Tag archives for Pan Macmillan

Anticipated Books (Winter-Spring) 2015: Historical Fiction April-June

2015Welcome to another post in my Anticipated Books series for the first half of 2015. This is the second half of my historical fiction list. There were just so many books that caught my fancy that I split them in two. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!  Continue reading »

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Anticipated Books (Winter-Spring) 2015: Crime & Historical Crime Fiction

2015Welcome to the next post in my Anticipated Books series for the first half of 2015. Today it’s time for crime and historical crime fiction books. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!  Continue reading »

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Anticipated Books (Winter-Spring) 2015: Fiction & Thrillers

2015Welcome to the fourth post in my Anticipated Books series for the winter and spring of 2015. Today it’s time for my mainstream fiction and thriller picks. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!  Continue reading »

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Anticipated Books (Winter-Spring) 2015: Science Fiction & Horror

2015Welcome to the third post in my Anticipated Books series for the first half of 2015. Today I bring you both my science fiction and my horror picks. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!  Continue reading »

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Susan Wilkins – The Informant

susanwilkins-theinformantAs a drug-fuelled teenage tearaway, Kaz Phelps took the rap for her little brother Joey over a bungled armed robbery and went to jail.

Six years later she’s released on licence. Clean and sober, and driven by a secret passion for her lawyer, Helen, Kaz wants to escape the violence and abuse of her Essex gangster family.

Joey is a charming, calculating and cold psychopath. He worships the ground Kaz walks on and he’s desperate to get her back in the family firm. All Kaz wants is a fresh start and to put the past behind her.

When Joey murders an undercover cop, DS Nicci Armstrong is determined to put him behind bars. What she doesn’t realize is that her efforts are being sabotaged by one of their own and the Met is being challenged at the highest level.

The final test for Kaz comes when her cousin, Sean, gets out of jail. He is a vicious, old-school thug and wants to show Kaz who is boss. Kaz may be tough enough to face down any man, but is she strong enough to turn her back on her family and go straight?

The Informant is not your regular crime mystery. Yes, if you look for it in the store it’ll probably be shelved under crime, but trust me, this is not your regular crime mystery. Because everyone knows who the bad guys are. No one doubts they did it—whatever particular it you had in mind, as with Joey Phelps and company you can pretty much count on them having commited that particular kind of crime. What makes The Informant compelling then, isn’t the presumed whodunnit, but the psychological development of its lead characters and that of Kaz in particular.  Continue reading »

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Anticipated Books (Summer-Fall) 2014: Science Fiction and Horror

2014Welcome to the third post in my Anticipated Books series for the second half of 2014. Today I bring you both my science fiction and my horror picks. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!  Continue reading »

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Author Query – Ray Celestin

raycelestin-theaxemansjazzRay Celestin is an international man of mystery. Well, in so much as Googling him only gives links to his publisher’s author pages and results for his debut novel The Axeman’s Jazz. I haven’t even been able to track down a picture. That, and he writes mystery/crime novels, so you know mystery man in more ways than one. The Axeman’s Jazz sounds fantastic and it’s my first back-up novel in my historical fiction month, so if I read faster than expected, I’ll review it near the end of the month and otherwise soon after. Today, I’m really pleased to be able to share the following interview with you and solve a bit of the mystery!  Continue reading »

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Anticipated Books (Summer/Fall) 2012: Historical fiction

The second-to-last of my Anticipated Books (Summer/Fall) 2012 is all about historical fiction. In the first six months I’ve truly rediscovered my love of historical fiction and some of my favourite reads so far this year have been historical fiction books. In the second half of the year there are still some awesome titles to come. The last post will follow on Saturday, with the Anticipated Reads post up on Sunday.


Stella Duffy – The Purple Shroud (Virago)
Once, Theodora was little more than a slave, the daughter of a bear-keeper, running barefoot through the streets of Constantinople. Now she is Theou doron, ‘the Gift of God‘, Empress of Byzantine Rome and the most powerful woman in the world.

In Stella Duffy’s compelling new novel, the beguiling and extraordinary Empress Theodora emerges from the shadow of history into brilliant light. Clever, courageous and ruthless when betrayed, Theodora rules alongside her husband, the Emperor Justinian – a true love match in a world of political marriages.

While wars rage on the borders of the Empire, Theodora discovers that the greatest danger to her reign – and her life – lies much closer to home. From the catastrophic and terrifying riots that burn through the city; to vengeful enemies at the palace who will never accept ‘Theodora-from-the-brothel’; to plagues and plots and murder, Theodora learns what it truly means to be Empress.

Spanning over twenty dramatic years of Theodora’s reign, The Purple Shroud is a vivid portrait of a charismatic, exceptional woman and a fascinating exploration of both the pleasures and the burdens of power.

Barbara Lazar – The Pillow Book of the Flower Samurai (Headline)
I am Kozaisho: Fifth daughter, Woman-For-Play, teller of stories, lover, wife and Flower Samurai.

In the rich, dazzling, brutal world of twelfth century Japan, one young girl begins her epic journey, from the warmth of family to the Village of Outcasts. Marked out by an auspicious omen, she is trained in the ancient warrior arts of the samurai. But it is through the power of storytelling that she learns to fight her fate, twisting her life onto a path even she could not have imagined…




James Forrester – The Final Sacrament (Headline)
September 1566. William Harley, Clarenceux King of Arms, lives quietly with his family in London, with a document in his possession that could destroy the state. The aged Lady Percy, Countess of Northumberland, has not given up trying to find it. Nor has she forgotten how he betrayed her and the Catholic cause – she has spent the last two years planning her revenge. But then eloquent and adventurous courtier, John Greystoke suddenly seems most concerned for Clarenceux’s safety. And why, on behalf of the government, does Francis Walsingham have spies watching Clarenceux’s house day and night? When his wife and his daughter go missing, Clarenceux finds himself on the run with his other young daughter, hunted by Lady Percy’s agents. He knows he must finally destroy the document, even if it should cost him his life – but how can he, until he has reunited his family?

Tim Severin – Saxon: The Book of Dreams (PanMacmillan)
Frankia 780AD: Sigwulf, a minor Saxon prince, is saved from execution after his family is slaughtered by the ruthless King Offa of Mercia. Thanks to his Devil’s Mark – his eyes of different colours – Sigwulf is exiled to the Frankish court of King Carolus, the future Charlemagne. There Sigwulf survives on his wits while at the same time trying to come to terms with disturbingly prophetic dreams.

He gains the friendship of some – Count Hroudland, Carolus’s powerful and ambitious nephew but – mysteriously – several attempts are made on Sigwulf’s life. When he obtains a Book of Dreams by chance, a rare text giving understanding to their meaning, he attracts the attention of Carolus himself. But the Book proves to be a slippery guide in a world of treachery and double dealing. Carolus sends Sigwulf and his slave Osric into Spain to spy on the Saracens ahead of a planned Frankish invasion. There, Sigwulf becomes caught between loyalties; either he honours his debt to new friends among the Saracens, or he serves his patron Count Hroudland in his quest for glory, gold and even the Grail itself.

One after another Sigwulf’s predictions come true, but often not as expected, and he finds himself swept forward into a final great battle that reveals who his enemies are . . .


Tim Powers – Hide Me Among the Graves (Corvus)
London, 1862.

A city of over three million souls, of stinking fog and dark, winding streets.

Through these streets walks the poet Christina Rossetti, haunted and tormented by the ghost of her uncle, John Polidori. Without him, she cannot write, but her relationship with him threatens to shake London itself to the ground.

This fascinating, clever novel vividly recreates the stews and slums of Victorian London – a city of dreadful delight. But it is the history of a hidden city, where nursery rhymes lead the adventurer through haunted tunnels and inverted spires. And where the price of poetic inspiration is blood.

Tim Powers – The Stress of Her Regard (Corvus)
Lake Geneva, 1816
As Byron and Shelley row on the peaceful waters of Lake Geneva, a sudden squall threatens to capsize them. But this is no natural event – something has risen from the lake itself to attack them.

Kent, 1816
Michael Crawford’s wife is brutally murdered on their wedding night as he sleeps peacefully beside her – and a vengeful ghost claims Crawford as her own husband.
Crawford’s quest to escape his supernatural wife will force him to travel the Continent in the company of the most creative, most doomed poets of his age. Byron, Keats and Shelley all have a part to play in his fate, and the fate of Europe.


Simon Scarrow – The Sword and the Scimitar (Headline)
1565; In its hour of greatest need, Malta must rely upon the ancient Knights of the Order of St John for survival. Bound by the strongest ties: of valour, of courage and of passion, the Knights must defend their island against ferocious and deadly Ottoman attack.

For Sir Thomas Barrett, summoned by the Order and compelled by loyalty – to the Knights, to his honour and to his Queen – returning to the besieged island means revisiting a past he had long since lain to rest. As the beleaguered Knights grapple to retain control, decade-old feuds will be reawakened, intense passions rekindled and deadly secrets revealed.


Lisa Hilton – Wolves in Winter (Corvus)
ITALY, 1492.

5-year-old Mura is a strange and bewitching child. Daughter to a Nordic mother and Spanish father, she has been tutored in both Arabic learning and the ancient myth cycles of the north. But her widower father has been arrested by the Inquisition, and Mura is sold to a Genoese slaver.

In the port of Savona, Mura’s androgynous looks and unusual abilities fetch a high price. She is bought as a house slave for the powerful Medici, arriving in Florence as the city prepares for war against the French. When the family are forced to flee, Mura finds herself gifted to the notorious Tigress of Forli, Countess Caterina Sforza.

Beautiful, ruthless and intelligent, the Countess is fascinated by Mura’s arcane knowledge. As the Tigress educates her further in the arts of alchemy, potions and poisons, she becomes much more than a lady’s maid. Mura becomes a potent weapon in the Machiavellian intrigues of the Renaissance court…

Phil Rickman – The Heresy of Dr Dee (Corvus)
All talk is of the End-time… and the dead are rising.

At the end of the sunless summer of 1560, black rumour shrouds the death of the one woman who stands between Lord Robert Dudley and marriage to the young Queen Elizabeth. Did Dudley’s wife, Amy, die from an accidental fall in a deserted house, or was it murder? Even Dr John Dee, astrologer royal, adviser on the Hidden and one of Dudley’s oldest friends, is uncertain. Then a rash promise to the Queen sends him to his family’s old home on the Welsh Border in pursuit of the Wigmore Shewstone, a crystal credited supernatural properties.

With Dee goes Robert Dudley, considered the most hated man in England. They travel with a London judge sent to try a sinister Welsh brigand with a legacy dating back to the Battle of Brynglas. After the battle, many of the English bodies were, according to legend, obscenely mutilated. Now, on the same haunted hill, another dead man has been found, similarly slashed.

Devious politics, small-town corruption, twisted religion and a brooding superstition leave John Dee isolated in the land of his father.

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China Miéville – Un Lun Dun

‘UnLondon is at war. We’re under attack. And it’s been written, for centuries, that you will come and save us.’

Stumbling through a secret entrance, Zanna and Deeba enter the strange wonderland of UnLondon. Here all the lost and broken things of London end up, and some of its people too – including Brokkenbroll, boss of the broken umbrella’s; and Hemi the half-ghost boy.

But the two girls have arrived at a dangerous time. UnLondon is a place where words are alive, where a jungle lurks behind the door of an ordinary house, where carnivorous giraffes stalk the streets…and a sinister cloud called Smog is bent on destruction. It’s a frightened city in need of a hero…

Back in 2010 I read my first and thus far only Miéville. I’d only become aware of his writing due to starting to read book blogs, but everyone was highly complementary, so I knew I needed to read some of his work. However, I was also a little intimidated, because Miéville’s work was described as very smart and layered and here I was thinking: “What if I don’t get it?” Luckily, I did get The City & The City – I think – so I really wanted to read more of his work. And in August last year I got really lucky and won a copy of his book Un Lun Dun in a giveaway on Mel’s Random Reviews. It still took me a while to get to it, but once I did I was again swept away by Miéville’s fantastic writing and his imaginative creations. In a word, Un Lun Dun was amazing!

Un Lun Dun is a YA book and as such perhaps far more accessible than say Miéville’s Embassytown (which, for the record, I haven’t read) and I totally adored this book and his UnLondon. The book was just so much fun. UnLondon is a wonderful creation, which has some clear echo’s of the London we know and love, but also is a place totally its own. The Ghosts have their own Quarter and are peopled with those who can’t move on, but also don’t have a place in the world above any more. This wonderful world of moily houses and discarded appliances which pop up randomly in the street is populated by some amazing creatures, such as binja’s, the Black Windows, Unbrella’s and the rebrella’s. They are not just described in a wonderful fashion, they are also included as illustrations drawn by Miéville himself, which makes them even more fun.

Un Lun Dun is not just an example of great, imaginative world building, but also of fantastic playing with language. Miéville plays with words in so many ways, whether it is by punning, by creating onomatopoeic representations of regular words, such as The Schwazzy and the klinneract, or by creating words or names with double meanings, such as Brokkenbroll, the master of the Unbrella’s or the broken brollies. It was a joy to try and identify these words and every time I got one I felt full of triumph, though this task might be easier for native speakers!

The fact that Deeba was the UnChosen, which of course makes far more sense for UNLondon, is not just a word joke – which I really liked – but also part of a larger phenomenon in Un Lun Dun—the subverting of traditional tropes. I loved how Miéville played with the tropes of the genre, sometimes seemingly following them and at others just turning them on their head. For example, the prophecy, which turns out to be incorrect and the quest for the UnGun, setting us up for a classic ‘following the predetermined path to gain the needed McGuffin in seven easy steps’ which Deeba decides to cut short pretty brutally. Un Lun Dun is also pretty scary and Miéville doesn’t keep back from killing off characters, the loss of some of which left me a little teary.

You can see where Miéville draws inspiration from Gaiman – something which the author acknowledges in his afterword – and it wouldn’t have helped that I read Neverwhere in the days prior to starting Un Lun Dun. But even though the influence is clear, Un Lun Dun is its own story and completely Miéville. Un Lun Dun is a fantastic story, which while it’s classed YA, is also suitable to the more mature MG reader, however parents might want to check beforehand whether they think their child is ready for the book. In any case Un Lun Dun is not just must read Miéville, but also must read YA fantasy.

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C.J. Sansom – Heartstone

Summer 1545

England is at war. Henry VIII’s invasion of France has gone badly wrong, and a massive French fleet is preparing to sail across the Channel…

Meanwhile, Matthew Shardlake is given an intriguing legal case by an old servant of Queen Catherine Parr. Asked to investigate claims of ‘monstrous wrongs’ committed against his young ward, Hugh Curteys, by Sir Nicholas Hobbey, Shardlake and his assistant Barak journey to Portsmouth. There, Shardlake also intends to investigate the mysterious past of Ellen Fettiplace, a young woman incarcerated in the Bedlam.

Once in Portsmouth, Shardlake and Barak find themselves in a city preparing for war. The mysteries surrounding the Hobbey family, and the events that destroyed Ellen’s family nineteen years before, involve Shardlake in reunions both with an old friend and an old enemy close to the throne. Soon events will converge on board one of the King’s great warships in Portsmouth harbour, waiting to sail out and confront the approaching French fleet…

I discovered the author through last year’s World Book Night. I was lucky enough to get a copy of Dissolution (review) through that event and I fell in love with the character of Matthew Shardlake and his world. So when I was assured on Twitter that I didn’t have to read the books in-between, I couldn’t wait to start Heartstone.

It was possible to read the books out of order, but I did miss some of the nuances of Shardlake’s development. There events referenced from prior books, such as Shardlake’s stint in the Tower, the events that take place in York, his connection to Bedlam and how he originally met Ellen, where Barak came from, how he came to replace Mark and how Barak met and won Tamasin. But it didn’t impede on understanding the story or my enjoyment of it. However, it’s made me want to read the other three books even more badly.

I loved returning to Tudor times and learning more about Henry VIII’s period. Heartstone focuses on wardships, Henry’s wars with the French, and Portsmouth. There’s no Mark in Heartstone and just a little Guy, sadly, as I really loved these characters in Dissolution. However, Barak is a great foil for Shardlake’s almost obsessive desire to solve his cases. My only complaint with Barak is that sometimes his curses seemed somewhat too contemporary and thus were a little jarring. Despite this, there isy a richness to Sansom’s tale that is a delight. Partly this can be found in the details he includes, but it can also be found in the little subplots throughout the book, such as the mystery of Coldiron’s past and Tamasin’s pregnancy.

The connection Shardlake and Barak form with Leacon and his troop was wonderful. It gave the reader a close-up view what life in a company of archers was like in Tudor times. It’s the little details that make this so awesome, such as the buttons Sir Franklin gets all worked up over, the tension of levies thrown together regardless of class, and the little earwax scoop Carswell wins in a bet which he is happy about as it will help him keep his bow string waxed (can I just say yuck to that?). It also provides a different point of view on the war, it’s not all glory, honour and money, for the ordinary man drafted as a soldier, war, and especially this war, is just a damn fool thing. And it is a foolishness that can – and often will – cost them their lives.

Two separate cases form the meat of the book, Hugh’s and Ellen’s. While I found Hugh’s case interesting and a little boggling, I found Ellen’s just to be annoying. I could see Shardlake’s rationale for following through on it, but I was with Barak on this one, I just wanted him to drop it. Then again, Shardlake is known for his tenacity, but in these cases, even the beneficiaries of his work just wanted him to drop it, and his going on felt frustrating as it seemed not to lead anywhere or just seemed plain dangerous.

Of course Sansom solves this frustration brilliantly in the last few hundred pages by showing us there was actually something wrong in Hugh’s case and shows Ellen’s case is actually far more complex than just a young girl driven out of her mind by a brutal attack. The twists to both cases were surprising and where in Dissolution I had seen the culprit coming, in Heartstone the final resolutions were surprising, I hadn’t seen them coming at all. Those last few hundred pages make for a tense finale, culminating in a sea battle, which Shardlake witnesses from very close by.

I love historical fiction and crime and when they are combined in the way Sansom does, it’s a rare treat. Sansom manages to make me want to learn more about the history in his books, in this case about the Mary Rose and Henry’s other warships. To me that is the sign of a really great historical fiction author and Sansom certainly fits that bill. If you’ve read any of his previous novels and enjoyed them, or you just like historical crime fiction, Heartstone is really worth a read. I would however recommend that you read the books in order, just so you get all the nuances in character development that I missed.

By Published Posted in crime, historical fiction, review | 3 Comments
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