A fast-paced thriller set on the streets of a London rife with undercover magic.
Abras, as they are known, can harness these illegal powers, but for con-artist Amanda Coleman – whose father was a powerful and abusive practitioner – magic is anathema.
When her criminal crew decide to hire an Abra to help with their heists, they don’t expect to raise a demon or to quickly lose control of it. Now Coleman and her crew must travel across Siberia to a remote stone circle in order to kill this murderous creature, who has destroyed everything they hold dear.
But as the demon’s power grows, a battle of wills commences. Coleman must fight to survive, facing demons both in chains and within herself.
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Fantasy and paranormal fiction do not have the popularity of a few years ago. The current trend for fusion in genres allows for paranormal and fantasy themes, to fuse with the crime fiction genre, something which has always been popular in graphic novels.
‘The End of the Line’, is a crime based story set in a dystopian world, where magic is outlawed, and paranormals are used to further criminal ends, often, as in this case, with disastrous results.
The violent world setting of this novel is immediately apparent. The leader of the gang is ruthless and emotionally damaged having suffered a personal tragedy. The violence is vividly described, indeed this story would make an excellent graphic novel.
Understandably, there is a great deal of world-building in the main part of this story, which adds to the complexity, and takes the reader away from the main story. If you are a fan of fantasy worlds, this will not be a problem, but if you find it difficult to merge into someone else’s creation, this will reduce the book’s appeal.
The story is fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled and dark. There is little to dissipate the noir world, some of the characters do have redeeming features, but these cost them dearly. The picture painted, is of a world without hope.
So, not an uplifting read, but something to try, if you enjoy fantasy crime in a dark dystopian setting.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction – Borough Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I’m always a little wary of critically acclaimed, and over-hyped books, often they are not as good as they are reputed to be. So I started this one with trepidation. Initial impressions are that is honest, raw, and full of experiences of urban life in Brisbane that do not make easy reading.
Eli and August, are brothers, their carers’ lives are driven by drugs, and the boys have to constantly battle adversity to keep the family together. Despite the family’s dysfunctionality, the love the boys feel for their mother and each other dominates this story and puts into perspective many of the bizarre and often frightening experiences they endure.
At the end of this lengthy book, there is a note from the author, about how the story came into being, what it means to him and the story’s themes. It is, on reading this that you appreciate, it is more of a memoir than fiction, although seen through a young child’s and then young boys eyes. I wish I’d read this note first because it grounds this complex story, and makes it more relatable.
There is a great deal of imagination in this story, magic if you like, which I attributed to a young boy’s need to escape from the harshness of his life, and give himself the power to overcome some its more sordid aspects.
I’m still not sure if I liked it, but the writing is engaging and authentic, the story moves forward in an understandable way, and it gives an insider view of Australian life, particularly life in Brisbane and Queensland, through a young person’s viewpoint.
The characters are the lifeblood of this story, and the author indicates that they are based on people he knows or a medley of them, in his personal and journalistic life. Many are not likeable, and the danger the children are exposed to is disturbing, but they are real, and the reality of this story is what stays with you.
An unusual tale of growing up and surviving life in a gritty urban setting. With a cast of characters, covering the spectrum of humanity, and the humour, love and magic required to reach adulthood.
Born in 1973 to a Greenlandic mother and an English-Explorer father, Malik has always been something of a misfit. He has one black eye and one blue. As a child, his mother’s people refused to touch him and now his own baby daughter’s family feel the same way.
On his own now, Malik’s only companion is a guiding spirit
no-one else can see, but one day a white man with a nose like a beak and a
shadow like a seagull appears on his doorstep and invites him to England.
has had enough of living with domestic abuse. She compares bruises with her
friend Neil, who regularly suffers homophobic attacks. With Martha’s baby, they
go on the run to Shetland, where Martha has happy childhood memories of summers
spent with her aunt.
their way up north in a camper van, they come across a dejected Malik, alone
again after a brief reconciliation with his father’s family.
arrive safely together in the Shetland Isles, but Malik still needs answers to
the identity of the beak-nosed man who casts a shadow over his life, and must
now embark on a further journey of his own.
The Seagull’s Laughter is an immersive read, intertwined with nature and the magic of Greenlandic folk tales.
up in Derbyshire but has always been drawn to the sea. She has written from a
young age. Her love affair with island landscapes was kick-started on a brief
visit to the Faroe Islands at the age of eighteen, en route to Iceland. She was
immediately captivated by the landscape, weather, and way of life and it was here
that she conceived the idea for her first novel, The Eagle and The Oystercatcher.
Icelandic, Norwegian and Old Norse at University College London. She also
studied as an exchange student at The University of Iceland (Háskóli Íslands) and spent a memorable
summer working in a museum in South Greenland.
She decided to start a family young and now has three small children. Holly helps run Life & Loom, a social and therapeutic weaving studio in Hull. She likes to escape from the busyness of her life by working on her novels and knitting Icelandic wool jumpers.
When Maisie Meadows finds herself single
and jobless on New Year’s Day, she resolves that this will be the year she
focuses on bringing her scattered family back together. Romance is all very
well, but it’s the people you grew up with that matter the most.
But a new job working at an auction house
puts her in the path of Theo, a gorgeous but unattainable man who she can’t
help but be distracted by. As their bond begins to grow, Maisie finds herself
struggling to fulfil the promise she made to herself – but the universe has
other ideas, and it’s not long before the Meadows family are thrown back
together in the most unlikely of circumstances…
Can dealing with other people’s treasures help Maisie to let go of the past, and teach her who she ought to treasure the most?
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
What a lovely story. Maisie the youngest child in a dysfunctional family is the star of this gently paced, characterful story. Her attempts to recreate the ‘perfect family’, are spectacularly unsuccessful, as she is let down by her latest lover and loses her job as well.
The auction house job is a new start, and it feels right, but the serendipitous change in circumstances and career, and the part tea set she uncovers have a profound effect on her life and those close to her.
Maisie is a realistically flawed but easy to empathise character, her motivation for good is strong, but her foundations are rocky. Was life really as ‘rosy’ as she remembers? Is having a tidy house, the only way she can live her life, which seems so out of control. Is her secret, a true reflection of who she really is?
There are so many levels to this story, a potential romance, that is fraught with misunderstanding. A little magic, that Maisie hopes to use to bring her family together. The outcome is not what she expects, but is believable and hopeful. A multi-generational theme, that adds depth to the story and shows how the present reflects the past, and the lessons to be learnt.
It’s easy to lose yourself in this book. Character-driven, it makes you believe in the story, and want the best for Maisie and her friends. The setting is authentic, and relatable and gives the book its unique twist.
Gentle romance, quirky characters and a wealth of emotion and regret, all make this story a lovely interlude in everyday life.
Guest Post – Jenni Keer
Love for Auctions
Thank you for inviting me over, Jane, to talk about the fascinating backdrop to my latest novel The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows, which is set at Gildersleeve’s – a fictional auction house in north Suffolk.
When I was playing about with ideas for my second book, I started thinking about environments I already had a good knowledge of (partly because I had a deadline for this book and was a bit panicky about how much research time I would have). Amongst other things, auction houses sprang to mind. My husband has an antique furniture business and we have been attending auctions at T. W. Gaze in the picturesque market town of Diss, Norfolk, for over twenty years. Over this time, I have seen the auction evolve and grow, and it has always been one of my favourite places to visit. It seemed the perfect setting for a story and much of the plot grew from this seed.
The highly knowledgeable Elizabeth Talbot (you may have seen her on the TV) was very generous with her time and I had several visits behind the scenes and the opportunity to quiz her about various aspects of the business – all of it was fascinating but only a fraction made it into the book. James Bassam, the modern design expert, also gave me his time and expertise, and this helped me to make Theo a much more rounded character. I learned a lot about Scandinavian furniture, studio pottery and post-war glass – so Theo now knows all those things, too.
If you have never been to an auction, I would encourage you to go. I hope I manage to get across some of the tension and excitement of bidding in a busy saleroom, but much of the fun is to be had in wandering around on viewing days and looking at the myriad of items coming up in the weekly sale. You truly never know what you are going to come across. I asked Elizabeth about the most bizarre objects they’d had pass through their hands and she said if it’s legal to sell it, they’ve probably had it – including a coffin (which gets a mention in the book).
Going back a couple of hundred years, most towns held regular auctions and they would have been a thing for all. Sadly, by the middle of the twentieth century, they were not so commonplace and had become the preserve of the dealers – who bought items at auction and sold them on to the general public. But more recently, largely thanks to the TV and the internet, auction rooms have become more accessible again and, although I appreciate they remain intimidating places to some, I hope those who read Maisie Meadows might be tempted to give them a go. Even Maisie had never been to an auction until she started working at Gildersleeve’s, yet instantly falls in love with the variety and energy her new workplace affords.
I suspect if my husband’s profession hadn’t taken us to the auctions, I would never have discovered the thrill that is a live auction, but it’s often the highlight of my week. Much of the furniture in my house has come from Gaze’s over the years, when we’ve been looking for stock but “accidentally” purchased things we fell in love with. This is the downside – you stumble across things you never knew you needed until you see them. Consequently, we have pieces of unusual glass, dinner services (that’s my bad – I can’t resist pretty china), too many bicycles, pieces of art, garden furniture, Scalextric, ceramic clock faces, and a box of 500 old keys… to name but a few of our impulse purchases.
All of my experiences fed into my plot and I loved writing about Gildersleeve’s and its eclectic staff. I knew I wanted the plot to centre around a very unusual tea set that had been separated, so an auction house was the perfect place to start Maisie’s journey. Early on in her new job, she stumbles across a teapot that she recognises from her past – so much so that it sends prickles up her arm. Why has it ended up an auction? And is there more to this curious teapot than meets the eye?
I hope you have fun following Maisie as she tries to reunite both the tea set and her own scattered family. Thank you for having me over, and for the delicious cup of virtual coffee.
Jenni Keer is a history graduate who embarked on a career in contract flooring before settling in the middle of the Suffolk countryside with her antique furniture restorer husband. She has valiantly attempted to master the ancient art of housework but with four teenage boys in the house, it remains a mystery. Instead, she spends her time at the keyboard writing women’s fiction to combat the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere with her number one fan #Blindcat by her side. Much younger in her head than she is on paper, she adores any excuse for fancy-dress and is part of a disco formation dance team.
The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker was published in January 2019.
The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows is out in July 2019.
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How do you stop a demon invasion… when you don’t believe in magic? Inspector Nick Paris is a man of logic and whisky. So staring down at the crucified form of a murder victim who is fifteen centimetres tall leaves the seasoned detective at a loss… and the dead fairy is only the beginning.
Suddenly the inspector is offering political asylum to dwarves, consulting with witches, getting tactical advice from elves and taking orders from a chain-smoking talking crow who, technically, outranks him.
With the fate of both the human and magic worlds in his hands, Nick will have to leave logic behind and embrace his inner mystic to solve the crime and stop an army of demons from invading Manchester!
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Creating a fantasy world that appeals to readers is difficult, everyone has their own preconceptions of what should be in this world, what the creatures look like, and how they behave. The key is perhaps to hold back on the descriptions of your fantasy creatures and let your reader imagine them. This is what I like to do, but in this mystery the creatures are so well defined, it leaves little to the imagination.
Once you’ve achieved this, the next obstacle is how to create a story that fits in with the world you’ve created, and entertains your reader. I have no problem believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden, or another world running parallel to ours, but largely unseen by humans. However, some of the descriptions of the creatures living in this fantasy world didn’t resonate. Believable characters or ones you can empathise, are important for the reader to connect to the story. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that connection with any of the characters in this story.
Inspector Paris is amusing, but his addiction to cigarettes and whiskey, apparently supported by his employers didn’t ring true. A functioning alcoholic for a detective is not a new concept, but this didn’t fit with his almost naive belief in the supernatural. unless of course, they are part of his drunken haze?
The story fits into the cozy mystery genre, but the supernatural elements, if any, are usually implied rather than implict.as in this case. I admire the courage to merge genres but maybe the fantasy needs taming a little and the mystery deepening for it to work effectively.
The pacing and plot are good. The dynamics between the main players believable, and often amusing, If you are looking for a lighthearted read, and enjoy this type of urban fantasy, this is worth a read.
Meet Lucy, aged 25, and Brenda, aged 79. Neighbours, and unlikely friends.
Lucy Baker is not your usual 25-year-old. She is more at home reading and knitting in her cluttered little flat than going out partying and socialising.
79-year-old Brenda is full of wise and wonderful advice, but when she’s diagnosed with dementia her life begins to change. Before her memories slip away forever, Brenda is desperate to fulfil one last wish – to see Lucy happy.
Gifting Lucy the locket that helped Brenda find her own true love, she hopes to push her reticent neighbour in the right direction. But is Lucy Baker ready for the opportunities and heartbreaks of the real world? It’s about time she put her knitting needles aside and found out…
I love that there are so many stories at the moment about cross-generational friendships, which portray older people in a positive light.
‘The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker’ is a lovely example of this type of story featuring Lucy aged 25 and Brenda aged 79 and their strong friendship, which provides the reader with humorous, magical and poignant moments.
Brenda has lived a full often glamorous life and is still a flamboyant character. However, it’s her kind nature that makes her stand out and what draws Lucy to her. Lucy is not typical of her generation, she finds everything in life difficult, lacks self-confidence for a variety of reasons and is still seeking that perfect someone, even though she pretends to everyone, including herself most of the time that she isn’t.
The plot see-saws between Lucy’s home and work life, with engaging characters in each, they are all very human; flawed and realistic, which makes the story believable too, even though it has a strong flavour of the extraordinary.
There’s romance for Lucy, family problems and work stresses. Brenda has to face some cruel realities, but helping Lucy onto her rightful life path makes her focus on the positives rather than the negatives, of her life.
Friendship, frailty and fun sum up this book, one that I would recommend to everyone.
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
In the ancient halls of the Imperial University of Carthak, a young man has begun his journey to becoming one of most powerful mages the realm has ever known. Arram Draper is the youngest student in his class and has the Gift of unlimited potential for greatness . . . And of attracting danger.
At his side are his two best friends: clever Varice, a girl with too often-overlooked, and Ozorne, the ‘leftover prince’ with secret ambitions. Together, these three forge a bond that will one-day shape kingdoms.
But as Ozorne inches closer to the throne and Varice grows closer to Arram’s heart, Arram realizes that one day – soon – he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.
In the Numair Chronicles, fans of Tamora Pierce will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a boy with unimaginable gifts and a talent for making deadly enemies.
Easy to read, although the setting and culture are harder to grasp. This book is a prequel, and like ‘Star Wars’ if you have prior knowledge of the world and the characters in this story, it’s more enjoyable.
‘Tempests and Slaughter’ sets the scene for what is to come. Slow paced it provides detailed character profiles, the action is low key, but life with the three main characters is informative with lots of vivid description.
The three main characters Arram, Ozorne and Varice are linked by destiny and reading this book does make me want to know what the future holds for them. There are obvious similarities with other magical dynasties, but this world is closer to ‘Game of Thrones’ than ‘Hogwarts’. Arram has an undeniable resemblance to Merlin and Harry Potter.
If you enjoy epic fantasy with a magical twist, this story will appeal, especially if you fall within the young adult audience.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Voyager – Harper Collins UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.