Godblind by Anna Stephens

James McStravick reviews Godblind by Anna Stephens.

The Mireces worship the bloodthirsty Red Gods. Exiled from Rilpor a thousand years ago, and left to suffer a harsh life in the cold mountains, a new Mireces king now plots an invasion of Rilpor’s thriving cities and fertile earth.

Dom Templeson is a Watcher, a civilian warrior guarding Rilpor’s border. He is also the most powerful seer in generations, plagued with visions and prophecies. His people are devoted followers of the god of light and life, but Dom harbors deep secrets, which threaten to be exposed when Rillirin, an escaped Mireces slave, stumbles broken and bleeding into his village.

Meanwhile, more and more of Rilpor’s most powerful figures are turning to the dark rituals and bloody sacrifices of the Red Gods, including the prince, who plots to wrest the throne from his dying father in the heart of the kingdom. Can Rillirin, with her inside knowledge of the Red Gods and her shocking ties to the Mireces King, help Rilpor win the coming war?

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Firstly, a big thank you to HarperCollins for sending me an ARC copy of this book for review. Up until a couple of months ago I didn’t know anything about the release of Godblind, but as soon as I read the synopsis for it I knew I would thoroughly enjoy it.

Upon reading the first chapter, I was immensely  blown away by the world and characters I was reading about, as Anna Stephens’ writing style and the world she has crafted naturally just draws you in and makes you want to keep reading more and more.

One aspect I found a double-edged sword is the amount of characters you are introduced to throughout the book (13 was my final count), and the final character doesn’t get introduced until approximately the page 130 mark. Due to this I initially found it quite difficult to remember all the characters, but once I started to learn more about them and their own personality quirks/ traits, I quickly came to recognise who I was reading about.

The reason why I said it was a double-edged sword is because even though I found it initially difficult to remember who a character was, I still thoroughly enjoyed reading about them and I don’t think there was a single character that I didn’t like. Anna Stephens’ concept of characterization is truly inspiring and she constantly keeps you invested in what is happening to them and world around them. Out of all of the characters, my favourite would be either Rillirin or Dom. There are an increasingly number of authors whose books involve strong female characters and Godblind is definitely a pure joy to read from a female perspective, as they don’t stick to the traditional trope, and it is for this reason that why Rillirin is one of my favourite characters.

From the first moment you dive into the world of Rilpor you are quickly dropped into a very important scene in the book, and for me I don’t believe there was a single scene that was unnecessary or slow paced. I have read many authors that have a hard time finding that perfect balance between having necessary scenes and keeping a consistent pace throughout the course of the book. This I believe is one this book’s greatest strengths, because you never want to put the book down as you are always wanting to know more. When it comes to a fight scene you are truly gripped, as they written in a very natural and progressive aspect as a real life battle would be. As I mentioned above coming to grips with the amount of characters can be difficult at first but the story and the short chapters make it very easy read the book and get yourself lost in the world.

The interest in grimdark books is consistently climbing and Godblind fits perfectly within that genre and all the great authors. It is a true joy to read and Anna Stephens is truly a fantastic writer and one to watch. If you are looking for a new grimdark or even a new fantasy book to read then I would highly recommend that you read Godblind as it is a fantastic book that will not let you go from the moment you read that first chapter.

Anna Stephens | Goodreads | Facebook | @AnnaSmithWrites

The Summer That Melted Everything is up for the Ohioana Literary Award

Author Tiffany McDaniel has just announced that her debut novel, The Summer That Melted Everything, is up for the Ohioana Literary Award!

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From Tiffany:

“I have some exciting news. The Summer that Melted Everything is a finalist for the Ohioana Literary Award. It is an award celebrated in my home state of Ohio, and they are currently holding the voting portion of the award to determine the winner of the Reader’s Choice Award. If you wouldn’t mind, please consider casting a vote for The Summer that Melted Everything. You don’t need to provide an email address or any other personal information as it’s a survey with SurveyMonkey, so you just click on the book you choose to vote for. Really quick and easy and only takes seconds to complete.”

Vote here!

You don’t need to be a resident of Ohio, or even the US. Voting is open to all.

Ohioana Twitter | Ohioana Facebook

I absolutely adored The Summer that Melted Everything, having the privilege to read and review it last year.

This is not a YA book. This is not a book to read lightly. It will tear out your soul so you can examine it, piece by piece; it will rip out your heart and show you what’s written there. McDaniel tackles racism, homosexuality, HIV, and hysteria, all in one bildungsroman. It is violent and cruel, shocking and terrible. There’s no happy ending to be found; this is real life. McDaniel writes with exquisite flair.

You can read my full review here, and my exclusive author interview with Tiffany here.

The paperback of The Summer that Melted Everything is coming on July 3rd, so if you haven’t read this amazing debut, grab your copy now!

Cornish Reading Challenge: The Thief’s Daughter by Victoria Cornwall

This year, I’ve chosen The Thief’s Daughter by Victoria Cornwall as one of my Cornish Reading Challenge reads!

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Hide from the thief-taker, for if he finds you, he will take you away …

Eighteenth-century Cornwall is crippled by debt and poverty, while the gibbet casts a shadow of fear over the land. Yet, when night falls, free traders swarm onto the beaches and smuggling prospers.

Terrified by a thief-taker’s warning as a child, Jenna has resolved to be good. When her brother, Silas, asks for her help to pay his creditors, Jenna feels unable to refuse and finds herself entering the dangerous world of the smuggling trade.

Jack Penhale hunts down the smuggling gangs in revenge for his father’s death. Drawn to Jenna at a hiring fayre, they discover their lives are entangled. But as Jenna struggles to decide where her allegiances lie, the worlds of justice and crime collide, leading to danger and heartache for all concerned …

I’m not usually one for romance novels – in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever browsed in the “romance” section of a bookshop! But The Thief’s Daughter is more than a romance novel. It’s a sweeping historical fiction, set in the depths of Cornwall in the 1700s, and it is truly enchanting.

I particularly liked Jenna, who, despite her status, her family, and, of course, her sex, manages to remain strong and independent, and speak her mind. It can be hard for authors to create Strong Female Characters in historical fiction, for women were severely oppressed simply for being women, but Cornwall manages to bring Jenna to life, making her strong and realistic. Cornwall has an excellent writing style, drawing you in and keeping you lost in her world. And I learned about the custom of wife selling – which is every bit as vile and sexist as you think!

It would be remiss of me to fail to point out the similarities to Poldark, and how much Jenna reminded me of Demelza. Her unfortunate start in life, the abuse she suffered at the hands of a man, the dressing up as a boy. Jenna, also like Demelza, goes to work for Jack as a housekeeper, but their relationship soon becomes more than a professional one. It’s the typical rags to riches (or rather, to moderate means) story, but Cornwall manages to weave the story perfectly, and make it original. For this is no rip-off of a popular story; The Thief’s Daughter stands strong on its own merits, and it is a tale to lose yourself in.

You can read all about Victoria Cornwall’s family history in Cornwall, and her recommendations for the Cornish Reading Challenge. What are you reading?

Amazon | Goodreads

Cornish Reading Challenge: Terri Nixon reviews Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

Author Terri Nixon reviews Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier for the Cornish Reading Challenge!

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I first read this book as a mid-teen, but although I’ve always known I’d enjoyed it, my memory did not do justice to the beauty of this book, and I realised that when I came to re-read it again recently.

It’s set in very familiar surroundings for me; I grew up on the edge of Bodmin Moor (between the ages of 9 and 19) and I was a regular in the church choir, which took turns each Sunday at several of the villages noted in the book; most notably Altarnun, Lewannick, and North Hill – the village where I lived during those years. I’d forgotten how much of a role North Hill played in the story of Mary Yelland, following the characters as they traversed between villages, and out on the open moor, I could easily envisage it all. And, needless to say, I appreciated it a lot more than I did as a youngster!

But even without the personal, local connection, it would have been a delight to plunge back into this dark tale of mystery, romance and intrigue;  the characters – good and bad – are so beautifully drawn; crushingly real, complex and fascinating. The story itself is one of violence, fear, and crime… and the unexpected sweetness of a potential new love, just when you least expect it; allies and enemies, the complicated meshing of the two, and the courage of a girl who refuses to be dragged down by the weight of her family’s history. The immediate impression of Joss Merlyn, on his niece, sets the tone perfectly for their volatile and frightening relationship: “though there should be a world of difference between the smile of a man and the bared fangs of a wolf, with Joss Merlyn they were one and the same.”

The language is raw and honest; flowery description wouldn’t sound right when you’re describing such a bleak and dramatic landscape, and du Maurier strikes exactly the right note in every scene – be it the loneliness of a new life with unknown relatives, the fear of discovering what kind of life is is, or the tenderness of a friendship that just might be the one thing that saves you.

In short, Jamaica Inn is not a “romantic novel,” in the generally accepted meaning, but the romantic wildness of the Cornish landscape plays a huge role in transporting the reader to Bodmin Moor, and the coast that brings both riches and misery to its inhabitants. Exciting, and satisfying, this novel is deservedly labelled a classic.

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Cornish Reading Challenge: Under A Cornish Sky by Liz Fenwick

My first choice for the third annual Cornish Reading Challenge is none other than Liz Fenwick’s Under A Cornish Sky.

For fans of Judy Finegan and Rosamunde Pilcher, a spelling-binding tale of romance and intrigue, set against the gorgeous Cornish coast.

Demi desperately needs her luck to change. On the sleeper train down to Cornwall, she can’t help wondering why everything always goes wrong for her. Having missed out on her dream job, and left with nowhere to stay following her boyfriend’s betrayal, pitching up at her grandfather’s cottage is her only option.

Victoria thinks she’s finally got what she wanted: Boscawen, the gorgeous Cornish estate her family owned for generations should now rightfully be hers, following her husband’s sudden death. After years of a loveless marriage and many secret affairs of her own, Victoria thinks new widowhood will suit her very well indeed . . .

But both women are in for a surprise. Surrounded by orchards, gardens and the sea, Boscawen is about to play an unexpected role in both their lives. Can two such different women find a way forward when luck changes both their lives so drastically?

In Under a Cornish Sky Liz Fenwick weaves another deliciously irresistible tale set in the heart of her beloved Cornwall.

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I’m ashamed to admit that I had never read any of Liz Fenwick’s work until this year. She’s been on my list for a while, and I believe she deserves a place on everyone’s reading list – especially if you love Cornwall.

Under A Cornish Sky is gorgeous, and pure escapism. I listened to the audiobook version, read by Anne Dover, and it was fabulous to leave the confines of my car during my hot, outskirts-of-London commute, and travel back to my beloved Cornwall. Demi, short for Demelza, runs away to Cornwall after the death of her mother and the breakdown of her relationship. Welcomed by her aged grandfather, she soon settles into life in Cornwall – until a revelation shakes her world once again.

Demi is a little bit irritating, I have to say. There’s not much to her – she seems to have to be guided along her path, every step of the way, and it doesn’t feel like she’s in control of her own future. She clashes with Victoria Lake, wife of Demi’s estranged father, who is an irascible, strong, fiery woman. Why is almost every character called Victoria an irascible, strong, fiery woman? Not that I’m complaining – I am all of those things – but we Victoria’s do seem to be portrayed as the she-wolves in literature. Victoria Lake is no different. Over 60, she hasn’t lost her appetite for life (or sex!), and her passion for her home, Boscawen, is infinite. Victoria is, arguably, one of the best characters, though I may be a little biased.

There are also small threads of feminism woven between these pages. Under A Cornish Sky isn’t an openly feminist book, and I don’t know what Fenwick will think of my interpretation, but there are clear messages portrayed through the characters. Brought up to believe she was worthless as a girl, Victoria was unable to inherit Boscawen, her family home. Her duty in life was to marry – and marry well – and to provide heirs. University education would be wasted on her, according to her father. Despite her anger at Demi for simply existing, she recognises that Demi has probably been overlooked and underestimated her whole life, just as Victoria had, so the bond of sisterhood is established, even amongst Victoria’s anger and despair.

Under A Cornish Sky is a brilliant read, and, in my opinion, even better as an audiobook. If you haven’t read any of Liz Fenwick’s work yet, and you’re looking for a recommendation for this challenge, look no further.

Goodreads | Liz Fenwick

Cornish Reading Challenge: Recommendations

For the challenge this year, I’ve chosen two books: The Thief’s Daughter by Victoria Cornwall, and Under A Cornish Sky by Liz Fenwick. There are so many wonderful books set in Cornwall for you to choose from – here’s a few I’d recommend.

Poldark by Winston Graham

You can’t have a Cornish book list without including the increasingly popular Poldark. Brought to the screen on BBC, the Poldark series is enchanting and enjoyable.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The same can be said about du Maurier. Arguably the most famous Cornish writer, you’ll be missing out if you don’t pick up at least one of her books. Rebecca is my personal favourite.

The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson

Publisher, writer, Cornish maid – Johnson has it all, and so do her books. You can really feel her personal history woven through the pages of her books.

A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

Now, this book isn’t set in Cornwall, but Gale does hail from the county, and, because it is such a glorious book, it deserves to be mentioned.

You’re The One That I Want by Angela Britnell

Britnell shares her time between Nashville and Cornwall, and you can see those influences in her work. If you’re looking for a romance, look no further.

The Shiver Stone by Sharon Tregenza

Tregenza is a perfect choice for younger readers. Although this book is set in Wales, Tregenza herself lives in Cornwall.

The Dust of Ancients (The Lynher Mill Chronicles #1) by Terri Nixon

Fantasy set in Cornwall? What better place to draw mystical ideas than the glorious landscapes of Cornwall.

Cat and The Dreamer by Annalisa Crawford

Crawford is a true West Country maid, and her work is breathtaking.

There’s Something About Cornwall by Daisy James

Indeed there is! James’s books are humourous and enticing, and a fantastic addition to anyone’s Cornish to-read pile.

The Faerie Tree by Jane Cable

If you love a good romance with touches of folklore, look no further.

The Plague Charmer by Karen Maitland

Although Maitland lives in Devon, and her books are set all over the country, she deserves an honourary mention, simply because her books are not to be missed (and, don’t forget, the Cornish Reading Challenge does include the whole of the West Country!).

What will you be reading this year? Let us know in the comments below, or engage with us on Twitter: @VikkiPatis #CornishReadingChallenge

Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah

I review Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah.

Pushed to the breaking point, Cara Burrows abandons her home and family and escapes to a five-star spa resort she can’t afford. Late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied – by a man and a teenage girl.

A simple mistake on the part of the hotel receptionist – but Cara’s fear intensifies when she works out that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is someone she can’t possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in the country, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder.

Cara doesn’t know what to trust: everything she’s read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life?

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Sophie Hannah is, as far as I’m concerned, one of those authors that most people have heard of. She’s written an impressive number of books, and has even picked up her pen to continue Agatha Christie’s work – being described as “genuinely Christie’s heir”. But I have to confess, I’d never read any of her work until Did You See Melody? came up on Netgalley. That will have to be rectified.

Cara is from Hertford, England, which, coincidentally, is where I currently live. But (sadly), Did You See Melody? isn’t set in Hertford. Cara jets off to the US, away from her husband and children, for a couple of weeks at a five star resort. She’s carrying a secret, a burden, and needs time away from those she loves. She has a decision to make. But instead of the relaxing, mind-clearing break she was hoping for, Cara finds herself mixed up in a long-running mystery – what really happened to Melody Chapa?

Melody’s case had been big in the US. Full of twists and half-truths, her parents were eventually convicted of her murder, despite her body never being found. The sightings of Melody were usually ignored, but there’s something sinister about her case. As Cara gets dragged deeper into the past, she’s scared that she’ll never see her future – uncertain as it was when she stepped off the plane. But did she really see Melody?

Did You See Melody? is absolutely full of twists and turns, and will leave you wondering whether there’s still more to Melody’s story.

Sophie Hannah | Goodreads