Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fantasy Titles I can’t wait for in 2016

Having made a resolution to read even more fantasy, here is a small selection of the books that I hope to read this year. Are there any here that you are excited about? Any that I’ve missed? Tweet me @LisaReadsBooks and let me know.

Judged by Liz de Jager
Jan 2016 Tor Books   9781447247708
This is the final instalment of one of the best urban fantasy series ever written. This instalment sees Aiden, Dante and Kit tracking down the dealers of “glow” an addictive fae created drug all across London bringing them much unwanted attention while in the Otherwhere Thorn realises that the Goddess is dying and with her the veil between the worlds and he needs Kit’s help. I cannot recommend this series highly enough.

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
Jan 2016 Walker Books 9781406358964
Australian Fantasy author Goodman blends Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Pride and Prejudice in this dark regency fantasy for young adults. Full of thrills, romance and magic this is a story sure to captivate.

A Gathering of Shadows by V E Schwab
February 2016 Titan Books  9781783295425
Continuing the series begun with A Darker Shade of Magic about a dimension hopping traveller called Kell. The tale grows darker in this instalment as Black London rises again and a pirate ship arrives carrying old friends. Perfect for fans of Ben Aaronovitch and Doctor Who.

Into the Dim by Janet B Taylor
Feb 2016 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  9780544602007
Billed as Outlander for teens this book had me sold at that but it also features a secret society of time travellers and an adventure filled race through time including a trip to the court of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. It should appeal to fans of A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray so here’s hoping it gets a UK and Ireland release.

Half Lost by Sally Green
March 2016 Penguin 9780141350905
The final book in the trilogy sees Nathan travel to America to win the support of Ledger in a bid to end the war between black and white witches for good. Sally Green won the Teen Book Category in the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2015 for the first in the series Half Bad but I would recommend this series to fans of urban fantasy of all ages.

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
April 2016 Quercus Books 9781786540003
A New York Times bestseller this has been described as being perfect for Outlander fans because it features time travel, enough said as far as I'm concerned. 

Masks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis
April 2016 Pyr Books   9781633881327
Best known for her Middle Grade series set in the regency era and featuring young magician Kat Stephenson this book is the first adult fantasy novel from  Burgis; set among the 18th Century Austrian aristocracy and blending alchemy, music and blackmail. This one is perfect for fans of Susanna Clarke and Zen Cho.

Skin (Daughter of Albion) by Ilka Tampke
June 2016  Hodder  9781473616431
Many readers may have missed this when it was published in hardback in August in the UK and Ireland. It will be released in the US in Feb, with a paperback release for the UK and Ireland this June. Straddling the genres of Fantasy and Historical Fiction and with crossover appeal for adults and teens, this is a stunning portrayal of Celtic Britain facing the threat of roman invasion. Perfect for fans of Wolf Brother.

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
June Saga   9781481451161
A writer that Neil Gaiman has called remarkable is definitely one to watch. Kat Howard’s first novel blends fairy tale and gothic archetypes and questions what sacrifices an artist should make to create good art.

Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal July 2016  9780765378255
Generating a lot of pre publication interest this features Ginger an American heiress in London during WWI and a corps of Spirit Mediums helping the war effort. This looks like it will have huge crossover appeal particularly for fans of Cassandra Clare and Libba Bray.

Book Recommendations based on your Favourite TV Programmes

Turn off your television! Here are some books that are just as thrilling, just as suspenseful and just as fun as anything the small screen has to offer. As recommended by bookseller, Lisa Redmond.

Posted on 6th December 2015 by Lisa Redmond
“So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall.”  Roald Dahl
Are you in a Book Slump? If you haven’t found a book that really grabs your attention recently sometimes it’s just easier to pop the telly on and indulge in your favourite show. Obviously as a bookseller I would normally recommend several hours of Saturday afternoon browsing in your local Waterstones to sort this problem out, but in the meantime here’s a quick guide to help you find a book that I think you’ll enjoy based on similarities to your favourite show.

For Fans of Poldark (BBC)

If you are eagerly anticipating the next series of Poldark then The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson is bound to suit your tastes featuring as it does a roguish but well-meaning hero. Tom Hawkins has a taste for the ladies but it is his gambling habit that sees him end up at the Marshalsea debtors’ prison in London in 1727. This is book full of nefarious characters and a wonderful glimpse at the intricacies of the class structure, as well as being an excellent and well plotted read. (It is also the first in a series).

For Fans of Ripper Street (BBC)
This show made a welcome comeback this year and if you are looking for a book that covers a similar theme while at the same time presenting an entirely new version of the Jack the Ripper saga then I am in Blood by Joe Murphy will appeal to you. In this book the author poses the idea that Jack the Ripper stopped killing in London because he came to Dublin. The story is told through a police sergeant investigating the case, a modern day teenager reading the accounts for research and the killer himself. It is a thrilling read that crime fans will love. 

For Fans of Capital (BBC)

Obviously if you are enjoying this recent BBC series then your first port of call will be the book, Capital by John Lanchester, on which the series is based. However if you have already read this, then why not try Bleak House by Charles Dickens which features a large, ensemble cast, perceptive observations, a financial mystery and unexpected plot twists and turns. Dickens was a master of pace and suspence and as you may have already heard, Capital is "Dickens for the 21st century".

For Fans of Wolf Hall (BBC)

If you loved the BBC’s adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker prize winning novel, Wolf Hall, and fancy indulging in some more Tudor intrigue then you might enjoy The John Shakespeare series by Rory Clements although the first published book in the series was Martyr start with The Queen’s Man if you want  to read in chronological order. This series rivals CJ Sansom’s Shardlakeseries for politics, intrigue and backstabbing. Set through the 1580s and 1590s it puts hero John Shakespeare at the centre of the Elizabethan court as one of Sir Francis Walsingham’s most trusted spies. 

For Fans of Downton Abbey (ITV)

If you are addicted to the upstairs, downstairs drama at the abbey then Tyringham Park by Rosemary McLoughlin might just be your next favourite book. Set in a beautiful stately home in Co Cork the book features a missing baby, a horror of a nanny and a timid heroine who finds her wings. Through the grand sweep of history the story travels from Ireland to England and Australia before returning to the beloved house at the heart of the story. 

For Fans of Outlander (RTE)

This show set in the Scottish highlands of the eighteenth century was aired by Ireland’s National Broadcaster though British viewers have so far only been able to watch it online. Based on Diana Gabaldon’s series of novels I cannot recommend the books highly enough but if you are looking for something similar, but without the time travel, then try After Flodden and Dacre’s War by Rosemary Goring set in the Scottish borders in the early Sixteenth Century as well as being rollicking good reads these novels give a unique glimpse of everyday life in the Scottish clans. So much is written about the Tudor world but hardly any novels depict the Scottish side of the border in the same period.

For Fans of Supernatural (Channel 4)

If you are fan of this wacky, spooky show about two brothers who travel across America hunting down demons then you will love The Awesome by Eva Darrows. It features a mother-daughter team of hunters who are government agents in the fight against unregistered monsters. Maggie is a wonderful narrator tough and sassy but with a soft side, she is not your typical teenager, the laugh count is high and the storytelling is whip crack smart. 

For Fans of Doctor Who (BBC)

Whether you are a recent convert or a diehard old school fan, you will enjoy the clever and stylish The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. Irene is a librarian with a difference she travels to different dimensions to collect literature from the alternate Universes. In the first instalment of this clever new series Irene must collect a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales which has extra stories. Sent to an unstable version of Victorian London which includes fae, vampires and steam punk style travel Irene and her mysterious new assistant Kai must risk their lives to obtain the book. 

For Fans of River (BBC)

This mesmerising new drama features a little Nordic Noir with the inclusion of Stellan Skarsgård in the lead role. Traumatised by the death of his partner, River continues to see and talk to her and to other dead people, he tells his psychiatrist that they are not ghosts but manifests. In James Oswald’s Inspector McLean series starting with Natural Causes an Edinburgh Detective is dealing with the loss of his fiancée to murder and he too seems to see strange things. Oswald who also writes fantasy as JD Oswald here sprinkles just a touch of the supernatural turning an excellent crime series into something extra special. 

 For Fans of Doctor Foster (BBC)

If you enjoyed this recent drama which dealt with betrayal, regret and a poisonous marriage then you might also like I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh in a summer that saw many books aim for Girl on the Train or Gone Girl territory this little gem went a little under the radar. Centred around the aftermath of an accident in which a child dies, this is a brilliantly told story with a shocking twist that will knock your socks off. 

Some Witchy YA

Originally featured on the waterstones blog here are my top picks of witchy YA

Witchy YA for the Samhain Season - Halloween Spooktacular

Bookseller Lisa Redmond gives us a round up of Young Adult Witchery in time for Halloween.
Posted on 29th October 2015 by Lisa Redmond
Whether you are just looking for a seasonal slice of the supernatural or you need something to fill the gap while you await one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2016; Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch coming from Tor in January or like me you just love reading books about witches. This list is for you. 
Here are ten of the best Young Adult reads featuring Witches and Witchcraft. An obvious exclusion is the Harry Potter series but I’m going to assume you have heard about that already.

Hodder Books 2015
Set in an alternative 16th Century England. Elizabeth Gray is a witch hunter; part of the king’s elite guard, until she is falsely accused of witchcraft and sentenced to burn. Broken out of jail by a mysterious group of magicians she begins to question her loyalties. This is the first in a new historical fantasy series; dark, thrilling and romantic. 
Corgi 2012
This is the first in a trilogy and believe me you’ll want to read them all. Meg Lytton is in service to the banished Tudor Princess Elizabeth who begs Meg to use her power to tell the future. It is a very dangerous time to practise witchcraft and Meg has caught the eye of a local witchfinder and a handsome young priest in training. This is a book full of action and power and a great series.
Oneworld 2014
This is a dual time tale revisiting the Salem witch trials and also featuring a contemporary mystery of a strange illness at St Joan’s Academy, an exclusive private school for girls. Why are students suddenly falling ill? Is it stress? Infection? Student Colleen has been reading The Crucible and she wonders is it witchcraft?
Orion 2012
Lis London moves to Hollow Pike expecting the countryside to be dull, but Lis keeps dreaming that someone is trying to kill her and when she discovers the local legends about witchcraft she starts to get really scared. This is a thrilling, twisty and spooky tale.

Quercus 2015
This is a fantastic future dystopia featuring witches in the beautiful South West of England. Danny is 16 and bored with his Mum’s witchcraft. He sets off across the moors looking for adventure and instead meets a girl. Full of thrills, action, adventure and romance. I loved this book and can’t wait to see what the author writes next.
OUP 2005
Nell is the daughter of the local cunning women and that means she is not only poor but an object of suspicion. When the minister’s daughters start spitting pins there are rumours of witchcraft and all eyes turn to Nell. With Witch-finder General Matthew Hopkins on his way how will Nell escape the noose?
Bloomsbury 2011
Cess is just thirteen when she is accused of bewitching her friend William. Caught up in a plot that involves magic, intrigue, murder and mystery. This is a well told and fast paced tale that younger and older teens will really enjoy.
Hodder Books 2012
This book was one of the first I read in a new wave of Urban Fantasy set in a realistic contemporary Britain. Anna Winterson has no idea about the traditions of witches and she certainly has no clue that she is one. She is much more focused on fitting in having moved to a new town with her Dad. This is exciting, compelling storytelling.
Catnip Books 2015
A spooky tale of ghosts, demons, witches and mystery all set in a gothic boarding school. Maddy sees things no-one else can and when students begin to disappear and no-one is asking why, Maddy knows she will need to do some investigating of her own, but plagued by nightmares and visions does she really want to learn the secret of The Crowham martyrs?
Penguin 2014
Nathan is locked in a cage; beaten and brutalised, half Black Witch half White Witch he is an unknown quantity and cannot be trusted. This is a book about war, magic and power with an incredible narrative voice, it is dark, gritty and intense. Amazing.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Words in my Hand

The Words in My Hand is the debut novel from Guinevere Glasfurd and tells the story of Helena Jans a Dutch maid in the 17th Century who became the lover of philosopher Rene Descartes. Helena is a powerful character determined to read, write and learn about the world. Initially hired by Mr. Sergeant, the bookseller because she could write, she is fascinated by the world of books. However she is soon relegated to the kitchen and without access to writing materials she experiments with making her own ink; using charcoal, soot even blood before finally settling on beetroot, and without paper she writes on her own skin.

When Descartes comes to lodge with the bookseller Helena finds his work and experiments fascinating but divided by social class and religion their affair must remain a secret. Over the next few years as Descartes struggles to write and to have his ideas accepted Helena raises his child in secret as neither a maid nor a wife. This is a fascinating book fleshing out the life of a real woman and her story; it brings to vivid life the frustrations of women who were denied access to education and art. In an age when reputation meant everything and to be different often meant to be beaten down Helena stands as an icon facing challenges as desperate as those faced by Descartes. Despite this Glasfurd is honest about the reality of their unequal relationship as Helena must regularly take second place. Fans of The Girl with the Pearl Earring and The Miniaturist will love this fascinating tale.

This review was first published in HNR 75 see it here

The Scrivener

The Scrivener is the third book in Robin Blake’s fantastic mystery series featuring Preston Coroner Titus Cragg and his good friend Dr Luke Fidelis. Although this book is part of a series it can easily be read as a stand alone as enough explanation of the back story is provided to pique the reader’s curiosity without causing any confusion. The date is 1742 and Preston is preparing for the Preston Guild a celebration held every twenty years and overseen by the town mayor; currently Ephraim Grimshaw. Cragg and Grimshaw are old adversaries it would seem and when Cragg discovers the town pawnbroker and would-be banker Philip Pimbo slumped over his desk with a bullet in his head Grimshaw immediately panics assuming that Pimbo had made bad investments and committed suicide. Cragg is not so sure and with the aid of Dr Fidelis they investigate Pimbo’s business and personal life, his connection to a shady Liverpool Scrivener, a missing civil war treasure trove and the Guinea trade in human slavery. This book is filled with a wonderful cast of characters; good, bad and everything in between and is an utterly enjoyable romp through Georgian society; high and low. Witty, mysterious and very well told, Cragg and Fidelis are the Holmes and Watson of their era. Perfect for fans of Lloyd Shepherd.

Originally published in HNR 73 HERE

The Nurse's War

The Nurse’s War is the second book in Merryn Allingham’s World War Two set series Daisy’s War which began with The Girl from Cobb Street and will continue with Daisy’s Long Road Home. Although this book is mid series it is relatively easy to read and pick up the thread of the story. Allingham gives us enough of the story so far to save confusion but not so much that the first book is simply re-hashed.  This book sees Daisy back from India and having trained as a nurse she has settled into a routine working at St Bart’s and living at the nurse’s home. She has begun to rebuild her life having found a friend in fellow nurse Connie and a vocation in looking after the many brave Londoners injured in the intense bombing of spring 1941. However Gerald, Daisy’s husband whom she had believed dead turns up demanding her help. Gerald has deserted and wants Daisy to get him false papers so that he can begin again in America. Daisy does her best to help Gerald relying once again on her old friend Grayson Harte. Allingham has written an engaging story with plenty of action and some interesting characters. Daisy’s determination to be self-sacrificing can become quite irritating at times although she usually redeems herself. If you like your villains dastardly and your heroes dashing then this is the book for you, romantic atmospheric and full of great period detail. This series is a must for fans of Emma Fraser.

This review originally appeared in HNR 73 see it online HERE

Daughter of the House by Rosie Thomas

Daughter of the House is the eagerly awaited follow up to Rosie Thomas’s incredibly successful The Illusionists and although it is a sequel the book can quite easily be read as a stand alone novel. The novel tells the story of Nancy Wix; daughter of the great theatre impresario Devil Wix and his melancholic wife Eliza. Nancy discovers at a young age that she has psychic abilities but is at pains to keep “the uncanny” hidden from her family, though she struggles to do so when she is approached by another psychic after a boating tragedy. This man will haunt Nancy for many years. As the middle child Nancy is often the buffer in a house of large personalities: when her brothers go away to war, she must stay to hold her parents together. She joins the suffragettes and briefly finds work at a printing house and longs to find her own place in the world. Through her psychic abilities she finally finds it and begins to let go of just being a daughter and starts learning to be herself. This is a wonderful coming of age tale set in a time of huge upheaval and social change. It is a story of the lives of women and the choices they face and it is a wonderful evocation of the past. Thomas has made meticulous use of her research brilliantly bringing to life the end of the music hall era and the rise of spiritualism in the 1920s.  I highly recommended this smart, gothic and romantic page turner.

This review originally appeared in HNR 73 see it online HERE

The Lady of Misrule

The Lady of Misrule could be Lady Jane Grey the Nine Days Queen or it could be her newly appointed companion Elizabeth Tilney. Elizabeth volunteered to accompany Lady Jane to her new apartments at the Tower of London in order to escape her own domestic situation. A good Catholic girl had been requested and Elizabeth has tried very hard to be that but it hasn’t been easy. At first it seems the two young woman have very little in common and Elizabeth finds being shut away very dull but gradually she makes a friend of Jane and of her young husband and of those who are charged with keeping the young couple under lock and key. However the imprisonment cannot continue forever and shut away as they are they are unaware of the machinations and scheming that are happening at court and when the end comes, it is a shock to them all. Suzannah Dunn continues to build a reputation as the queen of Tudor fiction and this book is another testament to her skill, she has made the minutiae of the domestic and women’s day to day lives her canvas and despite her use of modern language in place of more archaic speech there is an intrinsic truth in the dialogue and interaction between the young people in this novel which makes it compelling reading. 

This review originally appeared in HNR 73 see it online HERE