Book Review: Death is a Welcome Guest (Plague Times Trilogy 2), by Louise Welsh

Publisher:  John Murray

Publication date:  January 2016 (Paperback)

death-is-a-welcome-guest-my-review

death-is-a-welcome-guest-by-louise-welshIn this second book in the Plague Times Trilogy, Death is a Welcome Guest, the ‘every person for themselves’ reaction to the global pandemic continues as it threatens to indiscriminately wipe out the world’s population. As it cleaves through families to leave a single survivor, or in most cases no one at all, I began to wonder which group should be considered the most fortunate – the living or the dead.

The increasingly lawless state encourages small pockets of communities to gather. They appear to observe minimal social graces while a feral streak is itching to get to the surface. Sinking into biblical regression is just one of the options for those who have tried or lost everything else and the author reinforces the ferocity of their situation as scenes of panic, repulsion, and defensive tactics are portrayed vividly but in perfectly timed wake up calls.

With the combination of a variety of characters and their degrees of despair, the story marches on at quite a pace until the most unlikely hero emerges in a stand-up comedian by the name of Magnus McFall. His initial problems began when he tried to save a girl from being assaulted only to find he was arrested for the offence himself. When ‘The Sweats’ hit, being trapped in a cell with his putrefying cellmate would seem like a walk in the park compared to what awaits him outside his door.

We follow his escape from prison under the reluctant wing of fellow inmate, Jeb Soames, an enigmatic loner with one or two skeletons in the cupboard. As with most people in this story, it’s unwise to make assumptions based on someone’s past or first appearances as their behaviour continually challenges your expectations.

As Magnus makes his way out of London to travel home to Orkney my liking for him grew. His mother’s telephone rings out which should tell him everything he needs to know, but he clutches to the vaguest hope that all is well. For the moment it’s all he’s got as it’s not just the threat of illness or his new convict companion he has to worry about, it’s the casual strangers they meet whose cause of death is swathed in suspicion. While the ‘whodunnit’ element isn’t overly complex I enjoyed the creeping suspense immensely.

Facing the harsh reality of a civilisation on the verge of imploding, Death is a Welcome Guest offers both the best and the worst of people. To learn that some people have preserved their integrity when others have lost their moral compass is reassuring, even in fiction.

Very much looking forward to reading No Dominion (Book 3) in 2017 to see how the trilogy concludes. Hopefully we’ll see more of our first survivor from A Lovely Way to Burn (Book 1), as Stevie Flint makes only the briefest appearance on this occasion. Not to worry though, Magnus McFall confidently holds the spotlight from beginning to end.

Rating:  4/5 (With special mention to the woman in the ‘Village in Bloom’ competition – what a trouper.)

(Source: My own purchased copy that’s been sitting on my shelf far too long!)

death-is-a-welcome-guest-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Magnus McFall was a comic on the brink of his big break when the world came to an end. Now, he is a man on the run and there is nothing to laugh about.

Thrown into unwilling partnership with an escaped convict, Magnus flees the desolation of London to make the long journey north, clinging to his hope that the sickness has not reached his family on their remote Scottish island.

He finds himself in a landscape fraught with danger, fighting for his place in a world ruled by men, like his fellow traveller Jeb – practical men who do not let pain or emotions interfere with getting the job done.

This is a world with its own justice, and new rules.
Where people, guns and food are currency.
Where survival is everything.

Death is a Welcome Guest defies you to put it down, and leaves you with questions that linger in the mind long after you read the last page.

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death-is-a-welcome-guest-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Louise Welsh is the author of six highly acclaimed novels including The Cutting Room and A Lovely Way to Burn. She has been the recipient of several awards including the John Creasey Memorial Dagger and the Saltire first book award. Death is a Welcome Guest is the second novel in the Plague Times trilogy.

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Book Review: The Wolf Road, by Beth Lewis

Publisher:  The Borough Press (Harper Collins)

Publication Date: EBook and Hardback 30th June 2016

 The Wolf Road My Review - Wolf

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis - Kindle CoverI’ve read some good books, and some great books. The Wolf Road surpasses both of those descriptions. This isn’t just a book, it’s an experience. It had me listening to every word our lone narrator spoke about her isolated existence in the woods with her elusive guardian. I say listening, as when I was reading the most fascinating, well-written dialect wormed its way into my brain until her personality was firmly embedded. Not once did she lose the unique, feisty tom-boy character she had developed into every time I opened the cover.

Elka is our plucky young lady’s name and she had my undivided attention as she told her tale of survival against the odds. Having the strong voice needed to convey everything her story had to offer she takes the most challenging circumstances on the chin. Each time she unearths an appalling fact along the way she briefly reflects by applying her unique brand of wisdom to the situation.

An eerie sense of alarm radiates from page one where you realise that a run in with a wolf or a bear is nothing compared to the stench of the something sinister that’s been occurring. When the penny dropped I felt for her dearly, but was truly horrified at the same time. It was the last thing I was expecting to discover at the end of The Wolf Road!

Elka’s real troubles started when she was approached by a magistrate asking her if she recognised a face in a wanted poster, she said his name was Kreager. As the menacing lady started to explain there was a killer on the loose and it’s not moose they’ve been hunting, Elka realised just how dangerous the woods could be. She may not know anyone called Kreager, but imagine her horror as she recognised the man’s face – it was Trapper’s, the man she’d known as her daddy since she was seven years old.

Creeping doubt of his innocence took hold until I sure as hell didn’t know what to think either! All Elka believed is that her real parents could help her, but they’d their sights set on mining for gold and had never returned. On her perilous journey to track them down Elka found she couldn’t escape Trapper, as his face was bearing down on her from the posters in every town. Yet this primitive man looked out for her, he couldn’t be the wanted man everyone is looking for, could he? The only way to find out for sure would be to ask him – an impossible task as the woods are his friend; no one can find him, not even the law that hunts him day and night.

Ironically, Elka has the Trapper’s basic parenting skills to thank for her survival – in the woods and beyond. The scenes of when the knife is her only friend are as sharp as the blade itself, yet it’s balanced with bites of humour stemming from Elka’s ‘wade right in there’ outlook on life. On route, she finds herself a kindred spirit or two when she becomes the reluctant companion to a complete stranger, and forms a bond with an enigmatic wolf cub whose fleeting appearances offer clarity when all seems lost. If that’s not enough, a brooding showdown is played out to perfection.

The Wolf Road is a unrelenting journey of discovery in a place where the truth is as harsh as the elements. An event referred to as the ‘Damned Stupid’ left an altered world in its wake and I sensed every shadow, heard the snap of every twig, and saw Elka’s misty breath rising in the cold air as she speaks of her expedition into unchartered territory.

I simply cannot express the enormity of just how magnificent this book is – it’s positively superb.

I don’t much like roads. Roads is some other man’s path that people follow no question. All my life I lived by rules of the forest and rules of myself. One of them rules is don’t go trusting another man’s path.

Rating: 5/5

(Huge thanks to the publisher, who provided a glorious ARC of this title in exchange for my honest – if somewhat fan-girly – review.)

The Wolf Road - Book Summary Wolf

A debut literary thriller from an incredible new voice [I second that!]. What do you do when the man who gave you everything turns out to be a killer? Perfect for fans of STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel.

Since the Damn Stupid turned the clock back on civilization by centuries, the world has been a harsher place. But Elka has learned everything she needs to survive from the man she calls Trapper, the solitary hunter who took her in when she was just seven years old.

So when Elka sees the Wanted poster in town, her simple existence is shattered. Her Trapper – Kreagar Hallet – is wanted for murder. Even worse, Magistrate Lyon is hot on his trail, and she wants to talk to Elka.

Elka flees into the vast wilderness, determined to find her true parents. But Lyon is never far behind – and she’s not the only one following Elka’s every move. There will be a reckoning, one that will push friendships to the limit and force Elka to confront the dark memories of her past.

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The Wolf Road - Author Profile Wolf

Beth Lewis was raised in the wilds of Cornwall and split her childhood between books and the beach. She has travelled extensively throughout the world and has had close encounters with black bears, killer whales, and Great White sharks. She has been, at turns, a bank cashier, fire performer, juggler, and is currently a Managing Editor at a leading London publisher.

TWITTER   |   WEBSITE

BOOK TOUR: REVIEW + GIVEAWAY – Fluence, by Stephen Oram

Publisher:  Silverwood | Publication Date:  26th June 2015 | Edition: Kindle | Genre: Dystopian

Fluence by Stephen Oram Small image

How far would you go to gain ‘Fluence’?

I liked this – A LOT. It offers an edgy, well-plotted and unnerving snapshot of a fictional society.

Given today’s craving for the next profile ‘like’ and daily updates we all seem to be compelled to comply with, this plot doesn’t seem too implausible. Imagine a world where you can lose or gain points at the drop of a hat if an online status update is not deemed popular enough. A real time popularity contest that can affect your quality of life is a frightening concept.

Whatever points you have gained through posting your updates are accrued as ‘Fluence’ until the next ‘pay day’. The grand total will be converted into a colour-coded status for the forthcoming year. This can determine where you shop, your choice of partner, and the area in which you live – class segregation is common place…

Some of the impoverished and vulnerable are stressed out by the constant need provide interesting status updates in exchange for Fluence on their ruyi, a portable mobile phone-like stick everyone carries round. Sounding oddly familiar yet?

There’s so much at stake for the characters here, and their posts have a danger of becoming outrageous to draw in the crowd. Often the need for more likeability points goes hand-in-hand with an ugly greed. This book singles out the most demeaning acts that people are willing to carry out to ‘achieve’ their goals, all driven by a desperate need to become a better ‘class’ of person, which is quite ironic. These acts are described in graphic detail, but this only reinforces what people are willing to sacrifice.

The two main characters, Amber and Martin, are part of a disability assessment team. They determine if people are fit to work, or if they can be funded by their government. Austerity cuts state that assessors should not declare people as unfit if they can help it. Here enters the dilemma of gaining more Fluence points for great job performance, or wrestling with their conscience and helping those less fortunate.  But life’s not that cut and dry, as power-hungry people with their own agendas are watching…

Throughout this book you will see people gambling with their morals to gain a few points here and there. It’s fascinating to see the end result and how they cope with the pressure being piled upon them. With everyone making a scramble to improve their situation it begs the question, just how far would YOU go?

All credit to the author for his shrewd people observation skills and for holding my attention from beginning to end.

Rating: 4.5/5

(My thanks to the author and Brook Cottage Books for offering me a place on the tour, and for giving me the opportunity to read this fascinating book. )

Fluence Tour Banner

Official book blurb:

Amber is young and ambitious. Martin is burnt out by years of struggling. She cheats to get what she wants while he barely clings on to what he has. It’s the week before the annual Pay Day when strata positions are decided by the controlling corporations. The social media feed is frenetic with people trying to boost their influence rating while those above the strata and those who’ve opted out pursue their own manipulative goals.

Fluence is a story of aspiration and desperation and of power seen and unseen. It’s a story of control and consequence. It’s the story of the extremes to which Amber and Martin are prepared to go in these last ten thousand minutes before Pay Day.


 Author Bio / Buy Links

Stephen Oram 1MLike each and every one of us, my perspective of the world has been affected by many people and experiences: as a teenager I was heavily influenced by the ethos of punk; in my early twenties I embraced the squatter scene and then joined a religious cult, briefly; I did some computer stuff in what became London’s silicon roundabout; and I’m now a civil servant with a gentle attraction to anarchism. I really enjoy taking a sideways look at our world and thinking, “what if,” and then writing about it through speculative fiction.

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/StephenOramAuthor

Twitter:           https://twitter.com/OramStephen

Website:         http://www.stephenoram.net/

Buy the book:  Amazon UK


Giveaway

Want to win a Digital copy of this book?  Just click on the link below and enter via the Rafflecopter page:

Enter The Competition

GOOD LUCK!

*** PLEASE NOTE – THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER ***

Thanks for stopping by x

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Way Down Dark: (Australia Book 1) by J P Smythe

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton  |  Published: 2nd July 2015  |  Edition: Paperback (Goodreads)

Way Down Dark by J P Smythe

There’s one truth on Australia.

You fight or you die.

Usually both.

Imagine a nightmare from which there is no escape.

With its fast flowing text and edgy storyline I ploughed through it and wanted to read EVERYTHING as quickly as my brain would process!

Welcome to Australia, but not as you know it…

A floating version of the continent, a metallic vessel of mammoth proportions, houses a population leading a bleak and grim existence in space – each day brings its own challenges and it’s simply a matter of staying alive as long as you can.

Over time, each section of the ship has morphed into its own version of ‘civilisation’; be it religion, agriculture, bartering for goods, or merely the lust for power. But one constant remains: the hunger to survive at any cost.

The fine line between living and existing is often in the balance and there are some hard decisions to be made – forget crocodiles and poisonous spiders, THIS ‘Australia’ is a selfish, barbaric and a far more dangerous place to live.

With plenty of harsh choices to make and cruel truths that emerge, sixteen year old Chan’s life is tougher than most. As the story progresses you learn more about her life, her capabilities and her interactions with the rest of the inhabitants, who are all contained in this eroding environment they call home.

I’m not going to offer anything too in depth about the story, as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who is yet to read it. I’ll just say that a superb, action-led series of events unfold throughout (with a few moral dilemmas too) and my attention didn’t waiver at any point.

It has a fantastic build up and a momentous twist, although I did feel that the final events were a little hurried as I approached the last hurdle. In the grand scheme of things that’s irrelevant, as it hasn’t stopped me craving part two already. Oh, no. After THAT cliff-hanger, the lure is too great.

Rating: 4/5

(My sincere thanks to Goodreads First reads and the Publisher for selecting my name from the ‘giveaway hat’ for a chance to read and review this book.)

Find the Publisher on Twitter: @hodderbooks / @hodderscape / @chapter5books


Way Down Dark Author Graphic 2

Follow the author on Twitter: @jpsmythe  |  Author’s Website:  James Smythe

Buy the Book that James Dawson describes as:

“A dark and brutal new YA Trilogy with a heroine that could whup Katniss any day of the week.”

Amazon UK  |  Waterstones


 The ‘Official’ Book Blurb

Imagine a nightmare from which there is no escape.

Seventeen-year-old Chan’s ancestors left a dying Earth hundreds of years ago, in search of a new home. They never found one.

This is a hell where no one can hide.

The only life that Chan’s ever known is one of violence, of fighting. Of trying to survive.

This is a ship of death, of murderers and cults and gangs.

But there might be a way to escape. In order to find it, Chan must head way down into the darkness – a place of buried secrets, long-forgotten lies, and the abandoned bodies of the dead.

This is Australia.

Seventeen-year-old Chan, fiercely independent and self-sufficient, keeps her head down and lives quietly, careful not to draw attention to herself amidst the violence and disorder. Until the day she makes an extraordinary discovery – a way to return the Australia to Earth. But doing so would bring her to the attention of the fanatics and the murderers who control life aboard the ship, putting her and everyone she loves in terrible danger.

And a safe return to Earth is by no means certain.


COVER REVEAL + GIVEAWAY: Fluence, by Stephen Oram

Cover Reveal

I’m delighted to be part of the ‘Cover Reveal Book Tour’ for Stephen Oram’s new book

Fluence: Ten Thousand Minutes and Counting…

AAAND HERE IT IS!

Fluence Cover Reveal_300dpi

Oooh, cracking, isn’t it?!

Publisher: Silverwood Books  |  Publication date:  26th June 2015  |  Genre: Dystopian

SYNOPSIS

Amber is young and ambitious. Martin is burnt out by years of struggling. She cheats to get what she wants while he barely clings on to what he has. It’s the week before the annual Pay Day when strata positions are decided by the controlling corporations. The social media feed is frenetic with people trying to boost their influence rating while those above the strata and those who’ve opted out pursue their own manipulative goals.

Fluence is a story of aspiration and desperation and of power seen and unseen. It’s a story of control and consequence. It’s the story of the extremes to which Amber and Martin are prepared to go in these last ten thousand minutes before Pay Day.


Giveaway

Intrigued? If you fancy winning one of two copies, you can enter the giveaway by just clicking the Rafflecopter link below:

(Ecopy of the book x 2 – Open Internationally)

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4be0301777/

GOOD LUCK, EVERYBODY!

*** PLEASE NOTE – THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER ***


PRE-ORDER / BUY LINK

If you wish to pre-order / purchase this book, just follow this link to the Amazon page:

Amazon UK


ABOUT STEPHEN ORAM

Stephen-Oram3Like each and every one of us, my perspective of the world has been affected by many people and experiences: as a teenager I was heavily influenced by the ethos of punk; in my early twenties I embraced the squatter scene and then joined a religious cult, briefly; I did some computer stuff in what became London’s silicon roundabout; and I’m now a civil servant with a gentle attraction to anarchism. I really enjoy taking a sideways look at our world and thinking, “what if,” and then writing about it through speculative fiction.

AUTHOR LINKS

Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Author Website  |  Link to Fluence book


Next Blog Stop

And that’s it from me!  The next stop on the Book Tour will be on 17th June with: The Virtual Bookcase

Thanks for stopping by  x

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A Lovely Way to Burn (The Plague Times Trilogy 1) , by Louise Welsh

Publisher: John Murray | Publication date: 1st January 2015 | Edition: Paperback (own copy)

Firstly, an example of a sign in the Doctor’s surgery (no, not mine, the one in the book):

COUGHING, VOMTIING, DIARRHOEA, RASH, SWOLLEN GLANDS – if you experience a combination of three or more of these symptoms, avoid sharing them with your friends and family…

A Lovely Way To Burn

This is the first of the plague times trilogy

Set in the heaving city of London, a pandemic looms.

The end of the world is nigh, so why would anyone care about finding the killer of one person, when the entire population around you could be dying?

Perhaps there’s a moral here that someone SHOULD care. Just because the rest of the world is going to hell, it doesn’t mean to say we should all join the queue.

Stevie (Stephanie) Flint had been dating Dr Simon Sharkey for a few months. The Doctor rarely spoke of his work at St Thomas’s Hospital, or his family come to think of it. In fact, when she was stood up on a date Stevie had drawn the conclusion that they didn’t really have that much in common and perhaps they should just call it a day.

She decided to call round to his flat but is shocked to discover the doctor’s body. The shocks kept coming when the authorities confirmed he’d died of natural causes, not even a new virus that was aptly named “the sweats”.

A lot of people were already coming down with this illness. It appeared that this was not isolated to a few cases as first thought, if anything it was getting progressively worse. And when people quite literally start dropping like flies, order, common decency and medical resources are contorted past their breaking point.

The dilemmas continue for Stevie when she is handed a note addressed to her that was found in Simon’s flat. It told her about something he had concealed in her house, but more importantly, that she wasn’t to trust anyone with it.

As they didn’t know each other that well, she couldn’t understand why he’d do this, or the reasoning behind his cloak and dagger act. Despite her reservations she followed the instructions Simon had left for her, only to hit wall after wall in her quest – as time ticks away, she wonders if his death was as innocent as the authorities led her to believe.

While Stevie endeavours to discover the truth she is also faced with the average person’s reaction to the continuing epidemic; people simply don’t care about the truth anymore when their own survival is at stake. But ultimately, could people’s survival depend on her?

In this book, Louise Welsh offers concise storytelling and a genuine sense of how quickly everything can go down the pan when there is little public control, coupled with the average survivor’s reaction in the time of crisis. The ensuing panic is perfectly accompanied by the underlying mystery element and a decent dose of betrayal.

Seeing the mixed reviews on Amazon etc, it does appear to be a bit of a ‘Marmite’ book.

Me? I liked it. And I’d be curious to read the next instalment in this series to see how the story continues.

Rating: 4/5


Follow the writer on Twitter: @louisewelsh00