Blog Tour: Mirror Magic

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I’m delighted to be part of the Mirror Magic blog tour today. Written by Claire Fayers, Mirror Magic is a wonderful middle grade historical fantasy, and as soon as I heard the synopsis, I knew I had to read this book!

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Welcome to Wyse, the only town left in Britain with a connection to the magical Unworld. 

When twelve-year-old Ava meets Howell on the other side of a mirror, the two are quickly drawn into a mystery to discover why the enchantments that link their towns are disappearing. 

But it’s hard to distinguish between friends and enemies when magic is involved and Ava and Howell soon learn that it can be very unwise to mess with mirrors…

So, this book couldn’t be any further up my street if it lived in my house, so obviously I loved it. Set in a slightly alternate Victorian England, the action takes place in Wyse, a small town on the border of England and Wales, which is the last place in Britain that still has a connection to magic. The first thing I’ll say is that this setting was perfectly evoked! Wyse is one of those small tourist towns that you still see today, and I could picture it exactly in my mind. Wyse’s tourism trade, however, isn’t to do with the countryside, or history – people visit Wyse because of its connection to the Unworld and the Fair Folk who live there. It’s governed by Lord Skinner, who is a fine gentleman, and has invited young orphans Matthew and his sister Ava to return to the town where they were born. At the same time, Howell, the only one of the Fair Folk without magic, has attracted the attention of Unywse’s ruler, Mr Bones, which is not a good thing. (Incidentally, Mr Bones, who is a skeleton, is genuinely scary, and I say that as a 38 year old! But he’s exactly the sort of villain you need in a book like this and children will love the scariness I think.)

There are a lot of mysteries in Mirror Magic, some of which are more guessable than others, but they all combine to form an excellent story. I really enjoyed seeing how they all came together. Ava and Howell are a great pairing, and I even think about them every so often to wonder how they’re getting on! I mean, that’s how you know you’ve connected to the characters! Even the secondary characters are wonderful, from Charles and his family, who believe the Fair Folk are being exploited to Lunette, the mysterious lady who triggers a lot of events (and her ridiculous hats are amazing and I want them!). One of my favourite things about Mirror Magic is the chapter headings from The Book, which are funny and accurate. The Book eventually turns up almost as a character in its own right, and it’s such a good idea. I loved how Mirror Magic was so cleverly structured.

In short, Claire Fayers has done a magnificent job with Mirror Magic. It really took me back to my own childhood and the books I was reading then, like Joan Aiken and Lucy M Boston. I would say it’s probably best for the younger end of middle grade, which is younger than I usually read, but that just goes to show that you shouldn’t limit your reading material, because otherwise you might miss out on gems like this!

Mirror Magic is out now, and I highly recommend it for everyone, whatever your age!

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour!

5/5

ARC received from MacMillan Children’s Books via Karen Bultiauw, in exchange for an honest review

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Book Review: Sunflowers in February

So a few weeks (months? I can’t remember!) Hot Key Books put out a blogger call for their mailing list, and having signed up like a shot, a blogger call out email duly arrived, for Sunflowers in February, the debut book by Phyllida Shrimpton. Obviously I was not going to pass up this opportunity, especially because the book sounds fascinating – Lily wakes up at the side of the road, only to realise she’s dead. It maybe didn’t quite live up to its potential for me, for reasons I shall go into shortly, but it was still a highly enjoyable book.

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Lily wakes up one crisp Sunday morning on the side of the road. She has no idea how she got there. It is all very peaceful. and very beautiful. It is only when the police car, and then the ambulance arrive, and she sees her own body, that she realises that she is in fact… dead. But what is she supposed do now? Lily has no option but to follow her body and see her family – her parents and her twin brother start falling apart. And then her twin brother Ben gives her a once in a deathtime opportunity – to use his own body for a while. But will Lily give Ben his body back? She is beginning to have a rather good time…

A moving, startlingly funny yet achingly sad debut novel from a stunning new talent.

First things first, you can’t really tell in that picture, but the cover is gorgeous. The blue petals are foiled and it’s a lovely, shiny and bright cover. I love the effort publishers are putting in to their covers recently.

As to what I thought of the content, well, like I said above, I did enjoy it. The relationships, particularly between Lily and Ben, really came through, and I liked the little snippets we got from other people’s points of view. I also liked how we saw that grief affects different people in different ways, particularly in the way Lily’s parents each reacted to her death. I did think we found out a bit too soon who was responsible for Lily’s death, and I’m not sure we ever got real closure on that aspect, but that was never the main point of the book (in my opinion anyway).

My biggest problem was that sometimes the writing was a bit childish and simple. It felt like it hadn’t quite worked out which demographic it was aiming at, and I think older teenagers would be disappointed in the writing style if they picked it up. Also, Lily could be incredibly annoying, even taking into account the trauma she’s just been through. I mean, she knows Ben has to come back eventually, but she continues to make him look ridiculous, instead of just staying out of the way. Of course, the book couldn’t exist if she just stayed out of the way, but she could have been a little more aware of the effect she was having on his life! My last negative is that the epilogue just didn’t work for me. I do think there needed to be something there, I’m just not sure that epilogue was it, but I don’t want to say more because of spoilers.

All in all, Sunflowers in February is a good book, but not a great one. It has some great ideas and a very realistic depiction of a sibling relationship, but it loses its way a little bit in the middle, which is a real shame. It is a debut though, and I’m definitely happy to give Phyllida Shrimpton’s next book a go!

3/5

ARC received from the publisher, Hot Key Books, in exchange for an honest review.

 

The British Books Challenge 2018

So it’s that time of year again. I’m not quite sure how it’s New year’s Eve already, but there you go. Apologies for disappearing again – I promise to do better in 2018!

Anyway, I’m still looking at which challenges I want to do in 2018, but I know The British Books Challenge will be one of them. I didn’t do a great job of reviewing my eligible books in 2017, but I did, according to my goodreads shelf for the challenge, manage to read 77 books by British authors. Which is slightly above the target of 12. I’m well chuffed with that number to be honest. I knew I read a lot of British books, but it’s nice to have a number to look at! I’m not going to set an actual target this year, but I’m hoping to get somewhere near 77 again.

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The British Books Challenge has been going for a few years now, and this year is again being hosted by Chelley over at Tales of Yesterday. It consists of reading 12 or more books by British authors over the course of the year, reviewing them on my blog and linking them on the monthly link up page. Let’s see how this goes!

Click here for more details, or to sign up to the challenge yourself

Books by UK authors I would like to read in 2018

Even though I read 77 books by British authors in 2017, there were four books from my original challenge list that I didn’t manage to get to, so they’re back on this year’s list with a few extra.

I’m a little bit behind on what’s due out in the new year, which is why there’s a gap at the end, but 11 is a good start. Follow my progress below, where I will hopefully be updating every month, and don’t forget to sign up yourself!

Book Review: Things A Bright Girl Can Do

As is often the way, I’d seen a few people talking about Things A Bright Girl Can Do, by Sally Nicholls, for a while, and then my friend Sarah told me I had to read it because I would love it, so of course I had to give it a go. She was right of course; I did love it, because it is right up my street. History! Feminism! Wonderful characters! Everything I love to see in a book, in fact.

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Through rallies and marches, in polite drawing rooms and freezing prison cells and the poverty-stricken slums of the East End, three courageous young women join the fight for the vote.

Evelyn is seventeen, and though she is rich and clever, she may never be allowed to follow her older brother to university. Enraged that she is expected to marry her childhood sweetheart rather than be educated, she joins the Suffragettes, and vows to pay the ultimate price for women’s freedom.

May is fifteen, and already sworn to the cause, though she and her fellow Suffragists refuse violence. When she meets Nell, a girl who’s grown up in hardship, she sees a kindred spirit. Together and in love, the two girls start to dream of a world where all kinds of women have their place.

But the fight for freedom will challenge Evelyn, May and Nell more than they ever could believe. As war looms, just how much are they willing to sacrifice? 

Things A Bright Girl Can Do starts in 1914 and moves through to the beginning of 1918, following the three young women throughout. It’s a really interesting way to look at the time period – we tend to concentrate on men’s stories in the war period, and although we all learn about the Suffragettes, we don’t tend to drill down past the leaders, and certainly not to teenagers, so I very much enjoyed reading about it from the point of view of three very different young women. All three stories are fascinating and cover the breadth of Edwardian society, and I particularly liked the way they all had different reasons pulling them towards the suffrage movement. It was also good to see the historically accurate potrayal of May and Nell’s relationship, and how it was clear that it was Nell who was taking all the risk, because of the different attitudes of their communities.

I loved Evelyn and Nell as characters, although if I had to pick a favourite, it would probably be Evelyn. She’s intelligent and stubborn right from the start, but once she discovers the Suffragettes she gives herself to the cause wholeheartedly, despite her previously cosseted lifestyle. I found myself desperately worried for her at various points in the book, which shows how much I engaged with her. I also engaged with Nell, but to a lesser extent. The hardships she and her family suffered were heartbreaking, and there was a point where I really regretted reading the book in public, because I knew I was about to cry. May I was much less interested in. Although she shows spectacular growth by the end, for much of the book she came across as a bit self-obssessed. She had no idea about the things Nell was going through, and treated her abominably, and it kind of put me off her, even though the other aspects of her story were interesting. An honourable mention here for Teddy, who was my favourite of the supporting characters. His relatonship with Evelyn was just so lovely, in the way he supported her even though he was worried about what the consequences were, and I was terrified for him when he went off to war.

The period detail in Things A Bright Girl Can Do is also fantastic. The social history of Britain in this period happens to be the area I studied most at university, so while my knowledge isn’t quite up to date, I fancy I’ve got quite a good idea of what it was like, and Sally Nicholls has done a great job of portraying it right across the social classes. From the lack of opportunities for women to get an education (they can study and sit all the exams at Oxford, for example, (if they’re rich enough) but they can’t actually get a degree), to the conditions Nell and her family live in in the East End, Nicholls has got it right. Not only that, she writes in such a way that the setting is vivid and real, even to people who don’t have the historical background.

Things A Bright Girl Can Do is a fantastic book, full of historical detail and great characters. I really enjoyed it, and as this is the first book I’ve read by Sally Nicholls, I will immediately be searching out her other books. I recommend you do the same.

Things A Bright Girl Can Do is out today, 7th September. You should go and buy it.

4.5/5

Arc received from Andersen Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Another Place

A few weeks ago, Atom Books put out an open call for bloggers to review Another Place by Matthew Crow, and I was lucky enough to be sent a copy. I didn’t really know what it was about, but I’d seen some buzz about it on social media, and there was a cover quote from Matt Haig about Crow’s last book, so I hoped it would be good. I was not disappointed!

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A small town. A missing schoolgirl. A terrible secret. And one girl’s fight to survive.

Sixteen-year-old Claudette Flint is coming home from hospital after an escalating depression left her unable to cope. Released into the care of her dad, she faces the daunting task of piecing herself back together.

She may look unchanged; but everything’s different. The same could be said about her seaside hometown: this close-knit community seems to be unspooling in the wake of the sudden disappearance of one of her schoolmates, Sarah.

As the police investigate and the press dig around for dirt, small town secrets start to surface – and Claudette must do everything in her power to keep her head above water. 

Another Place is a novel about lost girls – and the meaning of home.

Another Place is so good, I really recommend it you get hold of it as soon as it comes out. It has great mental health rep (Claudette, the main character, has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, after years of suffering with depression) and it’s also really interesting in the way it explores class  – there’s a definite divide between the middle and working classes in the community, which can be seen in the attitudes towards Sarah.

We only get to meet Sarah through flashbacks, as Claudette remembers her friend, but I found myself really liking her. She’s not a nice character by any means, but she comes across as a survivor, who does what it takes to get by…until of course, she goes missing. Claudette is convinced that the key to her own recovery is finding out what happened to Sarah, and sets about doing so. Claudette herself is difficult. She’s clearly still struggling, but instead of turning to the people who love her, she becomes obsessed with her quest, and hurts a lot of people. The book is marketed as something of a mystery, but it’s much more about Claudette’s journey to accepting who she is.

Fortunately, Claudette is surrounded by great supporting characters. Her dad, her almost-stepmother and her best friend are fantastic and I loved seeing them interact with Claudette and try to show her that they’re there for her. Donna, the best friend, is particularly good at home truths, which Claudette was sorely in need of at times. I also very much liked Mr Fitzpatrick, a curmudgeonly soul who is unexpectedly nice to Claudette one day, leading to an unlikely friendship.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot because I think it’s much better if you go into this book knowing as little about it as possible, but I really did think it was great and exceptionally well-written. It’s out today, 3rd August, and I hope that if you do check it out you enjoy it as much as I did.

4/5

I received an ARC from Atom Books in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Blackwing

Blackwing by Ed McDonald has been gathering a fair amount of hype in the last few months. A debut released on the 27th July, it’s epic fantasy in the tradition of grimdark, and the proof copies are just magnificent – so when Stevie Finegan at Gollancz offered some out to bloggers, I jumped at the chance. And you know what? It deserves the hype.

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It’s been a while since I read an epic fantasy, but Blackwing was the perfect book to get back into the genre. The worldbuilding is stunning – I was able to vividly picture The Misery and Valengrad, as well as the various heroes and villains, and I’m not sure I’ve ever come across as creepy a bad guy as the Darling. There’s plenty of blood and guts too, and the very real consequences of the war being fought are clear. I also loved the idea of the Nameless Ones, and the way they’ve mostly abandoned the general populace, just when they need them most.

The plot rockets along and is full of surprises. There’s a definite Game of Thrones-y sense that you don’t want to get too attached to any of the characters, because there’s a higher than average chance they’re not going to last very long. It did take me a little while to get into, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. I had plenty of things I needed to be doing last Sunday, but not one of them actually got done, for which I entirely blame Ed McDonald for writing such an addictive book!

The real strength of Blackwing, though, is in the characters. Galharrow is a bit of a bastard, yes, but it’s born of the things he has done and witnessed. I loved the hints of his past with Ezabeth, and how it affects his present. I especially loved his relationships with Nenn and Tnota – this is a group who have been through thick and thin together, and it shows in their every interaction. Nenn will call Galharrow on his bullshit, but trust him when it counts, and he will do the same for her, and I loved that you could see that came from their experiences together, without it needing to be explicitly said. They’re a fantastic group of characters, and I’m hoping it’s not too long before I get to meet them again.

In short, if you are a fan of epic fantasy (or, y’know, books in general), you need to read this book. It’s a stunning debut novel and it absolutely deserves the hype it’s been getting.

4.5/5

ARC received from Gollancz in exchange for an honest review. Thanks Stevie!

Book Review: The Devil’s Poetry

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Today is my spot on the blog tour for The Devil’s Poetry by Louise Cole, and I was thrilled when Faye asked me if I wanted to participate because the book sounded right up my alley!

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Questions are dangerous but answers can be deadly.

Callie’s world will be lost to war – unless she can unlock the magic of an ancient manuscript. She and her friends will be sent to the front line. Many of them won’t come back. When a secret order tells her she can bring peace by reading from a book, it seems an easy solution – too easy. Callie soon finds herself hunted, trapped between desperate allies and diabolical enemies. The Order is every bit as ruthless as the paranormal Cadaveri.

Callie can only trust two people – her best friend and her ex-marine bodyguard. And they are on different sides. She must decide: how far will she go to stop a war?

Dare she read this book? What’s the price – and who pays it?

Commended in the Yeovil Prize 2016, this is an action-packed blend of adventure, fantasy and love story.

How cool is it to have a book where the hero’s superpower is reading? I loved the concept of The Devil’s Poetry because the idea of being able to change the world by reading a book is actually pretty empowering, if a little scary. I’m not sure I’d want that much responsibility, and I liked that Callie, our heroine, felt the same way. She wanted to consider all the information before making the decision, and I loved that she was relatively sensible about being thrust into an adventure.

The Devil’s Poetry is set in the near future, and therefore the world looks very familiar. The war that Callie needs to stop seems a realistic one, and it certainly added to the power of the book for me. Callie’s world is our world a few wrong steps in the future and that definitely gave the whole concept some extra heft.

There was a lot to like about The Devil’s Poetry. The scenes where we first meet the Cadaveri, and realise who they’re after, are exhilarating, as are the scenes at the end. I loved that we got the point of view of Cyrus, the leader of this particular band of Cadaveri, too, as it raised questions about who the good and bad guys actually were – there’s clearly a history there that hasn’t been fully disclosed yet, and while I’m disappointed it wasn’t in this book, I’m intrigued by it nevertheless. In fact, I liked all the points of view we got, as it gave a nicely rounded feel to the narrative, and also let us in on what was happening elsewhere. I loved Amber, who goes above and beyond the duties of a best friend time and again, and I even quite liked Ella. Callie herself is a strong, independent character who’s also not afraid of showing that she’s, well, afraid, and confused. I was never particularly convinced by her romance with Jace though, which was a shame (and honestly might be down to the fact he was introduced as a teaching assistant in the school she attended and teacher/student relationships squick me).

The Devil’s Poetry is an interesting book, with some very strong features. I would have liked to see more of the history of the Order and the Cadaveri, and there are some events which should definitely leave Callie much more traumatised than she is, but overall I enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

The Devil’s Poetry was published on the 13th June by Kindle Press and is available to buy here. Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour in the banner below!

3/5

I received a copy of the ebook from Faye Rogers in exchange for an honest review

About the author

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Louise Cole has spent her life reading and writing. And very occasionally gardening. Sometimes she reads as she gardens. She can be seen walking her dogs around North Yorkshire – she’s the one with a couple of cocker spaniels and a Kindle. She read English at Oxford – read being the operative word – and hasn’t stopped reading since.

In her day-job she is an award-winning journalist, a former business magazine editor and director of a media agency. She writes about business but mainly the business of moving things around: transport, logistics, trucks, ships, and people.

Her fiction includes short stories, young adult thrillers, and other stuff which is still cooking.

Her YA and kids’ fiction is represented by Greenhouse Literary Agency and she is also published on Amazon as one of the Marisa Hayworth triumvirate.

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Book Review: The Descent of Man

It took me a very long time to read The Descent of Man, by Grayson Perry. I started it at the end of March and finished it at the beginning of June. That’s a ridiculously long time for me. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. It’s actually a very good book, but the combination of being non-fiction (which I don’t read a lot of) and on my kindle made it something of a struggle. I’m glad I got the chance to read it though, thanks to Netgalley and the publishers.

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Grayson Perry has been thinking about masculinity – what it is, how it operates, why little boys are thought to be made of slugs and snails – since he was a boy. Now, in this funny and necessary book, he turns round to look at men with a clear eye and ask, what sort of men would make the world a better place, for everyone?

What would happen if we rethought the old, macho, outdated version of manhood, and embraced a different idea of what makes a man? Apart from giving up the coronary-inducing stress of always being ‘right’ and the vast new wardrobe options, the real benefit might be that a newly fitted masculinity will allow men to have better relationships – and that’s happiness, right?

Grayson Perry admits he’s not immune from the stereotypes himself – as the psychoanalysts say, ‘if you spot it, you’ve got it’ – and his thoughts on everything from power to physical appearance, from emotions to a brand new Manifesto for Men, are shot through with honesty, tenderness and the belief that, for everyone to benefit, upgrading masculinity has to be something men decide to do themselves. They have nothing to lose but their hang-ups.

I found The Descent of Man to be a thoughtful exploration of masculinity and feminism, but thought it lost its way a little towards the end. Perry certainly has some interesting ideas, and I loved the artwork poking fun at some of the more obvious problems with the way masculinity is often seen as the only way to be a proper man, but he doesn’t really take those ideas to their full conclusions. And while this is a criticism, I make it in the full knowledge that I would definitely not have been able to do any better!

The parts I really enjoyed were Perry’s anecdotes, whether from his own upbringing, forcing him to look at his own prejudices and points of view, or from people he met while filming the TV programme on similar themes. He’s an excellent writer, able to paint a vivid picture with a few words, and I definitely plan to read his other work.

This is quite a short review, mostly because it took me so long to read the book I’ve forgotten most of the thoughts I was having back at the beginning. I’d recommend it, with the disclaimer that it might not fully live up to your expectations.

3.5/5

ARC received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Shattered Minds

I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of excellent books lately (not that you’d know, because I have’t reviewed most of them yet!), and Shattered Minds by Laura Lam was no exception. Although I’ve been aware of Lam as a writer for years, this was actually the first book I’d read by her, but it certainly won’t be the last!

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She can uncover the truth, if she defeats her demons

Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill. She satisfies her cravings in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug ‘Zeal’. Now she’s heading for self-destruction – until she has a vision of a dead girl.

Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl was a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he’s probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis – or she’s next.

To unlock the secrets Mark hid in her mind, she’ll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary – before it changes us and our society, forever.

Set in the same world as Lam’s previous novel, False Hearts, but actually a standalone, Shattered Minds is kind of like a cross between futuristic technological thriller and, to steal a comparison from the back of the book, Dexter. Carina’s serial killer urges are not the work of a happy, healthy mind, and at the point where her colleague sends her the information needed to bring Sudice down, Carina is well down a path to her own destruction. Shattered Minds allows us to see Carina begin to recover from that, all while fighting to destroy the sinister company before they can change the world for the worse.

Shattered Minds had me gripped from the very first page, although I must admit I wasn’t entirely sure what sort of book I’d just gotten myself into. Carina is a well-drawn, complex character, and while seeing inside her mind was sometimes disturbing, it only served to connect me with the character more. Having said that, I think Dax, one of the team of hackers Carina turns to for help, was actually my favourite. For starters, I loved that he was trans, in a totally not relevant to the story way. (I’m also pretty sure he’s Native American, although I can’t find the right passage in the book to check.) But aside from that, he was just lovely. Desperately worried about his sister, he still finds time to patiently care for Carina, helping her beat her drug addiction and access the information planted in her brain. He’s quietly competent at what he does, and you can see his feelings for Carina growing, as you can see hers for him. When something happens that temporarily sidelines him, I found myself desperately worried for him and unable to put the book down (although to be honest, that was just a general problem too!). However, even though Carina and Dax are the main characters, Lam has succeeded in creating an entire cast that I cared about absolutely. And it’s beautifully diverse, without it feeling like the diversity was shoe-horned in.

Plot-wise, as I said above, I was gripped. It’s exciting and almost impossible to put down, which is a problem when I do most of my reading at bedtime. It switches point of view pretty regularly, between Carina, Dax, and Carina’s ex-boss, Roz, which allows us to see things happening that Carina and the Trust (the hackers) wouldn’t know about. This also serves to ramp up the tension at various points, as we see that Roz is about to throw another spanner in the works. The world building is fantastic too – I found that I could imagine Sudice’s labs and the streets of this futuristic San Fransisco in vivid detail thanks to Lam’s writing.

My one gripe with Shattered Minds is that it ended too soon. I want to know what happens next, to everyone! However, I’m also happy with the ending as it is – it feels right for the book and for the characters, and so, although I would like to see more of Carina, Dax and the Trust, I won’t be too disappointed if I don’t.

Shattered Minds is out on the 15th June, and you NEED to go and buy it. In fact, pre-order it (you get 2 short stories set in the same world if you send your proof of pre-order to Laura Lam!). Don’t worry if you have’t read False Hearts, because it doesn’t matter, you can enjoy Shattered Minds without it. This is such a good book, believe me when I say you don’t want to miss out.

5/5

Many thanks to Tor UK for sending me a proof copy in return for an honest review.

Book Review: The Fallen Children

I really wish life would stop getting in the way of my blogging! I was away with work last week, and unfortunately working well into the night, so any blogging went right out of the window. Luckily, I had taken The Fallen Children, by David Owen, with me, and this was a great decision because the book is brilliant. A modern retelling of John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos, set in an inner city tower block and told from the point of view of the young women impregnated, The Fallen Children was everything I wanted it to be.

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Young people on the Midwich Estate don’t have much hope for their futures. Keisha has lived there her whole life, and has been working hard to escape it; others have just accepted their lot.

But change is coming…

One night everyone inside Midwich Tower falls mysteriously unconscious in one inexplicable ‘Nightout’. No one can explain what happened during those lost hours, but soon afterwards Keisha and three other girls find they’re pregnant – and the babies are growing at an alarming rate.

As the news spreads around the tower its residents turn against them and the situation spirals toward violence. Keisha’s life unravels as she realises that the pregnancy may not have just ruined her hopes for the future: she might be mother to the end of the world.

The Fallen Children is a story of violation, of judgment and of young people who must fight to defy what is expected of them.

First of all, because I know lots of you are as shallow as me when it comes to covers, there are 360 different shades of covers available. 360! God help the completists out there! But the covers are gorgeous, and so I forgive whoever came up with the idea at Atom Books. (I got number 60, which is a lovely purple cover.)

Shallowness over, onto the actual book. There are four point of view characters – three of them are the young women who found themselves pregnant after the Nightout, Keisha, Siobhan and Maida (there’s a fourth, Olivia, but we don’t get to see her pov), and the other is Morris, Keisha’s ex-boyfriend who proves to be more of a support than she could ever have expected, while also quite often being a terrible person. I liked him a lot as a character because of this – he knows he’s screwed up, multiple times, but he just keeps making mistakes, and he sees Keisha’s pregnancy as a chance to make things right – but much less as a person. I liked the different point of view chapters because it was incredibly interesting to see inside the character’s minds, and look at how they’re dealing with this terrible thing that has happened. Keisha and Siobhan feel violated, and neither of them want the babies growing at an astounding rate inside them, but Maida feels that her pregnancy gives her power and a purpose, and she is determined to do right by her child.

I loved the sci-fi/supernatural parts of the plot, but what I loved most was the way it shone a light on problems in our society, as all good sci-fi should do. The expectations of society for our teenagers, both positive and negative, teen pregnancy and slut-shaming, the way women who have been raped are so often not believed, the way we as a society too often abandon others. Keisha has worked hard to turn her life around after nearly being expelled, but as soon as people find out she is pregnant, she is abandoned and shamed. No-one bothers to find out how she’s feeling, no-one gives her the support she needs to get through this, other than those who have found themselves in the same position. Once the rumours start flying, she’s treated with suspicion, especially once it’s clear that her baby is growing much faster than it should be. Even her parents don’t really know what’s going on, and don’t really make any effort to find out – they’re all too willing to believe that Keisha has thrown her future away. The way the rest of the estate turns against Keisha, Siobhan, Maida and Olivia so quickly is genuinely frightening, because it’s so realistic.

Keisha was my favourite character, but my heart broke for Siobhan in so many ways. I felt a little less connected to Maida and Morris, but I thought they were all written brilliantly. I also really liked the way the characters we meet in the second half of the story were written, especially how we saw them develop. I also liked that all the characters had well developed families, and the background of those families made the actions of the main characters make perfect sense.

I really haven’t done The Fallen Children any justice at all this review. I’m so out of practice! My advice is to just read it. You don’t need any knowledge of John Wyndham’s original (although I highly recommend you go and read some of his books if you haven’t already, because you are missing out!), and this version of the story is a masterful retelling. I’m off to buy Owen’s first book, Panther, but leave me a comment and let me know what you think if you’ve read The Fallen Children!

4.5/5