Review: Rosewater by Tade Thompson

I can read minds but I still don’t understand women. Or men. Humans. I don’t understand humans.

This book has been sitting on my TBR forever. I bought a Kindle copy ast year and never got around to it between starting this blog and various life things. I picked up a physical copy back in February (forgetting the Kindle copy clearly) and have finally read it. Definitely the kind of scifi I need in my life right now.

Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless—people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers.

Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn’t care to again—but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realization about a horrifying future

I really enjoyed this. I have found that my taste in scifi is leaning far more towards ‘new weird’ or just generally narratives that focus more on far more diverse stories in the last year. Lagoon was a huge favourite of mine from last year and Rosewater definitely captured some similar aspects of an alternative Nigeria but manages to keep you at arms length to maintain the mystery of both Rosewater and Kaaro.

The prospect of a city like Rosewater is so completely fascinating and terrifying to me. This city exists due the the third appearance of an alien known as Wormwood as it manifests as a biodome in Nigeria. Once a year, this dome opens and people flock to it to be healed and changed by entering the dome. Thompson explains this so well, I had no problem entering the story whenever I had put it down. What I really liked as well was the description of how psychic powers work and how they are tied into the existence of the biodome. It added an extra layer to the world building that I found impressive.

Kaaro is a protagonist I would usually find it hard to gel with. When I said that we are kept at arms length, it is mostly from Kaaro. He is a powerful psychic, if not the best, who has not always used his powers for totally honorable reasons. He is narrating this story and since we get this story in different time jumps, for example the plot as it’s happening now to events that happened before Kaaro became a government agent and how he became one. The book lets you get right to that part of his past that will answer a question that you have and then the chapter will end. However far we are kept from Kaaro, he does have a fantastic characters arc and the various time jumps across his life do give him a sense of growth that I don’t see often with male characters. He is flawed yet sympathetic and I find it very interesting how his masculinity in particular is challenged and discussed at various points of the story.

The time jumps in the story are work very well with this story, There is the perfect blend of scifi meets mystery here, with the mystery kept in the dark for all the right reasons. The pieces of the plot do come together perfectly and it becomes clear that Kaaro is more involved with various events than even he realises and how his powers are at risk as well as his life. It’s also a big difference to rad a science fiction story where America isn’t a huge factor in the plot. American in 2066 having shut down after Wormwood hit is a very different and welcome direction for the plot to take. I’d also like to thank Tade Thompson for mentioning the fate of my own home of Ireland and how it shaped up!

All in all, I did thoroughly enjoy this book, my only very mild criticism that the antagonist of the plot (or at least the main source of conflict) was dealt with very cleanly. Other than that, I am really looking forward to reading the other two books in this trilogy and discovering what is to come from Rosewater next.

Thanks for checking in guys, let me know if you have read this! Happy reading!

★★★★.5/5

Review: Page by Tamora Pierce ( The Protector of the Small)

If we pick a fight, then we’re just as bad as them. Combat should be used just to help people who can’t defend themselves, period.

This seems to officially be a Terry Pratchett and Tamora Pierce stan account these days (more on the Discworld Project next week). I picked this up directly after finishing First Test so you can imagine how much that shows I’m enjoying this series.

As the only female page in history to pass the first year of training to become a knight, Keladry of Mindelan is a force to be reckoned with. But Kel’s battle to prove herself isn’t over. She must master
her paralyzing vertigo, the gruelling training schedule and the dark machinations of those who would rather she fail.

But in times of danger, Kel shines.

The kingdom’s nobles are beginning to wonder if she can succeed far beyond what they imagined. And those who hate the idea of a female knight are getting desperate – they will do anything to halt her journey.

A powerful classic that is more timely than ever, the Protector of the Small series is about smashing the ceilings others place above you.

For some reason and I can’t place why, this book reminds me a lot of reading Assassins Apprentice by Robin Hobb. Now this is nowhere near the level of grimdark that Farseer reaches but I think it might be that this time, the time scale of Kel and her training is sped up significantly. First book of course did cover that year of probation that Kel had to suffer through and this book covers from her second year as a Page to when she is finishing her exams to progress to a Squire.

As a result of that, we get to see Kel as she matures into a teenager. Within a world like Tortall, you wouldn’t expect to see in depth about the joys of puberty and every thing that a young girl might experience during that. But you forget, this is Tamora Pierce. This books are different. I was so relieved that there was a good detailed discussion about periods. Yep, this book has details about getting periods among other details. What a relief! I don’t think I can think of one fantasy book that details this without the value being around virginity/purity. Nope, this is your normal, inconvenience of having one when you really don’t meed one. And there is a discussion about them with Kel and her maid Lalasa which needs to be more common. Something small, I know but anything that will destigmatise basic bodily functions is fine with me.

Since there isn’t a lot of world or expansion of the world building of the previous book, this book functions mostly as both a character study and a coming of age story for Kel and her friends. We obviously get the period stuff I mentioned but just other small things that add to the other characters growth too. Her changing feelings for Neal being one and her discovery of a solid, female friendship with Lalasa as well. This is probably the part I loved the most. Lalasa is a welcome addition to the story and watching Kel teach her physically how to defend herself while reminding her that harassment is never okay and has to be challenged, well, it felt very relevant to be honest. Even more so at the moment.

As far as the story is concerned, it is as tight and concise as the first. I felt the climactic point of the plot was both obvious while also kind of being a thing that I didn’t think would happen. That Keladry succeeding threatened others that much and that they had to be so malevolent about it. The last few chapters were so gripping that I was getting worried while reading it and even if it does seem like she is always going to make it sue to the quartet existing, I still had my doubts for a second. That to me is great plot work.

I can’t move on without the mention of best boy Jump. A dog is a welcome addtion to any story, especially such a good boy like him. I really liked seeing even Lord Wyldon make a tiny fuss of him and agree he was vital to the entire castle. Thank you Tamora Pierce for not having the dog die as well. I don’t care if that spoils the book, I know others will want to know.

I haven’t picked up Squire yet just due to some mood reading and blog tours but that and Lady Knight will be up next on my TBR very soon. I will have considerable space after recent revelations. Thanks for reading this review and happy reading. Most of all know, I hope everyone is safe, practicing self care for their mental health and is doing okay.

★★★★.5/5

Review: The Secret Commonwealth by Phillip Pullman (Spoilers)

‘You won’t understand anything about the imagination until you realise that it’s not about making things up, it’s about perception.’

****Trigger warnings for rape, mentions of abuse and physical assault. This review will also contain spoilers for His Dark Materials, La Belle Sauvage and this book.****

Noone is more disappointed than I to be giving this book a negative review. I honestly think the rating I gave is down to Michael Sheen’s narration alone, for being back in this world and seeing Lyra and Malcolm again. Pullman has taken this series down a very dark road which does nothing for the world and strikes me as a gamble that won’t payoff. This is gonna be a hard review fellow readers.

It is seven years since readers left Lyra and the love of her young life, Will Parry, on a park bench in Oxford’s Botanic Gardens at the end of the ground-breaking, bestselling His Dark Materials sequence.

Now, in The Secret Commonwealth, we meet Lyra Silvertongue. And she is no longer a child.

The second volume of Sir Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust sees Lyra, now twenty years old, and her daemon Pantalaimon, forced to navigate their relationship in a way they could never have imagined, and drawn into the complex and dangerous factions of a world that they had no idea existed.

Pulled along on his own journey too is Malcolm; once a boy with a boat and a mission to save a baby from the flood, now a man with a strong sense of duty and a desire to do what is right.

Theirs is a world at once familiar and extraordinary, and they must travel far beyond the edges of Oxford, across Europe and into Asia, in search for what is lost – a city haunted by daemons, a secret at the heart of a desert, and the mystery of the elusive Dust.

So to keep some kind of coherence to this review, let me just break down the main reasons I had so many problems with it. As a quick summary, I thought the plot was very weak and used unnecessary moments of trauma to move it forward. The characters on a whole are totally nothing like themselves from previous books for one and for series named ‘The Book of Dust’, we still know nothing new about Dust. Be warned, the spoilers are about to begin.

Lyra and Pan were always going to have conflict and trauma to explore after the results of what happened in The Amber Spyglass. Daemons and humans separating isn’t a common practice and takes a great deal of pain to manage the process and survive it. However, this goes way beyond everything that was already established for both. Pan is convinced that Lyra has lost her “imaginations” somehow and leaves her later on to go find it. This only really functioned as plot device but it was a bit of a slap to the face to anyone who loved these characters to begin with.

Malcolm is a welcome return I will admit, as well as Alice who is the best damn thing in this entire mess. But I do have to question the decision to have Malcolm fall in love with Lyra? It’s an uncomfortable experience to read to be honest, especially since the last book made it very clear that Malcolm has been in her life since she was a baby. Alice though, is truly the best. As well, the Gyptian people are the best family Lyra could have.

****Trigger Warning, the rest of the review will be discussing an attempted rape scene.****

I need to talk about the fact that after 4 books, Pullman has decided the next thing that was going to happen to Lyra, was assault and attempted gang rape. This is the most unnecessary scene I have ever read. For a start, there is no warning for this so this is very triggering material. It’s also lazy writing and serves no function only to alienate readers further. I’m left to wonder since Lyra is ‘no longer a child’ and other plot details I will get to are meant to be the thing that distinguish this series ‘adult’. The one thing that His Dark Materials always managed to do was appeal to adults and children both. Regardless of both, this sucks and I hated it.

The only thing I will say that saved me from leaving this as one star was the amazing narration from Michael Sheen once again. I would kill for an audio book of him narrating either a Discworld novel or a new Good Omens with him and Tennant. Every single character has a distinct voice, accent AND personality and this is all while he manages to maintain the tension of the plot where necessary. There is not a moment I didn’t know who was talking (both human and daemon) and I that is a testament to the narrators skill.

Again, the plot is a bit of a mess. Like I get that in the issue with rose oil, and the people being uprooted from their lands is meant to make some message about the refugee crisis but it never really gets to there it’s supposed to. Not only that but I really don’t get why the events from His Dark Materials are being discussed like they happened 30 years ago. From the end of The Amber Spyglass, I was willing to believe that the Magesterium would now lose some of their hold and things would change for the better. However if anything, this story shows how they are just creeping further and further into the network of society to suffocate anything that is not part of it’s regime. All this culminates in an ending that is just a massive cliff hanger with no answers and leaves you no option but to finish this series with the last book.

I also just want to repeat my comment at the stat, for a book series dedicated to Dust, we don’t see very much of it. Same can be said of the Secret Commonwealth. There is not much in the way of discussing where this book will stand in both these titles or how they will add to the world here.

Again, this was a hard review to write. I had initially rated this 3 stars but there is no need for the third one. I will finish this series since I have come this far but I don’t deny that the bad taste in my mouth. I might just pretend that the original series and La Belle Sauvage are all that exist in this world. I miss Will. If you read all this, thank you so much and I can only with you happier reading this week.

★★/5

Review: First Test by Tamora Pierce (The Protector of the Small)

‘I’ve watched Lady Alanna fight for the crown. I saw her majesty and some of her ladies fight in the Immortals War. I know women can be warriors.’

I’m back! Apologies for my sudden absence, a combination of work and personal things coupled with the world being totally on fire at the moment have lead me to fall behind on the review here. Well I’m back with my journey to Tortall and the first book in The Protector of the Small quartet.

Keladry of Mindelan is the first girl who dares to take advantage of the new rule that allows women to train for knighthood.

But standing in Kel’s way is Lord Wyldon the training master, who is dead set against girls becoming knights. A woman should be lovely. A woman should be charming. A woman should not be deadly.

Wyldon demands Kel pass a one-year trial that no male page has ever had to endure. It’s just one more way to separate Kel from her fellow trainees. Kel must prove herself twice as good as her male peers just to be thought equal. But she is not to be underestimated.

Kel will fight to succeed, even when odds are stacked against her. Book one of a powerful and classic fantasy quartet about smashing the ceilings others place above you, by the bestselling author of the Song of the Lioness series and Tempests and Slaughter.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows how much I loved my read of the Immortals quartet last year that returning to this world was highly enjoyable for me. I love Tamora Pierce’s writing from my first read of Wild Magic and I feel it only gets better with each series.

This book expands on the world building of Tortall from the previous 2 series but there is no issue for a reader to begin reading from here. There are details and spoilers from the Immortals quartet as well as appearances of characters from there and the world left changed after the Immortals War. It’s a nice reward for anyone who has read it but it really makes the world larger and we learn of the Yamani Islands which are based on Japan and Japanese culture. Kel having spent time there gives us some brief insight into their traditions and ways of living.

Kel is only 11 in this first book but already she is pretty fearless. During the constant harassment from the male Pages, her training mater and the general struggle of becoming a Knight, she doesn’t give an inch and refuses to compromise. From the start of the book she is clearly a character that is more aligned with Alanna than Daine where she is more physical and commonly sports black eyes and bruises from various fights. I think out of all the characters Pierce has written, Kel is one I relate to the hardest. I’ve so often been in the situation (as many people have) that I’ve had to work harder just to get what I want and it’s refreshing she is not a ‘chosen one’ either.

We met some other great characters along the way. Besides the reappearance of Daine, Numair and other big names, there is the introduction of Lord Wyldon and Kel’s main ally, Nealan of Queenscove. Clearly Wyldon is as biased as he is tough but I thought by the end of the book, he certainly took on a more relatable light and changed a lot. I like seeing characters change their attitudes and just grow out of them. It needs to be normalised a lot more in fantasy books. Neal is hilarious and a great friend to Kel but there is clearly some set up here for later books I feel with his character so I’ll talk about that as I read on.

This is a nice quick read with a smooth cohesive plot that really works as both a primer for the world and a refresher for returning reader. I am giving it such a high rating for mostly enjoyment purposes but do still think this is a very solid first book for a series. Also, Kel saves kittens. She was a fave right there and then.

Thank you for bearing with me fellow readers. Rest assured I have a lot of stuff coming up these next couple of weeks including my review of the second book in this series, Page. So keep an eye out for that and do tell me, are you a fan? Have you read this series? Happy reading everyone!

★★★★★/5

Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

In the land of Ingary where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.

I think we all have those books sitting on out shelves for a while that we all KNOW we will love but we don’t read them right away? It’s almost like a stubbornness from people suggesting it or hearing about it all the time? I bought Howl’s Moving Castle almost a year ago, and have only got around to reading it now as the lockdown in Ireland continues. And yes I did love it.

“How about making a bargain with me?” said the demon. “I’ll break your spell if you agree to break this contract I’m under.”

In the land of Ingary, where seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, Sophie Hatter attracts the unwelcome attention of the Witch of the Waste, who puts a curse on her. Determined to make the best of things, Sophie travels to the one place where she might get help – the moving castle which hovers on the nearby hills.

But the castle belongs to the dreaded Wizard Howl whose appetite, they say, is satisfied only by the hearts of young girls..

Can I start off with Sophie being the eldest and just say SAME GIRL. Diana Wynne Jones is also the eldest of her siblings and a lot of what she writes into Sophie, I felt was very applicable to me. I’m not cursed, neither have I sought my fortune but there is still a strong feeling of being seen. The more I sit on this, the more I feel I needed this when I was younger.

I went into this totally blind. I have not seen the full movie and I only knew vague plot elements about Howl mostly and that really did help here. This is another well loved fantasy classic that I feel has stood the test of time. I am currently focussing on women fantasy authors and older, back listed titles a lot more and this was definitely up there in that category.

The world itself is wonderfully painted and so whimsical it was heart warming. As said in the synopsis and the quote from the book, this is a world where seven league boots, witches and wizards who eat girls hearts live among us. There is however a nice tie to the world as we would know it, “the real world” even which I thought was written really well.

I really love Sophie. She reminds me a lot of Daine in The Immortals Quartet in the way that she is so incredibly caring, mostly towards her sisters and step mother, but she is not at all willing to accept things just as they are. She it outspoken when she needs to be and I feel she really embraces that side of her when she goes to Howl to seek help.

We have to talk about Howl Pendragon. What a dramatic, man child who can’t cope with any kind of inconvenience. Another thing I didn’t know at all was the kind of character Howl was. I think I got the opposite of what I was expecting but I’m kind of glad I did? He’s this powerful wizard who always avoids a direct answer and you never truly know what he is up to. Sophie is not taking his shit at all either which is so entertaining to read, especially when they bicker.

This is a great story, no doubt about it and there is a sense of the story being complete with how everything turns out. This is a book I would have happily recommended to anyone at the start of the pandemic as a book where nothing really bad happens and it is a pure piece of escapism. There are 2 sequels but you could totally read it as a standalone story but I do intend to read more of Diana Wynne Jones so will probably read them.

Now I shall finally watch the movie as it is my day off and might so another blog post on that. Happy reading folks!

★★★★★/5

Review: The Dead Zone by Stephen King

Things have been a bit up and down around here recently, and the same goes for my reading. I honestly don’t know what is causing it but I am literally going from tearing through a book in a day or two, to barely able to read a novella. I picked this one up as a total mood read and glad I did since it was exactly what I needed.

It was as if his eyes were awake, and the rest of him still slept.

Meet Johnny Smith. A young man whose streak of luck ends dramatically in a major car crash. Followed by blackness. A long, long time in cold limbo.

When he wakes up life has been turned upside down. His fiancee has met someone else. And Johnny is cursed with the power to perceive evil in men’s souls. He’s had these hunches since he had an ice-skating accident as a child. Now he has an ability to see into the future. An ability which will bring him into a terrifying confrontation with a charismatic, power-hungry and dangerous man..

I have made posts about my lifelong relationship with Stephen King before and how much of an impact his books have had on me. This book was one I put off for years but my reading felt so dictated and dead a few weeks ago, that I just embraced my mood to read a Stephen King book.

This was utterly phenomenal and totally blew me away. This is one of King’s first few books and the very first book with Castlerock so this felt like a new step I had taken in my reading of his entire backlist. This doesn’t get nearly as much hype as it needs. First up, it’s not horror. It’s more of a paranormal thriller than anything. Second, the story itself is advertised all wrong in blurbs alone. And third, I really felt for Johnny.

My first and second point are kind of a plus and a negative for me that I want to talk about. It is always nice to read King books that aren’t straight up scares and this is one of the best examples. This is also very much a character driven novel, the plot is second to it. Which comes to my second point, if you are expecting the main plot event to happen like early on, forget that right away. This is more down to the way the book is sold I think and not the writing but I do think it hindered my enjoyment a bit.

I also kind of wanted to see Johnny meet other people who could see or reach ‘the Dead Zone’, like Danny meeting Dick in The Shining but it this book was totally focused on Johnny and his journey. The villain was also a little absent from the story but this was again, a book about Johnny.

Finally, Johnny Smith the true, tragic hero of this great story. I think it would be very hard to read this and not care about him. Johnny is unlike a lot of Stephen King’s characters where he is not painted as as mostly morally grey human being. Johnny, despite decisions he does make that are less than heroic in places, is a man who aims to do good in this world while just living his life and being happy. His relationship with Sarah, his parents and other characters clearly show how despite all that has happened to him, life hasn’t stolen the goodness in his heart.

Overall, this is one of the truly great King books that is milder on the supernatural while also being incredibly readable. Especially for a book that is so early in King’s career, this one really stands out as a new favourite! Next stop, the movie adaptation starring Christopher Walken!

★★★★/5

Blog Tour: Switchboard by Andrew Post

Hello fellow readers! My apologies for my silence! Today is my stop on the Random Things Tour’s blog tour for Switchboard by Andrew Post!

It’s only as haunted as you are.

After two raids turn up zero evidence, narcotics detective Dwayne Spare infiltrates a crumbling apartment building where a suspected manufacturer of krokodil is hiding—but finds something much worse. The chemist Gerald Metzger isn’t after money; he’s lulling his most ‘dedicated’ customers into catatonia, to make contact with an eldritch being. 

When Dwayne’s cover is blown, he becomes Metzger’s new test subject, an involuntary pilgrim into a world where “it’s all just in your head” is far from a reassuring statement.

I don’t think I have the words for this one. This is another perfect example of a shorter books being just as capable of carrying a long and winding plot that is liable to sneak up on you and bite your face off to sacrifice to the ancient elder gods.

Everything about this story is claustrophobic and uncomfortable. The appearances are truly deceiving here as I went into this for a creepy noir style story with supernatural elements while Detective Spare runs after Metzger in an endless cat and mouse game. I was so wrong and am delighted I was.

With a limited cast of characters and a very remote location and a looming entity that is really left in the shadows, Post drags us through an unsettling unknown that would leave you paranoid after reading a few pages. I kid you not, this book followed me into my own dreams and had me waking up when I went to finish it wondering where one ended and another began.

The book also has some wonderful moments of body horror scattered through out this strange plot that just add to the desolation and the sheer feeling that everything is just stuck in a loop. The way the story wraps up is a little bit left of centre for where I thought it was going but honestly the longer I sit with this book I know that there was only one outcome for Spare and the others. And it was done well.

Thank you to Anne for having me on the tour and JournalStone for a copy of the book in exchange for review! You can get this book now and I would highly recommend it for fans of Odd Thomas and House of Leaves!

Andrew Post was born in Erie, Pennsylvania (imagine Eraserhead but in color). While he was
honing his craft as a writer (those early stories were awful) he worked in a gift shop in one of the scuzziest hotels in the Midwest, he cleaned rental cars (also gross), he was a butcher (despite
being a vegetarian), and in 2013 his first novel, the cyberpunk thriller, Knuckleduster, was published. No one really seemed to care much but he kept at it and has since published a handful of other works to varying degrees of resulting public interest with a few seeing translations and one almost became a movie (that lit agent has since been fired).
Andrew lives in a sleepy river town in Minnesota where he may or may not be planning aquatic
“accidents” to befall the many other authors who live in the area and he has been mistaken for Rob Zombie on no less than ten separate occasions.

Review: The Fireman by Joe hill

“There are no unselfish acts. When people do something for someone else, it’s always for their own personal psychological reasons.”

I don’t think a book has taken me this long to finish in a while and it has nothing to do with the length of it either. I started this book on audio the week that I was sent to work from home due to the current pandemic. And this is a book that concerns a pandemic style event. Bad timing?

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

So poor timing aside, this is definitely up there with Horns for me as one of Joe Hill’s best works (outside of his work in comics). I think he has a true gift with novels that he sometimes lacks with the shorter stories and here it really shines through.

Here we have a world ravaged by a spore that manifests on peoples skin and can cause them to abruptly burst into flames. There is a phenomenal amount of detail put into how the spore infects and progresses. Dragon Scale is a deadly and fascinating disease, with as much detail as Hill was liable to give. Within the world of this book there is many theories that seem plausible for how the Scale works but within a world that is also falling apart and turning into a full scale apocalypse there is very little science to distinctly ground them. I found it reminding me of watching ‘The Walking Dead’ that way (when it was good) and it worked super well for the world building since it somehow made everything that little bit more real.

There is no way that I was getting through this review without talking about Harper. The book is very cleverly structured and timed around Harper’s pregnancy and within the 9 months it is fair to say that she achieves a very emotional character arc. Joe Hill writes wonderful mother figures and Harper is no exception. She is cheerful even in the face of danger but she is far from stupid, with an inner strength that never wains no matter who she is facing down. Although this is a global event, this is very much her story more than the actual story of the total apocalypse and it is handled very well.

There are several other wonderful characters I grew deeply attached to such as the Fireman himself or Nick, a young deaf boy Harper meets at Camp Wyndham. Something I found endlessly interesting was some of the antagonists, like Jakob (Harpers husband) or Carol Storey, another character from Camp Wyndam. Without giving much away, both are very real. Too real, especially Carol.

Hill is truly a master storyteller, no surprise with his parentage but he stands on his own two feet here and not for the first time. I can’t give away any other details about the story without spoiling it but this story is captivating, tragic, optimistic while being realistic and bleak all in one. The book wraps up so well and I can’t praise it enough. I went between the audio and the physical book here again and you are in for a treat with Kate Mulgrew narrating.

This should be a five star book but I had to take off a star for how long this took me and my poor choice for reading it during a pandemic. I will probably come back and change it but don’t let it put you off reading this great story. Thanks for tuning in guys! Happy Reading!

★★★★.5/5

Blog Tour: Goldilocks by Laura Lam

Hello dear readers and welcome back to my last blog tour this week! I’ve had some really good books to review recently ans this is no exception. Today is my stop on the Random Things Tours blog tour for Goldilocks by Laura Lam!

The Earth is in environmental collapse. The future of humanity hangs in the balance. But a team of women are preparing to save it. Even if they’ll need to steal a spaceship to do it.

Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation.

The team is humanity’s last hope for survival, and Valerie has gathered the best women for the mission: an ace pilot who is one of the only astronauts ever to have gone to Mars; a brilliant engineer tasked with keeping the ship fully operational; and an experienced doctor to keep the crew alive. And then there’s Naomi Lovelace, Valerie’s surrogate daughter and the ship’s botanist, who has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity to step out of Valerie’s shadow and make a difference.

The problem is that they’re not the authorized crew, even if Valerie was the one to fully plan the voyage. When their mission is stolen from them, they steal the ship bound for the new planet.

But when things start going wrong on board, Naomi begins to suspect that someone is concealing a terrible secret — and realizes time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared . . .

The women were stealing a planet. They were stealing a future.

I’ve been reading science fiction for as long as I can remember and I really love space. Like I REALLY love space. I have no interest in the science but I would sooner go to space than into the ocean. Imagine my disgust when I learned historically, women were good enough to test for space but not good enough to go there. It’s clear Laura Lam discovered the same and she gave us Goldilocks.

This is definitely a stand out in a line of the resurgence in the space exploration genre of scifi stories but this is the first one that I have been deeply moved by. There is no denying the strength of these women and what they are trying to achieve here. It’s one thing to take back jobs and protest for equality, but these bad ass people literally stole a space mission.

I truly enjoyed the characters but their relationships and how they work together were truly the standout here. I think my favourite was Valerie and Naomi with their surrogate mother/daughter dynamic. I love a good found family story and this one I thought was probably the most accurate and interesting I had ever seen. There is even an early on instance where both of them had a fight and they are trying to recoup after a year of the fall out from it.

Can I just comment as well on the excellent writing and how well Laura Lam tells this wonderful story of discovery, pain and the very possible changes that could happen with a government started to restrict women further and further. I also loved the cheeky nod to the best known dystopic story about women losing their rights.

Thank you to Anne for having me on the tour and Wildfire for a copy for this amazing book in exchange for a review. Goldilocks is available now!

★★★★★/5

Laura Lam is the author of several science fiction books, including Radio 2 Book
Club selection False Hearts. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in
anthologies such as Nasty Women, Solaris Rising 3, Cranky Ladies of History,
Scotland in Space, and more. Originally from California, she now lives in Scotland with her husband, and teaches Creative Writing at Edinburgh Napier University.

Blog Tour: Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Hello fellow readers and welcome to another wonderful blog tour! Today this is my stop on the Write Reads blog tour for Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis!

Welcome to Harrow Lake. Someone’s expecting you . . .
Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her. But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot. The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away. And there’s someone – or something – stalking her every move. The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her.

‘Look, these stories- small town legends about monsters or demons or evil spirits- they’re all just an excuse for people to avoid seeing the real monsters all around them. It’s a way to shatter the proverbial mirror.’

You have to love a small spooky, town story with some locals who never truly pulled themselves out of the last century. Especially when there is a creepy story of a monster that will ruin the lives of the residents should they step out of line. But what if, after all that, the real monsters are people? And what if they turn out to be our parents?

This isn’t any spoiler territory, I can assure you. This book very quickly reminded me how our parents are themselves to us first and people second. That is one of the hardest things to write about especially from the eyes of a child and Kat Ellis manages it so well here while also managing to maintain some unsettling plot details and a strange town atmosphere.

When we meet Lola, I’m not going to lie that I found her irritating. In the first few pages it is very easy to find her annoying and slightly spoiled. As the story unfolds, her background is expanded to the point of feeling pity for this girl and her constantly shifting loyalties to both Nolan and Lorelei. There is a deep conflict in her that I found very interesting with a sense of resilience that is hard to not admire straight away.

Some moments within the plot are genuinely hard to grasp and figure out but the creep factor is never far away. As the tension rises in the story and Lola becomes more paranoid it is hard to tell what might be the nasty reality of Harrow Lake or what might possibly be a monster lurking around the corner. I would love to see concept art for Mister Jitters as well.

Overall, a definite must read for horror fans while being an impressive take on the horror movie legacy and what damage it can leave behind.

Thank you to Dave at the Write Reads for having me on this tour and to Penguin Random House and NetGalley for an advanced digital copy of Harrow Lake in exchange for a review!

Harrow Lake is published on the 9th of June!