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Extract and giveaway: Shattered Minds by Laura Lam

18 Jun

Today is my stop on the Shattered Minds blog tour. Thanks to fab publisher Macmillan, I have an exclusive extract from the book and a copy of the beautiful hardback to give away! Please do check out the other stops on the tour too – there’s an extract each day so start at the beginning and read on from there!

Laura Lam’s Shattered Minds stars a female ‘Dexter’ with a drug problem and a conscience, in a terrifying near-future where technology rules our lives and haunts our dreams.

shattered mindsShe can uncover the truth, if she defeats her demons

Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill. She satisfies her cravings in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug ‘Zeal’. Now she’s heading for self-destruction – until she has a vision of a dead girl.

Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl was a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he’s probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis – or she’s next.

To unlock the secrets Mark hid in her mind, she’ll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary – before it changes us and our society, forever.

Extract

THREE

CARINA

The Zealscape, Green Star Lounge, Los Angeles,

California, Pacifica

Carina’s drug dreams always begin the same way.

She’s back in Greenview House. Her father bought it even though it was far too big for three people, outside Woodside, California, less than an hour by hovercar out of San Francisco. Nothing but trees surrounded that house that would become a crypt. She couldn’t wait to leave, and now, eight years later, she still can’t escape it.

Carina walks through the empty hallways, her footsteps echoing. Nothing exists outside of the house in the Zealscape, not really, and the windows only look out into a grey fog. All her dreams and nightmares take place in its various rooms. Even if the rooms can expand into streets or forests, no matter how vast, she can turn a corner and step back into those familiar corridors. She tried to change the Zealscape program to another setting, but in the end, her subconscious is too tied to Greenview House and everything that happened here.

She opens the door to the room where she last saw the young girl and the doctor she knows from earlier nightmares. They are nowhere to be seen.

‘Anyone here?’ she calls. ‘Come out, come out, wherever you are!’

Silence.

Carina turns away. Needing her fix, she creates her first victim, bringing him to life on a table before her, prepped just as she wishes. Half the fun is the hunt, but when she first plugs in, there’s never the patience for it. It’s an appetizer of violence before the more leisurely meal.

Carina has a very specific type, here in the Zealscape. She kills criminals, perpetrators of terrible, fictional crimes. They are usually men, middle-aged, cocky in their assurance that they are getting away with their wrongdoings. She has killed women, for a bit of variety, often ‘angel of death’ types. Never children or teenagers – which is why the vision of the girl was so damn jarring.

Where had that come from?

The Zealscape is where Carina lets it all out so that those people out in the real world, those strangers who seem as insubstantial as her dream creations, are safe from her. She has killed hundreds of figments within these walls over the last six months. Used almost every weapon. Killed quickly. And slowly. The one constant is that she never tires of it.

The man pushes against his bonds, the whites of his eyes showing. Carina has created him a serial killer, like her, but he preys on the innocent. He buries young boys beneath his house, like John Wayne Gacy. He’s not real, but he deserves death.

Her fingers itch and she moves closer. His chains rattle as his struggles grow more frantic. A desperate, delicious gurgling bubbles from his throat. Her fingers tingle in anticipation, and her heartbeat quickens.

Carina doesn’t speak to her victims. She did in the beginning, trying to make these fabrications of her imagination understand what she was about to do to them. It grew dull, unlike the act of killing.Carina sometimes finds her situation amusing, when she’s coherent enough for amusement. The government doles out unlimited Zeal to keep criminals off the streets, yet offers them an unlimited playground to hone their criminal skills. With chronic Zealot mortality rates as high as eighty per cent, however, the government doesn’t have much to fear.

Closing her eyes to concentrate, she opens them to a long, thin knife resting in her hands. There are some weapons she prefers – the knife is particularly instinctual, personal, whereas the gun is too distant, even if the kickback and the crack are satisfying.

Carina hefts the knife.

The man below her is in his physical prime, muscled as a wrestler. He’s strong, the chains binding him straining with each pull. Her usual type is older, paunchier. Though she still buzzes with the need to kill, she forces herself to slow down, at least a little. She runs the knife tip along his skin next to the bonds. A tear slides down his cheek. She wipes it away with her thumb, then brings her fingertip to her mouth, tasting the salt. It feels real. Real enough.

His pain and fear feeds her, as if she grows larger from it. Only here, when the blood runs onto the white floor, does she feel alive any more. Carina is not that wreck of a woman strapped to a Chair in the Zealot room, suffering from mouth sores and malnutrition. That woman is the ghost.

The man whimpers again. Carina relishes the sound for a moment, then stands and thrusts the knife into his throat. Blood spurts from the punctured artery, painting her face red. She leans her head back, holding the hilt tighter, pressing down hard. All too soon the gurgles stop. She has not given this man a name, or imagined what life he might have lived outside his crimes. His eyes are wide, his mouth open in shock. She takes her hands away from the hilt. Her hands stop shaking. Carina sits next to the body, closing her eyes, breathing in the iron tang of blood.

She’s euphoric after the kill, and these brief moments before the craving returns are the only times she feels even remotely like her pre-Zeal self. Guilt bleeds in around the edges, even if she can’t regret that glee of the kill.

A few years ago, Carina had this under control. An occasional impulse she could push back and ignore. Nothing bubbled to the surface; it hadn’t since she was a teenager. She’d seemed like a perfectly functioning member of society. A great career, a promising future. And then, slowly but surely, it had all unravelled. A Zeal trip here or there. Once a month. Then twice a month. Weekly. By the time she’d left Sudice, it’d been every other day.

Now, she rarely leaves. She doesn’t trust herself out there. A wolf among sheep who’d never see her coming.

When she opens her eyes, the body is gone. A benefit of dream worlds: no clean up. No fear of being discovered dumping the body. No fear of discovery at all.

Dealing with the orderly’s accusing eyes is the only judgement she faces, and one she never fears.

She holds onto her sense of self, staying calm and collected. Replete. The mind of the scientist is back. She wanders the imaginary halls of her childhood home, peeking through the doors: the old home gym, her mother’s bedroom, preserved just as it was the last time she left it and never returned. Her teenage room, with its holographic band posters and unmade bed, reeking of a desperate attempt at normalcy.

All too soon, that buzz returns. Her fingers twitch. That delicious expectation of following her victim and their moves: where they’ll be, how she’ll take them and make them hers. Her thoughts turn only to blood and flayed muscles. Of taking out organs and hefting them in her hands, arranging them just so.

Here in the Zealscape, she can lose herself in the hunt as much as she wants. Here, she hurts only herself, as more and more of her body wastes away, strapped in the Chair in the Zeal lounge. Her body warms, thrums with excitement. She whispers Zeal’s newest catchphrase to herself: ‘More real than reality.’

Carina enters another room. In the real Greenview House, it was a guest bedroom and study, but now it is her planning room. One wall is blank, and she can visualize and design her next victim. She decides to go back to her roots: a distorted echo of her first target. Carina builds the man from scratch. Early fifties, a beer gut, hair and beard of greying brown. Hard eyes, an unhappy slash of a mouth. Large hands that make blocky fists. He is different enough that the sight of his face doesn’t make her shudder. She feels awareness sharpening. She’s growing closer. Her fingers twitch.

After creating him, she sends him away. She spends a few minutes programming his background – his job, his friends, sketches of his wife and family. This criminal has a penchant for child porn. She can again pretend it’s vengeance, not pure, selfish pleasure. Most Zealots don’t have such control over their drug-fuelled dreams. Then again, most people don’t have PhDs in neuroprogramming.

She can’t wait any more. Her skin is hot with need.

Carina walks through a door on the far side of the room and steps into a hallway that transitions seamlessly into a street. She follows her prey at a distance, watching the greying head bob as he walks. Her jaw is clenched tight. She barely blinks. The other people on the street are only vaguely human- shaped, with blurred ovals for faces. Nightmares for anyone else, but for her, just stand-ins.

Carina grasps a Stunner she conjured in her pocket. Sometimes she’ll stretch out the hunt – stalk them for longer, make their lives more detailed, lose herself in the fantasy – but she can’t today. Her breath catches in her throat. Her eyes in the Chair, back in reality, dilate behind closed eyelids. Almost time. Almost time to feel alive again, for a little while.

She’s just taken out the Stunner in a quivering hand when it happens.

The street disappears, along with her quarry. Just gone, as if someone has hit a switch. The whole room turns black. No, darker – that blackness of the space between stars. There have been glitches in the system before, but Carina knows, with a deep certainty, that this is something more.

She’s lost the sense that she has a body. Her mind seems to float in the darker-than-darkness. Then light explodes back into her world.

Numbers, sounds, flashes of brightness, the feel of fingernails against her skin, of bubbles on her tongue. All her senses fragment and blur. Between the overloads is a snapshot of cohesive thought.

I’m dying. This is what dying must feel like.

The noise and the chaos begins to crystallize. Five images, over and over: A bee, buzzing, its wings flapping frantically, its antennae twitching. A rose, in full bloom; brilliantly, impossibly red, a drop of dew on one petal. A thorn, from the rose, its point curved and wicked. A drop of blood, welling on a fingertip. And eyes, staring right at her, wide and fathomless. Heterochromic – one green, one blue. They play, over and over and over again, telling a narrative she cannot hope to understand.

And then they stop, though she can still sense them, as though the images are flashing just out of sight.

The last image, the mismatched eyes, takes over her entire vision. It zooms out, until Carina sees the rest of the face, and then a body on a Chair in that lab she recognizes all too well. The last vision had been through the girl’s viewpoint, but Carina is sure this is her. She’s young – fifteen, sixteen at a push. She’s all doe-eyed innocence, spindly, coltish legs, her hair half an inch long. She reminds Carina a little too much of herself as a teenager. The girl is dead.

Part of her short hair has been shaved away. Dr Roz Elliot has opened up her skull, poked about in the contents, and sewn it back up, yet dead flesh does not knit. Her tanned skin is pale and chalky, legs akimbo.

‘What did you do, Roz?’ Carina asks the darkness.

The dead girl does not answer. Her eyes are open and staring. One blue, one green.

As if Carina blinks, the image is gone, and all is darker than black once again.

Giveaway!

I have one hardback copy of Shattered Minds to give away.

To enter this giveaway,  just leave comment in the box below or re-Tweet one of my tweets about this giveaway or like one of my posts about this giveaway on my Instagram page.

I’ll pick a winner using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Friday 23rd June.

Good Luck!

 

Extract and Giveaway! The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

2 Jun

Today I’m very excited to host the blog tour for The Space Between Stars by Anne Corlett. This is Anne’s debut novel and it’s an excellent read! Anne has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University and has won a number of awards for her short stories, including the H. E. Bates Award. She works as a criminal solicitor and freelance writer, and lives with her partner and three young boys in Somerset. Read on for an exclusive extract and a chance to win a copy.

9781509833528How far would you travel to find your way home?

Jamie Allenby wakes, alone, and realises her fever has broken. But could everyone she knows be dead? Months earlier, Jamie had left her partner Daniel, mourning the miscarriage of their baby. She’d just had to get away, so took a job on a distant planet. Then the virus hit.

Jamie survived as it swept through our far-flung colonies. Now she feels desperate and isolated, until she receives a garbled message from Earth. If someone from her past is still alive – perhaps Daniel – she knows she must find a way to return.

She meets others seeking Earth, and their ill-matched group will travel across space to achieve their dream. But they’ll clash with survivors intent on repeating humanity’s past mistakes, threatening their precious fresh start. Jamie will also get a second chance at happiness. But can she escape her troubled past, to embrace a hopeful future?

Extract – Chapter 2

Jamie hesitated before pushing the front door open.

‘Hello?’

Her voice cracked. She swallowed and tried again. ‘Mr Cranwell?’

That sounded childishly formal. ‘Jim?’

The kitchen was tidier than usual. His daughter used to invite her in for a cup of tea sometimes.

‘Cathy?’

Even the washing-up had been cleared away. An image flared in her head. Cathy, leaning heavily on the kitchen side, drying cups and stacking them slowly away, refusing to acknowledge the pointlessness of the task. One cupboard door was ajar, with a broken dish nearby. Maybe she’d crawled to her bed, like Jamie had. But Cathy’s bed wouldn’t have been empty. She would have climbed in and wrapped her arms around her children, breathing in their contagion, not knowing any other way of being.

Jamie walked down the hallway to a white-painted door. She stepped into a bright, airy room with doors opening onto the grass behind the house. Dust flecks drifted in the slanting sunlight.

Dust.

The sheets were grey with it, the covers tipped into a tangle on the floor.

There wasn’t much. Not when you thought of the measure of a person.

Three people.

You’d have imagined there’d be more heft to a human life. Jamie stood for a moment, watching the slow play of light and dust, then stepped backwards into the corridor and closed the door behind her.

Upstairs, she checked each door until she found a bareboarded room, furnished with just a bed and a chest of drawers. There was a cross on the wall and a sprawl of abandoned clothes on the floor, topped with Jim Cranwell’s belt, the one his grandchildren had bought him, with the buckle shaped like a running horse.

The covers were drawn up, almost as though the bed had been made, and the pillow was dusted with grey.

Back outside, Jamie leaned against the wall and closed her eyes. There was a pushiness to the sun’s warmth.

Come on, come on. Things to do, things to know.

When she opened her eyes, her gaze fell on one of the crofts down beyond the barn. She stared at it for a moment, and then pushed herself upright and set off across the yard.

Her circuit of the station took longer than it should have done. The virus had diminished her. She checked the six crofts, as well as the dorm that housed the younger farmhands. Some were as tidy as the main house, while others bore signs of an occupant who’d done everything they could not to go quietly into the night. But there were no signs of life, and everywhere she went, she saw dust motes drifting in the uncaring sunlight.

When she was done she went back to her own croft. Her skin felt dry and scuffed, and she found herself rubbing at her palms, as though that dust was clinging to her skin.

Suddenly she was on her knees, folded over, forehead pressed to the floor as though she was praying. Which way did Muslims pray? Towards Mecca. How did they know which way that was, all these millions of miles away?

Her thoughts were twisting tighter and tighter until there was nowhere to go but to the place she’d been trying to avoid. She shouldn’t be alive. Somehow the little world had got lucky. Was there any realistic chance that its luck had held more than once? And if not . . .

No.

There were other worlds. There’d be other survivors.

But the statistics were wrong here. What if they were wrong elsewhere? Her thoughts unwound again, spinning out beyond the walls of the croft, beyond the skies, out into the endlessness of space. An empty universe, with just one pinpoint of life, curled and numb on a dusty floor.

She fought for control. She knew there were survivors. The emergency messages had been clear.

Terminal in almost all cases.

The Space Between The Stars by Anne Corlett is published by Pan Macmillan, 1 June 2017, £12.99 hardback

Giveaway!

I have one beautiful hardback copy of The Space Between Stars to give away to a lucky reader.

To enter this giveaway,  just leave comment in the box below or re-Tweet one of my tweets about this giveaway or like one of my posts about this giveaway on my Instagram page.

I’ll pick a winner using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Wednesday 7th June. Good Luck!

Book review: Spandex and the City by Jenny T Colgan

23 May

spandex and the cityLOCAL GIRL SWEPT OFF HER FEET

Mild-mannered publicist Holly Phillips is unlucky in love. She’s embarrassed beyond belief when the handsome stranger she meets in a bar turns out to be ‘Ultimate Man’ – a superpowered hero whose rescue attempt finds her hoisted over his shoulder and flashing her knickers in the newspaper the next day.

But when Holly’s fifteen minutes of fame make her a target for something villainous, she only has one place to turn – and finds the man behind the mask holds a lot more charm than his crime-fighting alter-ego.

Can Holly find love, or is superdating just as complicated as the regular kind?

I’m on a bit of a roll at the moment with quirky, geeky romantic books, the latest of which Spandex and the City looks at what it might be like to date a superhero! Jenny T. Colgan will be very familiar to many readers as the author (minus the T.) of hits such as The Little Beach Street Bakery  and The Little Shop of Happily Ever After. Having read and enjoyed jenny’s other books I was so pleased to see that she is taking her writing in a fun new direction and I very much enjoyed this book which is witty, action packed, quirky and romantic.

Holly is a twenty-six year old publicist who works at the Mayor’s office. Whilst out drinking with a friend one night she finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes the target for a villain who is targeting the city. Holly is rescued by ‘Ultimate Man’ and it’s the start of an intriguing relationship! Holly is a fun character with a penchant for sarcasm and she is a bit of a magnet for trouble! Colgan gets the mix of insecure twenty something, pop culture references and dating disasters just right and this makes for an engaging and surprising read.

I loved that I was wrong footed a number of times as I read and the pleasure Jenny T Colgan gets from the fantasy elements of her story just bounces off the page. There’s dastardly twists, implausible situations and excellent comic timing but underneath all of that there’s also a little bit of a message about our society and the way that technology is influencing our lives.

If you love rom-coms but would like to try something different; dream of having your very own superhero or if you’re just looking for a fun escapist read this summer then Spandex and the City could be just the book for you!

4/5

Spandex and the City is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Orbit

Find out more about Jenny and her writing at: https://www.jennycolgan.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.

Event news: Brilliant Quirk Books events 26th-29th May!

21 May

As regular readers will know, I’m a huge fan of Quirk books (read my review of the brilliant Geekerella to see what I mean!) and I’m very excited to share with you that Quirk books have an action-packed set of events to entertain you this Bank Holiday weekend!

 MCM ComicCon

First of all, why don’t you stop off at MCM ComicCon London? One minute, get your photo taken with Archie from Riverdale or The Hulk, the next, head to Author Corner and listen to awesome women in publishing talk about comics, amazing women in history, and twisted fairytales.

http://www.mcmcomiccon.com/london/attractions/author-corner/

IMG_8061

 

Waterstones Piccadily

Then, head to the book heaven that is Waterstones Piccadilly on Monday, 29th May for an evening of book chat and wine, plus the chance to grab swag and win awesome prizes.

https://www.waterstones.com/events/bookpop-with-ashley-poston-hope-norton-and-sam-maggs/london-piccadilly

*Quirk Books will not accept responsibility for overstimulated minds and having too much fun in one go.

Event write up: #OrionBlogFest

15 May

IMG_7955At the end of April I attended the #OrionBlogFest. I felt very lucky to be among the bloggers and booksellers in attendance and it was brilliant to hear first-hand from the teams at Orion, Gollancz and W&N about the exciting new fantasy and sci-fi books that are coming out in the next six months. The teams’ enthusiasm for their authors and books was impressive and infectious and as a result my wish list has grown massively!IMG_7963

The event started with fab Stranger Things themed food and cakes – look at the cakes!!Then it was into one minute pitches for upcoming releases. These were so much fun and the addition of a timer and buzzer kept everyone on their toes.

Here are my hot picks from those pitched:

IMG_7957The House of Shattered Wings series by Aliette de Bodard (out now)

The second book in this magical urban fantasy series The House of Binding Thorns has just been released and both books sound excellent!

Paris in the aftermath of the Great Magicians War. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black, thick with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital. House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, now lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls. Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation; or the architects of its last, irreversible fall . . .

The Switch by Justina Robson (18th May) IMG_7958

Science, magic and politics come together in the pursuit of a perfect ‘model’ society. I can’t wait to read this one!

In Harmony, only model citizens are welcome.

A perfect society must be maintained. The defective must be eradicated. For orphans like Nico and Twostar, this means a life that’s brutal, regulated and short.

But Nico and Twostar are survivors, and when they’re offered a way out of the slums, they take it.

Unfortunately, no one told Nico the deal included being sentenced to death for the murder of one of Harmony’s most notorious gang leaders.

Or that to gain his freedom, first he must lose his mind.

IMG_7959The Falcolner trilogy by Elizabeth May

I can’t believe this was the first I’d heard of this series – it sounds right up my street! The final book, The Fallen Kingdon will be out in June so I grabbed a copy of book one (pictured) and I’m looking forward to starting it soon.

Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother.

Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.

But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?

Crosstalk by Connie Willis (10 August 2017)crosstalk

Described as Sliding Doors meets Rainbow Rowell, this one went straight onto my wish list!

Briddey is about to get exactly what she thinks she wants . . .

Briddey is a high-powered exec in the mobile phone industry, overseeing new products from concept (‘anything to beat the new apple phone’) to delivery. And she works with her wonderful partner, Trent. They’ve been together for six magical weeks, in a whirlwind of flowers, dinners, laughter and now comes the icing on the cake: not a weekend away or a proposal but something even better. An EDD. A procedure which will let them sense each other’s feelings. Trent doesn’t just want to tell her how much he loves her – he wants her to feel it.

Everything is perfect.

The trouble is, Briddey can’t breathe a word of it to anyone (difficult, when the whole office is guessing) until she’s had two minutes to call her family. And they’re hounding her about the latest family drama, but when they find out about the EDD – which they will – they’ll drop everything to interrogate her. And it might just be easier to have the procedure now and explain later.

The race is on: not just for new, cutting-edge technology, but also for a shred of privacy in a public world and – for Briddey – a chance for love at the heart of it all.

IMG_7961Three other books to look out for coming later in the year are: Sweet Dreams are Made of this by Tricia Sullivan, a book about Dreamhacking – the ability to enter someone’s dreams and influence them, which is out in September;  Mirror Mirror by Clara Delevinge  and The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli (proof pictured), both out in October. I’m so excited for Autumn reading already!

We then got to hear from three authors about their exciting new releases;  Joanne M Harris, Dan Vyletta and Ed McDonald made up a fabulous panel and it was so interesting to hear them speak about their books and their writing.

Following a book grab, pizza and signing break we were treated to a skype interview with  Kristen Ciccarelli whose gorgeous proof (above) was one of the highlights of the evening for me and was exclusively revealed to us at the event.

As a child, Asha’s mother told her ancient, forbidden stories to drive away her nightmares – and the telling of them killed her. And when Asha repeated those stories, they summoned an ancient dragon which almost destroyed her city, and left Asha horribly scarred. Ever since, she has protected her city and people (and tried to make amends) by dragon-slaying. And now she may have a way to both atone for the deaths she caused and to escape an arranged marriage: her father will free her, in exchange for the head of Kovu, the ancient dragon. And the only obstacle in her path is a defiant slave-boy . .

The night ended with a bookish quiz and I went home one very happy blogger. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Stevie and the team at Orion for putting on such a fab event. Look out for more details of #GollanczFest coming soon and do share which books you’re looking forward to in the comments below!

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Book review: Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

13 Feb

hold back‘We’re going to be fine.’
He looks around, but there’s nothing out here: nothing but the bottomless black universe on their left, the Earth suspended in glorious technicolour to their right.

Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left. None of this was supposed to happen.
Adrift in space with nothing to hold on to but each other, Carys and Max can’t help but look back at the world they left behind. A world whose rules they couldn’t submit to, a place where they never really belonged; a home they’re determined to get back to because they’ve come too far to lose each other now.

Hold Back the Stars is a love story like no other.

I’ve been really lucky to read some amazing books in 2017 already and Hold Back the Stars is definitely one of those ‘wow’ books. I loved this futuristic love story for its combination of elements of two of my favourite genres (romance and sci-fi) and Katie Khan’s look forward to what our world might become, had me fascinated – this book is a ‘must read’ debut this year.

Hold Back the Stars is set on Earth but not quite as we know it (though given recent political events I found the future described here scarily believable). Max and Carys are citizens of Europia; the unified collection of countries that now exist as one whole with a new world order. In Europia the individual is everything and people are literally made to be self-sufficient and go out to establish themselves on their own from a young age. I found Katie’s take on what the future might look like, clever and unique with lovely little touches to the descriptive writing that meant I read this book over a weekend and didn’t want to put it down.

The story opens with Max and Carys in space. They’ve made a mistake and managed to get away from their ship without propellant to get themselves back and have only 90 minutes of air left. At times, reading this story as the air supply went down made me feel a little claustrophobic but as a story telling device it adds brilliantly to the plot and tension of the novel. The playing out of those last ninety minutes far above Earth is broken up by the story of how Max and Carys got to this point, starting with their first encounter and charting their relationship as it develops in exceptional circumstances.

At its heart Hold Back the Stars is a love story and one that will stay with me for a long time. Like many great literary couples, Carys and Max are forbidden by the ‘couples rule’ to be a couple at their young ages (they are in their twenties). I’m not going to go into all the details of the world that Katie has created – a big part of the pleasure of reading this book was discovering the world as it is in her future vision – but I will say that its believable and cleverly done and examines some interesting philosophical debates around self, love, family, happiness and democracy. I’d love to add this book to our book group reading list as I think it would spark some really interesting conversations.

If you’re looking for something a little different from your reading this month then look no further –  if you love a beautifully written story, this is the book for you. I can’t wait to see what Katie writes next!

5/5

Hold Back the Stars is out now in hardback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Katie and her writing at: http://katiekhan.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

April 2016 new releases – hot picks!

3 Apr

So, March was the month where we all took it in turns to be ill in our little family so I didn’t get as much reading or blogging done as I’d hoped. But with a sunny new month comes a fresh start and I’m very excited about the April new releases. Here are the ten books I’m hoping to read this month.

head over heelsHead Over Heels (Geek Girl Book 5) by Holly Smale (HarperCollins Children’s Books) April 7th

I’m such a big fan of Holly Smale’s Geek Girl Series I’m currently halfway through this book and think it’s the best yet!

“My name is Harriet Manners, and I will always be a geek.”

The fifth book in the bestselling, award-winning GEEK GIRL series.

Harriet Manners knows almost every fact there is.

She knows duck-billed platypuses don’t have stomachs.
She knows that fourteen squirrels were once detained as spies.
She knows that both chess and snakes and ladders were invented in the same country.

And for once, Harriet knows exactly how her life should go. She’s got it ALL planned out. So her friends seem less than happy, Harriet is determined to Make Things Happen!
If only everyone else would stick to the script…

But is following the rules going to break hearts for GEEK GIRL?

Who’s That Girl by Mhairi McFarlane (HarperCollins) 7th Aprilwho's that girl

Another fab read from the author of the bestselling You Had Me At Hello. The hardback has a beautiful pearly cover and this is a story that will make you giggle!

When Edie is caught in a compromising position at her colleagues’ wedding, all the blame falls on her – turns out that personal popularity in the office is not that different from your schooldays. Shamed online and ostracised by everyone she knows, Edie’s forced to take an extended sabbatical – ghostwriting an autobiography for hot new acting talent, Elliot Owen. Easy, right?

Wrong. Banished back to her home town of Nottingham, Edie is not only dealing with a man who probably hasn’t heard the word ‘no’ in a decade, but also suffering an excruciating regression to her teenage years as she moves back in with her widowed father and judgy, layabout sister.

When the world is asking who you are, it’s hard not to question yourself. Who’s that girl? Edie is ready to find out.

passengerPassenger by Alexandra Bracken (Quercus Children’s Books) 7th April. 

I’m so excited about getting my hands on this book having seen the great reviews from the US release. I love books with a travel theme and this one has the added bonus of another favourite theme of mine – time travel!

New York City, present day

In one night, Etta Spencer is wrenched from everything she knows and loves. Thrown into an unfamiliar world, she can be certain of only one thing: she has travelled not just miles, but years from home.

The Atlantic, 1776

Captain Nicholas Carter is tasked with delivering Etta to the dangerous Ironwood family. They are searching for something – a stolen object they believe only she can reclaim. But Nicholas is drawn to his mysterious passenger, and the closer he gets to her, the further he is from freedom.

The Edges of the World

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey
across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by a desperate thief. But as Etta plays deeper into the Ironwoods’ game, treacherous forces threaten to separate her not only from Nicholas, but from her path home – for ever.

The Map of Bones (Fire Sermon Book 2) by Francesca Haig (Harper Voyager) April 7thmap of bones

Having loved The Fire Sermon, I’ve been eagerly anticipating book two in the series! Do check out the blog tour and look out for my stop on 9th April!

The second book in Francesca Haig’s critically acclaimed debut fantasy series.

The ashes of the past cannot hide the truth forever.

The Omega resistance has been brutally attacked, its members dead or in hiding.

The Alpha Council’s plan for permanently containing the Omegas has begun.

But all is not entirely lost: the Council’s seer, The Confessor, is dead, killed by her twin’s sacrifice.

Cass is left haunted by visions of the past, while her brother Zach’s cruelty and obsession pushes her to the edge, and threatens to destroy everything she hopes for.

As the country moves closer to all-out civil war, Cass will learn that to change the future she will need to uncover the past. But nothing can prepare her for what she discovers: a deeply buried secret that raises the stakes higher than ever before.

these days of oursThese Days of Ours by Juliet Ashton (Simon and Schuster) April 7th

I heard Juliet read from this novel at the recent Simon and Schuster Spring Blogger event and I can’t wait to hear more!

A novel about love. Raw important love. Small, beautiful love. And what happens when the person you love cannot be yours… Perfect for fans of Rowan Coleman, Jane Green and David Nicholls.
 
Kate and Becca are cousins and best friends. They have grown up together and shared all the most important milestones in their lives: childhood birthday parties, eighteenth birthdays, and now a wedding day as they each marry their childhood sweethearts, Charlie and Julian.
 
Kate has always loved Charlie – they were meant to be. Then she discovers that life never turns out quite how you expect it to. And love doesn’t always follow the journey it should.
 
But best friends are forever, and true love will find a way, won’t it…?

The Keepers: Ethan by Rae Rivers (HarperImpulse) April 7thEthan Cover

Rae was one of the very first authors I read from HarperImpulse and I’ve been hooked on her Keepers Series ever since. It’s finally Ethan’s turn in the spotlight and it’s a sizzling read!

“Going to Ameera to find Hazel. Stealing the spell … You think you can pull it off?” he asked.
She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
Just as she thought he’d kiss her, he reached for her jacket and said, “Then let’s go.”

A portal to another world has opened, unleashing dangerous creatures on earth. A dark witch is out for revenge. The stakes are high, a war inevitable.

One person can stop the madness. Jenna. She’s a Keeper to a powerful hybrid witch but she harbours a secret and if Jenna steps through the portal – seduced by the whispers of her hidden past – she may never return.

Fortunately, she has company… infamous Bennett brother and fiercely protective Keeper, Ethan. Their whip-cracking banter makes them perfect sparring partners in training, but how will they manage when their lives and everything they were born to defend are on the line?

When the battle lines are drawn, will Jenna and Ethan stand side by side – as friends, protectors, lovers … or as traitors?

the obsessionThe Obsession by Nora Roberts (Piatkus) April 14th

I do love Nora Roberts! I actually squealed when the proof of this book was delivered!

Naomi Carson is a survivor. As a child, her family was torn apart by a shocking crime. It could have destroyed her, but Naomi has grown up strong, with a passion for photography that has taken her all around the world.

Now, at last, she has decided to put down roots. The beautiful old house on Point Bluff needs work, but Naomi has new friends in town who are willing to help, including Xander Keaton – gorgeous, infuriating and determined to win her heart.

But as Naomi plans for the future, her past is catching up with her. Someone in town knows her terrifying secret – and won’t let her forget it. As her new home is rocked by violence, Naomi must discover her persecutor’s identity, before it’s too late.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (Borough Press) April 21st eligible

A favourite author taking on one of my favourite books – I can’t wait to see how the two come together!

From the bestselling author of Prep, American Wife and Sisterland comes this brilliant retelling of Austen’s classic set in modern day Cincinnati.

The Bennet sisters have been summoned from New York City.

Liz and Jane are good daughters. They’ve come home to suburban Cincinnati to get their mother to stop feeding their father steak as he recovers from heart surgery, to tidy up the crumbling Tudor-style family home, and to wrench their three sisters from their various states of arrested development.

Once they are under the same roof, old patterns return fast. Soon enough they are being berated for their single status, their only respite the early morning runs they escape on together. For two successful women in their late thirties, it really is too much to bear. That is, until the Lucas family’s BBQ throws them in the way of some eligible single men . . .

Chip Bingley is not only a charming doctor, he’s a reality TV star too. But Chip’s friend, haughty neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, can barely stomach Cincinnati or its inhabitants. Jane is entranced by Chip; Liz, sceptical of Darcy. As Liz is consumed by her father’s mounting medical bills, her wayward sisters and Cousin Willie trying to stick his tongue down her throat, it isn’t only the local chilli that will leave a bad aftertaste.

But where there are hearts that beat and mothers that push, the mysterious course of love will resolve itself in the most entertaining and unlikely of ways. And from the hand of Curtis Sittenfeld, Pride & Prejudice is catapulted into our modern world singing out with hilarity and truth.

steeple streetThe Nurses of Steeple Street by Donna Douglas (Arrow) April 21st

I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed all of Donna’s previous Nightingales nursing series so I’m really looking forward to this book which starts a completely new series. And it’s set in Yorkshire – yay!

Welcome to the district nurses’ home on Steeple Street, where everyone has a secret…

Ambitious young nurse Agnes Sheridan had a promising future ahead of her until a tragic mistake brought all her dreams crashing down and cost her the love and respect of everyone around her. Now she has come to Leeds for a fresh start as a trainee district nurse. But Agnes finds herself facing unexpected challenges as she is assigned to Quarry Hill, one of the city’s most notorious slums. Before she can redeem herself in the eyes of her family, she must first win the trust and respect of her patients and fellow nurses.

Does Agnes have what it takes to stay the distance? Or will the tragedy of her past catch up with her?

The Assistants by Camille Perri (Corgi) April 21stthe assistants

I’m looking forward to discovering a new author with this debut. There’s a fab quote from  Paige Toon on the front cover –  an excellent endorsement!

Behind every successful man is a busy assistant and Tina’s boss is very successful.

But Tina is tired of being overworked and underpaid.
She’s bored of her damp flat and her mounting debts.
Then a blip in the expenses system sends Tina a cheque.
She’s a good person.
But she’s desperate.
This isn’t stealing.
It’s an administrative error.
Right?

What would you do if you thought you’d get away with it?

 


What are you looking forward to reading this month?

Author Interview: Kerry Wilkinson

13 May

The Renegade blog tour is stopping off at One More Page today with author Kerry Wilkinson in the hot seat to answer questions about the Silver Blackthorn Trilogy. Kerry is a number one Amazon bestseller for his Jessica Daniels crime series for adults. Renegade is the second  book in his young adult  sci-fi/fantasy trilogy and is a fantastic read (look out for my review later in the week!). You can find out more about Kerry and his books at: http://kerrywilkinson.com  Welcome Kerry!

Kerry_Wilkinson1-963x1024Renegade, the second novel in the Silver Blackthorn trilogy has just been released; please could you tell us a little about it?

It picks up an hour or so after Reckoning finishes. Silver and her friends have escaped the crazed clutches of the King – but what now? It’s a different kind of book to Reckoning in the sense that the first novel was largely set in the same place. It was supposed to the claustrophobic, about trying to get away. Renegade is more about consequences – and because Silver and co are out of the castle, there’s an entire country for them to explore.

How did you come up with the idea for the trilogy and did your ideas change as you wrote book two?

I started making notes for what turned out to be Reckoning while I was on holiday. I’ve got a minimal attention span, so sitting on a sunbed for more than about five minutes drives me bonkers. I never planned the series to be a trilogy. I wrote the first novel and realised that if I was going to take the story further, then it would end up being one very long book. Splitting it also allowed for the tonal change that happens between Reckoning and Renegade that I described above.

In the first novel, Silver takes the Reckoning and is designated a Member; which group do you think you’d be in if you took the test?

I’d probably be a tweener for Inter and Member. I’m not very establishment!

The series is set in an alternative future England with much of the action in book one situated in Windsor Castle; why did you choose this as a key location and how similar is Silver’s world to our own?

All the way back in my early notes, it was a teenage girl versus a mad king. If writing about a mad king in England, there needs to be a castle – and there’s none more famous than Windsor.

Silver’s world is a fair way removed from ours in the sense that travel and free movement is very difficult. People are hungry and democracy isn’t even a concept. There are still similarities, though. The characters are human, with emotions and feelings. Any story – whether set in the future or past – regardless of genre – has to be about people, not things. Silver’s world is a backdrop to her life and the lives of those around her – but that’s not really what Reckoning or Renegade is about. The novels are about her and the relationships she has with those around her.

Silver builds strong friendships during the book; do you have a favourite supporting character and if so why?

Faith took on a life of her own as I wrote Renegade. She’s one of my favourites in all my books – not just from the Silver trilogy.

I love Silver, she’s a great strong lead for the series but why did you choose to have a female lead and was it strange to write from a female perspective?

Writing from a female perspective has, for whatever reason, become my thing. I’ve got nine crime books – the Jessica Daniel series – with a lead female. I didn’t really plan it…it’s just what comes out…what feels right for the story. I have other novels with male leads, but they’re not out yet.

This is your first fantasy series but you also write crime novels; are there other genres you’d like to explore?renegade

Perhaps…but I don’t really think of it like that. I write about what interests me at the time. If that’s crime, it’s crime. If it’s fantasy, then I’ll work on that. If some other genre grabs me, then I’ll probably have a go at that. I never bother forcing things.

And finally… What can we expect next from Kerry Wilkinson? 

Childish tweets is pretty much a guarantee. After that, I have a crime hardback – Down Among The Dead Men – out in October, then another Jessica Daniel crime book in February 2016. Resurgence, the final part of Silver’s story, is out in May next year.

Thanks Kerry!

Renegade is out in paperback and ebook formats now.

Guest post: My Top 5 Superheroes by Stefan Mohamed

15 Apr

Today I’m super excited to welcome debut author Stefan Mohamed to the blog to share his top five superheros with us. Stefan is an author, poet and sometime journalist. He graduated from Kingston University in 2010 with a first class degree in creative writing and film studies and won the creative writing prize for his year.

He went on to win the unpublished writer’s category of the Dylan Thomas Prize for his coming of age superhero novel, Bitter Sixteen, which is out now. Stefan lives in Bristol, where he works as an editorial assistant, writing stories and performing poetry in his spare time. Welcome Stefan!

Stefan Mohamed

Stefan Mohamed

Superman

We might as well start with the most iconic superhero. People have their issues with Superman – he’s so powerful that it saps any drama from his stories, he’s a do-gooder which isn’t  very interesting, etceteras. The first of these I would agree with, to a point, although a good enough writer should be able to come up with a dramatic, involving story no matter how powerful the protagonist, but the second I entirely disagree with, because Superman’s essentially altruistic, benevolent nature is what makes him Superman. He’s the Platonic ideal of the superhero; not just because of his ludicrously overpowered nature (effectively invulnerable, super strength, super speed, able to fly, laser eyes, hurricane breath, X-ray vision, firing miniature versions of himself from his hands, although to be fair he doesn’t really do that any more) but because he is, at heart, good. He wants to help people, his moral compass remains true when all else are losing theirs, and, perhaps most importantly, this isn’t because of the basic goodness present in all humanity or some such nonsense. He ain’t human, after all. He has been brought up this way, he has chosen to follow this path.

Yes, you can play with darker versions of Superman. Sometimes they’re interesting – Mark Millar’s Red Son, in which baby Supes lands in Stalin’s Russia rather than Kansas, US, is one of the better examples. But ultimately, Superman is a good guy. He’s the good guy. And to him, a suicidal girl standing alone on a ledge is, at that moment, as important as any world-ending threat.

So leave him alone.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

She doesn’t wear a cape or tights. She wasn’t born in the pages of a funny book. But Buffy Summers is as much a superhero, and as much an influence on my writing, as any costumed crusader. Plucked from obscurity and given a destiny she did not ask for and frequently wishes she could shed, the trials that Buffy undergoes throughout the seven seasons of her show would break a lesser individual. At times they nearly do. But she endures. She keeps fighting the good fight, with a punch, a quip and a somersault. She makes mistakes along the way, of course, and some of them are pretty bad. At times she’s not even that likable. But, as her Watcher Rupert Giles says, “She’s a hero, you see. She’s not like us.”

Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan)

The new Ms. Marvel hasn’t been around very long (she first appeared in 2013, inheriting the mantle from Carol Danvers, who is now Captain Marvel), but Kamala Khan is already resoundingly popular, with her first trade paperback No Normal one of the best selling comics of last year. And with good reason, because she’s awesome.

In wider cultural terms she’s a meaningful presence, because at a time when Muslim communities are routinely and shamefully demonised and ostracised, having a Muslim character headlining a high profile, relatively mainstream Marvel comic takes on real symbolic importance. But writer G. Willow Wilson never lets her political and cultural significance get in the way of telling a good story, and taken purely on her own terms she’s just a great character. Her powers are dynamic and visually exciting. She has a well-drawn supporting cast. And she represents every teenager who feels unsure of themselves, who feels left out or bullied for being different, who wishes they were someone else.

Bitter 16Batman

Is Batman a superhero? Maybe not. There’s nothing specifically supernatural in his background. But he is in peak physical condition, he’s a tactical genius, he’s a martial arts expert, a weapons expert. His superpower, effectively, is being the best that a human being can be – to the extent that he can stand shoulder to shoulder with titans like Superman and Wonder Woman.

More importantly, he’s the perfect, iconic illustration of the dark side of heroism (for the purposes of this, we’re defining heroism as “fighting bad guys”). For while Batman does have a strong moral code and sense of justice, he is also driven by grief and rage. Plenty of writers across the years have asked whether he’s good for Gotham City or merely a symptom of the disease that afflicts the place, or whether half the terrifying individuals in his rogue’s gallery – the best in comics, by the way – would actually be a problem if it weren’t for his presence. And the fact that Batman’s work is never done represents both the natural conclusion of superheroic obsession and a fairly bleak interpretation of existence – there is no final victory. There will always be bad guys, always be evil; it’s a fact of life. Bleak, yes, but potent, and ripe with storytelling potential.

Dr Manhattan

In the same way that Batman represents one possible (disturbing) conclusion of superheroism, so Dr Manhattan, from Alan Moore’s masterful Watchmen, represents one possible (and equally disturbing, in its way) conclusion of having superpowers. Like Superman, but more so, Dr Manhattan is so powerful that he’s effectively a god. He can manipulate matter at its most basic level, travel in time, pop to Mars and build a palace, whatever he fancies. But unlike Superman, he has entirely lost touch with humanity. He is disconnected from the world and from the concerns of mere mortals – to Dr Manhattan, we’re ants. Not ants he wants to crush, necessarily, but ants to whom he’s basically indifferent. He’s a fascinating character, and a thought-provoking exploration of what unlimited power could do to an individual if they lacked the grounding presence of friends, family and morality; I don’t think that any conversation about the consequences of superpowers is complete without him.

Thanks Stef – a great list!

Bitter Sixteen by Stefan Mohamed is out now in paperback and ebook formats, published by Salt.

Book news: Resistance is Futile by Jenny T. Colgan

12 Apr

I’m a big fan of Jenny Colgan’s books but  my interest really sparked when I saw the details of this new book that she’ll be releasing in May with Orbit books, writing as Jenny T. Colgan. I absolutely love the cover and my inner geek is incredibly excited by a book that promises Sci-Fi and romance!

Take the square root of a love story, multiply by an awkward mathematician, add on extra-terrestrial life forms and cringe-worthy close encounters, and what you’ll get is Resistance is Futile – a whirlwind adventure by Sunday Times bestselling author Jenny T . Colgan.

Connie thinks she’s never met anyone quite like Luke Beith before.

She has no idea how right she is.

As a high-ranking mathematician in a male-dominated field – with bright red hair – Connie’s used to being considered a little unusual.

But she’s nowhere near as peculiar as Luke, who is recruited to work alongside her on a top-secret code breaking project.

Just what is this bizarre sequence they’re studying? It isn’t a solution to the global energy crisis. It isn’t a new wavelength to sell microwave ovens. The numbers are trying to tell them something . . . and it seems only Luke knows what.

The truth is out there. Will Connie dare to find it?

Resistance is Futile will be released on 28th May.

Find out more about Jenny and her writing at: http://www.jennycolgan.com/