The Fireman by Joe Hill

25994058._sy475_

EXCERPT: His newfound calm did not entirely surprise her. Terror was a fire that held you trapped in the top floor of a burning building; the only way to escape it was to jump. He had been stoking himself up to this last leap for weeks. She had heard it in his voice, every time they talked on the phone, even if she didn’t recognize it at the time. He had made his choice at last and it had brought him the peace he was looking for. He was ready to go out the window; he wanted only to be holding her hand on the way down.

What did surprise her was her own calm. She wondered at it. In the days before the earth began to burn, she had carried anxiety to work with her every morning and brought it home with her every night; a nameless, inconsiderate companion that had a habit of poking her in the ribs whenever she was trying to relax. And yet in those days there was nothing really to be anxious about. Her head would spin at the thought of defaulting on her student loans, of getting into another yelling match with her neighbour about his dog’s habit of tearing open garbage and spreading it all over her lawn. And now she had a baby in her, and sickness crawling on her skin, and Jakob was crazy, sitting there watching her with his gun, and there was only this quiet readiness, which she irrationally believed had been waiting for her all her life.

‘At the end, I get to be the person I always wanted to be,’ she thought.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

MY THOUGHTS: I said it after reading NOS4A2,and I will say it again, ‘Joe Hill is definitely his father’s son. He writes with the same easy narrative flow and sardonic wit.’

Reading Joe Hill’s writing is like sitting down and having a good yarn with someone who has led the most fascinating life. It’s an immersive experience. I forgot I was reading. I experienced every step of Harper’s journey. I smelled the burning, felt the heat, and even imagined the beautiful glowing lacy patterns across my own skin.

Hill has written a chilling novel about a global pandemic long before the advent of Covid-19. Instead of a pneumonia-like infection, this spore causes spontaneous combustion, which threatens to reduce civilisation to ashes. But what if there was a way to harness it, to make it work for you, rather than against you? Enter the Fireman, aka John Rookwood. But are his skills enough to save his group from the Cremation Squad, a group of the uninfected determined to exterminate the infected.

He is aided by the pregnant nurse, Harper, a fan of Mary Poppins. ‘She had all her life longed for a world that operated like an early sixties Disney musical, with spontaneous song and dance routines to celebrate important events like sharing a first kiss or getting the kitchen spick and span.’ Despite these fantasies, this woman has a heart of gold and a core of steel.

There are a lot of parallels between the situations in The Fireman and our current situation. The chaos. The fear. The misinformation. The justification of certain actions – ‘The people in charge can always justify doing terrible things in the name of the greater good. A slaughter here, a little torture there. It becomes moral to do things that would be immoral if an ordinary individual did ‘em.’

But there are some wonderfully ‘good’ characters in this book to counterbalance the bad, the evil, the misguided. The hard part is working out who is who.

There are multiple musical references as well as literary ones. I have made a ‘Joe Hill – The Fireman’ playlist to go alongside my ‘Adrian McKinty – Sean Duffy’, and ‘Ken Bruen- Jack Taylor’ playlists.

I finished this read with tears seeping from my eyes. It doesn’t end how I expected. But the ending is perfect. The Fireman contains many lessons for us. I hope we learn them.

‘So much kindness. So many people looking after us. They don’t know a thing about us except that we’re in need….we need kindness like we need to eat. It satisfies something in us we can’t do without.’

Brilliant, beautiful, terrifying, sad and uplifting.

❤❤❤❤❤

#TheFireman #NetGalley

‘There’s something horribly unfair about dying in the middle of a good story, before you have a chance to see how it all comes out. Of course, I suppose everyone always dies in the middle of a good story, in a sense. Your own story. Or the story of your children. Or your grandchildren. Death is a raw deal for narrative junkies.’

THE AUTHOR: Joe Hill, born in 1972 as Joseph Hillstrom King, is an American writer of speculative fiction. Hill is the second child of the authors Stephen and Tabitha King. His younger brother Owen King is also a writer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Orion Publishing Group via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Fireman by Joe Hill for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney

42927050._sy475_-1

EXCERPT: ‘Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds,’ he quotes. ‘Sonnet 116, remember? We read it at our wedding. Four lines each in turn. Then the final couplet together.’

You shake your head. You don’t remember that, no.

‘It’ll come back to you.’ You wonder if he means the memory or the sentiment. ‘My point is, those weren’t just empty words to us. You were always unique, Abbie. Irreplaceable. A perfect wife. A perfect mother. The love of my life. Everyone says that, don’t they? But I really meant it. After I lost you, plenty of people told me I should move on, find someone else to spend my life with. But I knew that was never going to happen. So I did this instead. Was I right to? I don’t know. But I had to try. And even just talking to you now, for these few minutes – seeing you here, in our house, hearing you speak – makes all the years I put into this worthwhile. I love you, Abs. I will always love you. Forever, just like we promised each other on our wedding day.’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s an icon of the tech world, the founder of a lucrative robotics company. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago, and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss. She is a miracle of science.

But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives–and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?

MY THOUGHTS: Fascinating. Creepy. Plausible.

This is not what I was expecting at all. It is unconventionally creepy on many levels, mostly because I can see it happening if it hasn’t already done so. That woman in the restaurant who merely pushes the food around her plate? That person who seems too good to be true. How many times have you asked yourself if someone is even real? This book will have you asking that question all over again.

All this is tied in with a ‘love story’. He is a visionary, a wunderkind. What Gates was to personal computers, Jobs was to smartphones, or Musk was to electric cars, Tim Scott is to AI. Abbie is a free spirit, artist, surfer. They are opposites who have attracted, who complement each other, two halves of a whole. Until they have a child who develops CDD. Tim sees Danny as a problem to be solved, he just needs reprogramming. Abbie wants to try every alternative therapy. Cracks begin to appear…

The story is told from two points of view, from that of an unknown narrator, and Abbie. Abbie’s story is split over two timelines – Abbie now, and Abbie then. The identity of the unknown narrator is revealed at the end of the story, and came as somewhat of a surprise to me.

The story itself keeps the reader slightly off balance. Every time I thought I had something figured out, Delaney tipped me on my head. Her characters are unpredictable and thoroughly believable, even the AI ones.

And I want to applaud Delaney for not reducing the impact of autism on the family, for not stinting on her descriptions of autistic behaviour, and for including the joy that is taken from every little gain, no matter how small, no matter if it is never repeated.

This is an excellent read. An unconventional read. A read that will make you think about the role of robots (or, in this case, cobots – emotionally intelligent companion robots ) in our lives.

#ThePerfectWife #NetGalley

😍🤩🤔🤩😍

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: J. P. Delaney is the pseudonym of a writer who has previously published best-selling fiction under another name.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2891285546

Till Sudden Death Do Us Part by Simon R. Green

43893670._sy475_

Happy publication day to Simon R. Green and Severn House!

EXCERPT: ‘It all began back in the eighteenth century, when the Bergin family was a lot more prosperous than it is now. They were rich, powerful, and much looked up to in the area. The eldest daughter was to be married, but the groom had been engaged to someone else. He broke that off to marry the Bergin daughter. The spurned woman made all kinds of threats, but who was she to stand against the mighty Bergin family? The marriage went ahead as planned. Half the county was there to wish the young couple every happiness. But the woman he’d slighted sneaked into the church and murdered both the bride and the groom while they were standing at the altar. Stabbed them to death in a frenzy before the family could drag her away.

They hanged her, right there in the church, too angry to wait for a trial and official justice.But with her last owrds, the witch put a curse on the Bergin family. That no daughter of theirs would ever be able to marry, because an invisible demon would kill the groom on their wedding night. It would also kill anyone who tried to protect the bride, or get in the way of its vengeance. No more happy ever afters for a Bergin bride.’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: A wedding. A murder. A 200-year-old curse: Ishmael Jones is plunged into a baffling investigation when he answers an old friend’s call for help.

Although he hasn’t seen Robert Bergin for 40 years, Ishmael feels duty bound to respond when his old friend calls for help. Robert’s daughter Gillian is about to be married, and he is afraid she’ll fall prey to the ancient family curse.

Arriving in rural Yorkshire, Ishmael and his partner Penny learn that the vicar who was to perform the ceremony has been found dead in the church, hanging from his own bell rope. With no clues, no evidence and no known motive, many locals believe the curse is responsible. Or is someone just using it as a smokescreen for murder? With the wedding due to take place the following day, Ishmael has just a few hours to uncover the truth.

But his investigations are hampered by sudden flashes of memory: memories of the time before he was human. What is it Ishmael’s former self is trying to tell him … ?

MY THOUGHTS: Bradenford is somewhere we have all been – a small country town in the middle of nowhere with far too much past and not enough future. Yet interestingly enough, it has traffic lights…and seemingly more than one set. But I digress…..it is the perfect setting for a mystery that has a vicar hanged by his own bell rope, a family curse going back centuries, a police investigation conspicuous by its absence, an alien and a ……well, if I tell you that, it will give the whole game away!

I am a solid fan of this amusing series. The books are short (this one a mere 140 pages), entertaining and easy to read. Quite Agatha Christiesque, if you discount the alien, though there are times when I wonder about Poirot!

I love Green’s writing, which inevitably makes me smile with pleasure. He is the master of pithy comments – ‘There’s a time and a place for being right.’ But he also has a beautiful turn of phrase – ‘Loose ends from the past, still haunting the present.’

Although the books are short, Green’s characters are remarkably full bodied and designed to complement one another.

Although I felt that this was the weakest of the series, it is still deserving of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 rather than down.

THE AUTHOR: Simon R. Green is a bestselling British author of sci-fi and fantasy. Born in 1955 in Bradford-Upon-Avon, Wiltshire, where he still lives, he has become a prolific author of his genre.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Severn House via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Till Sudden Death Do Us Part by Simon R. Green for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page, or the ‘about’ page on my webpage, sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2801211714?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Murder in the Dark by Simon R. Green

Murder in the Dark by Simon R. Green

EXCERPT: ‘It makes you wonder if there’s anything left out there,’ said Paul, his voice eerily calm. ‘If the world has just gone away, or the dark has eaten everything up . . . If we’re all that’s left now, alone in the night.’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: The sudden appearance of a sinister black hole in the English countryside leads to a baffling murder investigation for Ishmael Jones.

“The past is England’s dreaming, and not all of it sleeps soundly…”

Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny have been despatched to assist a group of scientists who are investigating a mysterious black hole which has appeared on a Somerset hillside. Could it really be a doorway to another dimension, an opening into another world?

When one of the scientists disappears into the hole — with fatal consequences — Ishmael must prove whether it was an accident — or murder. But with no clues, no witnesses and no apparent motive, he has little to go on. Is there an alien predator at large, or is an all-too-human killer responsible? Only one thing is certain: if Ishmael does not uncover the truth in time, more deaths will follow…

MY THOUGHTS: This is the second book that I have read and enjoyed in this very different series. I am not an alien/sci-fi aficionado, but I love this quirky series!

The books are quick reads, entertaining and, although they nudge the boundaries of believability a little, mostly plausible. This is an excellent blend of many genres – and it works! Beautifully!

The main characters complement each other, and the peripheral characters all have purpose and are solid additions to the plot. I never knew where the author was taking me, but it was a very enjoyable journey, and one that I made in one sitting.

I have not read the whole series, nor the first book, but it hasn’t impacted on my enjoyment or understanding whatsoever. I will be reading more in this series.

😊😊😊😊

THE AUTHOR: Simon Richard Green is a British science fiction and fantasy-author. He holds a degree in Modern English and American Literature from the University of Leicester. His first publication was in 1979.

His Deathstalker series is partly a parody of the usual space-opera of the 1950s, told with sovereign disregard of the rules of probability, while being at the same time extremely bloodthirsty.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Severn House Publishers via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Murder in the Dark by Simon R. Green for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2582683579

Friday Favorite – Miracles and Conundrums of the Secondary Planets by Jacob M. Appel

Looking for something to read over the weekend?

Nothing on your book radar that is screaming “read me!”?

Check out my Friday Favorite  – it may not be new, it may not even be by an author you have ever heard of, but it will be a book that has captured both my imagination and my heart.

Those of you who are regular readers of my blog will know that I love the writing of Jacob M. Appel, an incredibly gifted and talented man with many strings to his bow. I treasure each and every one of his books which have their very own shelf in my library. I have left plenty of room for all the books that are going to flow from his pen in the future. This was only the second book from Appel that I had read.

Miracles and Conundrums of the Secondary Planets by Jacob M. Appel
Reviewed by

30817744


EXCERPT: We’re sitting on one of the cast iron benches that line the footpath between Red Brick Cottage II and Red Brick Cottage III. Abbington Manor feels more like a university campus than a psychiatric facility: waves of jonquils rising through beds of red woodchips, a Gothic revival chapel where bells peal on the hour. Ten weeks have passed since my mother tried to drown herself – long enough for the ice sheath to melt off Long Island Sound. The firemen who rescued her are now battling brush fires along the interstate. Jay Bergman, the veterinary student responsible for my positive pregnancy test, is dating a city planner. My mother has already worked her way up to ‘level three privileges’, meaning she may explore the grounds without supervision. The tranquility is killing her slowly. – taken from The Grand Concourse

ABOUT THIS BOOK: A visitor from a distant planet opens a Latvian restaurant next to an abortion clinic; a magician learns that true love will cost him a kidney; a blind barber cuts hair for tourists in a gentrifying Harlem…. Enter the mad, moving university of Jacob M. Appel’s short fiction.

MY THOUGHTS: There was not one story in this collection that did not bring a smile to my face or a tear to my eye – often it was both!

Each story is a tragedy in it’s own right, yet each one demonstrates the resilience, kindness and honour of mankind (and once – an alien!). But don’t expect to be depressed by this collection – to the contrary – all are in some way uplifting. This collection has the common theme of relocation running through it.

This book is a keeper for me…..I know I am going to get just as much pleasure out of it in the future as I just did.

Jacob M Appel appears to be an extraordinary man…..he is a physician (which explains the medical aspect to many of these stories), attorney and bioethicist; he currently teaches at Gotham Writers Workshop and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine; he is also the author of over 200 published short stories and winner of many awards.

If you haven’t yet sampled any of Jacob’s work, I strongly urge you to do so. This is the second of his collections I have read and thoroughly enjoyed.

Thank you Jacob for the gift of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the ‘about’ page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system.

This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1377590397

Into the Thinnest of Air by Simon R Green

Into the Thinnest of Air by Simon R. Green
Reviewed by

30817744


EXCERPT: Black Rock Towen and its surroundings have a long-standing reputation as a place where people go missing. Never any clues or even a warning. They just disappear without a trace when no one’s looking.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Dinner at an ancient Cornish inn leads to one baffling disappearance after another in the latest intriguing Ishmael Jones mystery.

“It’s just a nice weekend, in a nice country inn. Nothing bad is going to happen …”

Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny are attending the re-opening of Tyrone’s Castle, an ancient Cornish inn originally built by smugglers. Over dinner that night, the guests entertain one another with ghost stories inspired by local legends and superstitions. But it would appear that the curse of Tyrone’s Castle has struck for real when one of their number disappears into thin air. And then another . . .

Is the inn really subject to an ancient curse? Sceptical of ghost stories, Ishmael believes the key to the mystery lies in the present rather than the past. But with no bodies, no evidence and no clues to go on, how can he prove it?

MY THOUGHTS: I came into this book, #5 in the Ishmael Jones series, completely ignorant of Jones’s background. Had I known his background, I probably never would have picked this book to read. And that would have been a great pity, because I would have missed out on a amusing, well written mystery with just a touch of something extra. For Ishmael is an alien who, stranded on earth, has taken on human form with, of course, a few idiosyncrasies.

The author, Simon R Green, has done a magnificent job in portraying this group of people who, with the exception of Ishmael and Penny, were old friends reuniting after many years separation. But while all appears friendly on the surface, there are little jibes and digs with more barbs than could be expected from real friends. There is an underlying animosity that no one is willing to admit to, until the innkeeper’s wife vanishes. Green’s dialogue is superb, as is his talent for creating a creepy atmosphere. And while I would rather have not read about an alien, that aspect didn’t weigh heavily on the plot.

This variation on a locked room mystery was an entertaining read and, yes, I would read other books in this series and by this author. This book is well able to be read as a stand-alone mystery. 3.5 stars.

Thank you to Severn House via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of Into the Thinnest Air by Simon R Green for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the ‘about’ page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system.

This review and others are also published on myGoodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2199348414