Autumn is coming

Yesterday, I noticed the leaves were starting to fall from the trees outside our house. It might still be August, but the scent of autumn is starting to filter through on the breeze.

pexels-photo-239584

Autumn is my favourite season. Cosy throws, fluffy slippers, hot chocolate. Crunchy leaves, Halloween, darkening evenings. And, of course, curling up with a good book. Autumn is the best time for getting stuck into stories, being frightened by a ghost story or thrilled by a thriller.

Each year, I try to come up with a list of books to read during autumn. A couple of years ago, I got stuck into Stephen King. The year before that, I discovered his son, Joe Hill. This year, I’m lining up a bunch of thrillers. Here are my recommendations for autumn 2017.

Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas

Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown

33107342

The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall

The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne

34604719

Slade House by David Mitchell

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist

33966138

What’s on your autumn reading list? Let me know in the comments below!

Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon

I review Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon.

Twin sisters Robin and Sarah haven’t spoken in years.

Robin can’t leave her house. A complete shut-in, she spends her days spying on her neighbors, subtly meddling in their lives. But she can’t keep her demons out forever. Someone from her past has returned, and is desperate to get inside.

Sarah can’t go home. Her husband has kicked her out, forcibly denying her access to their toddler. Sarah will do anything to get her daughter back, but she’s unraveling under the mounting pressure of concealing the dark secrets of her past. And her lies are catching up to her.

The novel takes readers back in time to witness the complex family dynamics that formed Robin and Sarah into the emotionally damaged, estranged young women they’ve become. As the gripping and intricate layers of their shared past are slowly peeled away, the shocks and twists will keep readers breathless long after the final page.

32768286

I read Try Not To Breathe by Holly Seddon when it came out, so I knew I’d want to grab a copy of Don’t Close Your Eyes. Seddon writes classic thrillers as if it’s as easy as breathing – and perhaps it is, for her. She’s that rare talent who deserves all the credit she gets, and more.

Delving into dark subjects such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and suicide, Seddon doesn’t pull any punches. Every character is fully formed, fleshed out into life, and every incident is thrilling, engaging. Robin in particular is so real, it’s hard not to relate to her.

I love books about dysfunctional families – coming from one myself, I know just how twisted it can get. When Robin and Sarah’s mum has an affair with Callum’s dad, everything disintegrates, and their families merge into one big mess. Robin and Callum stay with her dad and his mum, and Sarah moves out to Atlanta with her mum and Callum’s dad. The distance between the sisters grows, in emotional as well as literal terms. The tangles web of their mingled families gets tighter and tighter, until something has to give.

I loved the way Seddon wrote this, engaging the reader by giving snippets of the past, interspersed with chapters from today. This style of writing, although not unique, is always enticing, and Seddon does it well. Overall, I’d say Don’t Close Your Eyes is another winning thriller.

Many thanks to the author, publisher, & NetGalley for providing me with a free review copy.

Goodreads

The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick

I review The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick.

Now anyone can have a baby. With FullLife’s safe and affordable healthcare plan, why risk a natural birth?

Without the pouch, Eva might not have been born. And yet she has sacrificed her career, and maybe even her relationship, campaigning against FullLife’s biotech baby pouches. Despite her efforts, everyone prefers a world where women are liberated from danger and constraint and all can share the joy of childbearing. Perhaps FullLife has helped transform society for the better? But just as Eva decides to accept this, she discovers that something strange is happening at FullLife.

Piotr hasn’t seen Eva in years. Not since their life together dissolved in tragedy. But Piotr’s a journalist who has also uncovered something sinister about FullLife. What drove him and Eva apart may just bring them back together, as they search for the truth behind FullLife’s closed doors, and face a truth of their own.

A beautiful story about family, loss and what our future might hold, The Growing Season is an original and powerful novel by a rising talent.

35580348

The Growing Season is a book that looks at motherhood from every feminist perspective. With the advent of the pouch, a way of growing babies outside of a female body, heterosexual couples can share the load of pregnancy, reaching for true equality. Gay couples and infertile women can also experience pregnancy in a way they never could have before. With your male partner sharing the pregnancy, women are no longer seen as a burden, a risk.

But there’s a darker side to this equality. With the pregnancy occurring outside of the woman’s body, what do they need women for? Eva – and before her, her mother, Avigail – campaigned against the pouch for this very reason. Arguing for choice, for the respect of motherhood not to be taken away from women, Eva and Avigail fight for what they believe to be a woman’s right. They fail to acknowledge, at least for the most part, how the pouch helps those who cannot have children naturally, until later on, when Eva manages to adopt a wider view.

The Growing Season takes multiple viewpoints into account. Women are also encouraged to transfer their unwanted foetuses to the pouch, rather than opt for abortion. This would satisfy the pro-life groups (or anti-woman, as I prefer to call them), but the issue of funding these unwanted children rears its ugly head. Many pro-life groups dedicate so much time to telling women what they can and cannot do with their own bodies, they fail to address just how the children will be looked after throughout their lives – and who will be responsible.

This is a complicated story, not least because of the subject material. We are getting closer to developing a way for a baby to be grown outside of the female body. While this is a positive step for some groups, it might not be seen as such by others. There will always be clashing perspectives when it comes to something like this, and no one of them is more right – more righteous – than the other.

Sedgwick has taken a common, relevant theme, and turned it into an engaging, dystopian fiction. It’s real enough to be relatable, understandable, but still with that reassuring distance, almost like we’re holding the future at arms length. Read it.

Goodreads

Introducing Christopher Joyce, winner of the Cornish Writing Challenge 2017

It is my great pleasure to introduce Christopher Joyce, whose short story Mama’s Gonna Float The Gypsum won the very first Cornish Writing Challenge! You can read his story on Frost Magazine here.

Christopher Joyce, from Chichester in West Sussex, has been a teacher, waiter, once made Venetian blinds, and has worked in a steel works. He is best known for his series of children’s books, ‘The Creatures of Chichester’, where the city’s animals solve the problems created by the Twolegs living there. You can find out more on his website.

unnamed

To celebrate his win, Chris has given an interview to us here at The Bandwagon. Read on to find out more about the winner of the Cornish Writing Challenge 2017!

What inspired you to start writing?

Moving to Chichester, which has such an iconic Cross at the centre of the city. It seemed the obvious place for secret liaisons to take place. As I had been a teacher of 8 to 12 year olds, it seemed sensible to write for that age group. Hence ‘The Creatures of Chichester’ were born.

As an independent author, what do you wish you’d known about the process before publishing your own books?

The need to spend so much time on marketing your book. The great thing is you have complete control and can run price promotions, change the covers, run targeted advertising through Facebook or Amazon, and tweet away to your heart’s content. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and there is a lot of help out there for people starting out.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read before you write. Once I had decided to write for children, I spent a lot of time reading kids’ books. Not the ones I remember from years ago, but current stories. The same applies to any genre. I made notes about the fonts used, word count and vocabulary used. I also decided to make my printed books dyslexic friendly by using a large sans-serif font and left justifying the text.

Tell us more about Mama’s Gonna Float The Gypsum. Where did the inspiration come from?

After viewing the picture prompts, I slept on it and woke up with this bizarre sentence in my head. I googled if there were gypsum mines in Cornwall and was amazed to see there were, so I decided to go with the flow. Once I looked again at the picture of the books in the phone box I had the idea for how the story would end. So I wrote it backwards, in effect.

flushing-phone-box
Picture prompt

What is your connection to Cornwall?

I was born in South Wales, so Cornwall was always a favourite holiday destination. My brother met his wife and got married in Newquay. They had an anniversary party there recently where you had to come representing a decade. My partner and I chose to go as punks, so I have fond memories of trying on dog collars to the astonishment of the pet shop owners of Newquay.

What’s next for you? 

I’ve just finished editing the last book in ‘The Creatures of Chichester’ series. I plan to publish a children’s recipe book at Christmas. It’s called ‘The Alien Cookbook’ which features Nanaberry Rockets and Slime Dogs. I’ve also been asked to present some ideas to an editor of a leading publisher at the end of the year for another series of books for children. Nothing promised, but it could be very exciting.

What are you currently reading?

Kid’s books, mostly aimed at 10 to 13. I would love to write something that could reach boys in particular who tend to switch off at that age. I’ve also got Stephen King’s The Dead Zone as an audiobook ready for my holidays. I’m a big fan of audiobooks. Apparently it’s the biggest growing sector, with 29% growth last year. I’ve converted all my books to audio too.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I’m also a garden designer so I enjoy that. Chichester has a great theatre and we’re close to Goodwood too. This year our local authors’ group CHINDI ran a series of events as part of the Festival of Chichester. We had a Crime Writers Panel, workshops on creative writing and self-publishing, a ghost tour with stories written by local authors, and a sold out Words and Wine quiz.

Lastly, and most importantly, jam or cream first?

I went to teacher training college in Exmouth, so cream first for me.

6049338

Website | Facebook | @creaturesofchi | Amazon

I think we can let Christopher off that last comment, even though jam first is most certainly the right way. Congratulations to Christopher and to all of our Cornish Writing Challenge entrants! Keep your eyes peeled for further interviews with the runners-up, and for the return of the Cornish Writing Challenge next year!

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

I review The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis.

A debut literary thriller from an incredible new voice. What do you do when the man who gave you everything turns out to be a killer? 

Everything Elka knows of the world she learned from the man she calls Trapper, the solitary hunter who took her under his wing when she was just seven years old.

But when Elka sees the Wanted poster in town, her simple existence is shattered. Her Trapper – Kreagar Hallet – is wanted for murder. Even worse, Magistrate Lyon is hot on his trail, and she wants to talk to Elka.

Elka flees into the vast wilderness, determined to find her true parents. But Lyon is never far behind – and she’s not the only one following Elka’s every move. There will be a reckoning, one that will push friendships to the limit and force Elka to confront the dark memories of her past.

27209140

What a ride. The Wolf Road is everything I love in a book. It’s dystopian, which confused me for a while, as it also reads as an historical fiction. The Damn Stupid, described in the book, seems to be some kind of nuclear war, which threw the world back into the 1800s. Beth Lewis blends the two genres together seamlessly; I got lost in a world that was at once the future and the past, with all the emotions of the present.

Elka is the perfect heroine. Flawed, raw, open. Her voice is beautiful, innocent, yet haunted. Her story is sad, yet she is incredibly strong. Left with her abusive Nana while her parents went north to “make their fortune”, Elka gets caught up in a thunderhead, some kind of storm, and is deposited miles away from home. She comes upon a hut, which belongs to a man she calls Trapper. Covered in tattoos, hulking, Trapper is terrifying, but Elka sticks with him for over 10 years, learning his ways, the ways of the wild, and coming to think of him as her father. Her eyes are closed to his real ways, his wolf road, until she sees his face plastered on wanted posters around the nearest town.

Elka’s journey to understanding, not just the truth about Trapper, but also about herself, is hard and heartbreaking. How many of us have been fooled by someone? Been so caught up in a certain life that you do things without thinking of the consequences, of the importance of your choices? Are we even able to make choices in such situations? Beth Lewis writes about this in an incredible and engaging way, describing Elka’s path beautifully.

Listening to The Wolf Road as an audiobook was an extra treat. Amy McFadden is wonderful, and truly brings the story to life. This is a contender for my book of the year.

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible

Introducing: Powerful – Tome 1: The Realm of Harcilor by S. N. Lemoing

The Bandwagon introduces indie author S.N. Lemoing, a fresh feminist voice in the fantasy world.

From the author:

“Several years ago, I wrote this novel to bring some subjects to the fore, such as diverse and powerful female characters, ecology, different families (single parents, large families, poor and rich backgrounds), and diversity of body types. The characters are never totally as they seem to be. The reader can feel a lot of emotions; the story is like a roller-coaster.

About the characters, we have ingenious children and teenagers, a biracial rebel princess and a maimed female warrior, among others. Politics, treason, magical powers, epic battle scenes, a little bit of romance – these are the themes you can find in this story.”

COVER POWERFUL EBOOK small

For twelve years, the power has been usurped at the Realm of Harcilor. Cyr, an erudite, and his adopted son, Kaaz, have formed a secret school.

Indeed, in this world, some people were born endowed with magical abilities: the Silarens.

However, it is not that easy to detect your own powers. They will soon be joined by a mysterious young woman who will provide them with valuable information.

When Litar – the most powerful being of the realm – goes away for two months, they finally foresee the opportunity to act.

Can they win their freedom back? Will they make the right choices?

Grab your copy on Amazon now, or find it on Goodreads. You can keep up to date with the latest book news on the Facebook page.

About The Author

S. N. Lemoing was born in 1987 near Paris, France. S N Lemoing

She graduated in Cinematography and English, studied philosophy, literature and lately, at University, she had the chance to follow classes about the Image of Women in the Media as well as the Female Gaze: Women directors. She then worked as a PA for films and TV, and also wrote, directed and produced episodes for 3 webseries and short films.

The will to write without boundaries led her to become an independent author. Her first novel is POWERFUL – T1: The Realm of Harcilor, a fantasy novel acclaimed by more than 85 French literary bloggers.

Her second book is a sassy chick-lit ‘Mes 7 ex’ (My seven exes), and the 3rd one ‘SHEWOLF’, urban fantasy genre, has been read by 1200+ readers and stayed on the Amazon’s Supernatural top 15 for 5 months.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr 

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?

Godblind

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