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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!

 

Giveaway winner: The Space between Stars by Anne Corlett

15 Jun

9781509833528

 

The winner is:

Claire T

Congratulations! I have sent you an email. Thanks to everyone who entered – look out for more fab giveaways coming soon.

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!

Giveaway! Win a copy of Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses by Carole Matthews

18 Apr

As part of the ‘paperchain blog tour’ for Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses, Carole’s publisher has given me a copy of the book to give away. I’m using my giveaway copy to say thank you to you, my fab readers and fellow book lovers.

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paper hearts cover

 

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 one winner using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Friday 21st April. Good Luck!

Giveaway winners: The Map of Bones by Francesca Haig

6 Feb

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The winners are:

The Starlit Reader and Kimberley Ryan

Congratulations! I have sent you both a message. Thanks to everyone who entered – look out for more fab giveaways coming soon!

Giveaway winner: #MKB Party bundle

9 Jan

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The winner is:

Lucy

Congratulations! I have sent you a message. Thanks to everyone who entered – look out for more fab giveaways coming soon!

Giveaway! Two ‘A Monster Calls’ merchandise bundles to be won!

30 Dec

I’ve got a fantastic giveaway to end 2016 and get 2017 off to a brilliant start. To celebrate the release of A Monster Calls, in cinemas New Year’s Day, I’m giving you the chance to win one of two merchandise bundles shown here.

The fantastic bundles include an A4 artists wirebound notepad, with natural bock cover gold foiled with the film title and strap line including 15 heavyweight 300gsm sheets of Bockingford drawing and watercolour paper and a high quality range of 12 graphite pencils ranging from soft to hard for all applications.

 

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To enter  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 two winners using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Friday 6th January. Good Luck!

About the film:

A Monster Calls is a visually spectacular drama from acclaimed director Juan Antonio Bayona (“The Impossible”), based on the award-winning children’s fantasy novel by Patrick Ness. 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) attempts to deal with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) illness and the bullying of his classmates by escaping into a fantastical world of monsters and fairy tales that explore courage, loss, and faith. Also featuring Liam Neeson who will star in performance-capture and voiceover as the nocturnally visiting monster of the title, and Sigourney Weaver as the maternal grandmother.

 

Giveaway winner! Matilda DVD and Tote Bag

1 Oct

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The winner is …

Debbie @snugglingonsofa

Congratulations! I have sent you a message. Thanks to everyone who entered – look out for more fab giveaways coming soon!

Giveaway! Win a Matilda DVD and bag to celebrate Roald Dahl Day!

13 Sep

As I’m sure many of you will already know, today is Roald Dahl’s birthday! 2016 is also his centenary year. Did you know 2016 is also the 20th anniversary of the release of the film of Matilda – one of Dahl’s most loved books?

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We’re huge fans of Matilda in this house and it was an absolute pleasure to introduce my son to her world this summer as part of The Big Friendly Read.

In celebration of this special day, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has given me a fab new copy of the Matilda DVD bearing the new #RoaldDahl100 sticker and a gorgeous Matilda tote bag to give away to one lucky reader  – I so wish I could win this giveaway myself!

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To enter this giveaway just leave comment in the box below or re-Tweet one of my tweets with the link to this post 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 Sunday 18th August. Good Luck!

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 2016 celebrates Matilda’s 20th anniversary and Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday. You can purchase Matilda on DVD via Amazon here.

 

Giveaway! Two copies of The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy to be won!

14 Jul

The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy is out today and to celebrate, publisher Pushkin Press has given me two copies to giveaway to lucky readers!

Author Nilanjana Roy spent most of her adult life writing about humans before realizing that animals were much more fun. The Wildings, her first novel, won the Shakti Bhatt First Book Award and was Shortlisted for the Commonwealth First Book Award and the Tata Literature First Book Award. She lives in Delhi with two cats (one of which is called Mara) and her husband. The story of The Wildings will be continued in The Hundred Names of Darkness.

the wildings

A small band of cats lives in the labyrinthine alleys and ruins of the Nizamuddin quarter in Delhi. Unfettered and wild, the tribe fear no one, go where they will, and do as they please. Until, one day, a terrified orange-coloured kitten with monsoon green eyes and remarkable powers lands in their midst, setting off a series of extraordinary events that will change their world for ever.

Prowling, hunting and fighting amidst the crumbling ruins of one of Delhi’s oldest neighbourhoods, are the proud Wildings. These feral cats fear no one, go where they want and do as they please. Battle-scarred tomcats, fierce warrior queens, the Wildings have ruled over Nizamuddin for centuries.

Now there is a new addition to the clan – a pampered housecat with strange powers that could turn their world on its head. And something is stirring in the old Shuttered House – something dark and cruel and dangerous. As a terrifying new enemy emerges from the shadows, the Wildings will need all the allies they can get, as they fight for Nizamuddin, and their lives.

To enter this giveaway just leave comment in the box below or re-Tweet one of my tweets with the link to this post or like one of my posts about this giveaway on my Instagram page. I’ll pick three winners using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Monday 18th July. Good Luck!