Tuesday, 31 January 2017

EXTRACT - Read Chapter One of Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn

I'm happy to have for you Chapter One of Carrie Vaughn's latest novel Martians Abroad.  I'll be sharing my review of this novel in the coming weeks but I can say just now it was the perfect YA sci-fi novel, I really enjoyed it and I hope you enjoy chapter one!
Teenage Polly Newton has one single-minded dream: to be a starship pilot and travel the galaxy. But her mother, the director of the Mars Colony, derails Polly's plans when she sends Polly and her genius twin brother, Charles, to Galileo Academy on Earth—the one planet Polly has no desire to visit. Ever.

Homesick and cut off from her desired future, Polly cannot seem to fit into the constraints of life on Earth, unlike Charles, who deftly maneuvers around people and sees through their behavior to their true motives. But when strange, unexplained, and dangerous coincidences centered on their high-profile classmates begin piling up, Polly is determined to find the truth, no matter the cost.

There are a thousand shades of brown.

My scooter skimmed above the surface so fast the ground blurred, kicking up a wake of dust that hazed from the color of dried blood to beige, depending on the angle of light. Ahead, rust-colored hills made chocolate-colored shadows. The plains before the hills were tan, but in a few hours they’d be vivid, blush-colored, beautiful. Right now, the sun was low, a spike of light rising from the rocky horizon in the early morning. The sky above was pale cinnamon.

I had nothing to do today. Classes were over, I hadn’t started my internship at the astrodrome yet. So I went riding, just out, as far and as fast as I could. A track ran around the perimeter of the colony—a service road, really, but no official vehicles went out at this hour, so I had it to myself. Made one circuit, then headed to the open plain, avoiding weather stations, mining units, and other obstacles. I revved the engine, the battery did its job, and the lifts popped me half a meter into the air. Dust flew behind me, and I crouched over the handlebars, sucking air through my mask, blinking behind my goggles. The wind beating against me would be cold, but I was warm and safe inside my environment suit. I could ride around the whole planet like this.

“Polly? Are you there?” The voice of Charles, my twin brother, burst over the comm in my helmet. Of course it was Charles. Who else would want to ruin my perfect morning?
“What?” I grumbled. If I could turn off the helmet radio I would, but the safety default meant it stayed on.
“Mom wants to see us.”
“Would I have bothered calling you otherwise? Of course now. Get back here.”
“Why couldn’t she call me herself?”
“She’s a busy woman, Polly. Stop arguing.”

Charles and I were only nominally twins, in that we were uncorked at the same time and grew up together. But I’m really older because my embryo was frozen first. My unique collection of DNA has been in existence in the universe longer than his. Never mind that Mom decided later that she wanted a girl and a boy rather than just a girl, and that she then decided that it would be fun to have them together instead of one after the other. Or maybe she thought she’d save time that way, raising two babies at once. At any rate, I was frozen first, then Charles was. I’m older.

But as Charles always pointed out, we’ve been viable human beings for exactly the same amount of time. The seals on our placental canisters were popped at exactly the same moment, and we took our first breaths within seconds of each other. We watched the video twenty times to be sure. I didn’t even have the benefit of being five minutes older like a natural-born twin would. We were twins, exactly the same age. Charles was right. He was always right.

I would never admit that out loud.

“Okay. Fine.” I slowed the scooter, turning in a wide arc and heading for home. I’d gone farther than I’d thought. I couldn’t see the bunkers over the garages, air locks, and elevators leading down to the colony, but I knew which way to go and how to get there, and if I got off track, the homing beacon on the scooter would point the way. But I didn’t get lost.

I took my time cleaning up and putting things away, waiting in the air lock while vacuums sucked away every last speck of Martian dust from my suit, putting the scooter through the scrubber so not a particle of grit would get into the colony air system. Once everything was clean, I checked the scooter back into its bay and folded my suit and breather into my locker. I put the air tank in with a rack of empties for a technician to refill. I carefully double-checked everything, because you always double-checked everything when things like clean air and functional environment suits were involved, but no matter how long I took with the chores, it wouldn’t be long enough. I couldn’t put off talking to Mom forever. So I brushed the creases out of my jumpsuit and pulled my brown hair into a tail to try to make it look decent. Not that it helped.

The office of Supervisor Martha Newton, director of Colony One operations, was the brain of the entire settlement, overseeing the engineering and environmental workstations, computer banks, monitors, controls, and surveillance that kept everything running. The place bustled, various department heads and their people, all in Mars-brown uniforms, passing along the corridor, ducking into rooms, studying handheld terminals, speaking urgently. It was all critical and productive, which was exactly how Mom liked it.

Supervisor Newton herself had a private room in the back of operations. Her office as well as her house, practically—she kept a fold-away cot there, and a stack of self-heating meal packets in one of the cupboards for when she worked late. Some days she didn’t come home. Usually, when she wasn’t sleeping or fixing casseroles, she kept the place clean, spotless, like a laboratory. Nothing cluttered her gray alloy desk except the computer screen tilted toward the chair. Two more chairs sat on the other side of the desk. The cot, her jacket, and emergency breather were tucked in a closet with a seamless door; her handheld and other office detritus remained hidden in a drawer. A window in back looked over the central atrium gardens. Anyone entering, seeing her sitting there, expression serene, would think she ran all of Colony One by telepathy. I wouldn’t put it past her.

When I finally arrived, sliding open the door, she was sitting just like that, back straight, her brown hair perfectly arranged in a bob, wearing neither a frown nor a smile. Her beige-and-brown uniform was clean, neatly pressed, buttoned at the collar—perfect.

Charles was already here, slouching in one of the extra chairs. My brother had grown ten centimeters in the last year, and his legs stuck out like he didn’t know what to do with them. I’d been taller than him before last year. Now he stared down at me and made jokes about my scalp.

They both looked at me, and I felt suddenly self-conscious. My jumpsuit was wrinkled, my hair was already coming loose, and I could feel the chill morning air still burning on my cheeks. I couldn’t pretend I hadn’t been out racing on the scooter for no reason at all. Maybe she wouldn’t ask.
“Polly, thank you for coming,” Mom said. As if I’d had a choice. As if I could find a place on the whole planet where she couldn’t find me. “Have a seat.”

I pulled up the other chair and sat; the three of us were at the points of an equilateral triangle. I wondered what Charles and I had done to get in trouble. This wasn’t about taking the scooter out, was it? I couldn’t think of anything else I’d done that she didn’t already know about. Charles was usually too smart to get caught when he did things like hack a mining rover or borrow gene-splicing lab equipment to engineer blue strawberries just to see if he could. I glanced at him, trying to get a hint, but he wouldn’t look at me.

We waited, expectant. Mom seemed to be studying us. The corners of her lips turned up, just a bit, which confused me.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Nothing at all,” she said. “Just the opposite, in fact. I’m sorry—I was just thinking about how quickly time passes. It seems like yesterday you were both still learning how to walk.”
This was starting to get weird. She usually talked about how much better she liked us once we started walking and talking and acting like actual people instead of needy babies. Mom wasn’t a fan of neediness.

She rearranged her hands, leaned forward, and even seemed excited. Happy, almost. “I’ve got some really good news. I’ve secured a wonderful opportunity for the both of you. You’re going to the Galileo Academy.”

Frowning, Charles straightened. I blinked at him, wondering what he knew that I didn’t. I said, “What’s that?” The way she said it made me think I should have heard of it.
“It’s on Earth,” Charles said flatly.
“You’re sending us to Earth?” I said, horrified.
Earth was old, grubby, crowded, archaic, backward, stifling—the whole point of being on Mars, at Colony One, was to get away from Earth. Why would she send us back there?

“This is a wonderful school, the best there is. Kids from all over the system go there, and you’ll get to learn and do so many things you’d never have a chance to if you stayed here.” She was eager, trying to sell us on the idea. Trying hard to make it sound like the best thing ever and not the disaster it was. This was clearly for her, not us. This was going to be good for her.
I wanted to get up and throw the chair into a wall, just to make noise. I wanted to either scream or cry—both options seemed reasonable.

But I only declared, “No. I don’t want to go.”
“It’s already settled,” Mom said. “You’re going.”
“But what about my internship? I’m supposed to start at the astrodrome next week. I’m supposed to start flying, really flying—” No more skimmers and scooters and suborbital shuttles, I was going to bust out of the atmosphere, get into pilot training and starships. I didn’t want to do anything else, much less go to school on Earth.

“The astrodrome will still be there when you’re finished,” she said.
“Finished when? How long is this going to take?”
“The program is three years.”
I had to do math in my head. “Their years or ours? How long is it really?”
“Polly, I thought you’d be excited about this,” she said, like it was my fault my life was falling apart before my eyes. “It’ll be your first interplanetary trip—you’re always talking about how you want to get into space—”
“As a pilot, not as baggage, just to end up dirtside on Earth. And you didn’t even ask! Why didn’t you ask if I wanted to go?”

Her frown hardened. The supervisor expression—she was right, everyone else was wrong. “Because I’m your mother, and I know what’s best.”
How was I supposed to argue with that?
I crossed my arms and glared. “I don’t want to go. You can’t make me.”
“I’ve already let the supervisors at your internships know that you won’t be participating. The next Earthbound passenger ship leaves in two weeks—you’re allowed five kilos of personal cargo. Most of your supplies, uniforms and the like, will be provided by the school, so you shouldn’t need to take much with you.”
“Five kilos on Mars or Earth?” Charles asked. He’d been scheduled to start an internship in colony operations. He’d run the planet within a decade. We both had plans.
“Mom, I’m not going,” I said.
“Yes, Polly, you are.”

Charles hadn’t moved, and he still wouldn’t look at me. Why wasn’t he saying anything? Why wasn’t he arguing with her? He didn’t actually want to go, did he?
If he wasn’t going to help, I’d have to do this myself, then. “I’ll submit a petition to the council. I’m old enough to declare emancipation, I can still get that internship—”
“Not without my approval—”
“If I declare emancipation I won’t need your approval!”
“—without my approval as director of operations,” she said.

That was a really dirty trick. That was pulling rank. And it wasn’t fair. Charles raised a brow, as if this had suddenly gotten interesting.
Mom took a breath, indicating that I’d riled her, which was a small comfort. “Polly, you need to plan long term here. If you finish at Galileo Academy, you’ll be able to pick your piloting program. You’ll qualify for a program on Earth. You’ll be captaining starships in half the time you would be if you went through the astrodrome program here.”

Right now my plan was interning at the astrodrome between semesters learning maintenance, traffic control, and support positions like navigation and communication. I’d have to finish school, then try for an apprenticeship while I applied for piloting-certification programs—and no one ever got into a program on the first try, the process was so competitive. I’d have to keep working, adding to my résumé until I finally made it, and then add on a couple of years for the program itself.

If what she said was true, this Galileo Academy was impressive enough that I could get into a piloting program on my first try. Which sounded too good to be true. She held this out as the shiniest lure she could find, and I was furious that I was ready to buy in to the scheme.
I’d had a plan. She could have at least warned me that she was plotting behind my back.
“But why does it have to be Earth?” My voice had gotten smaller, like now that the shouting was done I was going to have to start crying. I clamped down on the impulse.
“Because everything goes back to Earth eventually.” She looked at my brother. “Charles? Do you have anything you want to say?”
“No,” he said. “You’re right, it sounds like a wonderful opportunity.” I couldn’t tell if he was mocking her or not. He might have been serious and mocking at the same time.
Her smile was thin. “I’ll be home for supper tonight. We’ll talk more about it then.”

Dismissed, like a couple of her underlings. I stormed out of the office, Charles following more calmly, and the door slid closed behind us. We walked home. A straight corridor led to a another corridor, long and curving, that circled the entire colony. Plenty of time for stomping before we got to the residential section and our quarters. Not that Charles stomped. He seemed oddly calm.
“Why?” I asked him. “Why is she doing this to us?”
“You should look at it as an opportunity, not a prison sentence.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“My guess? She wants us to know what Earth is like. For real, not just in the propaganda.”
That actually made sense. “Okay. But why?”
He looked at me down his nose. The don’t-you-ever-think? look. “It’s where we’re from.”
“We’re from Mars,” I said.
“‘We’ as in humanity are from Earth. The dominant political, social, and economic structures that define us are still dependent on Earth.”
“So we’re just supposed to automatically think Earth is great.”
“It might not be so bad. It might even be interesting.”
“There’s got to be a way we can get out of it.”

We walked a few steps, and I thought he was thinking, coming up with a plan to get out of it. I was depending on him coming up with a plan.
“I don’t think I want to get out of it,” he said, and my heart sank.
“It’s only a few years. And you’ll get into a piloting program afterward. Why are you arguing?”
I was arguing because my world had been turned upside down and shaken in a way it never had before, and I didn’t much like it.

Two weeks at home before I had to leave for years. Years. Nobody left Mars. People came to Mars, because it was better, for the jobs and the wide-open spaces and the chance to be part of something new and great like the colonies. That was why our grandparents had come here. Mom was one of the first of the new generation born on Mars, and Charles and I were the second. Mars wasn’t a frontier anymore, it was home. People came here with the expectation that they would never leave. And why would they? Going back and forth was hard enough—expensive enough—that you couldn’t just pop in for a visit. If you came, if you left, it was for years, and that was that.

But people did leave, because a ship departed for Earth every two months. Mom must have known about this for a while to book me and Charles far enough in advance. She didn’t tell us about it because she knew we’d try to dodge. Or, I would try to dodge. She didn’t want to spend months arguing with me.

I lay on the grassy lawn in the middle of the colony’s main atrium. Partially sunk underground, a lensed dome let in and amplified the sun, feeding the lush plants, trees, flowers, and shrubs. The light above me was a filtered, golden glow, and beyond it lay pink sky. I wanted to memorize the scene.
My best friend, Beau, lay beside me. We held hands. I didn’t want to ever let go. I’d told him the news, and he’d taken it like Charles had—matter-of-fact, maybe even curious. “You’ll get to see the ship. Aren’t you even excited about that?” I was, but after all the carrying on I’d done, I wouldn’t admit that. The ship would be carrying me away from home, which put a damper on the whole experience.

“What if I pretended to be sick? If they think I have a cold or the flu or something they won’t let me on the ship.”
“They’ll test to see what you have and find out you don’t have anything.”
“I could catch something for real. There’s got to be some virus culture in the med lab.”
He glanced at me. “You try that, you’ll catch something worse than a cold.”
He was right. The lab mostly had cultures of bacteria collected from under the polar ice caps—Martian microfauna. It probably wouldn’t do anything to me. Or it’d kill me outright.
I sighed. “I’m supposed to want to go. Mom keeps telling me what a great opportunity this is. I think she’s just trying to get rid of me.”

“Then maybe you should look at it that way—you won’t have your mother looking over your shoulder every minute of the day anymore.”
I had to smile at that. Communications between Earth and Mars had a ten- to twenty-minute time lag. She’d never be able to interrogate me like she did here. She’d still keep an eye on me, sure, but the news she got would always be at least ten minutes old. That was something.
“Yeah, but she’ll just make Charles keep an eye on me.”

Beau reflexively looked around, an instinctive check to see if Charles was eavesdropping. I couldn’t have said whether my brother was or wasn’t. I couldn’t do anything about it one way or another—if I caught him at one trick, he’d find another—so I let it go. But Beau hadn’t grown up with him, so he wasn’t used to it. After a moment, he settled back down.

“Your brother’s kind of weird.”
“He’s just Charles,” I said.
We stayed silent for a long moment. A vent came on, and the leaves on the tallest tree fluttered. I listened to Beau breathe, soft and steady.
“I’m going to miss you,” he said.

I looked at him, tears stinging my eyes. I didn’t know what to say or do, so I rolled over, put my arm around him, and rested my head on his chest. He put his arms around me, and we stayed like that until we had to go home for supper.

Copyright © 2016 by Carrie Vaughn

CARRIE VAUGHN, the New York Times bestselling author of the Kitty Norville books, is also the author of the stand-alone novels After the Golden Age and Discord's Apple, and the young adult books Voice of Dragons and Steel. She holds a Masters in English Literature and collects hobbies—fencing and sewing are currently high on the list. You can visit her online at www.carrievaughn.com.

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Monday, 30 January 2017

REVIEW - Echoes in Death by JD Robb

Title: Echoes in Death

Author: J.D. Robb

Publisher:  Piatkus Books

Release Date: 7th February 2017

Source: ARC
A dark and gripping new case for Lieutenant Eve Dallas – from number one bestseller J.D. Robb
New York at night. A young woman stumbles out on to a busy street - right in front of Lieutenant Eve Dallas and husband Roarke. Her name is Daphne Strazza, and she has been brutally assaulted. Confused and traumatised, she manages to tell them one thing. Her attacker wore a devil's mask. 

As Eve investigates this shocking case, she soon discovers a disturbing pattern. Someone is preying on wealthy couples, subjecting them to a cruel and terrifying ordeal. Worse still, the attacks are escalating in violence and depraved theatricality. Eve and her team are now in a race against time to find the man behind the mask - before he strikes again. But for Eve, this case in particular has unsettling echoes of her own troubled past . . .
I believe this is the forty-forth installment in the In Death series, how amazing is that, I have read about thirty of those books including this one and I don't think there is a bad story in any of them.  I really don't know how Nora Roberts aka JD Robb does it, the woman has one heck of a talent.

So does her cop extraordinaire, the kick ass Eve Dallas, Lieutenant in the NYPSD and wife to Irish gazillionaire Rourke, oh and cat mum to Galahad better not forget him!

This book features all the characters we know and love and of course it has a brutal murder that needs to be solved but it starts with a victim who is very much alive - Daphne Strazza.

Found wandering during a cold winter evening by Dallas and Rourke, she is out of it, traumatised, horrified, something has happened and of course NYPSD's finest is going to make sure she finds out what has happened.  Daphne has been attacked, raped, totally brutalised and all she can manage to say is that her attacker wore a devil's mask.

The case turns out to be a home invasion and Daphne was not alone when it happened, her husband, a brilliant surgeon was there too.  When Dallas arrives at the crime scene she discovers his body and with the help of Peabody and the rest of NYPSD's finest she is determined for Daphne to find her husbands killer.

But this of course is not a simple case, it shows all the hallmarks of two previous home invasions, one where a man dressed as Dracula beat up the husband and raped the woman, and another where a ghoul did exactly the same.  It looks like this is a repeat offender, one with a sick taste in dressing up and a sicker fantasy playing out in their head.

Will Dallas get to the bottom of this case, yes she will but of course it is how she gets there that make every single In Death story so excellent.  I could quite happily read all the books from the start again and not be bored.

New York is perfect in the story, covered in snow, which is my favourite weather for Dallas to be out solving crime!

An excellent read, this series continues to excel, long may it continue.

Thank you to Piatkus for sending me an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Sunday, 29 January 2017

MOVIE REVIEW - The Girl With All The Gifts

So I hope you have read the book that this film is based on, the reason being is one - it is an excellent read and you can read my review here of the book and reason two I am not going to go over the plot in great detail in this review, I'm assuming you know, you know!!

So I never got to see this at my local cinema as they never had it on so I had to wait on the Blu Ray to come out, I'd heard good things about it in the press and of course I loved the MR Carey book that this is based on, I had high expectations for this film.

It holds a 15 certificate here in the UK so I was expecting a mild amount of horror, maybe not on a par with "that" episode of the Walking Dead but my god this film could be brutal.

Set in a world where hungries roam and the few humans left try to stay alive (not always successfully) there is a small military base where soldiers stand guard over a group of what you first assume are innocent kids, innocent kids that are locked in cells and when they are allowed out strapped in to wheel chairs and restrained heavily.  

You soon find out that these innocent looking kids are bloodthirsty behind their childlike exteriors but they are still kids.  The story revolves around one of the kids, a girl called Melanie, exceptionally smart and if it wasn't for the need for flesh, a truly lovely little girl, she loves to learn and she also loves her teacher Miss Justineau (played by Gemma Arterton who looks great sans makeup).

She is the one grown up in Melanie's life who isn't shouting at her, Sgt Parks (Paddy Considine) or trying to dissect her, Dr Caldwell (Glenn Close) and when the base is breached by the hungries Melanie makes sure that her beloved teacher remains alive.

They manage to escape just, along with Parks, Caldwell and a couple of squaddies in an armoured car, their aim to make it to the Beacon Base, a journey that will take the in to London and the horrors that lurk there.

I'm glad this film was British made, now I mean that as no disrespect American chums but the film is dark and gritty, it looks like the end of the world as it should.  I think the American version would maybe be a bit glossier with possibly more blood, gore and make up on Gemma Arterton.  

Yes this film is brutal in bits, it has been compared to another favourite film of mine 28 Days Later, but it is also full of great suspense and lots of moments where you scream at the screen as the characters split up in the dark or as they try to walk quietly through streets filled with hungries that are zoned out, waiting for flesh.

The star of this film has to be the girl who plays Melanie, Sennia Nanua, she is excellent, she is both scary and sweet at the same time, a brilliant young actor who was the perfect choice for Melanie.

Also Glenn Close was perfect as the emotionally switched off Caldwell, near chilling in fact.

If you enjoyed the book, you'll love this, if you like to be scared, you'll love this.  

An excellent film.

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Friday, 27 January 2017

REVIEW - Burned and Broken by Mark Hardie

Title: Burned and Broken

Author: Mark Hardie

Publisher: Sphere

Release Date: Available now for Kindle!

Source: ARC
Peter James meets James Oswald in this gripping, gritty British crime debut

The charred body of an enigmatic policeman – currently the subject of an internal investigation – is found in the burnt-out shell of his car on the Southend sea front.

Meanwhile, a vulnerable young woman, fresh out of the care system, is trying to discover the truth behind the sudden death of her best friend.

As DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell from the Essex Police Major Investigation Team are brought in to solve the mystery of their colleague's death, dark, dangerous secrets begin to surface. Can they solve both cases, before it's too late?

Mark Hardie's stylish and gripping debut introduces a brilliant new detective duo to the world of crime fiction, weaving together two suspenseful stories that end in a breath-taking finale.
I do like a good crime novel, you know the kind, one you can lose yourself in for hours whilst the story weaves in and out, keeping you guessing and when I was offered the chance to read Burned and Broken I jumped at it as it features a few things that I love in a gritty crime novel.

Those things are......the British setting, I love reading books set in an area I can relate to and the long British arm of the law,  our boys (and girls) in blue always seem to be rougher round the edges than their North American counterparts!  The other thing?, well of course it is full of secrets and lies, the ingredients of all good crime novels.

Set in the south of England in Essex, the story is told from various POV's including the two main police officers Pearson and Russell who have a murder on their hands, and a young woman, Donna who has been in the care system who is trying to get to the bottom of her friend, Alicia's death.

Full of twists and turns this is an engaging read but the one thing I really enjoyed about it was the sheer level of detail that this book has, I can imagine that this would be brilliant as an audio book as is so well described.

An enjoyable read and I'm looking forward to Mark Hardie's next release.

Thank you to Little Brown for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Mark Hardie was born in 1960 in Bow, East London. He began writing full time after completely losing his eyesight in 2002. He has completed a creative writing course and an advanced creative writing course at the Open University, both with distinction. 

Mark lives with his wife Debbie in Southend-on-Sea. 

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Thursday, 26 January 2017

REVIEW - Paper Girls Volume 2 by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang

Title: Paper Girls Volume 2

Author: Vaughan and Chiang

Publisher: Image Comics

Release Date: 6th December 2016

Source: Own Copy
The smash-hit series from BRIAN K. VAUGHAN and CLIFF CHIANG continues with a bold new direction, as intrepid young newspaper deliverers Erin, Mac, and Tiffany find themselves launched from 1988 to a distant and terrifying future...the year 2016.

I loved the first volume of Paper Girls, it was wonderfully full of eighties references from frizzy perms to MacGyver, could volume two be as spectacularly retro yet futuristic at the same time.

Well yes!

And no....the girls, well three of them find themselves in 2016 and the first person they meet (and if you have read volume one you'll know this already is) is Erin from the future.  

Erin from 1988 along with her pals are still trying to find out what the heck has happened to everyone who disappeared back in '88 and also where the alien dudes came from.  They also are trying to cope with 2016, all those buttons on remote controls, teeny tiny phones and those big tv screens.

This series continues to be awesome, it looks good, the girls are brilliant sassy characters and the story is progressing at a nice place, still a lot of questions to be answered and there is also a grand total of three Erin's in this volume, stay sharp whilst reading, jumps in time are always confusing, well for me they are.  

Anyway, fantastic read and roll on volume 3.

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Monday, 16 January 2017

REVIEW - Relativity by Antonia Hayes

Title: Relativity

Author: Antonia Hayes

Publisher: Corsair

Release Date: 19th January 2017

Source: ARC
‘A true storyteller: her characters are alive’ Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap

‘Wonderful; a beautifully written, heart-breaking novel’
S J Watson, author of Before I Go to Sleep

‘Genuinely difficult to put down’ Greeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project

‘I tore through it’ Courtney Collins, author of The Burial

Ethan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy. 

His single mother Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can’t shield him forever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave them all those years ago.

Now age twelve, Ethan is increasingly curious about his past, especially his father’s absence in his life. When he intercepts a letter to Claire from Mark, he opens a lifetime of feelings that, like gravity, will pull the three together again.

Relativity is a tender and triumphant story about unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, and testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

This book is breathtakingly brilliant, a beautiful read, a difficult subject, an incredible little (well not so little he's 12) boy and the story of how his father came back in to his life.

Ethan is not a normal boy, he is obsessed with science and rightly so, he is brilliant with an incredible understanding of physics, astronomy and this of course earns him a place on the school bullies list but he has a happy home with his mum Claire.  

A single mum since her husband went away when Ethan was 4 months old, she has put her ambitions as a ballerina on hold to make sure her son has the best life possible, to keep him happy, healthy and kept oblivious to the reasons why she and Mark her ex-husband and Ethan's father are no longer together.

But an illness in Mark's family brings him back in contact with Claire, this brings up feelings good and bad and leads to Ethan discovering why his Dad left.

Told in flashbacks and from the POV's of Claire, Ethan and Mark, this truly has a wealth of emotions bursting from the pages.  As it is revealed to us bit by bit where Mark has been and how he got there, the characters go through emotional upheaval and it is apparent that Mark and Claire have already gone through a lot of the years and old wounds are being opened.

I devoured this is one afternoon, as I read it I felt I didn't know how it was going to end, some books keep you guessing, others lay it out for you, this didn't.  I'm glad it didn't.

Ethan has to be the standout character in the story, older than his 12 years, he shows maturity yet when he meets Alison she helps him become a kid again, the pair become fast friends.  He deals with everything that comes at him brilliantly, I couldn't have.

A brilliant emotion crushing read that will have you in tears several times over.

Thanks to Corsair for sending me a copy in advance in exchange for an honest review.

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Sunday, 15 January 2017

REVIEW - Brake Failure by Alison Brodie includes GIVEAWAY!

Title: Brake Failure

Author: Alison Brodie

Publisher: Clipboard Press

Release Date: 9th January 2017

Source: ARC
Brake Failure is a contemporary romance with humour, suspense and a kick-ass heroine. The story is set in one of the most fascinating periods of America's history: the months leading up to Y2K "melt-down."

"Is it too late to tell him you love him when you're looking down the barrel of his gun?"

Ruby Mortimer-Smyth is an English debutante, destined for Ladies Day at Ascot and taking tea at The Savoy. She knows the etiquette for every occasion and her soufflés NEVER collapse. 

She is in control of her life, tightly in control. Until fate dumps her down in … Kansas. 

Ruby believes that life is like a car; common-sense keeps it on the road, passion sends it into a ditch. What she doesn't know is, she's on a collision course with Sheriff Hank Gephart. 

Sheriff Hank Gephart can judge a person. Miss Mortimer-Smyth might act like the Duchess of England but just under the surface there's something bubbling, ready to explode. She's reckless, and she's heading for brake failure. And he's not thinking about her car.

With the Millennium approaching, Ruby gets caught up in the Y2K hysteria. She joins a group of Survivalists, who give her a gun and advise her to stockpile basic essentials, such as gasoline and water-purifying tablets. So she bulk-buys Perrier, Gentleman's Relish and macaroons. 

Ruby, far from home, is making Unsuitable Friends and "finding herself" for the first time. She falls in with a gang of Hells Angels and falls foul of the law. At every turn, she comes up hard against Sheriff Hank Gephart, whose blue eyes seem to look deep into her soul. She desperately wants him but knows she can never have him.

She's angry at the emotions he arouses in her. Pushed to her limit, she bursts from her emotional straightjacket.

As the clock strikes midnight of the new Millennium, she's on a freight train with three million dollars, a bottle of Wild Turkey and a smoking gun.

What happened to Miss Prim-and-Proper? And why did she shoot Mr Right?

Note: Alison Brodie wrote this story from first-hand experience. She lived in Kansas during this time and was stunned by the hysteria, unnerved that the US government was spending $150 billion preparing for Armageddon. As Lionel Shriver says in her novel, We Have To Talk About Kevin: “1999, a year widely mooted beforehand as the end of the world.”

 A great fun read, Brake Failure is a flashback to the final year of the nineties and this craziness that came before Y2K.  Told in a back to front way, this is a crazy drive from start to finish.

We meet Ruby, who is, well she has had a privileged upbringing, a wonderful sense of entitlement and basically seems hellbent on getting one over on her step-sister.  To her the ultimate goal is Paris and her husband who she seems to use for her own personal gain rather than love is going to be her ticket to the City of Love.

Except that is not going to happen as he has to go Kansas first, oh and did I mention that it was 1999.

America comes as a total culture shock to Ruby, she is a fish out of water and a hypochondriac to boot, she should make friends easily in her small town!!

Friendship is not something Ruby has in mind when she keeps encountering the local Sheriff Hank Gephart who is igniting something in Ruby that her husband isn't sparking, not only is the local Sheriff giving Ruby major feels, her husbands boss is also set fire to her emotions, for the first time in her life she decides she is going to do what the hell she likes.

There may be consequences, they may not be good.

I'll not spoil the rest for you but this is a rollicking good read, well written and humourous with a lead character who can fearless and majorly annoying at the same time but you can't help forgive her.

Thanks to Neverland Blog Tours for providing me with a copy.

Alison Brodie is a Scot, with French Huguenot ancesto
rs on her mother’s side. Alison was a photographic model for a wide range of products, such as Ducati motorbikes and 7Up. She was also the vampire in the Schweppes commercial.

A disastrous modelling assignment in the Scottish Highlands gave Alison an idea for her first romance novel, Face to Face. It was taken up by Dinah Wiener, the first agent Alison sent it to. Three weeks later, Alison signed a two-book deal with Hodder & Stoughton. Subsequently, Face to Face was published in English, German and Dutch. “Vain, but wildly funny leading lady.” -Scottish Daily Mail. It was also chosen as Good Housekeeping’s “Pick of the Paperbacks.”

Unfortunately, Alison then suffered from Second-Book Syndrome. The publisher’s deadline loomed but Alison couldn’t think of a story! She found the whole experience a nightmare; and this is why she cautions first-time authors not to sign a multi-book deal unless they are prepared!
Alison lived in Kansas for two years. She loved the people, their friendliness, the history and the BBQs! Now, she lives in Biarritz, France with her rescue mutt, Bayley.

Alison’s previous release, THE DOUBLE, was published to rave reviews:

“Proof of her genius in writing fiction…Excellent.” –San Francisco Book Review.

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Friday, 13 January 2017

REVIEW - A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

Title: A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #1)

Author: Amanda Bouchet

Publisher: Piatkus Books

Release Date: 12th January 2017

Source: ARC
"Cat" Catalia Fisa lives disguised as a soothsayer in a travelling circus. She is actually an exceptionally powerful Magoi - known as the Kingmaker - who can divine lies. But Cat has no interest in using her powers - or in being used for them - and stays under the radar, far from the clutches of her power-hungry homicidal family.

An ambitious warlord from the magic-deprived south, Griffin, is intent on bringing peace to his newly conquered realm. When he discovers Cat is the Kingmaker, he abducts her - then does everything he can to coax her to help his people willingly.

Cat has worked hard to avoid the dangerous destiny she fears is in her blood but the balance of power in their world is shifting. The old magics are no longer all-powerful and there's a new, ferocious force at work. To survive, Cat will have to explore the true depth of the powers she's spent so long running from - and perhaps even learn to work with her enemies . . . .

Sexy, dark, magical, mythical.....just a few words to describe this novel from Amanda Bouchet!  

An enjoyable few days where spent exploring the land that has been created here, the land that Cat our female protagonist lives in.  Straight away you can tell she is not one for taking any crap from anyone and straight away she gets crap thrown at her!

We meet her as a member of a magical circus where she is travelling as a soothsayer, she is hiding her true colours but the arrival of a warlord at the circus takes her out of hiding and on a journey to back to where she grew up and where she is now running from.

But Griffin, the warlord has a plan for her, he knows that she is a Kingmaker, an extremely powerful Magoi who can tell when someone is lying to them and as his family have recently conquered a northern realm he wants Cat and her talents to help them stay at the helm of their new acquired realm.

But first they have to get there!

As a flight risk Cat is tethered to Griffin by a magical rope, this leads to a lot of awkward moments and a ton of chemistry, there is nothing subtle about Griffin, he is tall, dark and handsome and knows what he wants and even though he wants to use Cat for her powers you can tell straight away that he wants her for something else too.

Now I don't want to spoil this for you as it is a great read but we follow Cat, Griffin and his men (also easy on the eye) as they take the treacherous journey north, Cat is still hiding a lot from Griffin but as they get further north more and more about Cat is revealed, she is lot more powerful than we could have imagined, scarily so and she is going to have to try her best to make it north alive and out of the hands of the people seeking her for revenge.

Now I enjoyed this book, it jumped straight in to the action, the only thing that bugged me a little was Cat's whinging, I know she had been taken by Griffin but she moans like hell, it did get a bit repetitive but I suppose it was part of her character but I forgave her for this as she is totally kick ass.

Anyway for fans of fantasy with a touch of smoking hot added in, this will be up your street!

Thanks to Piatkus for providing me with a copy.

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Tuesday, 10 January 2017

If I Could.......Make my own Loot Crate!!

So unless you have been living under a rock you will be well aware of the fact that you can get a monthly subscription box for pretty much anything these days ranging from beauty products to pet food.  But did you know there is an awesome one for us geeks and gamers??

Loot Crate is that box! You can spend as little or a much as you like and each month you'll get an awesome box full of goodies! You can expect goodies such as Funko Pops, pins, clothing and other cool things.  

Each box has a theme with past ones including loot from Harry Potter, Aliens, Terminator, Marvel and Star Trek to name a few!  

Here is a little video that shows you how it works!

So, the guys at Loot Crate asked me to use my vivid vast imagination to come up with my dream crate and get this I can put anything in it!! 

You can get in on the act too, create your own Loot Crate and share across the blogosphere!  

The only limit is your imagination!!

So what did I come up with?  

My head was bursting with things I could do, what theme was best to incorporate all the things I want to stick in my crate!?

Well my theme is......

From rainbow unicorns, doughnuts with big smiles to ladies with lilac hair and marshmallows earrings, Kawaii is adorable, cutesy and guaranteed to put a smile on your face.  

My Loot Crate is gonna be jam packed of adorable goodies.

Starting with something to kick back and relax on whilst I enjoy my crate, a giant Totoro to get comfy on!

To fully immerse myself within my Kawaii theme I'm gonna need some cute bits and bobs such as t-shirts in bright pinks with smiling food, more fluffy Tororo cushions (you can never have too many Totoro's), cute flashy trainers and some cool Japanese snacks.
I Love Kawaii
Click on the pic and it will take you to Polyvore!

As for the rest of my crate (I'm beginning to wonder if I could physically lift my imaginary crate), well first of all my crate is going to need some air holes drilled in to it as something living and breathing is going in to it.

Something, furry, adorable and totally kawaii.


Who would not want a big box full of cute things along with a fuzzy wuzzy kitty cat? (Obvs I don't condone putting real cats in crates!!)  Pusheen is all I want in a cat, totally Kawaii cute, smart, likes ice cream and dressing up and occasionally turns in to a rainbow unicorn.  

So is my crate a possibility, well in my head it totally is!  To be serious for a minute,  the world is a dark place at times so I think a bright dose of colourful cuteness will do is the world of good!

I'd love to hear ( and so would the good peeps at Loot Crate) what you would put in your crate!  

Feel free to create your own post and share with +Loot Crate and get this, there is a chance that the best crate design could be made in to an actual box!!

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