First Line Fridays – 20th November 2020

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by @Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? If you want to make your own post, just follow the rules below:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Here are the first lines of the book I am currently reading:

The mist on the mountain settled low as the damp morning chill turned to drizzling rain. Three figures made their way through the fog and up a narrow mountain pass on horseback. From under the hood of his dew-drenched, coal-grey cloak, each one watched his white breath swirl and rise before it joined the surrounding mist.

Joshua Gillingham

AND THE BOOK IS:

The Gatewatch by Joshua Gillingham

Synopsis:

Torin Ten-Trees and his closest companions, Bryn and Grimsa, set out to join The Gatewatch and become trollhunters. When a troupe of meddling dwarves throws them off course they are captured by trolls and taken as prisoners to a secret gathering deep underground. There they learn that an ancient giant has crowned himself king of the trolls and plans to utterly destroy The Gatewatch. Their perilous journey back to the land of sun and stars will stretch their strength to the limit, strain their wits, and demand an unspeakable sacrifice. But will it be enough to defeat the Troll King?

The Gatewatch is an epic troll-hunting adventure inspired by the Norse Myths and the Icelandic Sagas.

Copied from Goodreads


Buy The Gatewatch here:

www.amazon.com/Gatewatch-Joshua-Gillingham-ebook/dp/B088WHS6KM/

www.amazon.co.uk/Gatewatch-Joshua-Gillingham-ebook/dp/B088WHS6KM/

Add to your To Be Read list here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53184984-the-gatewatch

I love this idea of judging a book by its opening sentence(s) rather than its cover! Watch this space for more of these First Line Fridays.

Follow the author Joshua Gillingham here: @JoshMGillingham


The Blood-Tainted Winter (The Song Of The Ash Tree #1) by T. L. Greylock

Synopsis

Raef Skallagrim wants to take the sea road. His ship is fast and sleek, his crew skilled and eager, and they will seek out new lands and win fame in the eyes of the gods. But Raef’s father refuses to allow the journey and when a stranger brings word that the king is dead and a gathering has been called to choose a successor, Raef must set aside his dream for his duty to his ancestral lands and his father.

When factions split at the gathering to choose a successor, Raef finds himself mired in bloodshed and treachery. Forced to make an uneasy alliance with a man he does not trust, Raef must navigate the tides of a war among three kings while seeking revenge for cold-blooded murder.

But winter has come early to Midgard, and even the gods will feel the cold.

My Review

3.5/5 stars
Read on Kindle

I found this book enjoyable but not one I will return to again and again. It had all the elements which ought to have made it an epic, gripping Norse story: a war with many battles, a contentious selection of a king at a gathering, loyal warriors, shieldmaidens, quests, a mysterious sorceress, half gods, including a strange half god who sees the future, and yet something was missing.

A king dies and a new king is chosen but not everyone believes the right choice was made. War among the local lords breaks out as a result, as they themselves vie to be recognized as the next king.

The main character, Raef Skallagrim collects some new companions during the first few chapters of the narrative, Vakre and the shieldmaidens Eira and Siv. They soon become his closest defenders. I was unable to figure out their motivation for following him, due to a lack of characterisation. Eira, Raef’s love interest is described as having long dark curly hair, being extremely handy in a fight and wild and warm in bed – but that’s pretty much all. We have even less to go on with Siv, apart from her long red gold braid, captivating smile and handiness in a fight. Without any depth of character it’s hard to become invested in these people. I think the story would have been improved if a couple of chapters had switched to their point of view instead of that of Raef, in whose voice the whole book is written.

There was also a lack of detailed description and emotional engagement with Raef’s story at the beginning, it felt like a list of occurrences; this happened then that happened then some people died etc etc, with not enough change of pace during action sequences to make it compelling. It was therefore difficult to become invested in the outcome and my attention kept drifting. This improved as the book went on and the second half was more compelling.

Another mysterious character is the DeepMinded, a kind of sorceress (or is she) who affects Raef’s mind and makes his wrist burn with searing pain every so often. He begins to hear voices in his head when he feels this sensation of warmth in his wrist and it becomes the voice of the Deepminded herself cursing the nine realms, especially Asgard and Odin. During these episodes Raef loses control of his actions and emotions – the first time he experiences this he attacks his friend Vakre thinking him an enemy. Later we discover the Deepminded is not who she seems.

As the story went on I appreciated the map provided at the beginning of the book. Many different territories are referred to and it was useful to be able to refer back to the map.

The author had clearly done their research and was knowledgeable about how a battering ram was wielded, shield walls and plenty of Norse mythology was referred to as well.

The final battle was exciting and a nice way of rounding up the end of the story. An enjoyable story all in all and I will read the other two books in this trilogy.

Buy it here:

www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Tainted-Winter-Song-Tree-Book-ebook/dp/B0166PLKL0

www.amazon.com/Blood-Tainted-Winter-Song-Tree-Book-ebook/dp/B0166PLKL0

Add it to your To Be Read list here:

www.goodreads.com/book/show/25773101-the-blood-tainted-winter

About the author

T L Greylock is the author of THE SONG OF THE ASH TREE trilogy, consisting of THE BLOOD-TAINTED WINTER, THE HILLS OF HOME, and ALREADY COMES DARKNESS.

She can only wink her left eye, jumped out of an airplane at 13,000 feet while strapped to a Navy SEAL, had a dog named Agamemnon and a cat named Odysseus, and has been swimming with stingrays in the Caribbean.

P.S. One of the above statements is false. Can you guess which?

#Norsevember Tag

First of all thank you to @blogspells for organizing and putting so much time and effort into the #Norsevember reading challenge, and to @paperbackbex for tagging me in this fun Book Tag challenge as part of the readathon. The #Norsevember Book Tag was originally set by Faye @Bookchocoholic. Her prompts are really well thought out and had me racking my brains to think of something appropriate to choose for each prompt!

Faye’s video explaining the Tag challenge can be viewed here. Anyone who wants to can take part – you don’t need to be tagged:

Paperbackbex’s choices for the Tag can be found here. Find her on Twitter @paperbackbex Read and follow her blog here:

https://paperbackbex.wordpress.com/2020/11/15/norsevember-tag/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

And these are mine…

1. Longships – a book set at sea

I had trouble thinking of a book I’ve read recently which is set at sea. The first few chapters of The Last Pilgrim by Noelle Granger are set at sea, since it is the story of the Pilgrims who fled religious persecution in England, traveling to America on the Mayflower. The part set at sea is a very small percentage of the total book though.

My review of The Last Pilgrim can be found here: The Last Pilgrim – The Life Of Mary Allerton Cushman by Noelle Granger

However I do have a book on my Kindle, waiting to be read, which fits the ‘set at sea’ bill, so I hope that counts. It sounds interesting, so watch this space for a review – probably in December. It has a lovely atmospheric cover, which we all know is very important in helping decide whether or not to read something, right? I think it was designed by the author’s daughter – bonus points there too! I have reviewed other books by this author here on my blog. Follow him on Twitter: @carlrackman

Reviews for this book can be found here: www.goodreads.com

The North Atlantic, 1940. A British destroyer pounces on a seemingly abandoned U-boat, leading to a spine-chilling encounter.

Five years later, the US Navy destroyer Brownlee grimly prepares to battle a swarm of Japanese kamikazes at Okinawa.

Mitch “Lucky” Kirkham, a young gunner on the Brownlee, wakes up miraculously unscathed after his crewmates are killed in a fearsome kamikaze strike.

Bullied and resented amid accusations of cowardice and worse, Mitch re-boards his patched-up ship for the long voyage back to San Francisco. All he wants is to go home.

But far out in the boundless emptiness of the Pacific, a strange madness begins to seize the sailors on the Brownlee. Terror, hysteria and suicide torment the men amid sightings of ghosts and a terrifying monster that stalks the ship by night.

Mitch stumbles upon a possible explanation for the madness. But as the ship presses on alone, deeper into the vast Pacific Ocean and the grip of insanity, will anyone listen to him before his famous luck runs out for good?

2. Horned Helmets – a book with a lot of metaphor

This was a tricky prompt for me. I often miss metaphors and am amazed when people say things like: ‘You do realize The Matrix was a metaphor for transgender themes, don’t you?’ Well no, I didn’t – for me The Matrix is all about leather trench coats, kick ass acrobatics, a great soundtrack, the colour green and a girl crush on Trinity. Would I have enjoyed it more or less if I’d noticed the metaphor? Probably neither.

A chocolate teapot is a metaphor for a thing which has no use – but, if you ignore the metaphor and take it at face value you can enjoy a cool gift and some yummy chocolate, so surely that makes it useful and the metaphor invalid, and I’m glad I ignored the metaphor and took the gift at face value. (It was very yummy.) Why is she going on about chocolate teapots in a book blog, I hear you ask. Well, maybe it’s a metaphor for the use of too much metaphor. Personally I prefer a spade to be called a spade (and not a chocolate teapot) so I know where I am with things.
Enough nonsense and on with the Tag.

For this prompt I chose Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (The Little Prince).

An aviator, downed in the desert and facing long odds of survival, encounters a strange young person, neither man nor really boy, who, it emerges over time, has travelled from his solitary home on a distant asteroid, where he lives alone with a single rose. The rose has made him so miserable that, in torment, he has taken advantage of a flock of birds to convey him to other planets. He is instructed by a wise if cautious fox, and by a sinister angel of death, the snake.

A lot of people assume this is a kids’ story, but it is actually a metaphor for the effects of war on France and its people.

“Not an allegory of war, rather, a fable of it, in which the central emotions of conflict—isolation, fear, and uncertainty—are alleviated only by intimate speech and love. But the “Petit Prince” is a war story in a very literal sense, too—everything about its making has to do not just with the onset of war but with the “strange defeat” of France, with the experience of Vichy and the Occupation.”

This article explains it way better than I ever could: https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-strange-triumph-of-the-little-prince

3. Spread Eagle – a gruesome book

Any of the GoT books by George R. R. Martin.

I don’t like gruesome – I find it upsetting and unsettling. So I tend not to read it. I did persevere with the GoT books however, long before they were a TV series.

Any of the books in the Game of Thrones series are seriously gruesome – particularly Theon Greyjoy’s story arc. I wasn’t able to continue watching the TV show, having already read the books, when I knew what was going to be coming up next. Just didn’t want those images in my head!! That was a shame really because I loved the world building that went into GoT and a lot of the characters were fantastically well-written. Also … dragons!!!

4. Shield Maidens – a book with badass ladies

For this prompt I chose Northern Wrath, the debut novel by Thilde Hold Koldt, which I loved and I think we can all agree it has a gorgeous cover. Find her on Twitter here: @koldholdt

The characters of Siv, Hilda and Tyra are totally badass! When their village in Jutland is attacked by southern Christians while all the warriors are away at sea, these three women are the sole survivors of a fierce battle and their characters go from strength to strength as the story unfolds.

Read my full review here: Northern Wrath (Part One of The Hanged God Trilogy) by Thilde Kold Holdt

Following in the steps of Neil Gaiman & Joanne Harris, the author expertly weaves Norse myths and compelling characters into this fierce, magical epic fantasy.

A dead man, walking between the worlds, foresees the end of the gods.

A survivor searching for a weapon releases a demon from fiery Muspelheim.

A village is slaughtered by Christians, and revenge must be taken.

The bonds between the gods and Midgard are weakening. It is up to Hilda, Ragnar, their tribesmen Einer and Finn, the chief’s wife Siv and Tyra, her adopted daughter, to fight to save the old ways from dying out, and to save their gods in the process.

5. The Halls of Valhalla – a book about death

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is my choice for a book about death. It isn’t actually about death per se, but takes place mostly after the main character has died, while she comes to terms with herself before moving on.

I have read a fair amount of YA fiction and this book falls into that genre. I read it quite a few years ago, because it is by the same author as my favourite YA trilogy – Delirium, so I was interested to read something else by her. It was enjoyable but I didn’t love it and wouldn’t recommend it to adults. I would recommend it to teenagers though, to help them see that their words and actions have consequences and effects on the people around them.

The story follows a particularly self-obsessed American teenage girl who has no perception of the consequences of her actions. She dies in a car accident following a party, but is somehow able to relive the last day of her life seven times, each time becoming slightly more aware of how mean she is and gradually changing her personality as she gains some perspective on her actions and their effects.

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power i than she ever imagined.

6. Odin – a book with gods at its center

I chose The Testament of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

This is the sequel to The Gospel of Loki, which I have not read. Set in the present day, Loki is the narrator. Long after Ragnarök and after hundreds of years languishing in the Black Fortress of Netherworld, Loki escapes via the World of Dream & finds himself in a video game, able to possess a 17 year old female gamer & enter the present world of pizza, phones & Facebook. It seemed more YA than adult, and the author has said she prefers the reader to decide which genre her books belong to. My full review can be read here.

The end of the world—also known as Ragnarok to the Norse gods—has occurred, and Loki has been trapped in a seemingly endless purgatory, in torture, until he finds a way to escape. It seems that he still exists in the minds of humanity and uses that as a way to our time. 

Back in the ninth world (Earth), Loki finds himself sharing the mind of a teenage girl named Jumps, who is a bit of a mess. She’s also not happy about Loki sneaking his way into her mind since she was originally calling on Thor. Worse, her friends have also been co-opted by the gods: Odin, Jump’s one-eyed best friend in a wheelchair, and Freya, the pretty one. Thor escapes the netherworld as well and shares the mind of a dog, and he finds that it suits him. 

Odin has a plan to bring back the Norse gods ascendancy, but Loki has his own ideas on how things can go—and nothing goes according to plan.

7. The nine realms – a book set in another world

My immediate reaction was LoTR. But then I thought about Terry Pratchett’s Discworld because who doesn’t like the idea of a flat world being balanced on the backs of four elephants which in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle. I am specifically choosing the book “Guards, Guards!” due to the latest illustrated version being due out on November 20th in the UK, but which doesn’t seem to be available here in the US (and because… a dragon!). It has a beautiful cover and I am reliably informed by @RewanTremethick that he also got a free advent calendar featuring the Librarian with his copy. If you just want the advent calendar it is available in the shop at http://www.discworld.com along with loads of cool badges, key rings, fridge magnets and book marks. Exit via the gift shop, please…

Long believed extinct, a superb specimen of draco nobilis (“noble dragon” for those who don’t understand italics) has appeared in Discworld’s greatest city. Not only does this unwelcome visitor have a nasty habit of charbroiling everything in its path, in rather short order it is crowned King (it is a noble dragon, after all…). How did it get there? How is the Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night involved? Can the Ankh-Morpork City Watch restore order – and the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork to power?

Magic, mayhem, and a marauding dragon…who could ask for anything more?

8. Mitgard – a book set in our world

Hope and Wasteland by Terry Tyler are set in the UK in the not too distant future. 2028 and 2061 respectively. They are both gripping dystopian novels, set in a world ruled by a single megacorporation with politicians in its thrall.

Hope

New PM Guy Morrissey and his fitness guru wife Mona (hashtag MoMo) are hailed as the motivational couple to get the UK #FitForWork, with Mona promising to ‘change the BMI of the nation’.

Lita Stone is an influential blogger and social media addict, who watches as Guy and Mona’s policies become increasingly ruthless. Unemployment and homelessness are out of control. The solution? Vast new compounds all over the country, to house those who can no longer afford to keep a roof over their heads.

These are the Hope Villages, financed by US corporation Nutricorp.

Wasteland

The year is 2061, and in the new UK megacities, the government watches every move you make. Speech is no longer free—an ‘offensive’ word reaching the wrong ear means a social demerit and a hefty fine. One too many demerits? Job loss and eviction, with free transport to your nearest community for the homeless: the Hope Villages.

My full reviews of Hope and Wasteland can be found here.

9. Loki – a book that deceived you

For this I chose Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This is a murder mystery set in a fishing village in 1960s North Carolina. I was deceived into believing I knew both who the murderer was, and the character of the main protagonist, Kya, right up until the end when there is a cunning twist to the story that was definitely worthy of Loki himself!

My full review can be read on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com

In Where the Crawdads Sing, Owens juxtaposes an exquisite ode to the natural world against a profound coming of age story and haunting mystery. Thought-provoking, wise, and deeply moving, Owens’s debut novel reminds us that we are forever shaped by the child within us, while also subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

The story asks how isolation influences the behavior of a young woman, who like all of us, has the genetic propensity to belong to a group. The clues to the mystery are brushed into the lush habitat and natural histories of its wild creatures.

10. The frozen north – a book with a cold setting

For this one I chose Storytellers by Björn Larssen. Set in Iceland in 1920 an injured traveller takes up residence in Gunnar the blacksmith’s home while he recuperates, in return for his telling Gunnar an entertaining story. The cold climate of Iceland can almost be felt throughout the story, as can the lack of emotional warmth in Gunnar’s life.

Would you murder your brothers to keep them from telling the truth about themselves?

On a long, cold Icelandic night in March 1920, Gunnar, a hermit blacksmith, finds himself with an unwanted lodger – Sigurd, an injured stranger who offers a story from the past. But some stories, even those of an old man who can barely walk, are too dangerous to hear. They alter the listeners’ lives forever… by ending them.

Others are keen on changing Gunnar’s life as well. Depending on who gets to tell his story, it might lead towards an unwanted marriage, an intervention, rejoining the Church, letting the elf drive him insane, or succumbing to the demons in his mind. Will he manage to write his own last chapter?

Read my full review of Storytellers here.

Now to tag some other bloggers in the hope they will take on the challenge.
Go ahead and check out their fantastic blogs:

WeHaeBooks @BooksHae https://wehaebooks.wordpress.com/
Cassidee (omnilegent_antr) @sassidee https://sassideeee.blog/
Jordan @J_A_Duncan of Coffee Book and Candle @bookish_witches https://www.coffeebookandcandle.com/
Fantasy Book Nerd @fantasybooknerd www.fantasybooknerd.com/

Read my other Book Reviews here.

Asgard Stories – Tales from Norse Mythology by Mabel H. Cummings and Mary H. Foster

Synopsis

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work. This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work. As a reproduction of a historical artifact, this work may contain missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. We appreciate your support of the preservation process, and thank you for being an important part of keeping this knowledge alive and relevant.

My Review

Read on Kindle

This is a book written In Victorian times for children and teachers, aimed at introducing the Norse myths to school children. It covers 14 of the more well-known myths in a very simplistic and matter-of-fact manner, with no passion or imagination to be found anywhere. The lack of descriptive detail is a shame and I would only recommend this book to people who need a quick introduction to Norse Myths for a project, since it is a fairly quick read (around two hours with interruptions) rather than for entertainment purposes. The print version may be better (I read it on Kindle) as I think there are illustrations and without those and with such a dry writing style it was tough for me to make it through to Ragnarök at the end. I decided not to give this book a star rating since I am not the target audience. It served its purpose for me as a basic introduction to Norse gods and myths before the #Norsevember reading challenge began.

Buy it here:

https://www.amazon.com/Asgard-Stories-Tales-Norse-Mythology-ebook/dp/B005UFVJFA/

Add it to you To Be Read list here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12899857-asgard-stories

The Testament of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

Synopsis

In the sequel to The Gospel of Loki, Loki’s adventures continue when he finds a way out of the end of the world and plans to restart the power of the Norse gods.

The end of the world—also known as Ragnarok to the Norse gods—has occurred, and Loki has been trapped in a seemingly endless purgatory, in torture, until he finds a way to escape. It seems that he still exists in the minds of humanity and uses that as a way to our time. 

Back in the ninth world (Earth), Loki finds himself sharing the mind of a teenage girl named Jumps, who is a bit of a mess. She’s also not happy about Loki sneaking his way into her mind since she was originally calling on Thor. Worse, her friends have also been co-opted by the gods: Odin, Jump’s one-eyed best friend in a wheelchair, and Freya, the pretty one. Thor escapes the netherworld as well and shares the mind of a dog, and he finds that it suits him. 

Odin has a plan to bring back the Norse gods ascendancy, but Loki has his own ideas on how things can go—and nothing goes according to plan.

My Review

I read a paperback
4/5 stars

The Testament of Loki is the second book in a series, following on from The Gospel of Loki. I was expecting this book to be adult fiction but I found that it reads much more like YA. The language and themes are very teen-oriented, the character, Jumps, cuts her arms as a cry for help, she has been fat-shamed in middle school, feels shameful about her attraction to members of her own sex and hates being the center of attention. The host characters, Jumps, Evan and Stella are in the midst of high school exams at the time of their possession by three of the Norse gods. In fact, the author states on her website, in an interview about the prequel, The Gospel of Loki, that she would prefer to let the reader decide whether her books are adult or YA in genre: http://www.joanne-harris.co.uk/books/the-gospel-of-loki/

The setting of this story is also teen-oriented. It takes place long after Ragnarök, the doom of the Norse gods, and Loki, the narrator, who has been languishing in a cell inside the Black Fortress of Netherworld for centuries, suddenly finds himself inside an RPG video game called AsgardTM, which he managed to access via the world of Dream. He is then somehow able to possess the body of the player, a seventeen year old girl called Jumps. On visiting her friend, Evan he discovers that Odin the Alfather is inhabiting Evan’s body and encourages Loki to play AsgardTM against Thor in order to pull the Thunderer out into the same world. Loki is quick to realize Odin wants to replace him inside Jumps’ human form with Thor and instead manages to throw Thor into the body of Evan’s cute pet dog, Sprinkles. Together they aim to try and find a way to reclaim their power as corporeal gods once more, by reviving Odin’s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir and traveling through the world of Dream searching for the head of Mimir, the oracle, which Loki threw from the parapet of Asgard at the end of Ragnarök.

Working against them is Loki’s ex, the demon Gulveig-Heid who is in control of the body of Stella, a vacuous, self-obsessed mean girl who is also on a mission to find the head of the oracle, her father, in order to hear his prophesies on how they can regain their former power.

This is a quirky, amusing story, with a lot of the humour coming from Loki discovering items from present day, such as pizza and trying to figure out how to use modern devices like phones and “The Book of Faces”, which he uses to figure out the identity of the people known by his host.

The Testament of Loki was fairly short for a novel, at 258 pages in the edition I read and very easy to read, apart from the first two chapters, before Loki finds himself in the video game. These were a little harder going and in a different style to the rest of the book. They might put off some teen readers from reading the remainder of the story, which is a shame as I found the book on the whole to be an unusual, enjoyable and definitely irreverent adventure involving the Trickster at his snarkiest and most entertaining.

The Testament of Loki will be more appealing to fans of pop culture and lighter reads – definitely not for those who prefer the more traditional style of epic Norse myths.

Buy it Here:

https://www.amazon.com/Testament-Loki-Joanne-M-Harris-ebook/dp/B075RQSH5X

Add it to your To Be Read list here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36373610-the-testament-of-loki

About the Author

Joanne Harris is the internationally best-selling author of eighteen novels, plus novellas, scripts, short stories, libretti, lyrics, articles, and most recently, a self-help book for writers, TEN THINGS ABOUT WRITING. In 2000, her 1999 novel CHOCOLAT was adapted to the screen, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. She is an honorary Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and in 2013, was awarded an MBE by the Queen.
Her hobbies are listed in Who’s Who as ‘mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion of the system’. She is active on YouTube, where she posts short seminars for writers, and on Twitter, where she writes stories and gives writing tips as @joannechocolat. She also performs in a live music and storytelling show with the #Storytime Band, and works from a shed in her garden at her home in Yorkshire.
She also has a form of synaesthesia which enables her to smell colours. Red, she says, smells of chocolate.

Wasteland by Terry Tyler

Synopsis

‘Those who escape ‘the system’ are left to survive outside society. The fortunate find places in off-grid communities; the others disappear into the wasteland.’

The year is 2061, and in the new UK megacities, the government watches every move you make. Speech is no longer free—an ‘offensive’ word reaching the wrong ear means a social demerit and a hefty fine. One too many demerits? Job loss and eviction, with free transport to your nearest community for the homeless: the Hope Villages.

Rae Farrer is a megacity girl through and through, proud of her educational and career achievements, until a shocking discovery about her birth forces her to question every aspect of life in UK Megacity 12.

On the other side of the supposedly safe megacity walls, a few wastelanders suspect that their freedom cannot last forever…

Wasteland is the stand-alone sequel to Hope, and is the second and final book in the Operation Galton series. 

My Review

Read on Kindle
5/5 stars

In Terry Tyler’s version of 2061 people are living in government-controlled comfortable Megacities and less comfortable Hope villages, where putting a foot wrong can result in disaster and worse. Hope villages were introduced in the previous installment of the ‘Operation Galton’ series, ‘Hope’, but over the intervening years they have become even more dangerous, desolate places. A small percentage of the free-thinking population has escaped to the Wasteland, where they live outside of society and are known as ‘rats’.

The concept of the ‘Wasteland’ immediately reminded me of ‘The Wilds’ in the YA ‘Delirium’ trilogy by Lauren Oliver which I read about a decade ago and absolutely loved. Having said that, the books themselves are quite different. Wasteland is not a YA novel and although both are dystopian, the world of ‘Operation Galton’ feels more sinister, probably because it is not very far removed from where our present day society is heading. Our lives are more and more controlled by smartphones tracking our sleep, steps taken, screen use and conversations, offering us intrusive targeted advertising which demands our attention every waking second, much like the ‘com’ devices in Wasteland.

The powers that be have decided it’s time to clean up the Wasteland and plan to use its inhabitants in their macabre human experiments. This is happening in the background as we follow Rae’s journey from typical Megacity inhabitant to enlightened escapee, as she searches the Wasteland for the family she was separated from at the tender age of two.

The story begins at a relatively slow pace, as we are introduced to new characters, then half way through the book, the pace picks up quite dramatically and it becomes a gripping thrill-ride with unexpected twists along the way. Wasteland is an exciting page-turner and I was rooting for Rae and the people she encounters in the Wasteland all the way. It was easy to visualise the action sequences and I can imagine this story being made into a blockbuster movie.

This dystopian story left me feeling unsettled, with a lot to think about and the intriguing parting shot about Ace’s background leaves the way open for further stories from Rae’s world which I would love to see sometime.  Although it is the second book in the Operation Galton series, Wasteland works equally well as a standalone read.

Recommended for fans of stories set in dystopian societies and thrilling fox vs. hounds style hunts!

Buy it here:

https://www.amazon.com/Wasteland-Operation-Galton-Book-2-ebook/dp/B087JZ2DT5

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wasteland-Operation-Galton-Book-2-ebook/dp/B087JZ2DT5

Add it to your To Be Read list here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53245445

About the Author

I am self-published and proud to be so, and have twenty-two books on Amazon. My latest release is The Visitor, a post-apocalyptic murder mystery set in the same world as my Project Renova series, but a separate story, with new characters.

I am currently at work on Megacity, the third and final book in the dystopian Operation Galton series, and the follow up Wasteland and Hope.

I’m a Walking Dead addict; I love watching great TV series, and reading anything to do with history, post apocalypse, dystopian scenarios, anthropology, mountaineering and polar exploration.

Favourite writers: Gemma Lawrence, Kate Mary, Blake Crouch, Deborah Swift, Carol Hedges, Douglas Kennedy, John Boyne, Deborah Moggach, Judith Arnopp, Mark Barry, Jon Krakauer, Phillipa Gregory, Robert Leigh, John Privilege, Dylan Morgan, Kate Atkinson, Norah Lofts, Dorothy Parker, Bill Bryson, PJ O’Rourke, Ann Swinfen, Keith Blackmore, Frank Tayell.

Find Terry Tyler here: http://terrytyler59.blogspot.com/

Northern Wrath (Part One of The Hanged God Trilogy) by Thilde Kold Holdt

50891086

Synopsis

Following in the steps of Neil Gaiman & Joanne Harris, the author expertly weaves Norse myths and compelling characters into this fierce, magical epic fantasy.

A dead man, walking between the worlds, foresees the end of the gods.

A survivor searching for a weapon releases a demon from fiery Muspelheim.

A village is slaughtered by Christians, and revenge must be taken.

The bonds between the gods and Midgard are weakening. It is up to Hilda, Ragnar, their tribesmen Einer and Finn, the chief’s wife Siv and Tyra, her adopted daughter, to fight to save the old ways from dying out, and to save their gods in the process.

My Review

I read a paperback copy
5/5 stars

This Norse legend inspired debut novel from Thilde Kold Holdt is set mostly in Midgard, in the Northern lands of Jutland.

There are a multitude of main characters, with each chapter switching to the point of view of one of them.

Hilda’s father dies at the beginning of the story, when we are still getting to know the characters and over several chapters interwoven throughout the main story we follow his journey through the Darkness towards Helheim.

The main story arc begins with a surprise attack from the Christians of the south on the northern village of Ash-Hill , a catalyst for a number of events concerning Hilda, Tyra and Siv – sole survivors of the battle and true heroes in every sense of the word. Tyra and Siv are together, but are unaware of Hilda’s survival as she follows her own quest, led by the voices of the wind, the Runes.

The warriors were away raiding during the battle and return to find everyone dead, with the village burned and destroyed. They decide to wreak revenge on the southerners and try to collect supporters for their cause, but find many of their expected allies have turned against them.

The quality of writing is really striking for a debut novel, with exciting battles and interesting, well described characters, including giants, gods and dwarfs. Each of the main characters has a gripping story arc and the chapters are relatively short, which keeps you reading. I found the wonderful, strong female characters of Siv and Hilda the most intriguing and impressive. I loved the strong feminist elements running through this story: ‘“How did you survive?” Svend asks young Tyra. “I fought next to the bravest person on the battlefield.” “And he saved you?.” She didn’t correct him and tell him – that it was a she, Siv, who had saved her, not a he.’

The wealth of the author’s Norse knowledge is clear from the beginning. I have learnt much about Filjurs, runes, Norse battle tactics and a little mythology from this enjoyable story.

Thilde Kold Holdt is definitely someone to watch, and I am looking forward to the second and third parts of “The Hanged God Trilogy”. Recommended for fans of Norse myths, exciting storytelling and likeable characters with intertwined destinies. The story of the people of Ash-Hill will be enjoyable to anyone who likes a good escapist fantasy, populated with plenty of heroes, battles, moments of poignancy and compelling characterisation. I can’t wait to read the sequel, “Shackled Fates”.

Buy it here:

http://www.amazon.com/Northern-Wrath-Hanged-God-Book-ebook/dp/B08FTHFP27

Add it to your To Be Read list here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50891086-northern-wrath

About The Author

Thilde Kold Holdt

I am a writer of fantasy novels. My first series, the Hanged God Trilogy, centres around Vikings and the Old Norse gods. I’m represented by Jamie Cowen at the Ampersand Agency.

I am a novelist by profession, currently working an epic fantasy series about 7th century Korea. My epic fantasy trilogy about Vikings, the Hanged God, is currently being published. I have lived enough different places that the most difficult question to answer is: “where are you from?” I am, quite simply, from the planet Earth, for I have yet to set foot on Mars. Someday, though…

Contact Thilde Kold Holdt here:

Website: https://www.thildekoldholdt.com/
Twitter: @KoldHoldt


Children – The Ten Worlds Book 1 by Bjørn Larssen

Description:

You’re the chosen one – a child of Gods. It’s a curse.
Magni never wanted to be like his father, a murderous, absent, cheating alcoholic: Thor – the feared and beloved God of thunder. When Thor destroys everything and everyone his son knows and loves, Magni vows to stop the violence. His dream is to bring peace and prosperity to the Nine Worlds, then settle down with the man he loves. But is it possible to remain good in a place this bad? How do you escape cruelty in a universe built on it, or the shadow of your father when everyone calls you by his name?

Maya knows she’s a failure and a disappointment to her foster-parents. How could a child raised by Freya and Freyr – Goddess of love and God of sex – have no interest in the greatest of pleasures? Obviously, it couldn’t be the torture they subjected her to, or treating her as a tool that might someday be useful. Maya, her rage at their games more powerful than she knows, wants freedom to pursue her own destiny. But how do you forge your own life away from your God-parents when you’re nothing more than human?

A retelling of the Norse myths unlike any other, Children will answer all the questions you never knew you had about the heathen Nine Worlds… before leading you into the Tenth.

“A haunting, brutal, and emotional coming of age story, steeped in Norse mythology and written in spare but lyrical prose, Children is a book that demands to be felt rather than read. Its hard-hitting story and dark humor combine to make this a grim book with lots of heart, a book that will stick with me for a long time.” – Angela Boord, author of Fortune’s Fool

“Faced with gods who are interested only in their own goals, happy to use their own children to further their ambition in the face of a foretold end, Children can be read as allegory or fantasy. Drawing on established Norse myths but adding a unique interpretation, Larssen’s tale made me wince with witnessed pain, and cry, and, once or twice, snort with laughter. His evocative prose will linger in my mind for a long time. Not a book easily forgotten.” – Marian L Thorpe, author of Empire’s Daughter

Note:

British English conventions, spelling, and grammar were used in this book.

The book includes strong language, depictions of sexual, physical, and emotional violence, and is only suitable for adult audiences. For full list of triggers, which may contain spoilers, see: https://www.bjornlarssen.com/children-tw

My Review

I read a Kindle version of this book
4/5 stars

Children is a dark Norse inspired fantasy told from the points of view of two very different children of the Norse Gods, Maya, sharp-witted sorceress, shape-shifting daughter of the goddess Freya; and Magni, slower-witted son of Thor, who looks just like his father but wishes people would stop confusing him with his Dad. They may be different but their damaged personalities share much in terms of the torture and abuse they suffer at the hands of their family and friends and they are both emotionally and psychologically damaged as a result.

Their stories are not for the faint hearted and there are instances of difficult subject matter which could be triggering for certain readers. There is no gratuitous detail, however, which I appreciated, not being a fan of horror stories – which, if written by another author, these stories could easily have become. Larssen’s absorbing description of Magni’s fruit addiction reminded me of certain sequences in the movie Trainspotting and I kept hearing the soundtrack playing in my head as I read those parts. https://youtu.be/4MAzQcEdK2k

As with his previous book, ‘Storytellers’, in ‘Children’ this author tells a story in which the parts he doesn’t explicitly describe are equally as important as those he does. Time should therefore be taken to read his books carefully and concentrate on what is only being hinted at by the characters, as well as the things they do say, or you will definitely miss something. This is not a lightweight beach read by any means, but well worth the investment of time it takes to give it justice.

It can be difficult for authors to come across as believable when writing from another gender’s perspective and there are often some cringeworthy moments when female characters written by men come over too feminine or flowery and I am sure the equivalent is also true for men reading male characters written by women. This is not the case with Larssen, however. His characters are gritty and full of flaws and insecurities, yet with many positive attributes as well. Magni and Maya are completely different in personality and both totally believable. Larssen has managed to include humour in what could otherwise have been a very dark story. Sometimes this humour is at the expense of slow-witted Magni, for example his imaginative naming of the horse which Maya shifts into:
“Horse…y,” I said, feeling a bit faint again. “That’s right. My horse, Horsey…”

I would recommend “Children” to anyone who enjoys in depth character development, without skating over psychological trauma and of course mythology and the familiar stories about the Norse Gods. I am looking forward to reading the next episodes in this series.

Buy it here:


https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B08JVF…

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08JVFSZZX

Add it to your To Be Read list here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55586820-children

About the author:

Bjørn Larssen is a Norse heathen made in Poland, but mostly located in a Dutch suburb, except for his heart which he lost in Iceland. Born in 1977, he self-published his first graphic novel at the age of seven in a limited edition of one, following this achievement several decades later with his first book containing multiple sentences and winning awards he didn’t design himself. His writing is described as ‘dark’ and ‘literary’, but he remains incapable of taking anything seriously for more than 60 seconds.

Bjørn has a degree in mathematics and has worked as a graphic designer, a model, a bartender, and a blacksmith (not all at the same time). His hobbies include sitting by open fires, dressing like an extra from Vikings, installing operating systems, and dreaming about living in a log cabin in the north of Iceland. He owns one (1) husband and is owned by one (1) neighbourhood cat.

Find Bjørn Larssen here:

Sentinel (Voyager Book 2) by Carl Rackman

Synopsis

The Voyager story continues…

Four years have passed since Voyager One sent back chilling photos of a spaceship from deep in interstellar space.

A shocked world prepared to meet the Visitors, but terrorism, pandemics, and global political turmoil have now consumed it. Discredited as a hoax, the Visitors have faded from public attention.

But the powerful global conspiracy known as the Triumvirate is behind much of the chaos. Creating a screen of subterfuge and misdirection, they prepare a clandestine welcome for the Visitors, whose origins may be more sinister than the aliens of popular fiction.

Standing in their way are the few brave men and women who foiled the Triumvirate’s last attempt to upset the world’s fragile balance of power:

Former FBI agent Brad Barnes leads Sentinel, a private intelligence and counter-terrorism operation founded in the wake of the Triumvirate’s last deadly plot.

Alex Ephraim – the former Triumvirate assassin known as Mirage – is Sentinel’s major weapon against terror.

Matt Ramprakash, former airline pilot and now an officer of the British intelligence agency MI5, is embroiled in a deadly standoff when an airliner is hijacked.

Callie Woolf, once the project manager of the Voyager mission, struggles against the sceptical government’s bureaucracy to continue the search for the elusive Visitors as her time and funding runs out.

Sentinel is the only organisation capable of taking the fight to the Triumvirate’s door – flexible, unorthodox well-funded and free of government red tape.

But as they pursue the Triumvirate from the streets of London to the wild, deadly wastes of Antarctica, Brad will need Matt and Callie’s help to stop the Triumvirate, which has its own plans for putting Sentinel – and especially Alex – out of the picture for good…

Sentinel is the pulse-pounding second instalment in the Voyager trilogy by Carl Rackman

My Review

I read a Kindle version
5/5 stars

Sometimes sequels can be less exciting or well thought out than the original book, becoming a repository for ideas that were not quite good enough to make it into the first book. With Sentinel this is not the case at all. Voyager readers became used to a fast paced style with plenty of intrigue and excitement and Sentinel does not disappoint on this front. The action begins in England with Matt Ramprakash, the pilot/spy from Voyager now working full time for MI5, the UK’s domestic counter intelligence and security agency, taking control of a terrorist orchestrated airplane hijack.

Since we already know most of the characters from Voyager, the author is able to flesh out their personalities and relationships with more detail in the sequel and we feel like we are getting to know and like them more.

Mirage, the genetically enhanced, stone cold ice queen from Voyager is back and has become something of a superhero. Owing to her origin story, I couldn’t help imagining her as an enhanced version of Black Widow from the Marvel universe. She is gunning for the leader of the shady Triumvirate organization for her own personal reasons and we are behind her all the way.

Matt and Callie, the Voyager team project manager, are now married and soon both find themselves working with Brad Barnes within the private security organization known as Sentinel.

The narrative has plenty of action-filled sequences which keep you gripped to the story. They are related with such descriptive imagery that it is easy to imagine this story being made into a blockbuster action movie.

The theme of possible extra terrestrial life coming to Earth becomes more of a focus during this book. By the end of the story the action has moved to the deadly frozen wastes of Antarctica and the final showdown between the Triumvirate and the Sentinel operatives takes place against a background of the arrival of the mysterious Visitors.

I am giving this 5 stars, as opposed to the 4 star rating I gave Voyager, due to the increased amount of exciting action and decrease in character relationship development which I found distracted from the Voyager narrative. I believe it will be enjoyed by all fans of Sci-Fi and spy thriller genres alike.

Buy it here:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08JCMBW2B

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08JCMBW2B

Add it to your To Be Read list here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55381867

About the author:

Hi! I’m Carl Rackman, a British former airline pilot turned author. I spent my working life travelling the world and this has given me a keen interest in other people and cultures. I’ve drawn on my many experiences for my writing.

I write suspense thrillers with a grounded science-fiction theme. I like reading novels that feature atmospheric locales and I enjoy complex, absorbing storylines combined with rich, believable characters, so that’s the sort of fiction I write. I try to create immersive worlds for the reader to explore, and characters who are more than just vehicles for the story.

I come from a naval military background and have held a lifelong interest in military history and seafaring – all my books usually contain some of these elements!

Voyager by Carl Rackman

Synopsis

Voyager One is the remotest human object in existence, hurtling through the void of outer space more than twelve billion miles away.

It should be all alone.

Callie Woolf, Project Manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is stunned when the tiny probe unexpectedly downloads a series of highly disturbing images. Within 24 hours she is running for her life.

FBI Agent Brad Barnes is assigned to the case and unwittingly stumbles into a conspiracy which threatens to bring the United States to its knees. Unable to tell friend from foe, Brad and Callie must play a deadly cat-and-mouse game with the conspirators’ shadowy agents as they confront the unthinkable – that mankind may not be alone in the Universe.

Voyager is an intelligent, modern-day conspiracy thriller by Carl Rackman, author of Irex.

My Review

I read it on the Kindle
4/5 stars

Voyager begins as a science fiction thriller with believable characters set in recent, real world situations. These scenarios may be unfamiliar to the majority of readers, but due to the author’s careful descriptions and explanations it is not difficult to visualize the locations and imagine the relationships being depicted.

The NASA Voyager team receives images from deep space which could be considered evidence of extra terrestrial life – if they are real. The Voyager team and its project manager, Callie Woolf, quickly decide that the photos must be a hoax, sent from Earth and bounced back from Voyager. Soon after the photos are downloaded, Callie finds herself in mortal danger and has to go on the run to preserve her life.

At this point the intriguing prospect of possible alien life is lost for a while as the characters are developed and the story becomes more of a gripping spy thriller.

A copy of the photos taken from the lab by Callie is sent to England and then secretly returned to the US by way of pilot/secret agent Matt Ramprakash. Matt ends up in the custody of FBI agents Bradley Barnes and Diane Breecker. Following a thrilling rescue he finds himself in the same safe house where Callie Woolf has been placed and immediately the two appear to fall in love. This incongruous love story did not ring true for me and felt like an unnecessary addition to the main story.

Bradley Barnes is the other main character. A brave and likeable FBI agent who at first appears emotionally stunted by past tragedy and yet distracted by the beauty of the superhuman agent Diane Breecker. Callie has been analyzing Voyager’s photos and Brad is assigned to discover their origins. Could there actually be aliens en route to Earth or is it all a conspiracy?

The plot is developed carefully and at an exciting pace that still makes it easy to follow everything that is happening. I would have liked more emphasis on the investigation into the possibility of extraterrestrial life rather than the character relationships. Having said that, the story is gripping, with plenty of exciting chases, fights and an attempt on the life of the President of the USA thrown in. It was very well written and I eagerly await the sequel.

Buy it Here:

http://www.amazon.com/Voyager-Carl-Rackman-ebook/dp/B06XVZC3K5

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Voyager-Carl-Rackman-ebook/dp/B06XVZC3K5

Add it to your To Be Read list here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34813574

About the author

Hi! I’m Carl Rackman, a British former airline pilot turned author. I spent my working life travelling the world and this has given me a keen interest in other people and cultures. I’ve drawn on my many experiences for my writing.

I write suspense thrillers with a grounded science-fiction theme. I like reading novels that feature atmospheric locales and I enjoy complex, absorbing storylines combined with rich, believable characters, so that’s the sort of fiction I write. I try to create immersive worlds for the reader to explore, and characters who are more than just vehicles for the story.

I come from a naval military background and have held a lifelong interest in military history and seafaring – all my books usually contain some of these elements!

Find Carl Rackman here:

Website: http://www.carlrackman.com

Twitter: @CarlRackman

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