Blog Tour: Five Minds by Guy Morpuss

The Earth’s spiralling population has finally been controlled. Lifespans are limited to eighty years, except for those who make an extreme choice: to become a commune. Five minds sharing one body, each living for four hours at a time. But with a combined lifespan of nearly 150 years.

Alex, Kate, Mike, Sierra and Ben have already spent twenty-five years together in what was once Mike’s body, their frequent personality clashes leading to endless bickering, countless arguments, and getting themselves stranded on a Russian arctic freighter. Wanting to buy upgrades for their next host body, they decide to travel to a Death Park where games are played and time can be gambled like money. But things go very wrong when Kate accepts a dangerous offer, and one of them disappears.

It soon becomes clear that someone is trying to kill off members of the commune. But why? Is one of them responsible? Or is an outsider playing a deadly game? It’s hard enough to catch a murderer. It’s almost impossible when you might be sharing a body with them…

What I Thought:

It’s less and less common these days – especially when you read a lot – to find books that are nothing like anything else you’ve read, so a hearty well done to Viper Books for finding Five Minds, which is brilliantly unique.

There are elements of lots of things in this book – dystopian fiction, crime fiction and even a brief foray into romance at one point – but these elements blend really well to make a dark and compelling thriller.

The concept of having each part of the story furthered by each member of the commune works really well, especially as we can assume that one of them is unreliable, but we don’t know who – there are clues of course but sifting the reality from the whopping red herrings is incredibly challenging!

Part of the book that really struck me what that there is little information about how the world is living outside of the death park that the characters find themselves in – there is a flashback section which takes place outside the park but, in the main, we have to imagine for ourselves. This works quite well, as the events of the book are then much more immediate and not bogged down in pages and pages of description bringing you up-to-date on what the places we might know are like for these characters now.

You do, however, get a great sense of the death park and the people within it, and the games that the characters are forced to play to earn time credit are brilliantly thought out – I would assume that Guy Morpuss is a fan of the cryptic crossword…

This book is imaginative and vivid – I was gripped by it and recommended it to my friend when I had only read the blurb. It’s quite remarkable for a debut novel and I’ll definitely be looking out for more from Guy Morpuss in future.

Five Minds is published by Viper Books.

About the Author:

Guy Morpuss is a London-based barrister and QC, whose cases have featured drug-taking cyclists, dead Formula 1 champions and aspiring cemetery owners. He lives in Surrey with his wife and two children. Find him on Twitter @guymorpuss, or at guymorpuss.com.

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the publication of Five Minds – check out more reviews and exclusive content at some of the blogs below:

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book, via Netgalley, for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: London Clay by Tom Chivers

Part personal memoir, part lyrical meditation, London Clay takes us deep in to the nooks and crannies of a forgotten city: a hidden landscape long buried underneath the sprawling metropolis. Armed with just his tattered Streetfinder map, author Tom Chivers follows concealed pathways and explores lost islands, to uncover the geological mysteries that burst up through the pavement and bubble to the surface of our streets.

From Roman ruins to a submerged playhouse, abandoned Tube stations to ancient riverbeds, marshes and woodlands, this network of journeys combines to produce a compelling interrogation of London’s past. London Clay examines landscape and our connection to place, and celebrates urban edgelands: in-between spaces where the natural world and the city mingle, and where ghosts of the deep past can be felt as a buzzing in the skull. It is also a personal account of growing up in London, and of overcoming loss through the layered stories of the capital.

Written in rich and vivid prose, London Clay will inspire readers to think about what lies beneath their feet, and by doing so reveal new ways of looking at the city.

What I Thought:

I seem to have a fascination for the abandoned parts of our towns and cities – just this week I’ve been watching Secrets of the London Underground on Yesterday – so London Clay is right in my wheelhouse.

The idea of secret rivers, enclosed in the sewer system across London, exerting their influence on the city unbeknownst to the residents above has a sense of the mystical about it – helped, no doubt, by my reading Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series!

This book is an interesting animal, as it is not a memoir, it is not a text book or a book of poetry – it is very much all of these things and has elements of social and personal history within it.

Tom Chivers reflects on his own life as he traverses London looking for the source of some of these lost rivers, looking at the geology that forced them into being and the human developments that were shaped by them and, in turn, how the rivers have been shaped by humans. From pre-Roman civilisation, to the demolition and rebuilding of London, each chapter is a fascinating look at a city that is in a constant state of renewal.

It’s easy to see how the book is influenced by the author’s poetry – facts here are communicated clearly but always with an imaginative hook so that none of what could be dry information ever actually is.

At the very start of the book, Tom leads us on one of his walking tours through London, and that’s what the whole book has the feel of – that you’re heading off on a walk with a guide who knows what they’re talking about and whose love of the city shines through. It makes is a very comfortable read, with a real sense of familiarity, after all, we probably know the surface of a lot of these places, even if it’s just from TV, and delving deeper into the ground and the history is really fascinating.

And finally, there are many, many pages full of footnotes and further reading – enough to keep anyone busy for a while, but pick out any element of the book you like and there will be something that will further your knowledge there.

This is just a brilliant book in all ways – from the beautiful cover design and endpapers, to the personal and social history within – I highly recommend it.

London Clay is published by Doubleday.

About the Author:

Tom Chivers is a poet and publisher. He is the author of two pamphlets and two full collections of poetry to date, and is director of the independent press Penned in the Margins. In 2008 he was the Bishopsgate Institute’s first writer in residence, and has appeared widely at events and made a number of contributions to radio, including presenting a 30 minute documentary for Radio 4. He has collaborated with the climate arts organisation Cape Farewell and conducts immersive walking tours of London. Chivers is currently an Associate Artist of the National Centre for Writing.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: Wild Blue Yonder by M. W. Arnold

Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Doris Winter is accused of stealing a valuable item from a famous Hollywood movie star, now a captain in the US Army Air Corps, after a dance at the air base in England where he’s stationed. Gathering her close friends together, she’s determined to clear her name.

Ruth’s POW son suffers a life-changing injury just as her own cottage takes damage in an air raid and Penny’s estranged little sister unexpectedly turns up, having run away from school. Together with the ongoing thefts of items of clothing and surprise personal revelations, these all threaten to hamper their investigation.

In spite of the worsening war situation, they must band together to rise above their troubles and prove love and friendship is worth fighting for.

What I Thought:

It was my pleasure to read and review the first book in The Air Transport Auxiliary Mystery Club last year, and now those smart, brave women are back in the second novel in the series, Wild Blue Yonder.

Once again the ATA ladies at Hamble are solving a mystery – this time a valuable souvenir is missing – while experiencing love and loss, and transporting some incredible planes across the country, working towards the war effort.

As I said with the previous novel, it’s great to see a group of strong, capable women come to the fore in a story about the war, which is so often dominated with accounts of the male experience.

If you’ve never read about the ATA, it was an incredible organisation, dominated by women who flew factory-new planes from air base to air base around the UK, before they were combat ready – as in, no radios and often without instruments. This may not have been combat, but it was vital to the war effort and often looked down upon by the male pilots they came into contact with.

I would say that, while I enjoyed the first book, this one was even better – no bad thing for a series! The relationships that were built in book one are consolidated here, and made stronger when potential tragedy hits home directly with a stray bomb. Having said that, however, you could certainly read this book as a standalone novel, as there is the right level of recapping to make sure you can follow along.

Mick Arnold’s work on recreating the time period is excellent, and his own knowledge of being part of the forces definitely comes in to play (although, yes, I know the ATA is not strictly part of that) and there is just enough background so you know where you are, but not so much that it takes you out of the action.

I wanted to (without spoliers) touch on a moment that resonates in the book regarding an air crash. I felt that this part of the book was done extremely well, giving a moment of profound sadness in what is otherwise, in general, a pretty joyful book. It served as a useful reminder that for all the larks that ladies of the mystery club have, this is still wartime, and there is still tragedy close by.

I spotted yesterday that there is a third book in this series on the way – excellent news, and one I’ll be keeping an eye out for later in the year…

Wild Blue Yonder is published by The Wild Rose Press.

About the Author:

Mick is a hopeless romantic who was born in England and spent fifteen years roaming around the world in the pay of HM Queen Elizabeth II in the Royal Air Force before putting down roots and realizing how much he missed the travel. He’s replaced it somewhat with his writing, including reviewing books and supporting fellow saga and romance authors in promoting their novels.

He’s the proud keeper of two cats bent on world domination, is mad on the music of the Beach Boys, and enjoys the theatre and humoring his Manchester United-supporting wife. Finally, and most importantly, Mick is a full member of the Romantic Novelists Association. Wild Blue Yonder is the second novel in his Broken Wings series and he is very proud to be a part of the Vintage Rose Garden at The Wild Rose Press.

This blog tour is to celebrate the publication of Wild Blue Yonder – check out the other participating blogs below for more exclusive content and reviews.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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The Secrets of Latimer House by Jules Wake

In the war against Hitler every secret counts…

Society heiress Evelyn Brooke-Edwards is a skilled interrogator – her beauty making her a non-threat in the eyes of the prisoners.

Farm girl Betty Connors may not be able to type as she claimed, but her crack analytical skills soon find her unearthing covert connections.

German ex-pat Judith Stern never expected to find herself listening in to German POW’s whispered conversations, but the Nazis took her father from her so she will do whatever it takes to help the Allies end this war.

Billeted together in the attic of Latimer House – a place where secrets abound – Evelyn, Betty and Judith soon form a bond of friendship that carries them through the war. Because nothing is stronger than women united.

Tucked away in the Buckinghamshire countryside, Latimer House, a grand country estate, stands proudly – a witness to some of greatest secrets of WW2.

What I Thought:

Secret things are afoot in the Buckinghamshire countryside in wartime – and this time, it’s not the codebreaking goings on at Bletchley Park, but a top secret interrogation operation at Latimer House.

In The Secrets of Latimer House, Jules Wake draws upon a real-life chapter of the Second World War that seems to be little known these days, eclipsed by other operations that have come to light in the post-war years.

However, like Bletchley Park, Latimer House relies upon a veritable army of women at the core of the operation and we meet some of them here.

It’s great to see many more stories of the contribution of women to the war effort as their contribution is so often overlooked – not so here, as our main characters turn their unique skills towards winning the war – but there is still time for love in the mix, which acts as some welcome light relief!

The book really excels in showing how women and men from completely different social spheres and different countries worked together to defeat the Nazis, but also acknowledges that these close working relationships sometimes developed into more. It does not do so in an overly sentimental way, but there is plenty of romance wrapped in the historical details to make it appeal to lovers of both genres.

There is plenty of period detail in the book, but it is used with a light hand and never overwhelms the story. The main characters are likeable, even when they are having the squabbles that are all too common for people living in close quarters – they are a supportive group and they form a great bond that is lovely to read.

The Secrets of Latimer House is published by One More Chapter.

About The Author:

Jules Wake announced at the age of ten that she planned to be a writer. Along the way she was diverted by the glamorous world of PR and worked on many luxury and not so luxury brands. This proved fabulous training for writing novels as it provided her with the opportunity to hone her creative writing skills.

She writes best-selling warm-hearted romantic contemporary fiction for One More Chapter as Jules Wake and was shortlisted for Romantic Novel of the Year 2020 with The Spark.

Under her pen name Julie Caplin, she also writes the warm and witty Romantic Escapes series.

Between them, the two Js have written eighteen novels, The Secret of Latimer House being the latest.  

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: A Hundred Years to Arras by J. M. Cobley

On a painful, freezing Easter Monday in 1917, Private Robert Gooding Henson of the Somerset Light Infantry is launched into the Battle of Arras.

Robert is twenty-three years old, a farmer’s boy from Somerset, who joins up against his father’s wishes. Robert forms fast friendships with Stanley, who lied about his age to go to war, and Ernest, whose own slippery account betrays a life on the streets. Their friendship is forged through gas attacks, trench warfare, freezing in trenches, hunting rats, and chasing down kidnapped regimental dogs. Their life is one of mud and mayhem but also love and laughs.

This is the story of Robert’s journey to Arras and back, his dreams and memories drawing him home. His story is that of the working-class Tommy, the story of thousands of young men who were caught in the collision between old rural values and the relentlessness of a new kind of war. It is a story that connects the past with the present through land, love and blood.

What I Thought:

I’m delighted today to be opening the blog tour for J. M. Cobley’s superb novel of World War One, A Hundred Years to Arras.

I continue to be fascinated by the First and Second world wars, but am much more so these days by the lived experience of the men and women involved – so what a privilege to read a story based upon a real soldier of the Somerset Light Infantry and author J. M. Cobley’s relative.

As there has to be in any novel of this war, there are dramatic scenes of trench warfare and the carnage that came from men leaving their trenches and charging into machine gun and artillery fire. While these passages contain plenty of detail on the horrors faced by these fighting men, a lot is left to the reader’s imagination, which I felt was very effective – there was no need for blow-by-blow descriptions of injury and death, but the overall sense of it was there.

Aside from these dramatic scenes, we also see the day-to-day experiences of the men, their camaraderie, the rare periods of leave and – most importantly – the waiting and marching. Robert Gooding Henson and his comrades experience the war in the everyday and you get a real sense of them and the sense of a group of people thrown together and finding friendship among men they might otherwise have never met.

This book also pulls off the great feat of accurately putting across the monotony of hours and days of waiting without ever becoming monotonous itself.

I am going to break one of my own rules here and post a spoiler, but I am going to do it down the bottom, below the poster, so you have been warned!

This was a great book, and an inspired idea, taking the outline of one of those brave men who fought in such terrible conditions, and giving him a voice. Out of the filth of the trenches there is laughter and comradeship and it’s great that, over 100 years later, there are still new stories to be told about that fateful time.

A Hundred Years to Arras is published by Unbound.

About the Author:

J. M. Cobley was born in Devon of Welsh parents and now lives in Warwickshire with his wife and daughter. Jason studied English Language and Literature at university and is currently Head Teacher at a hospital school in Coventry. Jason is otherwise known for his work writing scripts for the long-running Commando comic and graphic novel adaptations of classics such as Frankenstein and An Inspector Calls, as well as the children’s novel The Legend of Tom Hickathrift. Jason also hosts a weekly show on Radio Abbey in Kenilworth, where he indulges his passion for classic and progressive rock. The central character of A Hundred Years to Arras is based on his relative Robert Gooding Henson.

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the publication of A Hundred Years to Arras. For more reviews and exclusive content, check out some of the blog taking part below.

Here is the spoiler! On reading the epilogue, Jason Cobley remembers the time that he and his wife and daughter visited Robert Gooding Henson’s war grave in France. His wife remarked that they were probably the only members of Robert’s family who had visited him, as it would have been far too expensive for them to travel to France.

This resonated with me, as not too many years ago while researching my own family history I was able to discover the resting place of my 2x Great Grandfather, James George Jupp, who was also killed in the war. I had a similar thought at the time, that not one member of his family had ever been to the grave, as they would not have had the means – it’s always something that has struck me as sad, but must not have been uncommon for those grieving families after the war.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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