Blood, Ink And Fire – Ashley Mansour

23434550

Blurb: “Imagine a world without books…
In the future, books are a distant memory. The written word has been replaced by an ever-present stream of images known as Verity. In the controlling dominion of the United Vales of Fell, reading is obsolete and forbidden, and readers themselves do not—cannot—exist.
But where others see images in the stream, teenager Noelle Hartley sees words. She’s obsessed with what they mean, where they came from, and why they found her.

Noelle’s been keeping her dangerous fixation with words a secret, but on the night before her seventeenth birthday, a rare interruption in the stream leads her to a mysterious volume linked to an underworld of rebel book lovers known as the Nine of the Rising. With the help of the Risers and the beguiling boy Ledger, Noelle discovers that the words within her are precious clues to the books of the earlier time—and as a child of their bookless age, she might be the world’s last hope of bringing them back.”

*I was sent this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This book, as mentioned in the blurb, is about the world after books have fallen out of existence. I was nervous going into this because the last book I read about the destruction of books not because the idea of books being harmed in any way is scary to me, but that I read “Fahrenheit 451” and I didn’t enjoy it.

The story follows Noelle who is about to celebrate her seventeenth birthday upon which she will have her immersion. Noelle lives in the UVF (United States of Fell) in one of twenty vales. The four laws of this world are as follows:

  • No valer may leave the UVF without being sanctioned for transfer.
  • Every Valer must absorb Verity’s stream and undergo immersion.
  • Any valer found in possession of the written word, and shares it is considered a traitor.
  • (unstated) Valers don’t discuss treason.

Each home has a stream called “verity” which is a virtual fortress of information. “Verity” prepares those underage for immersion via lessons and generates pictures to the valers of that home.

Noelle likes to play games with her friend John. In these word games, John describes something and Noelle tells him the word for it. John reveals that he is leaving, gives her a map, and tells her to find him before she gets taken for immersion. “Verity” picks up on this and share’s it with Noelle’s family who ban her from seeing John.

Of course, she does what every teen does and runs away, taking her mother’s ID pass to get the train on this little adventure. Noelle meets John’s Grandma who has an actual, physical book and Noelle discovers that she is a reader – the last of a dying breed. Noelle’s actions have devastating consequences. Noelle is forced on the run but determined to fight the people who ruined her life. If only John hadn’t started acting…odd.

This book, from the outside, seemed to have an interesting concept. Given that books pretty much rule my life, it’s terrifying to think about what would happen if they were taken away. It has some current YA tropes running through it that I can see bringing in fans of YA dystopian however, it has a bit of a love interest and some… weird, creepy and irrelevant romance. Things also get very confusing. Even after reflecting on the book when I’d finished (and in fact upon reflection when writing this review) I don’t understand entirely what “Verity” is. And the fact that it wasn’t explained in a way I sort of understood until a good half, maybe even three quarters in, meant I lost my thread and I have to admit, I skim-read the last half.

Noelle was a great character but she was just stuck in the middle of a confusing, not well explained story.
For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

For my videos, check out my Youtube

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

A Conversation With Rod Duncan

 Rod Duncan is a Leicester based author, screenwriter and Creative Writing university lecturer. He has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick and East Midlands book awards. During my time at De Montfort University, I had the pleasure of being taught by Rod who told many stories from his path to being published, to The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter – the first book in The Fall Of The Gas-Lit Empire. Now on the release of the third book in the series, The Custodian of Marvels, Rod answered a few of my burning questions.

wyR9ruuh

With the release of your new book, The Custodian of Marvels, finally here how are you feeling?

Although there is more of the adventure to come, this book brings the story to a significant moment.  So I am really excited about it.  I’m so happy that it’s finally out there and people are going to be reading it.
When you started writing the series, what was the first aspect to jump out at you? (for example, a character, plot idea)

I began with the city of Leicester and the many traces of the Victorians who built it. That started a story. But I only knew it was going to be a novel when I discovered the voice of Elizabeth, the protagonist. And then, as I began to understand who she was and where she came from, I realised it was going to be a whole series of books.
At the States of Independence festival last March, you did a talk on Steampunk which has become a sort of identifier for this series. Did steampunk act as an inspiration or has it just been associated with your work?

Some people have called the novels steampunk and some say they are ‘gas-lit fiction’. Others say they are crime fiction and other others say they’re alternate history!  I see all those labels as influences, but I never felt constrained by them.  The story had a life of its own and, to a certain extent, I followed to see where it would take me.

Which character was the most interesting for you to write?

I have to be interested in all my characters. That is the only way I can write them.  Often there are things about them that I know but never get to tell the readers.  A few of those secrets are revealed in The Custodian of Marvels. I’m very interested to see how the readers react to those revelations.

 

Did you struggle writing any of the books and if so, which one?

The most difficult was The Custodian of Marvels – because there were plot strands from the previous two novels that needed to be woven together. And there is a heist element to the story – which is technically intricate to plot. But I think it is the strongest book of the three. I’m really delighted with the way it all worked out.

 

Are there any books that got you into writing?

Listening to the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on BBC Radio 4 was the first time I really became aware of authorship. I remember thinking – Wow! Someone wrote this. Someone created it out of their imagination. That was very inspiring. But I didn’t at the time think I could write anything.  I’m dyslexic and writing was very difficult for me back then.  But later, after the word processor came along and I did start to write,  I remembered that moment and it felt significant to me.

 

How do you handle rejection/negativity on your work?

I wrote several novels before I had my first one published. So I did go through the whole  rejection thing. It was difficult. But I always felt compelled to go back and write another one.

I’ve been lucky with reviews of my books. Most people have been very positive. But it’s important to not get fixated on trying to please everyone.  I write the kind of novel I would like to read and happily there are people out there who have similar tastes. But if someone hates it, that’s fine. It wasn’t meant for them.

 

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Never say: ‘I want to be a writer’. If you feel compelled to write, then you are one already. Accept it. Other people might judge you not a ‘real’ writer until you win a prize or get a publication deal. But the day before you get that big break you’ll be just the same writer as you are the day after.

It’s fair enough to say: ‘I want to get published’.  But don’t let the goal make you miserable. So long as each new thing you write is a little bit better than the last, be happy. And if you keep that up then the other stuff will follow.

We’re all on the same journey.

 

Finally, and most importantly, what can readers expect from The Custodian of Marvels?

You can expect the return of some characters from The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter – both friends and enemies. There will be a heist and secrets will be revealed about the origin of the Gas-Lit Empire. And there’ll be a lot more besides – but I don’t want to spoil it for you.

 

 TheCustodianOfMarvels-144dpi“You’d have to be mad to steal from the feared International Patent office. But that’s what Elizabeth Barnabus is about to do.”

The Custodian of Marvels is out now in the UK on Ebook and audiobook platforms and will be available in  physical form from 11th February. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rod can be found here on Facebook and here on Twitter.

 

Unseemly Science – Rod Duncan

22238689

 

Blurb: “In the divided land of England, Elizabeth Barnabus has been living a double life – as both herself – and as her brother, the private detective. Witnessing the brutal hanging of someone very close to her, Elizabeth resolves to throw the Bullet Catcher’s Handbook into the fire, and forget her past. If only it were that easy! There is a new charitable organisation in town, run by some highly respectable women. But something doesn’t feel right to Elizabeth. Perhaps it is time for her fictional brother to come out of retirement for one last case? Her unstoppable curiosity leads her to a dark world of body-snatching, unseemly experimentation, politics and scandal. Never was it harder or a woman in a man’s world.”

This is the second book in the “Fall of The Gas-Lit Empire” series and a hanging is taking place in the Kingdom.  It is hugely anticipated due to newspaper coverage and speculation. Elizabeth plans to sneak in to watch. However, she is wanted by the law. So a disguise is required.  Placing herself among the crowd she watches as the woman who gave her the Bullet Catcher’s Handbook is hanged. Elizabeth returns home and goes to burn the wretched book only to save it from the fire moments later as it is her last connection to the deceased woman.

The reader sees the return of Julia – personally my favourite character – who is caught up in a fight with her mother as usual. Julia wants to move to the Kingdom and study law, her mother wants Julia to get a husband.

A stranger – a royalist called Yan Romero – offers Elizabeth legal advice for a price. This immediately appears sketchy to Elizabeth who knows that passage in and out of the kingdom boarder is pricey. When he leaves, she follows and watches him enter the home of a farm labourer who is not the kind of person a royalist would hang out with. Elizabeth speaks to the farmer a few days later and quickly assesses that he once lived in the kingdom like she did, but fled too. She gets information from him, learning that an extradition treaty is to be made and if it goes ahead “they’ll get us all. Drag us home in chains.”

Julia becomes increasingly interested by a woman called Mrs Raike who runs a charitable organisation which runs soup kitchens, Sunday schools and other works that benefit the poor and needy. As per usual, Elizabeth doesn’t trust this mysterious Mrs Raike and begins investigating.

A register is brought in and both Elizabeth and her brother had to return every two weeks to re-sign the register. A feat which will quickly prove difficult as Elizabeth is both herself and her brother so the two cannot appear and sign the register together.
In my years of reading, I often find that sequels are sub-par compared to their debut counterparts. Unseemly Science is an exception to that idea. This book is fantastically written to the point where it sucks you in and you forget that you are in fact, not a part of the world but actually reading a book. Julia proves yet again to be a strong side character and some form of support for Elizabeth. And of course, Elizabeth’s adventures only leave you hungry for more.

 

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

For my videos, check out my Youtube

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

Created – Peiri Ann

Created-ebook

Blurb: “After a devastating world war, our government has manufactured genetically altered humans. These “creations” are designed to manage and enforce law and order among the citizens. Creations don’t know fear or pain. Their sole function is to fight the enemy and live to battle again. Orphans Kylie and her twin brother, Lukahn were born for this purpose. Dedicating their lives to sharpening their deadly skills and forfeiting the chance of love and freedom. They ready themselves for Separation, the deadly rite of passage where the oldest teens are drafted into the final preparation for war. Humans and creations alike have become lethal foes when a plague of the living dead becomes the number one hazard. Strategies change as the twins discover they may not be the saviours of humankind after all. They may be the real enemy of the people.”

*I was sent this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I’m not really a big sci-fi fan. I’m just going to put that out there. But every so often a book catches my attention and draws me in. Created is one of them. Just look at the utterly breathtaking cover!

The story follows twin orphans Kylie and Luke (narrated by Kylie) who live in a world made up of “normals” (humans as we know them) and creations. Kylie and Luke are the latter. They train hard, knowing they need to be prepared for a war and eventually they are taken by force in the night to a training camp: “our government holds a training camp every year for us. It’s practically three months of death. They try to kill us and we fight to stay alive.” The duo find themselves among other creations and are placed into groups. Naturally, Kylie and Luke are made leaders of different groups. As the story develops, Luke and Kylie are told in secret what it is they’re going to be fighting.

It’s really hard to review this book without giving away all the twists and turns that make it interesting. Overall, I came out of this reading experience feeling very mixed.

I like reading books about siblings that have a strong bond and there’s an emphasis on that: “You were each born in twos. You each will die in twos. This is not every man for himself. You live for your twin and them for you.” It made a nice change from some sibling relationships I’ve read before. It was refreshing seeing them work together as a team. However, this relationship they had became quite unhealthy and kind of creepy the further you delved into their characters.

The training sequences felt very similar to the way Dauntless train in Divergent so nothing felt particularly exciting or new. I could deal with this though, because there isn’t any really way you can make hands-on fighting original.

What really lost all hope in this book for me was the love triangle. You read that right. Love.Triangle. I hate them with a passion. They just made the arc of the story really tedious and I’m surprised I actually finished reading this book after this development occurred. I understand that the prospect of having affections for another being was new to Kylie but I eye-rolled so many times. I don’t mind if they add something to the story but it felt like this plot device was used to fill up the pages to when the real action happened.

When I finished the book I found a chapter entitled “the beginning” which basically explains how everything came to be. This would have been more useful to have at the start of the book to provide some context into what actually makes the creations different to normals before going into the story.

I just feel a bit let down by this one.

Let me know your thoughts!
For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

For my videos, check out my Youtube

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings