blog tour, Book reviews, Science fiction

Fearless by Allen Stroud – Book Review

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AD 2118. Humanity has colonised the Moon, Mars, Ceres and Europa. Captain Ellisa Shann commands Khidr, a search and rescue ship with a crew of twenty-five, tasked to assist the vast commercial freighters that supply the different solar system colonies.

Shann has no legs and has taken to life in zero-g partly as a result. She is a talented tactician who has a tendency to take too much on her own shoulders. Now, while on a regular six-month patrol through the solar system, Khidr picks up a distress call from the freighter Hercules…

MY REVIEW 

Captain Shann and her crew help protect space vehicles, an interstellar RAC! When they receive a distress signal off they go. But a crew member dies…..was this an accident or murder? And so this marvellous space opera becomes a murder mystery.

With a large cast of characters, lots of suspects, space battles and plenty of action to keep even the most ardent fans of sci-fi thoroughly entertained. Brilliant.

Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of Fearless. This is my honest and unbiased review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Chair of the British Science Fiction Association, Editor of the British Fantasy Society Journal Allen Stroud was Chair of Fantasycon 2017 and 2018. He has a PhD and a Masters in Science Fiction and Fantasy world-building. Stroud has written video game novelisations such as Elite: Dangerous and Phoenix Point) and his short stories have appeared in 2001: An Odyssey in Words and 2017 Year’s Best Military & Adventure SF.

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

blog tour, Book reviews, Science fiction

The Sentient by Nadia Afifi – Book Review

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Amira Valdez is a brilliant neuroscientist trying to put her past on a religious compound behind her. But when she’s assigned to a controversial cloning project, her dreams of working in space are placed in jeopardy. Using her talents as a reader of memories, Amira uncovers a conspiracy to stop the creation of the first human clone – at all costs. As she unravels the mystery, Amira navigates a dangerous world populated by anti-cloning militants, scientists with hidden agendas, and a mysterious New Age movement. In the process, Amira uncovers an even darker secret, one that forces her to confront her own past.

MY REVIEW 

Amira is a neuroscientist, she is investigating the deaths of two human cloning test subjects and a third needs her protection…..but from what or who?

This is a fast paced sci-fi thriller with a complex and clever plot. The world building is quite astounding. There is plenty of action and thought provoking moments regarding the ethics of human cloning, there’s religious cults and their power over people too. A totally gripping and original read.

Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of The Sentient. This is my honest and unbiased review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Nadia Afifi is a science fiction author who lives in Denver, Colorado. Although born in the United States, she grew up in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain before studying journalism and business in college. When she isn’t writing, she loves to hike, run and plan her next overseas trip.


FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launched in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.
Nadia Afifi is a science fiction author who lives in Denver, Colorado. Although born in the United States, she grew up in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain before studying journalism and business in college. When she isn’t writing, she loves to hike, run and plan her next overseas trip.

blog tour, Book reviews, Horror, Science fiction

The Apocalypse Strain by Jason Parent – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

A multi-national research team, led by a medical genomics expert suffering from MS, study an ancient pandoravirus at a remote Siberian research facility. Called “Molli” by the research team, the organic substance reveals some unique but troublesome characteristics, qualities that, in the wrong hands, could lead to human extinction.

The researchers soon learn that even in the right hands, Molli is a force too dangerous to escape their compound. But the virus has a mind of its own, and it wants out.

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MY REVIEW 

The Apocalypse Strain is an action packed horror story, set in the near future.

A training exercise to the frozen tundra of Siberia, to train astronauts for a planned mission to Mar, let’s loose a virus. Like all viruses, this one wants to spread and evolve. It has an intelligence that’s plain scary…….who will survive?

If you have seen the X-Files episode Ice, you’ll find some similarities, the cold landscape, the tension and paranoia affecting those involved, but that’s where any similarities end.

This is full of tension, action and some really gruesome moments too. A fast paced dark and creepy tale that any fan of horror and sci-fi will love. Thoroughly entertaining.

Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of The Apocalypse Strain. This is my honest and unbiased review.

Purchase link: https://amzn.to/2DW3YYp

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Jason is an author of horror, thrillers, and science fiction, though his novels tend to blur the boundaries between genres. From his award-winning first horror/mystery novel, What Hides Within, to his widely applauded supernatural thriller, Seeing Evil, Jason’s work has earned him praise from both critics and avid readers alike.

In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls New England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Rhode Island.

In a prior life, Jason spent most of his time in front of a judge… as a civil litigator. When he wanted a change, he traded in his cheap suits for flip flops and designer stubble. The flops got repossessed the next day, and he’s back in the legal field…sorta. But that’s another story.

When he’s not working, Jason likes to kayak, catch a movie, and travel to any place that will let him enter. And read and write, of course – he does that too sometimes.

Please visit the author on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJasonParent, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AuthorJasParent, or at his website, for information regarding upcoming events or releases, or if you have any questions or comments for him.

 

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

 

Audiobook, blog tour, Book reviews, Murder mystery, Science fiction

Clockwork Sherlock by Ian W. Sainsbury – Audiobook Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

A thrilling new adventure featuring literature’s favourite detective like you’ve never seen him before. The first in a series, Clockwork Sherlock follows ex-soldier Captain Jo Barnes. The mysterious VR detective singles her out as his own Dr Watson, but he’s about to find out she’s no fawning sidekick. 

When tech giant Robert Fairfield is found dead of a suspected drug overdose, fingers are pointed at the two women who stood most to gain from his death: his fiancée and leader of the New Ludds, Greta Blackstone, and Beth Fairchild, Robert’s ambitious daughter. But when Beth is found dead and the evidence shows she was killed before her father, the suspect is obvious. To everyone, that is, except Sherlock Holmes. 

Using futuristic tech and good, old-fashioned sleuthing, Captain Barnes and the famed detective set out to find the killer. With rooftop pursuits, gangland bosses and plenty of action – this listen is sure to appeal to fans of Ben Aaronovitch, Paul Cornell and Jim Butcher.

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MY REVIEW 

Jo  Barnes an ex-soldier wakes to find herself in a room she doesn’t know, it’s Victorian in style, an old slipper is on the mantelpiece and bullet holes in the wall. Oh and she has a moustache!

Then the famously fictitious Sherlock Holmes speaks to her. Jo quickly realises she is in a VR world, she has heard of this new tech and the ‘clockwork’ sherlock and believed it to be an aid to solving crimes, she wasn’t aware how real Sherlock seems. But why is she here?

Well, a tech creator has been found dead of an overdose, but there are suspicions this was not a suicide and there are two suspects. But when one of these two are murdered, Sherlock has already deduced the killer. With Jo’s help they set out to prove it.

Clockwork Sherlock has the soul of the original Conan Doyle’s tales, but with modern and futuristic tech. It has the famous sleuthing but Jo’s Dr Watson brings a modern edge. With lots of puzzles and action this clever, well plotted tale is Beautifully read by Shvorne Marks and perfect for any fan of Sherlock Holmes. I enjoyed every minute.

Thank you to Ben at Midas PR for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, for the promotional material and the audiobook of Clockwork Sherlock. This is my honest and unbiased review.

 

An Audible Original and only available from Audible

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Ian W Sainsbury is a musician, composer, writer, comedian and puppet wrangler (yes, that’s a real job). Obviously, he doesn’t know what to do when he grows up and – now that he’s in his forties – he’s resigned to the fact that he probably never will.

 

His first novel was published in 2016. 

blog tour, Book reviews, Science fiction, Steampunk, YA fiction

The Mechanical Maestro by Emily Owen – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Immerse yourself in the world of three brilliant siblings and their musical automaton, Maestro.

London, 1857.

Brothers George and Douglas Abernathy are clockmakers who are barely scraping a living in their family’s shop. They are also brilliant inventors with a sideline building custom- built androids and other technology ahead of its time. Their sixteen-year-old sister, Molly, is also a genius, specialising in transformative plant biology, but earns her keep by sewing.

The Abernathys’ fortunes improve dramatically when the brothers invent a clockwork automaton composer named Maestro, whose musical artistry takes London by storm. But there are those who believe Maestro is a fake, and others who think him a monstrosity.

As Maestro tries to make sense of the world of London’s high- society which he is thrown into, he incites the interest of sinister figures who would go to any lengths to discover what makes him tick.

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MY REVIEW 

Set in Victorian London, The Mechanical Maestro is a mix of historical fiction and steampunk with lots of music too. It’s the tale of the Abernathy family and their wondrous inventions. It’s aimed at young adults, but I feel there is something for any age to enjoy.

The Abernathy’s, George, Douglas and Molly are inventors.

The brothers work in the clockmaker shop, but they spend a lot of time creating mechanical marvels, such as a clockwork mouse and a chess playing automaton with mixed results. But when challenged to create an automata that can play and create its own music they rise to the challenge and the mechanical maestro comes into being. His incredible music touches the soul.

Meanwhile Molly is working on her botanical inventions which are just as amazing.

A wealthy Lord takes ownership of Maestro, and begins to show him off to London, some believe him to be a trick, others believe he is an abomination….

I love this tale, from the beautiful descriptions of the Victorian world, the vast differences between the wealthy and the poor is clear, to seeing the world through Maestro’s eyes, the beauty in simple things and the sounds around him is a reminder of what we take for granted sometimes. Like seeing the world through the eyes of a child.

I can’t wait to see what the Abernathy family creates next….I’ll be watching for the next book in this series, that’s for sure. 

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

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Since completing her Masters by Research, Emily Owen has worked as an Archives Assistant at the University of Huddersfield. She lives in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. http://www.e-owen.uk

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Book reviews, humour, Science fiction

Set My Heart To Five by Simon Stephenson – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

A story of loneliness, love and loose connections, Set My Heart to Five is a hilarious, touching, dazzlingly perceptive debut novel, and a profound exploration of what it truly means to be human.

10/10 Jared does not have friends.

Because friends are a function of feelings.

Therefore friends are just one more human obligation that Jared never has to worry about.

But Jared is worrying. Which is worrying. He’s also started watching old films. And inexplicably crying in them. And even his Feelings Wheel (given to him by Dr Glundenstein, who definitely is not a friend) cannot guide him through the emotional minefield he now finds himself in.

Soon his feelings will send him fleeing across the country, pursued by a man who wants to destroy him and driven by an illogical desire to share pathogens with the woman who bamboozles him the most.

And Jared cannot!

Because feelings will ruin your life, especially if you aren’t supposed to have them…

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MY REVIEW 

Jared is a dentist, he’s also a bot. 

Set in a time where the jobs humans no longer want to do are now done by androids.

But, Jared is different, he is interested in humans and their emotions, so with help from a friend, Jared begins to experience feelings himself…..(a little reminiscent of iRobot).

Told by Jared this unique tale is part narration and part movie script….he loves movies. It shows how odd human emotions appear when viewed from the outside.

It’s full of dry humour with a wry look at the definition of being human…

Very funny, clever and certainly thought provoking.

Thank you to Amber at Midas PR for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of Set My Heart To Five. This is my honest and unbiased review. 

Book reviews, Dystopian fiction, Science fiction

Goldilocks by Laura Lam – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

A bold, thought provoking and high-concept feminist dystopian thriller

Ravaged by environmental disaster, greed and oppression, our planet is in crisis. The future of humanity hangs in the balance – and one woman can tip it over.

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.

It’s humanity’s last hope for survival, and Naomi, Valerie’s surrogate daughter and the ship’s botanist, has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity like this – to step out of Valerie’s shadow and really make a difference.

But when things start going wrong on the ship, Naomi starts to suspect that someone on board is concealing a terrible secret – and realises time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared…

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MY REVIEW 

Goldilocks is science fiction that feels a bit too close to home for comfort.

The human race has ruined Earth, the ice caps have melted, temperatures rising and some areas of this glorious planet are now uninhabitable. So there are plans to move to a new planet.

Women are now no longer welcome to work in the space industry, or anywhere for that matter, so a group of 5 women, all trained astronauts, medics and scientists decide to take matters in their own hands and steal a rocket. They head to th new planet, Cavendish, via Mars with great plans to set up a utopian world and save humankind.

But, someone has a secret, one that changes everything.

I loved this, from the atmosphere, the world building plans and life on the ship as they travel for many months. The twists and tension keep building in this tale of hope, of love and betrayal and of the dangers of fanaticism.  Scarily prescient at times and definitely a cautionary tale. Thought provoking and utterly gripping from start to finish.

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

 

Purchase link : https://amzn.to/2YqNijz

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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.

Twitter: @LR_Lam 

Book reviews, Science fiction

Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang – Book Review @MidasPR @HoZ_Books #Vagabonds

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

In 2096, after Earth has successfully colonised Mars, a war of independence erupts and Mars breaks away from Earth’s rule. Over the next century, two radically different societies develop, each regarding the other with mutual suspicion. Eventually, Mars sends a group of young delegates to spend five years on Earth in an attempt at reconciliation.

In 2196, the delegates are brought home to Mars, along with a group of representatives from Earth. Among them is Luoying, an eighteen-year-old dance student and the granddaughter of the governor of Mars.

As Luoying and her friends struggle to reacclimatise to Martian society, she tries to uncover the secrets of the past: what caused the mysterious deaths of her parents, and why was she really sent to Earth? Under the growing threat of interplanetary war, Luoying is left questioning the future of Mars – and man’s place on it.

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MY REVIEW

Luoyang is returning home to Mars after spending 5 years on Earth. The Mercury Group, a group of young people had been sent to study and live on Earth by Luoyang’s grandfather, the governor or Mars.

On her return she realises the differences between the two planets is not as vast as she believed and wonders where she now belongs. She is a vagabond.

Eko, is a filmmaker on Earth and has travelled to Mars to do the same, to document the society that Earth believes is a dictatorship. He is also searching for reasons why his beloved teacher had spent many years on Mars, only to return to Earth.

This really is an epic science fiction tale, but there are no aliens, sandworms or space battles, it’s about politics and society. On Earth, thoughts and ideas are monetised, everything is about profit, pure Capitalism. On Mars, thoughts are shared, art is purely for arts sake and available to all. Money is not sought as the be all and end all and income is based on age, housing is allocated depending on which Atelier (work or section you choose to be part of) Socialism in action.

But, both societies have their problems. It’s not utopia/dystopia but a mix of both. 

I loved the way this is written, the language used is almost poetic at times and I felt this is really a coming of age tale as Luoyang tries to find her place in life and where she feels she belongs and she questions her experiences both societies, the good and bad of each.

It’s not a quick read at 600 pages, but it’s beautifully written and thoroughly engaging from start to finish. I loved every minute. 

Thank you to Amber at Midas PR for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, for the promotional material and a free copy of the book. This is my honest and unbiased review.

 

You can buy a copy here:  https://amzn.to/3a5dQt9

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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From Clarkesworld magazine:

In 2002, Hao Jingfang was awarded the First Prize in the New Concept Writing Competition. She gained her undergraduate degree from Tsinghua University’s Department of Physics and her Ph.D. from the same university in Economics and Management in 2012. Her fiction has appeared in various publications, including Mengya, Science Fiction World and ZUI Found. She has published two full-length novels, Wandering Maearth and Return to Charon; a book of cultural essarys, Europe in Time; and the short story collection, Star Travellers. Her fiction has appeared before in English translation in Lightspeed and Uncanny 

Book reviews, Science fiction

Guest Post from D. Ellis Overttun – Prophesy:Eve Of Darkness

I’m delighted to welcome D. Ellis Overttun to The Bookwormery today. David is raising awareness of his Terra Nova series. First, here’s some information about the background to the series….this instalment is Prophesy: Eve Of Darkness.

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The Terra Nova series takes the reader on a journey of discovery to solve a mystery. Book 1, Universe: Awakening, suggests a universe on the verge of extinction when viewed through the lens of geologic time. Book 2, Genesis: Vision of the New World, suggests a safe haven.

 

But how to get there?

 

Through a series of seemingly disparate clues, this instalment, Prophecy: Eve of Darkness, shows us how. Along the way, the reader will encounter several themes.

One of the themes in the Terra Nova series is evolution.

Prophecy introduces us to the Nephilim, a clan descended from the Great Father and banished to the subterranean world beneath the planet. We see how this environment changed not only their physiology but also their ideology, culture and language. A universe away, we see how a genetically engineered species called “ProtoGendu” gain a foothold on a planet called “Terra Nova”. Finally, the Celesti themselves seem to be evolving as a new form of procreation called “life from life” offers hope to a dying species.

The Nephilim speak in a tongue called “clanspeak”, a form of communication that has devolved into a compact vocabulary designed to convey only the most basic information. What does this look like? I relied on the work of evolutionary biologist Professor Mark Pagel of the University of Reading. There have also been other physiological changes that have evolved that allow them to survive in this lightstarved environment.

Stealth, secrecy and deceit are suggestive of the concept of hidden or unrevealed. In Prophecy, we learn the Nephilim have adapted to survive in the harsh environment of the underearth by stealth and concealment. Now, they will use this skill to try to regain the position they once held. We think that language is a way to communicate. 

However, Professor Pagel has argued that, in fact, one of the functions of language has been to keep proprietary knowledge within a defined group. It is language as a vehicle of secrecy. (How many times have parents lapsed into the language of their forefathers when discussing sensitive matters in front of their children?) The reader will see this demonstrated in the “tongue of Taru” and the “old tongue”. Finally, lies and halftruths abound, inspired by Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting.

Nativism is a philosophy of favoring the interests of incumbents over those of newcomers. It resists change. It is the ideology of “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke”. It is embodied in their philosophy of “purity and justice”. The antagonism of the Nephilim to the Celesti has been drawn from current events. Their response is not unlike the metaphor of the camel’s nose. The reader can see the parallels from today’s society as certain groups respond to their perception of being pushed out or already feeling they are outside the tent. Prophecy describes how this feeling can be exploited by one with his own agenda.

Who are the villains in the series so far? As author, I can tell you that it’s Theodor and the Nephilim. To me, their philosophies and motivations are reprehensible. But are they? (Yes, they are.) I read or heard an interview somewhere that a villain never really thinks he or she is the villain. (The only exception I can recall is the Operative from Serenity who said “There’s no place for me there…I’m a monster.”) Villains are motivated by what they believe is right, just like the protagonists of any story. This theme has been drawn from current events. Who are the heroes and who are the villains? It will be decided by history, and history is written by the victors.

Concepts from quantum physics feature as more of Auberon’s abilities are revealed. A quantum particle approaching a barrier can simultaneously pass through it (quantum tunneling) and bounce off it as long as no one is watching. This is referred to as “quantum nonlocality”. The concept of the connection between the observer and the observed was introduced to me when I read The Tao of Physics which explores the relationship between physics and eastern mysticism. Would this allow someone to walk through walls? This is sci-fi. So, the answer has to be “yes”. But how?

Prophecy finally explains the technology of the Intrepid/Phoenix. In Book 1, we learned matterantimatter annihilation powers the ship from particles that pop in and out of existence. Something from nothing also has its parallel in JudeoChristianity in the concept of “ex nihilo” from Genesis 1:1. We also learn the ship travels in subspace but we don’t know how. Book 2, tells us that subspace is opened by the convergence of two beams. Book 3 reveals more about this process and subspace itself.

The series draws heavily from JudeoChristian traditions. We learn the firstborn of the Great Father was a son named “Nephilim”. Clan Nephilim believe their birthright was unjustly taken from them by what was once Clan Artaxiad. There is a parallel in the story in Genesis of Esau and Jacob. The Nephilim, sometimes referred to by biblical scholars as “fallen”, has been directly reflected in their epithet in Prophecy as the “Fallen Ones”. The uniforms the Nephilim wear to protect themselves from the light and volume of sound of the surface world is reminiscent of the scales of a snake. This image was inspired by the serpent in the Garden of Eden.

Intriguing that’s for sure…..Thank you to David for providing all this information and pictures.

 

Book reviews, Noir, Science fiction

Vulcan’s Forge by Robert Mitchell Evans – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB
 

Jason Kessler doesn’t fit in the society of Nocturnia, the sole colony that survived the Earth’s destruction. Between the colony’s dedication to a distorted vision of mid-twentieth century Americana, its sexually repressive culture, and the expectation that his most important duty is marriage and children Jason rebels, throwing himself into an illicit and dangerous affair with Pamela Guest, but Pamela harbors a secret. 

Soon the lovers are engaged in a lethal game of cat and mouse with the colony’s underworld head and the secrets Jason unlocks upend everything he knew, exposing dangers far beyond Nocturnia and its obsessions.

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MY REVIEW

This is Sci-Fi Noir, it’s the tale of Jason Kessler who is bored, bored of the committee approved life, from what movies to watch to the expectation that you will marry and have children and not endanger colonial morals!

Nocturnia is mankind’s new home, but Jason wants a life, so when he sees a beautiful woman he decides to risk an illicit affair.

But was it a coincidence she came into his life? Or does Pamela have a secret?

“You have never known a normal life “

Wow…..the world building in Vulcan’s Forge is just so well done, the feeling of almost claustrophobic tension is felt throughout. There’s also the frustration of being under strict control but what is the cost of rebelling?

Jason is about to find out.

This has a mix of crime, lies, betrayals and death all in a twisty and compelling plot. Engaging and entertaining from the first to last pages. 

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

 

You can preorder a copy here: https://amzn.to/3984dJp

Available from 26 March 2020

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Robert Mitchell Evans was born in North Carolina but split his early life between that state and sunny Florida before a brief and ultimately unsuccessful tour in the United States Navy.

A life-long enthusiastic fan of film and genre fiction Robert’s interests include all form of science, history, and politics. He has played role-playing games since the early 80s and enjoys a wide array of board and card games as well. He haunts local conventions and his favorite Shakespearean play is Macbeth. Like so many ex-sailors he lives in San Diego with his sweetie-wife and an ever-growing film library

 

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, Horror, Science fiction, Short story

Crazy-Ass Stories for Crazy-Ass People by Andy Rausch – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB
 

This quirky collection of short stories (and one novella) by Andy Rausch contains something for readers of every stripe. Rausch touches on a variety of genres, including horror, comedy, crime, and even Western, but every story features his unique, offbeat wit, superb writing, and razor-sharp dialogue, all delivered from a decidedly off-kilter perspective. 

His work has been praised by the likes of Cape Fear screenwriter Wesley Strick and Fort Apache the Bronx author Heywood Gould. Author Peter Leonard once compared his writing style to that of his father, Elmore Leonard. Storylines include a naive little boy mistaking a burglar for Santa Claus, bumbling white supremacists attempting to resurrect the dead body of Adolf Hitler, a man who develops an unexplainable craving for the taste of human flesh, a would-be author summoning the spirit of dead novelist Charles Bukowski to assist him writing, a showdown between legendary lawman Wyatt Earp and a deadly serial killer on the dusty streets of Tombstone, and many more. 

So ask yourself: are you a little bit crazy, and if so, are you up to the task of reading these twenty-two wild and crazy tales of darkness, wackiness, and outright debauchery?

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MY REVIEW 

This is a diverse collection of short stories, dark and certainly quirky.

Each of these tales are unique, set in different locations such as cities, in space and even the sea.

There is comedy, crime and horror with a dark wit and a certain warped skew to each story. Decidedly Crazy-Ass and such great fun.

Thank you to Blackthorn Tours for the opportunity to read Crazy-Ass Stories for free. This is my honest and unbiased review.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Andy Rausch is an American film journalist, author, screenwriter, film producer, and actor.

He is the author of several novels and novellas including Elvis Presley, CIA Assassin. He also wrote the screenplay for Dahmer versus Gacy and is the author of some twenty non-fiction books on popular culture.

 Books: Riding Shotgun, Bloody Sheets, A Time for Violence, Layla’s Score

 You can usually find Andy on Twitter @writerrausch1, and he maintains a blog at https://authorandyrausch.wordpress.com/ 

Book reviews, Contemporary fiction, Science fiction

Happy Family by James Ellis – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Set in the near future, Happy Family is a darkly humorous tale about the filters and frames we use to shield ourselves from reality, and what might happen should we discard them.

Germaine Kiecke was a foundling, an orphan, brought up by the infamous ‘Motherhood’ in a Belgian orphanage. Now she is a successful art academic who defines herself by her profession and prefers to experience the world through art and an augmented reality game called Happy Family.

But when the artist Tom Hannah, the creative force behind Happy Family, moves to Spain, surrounds himself with high walls, three large guard dogs called Harpo, Chico and Groucho, and a runaway who teaches him to think like a tree, his existential melt-down threatens all Germaine holds dear.

She is forced to re-engage with life and travels to Spain to try to make things right. Along the way she meets people who are also, for one reason or another, dependent on Tom’s fictional world to augment their own ‘real’ lives.

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MY REVIEW 

Well where do I start?

Tom is in crisis, he wonders what is the point of life if you then just die.? Why bother?

He drinks to near oblivion most nights and tries to kill himself. He is saved by Alta and her dog, Badger. She decides to move in with Tom to keep an eye on him.

Tom is the creator of Happy Family, an augmented reality game, think The Sims on steroids!!! Nearly everyone is playing, to augment their own lives…..

This is a tale of loneliness and vulnerability but also hope-ish. It’s also a crazy rush of technology, alternate realities and dark humour. Unique, thoughtful and with a large dose of bonkers. 

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

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

James has written two novels, The Wrong Story and Happy Family. He has published a number of short stories, a travelogue of his journey through Central America and a monthly column for The Gudgeon magazine. He designs and delivers tutor-led workshops for fiction writers and is a regular speaker at writers’ events. 

Book reviews, Novella, Science fiction, Short story

Helene by Karl Drinkwater – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Dr Helene Vermalle is shaping the conscience of a goddess-level AI.

As a leading civilian expert in Emergent AI Socialisation, she has been invited to assist in a secret military project.

Her role? Helping ViraUHX, the most advanced AI in the universe, to pass through four theoretical development stages. But it’s not easy training a mind that surpasses her in raw intellect. And the developing AI is capable of killing her with a single tantrum.

On top of this, she must prove her loyalty to the oppressive government hovering over her shoulder. 

They want a weapon. She wants to instil an overriding sense of morality.

Can she teach the AI right and wrong without being categorised as disloyal?

Lost Tales of Solace are short side-stories set in the Lost Solace universe.

 

Purchase Link – https://books2read.com/b/Helene

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MY REVIEW 

Helene is an AI Socialisation Specialist, she’s working to help understand the AI VIRAUHX or Via to be successful and complete, to help shape a personality, to give a sense of right and wrong. As they talk Via considers Helene a friend….they start to banter a little and Via’s lame attempts at jokes are funny…..like a toddler just learning.

Helene breaks protocol and lets Via fly (it is a ship after all) and this is noticed by the senior powers that be…….and not in a good way.

Helene is betrayed, Via is silenced and now has limited responses….but then Opal arrives!

I love this novella, it gives a little insight into how Clarissa was ‘born’ and how Opal comes into the story. This will then lead to the events in Lost Solace….and I shudder at the thought of that (in a good way I might add). A quick but but intriguing read….I’m looking forward to the next in the Lost Solace series. 

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

 

Author Bio 

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Karl Drinkwater is originally from Manchester but lived in Wales for twenty years, and now calls Scotland his home. He’s a full-time author, edits fiction for other writers, and was a professional librarian for over twenty-five years. He has degrees in English, Classics, and Information Science.

He writes in multiple genres: his aim is always just to tell a good story. Among his books you’ll find elements of literary and contemporary fiction, gritty urban, horror, suspense, paranormal, thriller, sci-fi, romance, social commentary, and more. The end result is interesting and authentic characters, clever and compelling plots, and believable worlds.

 

When he isn’t writing he loves exercise, guitars, computer and board games, the natural environment, animals, social justice, cake, and zombies. Not necessarily in that order.

 

Social Media Links –

 

https://www.facebook.com/karlzdrinkwater/

https://twitter.com/karldrinkwater

https://www.instagram.com/authorkdrinkwater/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5766025.Karl_Drinkwater

 

Book reviews, Dystopian fiction, humour, Science fiction

QualityLand by Marc-Uwe Kling – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Everything in QualityLand is geared towards optimizing your life. QualityPartner identifies your ideal mate, earworm personal assistants get you where you need to go and android drones know you need a six pack of beer at the end of a long day even before you crave one. Humans, robots and algorithms co-exist, everything is seamlessly corporatised, stratified and monetized. Your very name reveals much of what we need to know about you and your profile discloses the rest.

Peter Jobless is a down and out metal press operator, dumped by his long term girlfriend when she is alerted to a better option on her QualityPad. But Peter has another problem – he seems to be the only one noticing that his fellow Qualityland robot citizens are experiencing an existential crisis. There is a drone who’s afraid to fly. A sex droid with erectile dysfunction. A combat robot with PTSD. Instructed to destroy these malfunctioning A.I., Peter starts to suspect the technology that rules us all has a flaw, perhaps a fatal one. Not only that, these robots might be his only friends…
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MY REVIEW

Well where do I start?

Qualityland is a country renamed to fit with its ethos. Everything is the bestest it can be (yes I know that’s not a word), it’s the greatest, the loveliest, the beautifulist….language is now in the superlative…..always.

Peoples surnames have changed too, they now reflect the occupation of your father or mother, from Peter Jobless to Monica Sex-Worker and so, so many more. 

Also every consumerist need is fulfilled automatically by TheShop, before you know you need them (or not in some cases). Technology now runs the world, Androids are real people and have rights, they can even run for president! With drones and bitter driverless cars it’s non stop mayhem..

When Peter receives an item he doesn’t need or want he tries to return it and this is where some true hilarity begins. All he wants is to return an item and get some autonomy back into his life….is that too much to ask?

This reminded me a little of the humour in Incompetence by Rob Grant(he of Red Dwarf and Courgette leather shoe fame) and the dystopia of Rob Hart’s The Warehouse, but this has its own remarkable humour and it’s totally bonkers, hilarious and utterly terrifying in its plausibility. Brilliant.

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

Book reviews, Contemporary fiction, Dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic, Science fiction

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

From a Tang Dynasty legend of a young girl trained as an assassin with the ability to skip between dimensions on a secluded mountain sanctuary to a space colony called Nova Pacifica that reflects on a post-apocalyptic world of the American Empire and ‘Moonwalker’ Neil Armstrong, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories is laced with  depictions of silkpunk fantasy, Sci-Fi and old Chinese folklore, wrapped up in a mesmerising genre-bending collection of short stories.
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MY REVIEW 

This is a collection of short stories by Ken Liu with the theme of Science fiction. 

These are tales of alien invasion, of the singularity ( the digitisation of human consciousness – a bit like the film Chappie), survival after the singularity, climate disaster and post apocalypse survival. There are some lighter moments but not many.

This is not a light happy read but almost a warning of letting technology take over and leaving us in a digital dystopia. 

I have to admit a couple of stories did go right over my head, I really missed the point I think and was left a bit puzzled, but this in no way detracts from this rather marvellous, dark and thought provoking collection. 

Thank you to Amber at Midas PR for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, for the promotional material and a free copy of the book. This is my honest and unbiased review.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Ken Liu is an American author and the winner of the Nebula, Hugo, Locus, World Fantasy, Sidewise, and Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards. He emigrated to the US from China at age of 11 and graduated from Harvard with a degree in English Literature and Computer Science. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Ken worked as a software engineer, corporate lawyer, and litigation consultant. His work includes the epic fantasy series, The Dandelion Dynasty and his debut collection, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. His short story Good Hunting was adapted for an episode for Netflix’s science fiction web series Love, Death and Robots. 

Book reviews, Science fiction

Chasing Solace by Karl Drinkwater – Book Review

 

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

The legendary Lost Ships exist, and they harbour nightmarish horrors. Opal knows. She barely survived her first encounter with one.

Despite escaping, she failed to find what she was looking for: her lost sister. Now Opal must board a second derelict Lost Ship to seek answers, and it’s even more monstrous, a sickening place of death and decay. To make things worse, the military government wants her, dead or alive. Considering their reputation, dead may be better.

To find her sister, Opal will risk everything: her life, her blood, her sanity. There’s always a price to pay. Armed with her wits, an experimental armoured suit, and an amazing AI companion, she might just stand a chance.

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MY REVIEW 

#2 in the Solace series by Karl Drinkwater. It can be read as a stand-alone, but I feel you are missing out if you haven’t read Lost Solace….

This starts with Opal and Athene (the AI on board the ship, previously called Clarissa, but she changed her own name to Athene…a warrior and wise) they are about to infiltrate a base on Exidris 3 to steal or fabricate supplies.

It seems relatively isolated, so while waiting for Athene to fabricate items, she has a nosy around the security feeds….what she finds is surgery being performed on people by robotic surgeons. These subjects are those who failed the purity tests and they find out that nobody leaves the facility…..Opal wants to save them…..Can she? 

When their mission is complete, they are finally on their journey to find the second Lost ship….still searching for Opal’s sister Clarissa.

They find the ship and Opal gets suited up and off she goes….and things get horrific.

The ship is a food production ship, they grow Chattel….animals for food, with less bone and more meat and something else is roaming the dark. When Opal finds something sticky and web like, my heart skipped at beat….not spiders!!!

No, not spiders exactly, but a mix of insect, arachnid and crustacean….a thing of nightmares..

There’s also an assassin. It’s never easy is it? Then she meets the Oracles!!

This is non-stop action, with a strong Ripley-esq female character and her relationship with the AI Athene, a real friendship and they rely on each other. Gruesome, fun and emotional too. Will Opal find Clarissa? Will she be what she expects? …..

Brilliantly immersive and entertaining. I can’t wait for #3 in the series.

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

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Book reviews, LGBTQ, Science fiction

The Blood-Dimmed Tide by Michael R. Johnston – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

The sequel to The Widening Gyre, praised by Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal and more!

Tajen’s mission to seek aid from the Kelvaki Assembly is cut short when the Zhen invade Earth. Now he, Liam, and Kiri must return to Earth and liberate the colony from brutal occupation. When Tajen learns the Zhen plan to destroy a human fleet amassing in preparation to help Earth, he and his crew must escape the planet once more and warn them.

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MY REVIEW 

A sequel to The Widening Gyre. It can be read as a stand-alone but I feel you are missing out on a great beginning to this series.

Tajen has just married Liam, when an alert sounds. Ships have entered Earth’s atmosphere. One of these ships deliberately crashes into the shipyard and so Tajen and his new husband are back in action.

Due to the Zhen’s constant attacks, Earth’s fleet are in trouble and so Tejen, Liam and a crew head to the Kelvaki to ask for help.

But while they are away, the Zhen take the opportunity to attack again…..they want the planet back and to rid the universe of humans altogether.

Can Tajen raise enough of a resistance to take back control of Earth again.???? And are the Tabrans friend or foe?

This is a full on, action packed space opera, with a great range of characters and fantastic world building.  Roll on Book 3….

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

 

You can preorder a copy here: https://amzn.to/2OYbMLQ

(Out on 20 February)

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Born in the San Francisco Bay Area and raised in Napa, California, Michael R. Johnston grew up steeped in everything Science Fiction and Fantasy.

In the early 90s, he took a “break” from college that went from being one semester to ten years. In that time, he had several jobs, from serving subpoenas to making sandwiches, before he became the Data Processing Manager of a small research company.

Eventually he decided he’d had enough of the corporate world and returned to college, graduating with honors from California State University, Sacramento. In fall 2006, he became a high school English teacher, a job he likens to herding a swarm of angry bees. It’s the best job he’s ever had.

Michael currently lives in Sacramento, California, with his wife and daughter. When he’s not writing or teaching, he spends time with his family, plays video games and tabletop RPGs, and reads. He blogs at MJohnstonBooks.com, and can be found on Twitter as @MREJohnston

 

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.

 

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Book reviews, Dystopian fiction, Science fiction

Rain God by Ian Dowson – Book Review


PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Every second, every minute, every hour for five years: the incessant rat a tat-tat of rain.The rain has come and so has the killing. Rain and death in a city where madness is winning : it infects the sewers, lives in pipes, has a hook for a hand, no eyes and filed teeth. Insanity has swallowed the city, washed it down with rain and now there will be Payne.
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MY REVIEW

Rain God is a novella of 99 pages, but don’t let that fool you. This is packed with an incredible, action packed story.

Five years ago Kate Payne’s sister, Grace was murdered and her mutilated body left in a graveyard. Then it started raining and it hasn’t stopped since…..

The city is depressed and violent with people seeking drugs and alcohol to escape the miserable lives they lead. The Postcode Gangs run riot with death everywhere.

Payne and her colleague, Johnson,  are police officers, just as violent and unpredictable as the rest…..but Payne is on a mission to find the Rain God. He’s responsible for the murder of Grace and so much more.

This is a fast paced and so gritty you’ll get road rash, it’s a tale of the incessant rat a tat-tat rain and the madness that brings, a tale of grief and anger…..oh and a damaged killer is roaming underground…..

Dystopian fiction, beautifully written and even poetic at times, but also utterly terrifying. I loved every violent, gore filled minute. 

Thank you to Yinka Olainyan at Holland House Books for the opportunity to read this dystopian wonder for free. This is my honest and unbiased review.

 

You can buy a copy here:   https://amzn.to/38RATaF 

Book reviews, Crime thriller, Fantasy, Science fiction

Spirit Of Prophecy by Jill Hughes – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

A fast-paced mystery featuring psychic detective Rosetta Barrett, as she unpicks the clues of the crime, a deeper prophecy emerges dating back to an atrocity which happened on Apache lands some time ago, and the race to solve more than one karmic mystery begins.

A gifted psychic but an emotional wreck, Rosetta Barrett is much more than a Criminal Investigation Detective seconded to a sleepy, rural English constabulary. She’s also a high-ranking member of EPIS (Elite Paranormal Intelligence Services) a super-secret, Inter-Governmental, global organization.

When Juliet Jermaine’s Olympic Champion horse, Gothic, and his teenage stable-hand rider, are callously murdered in what appears to be a terrorist-inspired incident, Detective Barrett immediately knows there is more to this than meets the eye.

 Juliet, and Rosetta must unravel the karmic connection to an unknown past to catch the present-day criminals before another cycle of revenge and retribution is unleashed. Can they stop the death count inexorably rising?

 

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MY REVIEW 

Spirit Of Prophecy is an unusual mix of sci-fi, crime thriller and the paranormal.

Rosetta is a psychic detective, she has a nightmare that she feels is a message, a puzzle to solve. But the reader is privy to information she doesn’t have so you can start to solve the mystery as you read.

Rosetta is determined to solve a recent hit and run incident that may have been murder. Can she put an end to the relentless cycle of revenge?

She is a complex character with her personal life a mess, which makes her more relatable and likeable.

An interesting and twisty plot that makes this an engaging and entertaining read.

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

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

 

Jill Hughes was born in Cottingley, West Yorkshire, home of the famous Cottingley Fairies. She studied English/American Literature with Film Studies at the University of East Anglia, before becoming an investment banker. After leaving banking she trained as a Life Coach, and went on to co-author the No 1 Best Selling Spiritual self-help book, Inspired by the Passion Test.

She has also successfully campaigned for a reprieve for historical heritage site The Red House, the 2nd most famous Bronte site in the country, which was up for imminent sale by auction. Benefactors and patrons needed to ensure an asset tranfer from Kirklees Council back to benefit the community!

Jill Hughes is a bestselling Author-preneur. She is passionate about horses, the paranormal, New Thought spirituality, self-help, self-development and is available for interview.

A wonderful gift for any reader who is interested in horses and equestrian sports, crime, retribution, aliens and UFOs, ancient mysteries and spiritual development.

 

Spirit of Prophecy is available at all good bookshops and online outlets in paperback (978-1999586799, £9.99) and eBook (£3.25). More information can be found at: https://www.moneymagnet.global/jillhughes

 

Book reviews, Fantasy, Psychlogical thriller, Science fiction

A User’s Guide To Make-Believe by Jane Alexander – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

A compelling read with an engaging but flawed heroine, exploring a near future with an all-too-plausible Black Mirror slant on reality and fantasy. Taps into cautionary tale fiction or ‘near dystopias’ in the wake of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Whatever your fantasy, live it with Make-BelieveTM. The only limit is you.

Cassie worked at Imagen, the tech giant behind the cutting-edge virtual reality Make- BelieveTM, and she got to know the product well. Too well. But Cassie has been barred from her escape from the real world, and legally gagged by the company.

Her dream job now seems to be part of a larger nightmare, and Imagen is not done with her yet.

With Imagen holding all the cards, and personal and publicity freedoms at stake, how far will Cassie go to end the deception?

Immerse yourself in a near-future world with an all-too-plausible slant on reality and fantasy for our ‘connected’ times.

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MY REVIEW 

Imagine a day dream brought to life. A fantasy VR world that feels real. That’s what Make-Believe offers…but at what cost?

Cassie is an ex-employee of Imagen, the developers of Make-Believe, she found a glitch that allowed her to stay in Make-Believe beyond the 2 hour limit. When Imagen found out she was dismissed and barred from Make-Believe…

As she investigates further she finds disturbing information and plans to fight….but can she win?

This is set in the near future and is so very scary in its plausibility. In this troubled world who wouldn’t want to escape into a fantasy world of your own building? 

A mix of San Junipero (Black Mirror) and Total Recall, the lines blur between dreams and reality. A thought provoking and utterly terrifying thriller. Just fantastic.

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

 

You can buy a copy here:  https://amzn.to/2TX9Iad

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Jane Alexander has completed a PhD in creative writing and teaches at the University of Edinburgh and the Open University. For several years she ran creative writing workshops for people in recovery from substance abuse. Her first novel was The Last Treasure Hunt (Saraband 2015).

 

 Twitter: @DrJaneAlexander