The Box Blog Tour

Your daughter is missing. You’ve been accused of a terrible crime. How can you save her if everyone believes you’re a murderer? The Box holds the answers … if you live long enough to find them

The Box, Dan Malakin

Of course the minute I read that I knew I needed this book. Thanks to Angana and Viper Books I got my wish along with being part of the blog tour.

Ed Truman is a solicitor who finds his daughter, and subsequently his whole family targeted by an alt right men’s activist group – Men Together. As the smear campaign picks up speed, Ed’s daughter Ally is missing. Now Ed is focused on finding Ally and putting a stop to this war on the family. Which is easier said than done when the whole country thinks you are a sexual predator and murderer and DCI Jackie Rose has a task force on your tail.

As Ed sees hes life and family falling further and further apart, he knows that finding Ally will glue it all back together. Then he meets Phoenix. A friend of Ally, who claims to know where Ally is and why she is missing. It because of The Box.

The characters, the family dynamic, the interaction between awkward teen and father, the spouses frustrations, the mystery of Phoenix. All of this had me feeling for them. I loved them, hated them, wanted them to succeed. Dan Malakin writes fantastically flawed people not just the hero you root for. The story is fast paced without feeling rushed. You get those moments of history and backstory but you don’t lose get off track. Most of all you get drawn in, you stay up late, you run to work because you just had to finish it and now you are, in every sense, running late. Add The Box to your TBR, add Dan Malakin to your list of faves, and get ready to run.

Again, thank you to Viper Books for sending me a copy of The Box to review, and letting me be part of the book tour. The Box is released on Thursday 16th June 2022 which gives you time to book the day off and get you spot in the sunshine.

Dan Malakin can be found at DanMalkin.com, and on twitter and in the bookshop of your choosing.

S.T.A.G.S

At the prestigious and historic St Aidan the Great School, Greer MacDonald, scholarship student feels like an outsider. She spends her first term being ignored by everyone, including Jesus – Greer’s roommate not the deity, although it could be argued he ignores her too.

St Aidan’s might be run by The Abbot and the Friars, but its the Medieval’s who are really in charge. The school prefects, a group of upper sixth students, Henry de Walencourt, Cookson, Piers, Esme, Charlotte, and Lara. The ones who set the trends and standards the rest of the student body aspire to, even forging technology as “Savage”.

As the term ends Greer gets an invitation to spend the holiday weekend at Longcross Hall, for “huntin’, shootin’, fishin'” with The Medieval’s. At her roommates nudging, Greer accepts, she;s finally being accepted at S.T.A.G.S and by the most influential group in school.

After having her case vetted by Esme and a torturously long and quiet drive with Perfect, the head groundsman, Greer arrives at Longcross to find she isn’t the only guest. The other invitees are Chanel – a new money tech heiress, and Shafeen – a boy with all the advantages and upbringing of The Medieval’s but has never been accepted by them due to his heritage.

Greer is convinced that this is when her time at S.T.A.G.S will turn around.

Day 1, huntin’. A morning of explaining how the hunt works, of selecting a stag and setting the stage. Lunch is a luxurious affair before the final act of killing and the ritual that come along with it are complete. Greer notices that Chanel has been separated from the group. As they look for her, Greer is reminded of the hunt, right down to locating Chanel by the sound of the baying hounds.

But that was an accident. And Chanel is only scared because she was already terrified of the dogs.

Day 2, shootin’. Greer and Chanel opt to sit out the mornings shoot and head out to meet the shooting party for lunch. It seems the only shooter to rival Henry is Shafeen and after lunch the competition intensifies. Right up until Shafeen is shot.

Two accidents can’t be anything more than a coincidence, can it?

Huntin’. Shooting’. Only fishin’ is left.

The mornings fishing goes well, with Greer landing her first catch. What happens after lunch will change all their lives, and expose an old Order to the Savage world.

Greer transforms from the lonely underprivileged student to a girl who thinks she could be one of the chosen, to someone willing to fight for her survival and that of her friends and take down an insane hunting party of untouchable aristocrats. Chanel becomes Nel, her own person and not the coached model of the people she tried to fit in with. Shafeen opens up, allowing some behind the walls that were built to protect him from the systemic racism that he has faced his whole life, along with the perfectly paced story made it hard to put down.

I loved S.T.A.G.S and am re reading the series before the release of book 5, H.A.W.K.S

M. A. Bennett can be found on twitter and Instagram. Books 1-4 of the S.T.A.G.S series are already available from Hot Key Books, H.A.W.K.S is to be released July 7th 2022

Nettle and Bone

Marra is the third daughter of the King and Queen of a small kingdom caught in the constant threat of invasion from the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. She sees her eldest sister marry a prince and unite them with a powerful ally and protector.

Except mere months later her sister is returned home, dead. No longer bound and protected by a larger kingdom, the second sister is soon married to her sisters widowed Prince. But not all Princes are Charming.

Sent off to a convent, Marra sees her sister only a few times over the years, but this is enough. She knows that what she has to do.

Kill the Prince.

Marra seeks out the dust wife, a grave yard tender who speaks to the dead, for help. To gain what she needs to kill the Prince she must first complete three impossible tasks.

Nettle and Bone has all the elements of the perfect fairy tale, a Princess, a dust wife, a fairy godmother, a knight in shining armour (ok, a disgraced former knight), and a chicken.

I was so excited to be given the chance to review T. Kingfisher’s Nettle and Bone – thanks to Titan Books, and complete my own impossible tasks. Beautifully written, flawed and lovable characters, and adventure, Nettle and Bone is a delight to read. Putting it down is harder than catching moonlight in a clay pot.

Complete three impossible tasks, kill a prince, curse a kingdom

Nettle and Bone is released April 26th 2022, from Titan Books. T. Kingfisher can be found at Red Wombat Studio and on twitter

Ragged

Cal is a father grieving for his wife, lost to a mysterious case of rabies. As winter approaches, he must find out how
she died, and protect his pups from a town that would turn them out into the cold.
Cal is a mutt with a violent past, one that he can’t seem to leave behind. As he races to find out the truth, before
paranoia destroys his family, he is drawn towards a criminal empire, a ferocious gang of rats, weasels and stoats –
murderers all.
Because the woodland community is fraying at the seams as rumours of infection and sickness spread like wildfire.
Anyone could be rabid. Anyone could turn violent at a moment’s notice. And the local trader who should be
bringing much needed supplies to the community has vanished. With a long, hungry winter ahead, and the great
brown bear asleep on the mountainside, can the town overcome its fears before it destroys itself?

Ragged, Christopher Irvin

Cal has a great life now in the Woods with his wife Winifred and their two pups Gus and Franklin. Far from the Fells and the past.

Until he loses Winfred to the mysterious sickness that has their neighbours terrified of infection and attack.

Now Cal must protect his family and neighbours while confronting his past.

Did I mention the Woods are actual woods? And that Cal is a dog? This gripping tale takes draws you into a very familiar hysteria and uncertainty of a disease they don’t understand.

Ragged combines all the whimsy of your favourite childhood shows and the adorable animals with the intense drama and mystery of the latest binge show while holding a mirror to the pandemic panic of reality.

Christopher Irvin’s Ragged was released by Titan Book on Tuesday 19th April 2022,and I absolutely implore you pick up a copy and spend an afternoon in the Woods with Cal, just be careful to avoid infection. Follow Christopher Irvin on twitter, and instagram, and keep up with other news here.

A Good Girls Guide to Murder

I was lucky enough to win an ARC of A Good Girls Guide to Murder the first day of YALC 2018. On the Saturday I was halfway through and told Holly how much I was enjoying it, Sunday I told her my theory to #FindAndie. Because did I mention that part of the insanely brilliant and delightfully evil campaign was to rip out the last few chapters!

Pippa is a super smart student with her focus on her education. For her Extended Project Qualification Pippa can propose any topic. She decides on the missing person case of Andie Bell and the subsequent suicide of Sal Singh, the allegedly guilty boyfriend, that shook the small village of Little Kilton 5 years previously.

The reason? Pip doesn’t think Sal was guilty. As she digs into the crime that consumed the town and left a family hated, Pip uncovers more secrets about the case, which might not be as open and shut as it seemed. In her attempts to question those closest to the case, Pippa convinces Rav, Sal’s younger brother to help her unravel the tangled web surrounding Andie’s disappearance and Sals death.

Pippa was a fantastic character; nerdy, driven, focused, and determined, fiercely loving and loyal to her friends and family. Once Pippa sets her mind to a task she is relentless. The layout of story, Pippa’s notes and reports, text messages and social media is beautifully done. It really brings you along Pippa’s thought process with her, leading you to make the same conclusions and assumptions that she does. Every time I thought I knew what was happening I was wrong. All I wanted to do was #FindAndie

I spent the next couple of months shamelessly stalking and harassing Egmont for the missing chapters because I had to know.

After receiving the missing chapters: I was partially right! But I did NOT see the twist coming. Holly Jackson is firmly at the top of my new favourites and I preordered the final version for the May 2nd 2019 release date.

A week of wonder

World book week is always awesome. This year I started the week by maniacally creating 2 costume options for Flint from Sky Song as requested by Tiny Satan – you can see his chosen one on Twitter and Instagram (where Abi Elphinstone gave it the thumbs up).  

The end of the week was International Women’s Day. I celebrated by attending a wonderful event at Waterstones Piccadilly featuring Laura Coryton, Laura Bates, Holly Bourne, and Laura Steven, hosted by Katherine Webber.

I got to hear about the way Laura Coryton started a campaign to stop the tampon tax. We learnt about the motivation for Laura Bates new YA book The Burning which came from seeing how slut shaming is the new “burn the witch”. Holly Bourne told us how she was called into a social media meeting to talk about revenge porn and the solution they wanted was how to get ‘girls’ to stop sending pics in the first place rather than stop it being put up. The patriarchal construct of the “friend zone” was discussed when Laura Steven told us about the guy who felt so entitled to her that after 3 months of knowing her, he trawled through her friends and photos, mining for stories and information, culminating in an insane gesture that would be used in a rom com to win the girl, which in real life is terrifying, invasive, boundary stomping, and disrespectful. 

A lot of what was discussed showed that society repeatedly gives women, young, old, and children, the responsibility for actions done to them. What were you wearing? Had you been drinking? How were you acting? Maybe you led him on? You show too much skin. That for most women sex and your sexuality feel like a lose lose situation, you’re a frigid bitch, an ice queen, or you’re a slut, a whore. At the same time that men can walk the streets in shorts, with no shirt, drunk, alone, women plan what they wear, how much they drink, the time they leave, the route they walk, eyes down, don’t engage – but don’t be ‘rude’ either, headphones on – but music off so you can still hear, travel in groups – safety in numbers.

That’s not to say the society isn’t hard on men or judging them. I know there is pressure for them too. However if a man has multiple partners its a badge of honour. A man who lives alone, doesn’t want children, and is career focused will never be seen as an anomaly the way women who do the same are.

Even the very word feminism sparks such fury and debate. It becomes ‘feminazi’ and “you want women to be better than/have more than men?” in itself this last one acknowledges the very inequality that they are denying exists, vilifying equality by calling it misandry.

Inequality shows itself every day. When a father is parenting his children it’s ‘baby sitting’, or how they are condescendingly praised for completing household chores. Or in the preference of an inexperienced, racist, misogynst, self confessed sexual predator, male for president over a female lawyer and politician. Every time a woman is told by a doctor that she is exaggerating her pain or reproductive issues, when she is told that a procedure that could resolve her constant pain should wait because a non existent future husband might want children.

A new start

A ten month lapse means I have many reviews to catch up on, or to neglect. I’m hoping to catch up, but leaving it pressure free and focusing on new reads with the old ones sprinkled in.

February 5th was a fantastic and well needed treat for me. An event at Waterstones Piccadilly store gave me an opportunity to see 2 of my book besties while I enjoyed a thriller evening with Karen McManus, C. L. Taylor, and Emily Barr. There was even a bonus author stalk of the lovely Holly Jackson who was attending too, and whose debut A Good Girls Guide to Murder (May 5th 2019) I was lucky enough to win an arc of at YALC. Reviews for these are on the way.

Thrilling tales

I also got to friendprose in person to Nikki and Becca, while making a new friend Malin too. But back to friendprosals. When it was announced that Poundland were selling place holder engagement rings I knew I was going to send them to my girls with a proposal of crazy life long friendship.  Of course I didn’t stop at rings, not Tracey team extra Drew. No, there was heart shaped confetti, love hearts, and chocolates too include. Besides what is a proposal without the question? Cut to origami hearts with messages in them.

They said YES!!!

Book review – The Penelopiad

I remember the first mythology I remember learning about at school was Greek mythology. It opened my eyes to whole new realms and I never looked back. Every different mythology led me to a new culture, a new religion, a new belief system.

When I saw The Penelopaid, the retelling of one of the best known myths from the view point of Penelope, I was intrigued, and being a Margaret Atwood fan meant I didn’t hesitate to pick it up.

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For Penelope, wife of Odysseus, maintaining a kingdom while her husband was off fighting the Trojan war was not a simple business. Already aggrieved that he had been lured away due to the shocking behaviour of her beautiful cousin Helen, Penelope must bring up her wayward son, face down scandalous rumours and keep over a hundred lustful, greedy and bloodthirsty suitors at bay…

And then, when Odysseus finally returns and slaughters the murderous suitors, he brutally hangs Penelope’s twelve beloved maids. What were his motives? And what was Penelope really up to?

Firstly Penelope is elevated from side character to narrator telling her life story from the other side. We learn of her childhood and the family interactions, including her famous cousin Helen, whose “kidnapping” was responsible for Odysseus’ lengthy absence.

Penelope struggles with her life, being taken against tradition to her husbands home, ignored by her in laws, and finally left to raise her son, rule, and fend off suitors. As tales of Odysseus reach her she considers what the truth of them could be. At the same time manipulating her maids and the truth to keep ahead of the horde of men after her home and wealth.

Even in the afterlife Penelope is unhappy. Odysseus still can not remain with her. She see Helen, still chased by admirers, and is bitter and gossipy towards her, even telling her that it wasn’t her famed beauty that caused the war. The maids, manipulated, raped, murdered, haunt Penelope as she tries to chase them down and make amends.

The Penolopiad made me question so much of the original myth, Penelope’s faithfulness, the morality of trickery on both her part and Odysseus’s and those it hurt, and the dismissal of the “lesser lives” when these tales are told as inconsequential.

As a huge fan of mythology I enjoyed having the story finally told from the female view point and the plight of those left behind while the adventures are had. The hindsight aspect of analysing the actions and rumours of her famed husband Odysseus’ exploits, her own and those of the people around her kept it fresh. A well rounded, modern flip on a well known myth.

In which I get feminist

This is a lie. I’m always a feminist. However the books that I started April with were all female centric, strong, positive female characters, compelling plots, and biographies.

The Forgotten Women series by Zing Tsjeng, is about focusing on women who contributed to our history but have somehow been overlooked by history, or had their contributions attributed to men. Each book features 48 – the number of female Nobel Prize winners, mini biographies of pioneering women.

Although it isn’t an in depth account of each person, it was a great starting point to inspire research of the stories that do interest you. I saw it as a way to show positive female role models to women (and people) of all ages and give them the heroes they deserve, while giving these heroes the recognition that has been long denied them.

I read The Leaders and The Scientists, both of which I enjoyed.  I got a recap of some of my own favourites, and a glimpse of some I hadn’t heard about.

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As a woman who got her Chemistry degree whilst working and being a mother, I was very drawn to this book already knowing of women who are overlooked in the sciences.
Each scientist has a brief biography and her work explained, credited, and what we know now because of these developments given to us, without being heavy reading.
It’s a beautifully written tribute to those women, a fantastic starting point to make you want to learn more about these pioneers, and a great inspiration for our daughters

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Having just read Forgotten Women: The Scientists, much of what I will say is the same.
This is full of brief but detailed accounts of strong, fierce women who did what they thought was right or best for their people.
I enjoyed learning the stories of women I had heard of and learning of those I hadn’t, all of whom are inspirational.

I hope that more books like this make their way to young people and show them that they can do what they work to, and they can change the world.