It is my pleasure today to welcome you to my stop on the Titan Books blog tour for Gareth L. Powell’s new space opera, Stars and Bones. Keep reading for a mini-review and a Q&A with the author! Many thanks to Lydia Gittins for sending me an ARC and inviting me to be part of the tour – all opinions are entirely my own.
2022 is the year Fab discovers how much she actually likes science fiction. Because there are just so many brilliant books in the genre releasing at the moment, and I’m lucky enough that I keep getting to review them. This was my first foray into Gareth L. Powell’s work, and I’m sure that it wont be my last. Stars and Bones is a highly character-driven story set in a future where humanity has been driven into space from a dying earth, to live on a fleet so-called arks. In this new society, Eryn is on a mission to save her sister – and perhaps all of humanity. It is a compelling story with strong characters – and a wonderful ship’s cat (yes, books with cats will make me fall in love with them instantly!). Honestly, if you like weird and quirky characters that can carry a story on their shoulders and make a plot that isn’t necessarily the most out there shine, this is definitely one that I whole-heartedly recommend. It is the sort of science fiction that to me is insanely comforting, and I’m already looking forward to rereading! (P.S. a story that has a British PM cause nuclear destruction through sheer incompetence is a winner in my book because I can’t resist black humour)
Add Stars and Bones to your Goodreads here, and order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link) – and read on below the image to hear Gareth talk about it (and get an impression of his wit, which permeates the book as well)!
RELEASE DATE: 01/03/2022
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
Can you pitch Stars and Bones in one sentence for our readers?
If you imagine Philip K. Dick got high and dreamt a crossover between Battlestar Galactica and The Thing, you’d be in the right ballpark.
One of my favourite parts of Stars and Bones were the characters and their relationships. Can you tell us a bit more about your process for them? And what comes first, the characters or the story?
I usually start with an idea for a situation, and then start searching around for the best characters to bring that situation to life. And then, once the characters start coming to life, their decisions and reactions drive the plot and final outcome of the story.
And what inspired the magnificence that is Sam?
I have a cat who spends a lot of time on my desk as I write, so I imagined what he’d say if he was in the story.
What role does humour play for you in science fiction?
For me, humour is part of everyday life. Funny stuff happens, and often at the most inappropriate of moments. So, if I’m trying to portray humans authentically, there has to be some humour in the mix—even if it’s only a way to lighten the tension in a horrific scene. I don’t write jokes or funny scenarios; the comedy arises naturally from the way the characters interact.
Is there anything you had to cut from the drafts that you’re sad about not having in the final version?
How was this writing and publishing experience different as a new project after a completed trilogy?
Writing a new story after spending three years on a trilogy is always a huge mental gear shift. You get used to working with the same characters, and suddenly you have to adapt to a whole new set, and a whole new universe. But that’s good. I can’t imagine writing more than three books set in the same world, as I’d worry I’d get stale. You have to shake things up now and again.
How are you celebrating the release?
Well, it’s March 1st so I’ll also be celebrating the patron saint of my forefathers, and attending an online speeding workshop, as I got caught travelling 26 mph in what I thought was a 30 mph zone, but which turned out to have a 20 mph limit.
Do you have a set writing routine?
I used to have a set routine, but the last few years have introduced so much chaos and upheaval into the mix that, like sleeping, I now write whenever the opportunity arises.
What books or other media have filled your creative well recently
I’ve been reading The Organised Writer by my friend Antony Johnston and hoping some of it will rub off on me, as I am a very disorganised writer.
I’m thrilled to kick off the Hodder blog tour for Shady Hollow by Juneau Black. Published in the UK today (it’s been out over the pond for a while), this cosy crime series follows a small town community of antrophomorphic woodland animals as shady things start happening in their midst. It is a comfort read, lovely and bonkers – written by a team of co-authors, Jocelyn Cole and Sharon Nagel, so I can only imagine the fun they’ve had while coming up with this story and its characters.
Many thanks to Ollie at Hodder for sending me a review copy and having me on the tour, all opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 03/02/2022
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: In the woodland community of Shady Hollow, you’ll discover a secret. Moose and mice, owls and
bears live side by side in civilized harmony. Shady Hollow has a coffee shop and a bookshop, a haberdasher and a bank. All is well… until the town’s querulous toad shows up dead. It’s something this village haven’t seen before: a murder.
Vera Vixen is new in town. She has a nose for news and catches the scent of a story, one that leads her to dark places. As she stirs up the still waters, the fox exposes more than one mystery, and the folks in Shady Hollow learn that some of their neighbours are lying, while others are downright dangerous. It will take all of Vera’s cunning and quickness to come out alive. (from Hodder)
OPINIONS: This book is so much fun. It’s bonkers, but in the best possible way. I’m not usually a big fan of stories for adults featuring animals, but I’m so glad that I gave Shady Hollow a shot, and now I can’t wait for book two in March. Imagine this as a classic murder mystery in the vein of Agatha Christie in terms of pacing, but with the most charmingly odd animal characters you can think of. Vera Vixen is the new reporter in town, so she ends up pulled into the investigation when the local toad is found dead – and the beaver mayor is poisoned.
It’s a short novel, around 200 pages, and thus makes for a very fast read. It is written in a light and humorous style, which is very hard to put down – my goal was to read 50 pages, do a chore, rinse and repeat… but I didn’t manage because I’m weak and the book is fun. It’s the kind of wholesome read that cheers you up and makes a gloomy day better. And it would make a wonderful animated feature *cough cough, Netflix, listen up*. While it is sold as an adult novel, I think it is ultimately a family-friendly book, and would be appropriate for readers around twelve and up – there is no graphic content or similar and it is relatively light and fluffy – so… FAMILY BOOK CLUB TIME!
Thus, highly recommended for a feel-good read! Add Shady Hollow to your Goodreads here, and order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link). And the good news is, books two and three are being released in March and April respectively so you don’t even have to wait very long to binge the whole series!
Being on a bit of a thriller binge but also hating most police procedurals, this psychological mystery crossed with an almost Bluebeard-esque love story immediately caught my attention. It is extremely addictive – and it features a librarian, a lover of books, and lots of food, so basically my two favourite things. Perfect to curl up with and spend an hour or two trying to figure out what is going on.
Many thanks to Black Crow PR and Black Spot Books for sending me an eARC for review and having me on the blog tour. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 25/01/2022
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: When librarian Sigrun falls head-over-heels for the sophisticated and very married Edgar Leyward, she never expects to find herself in his bed—or his heart. Nevertheless, when his enigmatic wife Octavia dies from a sudden illness, Sigrun finds herself caught up in a whirlwind romance worthy of the most lurid novels on her bookshelves.
Sigrun soon discovers Octavia wasn’t Edgar’s first lost love, or even his second. Three women Edgar has loved met early deaths. As she delves into her beloved’s past through a trove of discovered letters, the edges of Sigrun identity begin to disappear, fading into the women of the past. Sigrun tells herself it’s impossible for any dark magic to be at play—that the dead can’t possibly inhabit the bodies of the living—but something shadowy stalks the halls of the Leyward house and the lines between the love of the present and the obsessions of the past become increasingly blurred—and bloody. (from Black Spot Books)
OPINIONS: This is such an addictive read! It is quite short – closer to a long novella than a full-length novel, so it is easy to just get sucked in and read it in a single sitting. It starts out as very much a slightly gothic romance, with librarian Sigrun falling for her cooking instructor Edgar, turning from an emotional affair to a full-fledged whirlwind romance when a pandemic hits their community and Edgar suddenly becomes a widower. For a very long time, the story gives the reader the impression that something is very off here, but it is hard to figure out exactly what it is, whether it is supernatural or not, and that makes the book very uncanny to read.
I loved Sigrun as a main character despite all of her flaws – a librarian in her early thirties, and a total goth. As a book lover in their late twenties and a nerdy goth (not quite as all-out as Sigrun though), I totally identified with her, at least on a surface level. Less so when she was being an idiot, but that’s another matter. I’m a bit torn whether I am annoyed with how the book dealt with Sigrun losing herself in the relationship or whether that was extremely cleverly done in terms of plotting and worldbuilding. It definitely leads to a lot of psychological suspense and a story you don’t see every day.
Ultimately this isn’t a book that is deep literature or has any aspirations to be. It is entertainment and it does exactly what it says on the tin. It is the kind of book that would be amazing transported to a visual medium, I think, but while we wait for Netflix to pick up on that, don’t sleep and go read Hold My Place for creep and suspense with a good dose of sexy romance.
RELEASE DATE: 20/01/2022
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
Agent Moose is one of those wonderful graphic novels you just breeze through and it makes your day better. Aimed at young readers – I’d recommend it for ages 7+ – it follows the hilarious adventures of Special Agent Anonymoose and his assistant Owlfred as they rush to investigate their one hundredth case. O’Hara’s story combined with Bradley’s illustrations makes this a wonderful book for children to both start exploring reading on their own, as well as deep-dive into reading adventures accompanied by a parent. It is full of funny moments, unique animal characters and just adorable quirkiness. Anonymoose is your typical blundering, arrogant agent, and Owlfred is the sidekick with the plans, but together, they charm their way into your hearts so quickly that you just end up wanting more.
Many thanks to Kiran from Scholastic for sending me a review copy and having me on the blog tour – all opinions are my own as usual. Do check out the other stops on the tour for more amazing content all around Anonymoose, Owlfred and the gang.
ON WRITING ANIMAL STORIES – BY MO O’HARA
People have been telling stories about animals for as far back as… well…as far back as people have been telling stories. When early cave people sat around the campfire and exaggerated the size of the bear they fought or the mammoth they hunted they were beginning a tradition of animal stories that continues today. Myths, legends, and fables all have used animals in lieu of people to get their messages across. But why?
Well, there is a certain shorthand with animals and associated characteristics. You can be brave as a lion, quiet as a mouse, clever as a chimpanzee, stealthy as a fox, sneaky as a snake, wise as an owl or curious as a cat. The list goes on and on. So, when we are writing about animals its fun to explore those connotations that animals have associated with them and to sometimes write animal characters that work against those types. A lion that is timid? An owl that is easily confused? A mouse that is very very loud? It’s a great start for a story because you already have a built-in conflict between your character and the expectations of that animal character.
Also, when you are writing for kids you have the added bonus that kids just love reading about animals. Zoo animals, wild animals, farm animals, sea animals, pets? It doesn’t matter, kids love them! They are fascinated to find out animal facts but also intrigued to read about what those animals might get up to when no humans are watching. 😊 I regularly imagine the conversations that my two cats have when I’m not here. (And then I sometimes put those imagined cat chats into my books.) In fact, the character of Fang the vampire kitten (from My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish series) is entirely inspired by one of my cats.
I think writing with anthropomorphic animals (or animals that behave like people) is fantastic fun as well. Creating the world of Big Forest and populating it with all the varied animals that live in the woods with Agent Moose and Owlfred was brilliant. Whether if was Newt (the newt with the nose for news) who runs the local newspaper or Paula Pelican a criminal in South Shore, or Barry the Barracuda who is not really as scary as he looks, each of the animals has their own story to tell. And when Jess Bradley started illustrating all the characters, they really took on a life of their own. Even lots of the incidental cast of animals that she drew and inserted all had a journey. The poor beaver who works for Camo Chameleon and who is always being crashed into or the chipmunk whose job it is to eat the secret message pods (even though she is digitally intolerant, and they give her gas) ended up being recurring characters because they were just so vivid. I was inspired to write more about them.
Writing about animals is nearly as fun as being around animals. And my cats would like to add that they feel the same about being around humans. Most of the time.
Welcome to a true team effort! Three out of four members of Team LD have banded together to bring you today’s blog tour for Once Upon A Winter from Macfarlane Lantern Publishing! Add it to your Goodreads here, and then see what we have to say about the stories here!
RELEASE DATE: 23/11/2021
SUMMARY: Once upon a time stories travelled from place to place on the tongues of merchants and thieves and kings alike. Under the blanket of night they were exchanged between children, and passed on to their children, and their children after them. Details were altered from one generation to the next until thousands of tales existed where once there were few.
In the spirit of these age-old stories comes Once Upon a Winter, a seasonal anthology of folk and fairy tales from 17 authors across the globe. It covers the Gothic, the romantic, the whimsical, the frightening and everything in-between, and features both intriguing twists on classic tales and exciting original stories. (from Macfarlane Lantern Publishing)
Fab: The Biting Cold by Josie Jaffrey
While this isn’t my favourite story in terms of content – it is ultimately rather bleak and I prefer my stories a bit more whimsical – I was very impressed with the writing. This story of survival against all odds – and not only human survival – is told in close second person present, which I found an unusual choice but one that worked very well, drawing the reader into the story and its world.
The Match Girl by Rebecca F. Kenney
I absolutely loved “The Match Girl” by Rebecca F. Kenney – this is a reworking of the tale of the little girl selling matches, freezing to death, but with a magical, and may I say demonic twist. It is delightful and wonderful and heartwarming, giving her the ending that she deserves.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Bharat Krishnan
This story is about the Bale Na, an Indian witch who comes at Christmas and is somewhat of a vengeful spirit. I loved learning about her, but I struggled with the framing of the story. It is set in a small-town US community, and there is a big focus on the HOA making the Indian family’s life difficult because of their different traditions around Christmas, and the story is told through the perspective of the twelve-year-old white friend of the family’s son, who is frankly, growing up into a racist. And that is just not really something I enjoy reading about.
A Pea Ever After by Adie Hart
“A Pea Ever After” is probably my favourite story of my batch. It is just wonderful. And it made me cry. It takes so many ideas from traditional fairy tales and rewrites them into a fun, modern story about a witch who accidentally gets taken into a competition for a prince’s hand – which definitely doesn’t go how the fairy godmother orchestrating it expects it to. There are several tender romances blossoming – with, and without, the prince in question, and a new subject for the fairy godmother to focus on. It is well-written, and I wish there was so much more of it.
The Snowdrop by H. L. Macfarlane
While this was an adorable story about a boy who met a tiny girl living in a snowdrop flower, it ultimately felt a bit too simple – it was very predictable and it had more of an air of a children’s story, which to me caused a bit of a disconnect with the other stories in the anthology. I liked it, but I just couldn’t get over my feeling that it didn’t quite fit in.
Silverfoot’s Edge by Ella Holmes
This is a cute little story, although it felt a bit non-descript – I think I might have been a bit biased after “A Pea Ever After”. I really liked the setting in the Silverfoot forest, and the flowery writing – one to sink into again on another day I think!
Anna: The Storm Hags by Caroline Logan
The Snow Hags are a refreshing take on the fantasy saviour narrative, concluding that though kingdoms fall, people stay, and that’s what really matters. Having said that, I’ve struggled with this one. The hags themselves are wonderfully evocative of Hecate, the three-in-one goddess of the crossroads, but the short format makes it difficult to root for the protagonist who loses her loved one but then is able to get him back in fairly short order. I’ll leave it up for other readers’ judgement.
The Boggart of Boggart Hole Clough by Jake Curran-Pipe
I’m not one for horror, but The Boggart of Boggart Hole Clough is gripping, like the hands of the creature itself. The story follows Jordan through a brief but maddening encounter with a boggart, or, perhaps, the consequences of his own actions. Fear, guilt, and resentment are all mixed into one milk-curdling concoction. Curran-Pipe has excellent command of the local colloquialisms to give the story a sense of rootedness.
Around the Hawthorne Tree by Jenna Smithwick
Now, this is a story to be told by the fire, when the year draws to a close and people tell fortunes for the one ahead. A sweet tale about promises fulfilled and fair rewards, featuring folk magic, helpful robins and the Fae. The first person narrative lends itself to the storyteller essence of the protagonist, who outwits the faeries and faces her own doubts to bring hope to an overwintering village.
The Best Girl this Side of Winter by Laila Amado
Now, this is the embodiment of how you wish it felt going on holiday in winter, when every little thing is suffused with magic and that faint scent of mulling spice. And even as the magic gains a sinister edge, it loses none of its allure. Weda, a school-girl preoccupied with being popular among her peers, is sent to spend the winter holidays in a distant town of Wintervale, and discovers a role much more precious than that of ‘Best Girl’.
The Snow Trolls by S. Markem
‘In fact, one might say that life was pretty dull for an average faerie’ – this story begins much like it intends to carry on, with a whimsical levity that distinguishes the protagonists by the colour of their boots and declares winter the invention of a bored king. Compared to ‘The Biting Cold’ and ‘The Match Girl’ which open this anthology, this tale is certainly on the lighthearted side, and provides a wonderful counterpoint to the more serious stories that suround it.
Lord of the Forest by Katherine Shaw
I’m delighted that I’m finishing with this tale. As an avid fan of anything horned, hooves, or claiming the title of Lord of the Forest, I was immediately taken by this story of Anca’s encounter with a Leshii, a guardian of the wild. It is a powerful rendition of a simple message – that there is wonder and abundance in the natural world, if only we stop fearing it long enough to see it. I genuinely teared up at the end.
Sun: Queen of the Snows by Joyce Reynolds-Ward
This is a very ambitious story that ultimately fell a little flat for me as it tries to cover a lot in a relatively small amount of words. The Queen of the Snows is attempting to bring together her court in response to a request for help and faces an unexpected obstacle. There are lots of references to lore and names and the story switches between the modern world and a more archaic traditional fantasy before coming back again. It does however feel very wintery especially since the weapons have names like Icestar and Iceshatter.
Long Meg and the Sorcerer’s Stones by M. J. Weatherall
Having spent a fair bit of time near the Rollright Stones and learning about their legend I really enjoyed this story about how a coven of witches are anchored to a stone circle and why. Although they’re called the Sorcerer’s stones, he’s just a bit part with the focus being on Long Meg and the narrator of the story and it’s just a satisfying story that embodies both winter and folklore easily.
The Frost of Mercy by A. J. Van Belle
This is a story about two dryads that are the last of their family, and grove. One is getting sicker and the other, rather than having to watch her die and be the last watcher seeks out an alternative. I really liked this one. The contrast be between the acceptance of Forsythia and the frustration and fight of Azure is really well written and the ending manages to honour both.
Wintercast by R. A. Gerritse
This is an interesting take on the “spark” of inspiration and whether following your dream or what you believe to be your purpose is always the right course of action. Many of us feel like if we just keep pushing despite not getting results it doesn’t mean it’s not right, just that we have to try harder. This story is a nice antidote to this message and balances the story lore with the message effectively.
You Can’t See Me by Kate Longstone
You Can’t See Me is a very sweet tale of a little girl that rescues a snow pixie. While it has some of the same elements of The Snowdrop the underlying feeling is different This story is one of friendship and accidental coincidences, of how brief meetings can have long-lasting effects. Additionally like others in this anthology, it shows how a tiny spark can create a lifelong interest in and desire to conserve and protect nature.
I absolutely loved Year of the Reaper – in fact, I started reading the eARC and clicked with it so much I immediately begged for a physical copy. So I’m thrilled to share my stop on the Hodderscape blog tour today. This is a delightful medieval-inspired fantasy that values learning and cleverness, so totally up my street.
Many thanks to Ollie at Hodder for sending me a review copy and inviting me on the blog tour. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 09/11/2021
STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Three years ago, Lord Cassia disappeared in the midst of war, on a mission entrusted to him by the king. Since then, a devastating plague has swept the land, leaving countless dead and the kingdom forever altered.
Having survived a rotting prison cell and a merciless illness, Cas, now eighteen, wants only to return to his home in the mountains and forget past horrors. But home is not what he remembers. His castle has become a refuge for the royal court. And they have brought their enemies with them.
When an assassin targets those closest to the queen, Cas is drawn into a search for a killer… one that leads him to form an unexpected bond with a brilliant young historian named Lena. Cas and Lena soon realize that who is behind the attacks is far less important than why. They must look to the past, following the trail of a terrible secret – one that could threaten the kingdom’s newfound peace and plunge it back into war. (From Hodder)
OPINIONS: Year of the Reaper is a wonderful and compelling YA/crossover fantasy. It is one of those books that you simply can’t put down once you’re immersed in them – though I should add that it is set in the context of a Black Death-like plague, so it might be triggering for some to read in the current climate. At its centre is the recent political marriage between two countries that have historically been at odds – and Cas returns home from captivity to find his king married to a princess from the country that abducted him, his brother installed close to the couple and somehow, ends up rescuing the couple’s newborn – and thus also finds himself in a place of honour as he tries to navigate this new situation, the return to normal life and the threat to all of them.
And then there is Lena. A woman after my own heart. The king’s sister, but more interested in writing the country’s history in her grandfather’s footsteps. She is strong-willed, does not really conform to any sort of mold that may be expected from a woman of her status and yes, I may have been slightly in love with her. As you can tell, The Year of the Reaper has wonderful characters – not just Cas and Lena, but the whole cast is nuanced and they really explore what is right and wrong in difficult situations.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but this is really one of the most fun YA books I’ve read this year. It’s clever and it respects all of its characters – there is no reduction to stereotypes found anywhere here, which is wonderful to see. And no damsels in distress. This is one that I will keep recommending to people. Add Year of the Reaper to your Goodreads here, and order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
I adore books about witches and those inspired by mythology, especially from cultures that I’m not as familiar with. So I was thrilled when Laura Smythe and Zephyr invited me on this tour, and sent me an ARC of Lionheart Girl by Yaba Badoe. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 14/10/2021
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Born into a family of West African witches, Sheba’s terrified of her mother who is deadly dangerous. But like mother, like daughter – magic runs through her blood and Sheba discovers powers of her own.
Her touch can unravel people’s innermost thoughts; their hopes, their fears – their secrets. Sheba too can shape-shift. Through the communion of ancient magic, blood and friendship, she slowly uncovers the murderous truth about her stolen childhood and steels herself for the future. She must protect the hunted from the hunter – her mother. (from Zephyr)
OPINIONS: Lionheart Girl is a gorgeously told fable of a girl growing up in a culture where oral storytelling is the centre of life. Sheba is a young girl growing up in a family of West African witches, one that functions almost like a clan, where everyone cares about everyone. Through its setting in a small village, removed from the outside world, the story seems almost out of time, though I’m fairly certain it is contemporary-set.
It is hauntingly written, in a way that wouldn’t be amiss if told while sitting around a campfire. And as some of my very favourite memories are from sitting around a campfire in Tanzania, chatting to my loved ones, that made the story feel incredibly comforting to me. It is the kind of book that transports you into a different world, and introduces you to a whole new set of stories and mythology. And that makes it a win in my opinion. It is also character-driven, rather than a sweeping adventure, which made me really enjoy the narration and writing more.
I also really enjoyed that this was a YA book, but one aimed at the teen demographic rather than the upper YA that is prevalent these days. It is a book that is just as appropriate to read for an advanced ten or eleven year old as it is for a fifteen-year-old. And thus, it is one that is especially well-suited for school libraries! So, if you like slow-burning stories with a strong voice and a mythological slant, this is one for you.
Hi, in case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a medieval nerd. So I jumped at the chance to read The Tale of the Tailor and the Three Dead Kings early. This is a beautiful edition of a medieval story, translated from an early twentieth century Latin edition by Dan Jones (to call him the author of the story is a bit misleading, as this is a story put down in writing by an anonymous monk in the fifteenth century). A wonderfully gloomy story to keep you chilly while curled up with a blanked and a hot drink inside.
Many thanks to Head of Zeus for sending me a review copy and having me as part of the blog tour! All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 07/10/2021
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: One winter, in the dark days of King Richard II, a tailor was riding home on the road from Gilling to Ampleforth. It was dank, wet and gloomy; he couldn’t wait to get home and sit in front of a blazing fire.
Then, out of nowhere, the tailor is knocked off his horse by a raven, who then transforms into a hideous dog, his mouth writhing with its own innards. The dog issues the tailor with a warning: he must go to a priest and ask for absolution and return to the road, or else there will be consequences…
First recorded in the early fifteenth century by an unknown monk, The Tale of the Tailor and the Three Dead Kings was transcribed from the Latin by the great medievalist M.R. James in 1922. (from Head of Zeus)
OPINIONS: Beautifully produced edition of a medieval text including both the translation accessible for the lay reader and the Latin original for medievalists – yes please. I wish there were more books like this, and I hope this does really well so Head of Zeus considers making this sort of book a series and publishing them in regular intervals, because this is exactly why I fell in love with medieval writing back in undergrad and I think many more people would if they had easy access through stories like The Tale of the Tailor and the Three Dead Kings.
In terms of the story itself, this is a wonderful example of how wild and wacky medieval literature gets – This is just such an odd little story that makes little sense in itself and is largely a morality tale in the end. But it’s a wonderful story to read while curled up this time of year. I was particularly amused by the fact that the manuscript had been altered to hide the name of the ghost as he was likely someone of importance whose relations one did not want to offend. Obviously now the nerd in me really would like to know who was named, and when the name was removed…
All in all, this is a delightful little book and if you enjoy quirky stories and a bit of history with your reading I recommend you pick this one up. I might make it an autumn tradition to read it with a hot chocolate on a cold night, ideally when there is snow, in honour of Snowball, our poor tailor. You can get your own copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Happy book birthday to A.M. Shine and The Watchers! Today’s my turn on the Head of Zeus blog tour for this creepy horror novel set in the forests of Galway – one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited, though of course my experience of the area was very different to the story told in this book…
Many thanks to Lauren and Head of Zeus for the review copy and having me on the Blog tour, and superstar agent John for ensuring we all get to read this wonderful story.
RELEASE DATE: 14/10/2021
STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: This forest isn’t charted on any map. Every car breaks down at its treeline. Mina’s is no different. Left stranded, she is forced into the dark woodland only to find a woman shouting, urging Mina to run to a concrete bunker. As the door slams behind her, the building is besieged by screams.
Mina finds herself in a room with a wall of glass, and an electric light that activates at nightfall, when the Watchers come above ground. These creatures emerge to observe their captive humans and terrible things happen to anyone who doesn’t reach the bunker in time.
Afraid and trapped among strangers, Mina is desperate for answers. Who are the Watchers and why are these creatures keeping them imprisoned, keen to watch their every move? (from Head of Zeus)
OPINIONS: I’ve gotten really into horror this year, and especially the kind of horror that creeps you out rather than splatters you with gore. And The Watchers is exactly that. Uncanny, thrilling and creepy. Set in the wonderful area of Galway in Ireland – which made me love the book from the get-go as I spent one of my favourite ever trips there – this story is very atmospheric, which adds so much to it. I adored the setting and premise, which are really characters in their own right. I would say that this is definitely one for readers who like to be scared a bit while reading and enjoy books on the creepier end of the spectrum. It’s not merely a suspenseful thriller – more of a slower paced story that might keep you up at night. It would not surprise me if this one will get nominated for all the awards next year.
I don’t want to say too much about the story itself as knowing too much will take away from the effect, but the concept of the watchers is *chef’s kiss* and the characters slot into the narrative structure and the atmosphere perfectly. And the plot definitely did not go where I thought it would. So a very excellent book. I don’t often get actually creeped out by reading a story, and this did have that effect on me, which made me love it even more.
It is a slightly slower paced story than many in the genre. This builds up tension more thoroughly in my opinion, focusing on the uncanny and the atmosphere rather than packing in as many events as possible. While this worked really well for me personally, I can see that this might put some readers off, so do check out a sample if that is something that tends to bother you.
This is a somewhat special post. The Cheltenham Literature Festival is running from the 8-17 of October 2021 and has a fabulous programme full of interesting events around books and literature. To get the word out, Midas PR invited me and a whole bunch of other bloggers on a huge book tour to spotlight a surprise book from one of the authors featured at the festival! You can see the full schedule for week one of the tour up top – it’s a two week tour.
I was sent the wonderful Grimwood by Nadia Shireen, who will be doing an in-person event at the festival on Saturday 9th of October, showing readers how she draws the characters from her book and doing a bit of a reading. You can get tickets for what is sure to be a very fun afternoon here. I loved the book so much and am already plotting how to get it into the hands of children I know.
Many thanks to Sofia Saghir at Midas PR and Simon and Schuster for sending me a review copy. All opinions are my own.
SUMMARY: Fox cub siblings Ted and Nancy are on the run from Princess Buttons, the scariest street cat in the Big City. They flee for Grimwood, expecting to find refuge in the peaceful countryside. Instead, they are met with thieving eagles, dramatic ducks, riotous rabbits and a whole host of unusual characters. Grimwood is… weird. But when Princess Buttons tracks them down, Nancy and Ted and the animals of Grimwood must unite in a mind-bending race against time… (from Simon and Schuster)
OPINIONS: Grimwood is absolutely delightful. It is laugh-out-loud funny, adorable and just a fantastic children’s book. I devoured it in a single sitting and it massively improved both my day and my mood and I want to throw this at every single child I know. The story follows fox siblings Ted and Nancy who are sweet and charming, crafty and prone to mischief as they get themselves in and out of trouble. An unfortunate incident with resident mean cat Princess Buttons sees them running to Grimwood where they meet new friends and get into many new adventures – and ultimately have to face their enemy again.
This is probably good to be read to kids five and up, and easy enough for young readers getting comfortable reading on their own to understand and read. It is highly illustrated throughout in black and white, which further enhances it and makes Grimwood a lovely packaged book. This is definitely one to watch and I can see Nadia Shireen being a major new children’s author for years to come.
If you have children in your life in any way, they’ll probably enjoy this. I think it’s best suited for ages seven to nine, but grown-up me loved it too. You can experience the magic of Grimwood by adding it on Goodreads here or ordering it from Bookshop here (affiliate link).