#BlogTour #Review: Splinter by Joshua Winning @SentinelTrilogy @JoshWinning #YALit #Fantasy

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Today I am delighted to take part in the blog tour for the final instalment of Josh Winning’s YA Sentinel Trilogy, Splinter. Truth be told I wasn’t sure where this series would go after the dramatic conclusion of Ruins, but I knew that the ending was going to be big, and that it simply couldn’t be anything other than epic. Not only were my expectations met, but they were categorically crushed in the best way possible. Full of twists and turns, stark realism and fantastical imagination, with a touch or heartbreak and undercurrents of hope, this baby will leave you craving more.


Synopsis

hHnO1d4g.png‘All who stand against us shall perish’

The critically acclaimed Sentinel Trilogy comes to a thrilling conclusion in this final instalment of the dark fantasy series.

The world is falling apart around Nicholas Hallow. Amid rumours that the Dark Prophets have returned, a deathly gloom pollutes England, unleashing a savage hoard of nightmare creatures. Fighting the tide of evil, Nicholas returns home to Cambridge, where an old ally helps him seek out the mysterious Skurkwife, who could help Nicholas stop Malika and the Prophets for good.

Meanwhile, Sam Wilkins unites the Sentinels against the forces of darkness, but with Jessica’s sanity slipping, and Isabel suspicious of her shadowy past, it’s a battle that could cost the Sentinels everything.

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Sentinel  and  Ruins,  the  first  two  books  in  The  Sentinel  Trilogy,  are  currently  just 99p  on  Kindle   https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/bookseries/B00YSRBVYU/

Splinter  is  out  now  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Splinter-Book-Three-Sentinel-Trilogy/dp/1911382853/


My Rating: 5/ 5


Review 

There’s nothing like the apocalypse to bring about an action packed story of survival in the face of harrowing odds. And even though Nicholas Hallow has been fighting the same world-ending enemy for three books now, Splinter manages to stay fresh and exciting in a way that will leave you wanting more. Every question and loose end from the previous two instalments are given closure, characters with gaps become painfully whole, and the mystery of Nicholas Hallow’s incredible birth is finally unveiled. Helped along by old friends like Sam and Isabel, and new allies such as Rae, Dawn and Merlyn, it is impossible not to root for Nicholas as he embarks on the final leg of this seemingly impossible quest.

The best part is that despite being told from multiple perspectives and covering a vast array of storylines, Winning succeeds in sticking to a shorter and less intimidating length. I have always loved that this trilogy is visually ‘do-able’ when seen on the shelf by all levels of YA readers, so it’s wonderful that the finale is in the same approachable size. The vocabulary too, remains accessible without being overly simple, marking this as a book that can be enjoyed by YA readers and adults alike. The writing is emotive and imaginative with just enough colour to paint a picture of events, but not so much description as to bore you to death. I loved the vocabularies associated with each character, their moods, and personalities – these really helped to give a sense who/ what/ and why a person was a certain way, but left enough to the imagination to be surprised by events along the way.

Perhaps my favourite story arc was that of Jessica and Isabel. Two guardians of the Trinity tied together by a horrible history, both faced with impossible choices and holding immeasurable power. I was touched by how much Isabel cared for Jessica despite it all, and even more so by the choices that Jessica had to make in the moments and centuries that followed. I definitely wasn’t expecting Jessica’s connection to the Malika storyline, but once it was out in the open everything just seemed to fall into place.   It really drove home the concept that sometimes choice is an illusion, and that sacrifices really do have to be made for the common good despite immeasurable personal loss.

I also adored the growing camaraderie and tensions between Nicholas, Rae, and Dawn. It was fun to be a fly on the wall to witness their group dynamics with the added bonus of being presented candid and private private moments that informed upon motives and demonstrated growth. More so than in Ruins, I began to get a sense for these characters as individuals beyond their circumstances, and I loved the sarcasm and wit that permeated their personalities. It was fun to watch Dawn come out of her shell, Rae let down her guard, and Nicholas to give a little of the control and self importance that comes with being the chosen one. Oh, and on that note, I was totally not expecting that ending! With our trio of happy heroes so closely mirroring the composition of the Trinity, I was definitely expecting some sort of happy transformation that saved the day – you won’t get any spoilers from me here, but I can assure you right now that this not going to turn out how you think!

The touches of romance were sweet throughout, and much needed given the gravity of situations being faced. And once again my radar was way off course when it came to Nicholas thinking that he might have a bit of spark for Dawn (wrong again!), but was pleasantly surprised with the character that captures his heart. I appreciated the LGBTQ aspects, especially since they were presented in such a normal, healthy, unassuming way. Too often diverse reads go out of their way to be special, but Splinter is outstanding thanks to it’s understated and honest representations of emotional attachments and first loves.

In this stunning conclusion to the Sentinel Trilogy Winning pulls together the disparate threads of carefully crafted tale and intrigue laid out in Sentinel and Ruins and presents the perfect ending to an action packed saga. Even though Nicholas, Rae and Dawn are fighting demons around every corner there’s still plenty of time for character development and emotional growth. You can’t help but finding a few plucky sentinels and satellite characters to latch on to as their background come to the forefront, but in true Sentinel style – don’t get too attached to your favourite characters! This is the apocalypse after all, and you never know what’s lurking around the corner.

Would I recommend this book? Hell, I’d happily position myself as an ardent advocate for the whole dang series! Splinter is timely, irreverent, and down right entertaining – as are Sentinel and Ruins. This is the kind of book that can be appreciated by causal readers, fantasy addicts, and lovers of YA alike. Buy it, borrow it, find some way to get your hands on it, because this is one summer read that was definitely worth the wait!


Author Information

tmD8l7QAJoshua Winning is an author and film journalist who writes for TOTAL FILM, SFX, GAY TIMES and RADIO TIMES. He has been on set with Kermit the Frog, devoured breakfast with zombies on The Walking Dead, and sat on the Iron Throne while visiting the Game Of Thrones set in Dublin. Jeff Goldblum once told him he looks a bit like Paul Bettany.

In 2018, Joshua’s YA thriller VICIOUS RUMER was published by Unbound. His dark fantasy series THE SENTINEL TRILOGY was published by Peridot Press, and he also co-wrote ’80s teen horror CAMP CARNAGE. In 2015, Joshua’s short story DEAD AIR appeared in SPEAK MY LANGUAGE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF GAY FICTION.


Many thanks to Josh Winning for leading me down the rabbit hole with this trilogy, and for providing copies of all three books in exchange for honest reviews.

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#Review: Hiding by Jenny Morton Potts @jmortonpotts #Thriller

Today I’m delighted to present  review for Jenny Morton Pott’s fabulous novel, Hiding. Dark and twisty in all the right ways, this one will have you guessing the whole way through. Mystery lovers, this one should be right up your alley!


hidingTitle: Hiding

AuthorJenny Morton Potts

Publisher: Cahoots Publishing

Publication Date: February 1, 2018

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Mystery

Themes: Family, Revenge, Deceit, Crime

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

A gripping psychological thriller with chilling twists, from a unique new voice.

Keller Baye and Rebecca Brown live on different sides of the Atlantic. Until she falls in love with him, Rebecca knows nothing of Keller. But he’s known about her for a very long time, and now he wants to destroy her.

This is the story of two families. One living under the threat of execution in North Carolina. The other caught up in a dark mystery in the Scottish Highlands. The families’ paths are destined to cross. But why? And can anything save them when that happens?


My Review

First of all, I have to give a huge shout out to Jenny Morton Potts for her endless patience when it came to my extended turn around for this review. Hiding, unfortunately, languished on my TBR for months as life got in the way (finally firming up an offer on property, listing our current home, the stress of showing, and then the sellers accepting a backup offer). But, when I finally got around to picking this one up, boy was I mad… It was ruddy amazing and I couldn’t put it down! While it wasn’t the psychological crime thriller that I was expecting, Hiding had me on the edge of my seat and the pages turning in rapid fire the entire way through.

Set in the not-too-distant future, the timing of this novel is just far enough away to allow for the willing suspension of disbelief, yet close enough at hand for the practices, people and protocols to remain realistic and believable. I must admit though, that when I first started reading Hiding I questioned whether or not the state of capital execution and international travel was really plausible. But then as the days and news progressed, and Trump was Trump and Brexit was Brexit, all of a sudden the possibility of these scenarios became incredibly realistic.

I loved the backstory of the robbery, and how the loyalty of that robbery crew extended across generations and throughout entire families. I couldn’t help but think that it was unfair to be punishing the sons for the crimes of the father, but in true Shakespearean style this is exactly the theme that pervaded every aspect of this novel. And so too did the elements of deception, retribution, and even a little self deprecation. I appreciated the dark humour, the use of popular themes and tropes, as well as their tactful manipulations.

And Becky’s family story too! I was not expecting everything to unravel the way that it did, but I love it when things come at you out of the blue. I could choke her brother for being so cruel, and gran for being so conceited and selfish. The only one I really connected with was Becky’s grandfather before he died. And with her imagination I was expecting her to become an actor or writer or something of that ilk – especially since some of her earlier tendencies had been so dark – so the choice of comic completely surprised me.

Keller Baye through me for a loop as well. I mean, vengeance can be a terrible thing especially when you allow it to consume and control every aspect of your life. Now apply those levels of vengeance to a budding serial killer, and you have the perfect recipe for a transcontinental game of cat and mouse. I found his character to be entirely polarizing and repulsive, and yet I couldn’t stop reading his parts. He was like a train wreck at top speed – you know it’s going to big and bad and messy and it didn’t disappoint.

I wish I could say more, because Hiding was so engaging and well written, but then I run the risk of spoilers. But seriously though, I would recommend this baby in a heart beat! Just be prepared to be a little uncomfortable and willing to look a things from every possible angle. Oh, and get your puzzling hats on and those eyes open for details!


Many thanks to Jenny Morton Potts for proving a copy in exchange for an honest review, and especially for her patience with my delays in reading and reviewing her wonderful book. 

#BlogTour #Review: The Hidden Bones by Nicola Ford @nic_ford @allisonandbusby

Today I am over the moon to be taking part in the blog tour for Nicola Ford’s debut novel The Hidden Bones. With equal part archaeology, investigative mystery, romance and humour this baby really ticked all of the boxes. I may have picked it up as my ideal way start off the summer reading season, but I genuinely think that The Hidden Bones is going to have some serious staying power.

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Synopsis

9780749023621 hidden bones hb wbFollowing the recent death of her husband, Clare Hills is listless and unsure of her place in the world. When her former university friend Dr David Barbrook asks her to help him sift through the effects of deceased archaeologist Gerald Hart, she sees this as a useful distraction from her grief. During her search, Clare stumbles across the unpublished journals detailing Gerald’s most glittering dig. Hidden from view for decades and supposedly destroyed in an arson attack, she cannot believe her luck. Finding the Hungerbourne Barrows archive is every archaeologist’s dream. Determined to document Gerald’s career-defining find for the public, Clare and David delve into his meticulously kept records of the excavation.

But the dream suddenly becomes a nightmare as the pair unearth a disturbing discovery, putting them at the centre of a murder inquiry and in the path of a dangerous killer determined to bury the truth for ever.


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Review 

When I first picked up this book, admittedly I was suffering from a serious reading slump. The size of it had me a little nervous about finishing on time for this review, but the minute I opened the pages and was introduced to the complicated and endearing Clare Hills I was absolutely entranced! Before I knew it my clock was reading 2:00 AM and I was turning the final page and stark raving mad that I had to wait for the next instalment in what looks to be a cracking series.

I loved the depth and variety found in the characters and not once did I feel that they were cut from a type-cast cloth. There was a constant flow of adventure and revelations that made sure things never got stagnant, and it was done in such a subtle way that I didn’t realize that the plot was moving along at a break-neck speed. I especially enjoyed Clare’s tenacity and perseverance, even if I did judge her a little for letting Stephen take care of absolutely everything in her life. But with that aside, I found her passion relatable and enthusiasm contagious. And let’s not forget the elephant sized tension that gets carried around behind her and David!  I mean, who doesn’t love a good grad school forbidden/ unrequited love story? (Okay, maybe that’s just a thing amongst academics…)

It was interesting to see how central a role Dr. Hart played in the story, even though he was never present to advocate for himself. His absence and actions call into consideration some of the deeper conversations around academic integrity, access to research and information, and the duty that mentors have to the students they take under their wings. While these discussions might not resonate with every reader the tension they create between Gerald and David, as well as Gerald and Margaret, still create ample excitement.

And lets not forget spunky ol’ Jo! It’s always enjoyable to read a character that plot out defies the stereotypes associated with their job. I could picture that scene so vividly when Jo walks in to meet Clare with a backpack and a Coke, and Clare is absolutely thrown for a loop when this little blonde American turns our to be the exact opposite of the world class expert that Clare had originally envisioned. I know that look, I’ve seen that look, and I laughed uncontrollably because I have totally lived that moment! But what made it all the more awesome, was the fact that Clare’s character was able to eat crow and strike up an awesome friendship with her colleague.

The strong cast of female characters is something that can’t be ignored. Together they are balanced, determined, and straight up boss without ever being bitchy. This is so, so, so important! If you’re looking for a touch of girl power with a dash of gripping crime, this one is for you. And even if you aren’t actively seeking strong female reads, the authenticity of the archaeology and the twists in the plot are sure to please crime junkies and thrill seekers alike.

Would I recommend this book? Oh hells to the yes! It’s well written, engaging, and the perfect start to a killer series. I can’t wait to see what Nicola Ford puts out next, as her expertise in archaeology creates an incredibly authentic reading experience and expertly blends together investigating the past with the recently dead. Buy it my book nerds, this is one summer read you won’t regret!


Author Information

Nicola_Ford_smlNicola Ford is the pen-name for archaeologist Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site. Through her day-job and now her writing, she’s spent more time than most people thinking about the dead.

  • Nicola is National Trust Archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, and has drawn upon her experience ‘in the field’ to write a murder mystery combining well-realised characters, a strong sense of archaeological hotspot. Wiltshire and distant past clashing with murky present.
  • As an archaeologist, working in two of the world’s most iconic ancient landscapes, she spends her days bringing the dead to life. She writes with the down in the dirt eye of an archaeologist and the heart of a story teller.
  • Under her working name of Dr Nick Snashall, she regularly gives public talks and lectures in Britain and abroad and has featured in films and podcasts for the National Trust alongside Clare Balding and Bettany Hughes. She’s given numerous local, national and international TV and radio interviews and appeared in national TV and radio series, including BBC’s Countryfile, Channel 4’s Britain’s Secret Treasures, and BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
  • Nicola received the 2017 Archaeological Research Project of the Year Award (jointly with other project co-directors) voted for by members of the public.

nicolaford.com

@nic_ford


Many thanks to Allison & Busby for organizing this tour, and to Nicola Ford for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

#Review: The Photographer of Mauthausen by Salvia Rubio #GraphicNovel #WWIILit

My posting schedule has been a little sporadic to say the least lately, so what better way to get back at it than with a WWII graphic novel? Salvia Rubio and Pedro Columo work in perfect harmony to tell the long silent story of Francisco Boix. Gritty, raw, and absolutely enthralling, this baby turned out to be one of my favourite reads in the first half of the year.


photoTitle: The Photographer of Mauthausen

Author: Salvia Rubio

Illustrator: Pedro Columbo

Publisher: Europe Comics

Publication Date: April 18, 2018

Genre: Comics, Graphic Novel, Non Fiction

Themes: WWII, Survival, Concentration Camps, War Crimes


My Rating: 4 / 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

This is a dramatic retelling of true events in the life of Francisco—or François—Boix, a Spanish press photographer and communist who fled to France at the beginning of World War II. But there, he found himself handed over by the French to the Nazis, who sent him to the notorious Mauthausen concentration camp, where he spent the war among thousands of other Spaniards and other prisoners. More than half of them would lose their lives there. Through an odd turn of events, Boix finds himself the confidant of an SS officer who is documenting prisoner deaths at the camp. Boix realizes that he has a chance to prove Nazi war crimes by stealing the negatives of these perverse photos—but only at the risk of his own life, that of a young Spanish boy he has sworn to protect, and, indeed, that of every prisoner in the camp.

 


My Review

 

I was first turned on to graphic novels as a medium for delivering rich, emotive, nonfiction in the final year of my undergrad when I was introduced to Joe Sacco and comics journalism. And I have to say, I think that the comics medium is perfect for relating WWII and Holocaust stories as the visual nature delivers such an immersive experience. Of course I’ve read MausMoving Pictures and We Are On Our Own, but the Photographer of Mauthausen was an entirely different (and amazing) kind of experience!

At just 118 pages, this book packs a big punch. Everything from the artwork to the scripting works together in perfect harmony to balance emotion with story and iconography with imagination. We’ve all heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, so when you start putting 7-10 images a page, the impact is compounded. But what killed me the most, was how the pictures that Francisco and his crew worked so hard to protect were never used by the War Tribunal to give the victims a voice. Of all the injustices depicted throughout, that was one of the hardest to swallow.

I love how the book opens and closes at the French-Spanish border. Both nations flags are presented in opposite panels, and the colours of each flag filter down into the images below and periodically punctuate the pages to create a sense of time and place. With the majority of the illustrations are in washes of blue, grey, and brown when other colours are present they cary a whole lot of impact. So to do the facial expression and postures assigned to the characters. We see once jovial and supportive friends become gaunt and brow furrowed with worry. Not only are we told what they are going through, but we can also see the emotional and physical toll that enduring Mauthausen has on each man.

And the panel arrangements! I typically gravitate towards comics with consistent and predictable page layouts, but the creative use of shapes was absolutely divine. The geometry of the irregular shape leads the eye, creates a fractured and frantic reading, and tactfully manipulates time. Panels bleed of the page, images exist free of constraint, and the gutter isn’t the clean meaning-making space that novice readers might be used to. Yet, despite the constant flurry of information the pages are never cluttered or difficult the read.

The story itself was heartfelt and told with tenderness despite the atrocities displayed on the page. You get a real sense for Francisco’s convictions, his national pride, and his determination to not let deaths that he witnessed to be in vain. The balance that had to be made between morality and survival, selfishness and selflessness, protecting others and protecting yourself is unimaginable and yet entirely authentic. To watch their plan come together perfectly, and simultaneously fail catastrophically after the war was the most draining emotional rollercoaster!

Would I recommend this book? I can’t sing it’s praises highly enough! It’s visual, it’s visceral, and it’s one of my favourite WWII reads this year. And more than that, given the struggles that Francisco had telling this story during his life, I think that his story is one that needs to be heard by world now that it’s on the page. If you like graphic novels, WWII Fiction, or nonfiction this one is for you!


Many thanks to Net Galley and Europe Comics for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

#Review: The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien #YA #ScienceFiction

Look! A review… finally!

I know, I know, I have been far too quiet lately. But, it’s been one heck of an adjustment with the new job and being on a computer almost all day that I’ve had a hard time sitting down in the evenings to write reviews. So today I am delighted to present my 5 star review The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien, and absolutely gripping YA read!


dreamerTitle: The Vault of Dreamers

AuthorCaragh M. O’Brien

Publisher: Roaring Book Press

Publication Date: September 16, 2014

Genre: Fiction, YA, Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, YA Romance

Themes: Family, Friendship, Boarding School, Reality TV, Medical Testing, Consent Romance

Features: N/A


My Rating: 5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

WELCOME TO THE PRESTIGIOUS Forge School of the Arts, where every waking moment of the students’ lives is televised. For twelve hours a day, every class, conversation, and gesture is broadcast to millions of viewers. And for twelve hours each night, the students undergo an induced sleep, proven to maximize creativity.

Rosie Sinclair has staked all her dreams of becoming a filmmaker on succeeding at Forge. But when she skips her sleeping pill one night, she discovers an insidious world behind the cameras. As she navigates the Forge landscape of art and manipulation by day, Rosie finds it increasingly difficult to trust either her instincts or her mind. The only thing she knows for certain is that she must unearth the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding.

From the author of the Birthmarked Trilogy comes a fast-paced, psychologically thrilling novel about what happens when the dreams you follow are no longer your own.


My Review

Where do I begin with this book? Normally I would say something like ‘this might listed as YA, but can be enjoyed by all.’ And while that might be true, straight up this is some seriously kick ass YA lit! I shouldn’t have expected anything less from Caragh M. O’Brien as I adored the Birthmarked trilogy, but with The Vault of Dreamers I was completely blown away.

The whole concept of high school as reality TV, 24 hour monitoring, advanced arts school had me hooked from the blurb. In all honesty, it sounded exactly like the kind of school that I would have applied to as teen and I simply couldn’t stay away. The execution of the concept far exceeded my expectations, so much so that I have already gone out and purchased the other two books in the trilogy! But more than anything, I loved how O’Brien balanced relevant and contemporary issues with page-gripping fiction. These included the high suicide rates of contestants, discussions on bodily autonomy, consent, poverty, abuse and so much more.

The Round of 50 cuts was something that I found to be particularly brutal. I couldn’t imagine having my entire future determined by public opinion and yet it seems to be something we crave as a society. It hurt to see Rosie’s good intentions used as ammunition against her, but it hurt even more to see the impact that constant public scrutiny can have on a person. And while the majority of teens won’t be on nationally televised reality shows, the constant pressure of social media combined with the drama of high school is sure to be relatable. Huge props to O’Brien for tackling the persistent issues of high suicide rates amongst former reality TV contestants, I can only hope that works like this get people thinking, or better yet, get them talking.

I really appreciated how the romantic aspects of this story were handled as well. The fire was there, but in an innocent almost toned down way that left the focus squarely on the interpersonal dramas and the psychological warfare being waged. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the whole Rosie/ Linus storyline, but it was subtle enough and healthy enough of a relationship that it didn’t inspire any rage (which is rare for me, as I normally hate romance in teens novels for many, unrealistic reasons).

And the mind games! SO WELL WRITTEN. Take note my friends, I don’t use all caps often. But the way in which everything presented felt so real, and the gaslighting got me so wrapped up that I too began questioning whether or not Rosie was dreaming for some of the more fantastical elements and whether or not all of her breakthrough ideas were truly her own. But in the face of all it, I adored how Rosie stayed strong and convicted in spite of the challenges thrown her way.

I got lost in the sense of fear, of game play, and of the all-encompassing politics as the story progressed. And even though Rosie gathered herself quite the team to help her through, she is a fierce female character who plays one hell of a game. I appreciated her strength and tenacity, her dedication to her family, and her unwavering commitment to finding the truth even when it looked like she had been completely beat.

My only complaint was that I felt there were some threads of the story left that weren’t wrapped up at the end, like whatever happened to Linus and Burnham. But this was just the first book in a trilogy and there had to be something juicy enough to pull you along into the next instalment right? And let’s not forget what happened to Rosie! I’ll avoid spoilers here, but if you’ve read the blurbs for the other books chances are good you have an idea. But that final chapter! Oh man, I just had to know where she went and how.

Altogether this was a fun, engaging, and well written story that is sure to grip the attention. Sure, Rosie’s a little on the teenaged girl mindset, but her behaviour is right in line with her age and situation. Honestly, I liked that she wasn’t mature beyond her years but know that some might find her annoying. Regardless, this is one of my favourite reads of the year because it had it all – drama, suspense, romance, and intrigue. Would I recommend it? Oh hells yes!

Now pardon me while I disappear again to read the rest of the series.