Revenger – Alastair Reynolds

Revenger - Alastair Reynolds

The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilisations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives.

And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them…

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded with layers of protection – and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.

Revenger is a science fiction adventure story set in the rubble of our solar system in the dark, distant future – a tale of space pirates, buried treasure and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism… and of vengeance…

If I had to sum up Revenger, I’d have to go with something like ‘Firefly meets Iain M. Banks’. I think that’s a fair assessment, and if you’re a fan of either, I think you’ll enjoy this book.

Those are easy comparisons though – the swashbuckling pirate adventure of a small ship and crew against a starry backdrop with enough hard SF to appease the most ardent fan. There are hijinks galore, treasure chests hidden in far-flung nooks, daring adventures and more than a touch of the high seas.

Fura Ness makes for a fine and fiery protagonist with a lovely depth to her story, the world-building is absolutely first rate and some of the most fascinating I’ve read in a long time, and the supporting cast of characters is splendid.

There’s a real YA feel to the story, given the age of Fura and her sister, though some of the coming of age angst and rebelling against tyrannical father-knows-best was perhaps the weakest part of the book for me.

Revenger is splendid fun. Easily one of the best sci-fi novels I’ve read for a long time, and I really hope we get to meet Fura Ness again.

Many thanks to Gollancz and Netgalley for the advance copy for review. Opinions, as always, my own

Deep Down Dead – Steph Broadribb

Deep down dead - steph broadribb

I saw it then. The way he looked at me, it was stone cold. Whatever he might have felt for me before was now gone. I knew the problem wasn’t that I’d shot Tommy, or even that I’d taken away JT’s chance to collect on the bond percentage. It was because I’d broken his rules, every damn one of them. And it seemed he couldn’t forgive me for that.
I pulled away from him, blinking away tears. Whispered, ‘Okay, sure.’
His sigh was barely audible.
I’d never felt more alone.

So, so excited for this book. I’ve been hearing about it for *so* long on Twitter!

Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb (@crimethrillgirl) is published on 15th October by Orenda Books. You can find out more on Steph’s website,

Not long now…

Sunday musings

Hello gang. Sunday evening, the week is nearly over. Must be time for some sunday musings.

If this is really going to be A Thing, it needs a better name. Suggestions onna postcard.

I’ve set up a thing to ping favourited tweets to Evernote for this post. It seems to work quite well. I do like IFTTT for doing Clever Things With The Internet.  You should try it.

What’s on the list this week?

Author, rapper and all round top bloke Rob Boffard has a new book coming out in his Outer Earth series. Cue much excitement. It’s called Echoes: Stories from Outer Earth, and costs 99p. GO GO GO.

I won a thing from Scrawlrbox, an art supplies subscription service. I’ve had one of their boxes before, and they’re full of lovely, lovely art stuff. If you like lovely, lovely art stuff, you should check them out.

The ever-interesting Christian Payne (@documentally) shows us what the magnetic field looks like on the side of an iPad. Now I want some magnetic field viewing paper.


Off to NUX5 and Thinking Digital in Manchester in the next couple of weeks. Both look interesting, in different ways. I’ve been to quite a few NUX events, but this will be my first time at TDMCR. Much excitement.

It’s October, and therefore Halloween is on the way, with its attendant trick or treating. Some years ago I bought a skull mask from Wintercroft masks. This year I might get round to making it.

Speaking of making things, I’ve just realised that I’ve missed the first two days of Inktober, a month-long challenge to do an ink drawing every day. Ah well. Maybe I’ll start tomorrow.

Inktober was set up by Jake Parker. I do so love his art.

I was supposed to go to a Thing on Thursday at Waterstones – Faber Books were running a crime thing, taking three authors on tour. I’d booked the ticket in advance to see Rod Reynolds (author of the rather splendid Black Night Falling. Sadly, due to lack of numbers it was cancelled. Waterstones tweeted the bad news, but said that you could get a refund on your ticket. I rock up to the main desk at Waterstones clutching the aforementioned ticket.

Me: “Hi, I’ve got a ticket for the crime thing that got cancelled”
Waterstones Dude: “Ah, yeah. Shame about that, it looked great.”
Me: “I know. Can I get a refund?”
WD: “Sure. Have you got your receipt?”
Me: “Err, no. I’ve got my ticket though”
WD: “ah, you need the receipt.”
Me: “I don’t remember getting one. But look, my ticket!”
WD: “You’d definitely have got one with your ticket.”
Me: “Ah. Possibly. But I probably chucked it, on account of having the ticket.”
WD: “You need the receipt to get a refund. I can do you a gift card for the amount though.”
Me: *sigh* “Oh, go on then”
WD: “You bothered which one?”
Me: “Nah, you pick.”
WD: “Winnie the Witch?”
Me: “Awesome!”

So now I’ve got a gift card with £3 on it. Which I’m forced to spend on books.


Right, that’s about enough for now.

Would love to know what you think of the Sunday Musings. Good? Interesting? Not? Would you rather see individual posts? Or do you like this format? Thoughts, comments and suggestions on a postcard to the usual address.

See you next week, you lovely people you.

Taking a year off the internet

What? No, not *me*, you crazy cucumbers. As if!

Just watched this video by Shay Carl and Colette of the Shaytards.

Do you watch their YouTube channel? I started a couple of months ago. Young Miss LB was sat watching various YouTube things and the Shaytards came on. After a couple of episodes I was left wondering – who are these people? Why do they video EVERYTHING? How do they find the time?

Wait. How many subscribers??


Fast forward a couple of months and we’re regular visitors to the Butlers’ lives. Love it.

So, it was a bit of a surprise to see the above video. And… not a surprise. [short version for those who didn’t watch the video – next March the Shaytards are taking a year off the internet, for various and very good reasons]


The mere thought makes me twitch. Could I take a year off Twitter, FB, this blog? (ok, probably yes to FB).

How about you? Could you take a year off posting stuff online?

Fairly sure I couldn’t.

Mothers and daughters – guest post by Sanjida Kay

Today I’m delighted to welcome Sanjida Kay to the blog. Sanjida is the author of Bone by Bone. More about that later. First, over to Sanjida

Mothers and Daughters

My mother, in spite of her strict Protestant upbringing, applauded my creativity as a child. She sewed a costume entirely out of crêpe paper when I wanted to be Queen of Hearts at our village fancy dress competition, and didn’t say a word when I painted one my bedroom walls black, splashed with red, white and blue Dulux gloss. Like most mothers and daughters, we had our issues, particularly when I was a teenager. I wince at some of the things I said and did, and no doubt she regrets a few of her actions too – although, to be fair, she had four children, a full time job and little help at home from my dad, so it was no wonder she was a little sharp-tongued at times over my shenanigans.

In my thriller, Bone by Bone, there are three generations of female characters – Autumn, who is nine years old, and is being bullied at school; her mother, Laura, who, like her child, is shy and unconfident, and her rather more forthright mother, Dr Vanessa Baron-Cohen, a well-known anthropologist. The bond between mothers and their children, particularly their daughters, is usually the strongest one that exists in human beings. Mothers shape their daughters, but daughters often rebel against being moulded. I was interested in exploring this most tight and intimate bond; how some women raise their daughters to be like them, and their daughters then reject their values, but in doing so, may make mistakes of their own with their daughters – a tale familiar to some of us! As Oscar Wilde so glibly said, ‘All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.’

Vanessa’s field work is in Namibia, and she shuttled Laura back and forth between Africa and London as a child, so she could continue to have a career in the sciences – and see her daughter. Laura is bitterly resentful; as a result, she now puts Autumn’s needs before her own. Unlike her mother, though, she doesn’t have the confidence or the inner-strength to help her child properly – because, thanks to her peripatetic childhood, she was bullied as a girl too. If she just asked her mum for help with Autumn…!

The first part of Laura’s healing process occurs when her mother describes how awful she found it, leaving baby Laura with a Namibian man, so she could carry on studying. Laura hadn’t realised she’d mattered so much to her mum, who she thinks of as completely career-driven. But then, as so often happens between mothers and daughters, Vanessa says something that Laura misconstrues, and she turns away from her mother, deciding not to ask for her help. Autumn’s relationship is similarly complicated, not just with her mother, but with her grandmother too.

She could already feel the dryness in her throat, the catch in her voice, when she’d have to stand up in class and tell everyone what her grandparents did. After the other kids read out their work on grannies who baked them squidgy chocolate chip cookies, she could imagine how the others would look at her when she talked about Grandmother Vanessa who strode through the desert with her binoculars, counting kudu.
Bone by Bone

One of the books I read for research on this topic is Deborah Tannen’s You’re Wearing That? which gives some eye-watering accounts of conversations between mothers and daughters. As Tannen says:

The smallest remark can bring into focus the biggest question that hovers over nearly all conversations between mothers and daughters: Do you see me for who I am? And is who I am okay? When…the answer implies there’s something wrong with what you’re doing, daughters can feel the ground on which they stand begin to tremble.

Recently, I read a gentler interpretation of mothers and daughters in the brilliant book, Before the Fall by Noah Hawley:

You bring a child into this fractious, chaotic world out of the heat of your womb, and then spend the next ten years walking beside them while they figure out how to be a person.

I hope Laura and Autumn learn to walk companionably alongside each other for the next decade.

Thanks Sanjida!

Bone by Bone  is published by Corvus Books and is out in paperback from  1st September 2016.

You can find Sanjida at her website:, on Facebook: or on Twitter: @SanjidaKay and Instagram: @Sanjida.Kay

Bone by Bone | Sanjida Kay

How far would you go to protect your child? When her daughter is bullied, Laura makes a terrible mistake…

Laura loves her daughter more than anything in the world.

But her nine-year-old daughter Autumn is being bullied. Laura feels helpless.

When Autumn fails to return home from school one day, Laura goes looking for her. She finds a crowd of older children taunting her little girl.

In the heat of the moment, Laura makes a terrible choice. A choice that will have devastating consequences for her and her daughter…

Sunday musings

This was never meant to turn into a book review blog. I just sort of… fell into it. And over the past couple of years, it’s developed to the point where it’s taken over.

I’m not entirely sure what to do. I do love reading and reviewing books, but I’d like to be able to have a space for more random musings.

The other week I pulled together a post about things I’d found online during the week. I quite like that idea. I’ve also been inspired and impressed by email newsletters such as those by Christian Payne from Documentally and Warren Ellis’ Orbital Operations.

You should check them out.

So. What to do? Do I set up a new blog for the more random stuff? Keep the random stuff I’ve found here but in a separate section? Set up my own email newsletter?

Thoughts, ideas and suggestions welcome. Especially what to call it.

In the meantime, here are this week’s musings.

Ever wondered what the auctioneer is saying when they’re trying to sell things? (via

Photographer Toru Akai uncovers the Invisible Machinery that defines modern life (via

Anyone got a spare grand? Casey Neistat plays with the new GoPro Karma

I do like Casey’s vlog.

I’ve been musing about starting a YouTube channel myself, but never quite know how to get started. Maybe I’ll do it one day. Would anyone watch? There seem to be a lot of savvy young folk on there – you should check out Sara Dietschy’s channel – hers and Casey’s channels are entertaining, as is the Shaytards vlog.

Is there room for a mid-forties bloke who lives in Yorkshire, reads lots of books, drinks coffee and goes out on his bike a bit? Guess there’s only one way to find out.

I’m also tempted by The InkTober Initiative, set up by Jake Parker in 2009 to challenge artists around the world to do a new ink drawing every day in October and post the results. Last year I decided I was going to learn how to draw, but that sort of fizzled along. I did some stuff I quite liked but then got distracted by shiny things on the internet.

Then it’ll soon be November and NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. It’s been five years since I last seriously attempted NaNo and I still have the 50,000 words sat in a file on my computer, gathering virtual dust. Maybe it’s time for another go.

Right. That feels like enough for now. It’s nearly midnight on Sunday, which means another week is just around the corner.

In the words of Bill & Ted, be excellent to each other, folks. Catch you next week.

The Two O’Clock Boy – Mark Hill

The Two O'Clock Boy | Mark Hill


One night changed their lives
Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home’s manager.

Cries in the fire and smoke
Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis’ favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.

A truth both must hide
Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O’Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it take to stop the murders – but he will go even further to cover up the truth.

I really *really* enjoyed this book. Sharp characters, sharper writing, an interestingly different premise, and a suitably twisty plot, and that smug moment where you figure out who the killer is.

Only for Mark to pull the rug out from under you. Sneaky crime writers, you’ve got to love ’em.

The characters are great – the horribly compromised DI Ray Drake stands out as he helps Detective Sergeant Flick Cowley investigate the deaths linked to a children’s home back in the 1980s. The story jumps back between the modern day investigation and the time at the children’s home which becomes increasingly uncomfortable and dark as the plot unfolds.

If you’re a crime thriller fan, definitely one for your list.

Anyway, enough of my thoughts. You can read an extract over at Raven Crime Reads, then catch up with Mark over at Crime Thriller Girl’s blog talking about online secrets, and a Q&A with Liz at Liz Loves Books

You can find Mark Hill on twitter @MarkHillWriter or at his website,

Many thanks to Netgalley for the review copy. The Two O’Clock Boy is published by Sphere @LittleBrownUK Ebook: September 22nd 2016. Paperback: April 2017.