Well no one told Jules it would mean eating puffins, getting shouted at by waiters, falling off a husky sled, and crash-landing in Iran.
Come along for the ride in a series of hilarious, heartfelt travel memoirs that lift the lid on a travel writer’s life.
I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review – thank you Jules!
Don’t Eat the Puffin is a wholesome and witty collection of travel anecdotes taking us from Ghana, where Jules (or should I say Thursday) was born, through Huddersfield where he lived as a child and off via Europe to a scary, unexpected plane landing in Iran, and on to USA, Canada and China, finally ending up in New Zealand. Many surprising details are included – I didn’t know you could see seals in Norfolk in such abundance and will definitely file that away under “things to do once travel ban is lifted and I can get back to England”. I did know that Loch Ness is mostly disappointing and that there are many better locations to visit in Scotland.
I enjoyed the description of Jules’ touristy trip to Boston, MA. I live in the suburbs and can attest to many occasions of hearing shouts of “The British are Coming!” whenever anyone local overhears our accents. I also enjoyed the handy guide to being pulled around Canada at ground level by huskies. Keep your mouth closed – I wonder why that might be? 💩😱🤢. This chapter had me giggling and having to explain why to my perplexed family members.
The thought of traveling by wire over a river in New Zealand to get to the hotel had my mouth hanging open in awe!:
“…a bit of old wire strung between two poles, from which dangles a rudimentary cage with a bench – one that swings in the wind high above a churning river. You bang a gong to attract someone’s attention, and over comes the contraption which has bicycle pedals set into the floor, “for when the power fails.” You climb in – there’s just room for two – and away you go, swaying gently and resisting the temptation to yell profanities into the two-way radio provided for emergencies.”
Captain Cook’s story was interesting – my mother-in-law lives near Great Ayton and we often visit Whitby when staying with her in Guisborough.
As a result of reading this book I have added a fair few places to my “would like to visit” list and a couple to my “would like to eat here” list and even some to my “don’t bother going here” list. Maybe you will too! If you want to find out whether or not Jules ate the puffin, you will have to buy this book!
I’ve been a pro travel writer for over 30 years, writing Rough Guides and other stuff, and living in places from Sicily to New Zealand. You might even have had one of my guidebooks along for the ride in your travel bag – in which case, happy to have helped!
Guidebooks are great – they’ve kept me in work for a while! – but I’ve realised that all my travels over the years have been a search for something else. That’s partly what’s behind my latest book – ‘Takoradi to the stars (via Huddersfield)’, which I’ve billed as ‘travels from heart and home’. If that sounds like the sort of thing you’d like to read, then we’re going to get along just fine.
I also blog at www.julestoldme.com, sharing travel stories, travel-writing tips, videos and inspiring destinations – see you there, and happy travels.
In this Pick-Your-Own-Path Experience, you can help Zoth-Avarex the dragon escape from his demi-god master and accumulate the biggest hoard the multiverse has ever seen. Along this path, you will need to guide him past dangers such as a kraken, anthropomorphic sandwiches, love, friendship, and Tom Bombadil.
With eight possible endings, this idiotic ebook companion to the critically acclaimed (no, seriously) novel, The Conjuring of Zoth-Avarex: The Self-Proclaimed Greatest Dragon in the Multiverse, will probably be a pretty fun experience for you. But if not, at least it’s cheap…
Death by sandwiches? A literal shitstorm, a happy ending with a princess? These are choices you will have to make for the dragon Zoth-Avarex while reading this “Choose your own adventure” or rather “Pick your own path” story. We first met Zoth-Avarex in his debut “The Conjuring of Zoth-Avarex: the Self-Proclaimed Greatest Dragon in the Multiverse” and this book details what happened to him after that adventure. This short book would work just as well on its own, and be enjoyable for people who have not yet read the first novel. The dragon is just as delightfully self-serving and sarcastic as before and the same style of witticisms are served up for adults to enjoy. If you loved ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books as a child you will enjoy revisiting the format here. Recommended for people who enjoy a light-hearted irreverent tale and like to have some control over the outcome of the story!
About the Author
K.R.R. (Kyle Robert Redundant) Lockhaven writes humorous, fun fantasy books with a pinch of social satire.
He lives with his wife and two sons. Together they conjured a bearded dragon who rules over a hoard of sand and devours crickets by the dozens.
When not writing or raising kids, he works as a firefighter/paramedic.
Today I am welcoming Jamie Jackson into the Indie Spotlight.
Jamie likes to think she sprang into being fully grown, with books in both hands.
Alas, this is not how her life began.
It involved a very long, winding trail of school where she never paid attention to her teachers and probably should have. Somehow, she managed to graduate college with degrees in both English and Theater. She then fell into jobs that had absolutely nothing to do with either of those (other than the brief period of time where she got to work in wardrobe on traveling Broadway shows).
She got married, had kids and took a ten year hiatus from writing anything at all. But she never stopped reading.
And then, one day, she made a New Year’s resolution to sit down and actually finish a project.
It was fanfiction. But from there, she then went on to write a book, and that turned into an eight book series. Which she intends to publish in its entirety.
What made you decide to publish your book independently? What was your path to publication?
So while I was writing the first draft, I did research into querying and traditional publishing versus independent publishing, and a big part of it was control over the final product, as well as keeping the rights to my characters and stories. There were some serious horror stories out there about publishers keeping the rights to these things and it taking years for authors to wrest those back. And I did look into querying, but some of the questions the agents had, like, “why should you be the one to tell this story?” essentially made me go, because I wrote it? And then finding out that authors who are traditionally published may still end up doing most of if not all the marketing themselves, it seemed like I might as well do it on my own anyway.
What made you decide to write in your specific genre rather than other genres? What’s your inspiration?
So, I chose New Adult Urban Fantasy because that’s what I enjoy reading about. I wanted to write something that I would want to read.
Have you ever written in other genres?
I do currently have what is meant to be a horror/romance WIP, but it is quickly veering off the tracks and might end up more paranormal.
Do you only read the genre that you write?
No. I will read pretty much anything I can get my hands on. So all Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror, Crime, Thrillers, Romance, Historical Fiction. Everything.
What are you currently reading? Watching on TV? Video Game you are playing? Is there a type of music you listen to for inspiration?
Currently reading Demons, Ink by Clayton Snyder. I’m rewatching episodes of Arrested Development while I wait for new seasons of The Boys, The Witcher, The Mandalorian, etc. The only video game I’m playing right now is Animal Crossing. I listen to metal, rock, pop, okay, everything but jazz. I listen to pretty much everything but jazz while I’m writing.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Get that first draft down, it doesn’t need to be perfect, you just need to finish the story. Betas and a good editor are essential.
What are you working on right now and what can we look forward to seeing from you next?
Currently book 2 in this series is undergoing edits to get it ready to publish so hopefully it will be out this fall.
Well I wish you good luck with your series and thank you very much for joining me in the Indie Spotlight today, Jamie!
Fear and Fury
Meet Megaera, Meg for short. She’s like Deadpool, except for funner. For a girl with the power of fear the recruitment attempts from both sides are never-ending. A self-described not-a-hero, villain-leaning humanoid, Meg just wants to live her life, work her dead-end job and have everyone else (especially the heroes) leave her alone. But when a bigger fish who can turn superpowers back on their users enters the picture and threatens the person Meg loves the most (herself), she must turn to the last group of people she would admit she needs help from. Forced to team up with the heroes she despises (but won’t murder, because let’s face it, orange is not the new black), Meg will have to face the choices from her past that she won’t get therapy for. Self-centered, snarky, sarcastic and a little bit dramatic, she’s going to have to save the world, even if that wasn’t her intention. And try not to get shot in the process. Because that shit hurts.
Darren Arthurs lives in the South West of England and writing is something that crept up on him, he had no idea he would have the patience or the depth of story to be able to write actual novels. He’s generally not that patient.
Tag 5 others to take part – I will tag some people on Twitter, but if you are reading this thinking you would like to take part, please feel free to!.
Most of all! Enjoy!
5 Star Read
I recently read and reviewed Legacy of the Brightwash by Krystle Matar. I loved it. I had been skeptical due to some of the content warnings and certain things people had written in their reviews – but I decided to go for it and I’m really glad I did! I would urge anyone else considering reading this book to do so! The characters are fantastically fleshed out and the world is detailed and easy to visualise.
Follow the law and you’ll stay safe. But what if the law is wrong? Tashué’s faith in the law is beginning to crack. Three years ago, he stood by when the Authority condemned Jason to the brutality of the Rift for non-compliance. When Tashué’s son refused to register as tainted, the laws had to be upheld. He’d never doubted his job as a Regulation Officer before, but three years of watching your son wither away can break down even the strongest convictions.
Then a dead girl washed up on the bank of the Brightwash, tattooed and mutilated. Where had she come from? Who would tattoo a child? Was it the same person who killed her? Why was he the only one who cared?
Will Tashué be able to stand against everything he thought he believed in to get the answers he’s looking for?
Always Going to Recommend
E.G. Radcliff’s trilogy The Coming of Áed. I really enjoyed this trilogy and will definitely reread it at some point. The final installment is in my opinion the strongest but I recommend you read the entire trilogy.
On the shores of a rusty sea, in the streets of a starving city, a young man named Áed scraps to build a life for himself and the makeshift family he loves. Scarred by a trauma he cannot remember, and haunted by the brutal damage it left behind, he has no idea of the courage his future will demand.
When a heart-wrenching tragedy shatters his family, a desperate Áed risks a treacherous journey to seek a kingdom of legend—and a new beginning. But an ancient legacy smoldering within him is about to turn deadly, and neither he—nor the legends—will ever be the same.
Own it but haven’t read it yet
No excuses – I need to wade through my TBR and get to this a soon as I can!! Here’s the blurb:
The last of a dying breed, a holy warrior must rise up against a growing darkness in Evelium. The most unlikely of heroes, a lowly itinerant mercenary, Umhra the Peacebreaker is shunned by society for his mongrel half-Orc blood. Desperate to find work for himself and his band of fighters, Umhra agrees to help solve a rash of mysterious disappearances, but uncovers a larger, more insidious plot to overthrow the natural order of Evelium in the process. As Umhra journeys into the depths of Telsidor’s Keep to search for the missing, he confronts an ancient evil and, after suffering a great loss, turns to the god he disavowed for help. Compelled to save the kingdom he loves, can he defeat the enemy while protecting his true identity, or must he risk everything?
The Wax and Wayne stories known as Mistborn Era 2 – I really loved these and will read them again soon. Actually I haven’t read the third book at all yet – but I know I will enjoy it as I just love the characters in these stories – particularly Wayne.
In Another World
Of Honey and Wildfires by Sarah Chorn is set in a world where Shine is a magical commodity which causes people to have colorful skin and hair. I would love to visit such a beautiful world! This book’s prose blew me away. It is very poetic in places and a real tearjerker. I have three more of Sarah’s books on my kindle waiting patiently for me to get to them!
From the moment the first settler dug a well and struck a lode of shine, the world changed. Now, everything revolves around that magical oil.
What began as a simple scouting expedition becomes a life-changing ordeal for Arlen Esco. The son of a powerful mogul, Arlen is kidnapped and forced to confront uncomfortable truths his father has kept hidden. In his hands lies a decision that will determine the fate of everyone he loves—and impact the lives of every person in Shine Territory.
The daughter of an infamous saboteur and outlaw, Cassandra has her own dangerous secrets to protect. When the lives of those she loves are threatened, she realizes that she is uniquely placed to change the balance of power in Shine Territory once and for all.
Secrets breed more secrets. Somehow, Arlen and Cassandra must find their own truths in the middle of a garden of lies.
Back on Earth
Lyra Wolf’s Nine Worlds Rising books are amazing, so far! I think The Order of Chaos is my favourite. They are set in Switzerland in present day and in the seventeenth century. I love Loki and Lyra Wolf’s snarky version of Loki does not disappoint. I am looking forward to the rest of the series!
Let’s start Ragnarok, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.
Nothing pisses off a trickster god more than being imprisoned for five hundred years and not being able to annoy Thor. There are other reasons, secrets, and promises behind Loki’s rage, but that’s for Loki to know and the gods to find out—preferably painfully.
When the chance to start Ragnarok presents itself, Loki feels the apocalypse is as good a way as any to burn Asgard to the ground. And, it is, until the gods reveal their own teensy, tiny little surprise for Loki.
Suddenly, Loki has every reason in the worlds to stop them from ending. But this is Ragnarok, and one does not simply stop the apocalypse.
Chaos is all well and good, so long as Loki is in charge of it. Except chaos isn’t about to start taking orders from anyone, not even the god of pot-stirring himself, and it has a universe to destroy.
Red Ribbon Winner, The Wishing Shelf Book Awards 2020.
This vivacious personal story captures the heart and soul of modern Iceland. Born in Reykjavik on the eve of the Second World War, Sverrir Sigurdsson watched Allied troops invade his country and turn it into a bulwark against Hitler’s advance toward North America. The country’s post-war transformation from an obscure, dirt-poor nation to a prosperous one became every Icelander’s success. Spurred by this favorable wind, Sverrir answered the call of his Viking forefathers, setting off on a voyage that took him around the world. Join him on his roaring adventures!
I was sent a digital copy of Viking Voyager by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Sverrir!
Viking Voyager is a memoir chronicling the life and travels of its author, Sverrir Sigurdsson.
The first half of the book details the author’s childhood in Iceland and the historical and political events taking place in the country during that period.
As a child the author lived in the capital city of Reykjavik. His mother and her compatriots kept certain traditions alive, such as Solarkaffi which was an annual celebration in the North of Iceland of the return of daylight – certain parts of northern Iceland get no daylight hours during winter. This is not the case in Reykjavik, but the annual celebration was kept alive nonetheless. We also learn of pranks undertaken at school and friendships made, and it becomes clear that Sigurdsson is still very fond of his roots.
The story then moves to Finland, in 1958, where the author went to university at the age of nineteen, to study to become an architect. We learn about his struggles with the language and his experiences as a student apprentice in a couple of different architecture firms.
The author intended to gain his architecture degree and travel a little and then return home to Iceland to help improve his beloved country’s infrastructure, but instead he kept going, gaining a wife and child before finishing his studies and following a career path that lead him to the Middle East, then onto Africa, with UNESCO and the World Bank, then to Asia, and finished with him settling down in the United States.
He is now retired, and still lives in the USA, returning to his native Iceland every other year, during which trips he pays respects to the towns his mother and father originated from. I visited Iceland a couple of decades ago and fell in love with the country. It is easy for me to see why Sverrir Sigurdsson would want to return every couple of years to such a unique, magical place.
I loved the plentiful photos and maps the author included throughout this memoir, they really helped to bring the locations and people described to life. He has done plenty of research about his homeland and his other destinations and delivers historical and political information and anecdotes about traditions with lots of interesting detail and with depth and charm.
There is also a very useful guide to the pronunciation of the Icelandic words used throughout the first half of the book included at the back of the book.
I would recommend this book to fans of memoirs and travel who like to get their teeth into the politics and history of a destination, rather than just visit its tourism sights, or to anyone intrigued by Iceland and looking to learn a little more about the country’s history and traditions. The author is a highly intelligent man and his memoir is educational, entertaining and captivating.
Sverrir Sigurdsson grew up in Iceland and graduated as an architect from Finland in 1966. He pursued an international career that took him to many parts of the world. His assignments focused on school construction and improving education in developing countries. He has worked for private companies, as well as UNESCO and the World Bank. He is now retired and lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and coauthor, Veronica Li. His book Viking Voyager: An Icelandic Memoir is a personal story of growing up in Iceland during turbulent times. His upbringing inspired him to travel the world like his Viking forefathers.
Veronica Li emigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong as a teenager. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and her master’s degree in International Affairs from Johns Hopkins University. She has worked as a journalist and for the World Bank, and is currently a writer. Her three previously published titles are: Nightfall in Mogadishu, Journey across the Four Seas: A Chinese Woman’s Search for Home and Confuscius Says: A Novel.
A girl full of heart A thief touched by darkness A boy with a fiery temper An unwitting servant of evil
The era of magic was once thought to be a myth, but after the Reemergence ushered forces both dark and light into the mundane world, it has since become a harsh reality. Now those affected by this strange power—a specialized group of Empowered called Jokers, known collectively as Cardplay—must protect their world from the darkness that threatens to consume it, all the while fighting for equality in a society clinging to normalcy.
But the Reemergence was only the beginning.
When another influx occurs on the seventh anniversary of that fateful event, an unfortunate encounter at ground zero lands Iori Ryone, a teenage boy in possession of a corrupt and legendary magic, in the care of recent Joker graduate Ellen Amelia Jane. From him, she learns the Reemergence may not have been the inevitable natural disaster it first seemed.
Someone is trying to tear down the barrier that separates the magical realms from the mundane. The question is, can Cardplay stop them before it’s too late?
Bloody Spade is the first installment in an urban fantasy duology that follows a cat-eared thief and a spirited girl as they try to navigate his wild magic, her hotheaded brother, a sinister plot, and the feelings they’re developing for each other.
Blood and violence, some gore
Moments of graphic violence/torture
Trauma related to kidnapping/physical abuse
One instance of a forced kiss (not intended to be romantic or sexual)
I was sent a digital ARC of Bloody Spade in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Brittany M. Willows!
Bloody Spade is Book 1 in the Cardplay Duology, and is a YA urban fantasy. I enjoyed this book immensely! I was initially drawn to the cover of this book, since purple is my favourite colour and I love to play card games. The figure with the cat ears was also intriguing!
The premise of the novel is that seven years ago real, powerful, dangerous magic returned to a world whose inhabitants were used to thinking of magic as cheap tricks and sleight of hand, entertainment for the masses. The new magic which reentered their world was far from tricks, however. Magic users have a varied range of abilities. Some can harness the wind, others can control light, or fire.
It came as shadow and light and fire and frost, and in a hundred other forms that manifested in the hands of children and adults alike.
The story is set in the city of Hildegrand in the not too distant future. The reemergence of magic means there are now “Empowered” people with magical abilities as well as non-magical people in the world. Cardplay is a private magical law enforcement office, funded mostly by public donations. It is run like a college, or academy by its Headmaster Hikaru Ritsuo and his partner, Elizabeth Howard, who trains the empowered law enforcement operatives, known as Jokers, in fighting techniques. Hikaru Ritsuo is a type of Professor X of Cardplay. They also have been acting as foster parents to siblings and Jokers, Alexander and Ellen Jane, since the death of their parents, caused by the Reemergence. The Jokers are a close-knit group of friends, working together as a team, and Cardplay is their found family.
I loved the uniqueness of the playing card theme that ran through this novel with Cardplay being the good guys, taking on Blackjack, the shady underground organization, and with each Suit having a Keeper. We meet the Keeper of the Spade early on in the story, in the form of the cat-eared teenage street urchin with a tail (and also a tale): Iori Ryone. Later we discover who the Keeper of the Club is and we witness the torture at the hands of Blackjack, that leads to the awakening of the Keeper of the Diamond. The identity of the Keeper of the Heart remains a secret until the end of the book, but I must admit I guessed who it might be quite a bit earlier. The Keepers are especially talented Empowered individuals:
The legends portrayed Keepers as heroes, champions, guardians. Protectors of the mundane world whose duty was bestowed upon them in the form of these Suits.
Iori’s power was corrupted by the Void during the Spade’s awakening and it manifests itself as ink leaking out of a wound in his chest, which he is unable to control when we first meet him. I loved what a fantastic concept this was with something as simple as ink being a malevolent force, able to solidify and stab at people. There are also deadly creatures called inkblots in this world who manifest via the power of the Void. It is easy to visualise a cloud of ink emerging and forming shapes and I thought this was an excellent and highly imaginative idea. The Spade takes control when Iori is in danger and kills his enemies using the inky power of the Void. The reawakening of the Spade, brought forth by him enduring two months of torture at the tender age of ten, appears to be what caused the magical Reemergence.
Alexander Jane and Ellen Jane are the other main characters in this book. Their parents were killed at the time of the Reemergence. Ellen and Iori find themselves developing feelings for one another, much to the consternation of Alexander, who blames the Spade for his parents’ death. The relationship developing between Ellen and Iori is beneficial to both of them, however, Iori has survived an awful lot in his young life and deserves a little love and compassion, and Ellen needs someone other than her brother to lean on occasionally, particularly when her headstrong brother is not acting very reasonably.
Iori was my favourite character, his vulnerability and quick witted sense of humour make him hard not to like. He also has a strong moral compass:
He had the makings of a hero in him; albeit, a reluctant one.
Another important character in the story is Kyani Oto. She has raven wings and scales on her legs, brought into being at the time of her magical awakening, much like Iori’s cat ears and tail. She is a tragic character, being held captive by BlackJack and forced to undertake tasks against her will, via an electric suppression collar, in fear of repercussions for her sick father.
I found the worldbuilding in Bloody Spade mostly solid, although in some places there was a little too much information given all at once, which made it hard for me to remember details, and the different levels of the realms were somewhat confusing – I am still not completely clear on the connection between the Void, the Domain, the Dreamscape and the human world and how they relate to one another.
Bloody Spade is a unique take on the age-old good versus evil theme. A fast paced novel with plenty of action, believable characters and relationships, a little romance, teenage angst, fear of rejection, of being different and fear of lack of acceptance by peers. There is also a mad scientist creating monsters in a lab, funded by a shady businessman, magical transformations, journeys to a dreamscape realm, a few unexpected twists and an explosive conclusion. I would recommend it to anyone who loves superhero type stories, or fans of fiction similar to that of Cassandra Clare’s novels or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Brittany M. Willows is a bisexual/asexual author and digital artist living in rural Ontario, Canada. Inspired initially by video games and the stories they told, she began building her own fictional universes and has no plans of stopping any time soon. When she’s not writing about post-apocalyptic lands, wild magic, or people gallivanting through the stars, she can be found hunched over a tablet drawing the very same things.
To keep up with the latest news regarding both current and future stories, and to find out more about Brittany or to delve deeper into the worlds she has created, check out the links below! She can also be contacted directly via these platforms.
Today I have an audiobook review for you. I tend not to listen to a lot of audiobooks but since we were doing a long road trip for our vacation, I thought I would give this one a listen, and I’m glad I did. Lee’s books have been on my radar for a while, since he lives in my hometown of Lincoln, UK, which automatically made me curious about his work.
‘Only valour and steel can stand against the rising dead’
Arnar is a land of warriors, its people as stalwart as the stones themselves. In a land of dark forests and ancient hill forts, a forgotten evil is awoken by curious minds. The Great Histories and the Sagas say nothing of this evil, long passed from the memory of even the studious scholars of the College. For centuries, the scholars of Arnar have kept these records and preserved the knowledge and great deeds of a proud people. The story of these peoples forever chronicled in the Sagas of the Great Histories. But now the evil spreads and the dead walk in its wake, terrible creatures roam the night and even the spirits are restless. The Dead Sagas could perhaps be the final chapters of these great records. Many threads entwine to tell this Saga, interweaving the tales of those who played their part in the search for answers and ultimately their fight for survival. Amid plague, invasion and terror, the inexorable rise of the dead sends a kingdom scrabbling to its knees.
This dark fantasy epic combines dark malign horror and gritty survival adventure as the Dead Sagas unfold in a world where honour and renown is all, where beasts and savages lurk in the wilderness, and where sword, axe and shield is all that stands between the living and the grasping hands of the dead.
I was sent an audiobook of A Ritual of Bone by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much Lee C. Conley! Apologies for any name misspellings which are due to me listening to this book rather than reading it.
The audiobook is narrated by R.J. Bayley, who has an excellent, dramatic voice which conveys tension brilliantly. I really appreciated all of the different voices he gave the characters. Trude, Nym and other females were just high pitched and feminine enough to be believable and my favourite was the rich throaty accent given to Bjorn the hunter/tracker. Occasionally the narrator sounds like Sean Bean – particularly at one point when he spits out the word “Bastard!”, which made me chuckle. I prefer fantasy narration to be with a British accent – I tend to get more distracted when the narrator has an American accent. So R.J. Bayley was perfect for this.
Now on to my review of the story…
Layers of atmospheric description add to the chilling spookiness in this horror-fantasy set in the Norse inspired world of Arnar. A Ritual of Bone is definitely grimdark – its grisly, gruesome themes hold no bounds. I have never encountered zombies in a Norse inspired fantasy – but here they are in this novel, along with a plague, an arcane ritual which causes the dead to walk and unleashes all kinds of horror, warriors, shieldmaidens and even what appear to be a tribe of Stone Age cannibals!
There are multiple, fully fleshed-out point of view characters in this novel, which I always enjoy as I think it helps a reader to become invested in a wider range of characters and understand their motivations better. I particularly enjoyed the short sections where we were treated to the zombies’ perspectives, Darek the leader of one small pack of three zombies and that of his mate. They have become more animalistic but are not yet fully zombified. The woman still remembers that she was a wife and mother and feels horror at her memories of eating her children…
Conley’s worldbuilding is solid and the villages, forests, port and Arnulf’s Motte come to life around the characters and feel like a typical medieval style Norse fantasy world.
There is more horror in this book than I usually read – but I enjoyed its uniqueness. I would recommend it to horror fans and to fans of Norse fantasy who have a strong constitution!! I will be continuing with the follow up A Ritual of Flesh as I have some questions I want to know the answers to!
About the Author
Lee is a musician and writer in Lincolnshire, UK. He lives with his wife, Laura, and daughters, Luna, and Anya, in the historic cathedral city of Lincoln. Alongside a lifetime of playing guitar and immersing himself in the study of music and history, Lee is also a practitioner and instructor of historic martial arts and swordsmanship. After writing his successful advanced guitar theory textbook The Guitar Teachers Grimoire, Lee turns his hand to writing fiction. Lee is now studying a degree in creative writing and working on his debut fantasy series The Dead Sagas as well as also generally writing speculative fiction and horror.
If anyone would like to sign up for occasional (once or twice a year) email of news and updates on Lee’s work, with the occasional competition or giveaway too, please sign yourselves up to Lee’s mailing list. Sign up to Lee’s mailing list!
Today I am welcoming Anthony Lavisher into the Indie Spotlight.
Since reading The Lord of the Rings at an early age, and later, the works of his favourite author, David Gemmell, Anthony has been inspired to write his own stories.
When he is not forging tales and filling blank pages, Anthony spends his time working in his local library, reading, gaming and enjoying adventures of his own.
Anthony lives in Wales with his wife, Amy, and their cat, Mertle.
What made you decide to publish your books independently? What was your path to publication?
When I finished the first draft of my first novel Whispers of a Storm in 2009, I had no idea of how to proceed. So I picked up a copy of the Writers and Artists Year Book and spent the next year or so sending out my manuscripts to literary agents and publishers.
In all that time I heard back from probably one of them out of 20, the usual, cursory ‘thanks, but no thanks.’
I did what all writers need to do and that was to carry on writing, and in 2010 my wife, then my girlfriend, was flying back from Inverness and she read an article about a company who would publish the book for you, at a price, of course.
Deciding that it might be the first step I needed, to get myself out there, I went with Author House, and in April 2011, my first novel was published.
What made you decide to write in your specific genre rather than other genres? Have you ever written in other genres?
I grew up reading everything fantasy, and nothing else, really past the age of 9. From Tolkien and Gemmell, to Feist, Weis and Hickman, and also getting heavily into Dungeons and Dragons as a teenager, my first novels were naturally steered towards the fantasy genre.
I have never really thought heavily about specific genres with my writing. If I have a burning need to write a story, it needs to be told, no matter where it would appear on the shelf.
My recently released novel, The Last Tiger, is a contemporary thriller – it is set in India, after I was inspired by my first visit to that wonderful country, way back when now, long before I started even writing fantasy.
Do you only read the genre that you write?
I only read fantasy, as I mentioned previously, growing up, though I started to deviate into other genres, particularly Historical fiction, and Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe Books (thanks to the tv adaptation, with Sean Bean in the lead role).
When my favourite fantasy author David Gemmell passed away in 2006, I never found another author to capture my imagination as much as he had, and my reading suffered greatly. In fact, it was about the time I started writing myself, started having the idea for what would one day become the Storm Trilogy.
Nowadays I work a few days a week in my local library, and I try anything that catches my attention. Yes, the book’s cover really is the first thing I see and judge. I find myself picking up books I would have never tried in my youth, and my inspiration and imagination is all the richer for it.
What are you currently reading? Watching on TV? Is there a type of music you listen to for inspiration?
I am currently reading Kiss Me When I’m Dead by Dominic Piper, which is an absolutely fantastic read, and also, Roman Political Life by TP Wiseman (which may give a clue to what genre my next novel is in).
After that, I have Hope, by one of my favourite authors of the last few years, Terry Tyler.
I am currently watching Money Heist (Part 1) and The Gift (Season 2) on Netflix and The Handmaids Tale (Season 3) on Dvd.
I write in silence these days, though, when I writing my first novel, I used to listen to a lot of movie soundtracks – Braveheart, Gladiator and The Last of the Mohicans (a particular favourite of mine).
Any advice for aspiring authors?
Keep on writing, and write for yourself, first and foremost – if you are loving what you are writing, so will others who read it.
For me, personally, I keep going forward with a manuscript, allowing it to evolve naturally. I don’t plan it meticulously, as for me that would not work, though it does very well for other writers. Once I have finished the first draft, I can then worry about the editing process, and all that comes after that.
And I don’t write on days I don’t feel like it – I never force myself to write, though I love what I do and seem to have settled into a nice routine of writing in the mornings on the days I am not in the library.
What are you working on right now and what can we look forward to seeing from you next?
As hinted at before, I am currently putting the finishing touches to a novella, that returns readers to The Four Vales, the land where my fantasy trilogy is set. Beyond that, I am about 75% finished with Rise of Eagles, the first part of a four-book historical series set in the Roman Republic, around the time of the Spartacus Rebellion.
Thank you so much for taking part in the Indie Spotlight, Anthony, and good luck with your future projects!
Whispers of a Storm
The inhabitants of the Four Vales have enjoyed over fifty years of relative peace, since its armies defeated the Reven Hordes threatening their homeland. Under the fair rule and guidance of the high duke, its people have thrived and prospered, free from the shadows of war. The Vales are peaceful and the capital city Karick is quiet. But in the gardens of the high duke’s keep, dark plots are whispered and fell deeds being planned. A humble stonemason falls asleep whilst working in the gardens and upon waking, inadvertently overhears a conversation that plunges him deep into the heart of the coming storm. A young noblewoman is to be kidnapped and used as a pawn in this dark game…
Whispers of a Storm follows the stonemason and noblewoman’s fortunes as they unwittingly become involved in a dangerous game of survival, as they try to find out what dark storm is about to break out across the Four Vales. Who would seek to unsettle this harmony? Why would they want to? How can the stonemason and noblewoman discover what is going to happen and more importantly, expose those behind the plot, before it is too late?
A tale of political intrigue and high adventure, Book One of The Storm Trilogy follows the fortunes of two individuals, whose personal journey of survival may yet help to save and shape the future of their homeland.
A dark plot to kidnap a Valian noblewoman has been thwarted, her life spared by those who would seek to fight against the rising tide of violence that threatens to shatter the stability and peace of the Four Vales.
Saved by those with agendas of their own, Cassana, daughter of the Lord of the North Vales seeks the sanctuary of her home. Danger chases after her ever faltering step, the shadows filled by those who will not allow her to escape a second time.
With dark storm clouds gathering over the capital city Karick and the shadowy menace of betrayal lurking in its marble halls, one man has the knowledge that could stop those seeking change, before it is too late.
Pursued by those that would silence him the stonemason Khadazin flees southwards, seeking the protection of a monastery, a place where he believes he will be safe, where he can recoup and plan his revenge.
With increased Reven attacks and brittle unrest in the capital, sides will have to be chosen and stances made. Who will rise to stand against those wreaking havoc, who will seek the storm and embrace the chaos starting to take hold?
A gritty tale of political betrayal, Book Two of the Storm Trilogy picks up where Whispers of a Storm left off, plunging the reader, once again, deep into the midst of the action, the danger and the adventure.
The Four Vales stands on a knife-edge and its people hold their breath as the threat of war looms. With their hopes failing, can those with enough courage and strength left stand firm against the tide of madness that threatens to wash away the fragile peace of the land?
As the shadows deepen and the bloody grip of the Brotherhood begins to tighten, the capital city Karick is plunged into chaos. With its streets running with blood and the hatred of those orchestrating it, the storm clouds gather, readying the Valian people for war.
Far north, Cassana, daughter of the Lord of the North Vales is beset by danger, the shadows full of blades and her ears full of treachery. To the south, the renegade stonemason Khadazin hides in his sanctuary, nursing his wounds and his desire for revenge, unaware of what is happening in the wider world, uncertain of the knowledge he has and the allies that will stand with him.
Seemingly thwarted at every turn, can those still cherishing peace stop the madness? Will they have the strength to rise up and thwart the promise of war before it is too late?
Vengeance of a Storm is the thrilling conclusion to the Storm Trilogy, a gripping tale of treachery, intrigue, courage and sacrifice that thrusts the reader once again, deep into the heart of this epic adventure.
Jon Galnia is a husband, a father, a Mafia Don, a man who believes that Fate and Destiny are two sides of the same fickle coin. Rich beyond his wildest dreams, his inherited empire expands beyond America, far beyond the streets of his bloody playground, currently far beyond the reach of the authorities desperate to pin even a traffic violation on him.
Fate is about to intervene.
Plucked from the sky by those who hate him, or perhaps by those who want what he has, Jon’s private jet crashes in central India, sabotaged by fate, though, perhaps, guided by destiny. Unbeknownst to him, Jon is about to play a daring hand in an even bigger power struggle, one that will shock the world and, perhaps more importantly, the self-centred, ruthless Don.
A tale of corruption, of adventure and heroism, The Last Tiger is a thrilling tale of one man’s quest for survival and his uncertain hand on the pages of history.
Jamie Jackson likes to think she sprang into being fully grown, with books in both hands. Alas, this is not how her life began. It involved a very long, winding trail of school where she never paid attention to her teachers and probably should have. Somehow, she managed to graduate college with degrees in both English and Theater. She then fell into jobs that had absolutely nothing to do with either of those (other than the brief period of time where she got to work in wardrobe on traveling Broadway shows). She got married, had kids and took a ten year hiatus from writing anything at all. But she never stopped reading. And then, one day, she made a New Year’s resolution to sit down and actually finish a project. It was fanfiction. But from there, she then went on to write a book, and that turned into an eight book series. Which she intends to publish in its entirety.
Today I am taking part in the Book Blitz organised by Storytellers on Tour for Game of Gnomes: The Necrognomicon by M. J. Northwood. Thank you for including me in this blitz, Justine and Timy!
The Necrognomicon by M. J. Northwood Published: May 22, 2020 by Critical Tales (https://www.criticaltales.co.uk/) Series: Game of Gnomes (#1) Genre: Fantasy, Humor Pages: 111 CW: Body horror, bullying, fatphobia, gore, violence, police (guard) brutality, racial bigotry (against gnomes)
Every hurdle in a gnome’s life is just a little bit bigger. After years apart, the three gnomes Gassy, Borty, and Turdlet aim to scale the tallest of challenges a thief can face: The Crimicompetition.
Fighting for the clout against MagInc—a corporation of unimaginable influence—the gnomes are about to discover how small honour amongst thieves can get.
And so begins the Game of Gnomes.
I was sent a digital copy of this copy by Storytellers on Tour in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much to Justine, Timy and the author, M.J. Northwood!
This book is puerile, absurd humour at its best. The main characters are a trio of gnomes named Gassy, Borty and Turdlet. The names should give you an idea of the type of humour we are looking at here!! They are a gang of thieves making their way to a convention for criminals: The Crimicon.
The trio are morally grey, self-serving, yet likeable rogues who look out for each other despite perilous circumstances and their camaraderie is delightful. Borty is their fearless leader, Turdlet is rash and reckless, while Gassy prefers to plan everything in great detail and feels anxious when things don’t go to plan.
The world they inhabit is interesting and vividly depicted, filled with unusual, highly inventive and sometimes fearsome creatures. There is the snugglebumble, which collects scents and in so doing reduces the scent-bearer to a puddle of liquid goo; the chameladon, a humanoid reptile that can change its appearance and body structure to morph into its victim and the flying donkeys to name but a few.
Life at four feet tall can be somewhat frustrating so they are pleased that this year’s Crimicon theme is “Under four feet” despite them thinking it was “Four feet under” and everything and everyone taller than four feet is forced to stoop or crawl to fit into the convention, but it’s all designed at a perfect height for gnomes.
They discover that this year’s competition is a heist, but not just any kind of heist. They are to try and steal an important book, The Necrognomicon, “the holy grail of gnome-based relics” from the private chamber of the dreaded upper council member, Day Lord. Feared by all the gnomes, but especially Gassy who has had a run-in with the Day Lord before, he will eviscerate any thief he catches. This is a heist that Gassy has previously tried and failed, and his entire crew died in the attempt. He is very scared and needs quite a lot of persuasion to come onboard this time, but luckily the other two know just how to talk him round.
What follows is exciting and hilarious as the thieves attempt to break into a manor, get over their outrage at the ignorant racism inherent in the Day Lord’s backyard gnomery, distract a porter with a conversation about the longevity of shit-shovellers and take on their rival gangs of thieves while racing to the prize.
There were many laugh out loud moments in this short book – I would recommend it to lovers of Pratchett, Adams, D&D and other TTRPGs and gnomes in general!
The next book in this humorous series, A Gnome Hope was recently published on August 6th.
A Gnome Hope by M. J. Northwood Published: August 6, 2021 by Critical Tales (https://www.criticaltales.co.uk/) Series: Game of Gnomes (#2) Genre: Fantasy, Humor Pages: 216
Intrigue. Explosions. Illicit Magic Abuse.
These morally questionable ingredients make up another outrageous adventure from Gassy, Borty, and Turdlet. With the Crimicon long in the past, the gnomes find themselves bouncing from one criminal caper to another until an encounter with a familiar face reveals a nobler path.
Will they answer the righteous call and save the day? Or will emotionally scarring misadventures lead them astray?
The stakes are higher, the story’s bigger, but our heroes are just as small.
A Co-Founder of Critical Tales, M. J. Northwood has taken his years of storytelling experience and gathered it into his latest books.
Regardless of the media format, M. J. Northwood adores telling fresh and exciting stories that plays with the reader’s imagination while tickling that rather childish funny-bone many of us adults still have.
After winning a competition at a younger age, M. J. worked towards creating his first full-length novel under commission. After spending a few years travelling and living in Japan, he delivered his first book.
Soon after, M. J. independently developed Game of Gnomes: The Necrognomicon. He worked tirelessly with a few friends to found Critical Tales and give Game of Gnomes the launch it deserved.
Today I am excited to be part of The Write Reads blog tour for The Other Side of Whale Road by K.A. Hayton. Many thanks to Dave and all from The Write Reads for including me on the tour and for sending me a digital copy of the book.
A young adult fiction debut
How dark were the Dark Ages? Joss is about to find out…
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WHALE ROAD By K.A. Hayton Shortlisted for the Chicken House Competition
PUBLICATION DATE : 2 SEPTEMBER 2021
YOU KNOW HISTORY IS REAL WHEN IT’S RAZOR-SHARP AND AIMED AT YOUR NECK THE STORY OF KING EDMUND’S LAST BATTLE WITH THE GREAT HEATHEN ARMY BROUGHT TO LIFE FOR YOUNG ADULTS
How dark were the Dark Ages? Joss is about to find out…
‘The Vikings are better armed than we are. They have long, heavy axes that can take a man’s head from his shoulder. I know this because I see it happen.’
When his mum burns down their house on the Whitehorse estate, sixteen-year-old Joss is sent to live in a sleepy Suffolk village.
The place is steeped in history, as Joss learns when a bike accident pitches him back more than 1,000 years to an Anglo-Saxon village. That history also tells him his new friends are in mortal peril from bloodthirsty invaders. Can he warn their ruler, King Edmund, in time?
And will he ever get home?
The main character in The Other Side of the Whale Road is Joss, a sixteen year old, very likeable foster kid whose Mum, Tracy, was pregnant with him when she was his age. He has had a difficult life so far with various different men living with them and his Mum not too stable financially or mentally. She even managed to burn down their house with a cigarette, which is why he is now in foster care with Tim and Cressida, in a fancy house in Suffolk, separated from his twin toddler siblings. He has a rocky start to his new life in this new home town of Hoxne, with a fight in the school bathrooms, which leads to him being suspended from school. From this episode, it becomes clear to us that Joss is brave, and will not sit idly by when someone tries to bully a weaker kid.
“I knew that violence isn’t the answer, I also knew you don’t get peace by refusing to fight. It wasn’t the answer, but sometimes it had to be part of the answer.”
The next thing we know, he borrows Tim’s bike and manages to go careening over into a quarry and knocks himself senseless. When he wakes up he slowly comes to the conclusion from observing the people he meets, their language, the clothes he is now wearing and scenes around him, that he has travelled in time back to Anglo-Saxon times – or is he just concussed or dreaming? Somehow his bike has travelled with him and becomes a source of interest to the Anglo-Saxons. He realises this cannot all be a dream when he gets into a sword fight with the village’s second in command, Wuffa and ends up with a deep cut on his arm. Wuffa is a similar character to the boy he fought with back in the present day – someone intolerant of anyone different, who is not from the local area. Joss is used to this type of person and does not put up with their xenophobic mean-spiritedness.
Joss is taken in by another foster mother in a very basic Anglo-Saxon home, nothing like Tim and Cressida’s large house that he was looking forward to living in. He is grateful for the roof over his head, however, and soon settles in and begins working in the dyeing house, dyeing cloth with the women of the village, since he proves himself not very good at the usual types of ‘men’s work’.
I liked how laid back Joss was about everything. He had travelled in time but did not dwell on it too much. Occasionally his emotions threatened to get the better of him, but mostly he just made the best of things, made some friends and got on with his life. He has clearly had to be pretty flexible throughout his young life so far and is quite mature when it comes to accepting his fate and making the best of a situation.
I loved how the author was able to bring into this Middle Grade/YA story all kinds of educational details about the Anglo-Saxon period without the reader feeling like they were being taught. I also enjoyed the inclusion of a phrase in Old Norse or Old English at the beginning of each chapter, which helped to set the atmosphere for the story.
The ‘Whale Road’ from the book’s title refers to the ocean and the village has been repeatedly raided by ‘Danish pirates’ (Vikings) each year. In the past King Edmund has been able to pay them off but what will happen this year? Joss is not too concerned as it doesn’t feel all that real to him. Indeed right before the Vikings arrive he finds himself back in the present again unsure of how he got there. Apparently Tim was only looking for him for about half an hour, although he was in the past for weeks, helping to bring in most of the harvest. His only proof that it wasn’t all a dream is his scar on his arm.
While out walking Joss meets the vicar of Hoxne, an Anglo-Saxon scholar who tells him the story of the battle of Hoxne, against the Vikings in the year 865 – 869. As Joss’s life in the present day goes from bad to worse he plans what he could do to help against the Vikings – but however will he be able to get back in time again to help his Anglo-Saxon friends? Desperation is fueling his actions by this point and time-travel seems his only escape – but how to achieve it?
I won’t give away any more plot except to say that things get very exciting towards the conclusion, and that I found this book surprisingly difficult to put down – I really enjoyed it and couldn’t figure out how it would end!
K.A. HAYTON was born in Lincolnshire and read English at Sheffield University. She lives in Suffolk with her husband and has two daughters. The idea for The Other Side of the Whale Road came from her study of old English poetry at university, and from living in a place where Anglo-Saxon history feels very close.