Blog Tour: The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence

Hello everyone and welcome to the first day of the Random Things Tours Blog tour for The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence!

East of the Black Rock, out on the ice, lies a hole down which broken children are thrown.
On the vastness of the ice there is no room for individuals. Noone survives alone. To resist the cold, to endure the months of night when even the air itself begins to freeze, requires a special breed. Variation is dangerous, difference is fatal. And Yaz is different. Torn from her family, from the boy she thought she would spend her life with, Yaz has to carve a new path for herself in a world whose existence she never suspected. A world full of danger. Beneath the ice, Yaz will learn that Abeth is older and stranger than she had ever imagined. She will learn that her weaknesses are another kind of strength. And she will learn to challenge the cruel arithmetic of survival that has always governed her people.
Only when it’s darkest can you see the stars.

During these very strange times it is difficult to get totally lost in a book, especially one with as grim and bleak a setting as Abeth. Nothing can take away from Lawrence’s writing being utterly captivating, even a global pandemic. This is my first Mark Lawrence book and I can’t deny how utterly impressive this book is. This book is set in a previous world of his, namely the Book of the Ancestor trilogy, but I haven’t read it (I own it, shut up) and I still had no problem getting into the book.

What we have here is a remarkable first book in a new series that sets up a brutal world with a true survivor leading the story, Yaz. The world building here is truly incredible and it is so dense that you won’t be able to tear yourself away from the bleak reality of the ice, both above and below. I really enjoyed learning about underneath the ice, especially why these children are thrown into the hole in the first place. Reasons vary from unnatural speed to working the ice like clay but then Yaz has a power that allows her work with the ‘stars’ under the ice. The stars sounds SO interesting, being these objects that are a cross between rock and kind of reactor cores.

I really thought Yaz was an excellent female lead with a very well rounded arc and some very genuine personality traits. She is powerful, caring and very flawed. While Yaz’s mission of rescuing her brother is a very clear indication of how far she is willing to go to save her family, it also is just as much of a mission of her learning that the reality of the world she has come from is very wrong. She comes to realise how flawed the society of Abeth is and she is very angry for how children are just thrown away. She also has moments of very human emotions and a bit of a selfish streak almost but she is a breath of fresh air.

I will say the plot is a little slower in places for a longer fantasy book but it is clear that Mark Lawrence is dedicated to creating this bitter, cruel world and building it for the books to come as well which is where a lot of fantasy can crumble. Here that won’t happen since we are led to a finale that is sudden as it is expected. I loved this book, I can’t deny it and can’t wait to finally read more of the authors work.

Thank you for Anne as always for having me on the tour and to Harper Voyager for the very pretty proof of this book in exchange for review! The Girl and the Stars is out the 30th of April!

★★★★★/5

Mark Lawrence was born in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, but moved to the UK at the age of one. He went back to the US after taking a PhD in mathematics at Imperial College to work on a variety of research projects including the ‘Star Wars’ missile defence programme. Returning to the UK,
he has worked mainly on image processing and decision/reasoning theory. His first trilogy, The Broken Empire, has been universally acclaimed as a ground-breaking work of fantasy, and both The Liar’s Key and The Wheel of Osheim have won the Gemmell Legend award for best fantasy novel. Mark is married, with four children, and lives in Bristol.

Blog Tour: The Die of Death (The Great Devil War II) by Kenneth B. Andersen

Good day fellow readers and welcome to my stop on the Write Reads blog tour for The Die of Death by Kenneth B. Andersen!

Philip’s adventures as the Devil’s apprentice have changed him—in a good way. Although he misses his friends in Hell, he has made new friends in life. But when the future of the underworld is threatened once again, Philip’s help is needed. Death’s Die has been stolen and immortality is spreading across the globe. Philip throws himself into the search—and discovers a horrible truth about his own life along the way.

This book was exactly what I needed right now if I am being perfectly honest! This is the smashing sequel to the already perfect The Devil’s Apprentice which I was lucky enough to review back in December last year. That book took everything I loved about a good Satan story and turned it upside down into something wonderful. The sequel is no different.

When we meet Philip he is dying (get it?) to get back to hell and see Satina, mostly, but also just to see everyone. What has happened to him in the mean time is what I think is a great development of character but also a very realistic shift in Philip’s personality. He’s a normal teenager who has discovered the joys of skipping homework, the advantage of lying at that age but also how to stand up for himself. He is still a genuinely good kid but he is definitely more savvy.

One of my favourite figures in culture is Death. Aside from my Discworld favourite (this book also has echoes of Mort) there are many incarnations and re-imaginings of the character that I do love. So you can see why I enjoyed this. The author never fails to appeal to my geeky interests! Besides Philip there are some wonderful character arcs here, including Satina, Lucifer and even Mortimer himself. It is an all round, wonderful follow up to the first book as well.

I will say without spoiling the actual ending and reveal of the plot that the message this book was hitting home was really relevant and I really do appreciate it being discussed in a fantasy book like this. Handled very well and am totally onboard for the next book in the series.

I want to thank Dave from the Write Reads for including me on the tour and to the author Kenneth B. Andersen for having me on board as an ARC reader as well as for the copy of the book in exchange for review!

About the author

Kenneth B. Andersen (1976) is an award-winning Danish writer. He has published more than forty books for children and young adults, including both fantasy, horror, and science fiction.

His books have been translated into more than 15 languages and his hit-series about the superhero Antboy has been turned into three movies. A musical adaptation of The Devil’s Apprentice, the first book in The Great Devil War series, opened in the fall 2018 and film rights for the series have been optioned.

Kenneth lives in Copenhagen with his wife, two boys, a dog named Milo, and spiders in the basement

Immersive SFF for Social Distancing

None of us can avoid the C word (not my C word) anymore. I was going to avoid putting any mention of the virus here on my blog but lets be honest that this isn’t possible anymore. I’ve been working from home for nearly a week and as of today, Ireland has recorded another death from Covid-19. But we do need to live and keep our heads somehow. Science fiction and fantasy is my chosen escape.

I’m making this list (for once, more than books will be on it) for anyone who like me, is a big fan of SFF and needs some head space. I’m also doing this since I intend on using my blog to escape a little while also using the extra time at home to develop what I write about here. So in here we will have books, comics, movies, a TV show and even a podcast.

Warning: Some items in here deal with apocalyptic elements and may be triggering to others at this moment in time. Mind yourself and make good choices.

So without further ado;

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: Now, lets get this out of the way. Neil Gaiman is my favourite. Yes. And yes I love all his books equally. But I honestly think this book is a great starting point for anyone who wants to get into his writing while also completely escape from reality. The plot is one massive story that is running from place to place with characters that are vibrant and unique. Its also not a very typical fantasy for anyone new to fantasy.

The Magnus Archives-Rusty Quill: Now this is more of a horror podcast but it is definitely immersive. It is statements recorded to tape that summarise events people have experienced that verge on the paranormal. It has this great Twilight Zone adjacent feel to it at the start. Then a story becomes apparent and suddenly you are scared for all the characters and you’re scared of doors and plugholes. I am planning to do a post on this anyway but I would be lost without the absorption this podcast gives me for commutes as well as remote working.

The Hellboy movies: I would recommend avoiding the dog rough version that was released last year but they original pair of movies made so beautifully by Guillermo Del Toro (and their animated counterpart) These movies are such a happy place for me but they are also incredibly easy to get lost in. The creatures, the characters, right down to the signature Del Toro leaves on anything he makes are so incredible that its hard not to get lost in them.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples: If you somehow avoided what Saga is or how vital it is to comics, now is your time to read it and get caught up. Space Opera about star crossed lovers from warring nations as narrated by their child, with weird creatures, other races and robot royals along their way. That is barely the tip of this very big iceberg.This series is hard on the emotions but has such a well written story with some VERY detailed art that its hard not to get caught up in this world. Also, giant cats and cute seal people.

Good Omens (Book and TV Show) by Neil Gaiman&Terry Pratchett: Warning: This is about the end of the world and the Antichrist which might be far too on the nose and quite triggering for some people at this moment in time.
I don’t think anyone missed the success of this beauty last year but in case you did, it is great, wonderful and ineffable. I recommend the book just as much as the show since both are pieces of art in themselves. Both of these despite the nihilistic subject matter are very comforting (I can’t explain it for some reason) and very easy to get drawn into.

That is only a small list but still, just wanted to rattle off the things that are currently saving my sanity a little bit and in general are comforting for me to return to even when I’m anxious.

I hope everyone who can work from home, is doing so and everyone is safe and sound. If you have any very immersive SFF yourself you would like to recommend, of ANY kind, then please feel free to do so. We all need an escape and we all need a little comfort.

Stay safe everyone and happy reading!

Review: The City We Became by N.K Jemisin

‘Every battle is a dance. She was always a good dancer at the pow wows, and these days? The steel toed boots dwell permanently in her soul.’

In the year of our lord, 2020, N.K Jemisin has declared ware on H.P Lovecraft and my word it’s about time someone did at last. Over the past few years I have seen some wonderful groups that would have been otherwise targeted by the stories of Lovecraft and re imagine his stories for a world that includes them. They shove themselves into these worlds reminding this dude everyone loves that they exist too in all worlds. Then N.K Jemisin showed up to the party and smashed his knee in.

Every great city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got six. But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs in the halls of power, threatening to destroy the city and her six newborn avatars unless they can come together and stop it once and for all

This is book has been one of the most anticipated SFF titles of the year and I was lucky enough to receive this for review and oh my word did it deliver. Jemisin will definitely be an author you would have heard of it you are any way in touch with SFF books, the Hugo’s or just any form of online book spaces for fantasy readers. This is a bit of a step back for Jemisin since this is a book set in our world. Her previous works have been set in far more distant worlds and this one is truly a shining star.

The beginning of a new trilogy, this journey actually began with her Tor.com short story, The City Born Great. I have never been to New York myself but I felt every single twist and turn of the city as it moved off the page. Each and every street and person felt as real and genuine as the book itself. Its hard to write imaginary worlds like the Dreaming, Discworld and Hogwarts but its hard to make a real place live on a page. The impact of the otherworldly dangers felt even more surreal as a result.

Where the book really shines here is through each and every character. Like with many of the author’s books, most characters are PoC along with not being any shape or form of hetero normative. The majority of the book is focused on the characters since they are the city itself and does as a result take a bit longer to assemble them all for the final act but I really liked that part of it. This felt very true to the struggle of meeting people that are supposed to be ‘on your side’ but when you finally meet them they are just a regular idiot like you.

The play off of certain boroughs of New York against was very entertaining but was woven within one of the main themes of the plot. That of course being breaking the mold society has made for you and throwing the plaster dust back in their faces. Noone does confronting bias and bigotry like Jemisin but something I really loved was that despite 90% of the characters being not white, each has to confront some form of bias they have or even in cases, a type of privilege.

I mentioned this already but I challenge anyone to find fault with the writing. This book did take me a bit longer than I thought it would to finish but every time I picked this up I was hooked on every sentence, every word and the flow of the plot is so seamless that I never even realised the end was coming. Jemisin jumps between 3 different persons, from first right up to third , and it is done so well that it will not break the engagement of the story. Every city has a soul and N.K Jemisin has captured it here as a testament to everyone who grew up in one both loving and hating it at the same time.

I want to thank Nazia from Orbit so much for sending me a finished copy of this book to review. This will not disappoint and is definitely one of my favourite books of the year. Thank you for reading this and do tell me if you are going to read this! Happy reading everyone!

★★★★★/5

Review: Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

“Never build a dungeon you wouldn’t be happy to spend the night in yourself. The world would be a happier place if more people remembered that.”

Welcome back to the Disc! So I’ve not posted much this month outside of reviews of Terry Pratchett books but this is the joy I need in my life right now. This book has so far been my favourite book of the month. I will admit I have been gearing up to this one for some time and I was slightly intimidated since this is up there with Mort for many readers of Discworld. Now I’ve read it, I understand. Bear in mind, my review might not do this justice.

This is where the dragons went. They lie … not dead, not asleep, but … dormant. And although the space they occupy isn’t like normal space, nevertheless they are packed in tightly. They could put you in mind of a can of sardines, if you thought sardines were huge and scaly. And presumably, somewhere, there’s a key…GUARDS! GUARDS! is the eighth Discworld novel – and after this, dragons will never be the same again!

Like I said, I’ve been leading up to this for a while. It was worth the wait. Everything about this captured my heart and made me happier with every word I read of it, Pratchett shines at his brightest here. Its definitely a book you can tell he enjoyed writing and that this is a sharp turn for the series with both characters and plot. There is also clear development at this stage of his writing with this being the longest book so far but definitely one of the most concise too.

Ankh Morpork. Biggest city on the Disc with the biggest stink, with a City Watch to monitor its self regulated crime of the Guilds. The Thieve’s Guild and the Assassins Guild stand out the most, the former providing a receipt upon delivering services of course. The Watch is kind of forgotten except for tolling bells in the night claiming all is well. There was a tiny glimpse of the assassins in Pyramids and even smaller a glimpse here but its exciting to finally be seeing them!

Seeing the city life up this close is everything I love to see in a fantasy series. I always have this question for any SFF world in my head which is, what is the mundane here? What is an every day in this place? Often I never get to find out. But here I did. Pratchett has really achieved a phenomenal level of ordinary is such an extraordinary place and it works to focus our characters far more through a very new lens.

It would be impossible as always to talk about Discworld without having the characters at the heart of the discussion. We meet old characters but mostly this is an entirely new cast. The Watch itself consists of Nobby Nobbs, Fred Colon, new recruit Carrot Ironfoundersson and of course their inebriated leader, Captain Sam Vimes. I could so a post on each of the watch individually and why I would die for each one (maybe except Nobby) but let it be known that I have joined the many fans who caused Pratchett to fear what would happen to him if he had ever killed Sam Vimes.

Thee are dragons here too don’t forget. Dragons. Why would I not love this book? The story itself is woven around the basic idea that someone is summoning dragons, the Watch can see the dragons but noone believes them. It follows a very similar plot to most police procedural shows but it is not the same. Because this is the Discworld and nothing you know is sacred.

Alongside the razor sharp story there is some wonderful character arcs and development, especially present in Vimes and Carrot, that clearly shows that this series might have a great sense of humor to it but it is also capable of delivering on some very deep and emotional moments from characters we have just met. I can’t wait to get to the next Watch story.

Well I have been around the Discworld project a lot more recently! I think besides having no blog tours and being in big time isolation mode, I feel a lot more drawn to this series for sheer immersion. Let it be said Terry Pratchett is one of the authors I will always turn to.

Are you a die hard fan of the Watch? Have you read Guards! Guards!? Do tell me! Happy reading everyone!

★★★★★/5

Review: Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

‘I was alive, and from past experience I knew in time I would forget enough to again pretend that we could someday be free’

I recently put out a Tweet asking the wonderful hive to give me science fiction recommendations. I know I have mentioned endlessly how many books are sitting on my TBR but since this year I seem to be leaning heavily on the SF part of SFF, I felt the need to build up a list. But then I took no recs, and started listening to Borne by Jeff Vandermeer because I was stressed and needed some New Weird. Sound like me eh?

In a nameless City, ruled by a flying bear called Mord, Rachel is a scavenger and a survivor. One day while scavenging Mord’s fur she finds something that she and her partner, Wick, may be able to eat or even sell. But when Rachel brings this thing home and discovers it can talk, grow and think, she names it Borne. Paired with the ever looming threat of their sanctuary being rumbled, Rachel and Wick begin to navigate a new type of family life around Borne. But what is he? And what does he want?

The looming world of the City and it’s sheer decrepit squalor was hard to not fear as Rachel described it from her daily life. This isn’t quite a post apocalyptic world but it’s damn near close. Everything from children to foxes have been forever warped and changed by the biotech the City brought with them. I could definitely feel the danger looming at any second.

I really loved Rachel as a character and her little found family. She was resilient in a world that is otherwise stripped of humanity but is not without compassion. Her and Wick have an interesting,complex relationship that only complicates as the story goes on. However, the true stand out moments are those with Rachel and Borne. Rachel openly calls herself a mother to Borne in many places but as Borne grows and becomes more intelligent, the reader does get the sense that he (gender term assigned by Rachel) is of unknown origin and purpose. Then things become a little more sinister and you do genuinely feel like Rachel is consulting you on those decisions as the story goes on.

I will say my connection to any of the characters waned a bit as the story went and I became more fascinated with the biotech within this world, especially the Magician as she is called. I feel the Magicians story could have been more rounded but that is just a small criticism. The plot itself delivers fantastically and without giving you too many answers, Vandermeer does follow up with reasons why Rachel, Borne and Wick have been so mysterious the entire book.

One of my main motivators for finally reading this was that Vandermeer’s new release, Dead Astronauts, is actually a companion story to Borne. So naturally I read this first and I really enjoyed it. So that will hopefully be soon on the blog, but regardless I highly recommend this book on audio.

★★★★.5/5

Review: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

‘One Flesh, One End. Say it loser.’

Have you ever had a book rip a hole in your very soul? Have you ever had a book that you threw (softly, because you love it and it has feelings) across the room for the damage it inflicted on you? Have you wept for your favourite characters because you want them to be safe? This was my experience of reading Gideon the Ninth.

Gideon Nav has a sword, some dirty magazines and serves the Ninth House. Gideon wants out of the Ninth and their necromantic business. When the ninth heir, Harrowhark Nonagesimus, is summoned by the Emperor Undying to take part in a trial that will secure her future, she summons Gideon to be her cavalier. As Gideon reluctantly follows her nemesis to the First House under a promise of freedom from the Ninth, both soon realise that some things are truly better off dead.

I am not exaggerating. This is my favourite I’ve read so far in 2020 and its only February. This is the gothy, mouthy SFF book my soul wanted so desperately. What Muir has managed here is a genre mash up with vibrant, memorable characters and a spinning plot. Like what is not to love, this is necromancers with swords people locked into a mysterious, empty house with one instruction; do not enter any locked door without permission.

Each of the houses are on different planets, all having to travel to the First house (Canaan House) for the trial. I do feel the world building lacked a little here but since the majority of the plot happened in Canaan House I didn’t mind as much. Hell sometimes I didn’t even notice because the house became its own character and was basically a giant puzzle box to be solved. Just think The Hellbound Heart but with no cenobites and skeletons instead.

Muir really shows her strengths here with her characters. Gideon as a protagonist made this such an enjoyable read. Readers may not gel with the sarcasm and sheer level of attitude that Gideon and Harrow have, but I am a sarcastic twat who always wants the last word so I can well and truly relate. The other cast of characters to begin with are very forgettable, since like Harrow, they have long aristocratic names that sound amazing but can blend together especially in the first half. This is why I would highly recommend the audio book of this since the narrator distinguishes each character beautifully. I’ll gush about Harrow and Gideon in a second but honestly outside of both of them I loved the members of the sixth house, Palamedes and Camilla his cavalier.

Something I loved as well the necromancy. For a start there are different types of necromancy. This blew my mind since my experience with necromancy in books is limited to Garth Nix and some DnD one shots. Palamedes, and the entire sixth house, is an agent of medical necromancy. There are others, including soul siphoning (creep central), flesh constructs (also creep central) and so much more I can’t wait to learn about.

Gideon and Harrow. Holy shit. Watching both of these women who grew up together with a very distinct power imbalance along with lifelong trauma, learn how to trust each other and confront their own egos. Once the plot gathers into what is a murder mystery (more genre mashing!) they both have no other choice but to stick together. Muir has created some absolutely devastating character moments in this book, by the time the book reaches the final act you are totally connected to them.

The ending is a total payoff. The one common thread I think many who have finished the book and who didn’t enjoy the first two thirds is that Muir wraps up the plot wonderfully. I found myself in tears and well and truly shook by it. Before finishing this review, I read the last 100 pages again last night. I am still shook by the conclusion.

Have you read this? Are you going to read it? Are you someone who started this and didn’t finish it? I need to discuss this with someone and I love a good discussion of a book that people didn’t like but that I loved wholeheartedly. Thank you for checking in folks, happy reading!

★★★★★/5

Review: The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G Parry

‘Every supporting character is the protagonist of his own story.’

Something that I have felt over my life is that readers understand readers. Book nerds call to each other through the endless deluge of daily life and repetitive social media posts. This book for me is truly a love letter to other readers from the author herself. What H.G Parry has captured here is my teenage dream, all of my favourite well know literary characters solving a mystery in our world.

Charley Sutherland is gifted, attending Oxford as a thirteen year old boy and as an adult, the living expert on Charles Dickens. Charley also has the gift to bring literary characters to life. Literally, and sometimes he can’t control it. But with more and more literary characters popping up all over Wellington city, Charley for the first time has to contemplate that he is not the only one with this talent. While these characters all mentioning the approach of The End, it’s down to Charley and his older brother Rob to stop it, while also finding out what The End is.

It took me longer than I thought to finish this. Between work, pet death and just generally being run down, I felt like I had been living with these characters for a long period of time and that somehow made it harder to finish this. This is the book I wish my lonely, teen self had. Rich and alive with characters we all know and have seen many times but somehow, this feels like a needed breath of fresh air many of them needed.

I read many classics when I was growing up, much like Charley, and it was like meeting them for an afternoon tea. Among the well known Sherlock Holmes, Dorian Gray and the Artful Dodger, we had others like Matilda Wormwood and the White Witch herself. I couldn’t control my joy at Dorian Gray putting Heathcliff (not a Wuthering Heights fan) in his place. Heathcliff also has flaming eyes, like literally. Flaming eyes.

Woven among this cast is of course Charley himself and his older brother Rob. Rob is the absolute antithesis to Charley and some of the best scenes are how they are written together. I really look for realistic sibling relationships win fiction these days and Parry writes some of the best I’ve seen in a while. Charley is obviously a more than unusual mean with his ‘summoning’, as he calls it, along side being a childhood prodigy. Rob is the reluctant older brother trying to smooth as much normality into Charley without actually pelting him over the head with it. Their relationship is one full of love, unresolved conflict and the normal push and pull of any sibling relationship. That being said, I did find Rob very frustrating in places. Sometimes he was trying to control far too many things while also trying to pretend everything was ‘fine’ which wore me down slightly.

Something Parry has built into the world so deftly is the whole idea of family and how important it is. There is an honest discussion of what is important to both found families and traditional one. At one point Parry describes a relationship as a mess, and goes on to explain that is exactly what all relationships are. A beautiful mess. I was also not surprised to discover Parry has siblings after reading the book. The found family that is holding the literary characters in the story is also what is allowing their continued survival. Millie Radcliffe Dix, a character I have zero knowledge of, kind of runs a safe place for all of these characters and it really works well with the moments of Rob and Charley together.

This ongoing discussion of family, the important of reading comes together in a earth shaking plot revelation. I realised it just before it became clear and I actually had to take a deep breath for a minute before I read on. The plot is built around this and it is such a pay off in the end that I can’t remember the last time a standalone novel paid off for me like this.

If you are looking for a standalone fantasy that is both an homage and a self aware discussion of what it means to be a reader, then please check this out. Even if like me, you were a cranky, classics reading teenager then definitely read it. I’ll be picking up Parry’s other works in future for sure.

Thank you so much to Orbit Books for sending me a copy of this book to review!

★★★★/5

Sunday Shorts: 3 Mini Reviews (09.02.20)

Welcome back to Sunday Shorts! This is my first write up of shorter works in 2020 so far. Just in case anyone wasn’t aware, I changed job over the holiday period so most of January has been a settling in period for me. And being a typical Hedwig, I had four blog tours. No matter, lets talk about the shorter pieces I have read so far this year.

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.
But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.
On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.
But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth

Title: All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries)
Author: Martha Wells
Genre: Science Fiction

I’m not gonna lie, I read this between jobs in work. I couldn’t put it down! I don’t think I have ever related to a character as much as I did Murderbot. I too want nothing more than hours of books, TV shows and movies while avoiding all humans. This is a very touching story with really great characters. Its also definitely also one of the the most quotable scifi books I read in a while. It’s also an incredible start to a series. I’m definitely aiming to catch up for the new novel in May.

★★★★★/5

Coffee, New Orleans & Zombies.

Title: Bitter Grounds
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Dark/Contemporary Fantasy

This was an interesting one. I read this one afternoon while nosing through tor.com and remembered vaguely from one of the short story collections. I read it in about a half hour but it gave me such strange feelings. The summary of the story is minimal for reason, to interpret this story is to spoil it. All I will say is, from judging online, everyone has a similar and different explanation for it. Fantastic structure, memorable imagery and a very lasting mood.

★★★★/5

Lord Daniel’s absence triggers a series of crimes and calamities that consume the lives of those already tangled in his fate. Until he is found, his realm’s residents must protect its broken borders alone. But the most senior storytellers are tormented by invasive secrets, the warden Lucien is doubting his own mind, and beyond the gates, something horrific awaits with tooth and talon. Only Dora, the monstrous, finds opportunity in madness, stealing dreams for the highest bidder. But she has no idea how deep the danger lies. Meanwhile, in Daniel’s gallery, something new is growing…

Title: The Dreaming Vol. 1: Pathways and Emanations
Authors: Simon Spurrier, Bilquis Evely (Illustrator), Neil Gaiman
Genre: Graphic novel, fantasy, horror

Okay, if for some daft reason you are not after reading The Sandman series, you are wandering into MASSIVE SPOILER TERRITORY. This is your final warning.

I am trying to catch up with all my comics recently and this is one of my main series I have on my pull list. This was a wonderful reread but again, I feel so many complicated things towards this continuation. Daniel being absent, Lucien literally falling apart and to be honest that ending too? I am very stiff to accept it but I’m in no way dis encouraged to keep reading and get up to date. I did like seeing more of the nightmares and the art by Everly is AMAZING.

★★★★/5

That’s all I have this week for Sunday Shorts! I do have a plan to do a series comparing the new Sandman Universe to the original series but that won’t be for another while. Also, is it really a Sunday Short if I don’t discuss one Neil Gaiman work?

Have you read any of these? (Please say Sandman) Do tell me in the comments! Happy reading everyone!

Blog Tour: Highfire by Eoin Colfer

Good morning everyone and I am so excited to welcome you to the blog tour for Highfire by Eoin Colfer!

‘Battle dragons do not listen to their little voices, They go directly to war.’

In the days of yore, he flew the skies and scorched angry mobs—now he hides from swamp tour boats and rises only with the greatest reluctance from his Laz-Z-Boy recliner. Laying low in the bayou, this once-magnificent fire breather has been reduced to lighting Marlboros with nose sparks, swilling Absolut in a Flashdance T-shirt, and binging Netflix in a fishing shack. For centuries, he struck fear in hearts far and wide as Wyvern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie—now he goes by Vern. However…he has survived, unlike the rest. He is the last of his kind, the last dragon. Still, no amount of vodka can drown the loneliness in his molten core. Vern’s glory days are long gone. Or are they?

A canny Cajun swamp rat, young Everett “Squib” Moreau does what he can to survive, trying not to break the heart of his saintly single mother. He’s finally decided to work for a shady smuggler—but on his first night, he witnesses his boss murdered by a crooked constable.

Regence Hooke is not just a dirty cop, he’s a despicable human being—who happens to want Squib’s momma in the worst way. When Hooke goes after his hidden witness with a grenade launcher, Squib finds himself airlifted from certain death by…a dragon?

The swamp can make strange bedfellows, and rather than be fried alive so the dragon can keep his secret, Squib strikes a deal with the scaly apex predator. He can act as his go-between (aka familiar)—fetch his vodka, keep him company, etc.—in exchange for protection from Hooke. Soon the three of them are careening headlong toward a combustible confrontation. There’s about to be a fiery reckoning, in which either dragons finally go extinct—or Vern’s glory days are back.

This is one of my most anticipated books of the year, if not the most anticipated. When Eoin Colfer announced the release of this book at World Con, Dublin 2019, I knew I was going to love it. Colfer has long been one of my favourite writers since childhood, I was luckily enough to meet him twice last year and I can honestly say, this book is now one of my favourites.

‘Highfire’ takes every single thing I love from Colfer’s writing, from the wonderful characters to the razor sharp humor, and remake them into a unique story that turns everything we expect from a story with a dragon and his familiar on its head and gets it drunk on vodka martinis.

Vern stole my heart. How could I not love a world weary dragon who lives on Absolut vodka, hates people and loves Flashdance? He is the last of his kind, he is wary of all humans (same, Vern) and is coagulating in his own sorrows. He struggles constantly between giving up and ending it all and continuing on to hate on humans further. He even considers having sex with an Alligator to liven things up for him. You really feel for this dragon who used to be royalty and is now reduced to just living in hiding every day. His only friend, a Mogwai named Waxman, is even kept at arms length. Then in comes Squib Moreau.

I would honestly die for Squib. Have you ever had that need to make sure the characters in your book are okay when you put the book down? That was me every waking minute with Squib. He has a face that gets him into trouble but is so pure and good you even wonder how he will survive in this world. Squib and Vern’s scenes are some of my favourite in the entire book. Their dynamic of master/familiar quickly grows into a friendship each needs as much as the other.

Colfer displays his usual skill of handling a tight plot that refuses to let the reader a moment to breathe. I mentioned already that I found it hard to put this down and I honestly mean that. This is a fast paced story with some very gory scenes that will leave you glued to the book while totally disgusted.

This book while also being tense and very graphic in places is extremely funny. Vern has some of the best lines in the book, but honestly the person who made me laugh is Waxman. He functions almost as Vern’s Renfield but if Renfield could kill Dracula at any moment but can’t be bothered. I lost it laughing at the below quote;

‘Makes me seem a character,’ he said. “Crazy Waxman” would be better, or maybe, “Scary Waxman” to keep the kids away, but “Waxman” will do just fine. I’m like Boo fuckin’ Radley on crack to these backward-ass folk.’

If you are a fantasy fan who likes your fantasy with a bit of black humor, or like me, you grew up reading any of Colfer’s books, this is for you. I can’t recommend this book enough, it is honestly my favourite book so far this year and I’m so glad I got to read it early too.

Thank you to Netgalley, Jo Fletcher Books and Colfer for giving me a copy of the book for an honest review and thank you /to Millie for having me on the blog tour!

‘Highfire’ is out on the 28/01/2020.

★★★★★/5