Happy Publication Day – Lucy Atkins and The Missing One.

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So a very happy Publication Day to Lucy Atkins for “The Missing One” a book I was lucky enough to read early – review to follow but first I tracked Lucy down to ask her some questions and here is what she had to tell me. More information is available via her website – link at the end of this article.

Tell me a little about how the story first started taking shape in your mind.

The idea behind The Missing One came to me when I stumbled across a magazine article about one of the first scientists (and possibly the first woman) to study killer whales in the wild. In the early 1980s she was living on a tiny island off the British Columbian coast, going out on the ocean in all conditions, filming, photographing and listening to killer whales (even when her baby was born – she just took him with her!). I used to live in Seattle, and I love the landscape of the coast around Seattle and Vancouver – and I still have a real longing for it. I soon found myself doodling a short story about a killer whale researcher. My short story turned into a long story, my researcher became Elena, the mother of my main character, Kal (an ordinary British mum with a little toddler called Finn, and a husband called Doug who may or may not be having an affair). Then I realized this was much bigger than a short story. I was writing a novel….

The relationship between mother and daughter is an intriguing one – are there any personal experiences in the mix?

There are definitely some similarities between Elena, the mother in The Missing One, and my own mother – but also a lot of it is purely made up. My own mother, who is in her eighties now, is a huge personality – she’s very bright and she’s a real force to be reckoned with (in a good way!). Elena, the mother character in The Missing One definitely has some of my mum’s fierceness, and intelligence. She also has a few of my mother’s small habits. But Elena’s love is far less reliable than my own mum’s. Kal (the main character in The Missing One) doesn’t trust Elena not to hurt her or push her away. I’m delighted to say that my own mother has always been constant and loving and unquestionably there for me. But I do think perhaps the power and strength of Elena’s love for Kal (and then Kal’s for her own baby) is rooted in my own mother’s enormous love for me (and mine for my own children).

 

 

The background on Killer Whales is fascinating – did it take a lot of research?

 

Yes – I read anything I could find, and spent a lot of time – way too much time probably – on Killer Whale websites. At one point I even found that there are webcams where you can watch murky ocean scenes and listen to Killer Whales calling to each other (if you’re lucky). So yes I’ve spent many hours ridiculously obsessed, though I dread to think what errors I’ve made. I’ve also realized that I must stop myself boring people in pubs or at parties with killer whale talk. You see their eyes glaze over….fortunately, I think I’ve kept that under control in the novel. Killer whales are in The Missing One, but only in the background of the real human  mother-daughter story.

 

Do you have a favourite character from the novel?

 

Susannah is my favourite character. I am not sure what this says about me as she’s bossy, unstable and possibly even dangerous. I think she’d be entertaining company if you weren’t on the wrong side of her. She’d never bore you that’s for sure.

 

Favourite comfort author and/or book.

 

I read anything that sounds good – I don’t really go back to any one book or author for comfort though Jane Eyre (or maybe Villette) by Charlotte Bronte has to be my all-time favourite novel. I love reading clever ‘domestic’ thrillers like Gone Girl, or Before I Go to Sleep. Recently I also really enjoyed The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard – intelligent family sagas.  I like my comfort read to be intelligent and well-written, but not hard going. That’s actually what I was trying to do with The Missing One – produce something that sweeps you away, stimulates and diverts you without being pretentious. I wanted a good plot but also characters you like and believe in.

 

Favourite place to read/write.

 

Cafés (nice independent ones, ideally, not Starbucks). I lived in Boston for two years recently and wrote The Missing One mainly whilst sitting in gorgeous American cafés. The sound of chatter and espresso machines never disturbs me. If I get bored I eavesdrop. And I can’t get up and do the laundry. All there is to do is write (or read). And eat cake.

 

One book you wish you had written.

 

Jane Eyre or Villette – but then again, maybe not as I’d then have had to die young of pregnancy sickness. Poor Charlotte Bronte.

 

First thing you would save apart from family/pets from a burning building.

 

For each of my children I’ve written a sort of sporadic diary of their baby/toddlerhood/young childhood – just notes of the funny things they said, or how I felt about them at that time, or what they were up to. I’ve stuck in the odd photo or ticket stub. It’s chaotic, sometimes illegible, and my firstborn’s is an awful lot more substantial than my third child’s book, but they’re absolutely precious.

Thank you so much Lucy!

 

Review

Kal McKenzie always had a tricky relationship with her mother, Elena, but when Elena dies of breast cancer, Kal is bereft: how do you mourn a mother whose love you could never count on?

So, I found myself reading two equally compelling but very different books about how the choices of a parent can affect their children – this one and the recently reviewed “This Child of Mine” so I’m surprised I’m still standing – phew, talk about emotional responses to books, “The Missing One” had me tied up in all kinds of heartache in the best way possible.

Kal is a complete mess when we meet her in the opening stages of this story – having just suffered the loss of a mother she never really understood, she is also tackling the very real possiblity that her husband is having an affair – this leads her to an impulsive move and one that may cost her more than she imagines.

Determined to unravel her mothers past in order to come to terms with her own sense of self, Kal travels to a remote location to unlock the secrets of her childhood. Taking young son Finn with her, she finds a mystery with its roots in the lives of a group of people she had never even heard of – including in a very real sense, her own mother.

We hear the story of Kal’s journey alongside snippets of her mother Elena’s earlier life, and as the tale progresses, long held and deeply buried secrets start coming to life -and this is compelling stuff.

Some amazing characters can be found here – Kal herself is a nightmare in a wonderful way, I often wanted to slap her, so naive is she about the motives of others – and so seemingly determined to continue on this path despite circumstances screaming at her “NO GO BACK! ANYWHERE BUT HERE!”. To be fair to her though, her father is no help – he is annoyingly cryptic and if at any point in the whole dilemma he had actually just told the truth, so much heartache could be avoided – and therein lies the beauty of the storytelling here..our very real and heartfelt attempts to protect our children can often be the very thing that is doing them the most harm..

When Kal meets Susannah, an old friend of Elena’s, things really begin to snowball – a wonderfully drawn complex character, Susannah holds the key to it all, but she is strangely reticent…and the very real sense of threat surrounding her is palpable in the pages she inhabits…cleverly done.

Descriptively speaking this is beautiful writing – the parts of the story that deal with the wonderful wildlife, specifically Killer Whales, is brilliant and I learnt a lot – I feel some research coming on, I want to know more about this subject. As a backdrop to Elena’s life and the things that drive her, it is organic and totally believable…you can almost forgive her for what comes later.

All in all a wonderful tale, well told, one that may leave you slightly overwrought in the best way possible, and one that I would highly recommend for those who like family drama with a mystery and thriller element.

Find out more here: http://www.lucyatkins.com/

Follow Lucy on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/lucyatkins

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Missing-One-Lucy-Atkins-ebook/dp/B00EPHU2CK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389858924&sr=1-1&keywords=the+missing+one+lucy+atkins

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

Liz Currently Loves….Season to Taste by Natalie Young.

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Thank you to the author and publisher for the advance reading copy.

Ok, so I reviewed this the other day but I thought I would give it front page status today so that if you missed my review before you can have a catch up – from tomorrow you will be able to get your hands on your very own copy and this is a reading experience not to be missed.

I will have a Q&A with Natalie Young very soon so if you are interested in hearing more about the book keep an eye out for that!

Review

Jacob has not been seen for a few days. That’s because Lizzie snapped last Monday and killed him. Over the course of the following month, with no other option at hand and no income, Lizzie will use her best skill–cooking–to dispose of Jacob. When she finds unexpected kinship with an isolated misfit, she will be tested: Will Lizzie confess or will her new friend be an unwitting accessory to her crime?

Funny and disturbing, SEASON TO TASTE is a novel about the definitive end of a marriage, and its very strange aftermath.

So, here we go – I don’t think I have ever read a novel QUITE like this one before but oh I loved it – be warned though it is probably not for the squeamish! At turns darkly ironic, humerous and endlessly fascinating, this is a compelling and devilish look into one woman’s psyche and her rather odd and violent, yet effective way of ending her unhappy marriage.

On impulse one day Lizzie kills her husband – having then to come up with a plan for body disposal she chops him into handy joints, pops him in the Freezer and over the course of the novel uses her culinary skill to make a meal of him, quite literally. Yuck I hear you cry. And yes I suppose so – but in the intelligently creative hands of Natalie Young it is less yuck and more yum…in the reading sense of course.

As we follow Lizzie on her quest, with her lists to keep her on track and her growing relationships outside of the family home making her reconsider her future plans this is a captivating and often enchanting tale despite the subject matter, or perhaps even because of it. It is certainly a unique take on things and Lizzie has a crazy but appealing side to her character. Written in a snappy and matter of fact style, it has perfect pacing and witty prose that will keep you on the journey with Lizzie from start to finish. Will she get away with it? Well, you will have to see..

Its possible this book spoke to me on a deeper level because I am currently in the midst of a separation and Divorce myself – who knew that it was not a Lawyer that I needed but simply a giant stock pot? And in a marketing twist of pure genius, along with the review copy I received a handy wooden spoon….

Terrific. Give it a go!

Find out more here: http://www.natalieyoung.co.uk/

You can follow Natalie on Twitter here : https://twitter.com/natalieyyoung

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Season-Taste-How-Your-Husband/dp/1472209354/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1389785808&sr=1-1

Happy Reading Folks!

 

WolfHound Century by Peter Higgins. An interesting Blend…

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Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy via netgalley.

Investigator Vissarion Lom has been summoned to the capital in order to catch a terrorist — and ordered to report directly to the head of the secret police.
A totalitarian state, worn down by an endless war, must be seen to crush home-grown insurgents with an iron fist. But Lom discovers Mirgorod to be more corrupted than he imagined: a murky world of secret police and revolutionaries, cabaret clubs and doomed artists.

So I always like to try a book that refuses to sit firmly in any one genre and WolfHound Century was just that very thing and very cleverly imagined.

The thing I loved most about this one was the descriptive prose that put you right in the moment – and the world the author has created here. It is almost fairytale like in its concept, but definitely Grimm and not Disney – and written so well you can see it as if it were real.

This is part political thriller, part dark fantasy and part mystery and the various strands of the story are woven together to great effect – if I had one small complaint it would be that sometimes the characters did seem very secondary to the environment they were living in – however as this is part of a series it is important that the mythology behind the story is ingrained and this was achieved well.

It is a bit of a slow burner – I rambled my way through the first few chapters, but once it kicked in, it was a definite page turner and I very much enjoyed it.

I look forward to the next instalment. Overall a terrific, well written tale with an interesting concept and fantastic imagery.

Happy Reading Folks!

Liz Currently Loves….The Key by Simon Toyne.

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Hunted. Hounded. Haunted.
She is the most important person in the world. She is The Key
Journalist Liv Adamsen has escaped from the highly secretive Citadel at the heart of the ancient city of Ruin and now lies in isolation, staring at hospital walls as blank as her memory. Despite her inability to recall her past, something strange is stirring within her. She feels possessed by a sen-sation she can’t name and plagued by whispers only she can hear: “KuShiKaam,” the key.

So following on from the heart stopping events of “Sanctus” the story continues with “The Key” and if anything this one enthralled me even more than the first. Which is REALLY saying something considering my usual aversion to this kind of tale…

I’m not going to say anything specific because its difficult to review properly without spoiling Sanctus for those readers who have not yet started this series – so generally speaking…

The plot development is second to none – SUCH an imaginative unique story and with “The Key” Mr Toyne expands and adds depth to his mythology and the background to the events occurring in the lives of his characters. The writing style draws you right into this world, you can see the places and the people described with perfect clarity and it is brilliant addictive reading. I finished it bleary eyed in the early hours then woke up later extremely cross with myself that I hadnt packed “The Tower” which I’m sure is going to be an amazing conclusion to this ingenious story..

Character development is also well done here – second books often suffer from the assumption that the reader knows the characters well and they can therefore take a secondary place to the plot but this pitfall is avoided here – they are also broadened and given extra heart. This is no “filler before the finale” this is a whole story in its own right and moves us along with perfect pacing.

All in all a most terrific read – sadly for me, only one more to go in this particular trilogy. Then I’ll have to start moaning at Mr Toyne to bring me something else from his particularly lively and intriguing imagination.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

 

Liz Currently Loves….The Wasteland Saga by Nick Cole.

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Thank you to Kate at Harper Collins for randomly sending me this terrific book.

Forty years after a devastating thermonuclear Armageddon, mankind has been reduced to salvaging the ruins of a broken world. In a style that’s part Hemingway and part Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, The Wasteland Saga chronicles the struggle of the Old Man, his granddaughter, and a mysterious boy as they try to survive the savage lands of this new American Dark Age.

This novel is made up of three interconnecting stories – The Old Man and the Waste Land, The Savage Boy and The Road is a River. Originally released separately, I was lucky enough to have all three in one go – Thank heavens!

As far as post apocalyptic fiction goes this is at the top of the game – Brilliantly involving, a realistic scenario and some tremendously well drawn characters make it a terrific read for fans of this genre and indeed anyone with a love for storytelling art. The author picks you up and puts you into a different world, paints you a picture and leads you through an amazing landscape where you will need all your senses.

I was bereft when I got to the end of Part one. I thought Part two could not possibly match it. Then I was bereft when I got to the end of Part Two and thought…well, you get the point.

This will have added depth if you  have read Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” which I also loved and also suffers inevitable comparison to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (a book incidentally that I hated with every fibre of my being, an opinion that often gets me into trouble!)  but the tone and the feel of it for me was more “The Stand” which anyone who knows me well will be aware is my favourite book of all time. Since that novel only Justin Cronin with “The Passage” has come close to evoking the same emotional response in me – and now Nick Cole with this tale. That is perhaps the highest compliment I can pay and probably the easiest way to say how good I thought it was.

There is excitement and adventure here – occasionally an adrenalin rush – but tempered with periods of quiet contemplation and insight. The world the characters inhabit is a harsh one, but there IS hope here. It is a wonderful read. Thats about all I can say.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

Cherringham: A Murder for every month of the year…

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So I have not read episodic books since I avidly awaited each new instalment of “The Green Mile” by Stephen King many years ago now, but when I was offered the chance to have a look at a new series that is going to be released over the course of this year I jumped at the chance – they sounded perfect for Sunday afternoon reading. I read part one over the course of yesterday. To follow: Some information on the series followed by a review of the first instalment – Murder on the Thames.

Murder on Thames is the first in an innovative Crime series written in English but published by one of Germany’s leading publishers, Bastei Entertainment.

Published in English first, to be followed by German in March 2014, the crime series features 12 self-contained episodes written by co-authors Neil Richards (UK based) and Matthew Costello (US based).

In a revival of the Dickensian tradition, a new eBook episode will be published each month with the second episode, Mystery at the Manor, to be published in the UK on the 19th January 2014.

Cherringham is a quiet and peaceful town in the Cotswolds. Time moves slowly here, and nothing out of the ordinary ever happens, until one morning a woman’s body is discovered in the river. Sarah Edwards has just returned to Cherringham with her two children following the breakdown of her marriage. Sarah had been friends with Sammi Jackson – the woman in the river – before they both moved to London and she’s certain there is more to her death than meets the eye. But juggling the school run and her job as a web designer doesn’t leave much time to solve murder mysteries.

After the death of his wife, former NYPD homicide detective Jack Brennan has retired to Cherringham hoping for a quiet life. He soon realises “peace and quiet” isn’t really him and, despite his misgivings, he’s persuaded by Sarah to help her look into Sammi’s death. It quickly becomes clear that the case isn’t as simple as the police hope. From her violent ex-boyfriend to her alcoholic father, it seems everyone has something to hide. Sarah and Jack will need to use all their wits to get to the bottom of this case.

Thrilling, deadly and anything but ‘cosy’, Murder on Thames brings together the unlikely crime sleuth duo Sarah and Jack for the first in the ongoing Cherringham crime series.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Co-authors, Neil Richards (based in the UK) and Matthew Costello (based in the US), are known for their script work on major computer games. The Cherringham crime series is their first fictional transatlantic collaboration. Matthew has written and designed dozens of bestselling games including the critically acclaimed The 7th Guest, Doom 3, Rage and Pirates of the Caribbean. He is also the author of a number of successful novels, including Vacation (2011) and Beneath Still Waters (1989), which was made into a movie. Neil has worked as a producer and writer in TV and film, creating scripts for BBC, Disney, and Channel 4, and earning numerous Bafta nominations along the way. He’s also written script and story for over 20 video games including The Da Vinci Code, and consults around the world on digital storytelling.

Review: Murder on the Thames.

So, the first instalment in the Cheringham series finds us meeting Sarah and Jack – Jack a retired NYPD police officer who is now living in Cheringham and Sarah a single mother who has returned to her home village. When Sarah’s good friend is found drowned in the river, the police are quick to assume an accident – but Sarah is not so sure. With Jack’s help she sets out to track down the truth.

An unlikely pairing these two but a good one – I very much enjoyed their interaction and the mystery itself was well drawn and intriguing. As a set up for an ongoing novella series it was extremely well done – enough information about our main protagonists to ensure we want to follow on with them and an initial contact that makes us want to know more about their developing relationship.

Add to that a great little mystery written in old school style and you have much to look forward to. In the tradition of Midsomer and almost anywhere you might find Jessica Fletcher, I get the feeling that Cheringham and the surrounding area’s may not be a place you would want to live – but as a place to visit every now and then its going to be great.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

The Half Life of Hannah/Other Halves by Nick Alexander.

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I recently downloaded The Half Life of Hannah onto my wonderful Kindle and then was lucky enough to receive Other Halves as a review copy so I spent some of my recent holiday reading them back to back – if you have not yet read either of these novels I highly recommend that you do the same. For the purposes of review though, I shall split the difference. You may want to do the same reading this article as obviously the review for Other Halves may give certain things away….

The Half Life of Hannah

Hannah is thirty-eight and the happily married mother of eleven-year-old Luke, the diamond in her world. Her marriage is reassuringly stable, and after fifteen years she has managed to push the wild dreams of youth from her mind and concentrate on the everyday satisfactions of here and now. The first half of her life hasn’t been as exciting as she had hoped, but then, she reckons, whose has?

When she succeeds in convincing husband Cliff to rent a villa in the south of France for a summer vacation with her sister Jill, and gay friend Tristan, she’s expecting little more than a pleasant few weeks with her family.
But they each have their own baggage – their own secrets – ready to explode on this not-so-relaxing holiday in France.

Starting off as a gentle yet intriguing family story, we follow Hannah and co on holiday in France where tension lies just beneath the surface..

I wasnt expecting such a wonderful emotive tale but that is what I got. Cleverly using the past and present to build a picture in its entirety, I loved the fact that this was unpredictable. Character driven all the way with a terrific ending that both completes the story and leaves room for more (luckily for me the “more” was readily available) it is a slow burner that will hold your attention throughout.

It is a page turner and beautifully written. I found myself reading way into the night as I wanted to find out what would happen next – there are a few twists and turns along the way and you were not always sure where it was going.

A tale of family secrets this was compelling and emotional and is highly recommended for fans of family drama with heart.

DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT YET READ THE HALF LIFE OF HANNAH.

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Other Halves

Hannah and Cliff’s marriage is over. After a traumatic family holiday, Cliff’s lies have been exposed and Hannah has been reunited with her lost love, Cliff’s brother, James. But after fifteen years together, and forever bound by love for their eleven-year-old son, Luke, breaking free and starting again seems impossible.

Following on from The Half Life of Hannah this is the continuation of Hannah and Cliff’s story as they find new lives after their separation.

Once again a terrific character driven novel, we get to hear from both Hannah and Cliff. Emotionally compelling, for someone like me who is currently going through a separation herself, this book spoke volumes.

Having been very much on Hannah’s side during the first novel, I found myself sympathising with Cliff as we learn more about his inner turmoil.

If I had one complaint it would be that I wanted more from some of the characters I fell for in Book One, Tristan and Jill particularly, but you never know – whilst this gave closure there is also room for more. Here’s hoping.

All in all I loved both these novels and would Highly Recommend reading one after the other. As a whole it was wonderfully compelling with a high standard of writing.

Happy Reading Folks!

Happy New Year…and Happy New Reading!

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So here we are, 2014 and after the year I had in 2013 I was very pleased to see the back of it. The GOOD thing about 2013 was the many wonderful books I read. I’m starting off this year as I start every year – with a Stephen King book, in this case Rose Madder but I have a reading list as long as the wall of China and boy am I looking forward to every single one. That does not even include all the ones I don’t yet know about…

This is a short post. I’m taking the rest of the week to get over the holiday shenanigans and then next week its back to normal and I will be having a look back at my year in reading for 2013 and also taking a look ahead to what I am excited about in 2014. Until then fellow readers see below 3 books that I read last year, fairly early on, that if you HAVENT read yet you might want to take a look at…

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Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

 

 

Liz Currently Loves….Tomorrow The Killing by Daniel Polansky

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Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy.

Once he was a hero of the Great War, and then a member of the dreaded Black House. Now he is the criminal linchpin of Low Town. His name is Warden. He thought he had left the war behind him, but a summons from up above brings the past sharply, uncomfortably, back into focus. General Montgomery’s daughter is missing somewhere in Low Town, searching for clues about her brother’s murder. The General wants her found, before the stinking streets can lay claim to her, too.

So, Book Two of the Low Town novels and I have to say having read this, these have now moved very close to the top of my favourite fantasy novels. Having thought about it a little there are two reasons for this – The world these characters inhabit is rich, wonderful, awful and amazing all at the same time and Warden himself is one of the best characters I’ve found in this type of fiction. He is beautifully imperfect, unpredictable and intriguing. Two books in and you feel you have only just scratched the surface…and yet still feel you know him well.

In this instalment he is chasing down the daughter of General Montgomery, who is off searching Low Town for her brothers murderer. Warden has history with both the General and his son Roland so against his better judgment he agrees to get involved – of course in this world nothing is straight forward and soon he finds himself in deep water once again..

The pure storytelling here is a joy to behold – giving depth to the characters we met in The Straight Razor Cure and bringing new ones into the mix, I’m definitely in love with the people, Wren in particular. There is dark humour and an ironic outlook on life alongside a rollicking adventure that will hold you in its thrall until it is done.

I really cannot recommend these books highly enough, especially for those who love the Fantasy genre and who love depth and intelligence in plotting and characterisation. Brilliant. Bring on Book 3.

Happy Reading Folks!

Liz Currently Loves….Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh

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Coming January 14th From Crown Publishing

Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy via Netgalley.

Spademan used to be a garbage man. That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, and before the city became a bombed-out shell of its former self. Now he’s a hitman.

I wasnt sure quite what to expect when I started this one  – the premise sounded interesting and it turned out to be a terrific story. Spademan lives in the real world while many around him live in a dream – hooked up to machines they all live lives they have chosen while outside the city rots around them. After the death of his wife in the dirty bomb, Spademan found he had a particular talent for killing. All it takes these days is a phone call and a name…he doesnt care about the reasons, he just needs to know who and where. Until he meets Persephone….

I loved the world the author has created here. In the aftermath of the bombings, many survivors deserted the area, leaving behind the destruction, but for some reason many stayed. Some to live actual real lives, others to live a virtual life of their own construct. Spademan is an intriguing character – he has his own moral code, he will not harm children as that takes a “particular kind of psychopath” but he will happily kill anyone else without knowing why. When Persephone becomes his next target however, his mindset begins to shift. Its a fascinating insight into a very troubled mind.

The world is rich with atmosphere and delightfully drawn supporting characters who all invade Spademan’s space causing one problem or the other, even when they are trying to help. There is some wonderful ironic humour here to offset the darker aspects of the story and this author is adept at creating visual images in your head as you read – imaginatively speaking this is superb.

Story flow is perfect, some beautiful writing skill and clever plot development make this an absolutely wondrous reading experience. I am secretly hoping to have more tales of this city..

Happy Reading Folks!