Valour by John Gwynne

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Description

The Banished Lands is torn by war as High King Nathair sweeps the land challenging all who oppose him in his holy crusade. Allied with the manipulative Queen Rhin of Cambren, there are few who can stand against them. But Rhin is playing her own games and has her eyes on a far greater prize… Left for dead, her kin fled and her country overrun with enemies, Cywen has no choice but to try to survive. But any chance of escape is futile once Nathair and his disquieting advisor Calidus realise who she is. They have no intention of letting such a prize from their grasp. For she may be their greatest chance at killing the biggest threat to their power. Meanwhile, the young warrior Corban flees from his conquered homeland with his exiled companions heading for the only place that may offer them sanctuary – Domhain. But to get there they must travel through Cambren avoiding warbands, giants and the vicious wolven of the mountains. And all the while Corban must battle to become the man that everyone believes him to be – the Bright Star and saviour of the Banished Lands. And in the Otherworld dark forces scheme to bring a host of the Fallen into the world of flesh to end the war with the Faithful, once and for all.

Quote

“Memory is a double-edged sword, Uthas. It can keep you strong through dark times, but it can also cripple you, keep you locked in a moment that no longer exists.”

My thoughts

A truly engrossing read which continues flawlessly from where the first book, Malice, left off! Good character development and world building. I’m enjoying this series so much I’ve already started Book 3! That speaks volumes as I avoid anything longer than a trilogy these days due to lack of time.

The Minders by John Marrs

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Description

Everyone has secrets. They know yours…

In the 21st century information is king. But computers can be hacked, files can be broken into. So a unique government initiative has been borne. Five ordinary people have been selected to become the latest weapon in thwarting cyber terrorism. A revolutionary medical procedure has turned them into the ultimate secret keepers – the country’s most secretive information has been taken offline and turned into genetic code implanted inside their heads.

Together, the five know every secret – the truth behind every Government lie, conspiracy theory and cover up. Only somebody has discovered who the secret keepers are. And one by one, they are being hunted down…

‘One of the most exciting, original thriller writers out there. I never miss one of his book’ – SIMON KERNICK

My thoughts

There’s a really good reason why John Marrs has become one of my favourite authors. Put simply – he writes bloody good books!

The Minders is set in the same futuristic Britain that The One and The Passengers are set in, although it is not a series as such and each book is a standalone. It would be beneficial to understanding the way the direction the world has turned to have read those books first because, although events from those books are mentioned because they are relevant to the plotline in The Minders, this book is a story in its own right and doesn’t dwell on them.

I really enjoy the way time is taken to fully introduce each character and make sure the reader knows who they are and how they got to be the person they have become before then taking us on their transformational journey with them. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the five main characters but it is never confusing although the story is intriguing and gripped me from the first page. And John Marrs is not afraid of sucker-punching us occasionally.

I’m not sure how he manages to be so productive with such complicated and inventive plots but I’m glad he is. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long until his next book!

The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper

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Description

From the author of The Songs of Us. Fans of Jojo Moyes and Lucy Dillon will love The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper.

Six-foot-two Irish man who answers to the name Samuel McLaughlin.
Has weak shins and enjoys show tunes.
If found, please return to Sophie Williams.

Before Sophie met Samuel she saw the world in grey.
Before Samuel met Sophie, he never believed in love at first sight.

When they first meet, something tells them they are meant to be.
But fate has other ideas.

Now they have lost each other and can’t see a way back.
But they’ve already changed each other’s lives in more ways
than they could have predicted…

My thoughts

Ah, Emma Cooper has done it again. She has written another unique and unpredictable romance and nailed it! Sophie’s and Samuel’s characters feel so real that they could be my friends or neighbours, and are written with such warmth and love that I want them to be. Samuel especially was such a great character in the way his struggles were captured. I really felt his despair and frustration and also his moments of pure humour when he was able to laugh at himself. I fell in love with his family and their individual ways of coping with Samuel’s situation, as well as their attempts to help him. This isn’t an easy book to read in places, and in fact it is heartbreaking at times, but I had to know how it all ended. There’s so much I’d love to talk about but can’t because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but suffice to say this book put me through a whole range of emotions from one page to the next and had me crying one moment and laughing the next, even if it was through tears sometimes. I absolutely loved her first book The Songs Of Us, and after finishing this one I cannot wait for her third book!

Placed Into Abyss (Mise en Abyse) by Rachel Swirsky

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Description

From Nebula Award-winning author Rachel Swirsky comes a time traveling adventure Placed into Abyss (Mise en Abyse), a Tor.com Original short story.

Chris would rather be anywhere but here, cleaning out his deceased, hateful grandparents’ house with his relatives. Each room he visits takes him back in time to another traumatic memory. To escape this house and his grandparents and his past, he’ll need to take time travel into his own hands.

***Content warning for fictional depictions of verbal, physical, and sexual child abuse.***

At the Publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

My thoughts

This is one of the most harrowing short stories I’ve ever read because it rings so heartrendingly true. It was an uncomfortable read but I couldn’t tear myself away and I suspect will stay with me for a while.

Malice by John Gwynne

(The Faithful And The Fallen, #1)

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Description

A black sun is rising …

Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors under King Brenin’s rule, learning the art of war. He yearns to wield his sword and spear to protect his king’s realm. But that day will come all too soon. Only when he loses those he loves will he learn the true price of courage.

The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed shields in battle, the earth running dark with their heartsblood. Although the giant-clans were broken in ages past, their ruined fortresses still scar the land. But now giants stir anew, the very stones weep blood and there are sightings of giant wyrms. Those who can still read the signs see a threat far greater than the ancient wars. Sorrow will darken the world, as angels and demons make it their battlefield. Then there will be a war to end all wars.

High King Aquilus summons his fellow kings to council, seeking an alliance in this time of need. Some are skeptical, fighting their own border skirmishes against pirates and giants. But prophesy indicates darkness and light will demand two champions, the Black Sun and the Bright Star. They would be wise to seek out both, for if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind’s hopes and dreams will fall to dust.

Quotes

“I shall stay and tell my tale, hope that it may serve some purpose, that eyes shall see it and learn, that the future will not repeat the mistakes of the past. That is my prayer, but what use is prayer to a god that has abandoned all things . . .”

My thoughts

Well, it took me almost three weeks to read this, due to it being a busy time for me just now, and that did impact on my experience because of lack of continuity. This is not a book that you should stop and start. It’s a decent length (672 pages), has a lot of characters, several locations, and a complex politically-driven story line set in a fantasy world.

That said …. I loved it!😍

I just would have loved it even more if I could have committed to reading through it without so many interruptions. If you like a fantasy you can really sink your teeth into then this ticks a lot of boxes. And I can’t believe it’s a debut novel! It’s the first of four books. Since I avoid anything longer than trilogies these days it says something that I am going to finish this series!

UPDATE 15 Nov 2020:
I needed to come back after completing the final book to say that The Faithful & The Fallen has jumped into my top three favourite series. All four books maintained the high standard of writing, tight story arcs, and great character development. For anyone reading reviews of the first book because they are unsure whether to commit to the series, I say ‘Just do it!” You won’t be disappointed.

The Sister In Law by Sue Watson

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Description

‘You don’t think Jamie and I have secrets, do you? No, we tell each other everything.’ She smiled. ‘Including your dirty little secret. So, thinking about it, maybe it’s time to start being nice to me?’

THE WIFE: Clare is ready for a break. It’s been a tough year and now she wants to put her feet up. Arriving at the Italian villa for their summer holiday, she decides it’s high time her husband and his family did some of the work. After all, her husband owes her…

THE HUSBAND: Even though Dan had his head turned by someone else, he’s realised the error of his ways. He’s here now, and he says it’s for keeps. Clare can trust him, can’t she? At least he’ll have his brother there, to keep him in line…

THE BROTHER: Jamie is the prodigal child, back in the family fold again, after years of travelling abroad. But when he gets to the villa, he’s not alone. He’s brought a wife, someone none of them have met before.

THE SISTER-IN-LAW: Ella is everything Clare isn’t. Glamorous. Young. Influential. But she knows a secret about Clare. Something that has the power to break the whole family apart.

And there’s someone who will do whatever it takes to make sure that this deep secret never comes to the surface.

An utterly unputdownable, gripping, twisty psychological thriller perfect for fans of Before I Go To Sleep, The Girl on the Train and Date Night.

My thoughts

My goodness, this was a page turner!

Clare’s marriage is already under pressure when Ella, the sister in law no one knew about, arrived at the villa where Clare and her husband’s family are staying for their annual joint holiday. Almost from her first words to Clare Ella makes it clear that she has no interest in being friends, and sets about subtly alienating Clare from her family and causing tension in the villa.

In Ella, the author has created a truly awful but somewhat admirable antagonist. You have to read through to find out her agenda, while becoming more and more angry at her tactics and (in my case) more than a little angry at Clare for her handling of things.

I really liked the ending. It tied things up well and redeemed Clare and drove home that every action has consequences, even when you think you’ve got away with something.

Façade by Helen Matthews

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Description

A drowned child. Estranged sisters. A once-perfect home.

Silence echoes louder than truth.

When seventeen-year-old Rachel’s baby brother drowns and her older sister, Imogen, escapes to live abroad with Simon, her musician boyfriend, Rachel must face the family’s grief and disintegration alone.

Twenty years later, Rachel is a successful businesswoman, with a daughter of her own, supporting her parents and their elegant Georgian home, The Old Rectory, that shackles them to the past.

Simon’s sudden death in Ibiza brings Imogen back, impoverished and resentful. Her family owes her, and she will stop at nothing to reclaim what she believes is rightly hers.

The rift between the sisters seems permanent. While Imogen has lived a nomadic life, filled with intrigue, in Spain and Tunisia, Rachel’s has appeared stable and successful but, behind the veneer, cracks are appearing. Now, she is vulnerable.

As the wall of silence and secrecy crumbles, danger stalks Rachel’s family. She must re-examine her baby brother’s death, find out what happened in Tunisia, and fight to hold onto everything she’s achieved –or risk losing it all.

Façade is a gripping tale of loss, guilt and danger.

My thoughts

The title is perfect for this story of a family presenting themselves to the world and to each other only as they want to be seen. The story is told in alternating points of view – Rachel, the care worn daughter, sister and mother who is trying to juggle a lot of balls, and Imogen the free spirit who carries a chip on her shoulder her shoulder and sees life as a glass half empty.

I felt a bit distant from this very privileged family for a short while until the cracks slowly started to show us what was hiding behind the façade, but the family members slowly gained individual identies as their struggles were shown. The secrets were revealed slowly throughout the book and the story was cleverly done and definitely had an air of suspense in places. I was genuinely worried for one character!

The author’s last book was a good read and I think this one is even better!

The Searcher by Tana French

Description

One of the most compulsive psychological mysteries since Donna Tartt’s The Secret HistoryTHE TIMES

Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a remote Irish village would be the perfect escape. After twenty-five years in the Chicago police force, and a bruising divorce, he just wants to build a new life in a pretty spot with a good pub where nothing much happens.

But then a local kid comes looking for his help. His brother has gone missing, and no one, least of all the police, seems to care. Cal wants nothing to do with any kind of investigation, but somehow he can’t make himself walk away.

Soon Cal will discover that even in the most idyllic small town, secrets lie hidden, people aren’t always what they seem, and trouble can come calling at his door.

Our greatest living mystery writer weaves a masterful tale of breath-taking beauty and suspense, asking what we sacrifice in our search for truth and justice, and the dangers of finding what we seek.

My thoughts

The last book by this author that I read was Broken Harbour and it was so good that I worried I might be disappointed. But, if anything, I enjoyed this book even more! The book is written in present tense so the plot feels dynamic and atmospheric. The setting of rural Ireland is beautifully described and the characterisation is flawless. I love her writing. She can draw such incredible imagery with her words that scenes, and even the emotions of them, stay with me after I’ve finished reading. I’d say this book was more about the character development and the writing than the plot. The mystery tied up well at the end but I enjoyed this book more for the reading of it than for the resolution, and that for me is a five star read.

The Last Campaign by Martin L. Shoemaker

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Description

A colony on Mars becomes home to a killer conspiracy in a Near-Earth Mystery by the award-winning author of The Last Dance.

Brazilian investigator Rosalia Morais, and her husband, revered American spacer Nicolau Aames, are building a life together in Mars’s Maxwell City, the fastest-growing settlement on the planet. Good news: there are no natural predators. Bad news: there are humans. That means the crime rate is growing, too.

To ensure public safety, Rosie’s appointed by the mayor as the Red Planet’s first sheriff. No sooner does she build a law enforcement squad than the biggest challenge looks to be internal. Policing the police for graft and corruption is one thing. But when an industrialist is found among the chars of an arson, it’s murder.

The fire leads to questions that can be answered by only one man—Nick’s former officer on the Earth-to-Mars vessel the Aldrin. And Nick is still duty bound to keep the officer’s secrets. As loyalties shift, trust breaks, and the tide of a political conspiracy rises, Rosie must solve a mystery that could doom the future of humanity on Mars.

My thoughts

This was a very enjoyable follow up book to The Last Dance. I was very glad I had read The Last Dance first, because if I had jumped straight into reading this I would not have had the understanding of Rosalia Morais and Nick Aames’ characters and back story, both of which are very important to know who they are now. I wasn’t keen on the first person narrative from Rosalie’s POV, not because I don’t like her but because I couldn’t feel her and therefore think it would have been better told in third person. The plot was very good. I love the politics and Rosalia’s character arc and, although everything tied together well at the end, there is plenty of scope for the continuation of the series. I really like the writing style, and even though there were technical terms I am not familiar with, they were used in a context where I could at least grasp what I needed to know.
I’m looking forward to the next book in the series!

#NetGalley #MartinLShoemaker #TheLastCampaign

The Palace Of The Stars by Karina McRoberts

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Description

This richly realised and highly evocative novel will appeal to crime, mystery, and romance readers alike. In 2014, Michael Harker, rookie ex-cop, has been badly beaten but is determined to re-invent himself as a crime fighter. While convalescing with the spry, quirky bookshop owner Mari Linden, an earthquake opens a time portal and Mike finds himself over a hundred years in the past. He befriends JT Gordon, the magnanimous impresario of The Palace of the Stars, a grand musical hall theatre. Mike battles with strange shifts in consciousness, sleepwalking, restrictive dress standards, and the strict morals of the time. And, his love for a beautiful dancer and stage musician, Mae Belle. Mae has a strange bond to her on-stage magic partner, the mysterious Chan Li. Her off-stage lover? The mother of his young children? She says no, but Mike hears otherwise. Should he stay or go back? Can he go back? Does he have any right to take Mae with him, even if he can convince her he’s not a nut case? Before Mike can sort out this dilemma, Mae begs him to solve a series of gruesome murders. Mike joins with his friends from the Palace to trap the murderer, but realises no justice will be done and he must make a horrible choice. In the present day, Mari must deal with a cunning book thief and a bureaucrat who would shut down her shop. If the building’s condemned, the portal will close and Mike will never be able to return! Welcome to the Palace – you’re in for a treat!

My thoughts

This is a very interesting book to try and review because I’m not sure what genre to put it under. It has elements of fantasy, history, romance, and murder.

Mari is an ex nurse who now has a bookshop called Book Nook and also does work for the “Red Cross (though this isn’t really explained) through which she has taken in a young man, Michael. Mari was without a doubt my favourite character. As a nurse myself I was convinced the author must have been a nurse herself to write her and the hospital scene so convincingly.

Michael is given into Mari’s care after waking up from a six month long coma, with no apparent next of kin and amnesia. All that is known about him is that he was a rookie policeman who had been badly beaten. Mari is warned he will be difficult and he certainly proves himself to not be very likeable, to the extent that Mari is a bit afraid of him.

Mari finds a portal in her bookshop which she wants to explore herself, but can’t because it causes her pacemaker to play up. So Michael goes through and immediately discovers he can’t get back because in the era of 1904 Mari’s bookshop had not yet been built.

The rest of the book is divided between Mari’s vigil in her bookshop, waiting for Michael to be able to return, and Michael’s experiences in 1904 York where he is taken in by the owner of the Palace, an entertainment hall.

I really enjoyed Mari’s chapters, possibly because I found her very real and relateable in many ways. I didn’t feel as invested in Michael’s as he falls in love at first sight with a woman in one of the acts, but I did enjoy his story arc. The pieces of history that were skilfully inserted into the story were very interesting.