Foundryside – Robert Jackson Bennett

Published by Jo Fletcher Books, August 2018
Source: review copy
Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.
But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.
Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.
To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

I absolutely loved this book. Right from the off we’re thrown into the world of Sancia Grado, a thief on a job to recover something apparently innocuous from a heavily guarded warehouse. Things naturally go somewhat… awry and the adventure really kicks off. I do love a good heist story and Foundryside is packed with them, each more dangerous and daring than the last.

So far so good.

Then there’s the worldbuilding, which is incredibly imaginative and beautifully done. Foundryside exists in a kind of alternative medieval-ish Italy, with a delightfully clever magic system where rival Merchant Houses vie for power. Ancient magical artefacts, dead gods, it’s got the lot.

Is this just another ‘oh look some magic goings-on happen against a sort-of-fantasy backdrop’ kind of book?

No, it is not. It is so much more.

Because then there are the characters. Sancia Grado is a wonderful kick-ass, take no prisoners heroine who naturally harbours a dark and mysterious past. But once she’s retrieved the apparently-innocuous something from the warehouse in the opening scenes, we meet one of the novels truly brilliant characters, and the interplay between the two gives this novel something unique and is just so much fun.

The story rattles along at a grand old pace, the plot is clever and bright and will leave you eager for book 2.

Often when talking about books I get asked ‘so, what else is it like?’ If I had to compare this to any other books, I’d say take a health slug of Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora, add in the whip-smart dialogue of Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight and sprinkle it with just a dash of China Mieville.

And these are some of my favourite things. But Foundryside is very much its own thing, and Robert Jackson Bennett has given us a cracking adventure.

This was the 35th book I’ve read this year, and it’s easily one of my favourites. I’ve not read any of RJB’s other books, but if they’re even half as good as Foundryside, I shall be a very happy reader indeed.

Very highly recommended. Add it to your lists now.

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett is published by Jo Fletcher Books on 23rd August 2018. Huge thanks to Milly Reid and Jo Fletcher Books for the review copy.

Straker’s Journey – Paul Hardisty

Delighted to take part in a blog tour (of sorts) for Paul Hardisty, author of the Claymore Straker books. I’ve had Paul on the blog before for  a Q&A about The Evolution of Fear, his second book. And he’s back!

We kicked off the week over at Liz Loves Books looking at where it all started, then part two with Off-the-shelf books talking about The Abrupt Physics of Dying.

Today we’re back with book two, The Evolution of Fear

Over to Paul:

For the sequel, The Evolution of Fear, I wanted to capture some of my experiences living and working in Cyprus for almost a decade. The start finds Clay in hiding on the coast of Cornwall in the UK. Rania has changed her name and fled to Switzerland. Because of what they did in Yemen, their enemies want them dead. But events quickly drive them both to Istanbul, where a brief encounter brings them closer than ever before, and then forces them decisively apart. They end up in Cyprus, where the politics of land in a country divided by civil war is making millionaires and condemning a species to extinction. What they find there will change them both for ever.

Thanks Paul. The Evolution of Fear is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and ebook now.

Claymore Straker is a fugitive with a price on his head. Wanted by the CIA for acts of terrorism he did not commit, his best friend has just been murdered and Rania, the woman he loves, has disappeared. Betrayed by those closest to him, he must flee the sanctuary of his safe house in Cornwall and track her down. As his pursuers close in, Clay follows Rania to Istanbul and then to Cyprus, where he is drawn into a violent struggle between the Russian mafia, Greek Cypriot extremists, and Turkish developers cashing in on the tourism boom. As the island of love descends into chaos, and the horrific truth is unveiled, Clay must call on every ounce of skill and endurance to save Rania and put an end to the unimaginable destruction being wrought in the name of profit. Gripping, exhilarating and, above all, frighteningly realistic, The Evolution of Fear is a startling, eye- opening read that demands the question: How much is truth, and how much is fiction?

No apology required

Now then. You may have noticed that I read a lot of books. Not quite so many as some, but significantly more than others.

And you may also have noticed that I like telling you about the books that I’ve read, either here or on Twitter or Facebook. Or, if you’re particularly unlucky, in real life.

I tend to get quite excitable about books I love, especially after a beer or two. If I’ve seen you in a pub over the past couple of years and have raved at you about a book (or two), then you’ll know exactly what I mean.

I *love* talking about books. Especially the books I love.

Sometimes I even like talking about the books I didn’t quite love so much (yeah, the killer mermaid one. Though I know of at least three people who’ve gone on to buy a copy based on me getting very over-excited about what exactly was wrong with the killer mermaid book)

Over the past couple of months there have been several occasions where I’ve been chatting with someone and they’ve paused and said

“I’m *so* sorry…”


“I have a bit of a confession to make…”

They didn’t like the book. The book that I loved, and talked about so much. The book that I’d recommended so hard that they’d gone and bought it.

Please, don’t ever feel you have to apologise for not liking a book, especially to me.

A book is a personal thing. You either dig it, or you don’t. A ton of people absolutely loved that killer mermaid book. More power to them, I say.

I feel it should be me apologising to you, for pimping a book at you so hard that you spent your hard-earned cash on it but didn’t love it!

Right, that’s cleared that up. Now, back to the books…


Happy birthday, espresso coco!

Today marks the ninth birthday of this little blog. Nine years! blimey.

It started, as all good blogs should, with a Hello World! post:

Ah,  another blog. The old one sort of vanished, so let’s try again.

The ‘old’ one could have referred to several other blogs I had around at the time, so I’m not entirely sure which it’s referring to. My Livejournal (which turned 15 earlier this month) was, and indeed still is, up and running, although sadly neglected at the moment.

So, espresso coco didn’t start off life as a book blog. It was more a place for random ramblings. Musings on the post office, the relative sizes of coffee cups (seriously, go watch that, it’s hilarious), or the occasional post with now-dead links. A musing on the mystical hour of 4am by Rives (one of my favourite videos – it showed up again in 2011 as clearly I’d forgotten that I’d already posted it).

I shared a lot of videos back then.

Maybe I should have a tidy up. WHO HAS THE TIME? Not me! And it’s my blog, so ner.

The first book-related post was a review (of sorts) of Scott Lynch’s excellent Red Seas Under Red Skies, but that didn’t show up until late August. It wasn’t until April 2010 that we saw the next bookish post, a video (told you) on the making of a book cover (Gail Carriger’s ‘Blameless’).

I also dabbled in movie reviews: Predators (could have been better), Adventureland (seven Molly Ringwalds out of ten) and Iron Man 2 (Don Cheadle tries very hard not to be Terrence Howard), just to pick a few.

I quite like talking about movies. Maybe I should do more of that.

I also posted up various bits of writing about a chap called Monty, gentleman thief and lover of dangerously caffeinated beverages, along with his long-suffering PA, Molly. He made some prank calls, got stuck in a minefield, and ended up in an… unusual car during a getaway. Huge fun to write. If you have a spare ten minutes, go have a read and let me know what you think.

In late 2012 I talked about Skyfall. More than once. Followed up by Ten Reasons Why Skyfall is the Best Bond Movie (still true) in 2013.  I’ve counted up seventeen Bond-related blog posts over the years. And I still haven’t done my BlogAlongABondAThon (looking at the books vs movies), or my Top Ten Bond Movies, or Best Bond Movie Per Bond, or a dozen other posts in the drafts folder.

I’ve also dabbled in photography advice (Ten simple ways to improve your photos), taken lots of photos of coffee. I love coffee.

Cappucino, Bottega Milanese, Leeds

From trawling through the archives, it was 2014 (ish) when the book blogging became more of a thing, and I started posting more regularly. I’d still post about random stuff from time to time, and I still really enjoy writing that sort of thing – ramblings about wands in Harry Potter, which way is up on a map, that sort of thing.

Maybe I should do more of that too.

I notice with some interest, that this is the 700th post on espresso coco.

That seems like quite a lot, but nowhere near the 12,000 or so posts on my Livejournal. I treated that more like a pre-twitter twitter, often with a handful of posts a day. I do miss the LJ community sometimes!

My top ten posts (excluding the homepage views)

Interestingly, they mostly hark back to 2013. Good year for blogging, 2013. Fine vintage.

Most commented on post was E is for Empire Strikes Back, part of my 2014 A-Z of Movies (now *that* was fun to do. Must do another one). Most of my most commented on posts belong to that A-Z.

This birthday post has got a bit long and rambling. Yes, yes, I realise that I’ve got past form in this regard. If anyone is still here, thanks for reading this far, and thanks for following my little blog. Here’s to another year (or nine) of blogging about books, movies and stuff. I’m glad you’ve been here.

As a special treat for reading this far, I’ll leave you with the ULTIMATE secret to a successful blog.

And some cake. Mmm, cake.


on blogging @LetterTwenty

blogs? blogging is dead!

Hello, lovely reader of this blog.

I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging lately. I think about blogging a fair amount anyway, but conscious that espresso coco is, to all intents and purposes, now pretty much a book blog. And I miss writing the more personal musings. I’ve debated whether to just include them here, maybe hiving them off into, and the book stuff into /books, but that seems like a lot of work.

Handily, I do have another blog over at, so I’ll be pressing that into service over the coming weeks.

If you like the book stuff, it’ll still be here, and there’ll be just as much as before – reviews, blog tours (though possibly fewer than before), promos and maybe the odd competition or two ( I do have some Red Rising/Iron Gold swag that’s currently taking up space on my bookshelf).

If you’re interested in my more personal, random musings on life, the universe and why watercoolers have such prominent model numbers, then head on over to, or follow me on twitter @LetterTwenty. I’d love to see you over there for a chat, and maybe a cup of tea.

Opportunities missed

As I may have mentioned, I spent the day on Saturday at the rather splendid GollanczFest, at Foyles bookshop in London. There was a selection of splendid authors taking part in a variety of fascinating, funny, informative panels across the day, with the opportunity to get books signed in the morning and afternoon.

A splendid time was had by all, but at the end of the day (well, more the following day), I was left a little frustrated. With myself, I hasten to add.

You see, I’d spent the day listening to all these fabulously interesting people being fabulous and interesting, and I really wanted to go and say hello, and tell them how fabulous and interesting they all were. There were some authors that I’d read lots of, some I’d heard of but not read, some I follow on twitter (some of whom even follow me back) and some entirely new (but still fabulous and interesting).

But when it came down to it, I found that I couldn’t. Wandering up to a stranger (even a fabulously interesting one) to say ‘hi!’ was just a bit too much.

I wanted to tell Alastair Reynolds that when he retweeted my review of his fabulous Revenger, my blog stats went bananas for the day.

I wanted to say hi to Pat Cadigan, who despite being followed by a ton of people, follows *me* on twitter, and tell her that I think she’s brilliant.

I wanted to tell Joanne Harris how much I enjoy her #storytime on Twitter. AK Benedict how much I loved Jonathan Dark, and to thank her for the guest post on my blog. Tom Lloyd that I’d enjoyed Moon’s Artifice, and that I wanted to read his new book.

The list goes on.

I did however say hello to the lovely Nazia @gambit589, from Orbit Books, who is kind enough to keep me in review copies of fabulous books by fabulous authors. And the event itself was brilliant.

I mentioned this on twitter, and had a chorus of replies saying ‘oh, me too!’, which made me feel better.

Have you found this at a book event, or meeting someone you admire? Any advice for next time?

The Man Who Died – Antti Tuomainen

The Man Who Died new front (1)
A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists.

Everyone should die at least once, if only to see how beautiful the morning can be.

The Man Who Died is one of those books that you emerge from with a small, satisfied sigh, and a smile on your face. I do love Antti Tuomainen’s books (and splendid taste in shirts), and this book, whilst a departure from his usual Helsinki Noir, is a delight. Perhaps creating a new genre, Mushroom Noir?

Maybe not.

It’s delightfully different – here we have a man who knows that he’s been (or being) poisoned, and sets out to solve his own murder. The cast of suspects is fairly short, and Jaakko does like making lists. Could it be his wife? The strange characters at the shiny new mushroom processing plant in town? Or the Japanese clients?

Jaakko follows the trail around town as he investigates, coming across a whole bunch of fabulous characters who wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Fargo. The humour in The Man Who Died is layered and oh so very dark and exactly the way I like it.

Highly highly recommended. The Man Who Died, by Antti Tuomainen is published by Orenda Books and is out in October in paperback and ebook. You can find Antti on twitter @antti_tuomainen.

Huge thanks to Anne for inviting me onto the blog tour, to Karen for publishing it, and to Antti Tuomainen for giving us such a wonderful book. And not forgetting David Hackston, for his masterful job in translating. The blog tour continues…

man who died blog poster 2017.jpg