Blog Archives

The Salvation Project (The Soterion Mission series) by Stewart Ross – Blog Tour 


Back on release day I shared the synopsis of The Salvation Project here

About the Author


Stewart was born in Buckinghamshire and educated in Oxford, Berkhamsted, Exeter, Bristol, and Orlando, Florida. He taught at a variety of institutions in Sri Lanka, the Middle East, the USA, and Britain before becoming a full-time writer in 1989.

 

With over 300 published titles to his credit, he is now one of Britain’s most popular and versatile authors. His output includes prize-winning books for younger readers, novels, plays, three librettos, a musical, and many widely acclaimed works on history and sport. Several of his books are illustrated with his own photographs.

 

Stewart also lectures in France and the UK, gives talks, runs workshops, and visits schools. He is an occasional journalist and broadcaster. His brother, Charlie Ross, is the celebrated auctioneer.

 

In his spare time Stewart enjoys travel, restaurants, sport, theatre, photography, art and music. He lives near Canterbury with his wife Lucy, and – occasionally – his four children and two grandchildren. Each morning he commutes 10 metres to work in a large hut in the garden.

 

Website: http://www.stewartross.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Booksmyth

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Soterion-Mission-194311443946577/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/jstewartross


What I Thought 

Book 1- The Soterion Mission 

This is a high concept series whose central concept had me spooked. What if there was a virus that mutated DNA. So you cure the symptoms, think everything is okay and then suddenly human kind changes – they don’t survive beyond 19 years and age rapidly in their ‘Death Month’. 
When reading the first book in the series which jumps around 120 years into the future I thought it read like a cross between Lord of the Flies, Mad Max and The Walking Dead (minus zombies). Think the Saviours versus Rick’s gang. 
The Soterion of the title is a legendary store of knowledge. Books of the Long Dead. Roxanne is the only literate character having been taught to read through the three books that survive in her community – Peter Pan, a short biography of Cleopatra and The IKEA catalogue 😂😂😂. She joins up with Cyrus to find the Soterion and together they battle solar electricity worshipping Gova and blood thirsty Zeds.
There are lots of new terms introduced in the book and I felt a Glossary would have been helpful. And lo and behold or appears in the back of the second and third books. The use of some modern day vernacular such as cronies and bloke sounded strange in this new world. 
I enjoyed the theme of exploring how we pass down history and knowledge and guide the next generation. 
The book’s point of view is from an unnamed Omniscient narrator and I did find this a bit jarring because we jumped into so many characters minds. I’m less used to this POV nowadays and it was less noticeable in the second book. 
Those readers who don’t like Instalove will be less enamoured with the romance aspect of the book. But I guess if you only survive to 19 you need to get in there quick. 
It was interesting to read that this was initially published as a serial and I could see remnants of this in the way scenes ended with hooks. Although at times these meant that the reader was given an indication of what was to come perhaps a little earlier than I’d have liked. 
If you like your dystopias fast paced and gory then you will enjoy the action scenes in this. Personally I felt the action was stronger than the dialogue and I could really see this as a graphic novel. 



Book 2 – Revenge of the Zeds 


Despite the two lead females in the first book women had a much more basic role in the first book. Mainly as breeders of the species. 
Therefore I enjoyed the second book much more because we are introduced to a female led gang of Zed Warriors called the Kogon. There’s also a bit of diverse representation here with their leader Xsani both a lesbian and presented with a lisp. No impediment to her rise to power. The uneasy alliance between her and a character called Sakamir was fun to read.

The Soterion has been found in this book and that allows the theme of what books are for to come through. There were two quotes in particular that I highlighted. 
‘All that reading’s not good for you. It gets you thinking too much, and that’s not healthy.’
‘Did books reflect the real world, like an image in a mirror? Or was the world around him a reflection of the ideas in books.’
The other themes that get a lot more exploration is the concept of ageing and death with conflicting opinions on whether The Salvation Project to find a cure to the mutation should be enacted. 


Book 3 – The Salvation Project 

Our reliance on technology in the present comes to the fore in this book where key to The Salvation Project lies in a laptop. With flat batteries, and no ready source of electricity – dare they head back to face the Gova. Is growing old worth it? 
Check out the other stops on the blog tour to see how the series concludes. And head over to Goodreads to enter the giveaway – closes today. 

The Beginning Woods by Malcolm McNeill – Review

img_7111

Goodreads link

Synopsis

A MYSTERY NO ONE CAN SOLVE

The Vanishings started without warning. People disappearing into thin air – just piles of clothes left behind. Each day, thousands gone without a trace.

A BABY NO ONE WANTED

Max was abandoned in a bookshop and grows up haunted by memories of his parents. Only he can solve the mystery of the Vanishings.

A SECRET THAT COULD SAVE THE FUTURE

To find the answers, Max must leave this world and enter the Beginning Woods. A realm of magic and terror, life and death.

But can he bear the truth – or will it destroy him?

A STORY THAT WILL TAKE YOU TO ANOTHER WORLD

Greater than your dreams. Darker than your fears. Full of more wonder than you could ever desire. Welcome to the ineffable Beginning Woods…

What I Thought

When I found out about this book it sounded right up my street and I was really intrigued by the premise of vanishing people.

I feel really bad that this review is coming well after the release date but for some reason it seemed to take me a whole month to read this book, and I don’t think that’s entirely the book’s fault. Everytime I picked it up I enjoyed what I was reading – I even took it along to the beach to read a few chapters.

img_8106

The language in this was so good, and I’m pretty sure there are a few more words in the world after this book, such as ‘psychomotherapractologisteopath’.

The mystery of the opening where people are vanishing and Max is trying to find out what is happening was intriguing, and the Book House setting was particularly appealing.

When the action shifted from the World to The Beginning Woods it threw me off I think, and I also got a little confused about which reality the action was taking place in at times, but I think that’s because I was reading it in bits.

Max’s search for his forever parents and his constant question ‘who am I’ didn’t resolve in quite the way I expected – which isn’t a bad thing.

My favourite relationship in the book was between Max and Martha – the ghost girl he befriends. It reminded me a little of the graphic novel Saga.

The book has been compared to Gormenghast and Labyrinth, neither of which I’ve actually read, though I have seen. I think those are fair comparisons and there is definitely an element of the surreal in The Beginning Woods.

I couldn’t decide whether to give this 3 or 3.5 stars and if you like fantasy that gets you thinking about the meaning of reality then I would recommend it. I think my brain wasn’t in the right headspace for the slightly more challenging read that this was.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

‘Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief’ Blog Tour – Interview with author Gabrielle Kent

The second book in the Alfie Bloom series – Alfie Bloom and Talisman Thief was released on the 2nd June. For my spot on the blog tour I have an interview with the author Gabrielle Kent and a review of both books in the series.

Alfie Bloom Talisman Theif

Summary

When Alfie Bloom inherited a castle and a centuries-old magic, his dull and lonely life was changed forever. But Alfie’s new life has come with dangers he never could have expected. When Ashford the butler is kidnapped in the middle of the night, the castle comes under threat from a terrifying enemy. Trapped inside with only his twin cousins and best friend Amy, it’s up to Alfie to defend his inheritance and prevent a terrible fate from befalling the whole of England!

Author

Gabrielle

Website: http://gabriellekent.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GabrielleKent

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

Gabrielle has worked in and around the videogames industry since the mid 90’s. She currently teaches games development at Teesside University where she directs and presents Animex, a week long festival of games and animation talks and events bringing young people together from all over Europe to hear from world leading studios.

Gabrielle has written and contributed to a number of articles and broadcasts on gaming and is a regular judge on the Games BAFTA awards. She has been named one of the Top 100 most Influential Women in the games industry several times, and recieved a Woman of the Year award from MCV magazine.


In her spare time, Gabrielle writes books for children aged 8+. Her Alfie Bloom series has been published across several continents.

 

Interview

Is there an interesting story behind the origin of Alfie Bloom?

I have always adored castles and still remember visiting Alnwick Castle on a school trip thirty years ago. There was a medieval festival taking place in the market square at the time, little did I realise it would make its way into my books decades later! I came up with the idea for Alfie Bloom in 2006 when I visited Castle Coch in Wales. In one of the rooms is a carving of The Fates above a fireplace. I imagined talking to them and hearing my destiny. I suppose, in a way, they really did talk to me – they told me I’d write a book. As I made the long drive back from Cardiff, an idea for a story flew round and round my head, growing bigger and bigger. By the time I got home I was ready to start writing about the boy who inherited a castle.

When you were a child, what were your favourite stories to read?

Magical realism! When I was little I was sure that fantastical creatures and magic were all around us if we just knew where to look and I loved books that backed up my beliefs by setting magic and fantasy in our own world. I still do.

Do you write better in a specific place (i.e. office, bed, café…)?

I fidget a lot! I start writing at my desk, but move around the house a lot, then I start visiting the fridge for snacks. I find that the best place to actually get a lot of writing done is at a library. I like Liverpool Central library but it can be very loud so I always take noise-cancelling headphones.

Who is your favourite character in the Alfie Bloom series?

I adore Artan, the flying, talking, pun-loving bearskin rug. What better flying carpet than one that can talk to you and tell terrible jokes while you’re flying

If you could live in any fictional world ever, which one would you choose?

I always thought Xanth from the Piers Anthony novels seemed a magical and wonderful place to live with so much to discover. I’d like to live in Castle Roogna and travel into the magical tapestry that hangs there.

Do you have any odd writing rituals (i.e. writing in the dark, only at 3am, only after four cups of coffee…)?

I always light a candle while I’m writing. Fig, blackcurrant and woody scents are my favourite. I brew a pot of popcorn green tea and choose one of my favourite spotify playlists. Usually: Through the Woods, Deep Dark Indie, or The Far-North Folk.

There is a lot of mystery and magic in the Alfie Bloom books, do you know how everything works?

I do, and it takes me a long time to write because I like to have everything clear in my head. When I wrote the first book I was a bit unclear on what Alfie’s magic was and how it worked. and it caused me many problems later on as it became rather confusing for my proof readers. As a result I went back and clarified it, but it did involve quite a bit of rewriting!

What is your favourite aspect of the magic in Alfie Bloom?

Very little comes easily in life, so I like to show that magic also comes with consequences. As Spiderman’s Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility”. The powerful magic that inhabits Alfie is always hungry to feed. Alfie must learn to control it and to exercise restraint in using it.

 

What I Thought?

Thanks to Faye Rogers and Scholastic I was introduced to this series and provided with copies of both books to review. Opinions are my own – as ever.

UQrSKMrR.jpg_large

I really loved this series and its characters and raced through both books, and will definitely head back for a re-read when the next book comes out. I find that I do sometimes struggle with middle grade books feeling too young (as a 37 year old that’s not really surprising), but, for these books that wasn’t a problem at all. I was definitely hooked when the carriage from Muninn and Bone came calling. Although they work well for the intended age group 8-12 there is much for readers of any age to enjoy. This series has been compared to Harry Potter and there are some similarities – the fabulous cast of characters, joy and ease of reading and magic but it is also very different.

In ‘The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle’ poverty stricken Alfie finds out he has inherited a castle… and a ‘bit’ of magic. The only thing he will miss by moving is his best friend Amy, but his castle is in the village occupied by his dead mother’s family so he gains his twin cousins Robin and Madeline as friends, and Amy comes to visit. Together they explore the castle and its many rooms, secret passages and dangers. Alfie’s new school Wyrmwald House seems to be led by two Miss Trunchballs!! Something sinister is happening in the village and Alfie is driven to use his magic.

One of the things I liked is the idea that magic isn’t necessarily fun and simple to use and that it does come with responsibilities. Alfie isn’t necessarily that happy with the power he has been given and it will be interesting to see how he handles this as his experience grows. Alfie reminds me a little of Roald Dahl’s Charlie Bucket – he is very generous and kind-spirited.

Like Gabrielle, Artan the flying bearskin is my favourite character and his puns did make me giggle.

In ‘The Talisman Thief’ we find out more about Ashford the butler that was assigned to look out for Alfie and his father – thankfully because William – Alfie’s dad, a rather eccentic inventor – really can not cook. I can’t say much without spoilers but Ashford isn’t maybe what you might have expected. Hexbridge is invaded by fae and it’s up to the children to save the day.

Alfie’s school isn’t a magical one and his magical training comes via letters, deduction and trips between times. The rural village setting of Hexbridge is perfect to contain the magic and mysticism and I loved that the villagers follow old pagan festivals.

To summarise – read these books – to your kids if you have them – or to yourself if not. There is much more I could say and many more characters to meet but I’d much prefer you to find that out for yourselves.

Do also check out the rest of the blog tour.

CkILEboXEAIjMWx

 

%d bloggers like this: