Book Review: The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt

To achieve the incredible, she must attempt the impossible

All her life, Alice has been haunted by visions of birds. But when the mysterious Crowley appears at Alice’s door, he reveals she’s been seeing nightjars – the miraculous birds which guard our souls. And a shadowy faction wants to use her rare gift to hunt the magically gifted.

Forced to go on the run, Alice follows Crowley to an incredible alternate London, to hone her talents. But can she trust him? Alice must risk everything as she navigates a dangerous world of magic, marvels and death cults.

What I Thought:

Although it’s taken me ages to write up my review of The Nightjar, I actually read the book last year and I think I’d have to say it was one of my books of the year.

After going on and on about my dodgy relationship with Fantasy novels, it turns out that what could probably be classed as Urban Fantasy really appeals to me – in essence, books with a fantasy theme, but with some connection to the real world, or an approximation of it.

This book exactly fits that bill, as we meet Alice in contemporary London just as Crowley turns up on her doorstep wanting to show her an alternate London, and that the visions of birds she’s had all her life are real. Alice really has it tough in this book! She goes through situations that require huge strength of character, and she deals with the revelations about her and the trouble that comes with them in a level-headed way. I really liked her as a main character.

The premise is original and weaves into the story well, while the world in the alternate London, and the mythology surrounding it, are described really well – no worries about getting lost in it all as there are even family trees!

There’s a really soft spot in me for good book boyfriends, and Crowley is an excellent book boyfriend – brooding, but loyal and with hidden depths – just perfect, and I look forward to reading more about him in the second book in the series, which is due to be out next year.

The Nightjar is published by Pan.

To find out more about Deborah Hewitt and her work, you can check out her website. Alternatively, you can connect with her on Twitter.

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: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; a flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

What I Thought:

Ordinarily, I would post a reasonable-length review, having considered a book for a few days and my response to it. I’ll try and make insightful comments to persuade you that this is a book that you really must be reading.

But with Hamnet, I’ll simply say you MUST read this book.

As with all of us, my knowledge of Hamnet Shakespeare could be written on the back of a postage stamp, but Maggie O’Farrell brings him to life vividly and so beautifully, and the impact of his life and death on his family is portrayed incredibly well.

I’ve struggled through Shakespeare plays, both in school and having gone to see them, and have not really ever seen the man behind the curtain. This book turns a man whose genius we are all supposed to admire without question into a human, with all the good, bad and ugly that that entails. I know, I know, this book is a work of fiction, but there are many tiny details that we know to be true woven through Maggie O’Farrell’s imagination, and it rings so very true. There’s even an explanation for the famous story of Shakespeare leaving his wife, Anne Hathaway, his second best bed!

And Anne Hathaway herself (in this book called Agnes – commonly interchanged with Anne in the period) is brought out of her husband’s shadow and her influence on his life is completely reframed. Here, she is not the older woman who trapped a free spirit into marriage, but a free spirit in her own right, with her own interests and beliefs.

I have a thorny relationship with what one might call ‘literary fiction’, I often find flowery language interferes with my enjoyment of the plot, but I think this is the first book I’ve read in a long time that is breathtakingly beautiful (both in design and in content) and never allows language to overwhelm the story. Not having read Maggie O’Farrell before, I’d no idea what vivid mind paintings she was able to conjure with her writing, but a description of something as simple as a flower being blown in a breeze is just beautiful.

I adored this book and feel so fortunate to have read it slightly in advance of everyone else. I would urge you to buy it, read it and share it!

Hamnet is published by Tinder Press.

You can find out more about Maggie O’Farrell and her work on her website. Be sure to keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter too, as there are lots of things going on around the launch of Hamnet online, in light of the Covid-19 crisis…

This post is part of the blog tour to celebrate the launch of Hamnet – check out some of the other fantastic 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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Book Review: The Con Artist by Fred Van Lente

Comic book artist Mike Mason arrives at San Diego Comic-Con, seeking sanctuary with other fans and creators—and maybe to reunite with his ex—but when his rival is found murdered, he becomes the prime suspect. To clear his name, Mike will have to navigate every corner of the con, from zombie obstacle courses and cosplay flash mobs to intrusive fans and obsessive collectors, in the process unraveling a dark secret behind one of the industry’s most legendary creators.

What I Thought:

I love a good mystery, and I’m relatively new to the world of conventions, having attended LFCC for the last few years (ok, mostly the YALC section, but still!).

So along comes The Con Artist by Fred Van Lente, a solid mystery book set at San Diego Comic Con.

The book uses Comic Con as a setting for murder and mayhem, while treating the event with reverence and affection, highlighting the quirks that make the event such a haven for so many comic fans – harking back to the origins of the event, rather than focusing on the huge circus that it’s become in recent years.

There are plenty of in jokes for those in the know and if you’re a regular con attendee anywhere in the world, you’ll recognise the people and places that provide a background to plot.

The murder plot itself is well thought out and there are plenty of twists as Mike tries to prove his innocence and the ultimate solution is really clever. I’ve read Fred Van Lente’s first book, which, while well-written, owed a lot to Agatha Christie. This original plot in an innovative setting is even better and a thoroughly enjoyable read for mystery fans.

The Con Artist is published by Quirk Books.

To find out more about Fred Van Lente and his work in writing and comics, you can check out his website. Or why not connect with him on Twitter?

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: Point of No Return By Tanya Jean Russell

Jake Williams has been undercover as a captain at Great Britain Air for months and he’s beyond frustrated. Tasked with finding the airline insiders who are smuggling chemical weapons into the country, he’s getting nowhere fast.

Bree Phillips has spent her whole life wanting to travel and experience life outside of the small village she grew up in, but her family needed her. Now, years later than planned, she is finally joining her best friend to work for Great Britain Air, and her adventure is beginning.

Jake knows he is better off alone, it keeps him sharp and focused, but despite his efforts to keep Bree at a distance, she is drawn further and further into his world. Both have to ask themselves whether some risks are worth taking.

What I Thought:

In these challenging times, I’m always on the look out for a bit of romance from my fiction, but why not take things up a level by adding a healthy does of thriller into the mix? Point of No Return does exactly this, and delivers a solid adventure plot alongside a touching and sexy romance.

Although this is the second book in Tanya Jean Russell’s Cabin Crew series, there’s no need to read the books in order, as they cover different main characters who all fly for a living. The twist with this story, though, is that Jake Williams is working undercover as a pilot, trying to uncover a smuggling scheme – with all the thrills and danger that that entails.

Bree Phillips is a great main character. Although she finds herself in the middle of something dangerous, she’s not willing to let her colleague – or dare I say more than a colleague – go it alone. She’s canny and thinks on her feet and also has a heart of gold to steer her in the right direction.

The book is paced really well, with a slow build up through the developing relationship between Jake and Bree, but when the action kicks in, it races through their adventures with several more twists. I’d actually be interested to read more about this couple, as they are such likeable characters, but I’m not sure how you would plot it – Tanya Jean Russell, over to you!

Point of No Return is published by Evernight Publishing.

For more information about Tanya Jean Russell and her work, you can check out her website. Alternatively, why not connect with her on Twitter?

This review is part of a blog tour to celebrate Point of No Return – for more reviews, giveaways and exclusive content, why not check out some of the great blogs below?

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: Tapestry by Beth Duke

Twenty-one-year-old Skye Willis lives in Eufaula, Alabama, a tourist mecca of stately homes and world-class bass fishing. Her childhood friends are either stuck at dead ends or have moved on to accomplish Big Things.

Skye’s grandmother, Verna, insists on being called “Sparrow” because she suspects her ancestors were Muscogee Creek. She dresses in faux deerskin and experiments with ancient Native American recipes, offering a myth or legend to anyone who will listen.

Skye has no idea what to do with her life. She’s smart as hell, but she has no faith or knowledge there’s something out there she was “born to do.” Nor does she know much of anything about her father, who died in Afghanistan when she was a toddler. He and his family are a mystery her mother won’t discuss. But when Sparrow sets out to confirm her Creek ancestry through genetic testing, Skye joins in.

The results hit like a DNA bomb, launching them both on a path filled with surprises and life-changing events. Skye learns a harder truth than she ever expected.

Alternating chapters between Skye’s Alabama life and an intertwining tale of greed, deceit, and control in Texas, this story offers proof that all life is a woven tapestry of past, present, and future.

What I Thought:

I’ve read Beth Duke before and loved her mix of contemporary American fiction and historical elements. Painting a picture of her characters from their earlier years leads to a better understanding of their actions in the present – whether good or bad!

Tapestry addresses that most modern of dilemmas – what happens when a DNA kit drops a bomb into a family? How does the family deal with the fact that they have lied, and how does the child forgive being lied to?

At the heart of this book is human connection – the connections that are not known about, and those that bind a family. It’s also about how chance can lead us to the right places, as Skye discovers through her Grandmother both what she wants to do with her life, and also with whom she wishes to spend it.

Beth Duke is adept at adding local and period detail to her books, without it seeming forced – there is some fantastic historical information about AfricaTown (Plateau), Alabama, a settlement formed by the last known people to be illegally brought to the USA as part of the slave trade. I can’t really let you know how exactly this ties in to the plot, as it would give things away, but there is further reading at the back of Tapestry about this fascinating settlement and lots of links online to explore too.

What I loved most about this book, is that it is populated with strong women. Sparrow, Lisa and Skye form an impenetrable family unit – them against the world – and despite the squabbles that any family might have, they remain devoted to each other. This really comes to the fore in the later stages of the book and it’s great to see three such women together and written so very well.

Tapestry is published by The Art of Dixie.

To find out more about Beth Duke and her work, you can check out her website. If you’d like to connect with her, you can do so on Twitter.

This post is just one in a blog tour to celebrate Tapestry by Beth Duke. To find out more about the book, and for exclusive extracts and giveaways, why not check out some of the blogs below?

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

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