Saturday, 18 May 2019

Claire Legrand's 'Kingsbane' (Empirium 2) - Exclusive Excerpt

Kingsbane by Claire Legrand | Exclusive Excerpt | Superior Young Adult Fiction

I never thought I'd say this but I cannot wait until Monday for that is when Kingsbane, the long awaited sequel to Claire Legrand's epic fantasy Furyborn will finally be released. Don't you love how I give the impression of a near-interminable wait? I actually only discovered Claire Legrand when I devoured Sawkill Girls in two days in December and I only finished Furyborn on Wednesday but five days is a long time to wait!

If you've not heard of Legrand, she is known for writing complex, powerful female characters and her books delve deep into the feminine psyche. In Furyborn we met Rielle and Eliana, born a millennium apart but bound together by one prophesy. Their story continues in Kingsbane and I'm pleased to host an exclusive excerpt focusing on one of my favourite characters Simon as part of Claire's Kingsbane blog tour. It is so intriguing! It only makes me love Simon more and want to read more about his story.

Do check out the other blogs on the tour for news, reviews, interviews and all sorts of other Kingsbane-related goodies.

Kingsbane is out on Monday 20 May.

Kingsbane (Empirium 2) - Exclusive Excerpt

When Simon awoke, he was alone.

He lay flat on his back on a scrubby plain veined with brown rocks and white ribbons of ice. The sky above him was the color of slate, choked with sweeping clouds that reminded him of waves, and from them fell thin spirals of snow. For a few moments he lay there, hardly breathing, the snow collecting on his lashes. Then the memories of the last several hours returned to him.

Queen Rielle, giving birth to her child.

Simon’s father, his mind no longer his own, throwing himself off her tower. Rielle thrusting her infant daughter into Simon’s arms, her face worn, her eyes wild and bright gold.

You’re strong, Simon. I know you can do this.

Threads glowing at his fingertips—his threads, the first ones he had ever summoned on his own, without his father’s guidance, and they were strong and solid. They would carry both him and the child in his arms to safety.

But then…

The queen, behind him in her rooms, fighting the angel named Corien. Her voice, distorted and godly. A brilliant light, exploding outward from where she knelt on the floor, knocking Simon’s threads askew and sum- moning forth new ones—dark and violent, overtaking the others. Threads of time, more volatile than threads of space, and more cunning.

He’d tightened his arms around the screaming child, clutched the blan- ket her mother had wrapped around her, and then, a rush of black sound, a roar of something vast and ancient approaching.

Simon surged upright with a gasp, choking on tears, and looked down at his arms. They were empty.

The only thing left of the princess was a torn piece of her blanket— slightly singed at the edges from the cold burn of time.

All at once he understood what had happened. He understood the immensity of his failure.

But perhaps there was still hope. He could use his power, travel back to that moment on the terrace with the baby in his arms. He could move faster, get them both away to safety before Queen Rielle died.

He pushed himself to his knees, raised his skinny arms into the frigid air. His right hand still held the child’s blanket. He refused to let it go. It was possible to summon threads with a cloth in his fist, and if he released the blanket, something terrible would happen. The certainty of that tight- ened in his chest like a screw.

He closed his eyes, his breath coming shaky and fast, and remembered the words from his books:

The empirium lies within every living thing, and every living thing is of the empirium
Its power connects not only flesh to bone, root to earth, stars to sky, but also road to road, city to city.
Moment to moment.

But no matter how many times he recited the familiar sentences, the threads did not come.

His body remained dark and quiet. The marque magic with which he had been born, the power he had come to love and understand with his father’s patient tutelage inside their little shop in Âme de la Terre, was gone.

He opened his eyes, staring at the stretch of barren, rocky land before him. White peaks beyond. A black sky. The air held nothing of magic inside it. Pale, it was, and tasteless. Flat where it had once thrummed with vitality. Something was wrong in this place. It felt unmade and clouded.

Scarred. Scraped raw.

Once, his marque blood—part human, part angel—had allowed him to touch the empirium.

Now, he could feel nothing of that ancient power. Not even an echo of it remained, not a hint of sound or light to follow.

It was as if the empirium had never existed.

He could not travel home. He could travel nowhere his own two feet could not take him.

Alone, shivering on a vast plateau in a land he did not know, in a time that was not his own, Simon buried his face in the scrap of cloth and wept.


Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Sci-Fi London Film Festival Review: Shed of the Dead (2019) ★★★☆☆

Shed of the Dead (2019)| Horror Comedy Film Review

Blame it on The Walking Dead but I'm slightly obsessed with zombies. I'm also a lover of indie horror films, especially British ones, so when I heard that Shed of the Dead is premiering at the Sci-Fi London Film Festival this week, I had to watch it.

Shed of the Dead is about a hapless and unemployed gamer who somehow manages to miss the start of the zombie apocalypse because he’s busy disposing of the body of a man who has died accidentally. I mean, why wouldn't you want to dismember and bury a corpse you had zero responsibility in creating?

Shed of the Dead (2019)| Horror Comedy Film Review

Shed of the Dead stars Spencer Brown as the improbably married man-child Trevor, Lauren Socha (Misfits) as his wife Bobbi, Ewen MacIntosh as fellow role player Graham and Emily Booth (Doghouse) as Bobbi's friend (and the object of the boys' fantasies) Harriet. It also features the unmistakeable narration of Brian Blessed.

Imagine if you will that a couple of basement gamers decided to go out and make a film. It’s got scantily-clad girls (lots of them), green screen vignettes of D&D fantasies and a zombie apolocalpse. Oh, and a shed on an allotment in south east London. This is Shed of the Dead in a nutshell. It’s bad in a 'so bad it’s good' kind of way, which no doubt means it's on track to become a cult favourite.

Shed of the Dead (2019)| Horror Comedy Film Review

I give Shed of the Dead an okay three out of five stars and recommend it for fans of The Cornetto Trilogy and Eat Locals. You can catch it at the 2019 Sci-Fi London Film Festival and on digital download from 20 May.


Shed of the Dead - Official Trailer


Saturday, 11 May 2019

A Brilliant Follow Up to 'The Hate U Give': Angie Thomas's 'On the Come Up' on Audiobook ★★★★★

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas | Superior Young Adult Fiction | Audiobook Review

There are some books that are best consumed in spoken form, including Angie Thomas's sophomore young adult novel On the Come Up, follow up to the massively successful The Hate U Give. Narrated by Bahni Turpin, the audiobook of On the Come Up truly brings to life the voice of Bri, an aspiring young rapper growing up in Garden Heights.

Brianna Jackson is the daughter of underground rap legend Lawless, a rising star who was murdered in his prime. Now all Bri wants is to rise up the ranks herself as she prepares to battle it out in the freestyle rap arena at the Ring. It is clear that Bri has the level of talent that her father had but when her debut single goes viral, Bri starts getting all the wrong kinds of attention.

If only that were the worst of her problems. Brianna's mother struggles to make ends meet as a single mother and her aunt is in deep with a local gang. Readers of The Hate U Give will recognise the neighbourhood of Garden Heights with the rival gangs Garden Disciples and King Lords and although we don't meet Starr in this novel, the events of the police shooting and subsequent riots feature heavily in On the Come Up.

I loved On the Come Up and related very much to the utter chaos surrounding Bri, having been brought up by a single mother myself. Life in a vulnerable family is hard enough but everyone knows it never rains but pours when you're on the poverty line.

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas | Superior Young Adult Fiction | Audiobook Review

I especially loved Bri's freestyle rap and obvious talent. Bahni Turpin did such a great job of narrating the book that I found myself singing Bri's words when I wasn't even listening to the audiobook. You can't stop me on the come up. You can't stop me on the come up. You can't stop me, nope, nope. It will be a great tragedy if On the Come Up isn't released as a film and "On the Come Up" isn't recorded for the soundtrack.

Mostly, On the Come Up makes me excited for what we will see in the future from Angie Thomas. The Hate U Give and On the Come Up are very different novels and whereas Starr Carter was likeable and noble, Brianna Jackson is fallible and shows great character development in the novel. I'd like to see a whole series of books coming out of Garden Heights showing strong, independent and impressive young African American women.

I give On the Come Up a superb five out of five stars and recommend to fans of The Hate U Give and those seeking superior young adult fiction featuring African American or working class representation.



Monday, 6 May 2019

Dead Can Dance in Concert: Eventim Apollo London, 4 May 2019

Dead Can Dance at the Hammersmith Apollo | 4 May 2019

I've always found that the hardest things for me to review are the ones I loved the most. Somehow the words just won't flow and I land up gushing and lacking all objectivity. I'm feeling that way now as I try to write about a gig I loved for a band I've loved for 25 years and all I can do is rewrite this opening paragraph time and time again. I'm just going to start by saying that Dead Can Dance at the Eventim Apollo last night were incredible and it felt like an absolute privilege to see them, especially as we were sitting four rows from the front and I never, ever thought I'd get to see them.

Eventim Apollo, 4 May 2019

David Kuckhermann

Before we entered the Apollo, there was a buzz going around and we realised that David Kuckhermann was an artist not to be missed. I had not heard of him before but a quick search told me that he'd worked with Lisa Gerrard before on their 2018 release Hiraeth. I'm so pleased we caught his performance because David is incredibly talented and the level of control he maintained over his instruments is astounding. It was hard to believe that it was just him on stage at one point, such was the complexity of the music he was producing.

Dead Can Dance

Of course, we were all there to see Dead Can Dance and Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry arrived on stage looking like a king and queen. I've always held the utmost respect for Dead Can Dance, for the power and clarity of Lisa and Brendan's voices and the mastery in the compositions yet I was still unprepared for how incredible they sound live. Being as close to the front as we were, we also got to see how hard the band works and also, how much they enjoy being there.

Dead Can Dance are currently on their A Celebration - Life & Works 1980-2019 tour, performing their biggest hits from across their impressive discography. This was a fabulous surprise, as I'd expected the concert to focus mainly on their new album Dionysus. Beginning with "Anywhere Out Of The World" and "Mesmerism", the tracks alternated between those that feature mainly Brendan's vocals with those featuring Lisa.

The show wasn't without some drama. It was during "Xavier", if I recall correctly, that Brendan's voice cracked and I saw the heartbreaking moment when he signalled to Lisa that he couldn't go on. After the track, he told the audience that his voice had broken and he was going to disappear backstage for a moment and hope for a miracle. I reckon he found his miracle - he did come back on stage and manage to perform through what was obviously a touch of flu. It was clear that he was struggling at times but thanks to a steady supply of fluids, he gave a superb performance. Thank you for carrying on Brendan but please take care of those precious vocal chords!

The absolute pinnacle of the concert for me was "Sanvean", a song which I once played on repeat for six months and which was beyond moving to see live. I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried throughout Lisa's performance. I cried during "The Host of Seraphim" too, once I'd remembered to start breathing again. It was an astonishing performance. I'm not sure I'll ever forget being that close to Lisa Gerrard, seeing the folds in her dress, the silver lace and the movement in her throat as she sings.

Other highlights include Brendan singing "Amnesia" and "Song To The Siren". Brendan wasn't sure we'd want to here Kermit singing the latter song but I can assure you it was magnificent.

There were two rapturous encores for the show, the first of which closed with "Cantara", one of my favourite Dead Can Dance tracks of all time. It was so good to see the carnivalesque atmosphere on stage during this song as the band gave a superb performance. All too soon though, the concert came to a close as Brendan performed "Severance". I don't know if I'll ever be fortunate enough to see Dead Can Dance in concert again but I'll never forget this incredible night.

Dead Can Dance at the Hammersmith Apollo | 4 May 2019

Dead Can Dance at the Hammersmith Apollo | 4 May 2019

Dead Can Dance at the Hammersmith Apollo | 4 May 2019

Dead Can Dance at the Hammersmith Apollo | 4 May 2019

Dead Can Dance at the Hammersmith Apollo | 4 May 2019

Dead Can Dance at the Hammersmith Apollo | 4 May 2019

Dead Can Dance Setlist Eventim Apollo, London, England 2019, A Celebration - Life & Works 1980-2019 Tour

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Charlie Fletcher's Superb 'A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World' ★★★★★

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World | Book Review | Superior Young Adult Fiction

The world isn’t going to end how you think it’s going to end. There isn’t going to be some cataclysmic extinction event that wipes us all out but one thing is certain, if you’re reading this, you’re already history. This is the premise of A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, a fantastic work of speculative fiction by C. A. Fletcher.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World | Book Review | Superior Young Adult Fiction

Griz lives at the end of the world on a small island off Scotland with just family and dogs for company. When a lone traveller called Brand arrives on the island and steals their dog Jess, Griz embarks on a journey, prepared to sail to the ends of the world to retrieve this beloved hound.

The world is empty in Griz's tale. Over a century prior, the Gelding occurred and human beings (and dogs) stopped being able to reproduce; the population of the earth dwindled from billions to thousands within two generations. There were exceptions, of course, but in two decades on this future Earth, Griz has never met enough people to make up two teams for a game of football.

As Griz lands on the mainland in pursuit of Brand, it is fascinating to trace the journey through overgrown and derelict landmarks, recognisable only for the great metal structures that humans have erected.

I wish I could divulge more about the story and what happens to Griz on the journey but I really can't. The absolute charm of this novel lies in everything Griz discovers and everything we learn about Griz. I can tell you that Earth in the future is quiet, except for the birdsong, and that very little of what we regard as important will survive us.

I can also say that this book is incredible. I predict that it is one of those books that transcends all others to become a much beloved, often reread, dog-eared book that you can't help but recommend to other people. In fact, in the days since I've read A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, I've told everyone I know about the book and am having to curate a waitlist of friends waiting to read my copy.

I was very fortunate to win an advanced review copy of this book in a competition with Orbit books. The copy in itself was a gem, from the message on the cover to the old postcards dispersed throughout. I definitely think the real cover on the book is superior but reading this ARC was like finding eggs in an Easter egg hunt; it was such fun to read.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World | Book Review | Superior Young Adult Fiction

I give A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World a superb five out of five stars and recommend it to anyone who has ever loved a dog. I also recommend it to both adult and young adult lovers of superior speculative fiction and especially to fans of good plot twists.



Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Horror Film Review: Look Away (2018) ★★★★☆

India Eisley in Look Away (2018) | Horror Film Review

Maria (India Eisley, My Sweet Audrina) is living in her own private hell. Bullied and alienated at school, she find herself completely at odds with her parents at home. What wouldn't she give to escape her life? When she confides in her seemingly sympathetic mirror image, Maria is offered a way out of her situation when the girl offers to switch with her. Desperate and despairing, Maria is about to find out how bad things can get in Assaf Bernstein's independent horror film Look Away.

India Eisley in Look Away (2018) | Horror Film Review

Look Away is a beautiful film and the framing and composition in the opening scenes convey the utter sense of dread with which Maria navigates her life. We see Maria's train-wreck of a home life with her lovely yet ineffectual mother (Mira Sorvino) and her narcissistic father, played by Jason Isaac in his most hateable role since Lucius Malfoy. Her best friend is insincere but she is the only friend that Maria has and all that separates her from her creeping sense of isolation and detachment.

India Eisley in Look Away (2018) | Horror Film Review

Fear not though, half way through, Look Away starts to become a whole lot of fun - Carrie-without-the-pig-blood levels of fun. Maria accepts her twin's very kind offer and Airam unleashes all levels of evil upon those who have wronged Maria. India Eisley really shines as the out-of-control Airam and it was most enjoyable to watch her play with people, with the sinister lethality of a cat with a mouse. I've always enjoyed revenge horror and Look Away is deeply satisfying while still being utterly creepy and disturbing.

I thoroughly enjoyed Look Away and give it an excellent four out of five stars. I recommend it for fans of high school and revenge horror films and predict that India Eisley will be an actress to watch in the future.




Saturday, 13 April 2019

Heart-warming and Uplifting: Jack Cheng's 'See You In The Cosmos' on Audiobook ★★★★☆

Every now and again, I pick up a book that is so magical and out of this world that I can't help but fall in love. That definitely applies to Jack Cheng's See You in the Cosmos, a middle grade novel about space, science, rockets and a young explorer called Alex Petroski.

Alex is on a mission. Inspired by Carl Sagan's Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft, he is heading from Colorado to a space festival in New Mexico to launch his golden iPod into space on board his homemade rocket. There is just one problem: Alex is eleven years old and he is travelling alone, unless you count his trustworthy dog named Carl Sagan (named after his hero, of course).

Somehow, against all odds, Alex slips through the net of adult supervision and embarks on a journey that ultimately takes him from Colorado to New Mexico to Las Vegas to L.A. and home again. Along the way, Alex learns the meaning of love and friendship and that family is often a lot closer than we think.

See You in the Cosmos is a wonderfully original and entertaining read that is as interesting for its focus on science and space exploration as it is for dealing with very serious issues including complicated families, unemployment and mental illness. In addition to Alex, Cheng also introduces a host of supporting characters who grow and develop as human beings all while trying to cope with a very precocious yet vulnerable eleven-year-old in what is a very short book.

Despite featuring such a young protagonist, See You in the Cosmos is one of those rare books that will transcend boundaries and appeal as much to teens and adults as it does middle-graders. Alex's earnest view of a confusing and chaotic adult world is refreshing and often hilarious.

See You in the Cosmos is a heart-warming, lovely book. I give it four out of five stars and recommend to fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and R. J. Palacio's Wonder.


I've consumed See You in the Cosmos twice – once by book and the second time on Audible. The audiobook is narrated by Kivlighan de Montebello and features Brittany Pressley, Graham Halstead, Michael Crouch, Jason Culp, Therese Plummer, Susan Bennett, Dan Bittner, Pete Larkin and Courtney Shaw. I’d very much recommend listening to it as a family, especially on road trips!

© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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