Wednesday, 5 September 2018

The Incendiaries - R.O. Kwon

Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn't tell anyone she blames herself for her mother's recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college, waiting tables to get by. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe. 

Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is increasingly drawn into a religious group - a secretive extremist cult - founded by a charismatic former student, John Leal. He has an enigmatic past that involves North Korea and Phoebe's Korean American family. Meanwhile, Will struggles to confront the fundamentalism he's tried to escape, and the obsession consuming the one he loves. When the group bombs several buildings in the name of faith, killing five people, Phoebe disappears. Will devotes himself to finding her, tilting into obsession himself, seeking answers to what happened to Phoebe and if she could have been responsible for this violent act.

The Incendiaries is a fractured love story and a brilliant examination of the minds of extremist terrorists, and of what can happen to people who lose what they love most. who lose what they love most.

I'd heard lots of good things about The Incendiaries so when the request to take part in the blog tour popped up I had to accept. Virago publish some of my favorite books so I'm so glad I did because, although books like The Incendiaries aren't necessarily my typical read I'm very glad I sometimes take a chance.

The Incendiaries may appear to be a short novel but it packs a powerful punch in those pages. It's a tale of jealousy, religion, fanaticism, and love. The story of Will, Phoebe, and a man called John Leal, Kwon explores a man's loss of faith which has led to some life-changing decisions and his dismay as he watches the woman he loves being drawn deeper and deeper into a religious group named Jejah, by a charismatic man who may or may not be telling the complete truth about his past. As Will falls deeper in love with Phoebe, she, in turn, starts abandoning her friends, her studies, and Will.

The Incendiaries focuses on the character of Will, with Phoebe and John appearing as what feels like support characters. We get to know Will extremely well, about his life before Edwards, his mother's illness and get to explore the reasoning behind his loss of faith. Phoebe remains an enigmatic figure, and although we learn about significant events in her childhood, we don't know much about her as an adult and especially why she is so drawn to John Leal and his cult-like group. John himself remains a shadowy figure throughout the story, looming in the background and appearing at times when Will is feeling at his most vulnerable in his relationship with Phoebe. He claims to be a former prisoner of North Korea, goes barefoot all the time (Kwon's quite graphic description of the state of his feet turned my stomach! But I have a bit of a phobia about going barefoot...) and is charismatic to the point that people flock to him, take part in his group's initiation rites and become distraught if they're cast aside by him.

It becomes clear that the void left by his lack of faith and the absence of God in his life, Will is using Phoebe to fill that hole and his love becomes an obsession rather quickly. It was interesting to this happen as Will himself doesn't really realize this until the end but it's clear to Phoebe's friends, especially the colorful Julian who tells Phoebe to stay away from him.

Ultimately, R.O. Kwon has written a compelling and engrossing story that plays on the tropes of an obsessed man, whose memory is unreliable - at his own admission, and the sections featuring Phoebe could be either her actual memories or Will trying to fill in the blanks, trying to make sense of everything that happens, and the group's descent into extreme violence. Her ability to play with perspective is partially what makes this book so readable, and I think the most important thing for me was being able to read it in one go. It allowed me to immerse myself fully in Will's story, to try and understand exactly what was going on with Will. I liked that Phoebe was never fully fleshed out and that we never got to know her side of the story if we see her sections of the book as being Will's memories rather than her own thoughts. Kwon's writing is wonderful, her ability to draw the reader in from the first page is remarkable for a debut author and such a short novel. Some of her descriptions were so powerful that you can feel yourself in the actual presence of these characters, rather than just picturing them, and I think The Incendiaries fully deserves all the praise that has been heaped upon it. 

Please be aware though that The Incendiaries contains mentions of rape, possible suicide and quite a bit of violence.

The Incendiaries - R.O. Kwon
ISBN - 9780349011875 
Publisher - Virago
Release date - September 6th, 2018

About The Author

R.O. Kwon’s first novel, The Incendiaries, was published by Riverhead in the U.S. earlier this year and in September by Virago in the U.K. She is a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Vice, BuzzFeed, Time, Noon, Electric Literature, Playboy, San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere. She has received awards and fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Omi International, and the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony. Born in South Korea, she’s mostly lived in the United States.

Huge thanks to Grace Vincent and Virago for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, and for the advance copy I received in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Drone Racer - Andy Briggs

Carson and his friends love racing drones, and they can't believe their luck when they stumble across a discarded one at a junkyard. But this new find is full of surprises. 

When they power the drone up, it starts talking! And it's fast. Really fast. They could win big prizes in the racing leagues. Trouble is, someone wants their incredible drone back, and they'll stop at nothing to get it. 

How can three kids protect their new friend?

I'm a huge fan of Andy Briggs and his MG books. I've previously read his Inventory series which, unsurprisingly, features some pretty amazing technology. It's also no surprise that Andy has turned his writing towards drone racing as it's gaining in popularity, and fast!

Carson and his friends, Trix and Eddie, are known as the Carsonators and are amongst the youngest drone racers in their local league. When their current drone gets smashed up by a fellow competitor it would seem it's all over for them. A trip to the local scrap yard changes all that, when Carson makes an amazing discovery, thanks to a savage dog and a fall into a pile of scrap. What follows is a high adrenaline, blood pumping adventure for the three 12-year-olds as they race their new drone, start winning some races, and make some startling discoveries!

As with all his books, Drone Racer's central theme is about friendship. Carson, Trix (aka Tracy) and Eddie - don't ever call him Edward - are best friends with a shared love of drone racing. Carson is the pilot, Trix is the engineer and Eddie is the tech advisor, look-out and anything else that might need doing type. Together they work as a team to win races, earn some money, discover just who is breaking into competitor's houses, and start to notice that there seems to be an awful lot of security around for a local drone racing league.

Carson is not only drone racing though. He is also dealing with the death of his mother, and his fractured relationship with his father. Like most children, he naively assumes that his father is pulling away because he blames Carson in some way. Naturally, this is not the case, and Andy deals extremely sensitively with the issues of grief and trying to move on after losing a parent.

With some wonderful friendships and furious fast-paced writing, Drone Racer is a great MG adventure with action spanning two continents, a blackmailing but bewildered older sister and some seriously death-defying stunts. It's easy to picture the action that takes place thanks to Andy's screenwriting experience, and I think Drone Racer would make an amazing children's movie or even a television series. It's a page-turner that you'll be hard-pushed to put down unless you're forced to and although it's not completely obvious from the ending whether there are more adventures for the Carsonators to come I would definitely read more adventures in drone racing.

Drone Racer - Andy Briggs

ISBN - 9781407188429
Publisher - Scholastic
Release date - September 6th, 2018

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Shattermoon - Dominic Dulley

An inexperienced grifter. An obsolete spaceship. And against them, the might of the Grand Fleet. Orry might just be in over her head.

Orry's father is the best conman in the quadrant, targeting the decadent ruling families of the Ascendancy, running elaborate heists with Orry and her brother Ethan before disappearing without a trace. This time should be no different.

But then Orry goes off-script and everything falls apart. Less than an hour later the Count's spoiled grandson is dead and Orry's on the run, accused of a murder she didn't commit.

Turns out, the pendant Orry stole was crafted by the Departed, the ancient civilisation who left this universe aeons ago, taking most of their secrets with them. But she's not the only one who wants it. It doesn't take ruthless space pirate Morven Dyas long to track her down, or to threaten her with her worst fear, and when she's unexpectedly rescued by loner Jurgen Mender and his ageing spaceship, the Dainty Jane, Orry knows there's only one thing left to do.

It will take all of Orry's powers of persuasion to get Mender to agree to her plan, especially when even she can see the madness of pitting an inexperienced young grifter, a space-dog long past his best and an obsolete spaceship against the Imperial Fleet, the worst of the space-pirates - and the alien Kadiran, who are getting bored with the long, uneasy truce with humankind...

Whilst taking part in a heist set up by her father Orry's life is changed forever and takes a turn she could not have envisaged even mere hours earlier. Rescued from space by a grizzly old traveller, Mender, conveniently nearby when she's jettisoned from her own ship, Orry teams up with him and his sentient ship in a race against time to rescue her brother and to save the universe!

The adventure starts on page one and doesn't let up until the very last word. Dominic Dulley has created a wonderfully written space opera that reads part SF, part thriller with an amazing cast of characters. There are talking ships, a truly believable sibling relationship between Orry and her brother Ethan, an aristocrat with a taste for adventure, some very unpleasant aliens and a truly nasty (female) crime boss. The fantastic worldbuilding allows you to picture Orry's world vividly and it was a huge part of the reading experience to picture all the different planets they travelled to, including the Shattermoon itself.

Shattermoon is a fast paced read from start to finish, a total page turner, which I read almost in one go and mostly in hospital unable to sleep but the adventure was completely worth it! If you're a fan of female-led SF with a healthy dose of humour, a mere hint of romance, and one of the best space ships since Serenity then make sure you pick up Shattermoon. I'm now starting the long wait for book two of The Long Game but if Dominic is at this year's BristolCon I'll be quite happy to pester him for details...

Huge thanks to Olivia and  Jo Fletcher Books for a copy of Shattermoon and the chance to take part in the blog tour. For more reviews and other interesting snippets don't forget to check out the rest of the tour!

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Extract: Little Bones - Sam Blake

To celebrate the publication of the third book in Sam Blake's Cat Connolly series, No Turning Back, I'm thrilled to share an extract from the first book, Little Bones.

Cathy’s mind whirred. The women who had vanished in Wicklow and Kildare had haunted her as she’d recovered from her injuries after the bomb. Unable to get back to boxing straight away, she’d needed to get her fitness back, as well as find space in her head to deal with it all, so she had started running. Perhaps she’d been running away from everything that had happened, she wasn’t sure, but the mountains had been the perfect place. Empty and silent, with only sheep for company, long tracks criss-crossed the hills, took her around the edges of silent lakes, and as she’d pounded the peaty ground she’d half expected to stumble over a body, to see the white of bone shining against the heather.
‘All the women who have disappeared seemed to be fairly confident, easy to talk to. Maybe the same happened with Sarah Jane.’ Cathy paused, her face creased in a frown. It didn’t feel right, but they had to explore every single option. ‘We really need to know who Sarah Jane has come into contact within the last few weeks.’
‘Thirsty’s got her phone log now, so we can go through it.’ Cathy couldn’t read O’Rourke’s expression as he spoke – he was keeping his face deliberately blank.
Jesus, what had happened to her? She could be lying half dead somewhere in a bog up in the mountains right now . . .
Cathy took a slow breath, trying to still her heart. Sarah Jane needed them to be methodical now, to be professional. She needed them to find the strands, the threads that would lead back to her. Panicking wouldn’t help anyone.
‘This isn’t a random thing, though – someone went to the trouble of taking her computer. They had her address.’ Cathy could hear the certainty in her voice. It was the one thing they were absolutely sure of, and in her gut she was certain they needed to work from there outwards.
Cathy’s mum leaned forward to check the milk jug, ‘Perhaps it was someone she met online, on one of those dating sites, someone who was worried the computer would link him to her?’
Cathy sighed, thinking back to her last college essay. ‘Maybe. Maybe someone was stalking her online, had befriended her.’ She paused. It was a real possibility. ‘The type of offender who does that is going to be very careful, a planner. And that type of person is not necessarily going to be acting out of character immediately after the event, or beforehand for that matter. They will be a habitual liar, could easily be a psychopath who finds it easy to kill.’ Cathy stopped abruptly as she realised what she’d said.
Theresa Connolly reached across the table for Cathy’s arm, squeezing it hard. Cathy’s blurry eyes fixed on her mother’s engagement ring, a cabochon ruby set in a nest of diamonds. Her dad had sold his first car to buy it. ‘It could be nothing like that. You know what Sarah Jane’s like. She’s very highly strung, and she’s always getting lost. Maybe she just needed some time out.’
Cathy threw her mum a glance. Really?
‘Is there anyone you can think of that Sarah Jane’s mentioned recently? Someone new on her radar? A JDLR, someone who gave her the creeps?’ O’Rourke had asked her the same question at least a hundred times over the previous days. Cathy shook her head, running her hand across her eyes.
Cathy’s mum cut in, ‘JDLR?’
O’Rourke clarified, ‘Just doesn’t look right. Copper’s rule of thumb.’

Thursday, 3 May 2018

The Wrong Man - Kate White

A moment of pleasure leads to a deadly game of cat and mouse in this slick and suspenseful thriller.
Kit Finn meets handsome sculptor Matt Healy on a business trip and the two share a night of passion. They arrange a second date, but when Kit arrives at Matt’s apartment she is greeted by a stranger claiming he is the real Matt and that his identity was stolen.
Realising she has been duped Kit decides to put the encounter behind her. Shortly after, the police ask her to identify a man killed in a hit and run, carrying only her business card, and she is shocked to find the dead man is the person she knows as the genuine Matt Healy.
Kit fears she has become unintentionally embroiled in a sinister web of deceit. With no real evidence to take to police, Kit resolves to unravel the mystery herself. But can she do so before more lives, including her own, are put in danger?
Having enjoyed the other books I've read by Kate White I was looking forward to reading The Wrong Man. The story of Kit Finn, an interior designer on a working break in Florida, who decides that it's about time she was more forward and has an exhilarating one night stand with a stranger. Thinking she'll never see the man again even though they both live in New York she is surprised to receive an invitation to dinner at his apartment. On arriving there Kit is greeted by a stranger who claims to have no knowledge of the man she knows as Matt Healy, but who is definitely not the Matt Healy standing in front of her.

Kit is launched into an adventure that she did not want or expect and is soon regretting her decision in Florida. Wanting nothing more than to have a normal life again, Kit is reduced to hiding out in the shadows, avoiding men who may or may not want to kill her and perplexed as to why she has become caught up in a game of cat and mouse. It soon transpired that the man she met is involved in something desperate stemming from a simple accident in not-Matt Healy's hotel room.

The Wrong Man is a story of identity swapping, big deals gone bad, and, at the end of the day, pure and simple greed. Kit gets herself involved in something because of deciding to live free for one night and soon tumbles down into both her personal and professional lives. Kate White has once again created a story full of twists and turns where you're never quite sure if the so-called good guy is really the villain of the piece or whether somebody that comes across as a very real threat to her life may actually be the one to save her life. Not knowing who to trust in this case leads to Kit making some very unwise decisions.

The Wrong Man is fast-paced and extremely readable with some great characters who aren't perfect, who make reckless choices that often put other people in danger with dangerous consequences, and is perfect for those who like their thriller/mystery novels with a dash of romance. I'm very much looking forward to Ms. White's next book as she is an author who can both entertain and keep you on the edge of your seat at the same time.

The Wrong Man - Kate White | Publisher - Canelo | Release date - October 9th, 2017


Sunday, 15 April 2018

Truly Wildly Deeply - Jenny McLachlan

Annie is starting college. She can’t wait. No more school, no more uniform, and no one telling her what to do. It’s the start of a new adventure and Annie’s not going to let anyone or anything get in the way of that. Freedom matters to Annie. She has cerebral palsy and she’s had to fight hard to get the world to see her for who she truly is.

Then she meets Fab. He’s six foot two, Polish and a passionate believer in…well, just about everything, but most of all Annie and good old fashioned romance. The moment Fab sees Annie, he’s wildly drawn to her and declares she must be his girl. Annie’s horrified. She doesn’t want to be anyone’s anything, especially if it means losing her independence.

But then Annie finds herself falling for Fab. As things go deeply wrong, Annie realises that love can make you do wild, crazy things, and so she sets out to win his heart with a romantic gesture of truly epic proportions!

I've read a few of Jenny's books now but Truly Wildly Deeply has taken top spot as it could quite easily be describing my best friend from high school. P had cerebral palsy too, and we spent our days in the school library but  unfortunately without the added bonus of our own Fab to brighten our days. The school librarian was male but sadly rather old and not at all good looking!

Annie is at college and, for the first time in her life, independent. She's looking forward to making friends and developing her social life although living with a disability does indeed leave you exhausted, with no energy left by the end of the week and having to decide what takes priority in your life. For a teenager this is twice as hard, I have trouble as a disabled adult, but Annie is soon going to parties and on 'friend' dates with Fab. Except Fab isn't aware these are friend dates and as far as he's concerned Annie is his girl. Which makes her run a mile...

Truly Wildly Deeply is a truly beautiful story of acceptance, friendship, first love, and  relishing teenage independence, even with one of the coolest mom characters I've come across in YA fiction today. I loved her mom's Great British Bake Off habit, maybe without the cheese and onion crisps though! I could go on forever about all the wonderful things in this book, Hilary for example who is a fabulous best friend as anybody who wears yellow glasses would be or the boys in the cafeteria who also have their own quirks, or Jackson, the boy in the train from Annie's old school whose relationship with his girlfriend scared Annie on a daily basis. I won't though. Instead, all I'll do is tell you to read the book yourself, and see what a beautiful thing Jenny has created - a main character whose disability does not define her, who knows that she can do anything she wants to.  Even fall in love...

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Tell No Lies - Lisa Hartley

Now they’re coming after Caelan’s team…

A tortured body is found in a basement. Drug dealing and people smuggling 

are on the rise. Then police start going missing.

There seems to be no connection between the crimes, but Detective Caelan Small senses something isn’t right.

Plunged into a new investigation, lives are on the line. And in the web of gangs, brothels and nerve-shattering undercover work, Caelan must get to the truth – or be killed trying.

And then there’s Nicky...

Tell No Lies is the second book in the Caelan Small series by author Lisa Hartley. The story kicks off immediately after the terrifying events of Ask No Questions and the discovery that one of their own was indeed involved in murder. It's hard to know how to talk about Tell No Lies without giving away spoilers for the first book. This is one of those rare instances where I think you really do need to read Ask No Questions first otherwise you'll be floundering slightly, with no clue as to some of the things that are mentioned.

Lisa Hartley has created a fascinating character in Caelan Small, famed for her chameleon-like ability to blend in and not be noticed. Working as an undercover police officer is perfect for Caelan but still reeling from shocking truths at the end of Ask No Questions she's doubting herself and her colleagues. The last thing she wants to do is work with someone who she doesn't trust but this new case involves a dead police officer, drug dealers, and brutal murders.

Gritty and blunt, Tell No Lies doesn't hold back on the punches and you're soon deep in the story, cringing every time Caelan thinks she's been made or has done something she probably shouldn't have. The tension created by the death of the young police officer leaps off the page and even though you know he's a police officer you find yourself wondering exactly what he was doing when he was killed. All of Ms. Hartley's characters are well written, for police officers you're never quite sure if you can trust them but I can only imagine this both because of the undercover nature of most of them and because of events in book one.

I was hooked from page one of Ask No Questions and read Tell No Lies immediately after finishing it, turning the pages until it was well beyond my bedtime! The ending was another clever twist with the culprit being the person you'd least suspect and Caelan yet again ending up in hospital, that's not a spoiler as I'm assuming there will be a third book given the events of the last chapter which I will definitely be reading.

Tell No Lies - Lisa Hartley
Publisher - Canelo
Release date - February 19th, 2018

About The Author

Lisa Hartley lives with her partner, son, two dogs and several cats. She graduated with a BA (Hons) in English Studies, then had a variety of jobs but kept writing in her spare time. She is currently working on the next DS Catherine Bishop novel, as well as the new Caelan Small series with Canelo.

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