Running For Our Lives – Rachel Ann Cullen

Each day, millions of people around the world put on their trainers and try to deal with their personal demons and life challenges by going for a run. And, increasingly, they do it knowing that they are not alone: a growing and often virtual community is right there running alongside them. We are all, in some sense, running for our lives.

Rachel Ann Cullen’s first book, Running for My Life, described her own marathon journey through depression, bipolar disorder and body dysmorphia, and her revelatory discovery that running could transform her physical and mental wellbeing.

Since hearing from people who had read about her experiences, Rachel wanted to tell some stories of other runners from all around the world – ordinary people living with mental health struggles, dealing with grief, cancer and other unavoidable life events who have relied on running to get them through their worst days and to keep going.

Running for Our Lives shares moving accounts of hope and resilience; it demonstrates the power of running to help us all overcome adversity, and is a lesson for us all in learning not only how to survive life’s challenges, but to thrive.

I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with running over the years. Gone through phases of running regularly and not running at all. Recently I had to stop for a while due to an injury, and starting up again was harder than I thought. But I knew that if I could take it slow and steady, I’d get there again. Running, if you’re fortunate enough to be able to do it, does have that ability to change the way you think.

I’ve not read Rachel Ann Cullen’s first book, Running for My Life, but this book follows up on that. Readers were reaching out to Rachel to talk about their own stories of how running helped them get through all sorts of issues, from the unfathomable grief of losing a child, through cancer diagnoses and mental health issues. Be warned, you might need some tissues at some of the stories being offered up here. They’re poignant and at times heartbreaking, but ultimately demonstrating how running has a certain power to help us get through life.

Cullen is a fantastic host, the stories invariably inspiring, if harrowing in places. Well worth checking out.

You can pick up a signed copy of Rachel Ann Cullen’s book from the publisher’s website here

Running For Our Lives by Rachel Ann Cullen is published by Vertebrate Publishing and is out now. Huge thanks to the publisher for the advance copy to review.

The Farthest Shore – Alex Roddie

The Farthest Shore: Seeking solitude and nature on the Cape Wrath Trail in winter, by Alex Roddie

In February 2019, award-winning writer Alex Roddie left his online life behind when he set out to walk 300 miles through the Scottish Highlands, seeking solitude and answers. In leaving the chaos of the internet behind for a month, he hoped to learn how it was truly affecting him – or if he should look elsewhere for the causes of his anxiety.

The Farthest Shore is the story of Alex’s solo trek along the remote Cape Wrath Trail. As he journeyed through a vanishing winter, Alex found answers to his questions, learnt the nature of true silence, and discovered frightening evidence of the threats faced by Scotland’s wild mountain landscape.

I’ve long admired Alex Roddie’s writing in the excellent Sidetracked magazine, and picked up the audiobook of The Farthest Shore as part of my Audible subscription this month.

Alex found himself becoming overwhelmed by his digital life – the constant ping of notifications, of emails piling up, and the general chaos that is life on the internet these days. His reaction was somewhat unusual, deciding to take on the 300-mile Cape Wrath Trail from Fort William up to Cape Wrath in the north of Scotland. A fairly arduous journey at the best of times, taking on the route in winter was something else.

Alex decided to start his route not at Fort William, the usual starting point, but at the lighthouse at Ardneamurchan Point, joining up with the route at Glenfinnan and winding north along what is considered to be an extremely challenging, if magnificent hike.

It’s the story of the hike, certainly. It features a lot of mountains, more than a few bothies, damp tents, howling winds, not as much snow as expected, and some fascinating characters that Alex met along the way.

It’s also a muse on modern life, on our constant interconnectedness via the internet, of the slab of glass and electronics that most of us carry around with us day in, day out. It’s about solitude and loneliness, and the effect that climate change is having on our environment.

If I had one niggle, it’s something Alex mentions in the epilogue about how one particular conversation in a bothy late at night came from a distillation of other conversations. It feels like an odd choice to do this, a single off-key note in an otherwise fantastic book.

I listened to the audiobook version, ably narrated by Alex Wingfield. There are a lot of Scottish place names in there, and I can’t comment on how well they’re pronounced!

The Farthest Shore: Seeking solitude and nature on the Cape Wrath Trail in winter, by Alex Roddie, is published by Vertebrate Publishing and is out now.

You can buy a copy direct from Adventure Books here (currently 20% off)

The audiobook is read by Alex Wingfield

Recent reads: SF&F

Hello lovely readers. I’m a bit behind with reviews, so thought I’d do some mini reviews to try and catch up.

The Kaiju Preservation Society – John Scalzi (Tor Books)

When COVID-19 sweeps through New York City, Jamie Gray is stuck as a dead-end driver for food delivery apps. That is, until Jamie makes a delivery to an old acquaintance, Tom, who works at what he calls “an animal rights organization.” Tom’s team needs a last-minute grunt to handle things on their next field visit. Jamie, eager to do anything, immediately signs on.

What Tom doesn’t tell Jamie is that the animals his team cares for are not here on Earth. Not our Earth, at least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm and human-free world. They’re the universe’s largest and most dangerous panda and they’re in trouble.

It’s not just the Kaiju Preservation Society that’s found its way to the alternate world. Others have, too–and their carelessness could cause millions back on our Earth to die.

Huge fun. Scalzi does snappy dialogue like no-one else, and the story fairly zips along, with giant kaiju causing mayhem and destruction along the way. If you like high concept, fast-paced action and more one liners than you can usefully throw a stick at, give this a go. Pacific Rim meets Jurassic Park, sort of. But funny.

Hide – Kiersten White (Del Rey)

The challenge: spend a week hiding in an abandoned amusement park and don’t get caught.

The prize: enough money to change everything.

Fourteen competitors. Seven days. Everywhere to hide, but nowhere to run.

Splendid thriller/horror, I really enjoyed this. Another high-concept tale, Hide is a delightfully simple concept – a bunch of people have to hide for seven days from sunrise to sunset and the last one standing wins. But nothing’s ever quite that easy, is it? Great characters, some you’ll be rooting for and others you can’t wait to get caught. White does a great job of ratcheting up the tension as the days progress. Highly recommended.

The Book Eaters – Sunyi Dean (HarperVoyager)

Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries. 

Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairytales and cautionary stories.

But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger—not for books, but for human minds. 

Another fantastic book, The Book Eaters is out in August 2022. Brilliant fantasy debut from Sunyi Dean, I loved this (resisting the urge to use the phrase ‘devoured it’). It’s a neat twist on a vampire story, but is so much more. It’s a tale of survival, of a mother’s love for her son. It’s dark and gory and violent and at the same time a beautifully written fairytale.

Can’t recommend this highly enough

Huge thanks to Tor Books, Del Rey and HarperVoyager for the advance copies of these books to review via NetGalley.

Top Ten Tuesday: still on my TBR

Spotted on @imyril’s excellent blog, Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s all about books, lists and sharing the love we have of both with our bookish friends.

Their post was all about looking back at their seasonal TBRs to see what books they still haven’t read. As I don’t have a seasonal TBR, I thought I’d just cast an eye over the shelf for the top ten ‘been on my TBR for AGES’ books.

Grab yourself a refreshing beverage, we’re going back into the murky depths of Dave’s TBR pile…

[quick scan through my bookshelves later]

The Bone Shard Daughter – Andrea Stewart (2020)

Oh, I have so much guilt about this one. The proof copy looks gorgeous, and I meant to jump right into it, but got distracted and it got put on the shelf and then other books occurred and every time I go past it I think ‘I must read this soon’ and now book 2 is out and omg.

Notes From The Burning Age – Claire North (2021)

I adore Claire North’s writing. Absobloodylutely love it to bits. So why has this sat on the TBR pile since I got it? Can’t honestly say why. And now Claire’s new book has arrived and I am torn between reading the new book so I don’t end up in this situation again, or going back and reading this book superfast so I can catch up (though they’re not remotely related). Being a book blogger is harder than it looks, folks.

Iron Gold/Dark Age – Pierce Brown (2018/2019)

I read and adored the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown when they came out. Super lucky to get an advanced copy of the first book, and got to meet the man himself (and some lovely bloggers) at the launch for book 3 where I got them all signed. Then there was a gap and book 5 and 6 came out, I duly bought them on publication day, excitedly brought them home and put them lovingly on the shelf next to the first trilogy and… they’re still there. They’re HUGE. I may even have bought kindle versions since. Still not read them. Heard mixed things, tbh, which is putting me off a bit.

Under the Pendulum Sun – Jeanette Ng (2017)

I bought this years ago on the recommendation of various bloggers. I even started it, but got distracted (this is becoming a theme) by other blog tour reviews that I needed to get done and somehow it migrated back to the shelf. I adored the start of it, and really really want to go back and finish it.

The Long Drop – Denise Mina (2017)

I won this in a competition many years ago, heard amazing things about it, and very much looked forward to reading it. See previous excuses re. distraction

The Rabbit Factor – Antti Tuomainen (2021)

Look, I bloody love Antti Tuomainen’s books. The Man Who Died is superb. Palm Beach Finland is hilarious, etc. And I’ve been excited about this book since I first heard about it. Look, it’s going in the holiday reading pile. See me put it there. I will read it. Honest.

The Jasmine Throne – Tasha Suri (2021)

This was (and is) a big, chunky, gorgeous book. I loved Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand but haven’t got round to this one yet on account of the chonkiness of it. I will read it, Nazia, honest. Please don’t stop sending me books.

Gnomon – Nick Harkaway (2017)

Big fan of Nick Harkaway’s books. The Gone-Away World was delightfully weird and I was very much looking forward to reading Gnomon. I bought the hard cover which has lovely orange sprayed edges. It’s a beast of a book. Kindle version purchased too. Yes, I do this more often than I should.

Blacktop Wasteland – SA Cosby (2020)

Huge amounts of recommendations for this crime book. HUGE. So I picked up a copy when mooching through Waterstones (other bookstores are available) with the express intention of reading this next, honest guv’nor you can trust me I will definitely totally read this next. You can tell where this is going, can’t you?

Vine Street – Dom Nolan (2021)

Mooching through Waterstones (I sense a theme) I happened across this behemoth of a book in the half price hardback sale. I duly braced my core and hefted it into my basket before struggling to the counter under the sheer weight of words. I’ve since bought the kindle version cos it’s significantly lighter. Various people have suggested that this book is AMAZING. I will read it. One day.

Bitter Sun – Beth Lewis (2018)

Gods, Beth Lewis’s books are incredible. The Wolf Road is staggeringly good, and if you’ve not read it, stop now and go get yourself a copy. The Origins of Iris too, whilst you’re in the bookshop. So I’m not entirely sure why I still haven’t read Bitter Sun, the book that came between the two I have read (and loved). I appear to have misplaced my hard copy of this, but have it on kindle I think.

Kraken – China Mieville (2010)

Got a signed copy of this, and it’s got a glorious cephalopod on the cover. Mieville’s books are always an experience, and I’m sure I’ve read the first third, though remember little of what happened other than there’s a giant squid that disappears from a museum. Really ought to finish it off one day. Oldest book on this list by quite a bit.

The Shepherd’s Crown – Terry Pratchett (2015)

Last, but my no means least. I bought this book on publication seven years ago, but can’t quite bring myself to read it as it’s the last ever Pratchett. And if I don’t read it, there’ll always be a bit more of his work to go. YES I KNOW IT MAKES NO SENSE. I loved all of his books, even the ones with Moist von bloody Lipwig in them. One day I’ll pluck up the courage and read this last one.

One day. But not today.

Yes yes, there’s more than ten on there. Interestingly most of them I’ve bought myself, and only about a third are review copies. And there are dozens more that I could put my hands on that could also be on that list. And a couple of dozen newer releases that have been published in the last year or so. And it’s mostly ignoring the kindle TBR stack.

That’s my list. Have you read any of them? If you could pick one to start, which would it be?

Q&A with Jackson Ford, author of The Frost Files

I was given the chance to pose some questions to Jackson Ford, author of The Frost Files, to link up to the launch of book four, A Sh*tload Of Crazy Powers (which is out now. Go get it)

Buckle up, buttercup. We’re going in.

Hi Jackson

Long time fan of your books back from the pre-Jackson Ford days (I still have the signed copy of Tracer knocking about somewhere). 

YES KING. You’ve had my back from literally day one. Appreciate you.

Blushing now.

Rumour has it that book #4 in The Frost Files is out soon (well, it’s out now for real) which means I’m running out of space on my shelves. Zero respect for my TBR pile, man.

No fucks given. 

This is my unsurprised face.

I’ve been following you for a while (not in a weird stalker-y way, honest), and have some questions. Pour us both a whisky, and let’s get started.

I got some good ass Welsh whiskey recently. Didn’t even realise they made whiskey, but their single malt game is solid. Cheers. 

Are you having as much fun writing The Frost Files as it appears you are from reading them? Because they’re an absolute blast to read.

They are a huge amount of fun to write. I adore the world, and I feel like readers do too. One of the nicest things anyone ever said to me was that a Frost Files book was like coming home, or meeting up with an old friend. I liked that a lot.

Can I just take a moment to let you know how much I (and other readers) appreciate you doing a ‘Story So Far’ for the books? I read a lot of stuff, and it can be a year or more between me reading books in a series, so I often spend the first few chapters going ‘who are these people and why do they not like each other very much?’, so having a short snappy ‘previous, on The Frost Files’ is super awesome. Was this your idea, or something your publisher said “hey, do this thing or else?”

This was my idea. I really try to lean into the fact that each FF book can be read on its own, even if you haven’t read any of the others. But since there are now six bazillion words of the series out there, I wanted to give new readers a place to catch up on key events. 

Teagan Frost is a great cook. You’ve said that her favourite food is banh mi sandwiches (and grilled cheese, paella, pizza, smashburgers, popcorn, fried chicken, the list goes on). Are you a good cook? If you were having me and some of your buddies over for food, what’s on the menu?

I’m an enthusiastic but only moderately talented cook. That said, there are some things I do really freaking well. Roast chicken, roast potatoes. But my party piece is chilli con carne, which I cook with my homemade chilli sauce. That’s what we’re eating. You bring the beer.

It’s a deal. I might even bring some of the good whisky.

The Frost Files famously all have the word Sh*t in the titles. Did you always plan to do that, or was it a case of the first book (The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind, great book, go get it etc) had a great title, then book 2 came along and you were casting about for something to call it and thought hey, I wonder how many books I could do this for? Were there any other options for titles for the first book?

Anna Jackson and Tim Holman at Orbit suggested it. I loved the title immediately, and we just went from there. Honestly, it can go for as long as we want it to…we can be endlessly creative with curse words. I’m actually rubbish with titles. My working title for the first book was WIRE AND GLASS, which…sucked. Anna and Tim’s idea was much better.

Supplemental question – do you have an idea of how many books are in the series? There’s definitely a story arc going on, but do you have an end point in mind?

No spoilers here. Wait and see! 

China Shop are looking for a new recruit, and they’ve come knocking at your door. What would you bring to the team? They’ve already got Reggie the hacker, Africa the wheelman, and of course Teagan with her wicked snark and telekinesis.

Fuuuuuuck that’s a good question. I have no idea why they would ever want my help. I have zero useful real world skills.

I’ve been developing a super-secret gizmo that will take you and a friend anywhere on earth, but only to one place, and only for 24 hours after which point you wake up back in your own house. Where are you going?

I just came back from my first vacation in two years. We went to Panama. There’s a spot in Bocas Del Toro that is just a bunch of cabins built right over the Caribbean sea. You can jump off your deck into the water. So yeah, we’re going back there. 

My other gizmo will give you $10m in cash, but you can never write another book. Take the money or not?

I WANT to take the money, but the stories that rattle around my head would drive me insane if I didn’t let them out.

I love the newsletter you put out each week (signup here for awesomeness), and am always intrigued to see where you go with it. What’s your process there? Do you have a pile of post-its with ideas on, or just wake up at 3am going OMG I’m going to talk about *THAT* this week?

It’s a mix of both. I have a list of topics to tackle, but I’m always flexible. If there’s something that grabs me, I go for it. Really, I just try not to be boring. I’ve gotten into the regularity of writing it every week, and I want to make it worth the reader’s time to click on it. I was a newspaper columnist in the UK for nearly a decade, so I’m good at coming up with ideas on the fly.

I know writers get asked the same questions all the time. Where do you get your ideas, what’s your writing process like, etc etc. You must get bored of being asked. So, what’s the one question that you wish an interviewer would ask you?

I really, really wish someone would ask me about the music that influences the Frost Files. It’s a series with deep roots in rap, metal, electronica…obviously classic LA gangsta rap (Dre, Snoop, Xzibit, Kendrick, NWA) but also artists like Disturbed, Van Canto, Lindsey Stirling, Luke Howard. It couldn’t be a surface level question. I’d want to go really in depth with it, really talk about how music can help create and alter a scene, especially in terms of rhythm and climax. Sadly, there’s not a ton of crossover between, say, rap fans and Frost Files readers.

[makes notes for the next interview – ask Jackson about music & stuff]

Quickfire question round:

Coffee or tea? Coffee

Hot sunny day at the beach, or quiet wander through the old town? Beach

Analogue or digital? Digital. I grew up on CDs, not vinyl.

Riley Hale vs Teagan Frost? What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

Jackson, it’s been a pleasure having you come visit the blog. Best of luck with the Frost Files (not that you need it).

I’m off to go jump into A Sh*tload Of Crazy Powers right now. Huge thanks to Jackson Ford (go find him on twitter @realjacksonford) and to Nazia Khatun at Orbit for the book to review, and for setting up this Q&A.

Teagan Frost has enough sh*t to deal with, between her job as a telekinetic government operative and a certain pair of siblings who have returned from the dead to wreak havoc with their powers. But little does she know, things are about to get even more crazy . . .

Teagan might have survived the flash flood of the century, but now she’s trapped in a hotel by a bunch of gun-toting maniacs. And to make matters worse, her powers have mysteriously disappeared. Faced with certain death at every turn, Teagan will need to use every resource she has to stop a plot that could destroy Los Angeles – maybe even the entire world.

The Dying Squad – Adam Simcox

When Detective Inspector Joe Lazarus storms a Lincolnshire farmhouse, he expects to bring down a notorious drug gang; instead, he discovers his own body and a spirit guide called Daisy-May.

She’s there to enlist him to The Dying Squad, a spectral police force who solve crimes their flesh and blood counterparts cannot.

Lazarus reluctantly accepts and returns to the Lincolnshire Badlands, where he faces dangers from both the living and the dead in his quest to discover the identity of his killer—before they kill again.

Who better to solve a murder than a detective? Except in this case, the detective is dead, and the dead body is his. Before long he’s enlisted into The Dying Squad, a supernatural police squad based in The Pen/Purgatory who investigate the more… unusual murders.

Hugely enjoyed this. I read a lot of crime books and love a good supernatural thriller and police procedural, so this was right in my ballpark. I loved the interplay between Joe and his spirit… guide? Daisy-May as they navigate this world and the one beyond in their quest to figure out who killed Lazarus. Not everyone ends up in Heaven or Hell, and the Dispossessed are stuck for eternity. But Lazarus is given an out – solve his murder, and he gets to move on from the never-ending grey that is The Pen.

Loved the world building, loved the characters, and that’s all on top of a cracking murder mystery, with plenty of dodgy goings-on that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Lovely line in dark humour and some whip-smart dialogue make this one of my favourite books of the year so far.

Oh, and there’s a supremely creepy villain called the Xylophone Man, who you definitely don’t want to meet in a dark alley. Or anywhere. *shudder*

Strong Rivers of London vibes here, and if you liked that, then I highly recommended picking this up.

There’s a sequel coming later this year, and I can’t wait!

The Dying Squad by Adam Simcox is published by Gollancz and is out now. Huge thanks to the publisher for the copy of Adam’s book for review.

Gallant – VE Schwab

Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School for girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. Then, a letter invites Olivia to come home—to Gallant. Yet when Olivia arrives, no one is expecting her. But Olivia is not about to leave the first place that feels like home, it doesn’t matter if her cousin Matthew is hostile or if she sees half-formed ghouls haunting the hallways.

Olivia knows that Gallant is hiding secrets, and she is determined to uncover them. When she crosses a ruined wall at just the right moment, Olivia finds herself in a place that is Gallant—but not. The manor is crumbling, the ghouls are solid, and a mysterious figure rules over all. Now Olivia sees what has unraveled generations of her family, and where her father may have come from.

Olivia has always wanted to belong somewhere, but will she take her place as a Prior, protecting our world against the Master of the House? Or will she take her place beside him?

Regular readers to this blog will know that I’m a big fan of VE Schwab’s books. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue was simply magnificent. So it was with no small amount of excitement that I jumped at the chance to read Schwab’s latest, Gallant.

Schwab’s writing is like a warm, comfortable blanket that you throw around yourself on a cold winter’s day. It’s all too easy to lose yourself in the magical worlds she creates. And here we have a fantastic, fantastical world. A young girl without a voice, living at the cold, cruel Merilance School for Girls, receives a letter inviting her to the home she didn’t know she had. And on arriving at the manor house Gallant, she discovers that it has a mysterious mirrored world just over the garden wall.

She delves into both Gallants, and to her family secrets with the help of her mother’s journal. But what happened to her father? And who lives at the other Gallant?

I loved the writing. I loved the world and the characters that Schwab invites us to spend time in. The story itself is splendid, though I had a sneaking feeling that like the barrier between the two Gallants, it was maybe stretched a tiny bit thin in places, and not quite enough for a full length book. I feel it would have worked just as well if not better as a short story or novella length.

That said, I didn’t begrudge a moment spent in the world Schwab has created. Recommended.

Gallant by VE Schwab is published by Titan Books in the UK and is out now. Huge thanks to Titan Books for the advance copy for review.

Dawnshard – Brandon Sanderson

When a ghost ship is discovered, its crew presumed dead after trying to reach the storm-shrouded island Akinah, Navani Kholin must send an expedition to make sure the island hasn’t fallen into enemy hands. Knights Radiant who fly too near find their Stormlight suddenly drained, so the voyage must be by sea.

Shipowner Rysn Ftori lost the use of her legs but gained the companionship of Chiri-Chiri, a Stormlight-ingesting winged larkin, a species once thought extinct. Now Rysn’s pet is ill, and any hope for Chiri-Chiri’s recovery can be found only at the ancestral home of the larkin: Akinah. With the help of Lopen, the formerly one-armed Windrunner, Rysn must accept Navani’s quest and sail into the perilous storm from which no one has returned alive. If the crew cannot uncover the secrets of the hidden island city before the wrath of its ancient guardians falls upon them, the fate of Roshar and the entire Cosmere hangs in the balance. 

Described as ‘a new hefty novella‘ Dawnshard is book 3.5 of the Stormlight Archive, Brandon Sanderson’s bestselling series. Or rather, one of Sanderson’s bestselling series. He’s written a lot of books. Like, really a lot. So many that the word ‘lot’ probably deserves a capital L.

And yet, here’s yours truly. A fantasy fan since forever, and I’ve not read any of them.

Until now.

OK, admittedly jumping into book three-and-a-half of a long-running series of seriously chonky novels probably isn’t the best place to start. But Dawnshard is a novella, and I figured it would be a good taster and a chance to see whether spending time with another epic fantasy would be worth it.

And reader, I enjoyed it a lot. Maybe even a Lot.

Yes, there was an awful lot of world building that I had missed out on from the first three books in the Stormlight Archive (and probably others in the wider Cosmere universe of his books). But the story was well told, with some engaging characters, nicely paced and with some great action, and a sneak peek into the wider world.

I loved the magic, and Radiant The Lopen’s delightful devil-may-care attitude to life. I particularly liked the depiction of Rysn Ftori, shipowner and trader, who lost the use of her legs prior to this book. Sanderson apparently went to great lengths to ensure that he portrayed Rysn’s experience sensitively and accurately. I can’t speak to that myself, but it was very refreshing to see such a strong character and her thoughts on the journey.

At close to 250 pages, it’s more of a short book than a slim novella, and it packs a lot in there. As a starting point for Sanderson’s books it might not be the easiest entrance into the world of the Cosmere, but there were very few things that I couldn’t figure out that affected the overall story.

I guess the key question is whether Dawnshard whetted my appetite sufficiently to delve back into the Stormlight Archive.

Yes, I think it did. Though quite when I’ll find time to embark on such an epic quest is another question.

Dawnshard by Brandon Sanderson is published by Titan Books and is out now. Many thanks to Sarah Mather at Titan Books for the copy to review.

Into The Dark – Fiona Cummins

THE PLACE: Seawings, a beautiful Art Deco home overlooking the sweep of the bay in Midtown-on-Sea.

THE CRIME: The gilded Holden family – Piper and Gray and their two teenage children, Riva and Artie – has vanished from the house without a trace.

THE DETECTIVE: DS Saul Anguish, brilliant but with a dark past, treads the narrow line between light and shade.

One late autumn morning, Piper’s best friend arrives at Seawings to discover an eerie scene – the kettle is still warm, all the family’s phones are charging on the worktop, the cars are in the garage. But the house is deserted.

In fifteen-year-old Riva Holden’s bedroom, scrawled across the mirror in blood, are three words:


What happens next?

A new book by Fiona Cummins? Sign me up! I’ve been a huge fan of her books since the very first, Rattle. Last year we had the amazing When I Was Ten (which I have gushed about to anyone who’d listen, and several people who didn’t), and now we have Into The Dark.

Another author whose books I will devour in a single sitting, knowing that I am in very safe hands. There’ll be twists and turns and moments where you question everything and everyone, looking for the clues that are so deftly woven into the narrative.

Reader, I loved it. You know that I adore a good psychological thriller, and Cummins delivers yet another splendid one here. On the face of it there’s a missing family, disappeared without trace mid-breakfast. Cups still warm, phones still charging, cars in the garage. But there’s more to it than meets the eye, naturally. Why did they up and leave so suddenly? And why is there bloody writing on the teenage daughter’s bedroom mirror?

Into the Dark jumps around between multiple viewpoints and timelines, from the days leading up to the Holdens’ disappearance to the aftermath. Cummins carefully delivers little snippets of information as the plot unfurls, and you’re often left questioning what you thought you knew as each chapter plays out. Who do you trust, when no-one seems to trust each other?

Dysfunctional families, secrets, lies and mysterious goings-on. And a new police detective on the case with a bit of a dark past himself…

If you’re not already reading Cummins’ books, then get yourself to a bookshop pronto. I love her books.

Highly recommended.

Into The Dark by Fiona Cummins is published by Macmillan in April 2022. Many thanks to the publisher for an advance copy of the book via Netgalley

The Paris Apartment – Lucy Foley

Cover for The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Welcome to No.12 Rue des Amants: a beautiful old apartment block, far from the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower and the bustling banks of the Seine.

Where nothing goes unseen, and everyone has a story to unlock.

The watchful concierge

The scorned lover

The prying journalist

The naïve student

The unwanted guest

Something terrible happened here last night. A mystery lies behind the door of apartment three. Only you – and the killer – hold the key . . .

I really enjoyed this book. From the Paris setting to the delightfully odd cast of characters, it’s one which will draw you in and keep those pages turning as the secrets and lies of No. 12 Rue des Armants gradually come to light.

And what a cast of characters we have here. Jess, freshly arrived to visit her brother finds a suspiciously empty apartment. And none of the neighbours are saying much. Not Sophie, the rich old lady in the penthouse for who everything must be just so. Nor Nick, Ben’s old friend who invited him to stay in the apartment above his. Then there’s Mimi and Camille who live on the fourth floor. And not forgetting the concierge. Who knows what she’s seen whilst working there…

The book is told from the viewpoints of the residents of number 12, with each chapter seeing the events from one person’s point of view. The chapters are often short and snappy, which is perfect for a speedy read. You can’t help but want just one more chapter, to see what this new person thought of what was going on. It also jumps in time a little so we get to look back at the events before the arrival of Jess on that fateful night when her brother disappears.

It’s very cleverly constructed and kept me guessing all the way through. I thought I had it figured out, and whilst yes, I did spot some of what was going on, I was delighted to be surprised more often than not.

This is the first of Lucy Foley’s books that I’ve read, though I do have The Hunting Party on my kindle. I shall be bumping that up the list given how much I enjoyed this book!

Highly recommended.

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley is published by Harper Collins and is out now. Many thanks to the publisher for the advance copy of Lucy Foley’s book, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

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