Friday, 26 September 2014

Review: Age of Iron - Angus Watson

Published: September 9th 2014, Orbit
Pages: 520 pages, paperback
Series/Standalone: This is book one in the Iron Age series
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Bloodthirsty druids and battle-hardened Iron Age warriors collide in the biggest epic fantasy debut release of 2014.


Dug Sealskinner is a down-on-his-luck mercenary travelling south to join up with King Zadar's army. But he keeps rescuing the wrong people. 

First, Spring, a child he finds scavenging on the battlefield, and then Lowa, one of Zadar's most fearsome warriors, who's vowed revenge on the king for her sister's execution. 

Now Dug's on the wrong side of that thousands-strong army he hoped to join ­- and worse, Zadar has bloodthirsty druid magic on his side. All Dug has is his war hammer, one rescued child and one unpredictable, highly-trained warrior with a lust for revenge that's going to get them all killed . . . 
It's a glorious day to die.

My review: As most of you know I'm not much of a fantasy reader but I decided to give Age of Iron a go when it was pitched to me as something Game of Thrones fans will love. I've read and enjoyed every instalment of ASoIaF so far so I figured I'd give it a go and see if it stood up to the hype.

I went into Age of Iron with a few reservations (as I mentioned, I'm not a huge fantasy reader, I'm easily distracted and this is a pretty chunky book) but I'm pleased to say my reservations were unjustified, and Age of Iron is well worth adding to your TBR pile.

It's clear from the get go that Watson is an accomplished writer. He relies on stark imagery and blunt, direct prose to tell his story, which is refreshing change from the purple prose I've been disappointed by in some fantasy novels. Taking into account this is his debut novel, it makes it even more impressive.

Age of Iron is the first instalment in the series and it strikes that delicate balance of laying out series-length story lines, as well as having its own standalone plot lines. The ending was satisfying but left me wanting more, in a good way, not a frustrated way.

Age of Iron focuses on a section of history that is largely missing from novels and movies, so it was great to see Iron Age Britain brought to life. It was certainly a difficult, brutal era to live in and I loved learning more about that period of history through Watson's book, without feeling like I was reading a history textbook.

The characterisation in Age of Iron is strong, and I found myself warming to Dug from the outset. He might be a little rough around the edges but it's impossible to dislike him. He's got a mouth like a sewer and he's worn out and older than your average hero, which I really liked. It's nice to read about somebody with some life experience, rather than an eighteen year old 'chosen one' who can do no wrong.

This is a great book to lose yourself in as the evenings grow darker and the air gets more bitter. Curl up under a blanket and stop counting down the days until Game of Thrones returns to our screens, because delving into Age of Iron is a great way to spend a few evenings.

This review has been written as part of the Age of Iron blog tour, so have a look below to make sure you don't miss out on the rest of the tour!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Blog Tour: Killing Sound - Paul Southern

Published: September 4th 2014, Chicken House
Pages: 352 pages, paperback
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Jodie is cursed with a terrible gift. She just doesn't know it yet. When she stumbles across one of her dead father's old papers on sound waves in the attic, it sets her on a terrifying journey to find out more, leading her across the streets of London to the dark, untrodden tunnels of the Underground, where she is forced to face the truth. Her worst nightmare is about to become real. Worse, she can hear it coming.

My review: As you know I'm a big fan of horror so I'm always excited to read any new releases. YA horror is hugely under-represented so it's always a treat to find a new one in my TBR pile. As such, I went into Killing Sound hoping to discover a creepy, well-written story that I'd be able to recommend to anybody looking for a new YA horror. Was I disappointed? Read on to find out...

Chicken House have this cool bit of marketing where they choose three words to sum up the book and print them on the back cover - such a good idea. For Killing Sound they've chosen 'spine-chilling', 'supernatural' and 'suspense' and I think they nailed it.

I find that a lot of YA horror tries and fails to deliver genuine scares but this is somewhere where Killing Sound really excels. It manages to create a real feeling of unease and parts of the book really did unsettle me. I like that Southern went more for creating a creepy atmosphere than relying on gore or cheap shocks to scare his audience - it helped the story feel more like an old-timey sci-fi horror, which is a huge plus in my book.

The idea of a horror story built around sound waves was something I've only come across a couple of times before and I found it such an interesting concept. I found myself thinking of JG Ballard's Track 12 and Roald Dahl's The Sound Machine while I was reading Killing Sound - both of which I definitely recommend!

Killing Sound felt like a horror novel on the more sophisticated end of the spectrum and I like that I was kept guessing right until the final pages. Speaking of which - THAT ENDING! I obviously can't give much away but, gee whizz, that's one I won't forget in a hurry. I was so engrossed by the end that, after I finished the epilogue, I had a moment where I was a bit shocked to find that I was reading a book rather than watching a film - it's just that immersive and visual and the narrative flows so easily that it feels like something you're experiencing in front of you, rather than reading.

So, to hark back to my earlier question - no, I definitely was not disappointed. Killing Sound is one of the most unique novels you'll read this year and I wholly recommend curling up with a blanket and hot chocolate and delving into this creepy, unsettling story.

Killing Sound by Paul Southern out now in paperback and eBook (£7.99, Chicken House). Find out more at

Make sure you swing by the other blogs on the list for the next stops on the blog tour!

Friday, 19 September 2014

The Taylor Swift Book Tag

I’m a big Taylor Swift fan so I was all over this tag the second I saw it. It was created over at The Book Life so do click on the link to have a watch of the original video.

Now, whack your favourite T-Swift album on in the background and see what my picks are.

1. We are never getting back together: a book or series you were pretty sure you were in love with but then wanted to break up with

Killer Instinct by S E Green. I *loved* the beginning of this one and thought the premise was great but, eesh, that ending…

2. Red: pick a book with a red cover

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins which is, of course, book two in the Hunger Games trilogy.

3. The best day: pick a book that makes you feel nostalgic

Pretty much anything by Enid Blyton but particularly the St Clare’s books

4. Love Story: pick a book with a forbidden love

So many to choose from but Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the best around

5. I knew you were trouble: pick a book with a bad character you couldn’t help but love

Anything by Paige Harbison (nobody writes a loveable bitch like she does) but Here Lies Bridget is my favourite

6. Innocent: pick a book that someone ruined the ending of

I think I speak for a big chunk of the internet when I say Allegiant by Veronica Roth

7. Everything has changed: pick a book that has a character who goes through extensive character development

Being Billy by Phil Earle. If you haven’t read it yet do pick it up, because it’s gorgeous

8. Forever and always: pick your favourite book couple

No surprises here: Edie and Dylan from the Diary of a Crush books by the incomparable Sarra Manning

9. You belong with me: most anticipated book release

Right now, I don’t really have one but of all time it’d be Butter by Erin Jade Lange

10. Come back, be here: pick a book you wouldn’t lend out to anyone for fear of missing it too much

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. All time number one, forever and always!

11. Tear drops on my guitar: a book that made you cry a lot

Quite a few to choose from, as I’m a serial crier, but it’s got to be Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (closely followed by HP and the Deathly Hallows and The Knife of Never Letting Go)

12. Shake it off: a book that you love so much you just shake off the haters

Choker by Elizabeth Woods! I loved this one but everybody else seemed to hate it. Hey ho, that’s the way to cookie crumbles sometimes.


What books would be on your list? If you decide to do this tag let me know! And now, excuse me while I go and jump around to Shake It Off to celebrate the impending weekend.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

10 Books on my Autumn Reading List

So, autumn is almost upon us! I'm wholly ready for summer to bow out and let the falling leaves, hot chocolates and blustery afternoons commence. In case you couldn't tell, I'm a big fan of the upcoming season.

I always find a read a lot more in autumn than I do in summer. There's something about the chilly, dark evenings that sends me diving underneath my duvet to lose myself in a brilliant book. So, to celebrate the impending arrival of autumn here are ten of the books on my autumn reading list:

1. The 5th Wave - Rick Yancey

I've had this on my wishlist for ages and after receiving a review copy a couple of days ago I'm finally going to see what all the fuss is about!

2. Age of Iron - Angus Watson

I'm reading this one for a blog tour and, although it's outside of my usual type of book, I'm still hopeful.

3. Belzhar - Meg Wolitzer

Slightly put off by the OTT 'OMG JOHN GREEN'S EDITOR PUBLISHED THIS!' marketing but the story sounds interesting and I can't turn down a Bell Jar comparison.

4. Killing Sound - Paul Southern

Another blog tour read. I'm always going to be excited by a horror and this has got an awesome premise.

5. Afterworlds - Scott Westerfeld

I've seen some great reviews for this and it has a really interesting storyline. It's quite chunky but should be good.

6. The Castle - Sophia Bennett

I started this over the summer when my copy first arrived but ended up putting it down during a giant bookshelf reorganisation period. I really loved the beginning so I'm excited to get back to the story.

7. The Iron Trial - Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

*Meh face* At this point I'm reading this purely out of duty and because I'm curious to find out what this twist is that everybody keeps talking about. I'm about a third of the way through and it's really not doing it for me...but I'm hoping that returning to it after a break might help.

8. Popular - Maya Van Wagenen

This sounds like a fun read that I probably should have read over the summer but will hopefully inject a little bit of sunshine into dreary autumn days.

9. Noggin - John Corey Whaley

I took part in the blog tour for Noggin and the author's playlist for the book has convinced me that I definitely need to bump it up my to read list and get to it.

10. Annihilation - Jeff Vandermeer

I bought this on a whim because it was free on the Kindle store and it was billed as Lost meets...something. I don't know, as soon as I saw the Lost comparison I'd already downloaded it.


So there you have it, ten books I'm hoping to read this season. Are any of these books on your list? What are you hoping to read over the coming weeks?

Monday, 15 September 2014

Messenger of Fear - Michael Grant

PublishedAugust 26th 2014, Electric Monkey
Pages: 309 pages, proof
Standalone/Series: This is book one in the series, with book two (currently untitled) due out next year
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): I remembered my name – Mara. But, standing in that ghostly place, faced with the solemn young man in the black coat with silver skulls for buttons, I could recall nothing else about myself.

And then the games began.

The Messenger sees the darkness in young hearts, and the damage it inflicts upon the world. If they go unpunished, he offers the wicked a game. Win, and they can go free. Lose, and they will live out their greatest fear. 

But what does any of this have to do with Mara? She is about to find out . . .

My review: This was one of my most hyped books of 2014 and I'm happy to report that it didn't disappoint in the slightest. After reading a succession of disappointing books at the end of the summer I was a bit nervous when I delved into this, as I had such high hopes for it, but all of them were met and exceeded. Isn't it lovely when that happens?

I've been a fan of Michael Grant's books since I discovered the Gone series during my early days as a blogger. He has a real talent for creating richly realised worlds that are almost our own but...with a few quirks, and I find his persuasive, immersive writing makes it impossible for me not to suspend my disbelief while I'm reading his books. 

I'm more of a contemporary girl but I received my copy of Messenger of Fear right when I needed it most. I'd read a slew of disappointing books and was in a midst of a deep reading slump. I wanted something totally different to pull me out of my funk and this delightful treat was just the ticket. I blitzed through this in a couple of sittings in a single day and felt wholly satisfied and entertained when I turned the final page. This is the first in a series but it has the perfect blend of being a self-contained story as well as a brilliant opening book that piques your interest and leaves you wanting more, without ending on a frustrating cliff hanger.

Messenger of Fear contains definite elements of horror, which had me clapping my hands with glee, as you can imagine. What's even better is that the horror scenes are genuinely scary and had me feeling more unsettled that a lot of pure horror releases I've read this year. There's a lot to think about in this book and if you were a fan of the first Saw film you'll definitely feel the same 'damn, what if this actually happened? How would I fare?' unease that you felt in that movie. For non-horror fans, though - don't worry, this isn't filled with gore like the Saw movies, it just has the same interesting study of karma and retribution.

Memorable characters (the Messenger is one of my character highlights of 2014 and I can't wait to learn more about his backstory further down the line), a rip-roaring white-knuckle ride of a story and some top notch writing - it doesn't get better than this. Oh, and get a load of that cover; fantastic, right?

As always, well played, Michael Grant, well played.