The Lion and The Unicorn by Tom Ward @TomWardWrites @unbounders @RandomTTours #dystopian #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for The Lion and The Unicorn by Tom Ward. This is a dystopian speculative fiction story that was very atmospheric.

My huge thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for my spot on the Blog Tour and for arranging my copy of this book from Unbound.

A literary dystopia – speculative fiction rooted in the tradition of P. D.
James’s Children of Men, Orwell’s 1984, Blade Runner and The Plague Dogs, for
fans of Rachel Heng’s Suicide Club, Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven, and
John Lanchester’s The Wal
l

London, 2054. After a devastating global pandemic and a bloody revolution,
Britain’s new government imposes peace by stringently dictating the nation’s
cultural intake. In the quest to create better citizens, everything from the
television we watch to the clothes we wear is strictly policed. As part of the unit
tasked with upholding these so-called ‘Bad Taste Laws’, H. and his partner,
Bagby, have their work cut out.


When former reality TV star Caleb Jennings is found murdered, some suspect it
could be a simple vigilante slaying. But, as H. digs deeper into the killing,
Bagby’s association with old revolutionary figureheads is called into question.
With the help of Caleb’s estranged sister, the museum curator Kate Faron, H.
must navigate a Britain in which paranoia and suspicion of the unknown are
rife, all the while dealing with the mysterious tech behemoth Vangelis, new
revolutionary murmurings, and the legacy of Kate’s biologist parents.
Compelled by what he uncovers, H. begins to question his loyalty to the state at
a time when national stability couldn’t be more precarious.

MY REVIEW…

This is a story that is set in 2054, so not really that far in the future. A pandemic has struck and there has been a revolution. The author has built up a dystopian England where things are banned that are considered to be bad taste. A political thriller where citizens are dictated to, where certain clothes, music, film and alcohol are illegal.

This was a story I took my time over, there were various aspects of this story that did sort of remind of other novels or films. I think because of this the story came across being set in a darker, gloomy era. This does have quite a strong political aspect to it in regards to what is seen as being politically correct.

There are elements of Big Brother, global catastrophe, potential genocide, loss of habitat and wildlife. So not the most cheery of stories but my goodness it was very addictive. The story is set in this grim future with the main character of H. He and his partner work for the department that upholds the law regarding bad taste. As the synopsis mentions, Bagby does have connections to those involved in the past revolution, therefore eyes and fingers point his way when a body is discovered.

The story is one that reminded me of the old style PI stories of the 1930’s, for me H became someone in the style of Phillip Marlow or Sam Spade, it is just the atmospheric and style of the character that made me think this. It may seem quite odd that for me I got the dystopian vibe through some of the gadgets, but I still found myself thinking of the older style.

This is a mix of mystery, politics, thriller, dystopian and police procedural. Not too heavy on the future as such but enough to remind that it is indeed set in the near future. This is quite an accessible novel and one that may well dip into the sci-fi genre but please don’t be put off by it. I really enjoyed this, the pacing was great and it had quite an suspicious nature to it as I wasn’t sure who I could entirely trust. I liked H as a character and I really felt for him as he tried to put many different pieces of this everchanging puzzle together. As he found one piece the puzzle changed and he found himself on the back foot once again.

A riveting and very captivating story that I got on with so well. It is one I would definitely recommend.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR…

Tom Ward is an author and features writer, writing for publications including
Wired, Esquire and National Geographic.


He has won the GQ Norman Mailer Award, the PPA New Consumer Magazine
Journalist of the Year Award, and has been shortlisted for The People’s Book
Prize. He is also a graduate of the Faber Academy.

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Last Star Standing by Spaulding Taylor @astmcveigh1 @Unbound_Digital @RandomTTours #scifi #dystopian #bookreview

I am delighted to share my review today for Last Star Standing by Spaulding Taylor. This is a sci/fi – speculative fiction story, I haven’t read any sci-fi for a while so this book made a wonderful change. My huge thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for my spot on the Blog Tour and for my e-copy of this book.

Dystopian/speculative fiction for readers of sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers and
dystopian fiction. Aimed at readers of novels by Neil Gaiman, J.G. Ballard (or
Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go)


It is the 23rd century. Aiden, imprisoned, stares up into a tiny square of sky. A
prominent member of the rebellion, he expects to be executed. Aiden is
battling the Xirfell rulers, whose King oppresses many planets, the Earth
included.

But the Xirfell have executed their king and installed a new ruler. The populace
riots. Amid the tumult, Aiden is sworn in, the leader he’s always longed to be.
Never one to fit in, he must re-discover himself, as an indigenous Australian, as
a fighter, as a lover – and as a leader.

My Review…

Aiden Tenten is the main narrator for this sci-fi /dystopian story. It did feel more sci-fi than dystopian but I still enjoyed it, I found it highly entertaining as I followed Aiden from predicament to predicament. The synopsis indicates that earth has been taken over by aliens, Aiden feels it is his job to help overthrow this alien regime and be the person he wants to be.

This is a highly entertaining read, I am not sure if the author had meant this or not. I did find some of the predicaments that Aiden found himself left me sniggering to myself. He is quite a fun character although he does have a serious nature, I mean after all saving the world from aliens is a serious task. It did take me a few chapters to get into this book as I got to grips with the various creatures, the unusual names, places and general feel of the story. It is quite a while, I might add that I sat and read a sci-fi book.

If you break this down to the basics this is a story of a man finding his place, he has beliefs and is true to the cause. He knew life before and can see how the earth has been destroyed more since the aliens took over. Battling against the odds he does a magnificent job of reeling from one situation to the next. He is in essence a loner, but gradually he gains a few loyal friends. Working out who can be trusted and how far others can infiltrate systems keeps him on his toes.

Once I got to grips with the story I found this quite a compelling read. In someway it did remind me of a couple of books I read several years ago. As I mentioned this is more sci-fi, but there are mentions of things that do give it a dystopian feel. An entertaining book with a good pace and one I would recommend reading.

About the Author…

Alice McVeigh (writing as Spaulding Taylor) was born in Seoul, South Korea, and
grew up in Southeast Asia. After surviving her teenage years in McLean,
Virginia, and achieving an undergraduate degree in cello performance at the
internationally renowned Jacobs School of Music, she came to London to study
cello with William Pleeth. There she worked for over a decade with orchestras
including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and
Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique. Alice was first
published in the late 1990s when her two contemporary novels (While the Music
Lasts and Ghost Music) were published by Orion to critical acclaim.

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The Glorious Dead by Tim Atkinson @dotterel @annecater #RandomThingsTours #BookReview

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Today I am delighted to be sharing my review for The Glorious Dead by Tim Atkinson as part of the blog tour with Anne at Random Things Tours and Unbound Publishers. This is a book that is set after the end of WWI.

Synopsis:

What happened when the Great War ended and the guns stopped firing? Who cleared the battlefields and buried the dead? It’s 1918 and the war may be over but Lance-Corporal Jack Patterson ad the men of his platoon are still knee-deep in Flanders mud, searching the battlefields for the remain of comrades killed in action. But duty isn’t all that’s keeping Jack in Flanders. For one there is Katia, the daughter of a local publican, with whom he has struck up a romance. And then there is something else, a secret that lies buried in Jack’s past, one he hopes isn’t about to be dug up.

Purchase link – Amazon UK

My Thoughts:

Well, this is a book that was a real eye-opener that’s for sure. I had never really thought about who took care of the bodies of the fallen during or after WWI or WWII come to that. I was aware of there being Red Cross and Ambulance crews but that was as far as it went. Who was responsible for taking those bodies to their final resting place, in this case, a huge memorial cemetery in Belgium.

The story follows Jack and his group who remain in Belgium after the end of the war. While others have returned home, they remain. Disgruntled is a term that seems appropriate for their mood. It was interesting to read of the conditions the men had to work in not nice at all. The descriptions are of how bodies are found, identified and then managed.

Another thing that I found interesting was how those who died were interred against family wishes. Many wanted their loved ones to be repatriated to their home soil so they could be grieved over, to be visited and remembered. Many families never visited the final resting place of their loved one and knew they knew they would never be able to for various reasons.

The political and personal feelings expressed are woven around Jack, his story and of those he works with gradually emerges. It has a sense of camaraderie and also the wish for most of them to go home. Not all want to return home, stories of returning soldiers with no jobs, no home and living rough are emerging.

A story that took me to a horrific and brutal point in history. As I mentioned at the beginning a real eye-opener. While the story of Jack and his group was good, they actually became secondary for me in this story.

One I think readers of historical fiction would really like and one I would recommend.

About the Author:

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Tim Atkinson is a teacher, author and award-winning blogger. He studied philosophy at the University of Hull and has worked variously as a filing clerk, lay-clerk, chain-man and schoolteacher. He was born in Colchester, brought up in Yorkshire and now lives in Lincolnshire.

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Narcissism For Beginners by Martine McDonagh @annecater #RandomThingsTours @unbounders #Extract

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Today I am sharing an extract for Narcissm For Beginners by Martine McDonagh as part of the Blog Tour by Anne at Random Things Tours. I have a fabulous extract that gives you a taste of what this book is about. You can buy a copy in various formats from AMAZON UK and it is published by Unbounders

Synopsis:

Longlisted for the 2017 Guardian Not the Booker Prize

Meet Sonny Anderson as he tips headlong into adulthood. Sonny doesn’t remember his mother’s face; he was kidnapped at age five by his father, Guru Bim, and taken to live in a commune in Brazil. Since the age of ten, Sonny has lived in Redondo Beach, California, with his guardian Thomas Hardiker. Brits think he’s an American, Americans think he’s a Brit.

When he turns 21, Sonny musters the courage to travel alone to the UK in an attempt to leave a troubled past behind, reunite with his mother and finally learn the truth about his childhood. With a list of people to visit, a whole lot of attitude and five mysterious letters from his guardian, Sonny sets out to learn the truth. But is it a truth he wants to hear?

Narcissism for Beginners is a fresh, witty and humane take on the struggle to make sense of growing up.

The Extract:

Turning twenty-one, not much about me changed, physically speaking. I didn’t grow any taller. I didn’t grow any fatter. Pinch me and you’ll find no additional flesh on these bones. Even if we were the sole survivors of a plane wreck, you wouldn’t eat me for dinner.

But nothing stayed the same either. My name grew longer, officially at least, and my bank balance got bigger – MUCH bigger. I have a bona fide Brit passport now and I’m not so sure where home is any more.

Who am I? Good question. I started out as Sonny Anderson. Now my official name is Sonny Anderson Agelaste-Bim, but I still go by Sonny Anderson. Your son. Twenty-one-year-old recovering addict and multi-millionaire. Pleased to (not) meet you.

Almost exactly one month ago, I hit the big Two-One. Back then – because man, it already feels like a lifetime ago – home was Redondo Beach, aka RB, Southern California, SoCal, where, as you know already, I lived since age eleven under the guardianship of one Thomas Hardiker. The word guardian puts me in mind of those sentry guys at the gates of Buckingham Palace, staring into the middle distance from under the weight of a big bearskin hat. Keeping the real world out while thinking about pizza or football, or measuring time by the movement of the sun. Whatever. Maybe they really are doing those things. From an outsider’s point of view, they look like one man trying to keep a whole world of crap away just by standing still, and that’s a massive job, right? Well, that’s the job Thomas took on when he took charge of me. You still need to thank him for that.

At school, nobody knew Thomas wasn’t my dad, mainly because no one ever cared to ask, even though we were a grown man and a young boy with completely different names, living together under one roof. If they had asked, I probably would have said, to maintain the enigma and to keep the story short, that Anderson is my mom’s name, which is the truth anyway, right? If they then asked about you directly, which of course they never did – about why you weren’t around – my story was that you died when I was small; I figured that would be a great conversation-stopper, which it was until this girlfriend at USC, my alma mater – we’ll call her Anna – wanted to know everything, all the time, all the stuff I didn’t even know myself. The only way to stop the questions was to dump her.

My twenty-first was never going to be your regular limo-riding fake-ID- burning drunken barhopping orgy. I indulged in all that shit way back and already outgrew it. Not so for the majority of my dishonourable collegiate peers, however. Senior year at USC was one protracted twenty-first birthday party, one after the other after the other, paid for by the *guilty *nostalgic *overindulgent (*delete as appropriate) parents of my self-entitled co-equals.

In one of his books, Gladwell (you know who I mean, right?) talks about October-born kids doing better in school than kids born later in the academic year. He gives various explanations for this phenomenon that I don’t remember now (my memory is shot), but I do have a theory of my own that he missed. My theory is this: those kids, the September-October babies, also do better because they get all that woohoo jazzhands ‘I’m legal’ crap over and done with right at the start of Senior year. By Thanksgiving they’re so bored of it all they elect to sit out the ongoing mayhem, thereby maintaining maximum brain functionality through their final semester and performing well at the appropriate time. Any time, Malcolm, any time.

My birthday (as you may or may not recall) is June 6th, which means I didn’t turn twenty-one until after graduation, so according to Gladwell’s theory I should score about as far off the high-achieving-October-baby list as it gets, but I was the anomaly: I’d come out the other side of the whole NA thing by then, and sat out the shenanigans with the high-achievers. And as a result I did okay. I’m proud of my GPA, naturally, but I won’t say what I got because that would be bragging and unBritish.

Personal background info. Loud noises make me flinch, and many, many much quieter ones, like kissy sucky mouth-noises, make me want to punch the wall, or the faces emitting the above-mentioned noises. Strangers at the door make me nervous. Random conversation in the street makes me suspicious. Even the smallest change to my routine needs to be – maybe I should say needed to be because I like to think that recent revelations have transformed me – introduced slowly, over days, weeks, or ideally, never. Thomas, aforementioned guardian, knows better than anyone how much I hate change in general and surprises in particular. But even Thomas and his imaginary bearskin hat couldn’t hold back the revolutionary tsunami that crashed through the walls of my existence on the day I turned twenty-one. Au contraire, it was Thomas who set it in motion.

About the Author:

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Martine McDonagh’s latest novel, Narcissism for Beginners, is longlisted for the 2018 People’s Book Prize and in 2017 for the Guardian Not The Booker Prize. It is published in Germany as Familie und andere Trostpreise (Family and other Consolation Prizes).

Her first novel, I Have Waited and You Have Come, was described as ‘cataclysmically brilliant’ by author Elizabeth Haynes, and praised in the Guardian and Red magazine. Martine had a successful career in the music industry as an artist manager and devised and ran the MA Creative Writing & Publishing at West Dean College in Sussex.

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Island Life Sentence by Carrie Jo Howe @CarrieJoHowe : @unbounders #IslandLifeSentence : @annecater #RandomThingsTours : #BookReview

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I am delighted to be sharing my thoughts on “Island Life Sentence” by Carrie Jo Howe as part of the blog tour by Anne Cater of #RandomThingsTours My huge thanks to the author for my copy and also Anne for my spot on the tour. You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon UK and it is available in eBook and paperback format.

Synopsis:

Peg Savage has contractually agreed to move to Key West, Florida. The smudged signatures on the damp cocktail napkin are irrefutable proof. “An adventure…” her husband Clark says. Peg can’t swim; she’s afraid of bridges (there are 42 of them); and she doesn’t want to leave her friends. However, after a bottle of Cabernet, a move from Chicago to the southernmost city in the United States seems like the best decision ever. But now Clark has taken a long term job in Cuba and she’s on her own. Neither her dog Nipper, nor the ghosts in the attic, offer up any good advice. But how hard can it be living in paradise? Peg dives into island life but the more effort she makes, the wider her wake of catastrophes. 

My Thoughts:

Peg and Clark live in Chicago, when Clark suggests they move to one of the Key West islands Peg is a little reticent to say the least, not only to leave her friend, her home but also the thought of crossing the 42 bridges leaves her in a cold sweat.

Oh Peg! What a character she is. Funny without meaning to be, dramatic, easily swayed and an ability to attract trouble without even trying. Once in Key West she has to get used to the unfamiliar climate,people, language and local wildlife. She is left to unpack and find her feet while Clark has to go to Cuba to set up an important business opportunity. During this time mishap and misadventure are her close friends.She has little confidence and finds the whole experience stressful.

Peg is the narrator of her own story and I admit to getting hooked straight away. The chapters are quick and quirky, with humorous little tales of her experiences. There are also some terrifying moments, some are definitely justified and some are just Peg being Peg.

This book for me was pure escapism and an absolute joy to read, a simple story with observations told in a fun and at times hilarious way. I can honestly say I really did not want this to end. I would love to think the author is considering a follow-up to this book as I would buy it in a heartbeat. As a character Peg is brilliant with her own style and way of approaching life.

This is a book you can escape into, one that gives a different perspective on the idyllic island lifestyle. A fabulous book to escape into for a few hours and one I would highly recommend. Yep I loved it xx

About the Author:

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After raising three boys in the suburbs of Chicago, Carrie Jo Howe now lives in Key West, Florida with her husband and her dog. Her new book, Island Life Sentence is a fictional account of an American Mid-western woman who feels like an alien in the “one human family” of Key West. Carrie Jo’s first book, Motherhood is NOT for Babies, received raved reviews, and works wonderfully as an alternate form of contraception. Her blog Florida Keys Crime Report, tells of all the goings on in the Keys, where bank robbers get away on bicycles, and perps caught with an undersized, pinched, out-of-season lobster get more jail time than drug runners. She is currently working on her second Key West book.

Follow Carrie on – Twitter –  Website –  Facebook 

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