Beneath Cruel Fathoms by Anela Deen – BBNYA blog tour spotlight!

Today I’m spotlighting Beneath Cruel Fathoms which placed as a finalist in the 2021 BBNYA! BBNYA is a yearly competition where Book Bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors. If you are an author and wish to learn more about the BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website http://www.bbnya.com or twitter @bbnya_official. 

The sign-ups will soon be open for the 2022 BBNYA competition, be it for authors to enter their books, or for bloggers wanting to be part of the new panel, so keep your eyes peeled!!

Blurb

After a violent storm destroys her ship, Isaura Johansdottir knows better than to hope she’ll be rescued from Eisland’s vast Failock Sea. Adrift and alone, her plans to start over lost, it’s a tragic conclusion after the disastrous end of her marriage—until she’s saved by Leonel, one of the merfolk, a creature long believed extinct. In repayment for her life, Leonel enlists her help to investigate the Failock’s mysterious and deadly plague of squalls. But when Isaura discovers Eisland’s ruthless new Lord commands the storms, her life will be in more danger on land than it ever was at sea.

As guardian of the Fathoms, Leonel must find the cause of unnatural storms ravaging the tidal currents and destroying the sea life. There are rumors of dark magic stirring in the Orom Abyss, the resting place of old, vanquished gods who tried to submerge the land millennia ago. Yet without proof, no one in King Ægir’s court will listen to him. And if it’s discovered he broke the Blue Laws to save a shipwrecked landweller, he might not survive the consequences.

As storms spread, Leonel and Isaura uncover secrets as forbidden as the bond that grows between them. Betrayal lurks in the restless sea, and when ancient powers lay siege to Eisland’s coast, the truth may be drowned along with everything else.

Reviews

Check out the reviews on the tour so far!

Dinipanda Reads

Shelves of Starlight

Sifa Elizabeth Reads

Sue’s Musings

Book Info

Publisher: Fine Fable Press

Length: 365 Pages

Date Published: 17th May 2019

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beneath-Cruel-Fathoms-Bitter-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B07NZHG2QW

Amazon USA: https://www.amazon.com/Beneath-Cruel-Fathoms-Bitter-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B07NZHG2QW 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41829826-beneath-cruel-fathoms

About the Author

A child of two cultures, this hapa haole Hawaiian girl is currently landlocked in the Midwest. After exploring the world for a chunk of years, she hunkered down in Minnesota and now fills her days with family, fiction, and the occasional snowstorm. With a house full of lovable toddlers, a three-legged cat, and one handsome Dutchman, she prowls the keyboard late at night while the minions sleep. Coffee? Nah, she prefers tea with a generous spoonful of sarcasm.

To hear about the latest releases, giveaways, and other fun Sci-Fi/Fantasy stuff, sign up for her newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cNQ3iH

Blog Tour Spotlight Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire – BBNYA

Over the next few weeks I’ll be helping to spotlight some of the 10 finalists that made the grade for the 2021 BBNYA

BBNYA is a yearly competition where Book Bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors. If you are an author and wish to learn more about the BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website http://www.bbnya.com or twitter @bbnya_official. 

The sign-ups will soon be open for the 2022 BBNYA competition, be it for authors to enter their books, or for bloggers wanting to be part of the new panel, so keep your eyes peeled!!

Blurb

It was only supposed to be one little job – a simple curse-breaking for Mennik Thorn to pay back a favor to his oldest friend. But then it all blew up in his face. Now he’s been framed for a murder he didn’t commit.

So how is a second-rate mage, broke, traumatized, and with a habit of annoying the wrong people, supposed to prove his innocence when everyone believes he’s guilty?

Mennik has no choice if he wants to get out of this: he is going to have to throw himself into the corrupt world of the city’s high mages, a world he fled years ago. Faced by supernatural beasts, the mage-killing Ash Guard, and a ruthless, unknown adversary, it’s going to take every trick Mennik can summon just to keep him and his friend alive.

But a new, dark power is rising in Agatos, and all that stands in its way is one damaged mage…

Reviews

There are already some great reviews rolling in for this book as part of the tour, please go and check out the awesome bloggers who have shared their thoughts 

Before We Go Blog

Sue’s Musings

Kerri McBooknerd

Shelves of Starlight

About the Author

Patrick Samphire is the author of the adult fantasy novel SHADOW OF A DEAD GOD, as well as the middle grade novels SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB and THE EMPEROR OF MARS. He has also published around twenty short stories and novellas.

Patrick has been writing stories since he was fourteen years old and thought it would be a good way of avoiding having to sit through English lessons at school. He was absolutely convinced that he would be famous by the time he was eighteen, but sadly, even infamy has eluded him.

He lives in Wales, surrounded by mountains, with his wife, their sons, and their cat.

When he’s not writing, he designs websites and ebooks.

Book Info

Publisher: Five Fathoms Press

Length: 462 Pages

Date Published: May 27, 2020

Amazon:

https://www.amazon.ca/Shadow-Dead-God-Fantasy-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0888RFP2C  (Canada) 

https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Dead-God-Fantasy-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0888RFP2C   (USA) 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadow-Dead-God-Fantasy-Mennik/dp/1999725476 (UK)

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/57597498 

Author Website: https://patricksamphire.com/

Review of The Last Legacy by Adrienne Young

When a letter from her uncle Henrik arrives on Bryn Roth’s eighteenth birthday, summoning her back to Bastian, Bryn is eager to prove herself and finally take her place in her long-lost family.

Henrik has plans for Bryn, but she must win everyone’s trust if she wants to hold any power in the delicate architecture of the family. It doesn’t take long for her to see that the Roths are entangled in shadows. Despite their growing influence in upscale Bastian, their hands are still in the kind of dirty business that got Bryn’s parents killed years ago. With a forbidden romance to contend with and dangerous work ahead, the cost of being accepted into the Roths may be more than Bryn can pay.

Adrienne Young has done it again and created a story that pulled me in so utterly and completely. I had only recently finished Namesake so the world of Bastian and the Roth family were still really fresh in my mind and it was so easy to immerse myself back into it all.

Honestly I am in love with Bryn, what an absolutely amazing character. Her growth in this book is wonderful to read as she goes from debutant to dangerous. Her quick thinking alongside of her uncanny ability to fall into the character she needs to be, had me holding my breath on a few occasions. She is the perfect combination of nature and nurture with her time with her Aunt giving her an edge above the others. The Roths as a family had a peaky blinders feel to them, which I am all for and there are certainly enough stories for all of them, I mean Murrow is just screaming out for a book of his own!

Much of the story takes place in the Roth family home, which thankfully never felt overused. In fact the almost stifling feel of the house and the routine added to the sense that all those in there were trapped in the family business. The creaking floors and opened doors making secret keeping an impossibility. I loved how the rest of Bastian felt full of diversity, rounding every corner felt like a different place with streets full of secrets and alley’s of dark deals alongside the upmarket tea houses.

The plot is fast moving and packs plenty into its pages, there are lots of secrets and then secrets within secrets that have to be kept track of. The focus is kept clear though even with many outlying players and locations and this really makes the story work as a standalone.

The finale was played like a fine game of chess and was such a joy to read, although it felt over all too quickly for me. I know that this is a standalone but I could read Bryn’s story over and over and I hope that it may not be the last we read about her.

Thank you to Titan books for sending me a copy for review.

Review of Revenge of the Beast (The Beast and the Bethany #2) by Jack Meggitt-Phillips

Once upon a very badly behaved time, 511-year-old Ebenezer kept a beast in his attic. He would feed the beast all manner of objects and creatures and in return the beast would vomit him up expensive presents. But then the Bethany arrived.

Now notorious prankster Bethany, along with her new feathery friend Claudette, is determined that she and Ebenezer are going to de-beast their lives and Do Good. But Bethany finds that being a former prankster makes it hard to get taken on for voluntary work. And Ebenezer secretly misses the beast’s vomity gifts. And neither of them are all that sure what “good people” do anyway.

Then there’s Claudette, who’s not been feeling herself recently. Has she eaten something that has disagreed with her? 

What a delight to be back in Bethany’s world again, if you enjoyed the Beast and the Bethany then you will most certainly love Revenge of the Beast! 

As Bethany and Ebeneezer take the initiative to de beast their lives, the beast has other ideas. The beast created items are not happy and have no qualms around showing their new owners just unhappy they are with laugh out loud consequences.

I also loved that the concept of do-gooding for each of them, was so alien that they honestly had no clue where to start and to even begin to appreciate what it meant. I felt a little sad at Bethany’s consistently thwarted attempts at doing the right thing, it’s almost as if something was working against her…? 

We had the return of some old favourites, but also some new faces in the guise of Gloria, who has taken on the role of terroriser at the orphanage now that Bethany is off the scene, she is fantastically like Carmelita Spats and I loved reading her.

The plot is as fantastical as ever, I especially enjoyed the Ebeneezer origin story, and the illustrations capture the best moments wonderfully. There is so much going on in this story and it all pulls together in the best beastly way.

Thank you to Farshore books and The Write Reads Tours for the review copy

Review of Scorpica (The Five Queendoms) by G.R Macallister

In an ancient matriarchal world of magic, gods and warriors, the last girl – unbeknownst to the five Queendoms – has just been born. As time marches on, the scribes of Bastian find no answers in their history books. The farmers of Sestia sacrifice their crops to the gods. Paxim, the empire of trade and dealings has nothing to barter but boys and more boys. Arcan magic has no spells to remedy the Drought of Girls, as it soon becomes known. And finally, Scorpia, where every woman is a fighter, their commander, their Queen, has no more warriors to train. The lines of these once-great empires soon to die.

After centuries of peace, the ensuing struggle for dominance – and heirs – will bring the Five Queendoms to the eve of all-out war.

But the mysterious curse is linked to one of the last-born children, an orphaned all-magic girl, on the run from the Seekers of Daybreak Palace, who is unaware she has a claim to the Arcan throne…

“Speaking with confidence does not mean one speaks the truth”

When you think of epic fantasy I expect you’ll think of old white male authors rehashing the same old tropes and a woman’s place is to be either rescued or have something else beginning with R happen to her. So when i describe Scorpica as an epic fantasy, I do so with a little trepidation. But it’s time to reclaim that description because honestly an epic, sweeping, all encompassing fantasy is what G R Macallister has created, and the women rule. 

I had to admit that when the first couple of chapters didn’t quite pull me in I did put the book aside as I think i knew i wasn’t quite ready for a book of this type. But when I picked it back up again I devoured it, as Scorpica is a book that rewards you for a binge read. Multiple characters, locations and times all seamlessly melded together as each arm intertwined with another at just the right moment. The passage of time carefully crafted to ensure that 

Scorpica doesn’t shy away from what it needs to be to stand out in a male dominated genre, yes it is graphically and brutally violent at times, but also it captures a tenderness, a mothers love and sacrifice, women finding release without being branded whores, and cunning being rewarded rather than being seen as conniving. In short if you want to immerse yourself in a world of strong and incredible women this is where you need to go.

Aside from creating an outstanding world, the characters have depth and face some interesting life questions. What if being a queen isn’t all its cracked up to be?  At what point can you turn back on a poor decision and hope it’s not too late? When does duty and a promise outweigh personal happiness? What happens when men believe the tide is turning? These moral back and forths and decisions which impact upon sometimes one, and other times many, are the magical thread woven between the women and the Queendoms, all breathing, pulsing in and out from each sun rite.

I can’t wait for the next book in the series and I hope we get to discover what happened to another young girl who found herself at the orphan tree.

Scorpica, The Five Queendoms is out in the UK on 22nd February through Titan Books

An honest post from a burnt out blogger

It’s the blog post I’ve been putting off typing for a while but I think its got to the point where I’ve accepted that my blogging journey is at an end, it brings me nothing but anxiety and upset, i feel like everyone wants a piece of me and that isn’t healthy.

About 6 months ago 2 things happened, i missed a blog tour spot because I got my dates confused, i had my review nearly typed but then wordpress lost it all – it was 6pm, i had to get my daughter to dance and i had to retype an entire review, i was stressed because wordpress had let me down, i was upset because i had let a publisher down and because of this i was so distracted i nearly crashed my car taking my daughter to dance – i know its extreme but that’s the kind of thing that really makes you take stock on your priorities. I was a sobbing mess because i missed a book review. This happened at a time where i was also experiencing vision issues that were exacerbated by reading ebooks – even though i pretended to publishers that ebooks were perfectly fine.

I needed a break and i hastily posted a tweet to say i was on hiatus. During that time i updated my review criteria to remove ebooks. During that break i had one more review i was committed to, on posting that it was like the gates opened and I was flooded with review requests again, even from people who had acknowledged my hiatus, it sent me into a spiral and i just deleted them all.

I now feel scared to post a review because i don’t want to give the impression that i have either the time or capacity for blogging, in short, i can’t even review for fun anymore. Emails, DM’s on twitter, IG and even my personal FB messenger, it’s not fair and of course singularly its easy to understand that an author might not feel they are doing anything out of line, but taken as a community as a whole, it’s too much. I thought i found a safe space on tik tok but no, still the DM’s came (which i have since disabled.) I have removed my review page entirely from the blog and all reference to reviews on my socials – i just want to be able to love books without the weight of expectation that comes with it.

This is going to sound terrible but honestly a free ebook just isn’t worth it. Time to read, time to digest, time to type a review and post it to various platforms, taken with being a parent, a wife and a full time worker – for some ridiculous reason i put the demands of reviewing a book above the needs of my family. A blogger that i called a friend, did a huge tik tok rant about how ungrateful and entitled bloggers who wont accept ebooks are – like we should be reading machines ready to acquiesce at every turn. I’m jaded with it all. Trying to put a positive spin on a book i hated because an author who had put faith in me was at the other end , feeling like i can’t DNF because it’s something i have been given in return for a review, rather than a book i had bought myself and could put in the charity bag without questions.

The good news for authors is that there are so many new and excited bloggers and reviewers out there, it’s lovely to see those that are really enthusiastic out there but honestly after nearly 7 years, i’m burnt out and ready to move on. 

I want reading to be fun again, which it has been for the last few months, i’ve agreed to a few reviews but feel like these are on my own terms, at my own request and i have control over them.

I will never be “open for reviews” again but i do desperately want to feel reviewing is a safe space, i’ve read some of my old reviews recently and whilst some of them aren’t brilliant – a lot of them reflect a me who loved what they were doing, maybe i can get it back.

The blog will remain open for legacy purposes and the odd review here or there, but Paperbacks and Pinot blog, thank you for the years that we had lots of fun in, i’m just sad it had to end this way.

Review of XX by Rian Hughes

At Jodrell Bank Observatory in England, a radio telescope has detected a mysterious signal of extraterrestrial origin—a message that may be the first communication from an interstellar civilization. Has humanity made first contact? Is the signal itself a form of alien life? Could it be a threat? If so, how will the people of Earth respond?

Jack Fenwick, artificial intelligence expert, believes that he and his associates at tech startup Intelligencia can interpret the message a find a way to step into the realm the signal encodes. What they find is a complex alien network beyond anything mankind has imagined. 

Drawing on Dada, punk and the modernist movements of the twentieth century, XX is assembled from redacted NASA reports, artwork, magazine articles, secret transcripts and a novel within a novel. Deconstructing layout and language in order to explore how idea propagate, acclaimed designer and artist Rian Hughes’s debut novel presents a compelling vision of humanity’s unique place in the universe, and a realistic depiction of what might happen in the wake of the biggest scientific discovery in human history. 

Having finished XX this morning I feel a sense of bewilderment and also weirdly, relief that I have made it to the end of nearly 1000 pages. 

XX had all the makings of my new favourite book, the premise is phenomenal and I really enjoy mixed media formats and graphic novels. I started out a little lost but immediately absorbed, I had easily sunk 200 pages without even realising. I loved the backstories of the characters, especially Harriet, learning how they came to be together to unpick this potentially world changing discovery. I also loved Dana and the conspiracy theory sections about what she experienced. The early snippets of wiki entries, interviews and magazine articles were frighteningly true to life with the kind of xenophobia that parts of humanity turn to when they don’t want to just accept that they are scared about what they don’t understand.

The DEMn were fantastically realised, I loved Girl 21 and her tweet style communication the most, her # conveying so much more in a couple of words than any of the others could in several pages, but XX themself I found impossible at times. The science is super-sciency and very in depth, I would presume that there is a high degree of fact and research but who knows! It sounded like it knew what it was talking about although I did feel very lost at times. I did however very much enjoy the use of patterns and how the most seemingly innocuous of breadcrumbs led to an exciting chase across the landmarks of London. I think the reasons why these pattern chasing sections stood out so much was due to the fact that quite a high proportion of the story takes place in a single room.

Downsides for me however though were the huge swathes of exposition which meant the actual story got lost, the use of font for XX’s sections was impossible to read and left me feeling disorientated and I was unimpressed with the comments about using a Burka as a disguise to escape and the use of word rohypnol to explain a lost passage of time. I also hate the fact that for parts of the story XX succeeded in making me just feel stupid

Ultimately for me XX was an amazing story idea which became lost in its need to be something it’s not. At half the size this could have been a really decent fast paced sci-fi thriller, but design is what makes Hughes intrinsically Hughes but sadly this is where it just didn’t work. These were initially the parts I looked forward to for their uniqueness and I wanted to try and unpick the pattern, by the end though i looked forward to them for the very reason that it was a quick way to get through 20 pages.

I feel conflicted because what it did well was done amazingly well but the rest was just too much for me.

Thank you to Black Crow PR and Picador for sending me a copy for review, its a book that I’m glad I read even if my experience fell short of what many others found to be a 5 star read.

3*

Review of Fireborn: Twelve and the Frozen Forest by Aisling Fowler

Twelve gave up her name and identity to train in the art of hunting them–so she says. The truth is much more deadly: she trains to take revenge on those who took her family from her.

But when Twelve’s new home is attacked, she’ll find herself on an unexpected journey, where her hidden past is inescapably intertwined with her destiny–and the very fate of her world.

Fireborn is a fantastic middle grade fantasy that ticks all the right boxes.  It is full of adventure and just the right amount of peril along with a good old battle between good and evil.

Twelve is a great protagonist and as we explore her story we discover that it’s not surprising that she has built up such a tough exterior, although underneath she has a great loss to deal with and explains her arrival at the Lodge.  When a child goes missing it’s understandable that because of her loss, Twelve wants to be the one who goes out to find them. Whats unexpected are  her travelling companions. Dog, a powerful lodge guardian having their first feeling of freedom for many years, and a few others like her but who have very different reasons for tagging along.

As the reluctant allies journey on, they are confronted with all sorts of magical and monster filled challenges, like they are going through trials and at each turn they must learn to trust just a little more, even when confronted with their most terrible truths. I really loved this way of writing their quest and it gave them all the opportunity to shine in their own way.

The action was brilliantly written, so fast paced and filled with great imagery as the young team put into action all they have learnt about their craft and each other. I think I probably read the last half of the book non stop, it was so exciting!

I loved how wholesome the book felt though, despite the often grim surroundings the friendships shone through in a beautiful depiction of found family, forgiveness and acceptance. I would highly recommend Fireborn to any young reader or indeed any reader, including those like myself who are perhaps quite wide of the target audience! I’m passing this onto my 10 year old daughter to read next and I hope she loves it as much as I did!

Blog Tour: Good Neighbours by Sarah Langan

Hello lovelies! Today I’m very excited to be taking part in the Blog Tour to celebrate the release of Good Neighbours by Sarah Langan and I’m grateful to Titan Books for having me along! I have a shiny excerpt for you, but first here’s the blurb!

Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.
Arlo Wilde, a gruff has-been rock star who’s got nothing to show for his fame but track marks, is always two steps behind the other dads. His wife, beautiful ex-pageant queen Gertie, feels socially ostracized and adrift. Spunky preteen Julie curses like a sailor and her kid brother Larry is called “Robot Boy” by the kids on the block.
Their next-door neighbor and Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroedera lonely community college professor repressing her own dark pastwelcomes Gertie and family into the fold. Then, during one spritzer-fueled summer evening, the new best friends share too much, too soon.
As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes that spins out of control. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.
A riveting and ruthless portrayal of American suburbia, Good Neighbors excavates the perils and betrayals of motherhood and friendships and the dangerous clash between social hierarchy, childhood trauma, and fear.

If that’s got you intrigued, which I hope it has, then please read on as I have an exclusive extract for you:

118 Maple Street

Friday, July 9

     “It’s a hairbrush night,” Rhea Schroeder called up the stairs to her daughter Shelly. “Don’t forget to use extra conditioner. I hate that look on your face when I hit a knot.” 

     She waited at the landing. Heard rustling up there. She had four kids. Three still lived at home. She had a husband, too, only she rarely saw him. It’s unnatural, being the sole grown-up in a house for twenty-plus years. You talk to yourself. You spin. 

     “You hear me?” 

     “Yup!” Shelly bellowed back down. “I HEAR you!” 

     Rhea sat back down at her dining room table. She tried to focus her attention on the Remedial English Composition papers she was supposed to grade. The one on top argued that the release of volcanic ash was the cheapest and smartest solution to global warming. Plus, you’d get all those gorgeous sunsets! Because she taught college, a lot of Maple Street thought she had a glamorous job. These people were wrong. She did not correct them, but they were absolutely, 100 percent wrong. 

     Rhea pushed the papers away. Sipped from the first glass of Malbec she’d poured for the night, got up, and scanned the mess out her window.

     She couldn’t see the sinkhole. It was in the middle of the park, less than a half mile away. But she could see the traffic cones surrounding it, and the trucks full of fill sand, ready to dump. Though work crews had laid down plywood to cover the six-foot-square gape, a viscous slurry had surfaced, caking its edges. The slurry was a fossil fuel called bitumen, found in deep pockets all over Long Island. It threaded outward in slender seams and was mostly contained within the park, but in places had reached under the sidewalks, bubbling up on neighbors’ lawns. There was a scientific explanation, something about polarity and metal content. Global warming and cooked earth. She couldn’t remember exactly, but the factors that made the sinkhole had also galvanized Long Island’s bitumen to coalesce in this one spot.

     All that to say, Sterling Park looked like an oozing wound.

     They never did find the German shepherd. Their theory was that a strong current in the freshwater aquifer down there had carried him away. They’d likened it to falling through ice in a frozen pond, and trying to swim your way back to the opening.

     He could be anywhere. Even below her feet. Funny to think.

     This evening, the crescent was especially quiet. Several families had left town for vacations or to get away from the candy apple fumes. Those who remained, if they were home at all, stayed inside.

     Just then, pretty Gertie Wilde emerged from 116’s garage. She carried a haphazardly coiled garden hose, its extra slack spilling down like herniated intestines. Gertie’s big hair was coiffed, her metallic silver eye shadow so glistening that Rhea could see it from a hundred feet away. She stopped when she got to the front yard, hose in hand.

     Rhea’s pulse jogged.

     Gertie peered inside Rhea’s house, right where Rhea was standing. She seemed frightened and small out there, like a kid holding a broken toy, and suddenly, Rhea understood—Gertie had no outdoor spigot to which to attach her hose. She needed to borrow. But because of the way Rhea had acted at the Fourth of July barbeque, she was afraid to ask.

     A thrill rose in Rhea’s chest.

     Margie Walsh screwed it up. She came out from the house on the other side of Gertie’s and walked fast to meet her. Waves and smiles. Rhea didn’t hear the small talk, but she saw their laughter. Polite at first, and then relaxed. They hooked the hose, then unrolled a plastic yellow bundle, running it the length of the Walsh and Wilde lawns. Water gushed and sprayed. A Slip ’N Slide. With the temperature lingering at 108 degrees, its water emerged like an oasis in a desert.

     Pretty soon, Margie’s and Gertie’s kids came out. Fearless Julia Wilde gave herself ten feet of running buildup, then threw herself against the plastic and slid all the way down until she landed on grass. Charlie Walsh followed. Each took a few turns before they could convince rigid Larry. At last, he did it, too. But Larry, uncoordinated and holding Robot Boy, didn’t build enough momentum. Only slid halfway.

          The lawn got torn up. The kids got covered in mud and then hosed themselves off and started over. Tar from the sinkhole stuck to their clothes and skin like Dalmatian motley.

     Now that the seal was broken, all of Maple Street opened up and shook loose. The rest of the Rat Pack and some of their parents streamed out. Laughter turned to screams of delight as even the grown-ups joined in.

     Rhea watched through her window. The laughter and screams were loud enough that muffled versions of them permeated the glass.

     Gertie didn’t know any better. With her central air-conditioning broken, she’d probably gotten used to that slightly sweet chemical scent. The rest of them were stir-crazy. Figured, if a pregnant woman was willing to take the risk, the rest of them were pansies not to go out, too.

     But anybody who watches decent science fiction knows that the EPA isn’t perfect. The stuff her neighbors were rolling around in tonight might glue their lungs with emphysema twenty years from now. Even her husband, Fritz, who never had an opinion about anything domestic, had announced that if the hole didn’t get filled like it was supposed to, they ought to pack the family into a short-term rental. He’d crinkled his nose that very first night it happened, grudging fear in his eyes, and said, “When it smells like this in the lab, we turn on the ventilation hoods and leave the room.”

     Rhea ought to warn these people. She was obliged, for their safety. But if she did that, they’d think she was a killjoy. They’d think it had to do with Gertie.

     She played the conversation out in her head. She’d go out to 116, trespassing on Gertie’s property, and urge them to go home. To take hot showers with strong soap. They’d put down their beers, nod in earnest agreement, wait for her to go away, and then start having fun again. Probably, they wouldn’t say anything mean about her once she was gone. Not openly. But she knew the people of Maple Street. They’d chuckle.

     She backed away from her window.

     Returned to her papers. Sipped a little more Malbec as she reviewed the next assignment in the pile, which was written in 7-point, Old English font. It was about how the last stolen election had proven that democracy didn’t work. We needed to move into Fascism, only without the Nazis, the student argued. She took out her red pen. Wrote, What???? Nazis = Fascism; they’re like chocolate and peanut butter!

     Between the papers, the people outside, her husband at work, and even her children upstairs, Rhea felt very alone right then. Misunderstood and too smart for this world. All the while, Slip ’N Slide laughter surrounded the house. It pushed against the stone and wood and glass. She wished she could let it in.

Good Neighbours is available now through Titan Books as Paperback or Ebook

Review of Ten Low by Stark Holborn

Ten Low is an ex-army medic, one of many convicts eking out a living at the universe’s edge. She’s desperate to escape her memories of the interstellar war, and the crimes she committed, but trouble seems to follow wherever she goes. One night, attempting to atone for her sins, she pulls a teenage girl – the sole survivor – from the wreck of a spaceship. But Gabriella Ortiz is no ordinary girl. The result of a military genetics programme, she is a decorated Army General, from the opposing side of the war to Ten. Worse, Ten realises the crash was an assassination attempt, and that someone wants the Ortiz dead…
The pair bury their hatreds and strike an uneasy deal to smuggle the General off-world. Their road won’t be easy: they must cross the moon’s lawless wastes, facing military hit squads, bandits and the one-eyed leader of an all-female road gang, in a frantic race to get the General to safety. But something else waits in the darkness at the universe’s edge. Something that threatens to reveal Ten’s worst nightmare: the truth of who she really is and what she is running from.
 

Ten Low is a wonderfully realised story, the comparison to both firefly and Dune is really quite accurate although there are not many laughs to be found on Factus, although Gabi’s scathing sarcasm often comes close. Its been a while since I have read a pure science fiction book and I had no idea how much I needed this.  The story is totally immersive and the narrative is so strong that I could almost feel the dust in my mouth as I was reading. Factus has a very mad max style vibe, forgotten about, making its own rules, yet a moon which has many of it’s own superstitions born out of being right next to the void. The presence of the “Ifs” was probably my favourite part of the story, how they changed and developed as an entity as Ten started to remember more of her troubled past was fantastic to read.

There were great dynamics in the book as well, I loved how Ten’s friendships played a huge part in the story, the unconditional support for what she was doing was beautiful to read along with the diversity contained within those friendships. Her relationship with Gabi was the star of the show, a back and forth of emotion and rivalries as bits about each of their histories gets revealed leading to a shift in their tentative peace each time, some much harder to reconcile than others

What I didn’t like about the book, and its a personal stylistic thing rather than any real failing, is the way it’s laid out. The book is split into parts but there are no chapters within those parts, it’s just a rolling narrative relying heavily on scene breaks to give a stop point. Ten Low is the second book I have read this month with this style of approach and it’s not one that I really enjoy unfortunately.

If you want a pacey and punchy sci-fi, full of great friendships and a twisting story that will keep you guessing, I really recommend Ten Low! Thank you to Titan books for sending me a finished copy for review.

4.5*