Book reviews, Historical fiction

The Familiars by Stacey Halls – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn¹t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.

When she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife, Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong. 

When Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the North-West, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye? 

As the two women’s lives become inextricably bound together, the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood¹s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake. 

Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

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MY REVIEW 

The Familiars is Stacey Halls first novel and I am very impressed with the beautiful, descriptive writing, which makes it very easy to get lost in its intriguing plot. 

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married to Richard and is pregnant for a 4th time. She is an independent woman, who likes to ride and joins her husband on hunts, against the expected norms of the time. 

Fleetwood meets a young local woman on one of her rides, Alice Grey. She is a midwife and healer, which according to the time makes her a witch and as this is set near Pendle Hill there is a lot of local legends about witches here. The witch trials are part of the story, but more as a constant threat rather than the tale itself.

There are no spells or creepy rituals just kind, helpful wise women who use herbal remedies to cure simple ailments and act as midwives. There are mentions of witches familiars and dark magic, but it’s not really a part of this story. I felt it is more about the relationship between Fleetwood and Alice and how women struggled so much in life where the patriarchy was so strong, yet strong women still managed to make themselves heard. This is compelling, captivating historical fiction, with strong likeable female characters and a large Mastiff dog. I loved it and can highly recommend it.

Thank you to Tracy at CompulsIve Readers for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour. I first read this via NetGalley, so this is a repost of my original review.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Stacey Halls grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire, as the daughter of market traders. She has always been fascinated by the Pendle witches. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and moved to London aged 21. She was media editor at The Bookseller and books editor at Stylist.co.uk, and has also worked as a journalist for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine. TV rights have been sold to The Bureau production company.

The Familiars is her first novel and her second, The Foundling, is coming Feb 2020.  Say hello @Stacey_Halls on Twitter and @StaceyHallsAuthor on Instagram.

Themes include women and power, social history of witches. Stacey has done huge amounts of research and can speak eloquently on Gawthorpe Manor and her real life heroine Fleetwood

 

Book reviews, post-apocalyptic

A Savage Generation by David Tallerman – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Sickness is ravaging America, driving the infected to savagery. 

Petty criminal Ben Silensky is determined to get his girlfriend Carlita and son Kyle free of the quarantined city they live in, enough so to risk a foolhardy crime and then to team up with Carlita’s equally desperate cop cousin Nando. Once they’re out, Nando is certain they’ll find a place in the open prison where his uncle works, unbeknownst to him already become a survivalist colony named Funland under the management of entrepreneurial convict Plan John.

In Funland itself, guard Doyle Johnson is shocked when his ex-wife abandons his son Austin into his care. Fearing the vulnerable position he’s been placed in, he recruits the help of Katherine Aaronovich, the former prison’s doctor. But Aaronovich’s traumatic past has left her with vulnerabilities of her own, along with radical theories on the nature of the epidemic that will place all their lives in jeopardy. 

As the last vestiges of civilisation crumble, Funland may prove to be the safest or the most dangerous of places, depending on who comes out on top – and what can’t be held together will inevitably be torn apart.

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MY REVIEW 

A sickness is spreading around the world, those it doesn’t kill, turn savage with an uncontrollable violence.

White Cliff prison was evacuated but then taken over by Plan John and it’s now called Funland…..its a place of safety as the Sickers can’t get in.

Doyle Johnson has an uneasy relationship with Plan John, which is put into jeopardy when Doyle’s ex wife turns up and leaves his son Kyle with him.

Then Ben, his girlfriend Carlita and her son Austin arrive, but Carlita has to be kept hidden as the only woman in Funland, she wouldn’t be safe.

So, while this does feel like an episode of The Walking Dead, there is so much more to it. Yes the Sickers are out there and if they bite, scratch or spit on you, you will get infected, BUT, this is also about children, and how they are affected, left to pretty much fend for themselves while the adults plot and fight amongst themselves and the Sickers. 

Austin, scared and hurt by his stepdad, then abandoned by his mother. Kyle left to his own devices in a tense environment.  They have secrets of their own.

There’s the politics of a new society with power struggles and violence, but ultimately with survival at its core.  A story of fear, abandonment and tragedy, but also maybe a little hope. 

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour and for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

David Tallerman is the author of crime drama The Bad Neighbour with Flame Tree Press. His other publications consist of the YA fantasy series The Black River Chronicles, which began in late 2016 with Level One and continued in 2017 with The Ursvaal Exchange, the Tales of Easie Damasco series – consisting of Giant Thief, Crown Thief and Prince Thief – and the novella Patchwerk. His comics work includes the absurdist steampunk graphic novel Endangered Weapon B: Mechanimal Science (with artist Bob Molesworth).

David’s short fiction has appeared in around eighty markets, including Clarkesworld, Nightmare, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. A number of his best dark fantasy and horror stories were gathered together in his debut collection The Sign in the Moonlight and Other Stories.

His previous career as an IT Technician took him all across the country, but he currently resides in West Yorkshire, on the opposite side of the county of his birth. In his spare time he likes to hike around the local countryside, a hobby that has also taken him to wild spots throughout England and beyond.

David can be found online at davidtallerman.blogspot.co.uk and davidtallerman.co.uk.

 

FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launched recently in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.

 

Book reviews, Graphic novels

Bloodlust & Bonnets byEmily McGovern – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Georgette Heyer meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this smart, funny graphic novel by Emily McGovern, the award-winning author of My Life as a Background Slytherin.

The year is 1820, and bored young debutante Lucy knows there must be more to life than embroidery and engagements – no matter how eligible the bachelor might be. Some bachelors, she has discovered, are less ‘eligible’ than they are ‘bloodthirsty,’ however… literally. It turns out that there are a lot of vampires in late-Regency England, and Lucy has an eye for spotting them and the desire to rid the world of them.

It’s not long before Lady Violet Travesty, leader of a mysterious vampire cult, spots Lucy’s talents and offers her a place amongst her vampire acolytes.

Unfortunately, Lady Violent is most horribly slain by the famous Lord Byron before Lucy can accept. Lucy instead joins Lord Byron and his enormous, psychic eagle Napoleon in their ongoing fight against evils such as bloodsucking ghouls and bad taste. Before long they’re joined by the mysterious Sham, an androgynous bounty hunter, who catches Lucy’s eye. The trio lie, flirt, fight and manipulate each other as they make their way across Britain, disrupting society balls, slaying vampires, and making every effort not to betray their feelings to each other as their personal and romantic lives become increasingly entangled.

A balm for the soul for readers who love Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, novels by Eloisa James and Jane Austen, and the action and adventure of Xena, Warrior Princess, Bloodlust & Bonnets is the most modern action-heavy love-story set two hundred years ago that you’ll read this year.
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MY REVIEW 

This is so much fun…

It starts as Lucy dispatches her suitor with his own cane, she’s bored…she then carries on finishing off a crowd of vampires….she knew they were vampires didn’t she?

She is approached by Lady Travesty who wants her to join her secret immortal vampire cult, she’s ‘saved’ just in time by Lord Byron…you know? From the books?

He takes her to his Scottish magic castle, well his psychic eagle, Napoleon does!

Lucy meets, Sham, a short person with a gun, and so the three of them travel the country in search of the enemy,  Lady Travesty….but they each seem to have a different reason why.

Lovely, simple illustrations with a lot of slapstick humour. A joy to read.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour and for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 
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Emily was born in the UK but grew up in Brussels, where she attended the European School of Brussels II. After graduating, she began a Foundation Art Diploma course at London College of Fashion. She studiously avoided any fashion, and instead spent her time making hand-drawn animations and weird paintings of witches.

She began a BA degree in Russian Studies at University College London and spent a year in Russia working in a rural commune, where she ran a weekly art “gathering” for the kids. The year abroad allowed her to go to many Russian art galleries, which were a revelation to her – artists such as Vereshchagin and Vasnetsov she found influenced her greatly.

She graduated with First Class Honours and by 2016 was building a comic driven social media platform based around the regular posting of her ‘My Life As A Background Slytherin’ comic. Bloodlust & Bonnets is her first graphic novel.

 

Book reviews, Police procedural, Thriller

Taken To The Grave by M M Chouinard – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

In a town full of secrets, the truth won’t stay buried…

When a girl’s body is discovered in a park in the sleepy Massachusetts town of Oakhurst, local detective Jo is shocked to the core. Because the girl is the second innocent victim to turn up dead in three days. And just like the first, a tarot card has been left by the body. The meaning of the card: betrayal.

After uncovering a series of threatening messages targeting the girl, a student at the university, and the first victim, her teacher, Jo thinks she’s locked the killer in her crosshairs. The primary suspect is a volatile ex-military student with an axe to grind for failing grades, and the frightened town is out for his blood. But the next day, a much-loved member of the community is found dead in her home, a tarot card in her mail. There’s no clear motive to link her death to the others, and the message on the card this time is even stranger: domestic bliss.

With a fourth body and card appearing the following day, Jo knows she’s running out of time to crack the code and bring the killer to justice. And the pressure only gets worse with heart-breaking news about Jo’s father forcing her to choose between helping her family heal or the victims’ families get justice. Can Jo find the twisted murderer sending the town into a panic before another life is lost? Or this time, will the dangerous killer find her first?

A completely addictive detective thriller that will keep you guessing into the early hours of the morning. If you love Kendra Elliot, Melinda Leigh and Lisa Regan you’ll love Taken to the Grave.

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MY REVIEW

This is #2 in the Jo Fournier series by M M Chouinard, but can very easily be read as a stand-alone.  

Jo is a detective and with her partner, Bill Arnett they are called to a suspicious death at a university. Professor Michael Whorton has been stabbed, a tarot card is found at the scene. They talk to many colleagues and students and find he was not a likeable man, a bully, a philanderer and a sex pest. So many suspects, but one stands out….Greg Crawley. He believes he was victimised by Whorton, his grades deliberately low so he lost his funding, he also has mental health issues.

But, then more bodies are found, all with links to the university and Michael. 

Jo is such a likeable character, well developed and her family problems are so relatable …a father diagnosed with cancer and a sister on ‘the fast train to martyrdom’, all the while she is investigating multiple murders.

A tale of university politics, sexual harassment and a disturbing murderer. The chapters from the killer perspective are disturbing for their lack of emotion, so blasé about taking a life, real goosebumpy moments. A fast paced, gripping thriller, with a twisty plot. Totally compelling. 

Thank you to Bookouture for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour, for the promotional materials and a free copy of the ebook. This is my honest and unbiased review. 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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M.M. Chouinard’s first fiction story was published in her local paper when she was eight, and she fell in love with Agatha Christie novels not long after. While pursuing a Ph.D in psychology and helping to found the first U.S. research university of the new millenium, the stories kept rattling around inside her skull, demanding to come out. For sanity’s sake, she released them. She’s currently at work on her seventh novel.

 

Author Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.mmchouinard.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mmchouinardauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/m_m_chouinard

 

Buy  Links:      

 

Amazon: https://geni.us/B07VSPZGKRSocial

Apple Books: https://apple.co/2ZacLdW

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2HffEEg

Googleplay: http://bit.ly/2MpSlM0