It has been some time since I finished listening to Peter Brett’s The Painted Man, so it’s about time that I shared my review of this audiobook! I listened to this back in May/June this year. I started with some mixed feelings, but I’m glad I stuck with it. It grew on me the more I listened to it and the story progressed.
As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.
I really enjoyed this audiobook overall, but I do confess that I found the beginning slow. The early chapters of the book introduce Arlen, Leesha and Rojer and their respective lives in the small towns of their birth. The reason I found the book slow-going is because each character perspective reiterates the same idea for each of these individuals (okay, in slightly different ways), but we’re basically told the same thing three times. This took at least a few hours to set the scene (and set it again, and again…), so I think it makes up the first 20% of the book.
What do we learn from that first 20%? Humans are dependent on magical wards to protect them from dark creatures, known as corelings at night. Those who live in the small towns and outskirts of the cities have primitive technology. Disaster lies only around the corner for them. And finally, humans are as good as enslaved by their fear.
Then Arlen decides to do something about it and the whole book significantly improves from there. He has seen the devastation these beasts can cause but seeks to find a way to fight back. Arlen is the most developed character of the book, followed by Leesha. Unfortunately, Rojer felt like a late and underdeveloped addition. I wanted a little more from him to balance the story out.
I really enjoyed the concept of the magic and the wards to protect, or fight, against the corelings. It’s only a simple one, but it was executed well. There is sufficient development from the fear-ridden society present at the start of the book, both sufficient to pad out the storyline of the Painted Man, but also to lay the foundations for the remainder of the series.
Despite the slow start I will continue with the series. I think there is a lot of potential to explore the vast world constructed in The Painted Man even more, which the second book seems to do.
Everyone has their own way of approaching the task – there really is no right or wrong way to do it. Naturally, you are taking the opportunity to express your opinion, so it’s a completely personal experience.
I like reading other bloggers reviews. I love the variety of style and structure to other bloggers writing, compared to my own. There are the same underpinning conventions, but we all have creative licence to do things our own way.
In today’s post, I want to touch on some of the things I do (and don’t do!) when writing my book reviews. So, shall we get into it?
Make Notes Beforehand?
I don’t really make notes as I read. I have tried, but I never stick to it. It interrupts my reading flow and does more harm than good in the end.
If I don’t wait too long to write my reviews then usually my thoughts are fresh in my head and the review is easy to write. That’s also the case if a book makes a good impression on me. I do struggle occasionally. I’ll freely admit in that case that I’ll look at other people’s thoughts and reviews. I would never copy a review, but I’ll shamelessly admit that I’ll use it as a prompt to ask myself what I thought about the same subject. It works!
Describe the Plot
I am not a big fan of reading detailed, lengthy plot descriptions, hashing out 80% of the book before reading a person’s review. I do read posts by bloggers who do this, and to be honest I just skip this section. I’ll have already read the synopsis of the book. If I read a post that summarises the vast majority of a book (minus the spoiler /ending), do I want to read the book then? Honestly, no. You may not have given the ending away, but the plotline and enjoyment of the rest of the book has been taken away from me. Why waste several hours reading something I already know?
Sometimes review points need a little context and I don’t have a problem with that. There is a balance, however.
I always write my reviews as honestly as I can. That is the point, after all. Reviewsfeed is my place to express my views. As a reviewer, I couldn’t in good conscience lie about my experience of a book. How could readers ever trust me to be honest again? It’s probably one of the easiest ways for others to lose their respect for you… and yet, it’s so easy to feel pressured into not saying something that may not be popular.
I’m not saying all bloggers should be brutally honest about their opinions. Saying that a book that an author has poured hundreds of hours into to publish is **** is uncouth. That doesn’t mean you have to lie or even gloss over the fact in your review; there is a way to be tactful about it. If I thought a book was that bad and I had nothing good to say about it, truthfully, I just wouldn’t review it.
I once gifted a handmade jumper to a family member for Christmas. It is one of the very first big crochet projects I completed, and I am really proud of it! That jumper has remained in that person’s wardrobe to the present day, unworn. They’re being tactful; they won’t get rid of it but they haven’t worn it either. I know I love it more than they do because I know how much time and effort went into it, and that’s okay.
That said, I really wouldn’t mind if they got rid of it now. It is several years old.
Some bloggers like to breakdown their ratings based on various aspects of a book and then average the ratings. From other bloggers, I actually quite like reading these. It’s not something I will ever do though. Don’t get me wrong, I am quite an organised and orderly person (mostly), but I find this approach a bit too regimented.
In a sense I do take this approach, but I am a lot more flexible with it. I would describe myself as more of a mood reviewer. In my mind, sometimes character development may be more important than world-building. Personally, narrative style is a make-or-break thing with me and books. The story could be fantastic, but if I don’t enjoy the way a story is written it will hamper my enjoyment of it. I like to rate the overall experience of the book in a less rigid manner.
Also, I rarely put star ratings on my blog. I have used them in my Throwback Review posts, but I try to avoid them. In my opinion, star ratings are well and good, but the more important bit is the explanation of why I have rated a book a certain way. So, that’s what I focus on in my reviews on my blog. My star ratings are for Goodreads.
How do you write a review? What do you do differently? Do you agree with me?
If you haven’t already checked out yesterday’s post and book review of Thran Book 1: The Birth by Brian McLaughlin, now would be a great time to do so! Today I am interviewing the author of the well-built and complex world of Thran.
Without further adieu, shall we get into it?
How did you discover writing as a passion?
It goes back a quite a long time, but didn’t take the form of writing, per se. It started around the age of 13 when a friend introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons. By age 15 I had evolved into the dungeon master role and never really relinquished it. I had a solid group of friends and we played through high school and college which lasted almost 9 years. As a dungeon master I wasn’t writing prose, but I was creating adventures all the time which required worlds, creativity, and the art of “telling” a story: describing situations and features to the players, building tension and managing outcomes.
I look back at that time as training to become a writer. Towards the end of that period I did begin writing a story, but I only managed 50 pages or so before I moved on to other things in life. However, it planted a seed. From there adult life took over and I embarked on an 18-year hiatus from D&D and anything close to writing. So that leads me to the true answer to your question. I’ve had a great career in business (mostly supply chain), but there was a brief time in 2012 where I found myself in a job that I didn’t find very challenging or rewarding. I remember consciously deciding that if I couldn’t get fulfillment from my work, then I would try to get fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment from some other activity. So, in June of 2012 I literally dusted off the old manuals and began creating the world of Thran with the intent of writing a novel and solving my fulfillment/accomplishment void.
I’ve never actually played Dungeons and Dragons. I spent my teenage years playing Dragon Quest, which is much like the format of the group in Thran. More recently than that though, I played countless hours on The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. It’s essentially a single player version, but you pick your character type and traits which are similar to the characters and factions in the book too.
When it comes to fantasy role playing games, I think you could make an argument that Gary Gygax and TSR really pioneered the genre. Each variation that came after it embellished and tweaked the basic system. The classes and monsters were all familar. In a way it’s not much different than Thran or any work of fantasy fiction after 1970; they all were inspired by D&D.
Obviously, Thran has a lot of overlaps with modern fantasy role-playing games. Are you an avid gamer? What did you play growing up?
Well, I think I answered this question above, but we dabbled in all sorts of role-playing games. The Middle Earth role playing game comes to mind and there were a variety of games we played sporadically but we always returned to D&D. I would still classify myself as an avid gamer as I like to play chess and other strategy-based games on the computer or an app. I even play DDO (Dungeons & Dragons Online) with my adult children which works our great since we can do it from wherever we are!
As I mentioned above, I’ve been a gamer since a teenager really, although I have a lot less time for it now with working full-time and managing my blog in my free time. When I do get a spare hour or two, my current game of choice is Minecraft! It’s quite easy to play as there isn’t too much in the way of storyline or quests, but you can be creative and stop/start as and when.
I’ve dabbled with Minecraft, but world building makes a fun game and Minecraft obviously fits that niche nicely. I grew up on games like pools of radiance which is like the great-great grandmother to Baldurs gate which is a turn based game. So I’m partial to turn based games to this day. Hearthstone has been a favored past time and recently I’ve been playing Dota Underlords. Both are addicting!
The story has a split narrative between present-day and historical events. Which did you enjoy writing more and why?
That’s like asking which of your kids you love more! 😊 Of course, I enjoyed writing both narratives, but for different reasons. If you pressed me, I will say the Anthall narrative, in book one, is more compelling for the reader because it’s a tragic story and focuses on one individual (rather than a group) and his dark journey. We feel for him, or at least I do, because of the choices he’s forced to make and his struggle with his identity. I’ll also say this: in book II I have really enjoyed writing about the “current” narrative because some of the twists and surprises I set up, but probably weren’t obvious or appreciated in book one, are starting to get revealed which draws you more deeply into that narrative. Okay, I love them both! 😊
If I had to pick a favourite, I would say I enjoyed the Anthall storyline a little more than the present day. It gives a lot of context to what’s going on… and well, I’m a sucker for all things that contribute to epic world-building.
I’ll be interested to see what you and other readers think of Book two. As you know, when I tell people Thran is an epic story, I’m not kidding. It’s 650 pages long, and I spend a lot of time building the characters and planting seeds. If I can get an ah-ha moment or two from readers, or even better: an “I didn’t see that coming” moment, I’ll feel really good! The world and characters are complex – they just don’t know it yet…the readers AND the characters!
There is a very extensive map of the world of Thran on your website, https://www.worldofthran.com. How far along in the narrative did this come into creation? Has it helped you with your writing?
Actually, the first thing I did was create the world. Before I wrote the first word, I drew the map with the detail you see today. I also created the pantheon of gods, the calendar, and how I wanted magic to work. Speaking of magic, a lot of people forego the material requirements when they play D&D (we did back in the day) because it’s a little burdensome, but for the world of Thran, I thought the material component would add a nice level of detail and also tied in with the concept of the gods granting the spells – so the material component acted like a sacrifice when required.
Another aspect I determined from the start was the dialog. I didn’t want the dialog to be too “fantastical”. I felt that in order to keep the passion of the dialog relevant, I would sacrifice the “historical” aspect and go with more of a modern diction, including the curse-words which I felt strongly needed to stay current. When someone curses, it’s usually trying to convey a deeper context to the situation. It makes serious and tense situations more serious and tense while also making lighter moments even lighter. Using a “made up” or substitute curse could never convey to the modern reader the nuances of the situation and might just feel cheesy. However, in order to make the dialog feel a little different, aged so-to-speak, I used a little trick I came up with: never use contractions. The reader might not have noticed, but if the dialog was read out loud, it would become obvious. The map and all the other foundations I created up front helped me conceptualize the story.
As an author, what advice would you give to anyone looking to write a book and get published?
Funny you should ask! The journey for writing, editing, marketing, and publishing has been such an educational journey that I started organizing what I’ve learned and seriously considering writing another (much shorter!) book about it. My advice for writers:
a. Create an environment that inspires you and limits distractions. The routine will help you establish a rhythm and promote creativity.
b. Give yourself a word count to hit each day or each week, depending on how often you can write. Give yourself a little reward for hitting the count, and if you can blow it away – even better! There are gonna be many days when you can’t hit the count. Find the right balance – where it’s achievable, but not a gimme.
c. Find software for writing a novel. I used Scrivener and that has been very good. It helps me keep everything organized and easy to find for reference, not to mention it can create all the file types you need for your ebook. There are other software choices out there, so just do a little research.
a. Editing is a money game. It depends what you can afford. If you have the money a good editor can help you immensely, but for most Indie writers that’s not going to be an option, it wasn’t for me.
b. If having an editor is not an option, you will almost certainly need help proof-reading and correcting grammar. I hired a professional to proofread Book I and they corrected a ton of stuff. I used a service called Reedsy, and it worked out fine.
c. Family and friends. Let anyone who wants to read help with editing. I still find issues with Thran Book One today, so it feels like a never-ending process.
d. It will never be perfect, so eventually you will have to publish the book!
3) Marketing – How do you get anyone to actually read your book!? That’s such a difficult task! LOL.
a. Social media
i. This is a great way to build a following but doesn’t translate into sales very well. It’s also time intensive. You need to post once per day, but not too much more than that, and so building a following takes time unless you have a celebrity connection.
b. Book reviews & Bloggers
i. Getting your book reviewed is very important. Paying for reviews is less impressive, but if you have to it’s better than nothing.
ii. Voracious Readers Only
1. I found this to be a very good platform. It connects readers and authors and is how I am building a solid email list
c. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, others
i. This comes down to money. My experience is that Amazon has the cheapest advertising, essentially free if you do KDP, and best tools for promoting your book.
ii. I have been in KDP (amazon exclusive) so I have access to the promotional tools, but I am going to try without it for a bit and work other platforms in order to reach a wider audience.
i. I didn’t go down the traditional path, but it involves finding an agent and then submitting your work to a lot of publishing houses.
ii. I do know this:
a. You’ll need to hook up with an artist unless you can create a cover yourself, which I think would be rare. Today’s art world is ruled by digital art, and depending on the size of your book and the number of pages, it’s not an easy job getting the cover just right.
2. If you decide to go the traditional route – DO NOT self-publish first. Everything I read, most publishers won’t work with manuscripts that are already published. So if you go the traditional route – find an agent and go from there.
i. These are pretty straight forward, you just submit them to the site, pick a royalty program and you’re off…well, you still need a cover.
b. Hard copies
i. You definitely need a cover and it needs to be very exact in the dimensions of the cover which includes the spine and the back art.
ii. Actually printing books.
1. I haven’t cracked the code yet on this. Printed copies are very expensive unless you’re willing to invest in quite a bit of inventory.
2. Amazon is the best. They print on-demand and ship it direct, so no inventory and their printing costs are 30% lower than any other place I found searching the internet.
You have already covered a lot of ground in your experience and it’s invaluable to other hopeful authors out there! I really hope you do publish your advice. No doubt it will come in useful for a lot of people!
Amazon, like they have in so many other ways, has broken down the traditional walls to getting a book published. Which is great, but there isn’t any great manual for new writers to reference. So when someone writes a book, the feeling is like: “now what?” There are soooo many choices out there it creates an analysis paralysis. I hope I can help a few people out!
About the Book
Part one of a three part series, Thran Book I: The Birth, tells of an adventure undertaken by a young group of friends living in the world of Thran, within the kingdom of Kardoon. Three long years after his father went off to war, never to return, Brutal Mixnor decides to venture out into the wilds of Thran to find the truth surrounding his father’s disappearance. Unwilling to let Brutal head out alone, his long-time friends and some new acquaintances, each with their own unique set of skills and reasons for going, head out with him. Their decision to uncover the truth sets in motion the epic tale with all the crucial elements of betrayal, love, companionship, secrets, sacrifice, good, evil, tragedy, death, and triumph.
For day 2 of Blogtober I am sharing a book review of Thran Book 1: The Birth, which was sent to me by Voracious Readers Only in exchange for review. Thank you to them and to the author, Brian McLaughlin, who I have been working closely with lately. In addition to today’s review, I will also be sharing an interview with Brian tomorrow. In that post we talk about the fictional world of Thran, the influences behind the book and Brian also shares some of his knowledge and experiences in publishing.
That’s for you to look forward to tomorrow! Today’s post is all about the book, and my honest thoughts on it.
Set in the mythical world of Thran, a young warrior named Brutal Mixnor sets out on an adventure to uncover the truth about his father’s mysterious disappearance after a battle years earlier. Some longtime friends and new acquaintances join him in his search, each with their own reasons for braving the danger-filled wilds of the Cruel Pass. Follow the young adventurers and watch as their powers grow, along with the strength of the enemies they encounter. Discover the complex, imperfect, characters of all races, comprising the full spectrum of alignments (good, neutral, and evil) that weave their way into and out of the story, leaving their mark on the reader as the world of Thran is pushed towards cataclysmic war and suffering.
For readers familiar with the role playing game Dungeons and Dragons(R), Thran Book I: The Birth will feel like a warm wave of nostalgia washing over you, and the unfamiliar will get a glimpse of what it’s like to be immersed into the heart of an adventure that transports you into a world where magic abounds and almost anything is possible, but nothing is certain. Visit https: //www.worldofthran.com/ to learn more about the world of Thran, including: character portraits, the world map, the pantheon of deities, and more!
When I say Thran is an epic fantasy book, I am not kidding! At 655 pages, this novel stands its ground in the fantasy genre. If you enjoy role-playing games you will recognise the format of the narrative and character types. The structure of the narrative is like Dungeons and Dragons, or perhaps a more modern example, Dragon Quest.
One of the biggest factors that I judge fantasy novels on is the world-building. It was very clear to me from the beginning that a lot of work has gone into developing the world and framing the narrative. The detail illustrates an advanced world, without being excessive or stalling the storyline at any point. This is consistent throughout so the pace of the narrative and balance between action/information is achieved.
The only place I would suggest that there was a little too much detail for me is in the combat scenes. It’s probably a matter of personal preference, but I envisage these as being a little punchier (excuse the pun!) What I will say is that evidently Brian has sequenced these out before committing pen to paper. I was a lot more interested in the continuation of the plot and development of the storyline, so I confess I started to skim-read some of these.
I really enjoyed the dual timeline structure and the narrative of Anthall, perhaps slightly more than the present-day narrative. This contributes to a lot of the historical side of the world-building, and there are subtle ties to the present-day if you can pick up the clues! Having the two intertwining storylines breaks up each storyline so as not to become too lengthy. It makes a refreshing change to read the different perspective. It is too early for what I think will be a complex storyline to be experienced by one set of characters without a rushed conclusion.
I am interested to see how the storyline will pan out throughout the rest of the series. Thran Book 1 provides a strong foundation to a unique fantasy tale and there is plenty more to explore in the world of Thran.
Her life may not be perfect but she’s happy. Until she makes a terrible decision – and learns the hard way that home is not a place of refuge.
Not while Simon lurks in every shadow.
He groomed her as a teen: terrorised her into fleeing, leaving her baby behind. Now the man who destroyed her childhood has become the perfect father to her teenage daughter. And her return threatens his future.
A desperate man is a dangerous one.
Simon says she must leave or suffer the consequences. She refuses.
Now it’s his move. Because it’s not enough to face your demons.
As soon as I finished reading this book I rated it the second-best I have read this year. Out of just over 50 books, that’s no mean feat. Regular readers will know how much of a fan I am of Margaret Atwood and I have been raving about reading The Testaments. It is probably THE THING I have been looking forward to the most this year. I picked up my copy of The Testaments on the 10th September, fully expecting to set all other books aside to devour it. But I couldn’t. I had to know how the story and events of Simon Says panned out. I consciously CHOSE to keep reading this magnificent psychological thriller over picking up The Testaments. Let me tell you why.
You know in your gut what happened to this poor girl from the very beginning… why she was forced away from her home and her family to start again. Cindy, aka Karis is very much down on her luck. After surviving a close shave with death, she takes her children to the only other place she knows – her old family home. Back where it all happened, Cindy is forced to face her demons, the neighbours, and Simon.
The narrative is split in two; half the chapters narrate the story of Cindy as a fourteen year old girl and the other half in present day. Each timeline unfolds in a way that spurs you on to read the next chapter to find out what happens next. It is horrifying to watch Simon manipulate Cindy by buying her trust, pushing the boundaries further and further until he does the unthinkable. It’s awful and disgusting to know what happened to her… but you can’t help reading more. Thankfully, we are spared some details of the event, but we know exactly how it made Cindy feel once she realised what had happened later on.
What is more harrowing is that this happens to people, anyone, but especially children. When families don’t believe (or don’t want to believe) the truth then the victim suffers all the more. This book takes you on a real rollercoaster ride of emotions – upset, anger, pity and a lust for vengeance and justice on Cindy’s behalf.
I was captivated from start to finish. You would hope that very few people could ever have been in Cindy’s position and lived through the abuse and torment she has. That said, she is completely relatable as a woman. The trauma she has experienced hasn’t affected her so much that it serves to alienate her. If anything, it has empowered her. Over ten years have passed since the fateful event, but becoming a mother has brought out a strength in her that she didn’t have back then – the desire to protect her own children from the man that ruined her life.
I cannot stress enough just how fantastic this book is! It’s on my list of books to re-read and I’ll definitely read more books by Jo Wesley.
Author Bio –
SIMON SAYS isn’t my first thriller. Several unpublished novels went before it, but there was something about this story that made me come back to it time-and-time again. Although it was written in 2015, recently a few author friends encouraged me to publish it as they remembered reading it years before.
I used to work in an office where the wider team comprised people working with drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and general community safety. I wrote SIMON SAYS during this period and my team provided information and advice. Also, the Red Watch team at the local fire station read my first chapter during their tea break and advised on a couple of points to make it more accurate (I thought it would be one person, not the whole team reading it!).
Currently, I am completing a novel in another genre but I really enjoy writing thrillers, so I am planning my next one.
Good evening readers and fellow bloggers! I hope you are having a lovely week so far!
In today’s post I am reviewing a book that had been on my TBR for a number of years before I finally picked it up in June – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. I read the book within two days, which to my mind speaks volumes about how much I loved it. It has a unique narrative and character perspective, which is the reason I wanted to read it in the first place. For readers unexperienced with Asberger’s Syndrome, it is a real insight into the perception of someone who has it and the difficulties that come along with it.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.
Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor’s dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favourite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally.
Christopher has such a unique way of looking at life. He doesn’t understand social cues and hates being stuck in a crowd. Despite being a remarkably intelligent young man, who at fifteen is taking his A-Level in Maths, there are elements of his personality that remind you just how endearingly childlike he is.
The neighbour’s dog Wellington is murdered and Christopher’s carefully controlled world spirals into chaos. He resolves that he is going to solve the murder, despite his father’s insistence on keeping his nose out. He finds himself discovering far more than he anticipated and embarks on a journey that pushes his boundaries to the limits.
By the end of the narrative, Christopher has matured in his own way. He still battles with the Asberger’s, but he endures the discomfort and steps outside of his comfort zone in order to uncover the mystery that presents itself in his own life. It’s a difficult experience for him, but he emerges on the other side a wiser boy, better equipped to experience some of the wider world. One step at a time, perhaps, but he has broader horizons.
In terms of the narrative, I think a very fine balance was achieved to complement the personality of Christopher. The overall cohesiveness of the narrative reflects Christopher’s older and more developed side. He is able to write about a subject with clear ideas and without wandering too far astray. His recollection of events and conversations is remarkable too. There are times, particularly with Christopher is under stress, that his literacy regresses a little. The sentences can become simpler and more childlike in their focus.
One quote from the book has stuck with me because it is completely true: –
Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.
I love Mark Haddon’s portrayal of such a unique character. As a reader, you cannot help but will Christopher on when he is struggling. We take every step of the journey with him and watch him grow into the young man he is due to become. His faultless logic on topics allows us to see things from a completely different and refreshing point of view.
I loved the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time! It is definitely a book I will revisit and read again.
Today’s review of The Beltane Choice is the second blog tour post of the week! The Beltane Choice was the first book I picked up this month, despite not being the first tour date. I was in the mood for historical fiction, so why not? I knew I had plenty of time.
As always, I would like to take the chance to say a huge thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the tour. She has just celebrated her second year of starting up her blog tour business – so congratulations are in order too!
Lorcan of the Brigantes knows that unity of the northern tribes is essential when the Ancient Roman legions advance northwards to Brigantia. Yet, everything comes at a price. Using his captive, Nara, as a political bargain with the Selgovae comes with impossible stipulations. Battle at Whorl – Iron Age tribes against the Romans – is inevitable.
I signed up to the blog tour for The Beltane Choice as a means of exploring a new period of British History. It isn’t something I have studied extensively. Most of my school history lessons revolved around the World Wars, the Cold War and American History. The ‘oldest’ British history I have read to date goes back to the Viking invasion of Britain, which occurs several hundred years after the events of this series. The year is AD71; Nara and Lorcan are brought together by chance on the road, but little do they know they each have a larger part to play in the face of a new threat – Roman invaders.
One of the most significant elements of the book is the relationship that develops between Lorcan and Nara. It’s pivotal to the plot and the wider series, on the whole, so I’m not going to mark it down for that. It wasn’t my favourite aspect, however. It’s in no way a criticism – it’s relevant and appropriate. I am just not a lover of romantic fiction and I would say the novel is as much romantic fiction as it is historical fiction.
I enjoyed the overall development of the story. The goal of uniting small tribes to face the threat posed by the Romans is clear from the start, yet far from an easy task for the characters to accomplish. Lorcan, a messenger and effectively a mediator, must travel to new and dangerous lands. It is on one such trip that he discovers Nara in her plight. He takes her captive and brings her back to his tribe, where he learns her identity and the role she must play to give them a chance at survival.
I like how the chapters are broken down by location in order to help us keep track of what is happening when. The narrative takes place in various locations across modern-day Northern England, as a lot of travel takes place. Some chapters switch perspective and location from Nara to Lorcan, although this isn’t common. As and when it occurs, the transition flows. Each character is quite distinctive from the other and easy to identify so settling into the new perspective is seamless.
The Beltane Choice and the events within have established the wider plotline to be explored in the remainder of the series. I can’t wait to see where events take us in the later books; how will the Selgovae and Garrigill tribes meet the Roman threat? I’m already signed up to take part in the blog tours for the later books as well, so I don’t have too long to wait…
Giveaway to Win x1 signed paperback of The Beltane Choice to one UK winner; X1 kindle copy worldwide
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
Nancy Jardine writes historical fiction; time-travel historical adventure; contemporary mystery thrillers; and romantic comedy. She lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, where life is never quiet or boring since she regularly child minds her young grandchildren who happen to be her next-door neighbours. Her garden is often creatively managed by them, though she does all the work! Her husband is a fantastic purveyor of coffee and tea…excellent food and wine! (Restorative, of course)
A member of the Historical Novel Society; Scottish Association of Writers; Federation of Writers Scotland; Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Independent Alliance of Authors, her work has achieved finalist status in UK competitions.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Ring Fenced everyone! I hope you are as excited as I am for this post. I have not long finished reading this book, and I completed it from start to finish in less than two days. Does that give you an idea of what kind of review this is going to be? It should!
As always, let’s begin by saying a huge thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the tour. Also, thank you to Zach Abrams for a copy of Ring Fenced as well!
Sex. Money. Power. Control. Benjamin wants it all.
He is Bennie, a loving husband and father; Benjie, a beloved son. He climbs the ladder as Ben, a corporate banker, and rakes in money as a bestselling author. And when he wants to escape it all, Benjamin styles himself as Jamie — the lover of a beautiful musician.
His life, in a word, is perfect. But after years of keeping his separate personae a secret, cracks begin to appear in the façade.
When an unexpected series of events topples Benjamin’s carefully crafted world, his separate lives collide with dire consequences.
Ring Fenced is on an Amazon Countdown Promotion – selling at 99c /99p from 11-15 Sept 2019
I started reading Ring Fenced on Saturday and was sucked into the story right away. Benjamin / Ben / Bennie / Benjie / Jamie are all aliases for one man living very different lives simultaneously. He has a penchant for control and has successfully managed to keep each of his lives apart – until now. Extraneous events in each life drag him out of his safely established routine… and that’s where it all starts to go wrong.
Benjamin is not a likeable character. He’s competitive, manipulative and sordid in equal measure. When he is not Benjie, (oppressed by his parents, siblings and the expectations of their religion) or family-man Bennie, a darker side emerges. By night, Benjamin is an erotic writer for a website he helped to build in his early adult years. When the stories aren’t enough he takes on the persona of Jamie to live out his fantasies with other women.
He is a character you love to dislike. I looked forward to watching his life fall apart. It is no less than he deserves.
The writing style and pace of the novel are very easy to slip into. Ring Fenced is really easy to read as a result; it’s one of those books you can either pick up and put down at leisure or lose a lot of time in. At 228 pages, it’s also comparatively shorter than other books I have read recently. That works in its favour though. There is sufficient detail to invest in Ben’s various aliases and lives and explain his choices, without extraneous, irrelevant information that could drag the narrative down.
Ring Fenced is Zach Abrams debut novel, which amazes me! The novel demonstrates all the skill and prowess of a well-crafted, established author. He balances character development and execution of the plot in a way that complements each other brilliantly. After reading Ring Fenced, I would definitely pick up any of a number of novels Zach Abrams has published since.
Author Bio –
Having the background of a successful career in commerce and finance, Zach Abrams has spent many years writing reports, letters and presentations and it’s only fairly recently he started writing novels. “It’s a more honourable type of fiction,” he declares.
Writer of the Alex Warren Murder Mystery series, set in Scotland, Zach has also written the psychological thriller ‘Ring Fenced’ and the financial thriller ‘Source’, as well as collaborating with Elly Grant on a book of short stories.
Zach is currently producing a non-fiction series to help small businesses -using the collective title ‘Mind Your Own Business’. The first, ‘So, You Think You Want to be a Landlord’ is already available.
Today’s review of The Fourth Victim makes my second review post of the week! I have set aside my usual fortnightly Friday posts to take part in the birthday blitz tour. Before I begin in earnest, I’d like to say a massive thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the tour!
Whitechapel is being gentrified. The many green spaces of the area, which typify London as a capital city, give the illusion of tranquility and clean air but are also places to find drug dealers, sexual encounters and murder…
Detective Sergeant Julie Lukula doesn’t dislike Inspector Matthew Merry but he has hardly set the world of the Murder Investigation Team East alight. And, it looks as if the inspector is already putting the death of the young female jogger, found in the park with fatal head injuries, down to a mugging gone wrong. The victim deserves more. However, the inspector isn’t ruling anything out – the evidence will, eventually, lead him to an answer.
The Fourth Victim is a compelling crime thriller set in Whitechapel, London. A murder occurs in broad daylight and as the body count rises, the media coins the unidentified murderer as the Ripper come again. Matthew Merry is tasked with apprehending the killer and preventing another death. Under pressure from increasing police cuts, it’s a race against time before they strike again.
For me, the most interesting character of the book has to be Jenny. A traumatic childhood is attributed to her development of a mental illness called Dissociative Identity Disorder ‘DID’. Her experiences often influence which of her volatile personalities comes to the fore. Her unpredictable nature and her affiliation to the victims make her the lead suspect. As a former psychology student, I really enjoyed the depth of detail about the disorder and the dynamic of the narrative influenced by it.
Jenny is not the only flawed character in the book – even police are not immune to poor judgment. Their imperfections remind you that they are people too; instead of purely fulfilling the role of crime-solvers, their mistakes are a stark reminder that they are people too. They are integral to the story and their respective character arcs give them a real depth of character.
The Fourth Victim is well-paced without compromising on descriptive detail and character development. The number of leads for investigation drives the plot forwards and encourages you to draw your own conclusions – right or wrong. Discovering whether you get it right is all part of the enjoyment!
John was born in the mid-fifties in East London, on part of the largest council estate ever built, and was the first pupil from his local secondary modern school to attend university. He has now taken early retirement to write, having spent the first part of his life working in education and the public sector. He was the director of a college, a senior school inspector for a local authority, and was head of a unit for young people with physical and mental health needs.
He has travelled extensively, from America to Tibet, and he enjoys visiting the theatre, reading and going to the pub. It is, perhaps, no surprise that he is an avid ‘people watcher’ and loves to find out about people, their lives, culture and history. When he is not travelling, going to the theatre or the pub; he writes.
Many of the occurrences recounted and the characters found in his novels are based on real incidents and people he has come across. Although he has allowed himself a wide degree of poetic licence in writing about the main characters, their motivations and the killings that are depicted.
John is currently working on a series of novels set in modern day London. These police procedurals examine the darker side of modern life in the East End of the city.
Hello fellow readers! I hope you are having a good week?
Today I am taking a brief respite from the older reviews in the pipeline. Instead, I am reviewing a book I have read more recently. I am always trying to read more in the way of science fiction, so when I was approached to read and review Kau D’varza I jumped at the chance. If you have been following my blog since the early days then you may recall I read and reviewed Seeker. Seeker is written by David Noë and Laura Loolaid and set in the same universe.
So, a full disclaimer – I have received a copy of Kau D’varza for the purpose of offering an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Now we’ve gotten the boring bit out of the way, shall we get to the important bit?
Even in the vastness of space, trouble finds a way.
When Elise Rivera arrived on Kau D’varza, a distant station near an anomaly known as the Void Cloud, she’d hoped to escape the troubles of her homeworld. Now, the appearance of a mysterious freighter places her new home under threat; a threat that Elise – along with station commissioner Gierre Nevos, his aide Specialist Kaska Stone, and a team led by Commander-Captain Joseph Raffa – must race against time to avert.
Our adventures in Kau D’varza begin with Elise being arrested for hacking into the Kau D’varza network. Passionate about keeping civilians in the know about current affairs of the station, she quickly finds herself in hot water. Despite her infringements, officials of the station see potential in Elise. She is given a job at the station that challenges her to prove her intellect and resourcefulness – skills needed to save the station from an outside threat.
Kau D’varza expands on the already established realms of the ChaosNova Universe. As a much longer novel there is greater opportunity to explore the inner workings of the system. Where Seeker follows the adventures of Jewel, Kau D’varza’s narrative has more extensively developed world history and complex political relations. Together, these make ChaosNova a detailed, comprehensive universe. I really enjoyed the elements of travel throughout, as enough action and dialogue keep the narrative flowing nicely.
With new worlds and advanced technology comes a whole host of new language. It is rare that novels ‘work’ when this element is hurried and/or underdeveloped; it can be intimidating or make the reader lose interest. Kau D’varza even has its own terminology for its technology and the passage of time (although not dissimilar to those we are used to). Despite not being a huge reader of science-fiction I didn’t find myself overwhelmed.
A lot of the novel is written in the form of dialogue, but I didn’t find it lacking in action as a result of that. The dialogue allows us as the reader to get a real feel for the dynamics and relationships between all the characters. As you might expect from a space station on the outskirts of an extensive universe, there is a real sense of community between the residents of Kau D’varza. Elise begins the novel as the outsider; however, she quickly becomes part of the community despite her reservations on the matter.
Kau D’varza is a really enjoyable jaunt into the realms of science fiction. That I don’t read as much of the genre as I do others makes the experience more exciting when I do. It was great to take another trip into the ChaosNova universe and learn more about it. I’d like to say a huge thank you to the author David Noë for inviting me to read and review the book- it was a pleasure to read!