born. As time marches on, the scribes of Bastian find no answers in their history books. The farmers of Sestia sacrifice their crops to the gods. Paxim, the empire of trade and dealings, has nothing to barter but boys and more boys. Arcan magic has no spells to remedy the Drought of Girls. And finally, Scorpica, where every woman is a fighter, their commander, their queen, has no more warriors to train. The lines of these once-great empires soon to die.
After centuries of peace, the ensuing struggle for dominance – and heirs – will bring the five queendoms to the eve of all-out war.
But the mysterious curse is linked to one of the last-born children, an orphaned all-magic girl, who is unaware she has a claim to the Arcan throne…
‘Scorpica’ is the opening novel in ‘The Five Queendoms’ series by G.K. Macallister, and as you’d expect from a series starter there’s a lot of world building and set up. It’s a complex fantasy world, where the matriarch’s rule; I’ve seen it referred to as the female ‘Game of Thrones’.
The world is ruled by Queendoms, each having their own perspective on males and their roles. The female roles are vast and although the narrative pace is detailed and leisurely it held my attention. For those, seeking a more adventurous and pacey fantasy read, this may not be for you. Although, saying that, it is the opening and requires a lot of establishment – hold on in there!
‘Scorpica’ is heavy in POVs so it does take focus to track characters and relationships in each Queendom. With themes of violence, gender, politics, magic and female relationships this is a detailed and thought provoking read.
A fantasy novel of conflict, power and a world in crisis.
When a letter from her uncle Henrick arrives on Bryn Roth’s eighteenth birthday, summoning her back to Bastian, Bryn is eager to prove herself and finally take her place in her long-lost family.
Henrik has plans for Bryn, but she must win everyone’s trust if she wants to hold any power in the delicate architecture of the family. It doesn’t take long for her to see that the Roths are entangled in shadows. Despite their growing influence in upscale Bastian, their hands are still in the kind of dirty business that got Bryn’s parents killed years ago. With a forbidden romance to contend with and dangerous work ahead, the cost of being accepted into the Roths may be more than Bryn can pay.
Set in the world of FABLE, (Young’s duology ‘Fable’ and ‘Namesake’) a new, smart and sassy protagonist is rejoined with her lost and detached family, setting the tone of the adventure. But there’s trouble ahead, with scheming, untruths, cons and pawns.
An fantasy adventure with a lead pitched against a ruthless adversary with a dash of romance to complete the journey. A quick, easy read for some wonderful escapism.
Jack Corman is failing at life.
Jobless, jaded and on the “wrong” side of thirty, he’s facing the threat of eviction from his London flat while reeling from the sudden death of his father, one-time film director Bob Corman. Back in the eighties, Bob poured his heart and soul into the creation of his 1986 puppet fantasy The Shadow Glass, a film Jack loved as a child, idolising its fox-like hero Dune.
But The Shadow Glass flopped on release, deemed too scary for kids and too weird for adults, and Bob became a laughing stock, losing himself to booze and self-pity. Now, the film represents everything Jack hated about his father, and he lives with the fear that he’ll end up a failure just like him.
In the wake of Bob’s death, Jack returns to his decaying home, a place creaking with movie memorabilia and painful memories. Then, during a freak thunderstorm, the puppets in the attic start talking. Tipped into a desperate real-world quest to save London from the more nefarious of his father’s creations, Jack teams up with excitable fanboy Toby and spiky studio executive Amelia to navigate the labyrinth of his father’s legacy while conjuring the hero within––and igniting a Shadow Glass resurgence that could, finally, do his father proud.
A new arrival to the TITAN bookshelf and something very different to build my eclectic reading style – I look forward to checking this one out and some more book chat 🙂
A debut thriller for fans of Lucy Foley and Liz Moore, Dark Things I Adore is a stunning Gone Girl-esque tale of atonement that proves that in the grasp of manipulative men, women may momentarily fall. But in the hands of fierce women, men will be brought to their knees.
Three campfire secrets. Two witnesses. One dead in the trees. And the woman, thirty years later, bent on making the guilty finally pay.
1988. A group of outcasts gather at a small, prestigious arts camp nestled in the Maine woods. They’re the painters: bright, hopeful, teeming with potential. But secrets and dark ambitions rise like smoke from a campfire, and the truths they tell will come back to haunt them in ways more deadly than they dreamed.
2018. Esteemed art professor Max Durant arrives at his protégé’s remote home to view her graduate thesis collection. He knows Audra is beautiful and brilliant. He knows being invited into her private world is a rare gift. But he doesn’t know that Audra has engineered every aspect of their weekend together. Every detail, every conversation. Audra has woven the perfect web.
Only Audra knows what happened that summer in 1988. Max’s secret, and the dark things that followed. And even though it won’t be easy, Audra knows someone must pay.
A searing psychological thriller of trauma, dark academia, complicity, and revenge, Dark Things I Adore unravels the realities behind campfire legends―the horrors that happen in the dark, the girls who become cautionary tales, and the guilty who go unpunished. Until now.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2018
Audra’s voice floats to me like the scent of roses across a dark, abandoned garden; first sensed, then followed. “We’re stopping just up here.” It takes me a moment to come to the words, to apprehend their meaning. I’ve been very far away, fallen into the deep crevasses of my own thoughts and memories and preoccupations, clouded things, and now she is throwing a bright, silken rope down, beckoning me to climb back up to her out of the murk.
I blink a few times out at the blur of scenery going by my window—it is so terribly vibrant. We are moving so very fast. The farther into Maine we’ve gotten, the tenser my muscles have become. I feel their gentle protests as I come back to myself in the passenger seat of her little Volvo wagon; she’s driving us onward and onward, farther north, further wild.
“Ground control to Major Tom—are you there, Major Tom?” Her voice is supple: deep as a river bend, scratchy as an alto sax, able to convey everything or nothing at all depending on her mood.
“Yes, reporting for duty. And stopping for a moment sounds good,” I say, adjusting myself in my seat.
“You can even stay in the car,” she says quickly, as if not wanting to inconvenience me. “I really just have to use the bathroom.”
“No problem. Might get out to stretch.” I rub my hands on the thighs of my jeans and yawn, looking back out the window.
Towering balsams, firs, and pines in varying depths of green all shimmy like ‘20s flappers in the stiff breeze, birches wrapped like mummies in what looks to be peeling papyrus lean this way and that, grand oaks, maples, and chestnuts muscle in on one another, flared in their autumn robes; a motley conflagration under the dazzling mid-October sun. We are in the middle of a beautiful nowhere, digging into sprawling hinterlands, into territories of wild earth.
The rolling, winding roads away from Bangor took us through towns with names like Charleston, Dover-Foxcroft, Monson, and Shirley, all with their own quaint, beautifully cinematic set dressing. It was like each was curated from grange hall flea markets and movie sets rife with small-town Americana. Stoic stone war memorials. American flags. Whitewashed, chipping town hall buildings from other centuries. Church bell towers in the actual process of tolling, gonging, calling. To me, the sound was ominous in a remote sort of way, unnameable.
I glance over at Audra again, consider her, and wonder if my other students have found out about this little trip. They’ll be upset to hear I’ve undertaken this effort to work with and see Audra. They know I would never do the same for them. The admirers and the sycophants hate Audra. They deride her, mock her, belittle her and her work behind her back. But they’re mediocre, deluded self consolers. She is better than them in almost every way. And they know it.
But I understand her. Because I am her. Or was. Twentyplus years ago, just starting out, full of ideas and energy and hunger and pure, unbridled talent. Dedicated to the work. I can cultivate her. I can make her greater than she ever could have been on her own. None of the others afford me that; not a one.
When Audra first proposed this one-on-one visit, I’d been pleasantly surprised, even a little triumphant. But things couldn’t help but flicker back into memory like sunlight breaking through clouds. Images. Emotions. Colors: cadmium yellow, alizarin crimson, prism violet, cerulean blue. Just snippets, catches of history. I’d lived in Maine for two years, as a matter of fact—but as a much younger man. Barely more than a boy. It was decades ago; many bottles of wine and lovers and lines of cocaine and gallery showings and awards and lectures and semesters ago. So much has happened. So much has grown in the space between me and that capricious boy so far down the tunnel of time that he feels almost entirely obscured from me, insignificant to the man and artist I’ve become. I didn’t tell Audra any of that because my experience here all those years ago holds realities she might consider a little ugly. I didn’t want to ruin our fun. I didn’t want to ruin the potential such a trip might hold for us. I still don’t. So I’m treating this adventure like a clean slate, made just for me and her.
“It’s another mile or two until we stop,” Audra tells me as her eyes track a big pickup roaring by. We pass the mouth of a private dirt driveway. Posted: NO TRESPASSING NO HUNTING, a sign at its edge says. The dirt drive cuts a winding path up a steep embankment, through trees and gone, a scar in the hillside. Halfway up the densely forested slope, I see whorls of gray smoke lifting into the crystalline sapphire sky. I gaze over at Audra again, thinking of the desolation, the beauty, the shocking potential of pure color.
“I can see you here,” I tell her, nodding. “I see you in this place.”
“Yes. I thought you were mad to not go abroad to complete your thesis. Absolutely mad. Every young artist—every good artist—needs difference. It pushes you forward, opens up the imagination to go out there and see the world!” She smiles faintly, sagely as she listens to me, to the bite-size version of this speech of mine she’s heard many times before.
“I know what my paintings need. They don’t need Istanbul. They need”—she takes a deep breath and then gestures around us, breathing out a sigh of pleasure—“this. And all of the money from those departmental awards will keep me comfortable right here.”
“Seeing it now, like this, my guess is you’re right. It suits you. It suits your work.”
“And wait until you see what I’ve been up to since my last update. Any doubts will be cleared away.” There is a devilish little twinkle in her eye. Reminds me of myself right before unveiling a masterwork to a hungry audience. The anticipation. The excitement.
“You sound confident.”
“I am confident,” she replies, sure as granite, light as a summer breeze. As ever, I think, not without some prickliness. But the sudden, joyful flash of her teeth and the uptick of her lips into a smile, the way her hair flares in the sun plunges me into wild, raw infatuation, that just-born kind of infatuation you feel at the beginning of every one of your own very best love stories. The sensation is of a rose reblooming, an egg re-cracking, a sweet, delicious pressure released. It has been this way with me since I met her. This inability to look away from her and what she creates. Even her sheer, bald confidence—I admit I’m the same way. Unwavering about my art. But where I am hotheaded, Audra is all coolness, steady and withholding.
The coolness, the distancing ends this weekend, I’m sure. Why else invite me all the way the hell up here?
It’s lovely to be sharing an extract from GOOD NEIGHBOURS by Sarah Langan to celebrate its July publication. Please do scroll down to find out more about this brilliant new release…
Named as Goodreads One of the Most Anticipated Mysteries and Thrillers of 2021 Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world. But when the Wilde family moves in, they trigger their neighbours’ worst fears. Arlo and Gertie and their weird kids don’t fit with the way Maple Street sees itself. As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and neighbourhood Queen Bee Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes. Suddenly, it is one mother’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.
A RIVERTING AND RUTHLESS PORTRAYAL OF SUBURBIA, GOOD NEIGHBOURS EXCAVATES THE PERILS AND BETRAYALS OF MOTHERHOOD AND FRIENDSHIPS AND THE DANGEROUS CLASH BETWEEN SOCIAL HIERARCHY, CHILDHOOD TRAUMA, AND FEAR.
When her oldest left for Cornell University last year, she’d taken it hard. She’d been happy for Gretchen, but her brilliant future had made Rhea’s seem that much more dim. What was left, once all the kids were gone away, and she was left with a thirty-year-old dissertation and Fritz Sr., Captain Earwax Extraordinaire? She’d wanted to break her life, just to escape it. Drive her car into the Atlantic Ocean. Take a dump on her boss’s desk. Straddle her clueless husband, who’d never once taken her dancing, and shout: Who cleans their ears with a washcloth? It’s disgusting! She’d wanted to fashion a slingshot and make a target range of Maple Street, just to set herself free of these small, stupid people and their small, stupid worlds.
It would have happened. She’d been close to breaking, to losing everything. But just like when Fritz moved into her apartment complex: fate intervened. The Wildes moved next door. Rhea couldn’t explain what happened the day she first saw Gertie, except that it was magic. Another outsider. A beautiful misfit. Gertie’d been so impressed by Rhea. You’re so smart and warm, she’d said the first day they’d met. You’re such a success. Rhea’d known then, that if there was anyone on Maple Street to whom she could reveal her true feelings, it was this na f. One way or another, Gertie Wilde would be her salvation.
Rhea had courted Gertie with dinner invitations, park barbeques, and introductions to neighbors. Made their children play together, so that the Rat Pack accepted the new kids on the block. It wasn’t easy to turn local sentiment in Gertie’s favor. The woman’s house wasn’t ever clean or neat. A pinworm outbreak coincided with their arrival, which couldn’t have been a coincidence. The whole block was itching for weeks.
Worse, her foulmouthed kids ran wild. Larry was a hypersensitive nutbar who carried a doll and walked in circles. Then there was Julia. When they first moved in, she stole a pack of Parliaments from her dad and showed the rest of the kids how to smoke. When her parents caught her, they made her go with them door to door, explaining what had happened to all the Rat Pack parents. Rhea had felt sorry for crying, confused Julia. Why make a kid go through all that? A simple e-mail authored by Gertie stating the facts of the event would have sufficed—if that!
It’s never a good idea to admit guilt in the suburbs. It’s too concrete. You say the words I’m sorry, and people hold on to it and don’t let go. It’s far better to pave over with vagaries. Obfuscate guilt wherever it exists.
The sight of all the Wildes in their doorways had added more melodrama than necessary. The neighbors, feeling the social pressure to react, to prove their fitness as parents, matched that melodrama. Dumb Linda took her twins to the doctor to check for lung damage. The Hestias wondered if they should report the Wildes to Child Protective Services. The Walshes enrolled Charlie in a health course called Our Bodies: Our Responsibility. Cat Hestia had stood in that doorway and cried, explaining that she wasn’t mad at Julia, just disappointed. Because she’d hoped this day would never come. Toxic cigarettes! They have arsenic!
None of them seemed to understand that this had nothing to do with smoking. Julia had stolen those cigarettes to win the Rat Pack over. A bid toward friendship. She’d misjudged her audience. This wasn’t deep Brooklyn. Cool for these kids meant gifted programs and Suzuki lessons. The only people who smoked Parliaments anymore were ex-cons, hookers, and apparently, the new neighbors in 116. What she’d misapprehended, and what the Wilde parents had also missed, was that it wasn’t the health hazards that bothered the people of Maple Street. If that were the case, they wouldn’t be Slip ’N Sliding right now. It was the fact that smoking is so totally low class.
Despite all that, Rhea had stuck by Gertie Wilde until, one by one, the rest of Maple Street capitulated. It was nice, doing something for someone else, especially someone as beautiful as Gertie. There’s a kind of reflective glow, when you have a friend like that. When you stand close, you can see yourself in their perfect eyes.
At least once a month, they’d drunk wine on Rhea’s enclosed porch, cracking jokes about poop, the wacky stuff kids say!, and helpless husbands whose moods turn crabby unless they get their weekly blowies. This latter part, Rhea just pretended. She accepted Fritz’s infrequent appeals for missionary-style sex, but even in their dating days, their mouths had rarely played a part, not even to kiss.
Rhea’s attentions were rewarded. Eventually, Gertie let down her guard. Tears in her eyes, voice low, she’d confessed the thing that haunted her most: The first, I was just thirteen. He ran the pageant and my stepmom said I had to, so I could win rent money. He told me he loved me after, but I knew it wasn’t true. After that, I never said no. I kept thinking every time was a new chance to make the first time right. I’d turn it around and make one of them love me. Be nice to me and take care of me. So I wouldn’t have to live with my stepmom. But that never happened. Not until Arlo. I’m so grateful to him.
When she finished her confession, Gertie’d visibly deflated, her burden lightened. Rhea had understood then why people need friends. They need to be seen and known, and accepted nonetheless. Oh, how she’d craved that unburdening. How she’d feared it, too.
They built so much trust between them that one night, amidst the distant catcalls of children gone savage, Rhea took a sloppy risk, and told her own truth: Fritz boom-booms me. It hurts and I’ve never once liked it … Do you like it? I never expected this to be my life. Did you expect this, Gertie? Do you like it? I can tell that you don’t. I wanted to be your friend from the second I saw you. I’m not beautiful like you, but I’m special on the inside. I know about black holes. I can tell you want to run away. I do, too. We can give each other courage … Shelly can’t keep her hair neat. It goads me. I’d like to talk about it with you, because I know you like Shelly. I know you like me. I know you won’t judge. Sometimes I imagine I’m a giant. I squeeze my whole family into pulp. I wish them dead just so I can be free. I can’t leave them. I’m their mother. I’m not allowed to leave them. So I hate them. Isn’t that awful? God, aren’t I a monster?
She stopped talking once she’d noticed Gertie’s teary-eyed horror. “Don’t talk like that. You’ll break your own house.”
There’d been more words after that. Pleasantries and a changed subject. Rhea didn’t remember. The event compressed into murk and sank down inside her, a smeared oblivion of rage.
Soon after that night, Gertie announced her pregnancy. The doctor told her she had to stop drinking front-porch Malbec, so they hung out a lot less. She got busier with work and the kids and she’d played it off like coincidence, but Rhea had known the truth: she’d shown her true self, and Gertie wanted no part of it.
Retaliation was necessary.
Sarah Langan got her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, and also received her Master’s in Environmental Health Science/Toxicology from New York University. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughters. She’s received three Bram Stoker awards, and her work has often been included in best-of-the year lists and anthologies. She’s a founding board member of the Shirley Jackson Awards, and works in both film and prose.
PRAISE FOR GOOD NEIGHBOURS:
“One of the creepiest, most unnerving deconstructions of American suburbia I’ve ever read. Langan cuts to the heart of upper middle class lives like a skilled surgeon.” – NPR
“A modern-day Crucible, Good Neighbours brilliantly explores the ease with which a careless word can wreak havoc and the terrifying power of mob mentality. Langan deftly unveils the psychology behind her character’s actions with blistering prose and spot-on descriptions. She is a writer to watch!” – Liv Constantine, bestselling author of ‘The Last Mrs Parrish’
Long ago Miren O’Malley’s family prospered due to a deal struck with the mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren’s grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren’s freedom.
A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them.
There’s a root of darkness in the setting and plot of All the Murmuring Bones – a tale based on an Irish cultivated land where magical creatures exist. That’s not to say this is a magical book; there’s a real sense of historical realism in the world as well but deepened with embedded folklore throughout the narrative, which I enjoyed.
Whilst for me the dark gothic fairy-tale vibe was not as expected – there’s certainly a darkness and creepy tone to the writing as we find out more about our central character, Miren, and follow her journey to discover the truth hidden behind the layers of mystery within her family.
A dark and challenging journey centres the novel; it’s presented in a slow and heavily detailed narrative that never rushes. A dash of murder and intrigue deepens the story and I enjoyed the battle for the survival of the bloodline, the ruthlessness of the journey at times and the bargains for survival with magical creatures.
There’re some fabulous settings – in particular atmospheric descriptions of the story’s key locations: Blackwater and Hob’s Head. The characters are a mix of surface with some depth – from my reading experience I wanted more development and depth as I found I wasn’t too connected at times, which did affect my personal reading experience – but that’s just me.
Overall, this is a great book for people who enjoy a darker story with morally questionable characters and enjoy folklore. Super story-telling and world building. There are some fabulous descriptions throughout the book and a great central character arc to follow as Miren has to adapt to her situation and environment.
Thanks so much to Titan Books for inviting me to chat about All the Murmuring Bones and to the author for the story!
Snap review and chat today is about ‘The Library of the Unwritten’, a first in series book, written by A.J. Hackwith. Described as:
“It’s like The Good Place meets Law & Order: Bibliophile Crime Unit. This book is so much fun.”
“A muse, an undead librarian, a demon, and a ghost walk into Valhalla… what follows is a delightful and poignant fantasy adventure.”
Every book left unfinished by its author is filed away in the Unwritten Wing, a neutral space in Hell presided over by Claire, its head librarian. Along with repairing and organising books, her job consists of keeping an eye on restless stories whose characters risk materialising and escaping the library.
When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto. But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong, in a chase that threatens to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell… and Earth.
I loved the idea of this book: the library setting in Hell; an Unwritten Wing for unfinished books; a librarian watching and hunting book characters; an escaped Hero! Merging the undead, ghosts, book characters, demons and fallen angels in a fantasy adventure seemed great escapism.
And it was, for the most part. I’d certainly recommend this book to fantasy bibliophiles, it’s full of what we delight in: musty and bountiful shelves of books in Gothic underworld arches; there’re battles between good and evil, with an extreme amount of blurring the lines; a potentially catastrophic battle keeping the boundaries intact between Heaven, Hell and life on Earth, and some fabulous characters with bucketful depth between them. I loved the idea of book characters coming to life, every bibliophile’s dream. Hackwith certainly plays about with this idea and our perceptions.
Overall, this books does get a thumbs up from me for its creativity. I did enjoy the descriptive escapism it provided, and the biblio-fantasy world; it would make a great film! Looking forward to seeing how the ‘Hell’s Library’ series develops. It’s fun, creative, some great humour and a solid mystery at its core. Oh and I love the book cover design it’s a fabulous addition to my little library.
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.’
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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…
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.
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’.
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.
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.