Tag Archives: BookBlog

NOD by J.M. Stephen – Interview & Review!

So today I bring to you an interview with author J.M. Stephen along with a review for her wonderful, thought provoking book NOD!

Here’s the book blurb – 

“And Cain left the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.” – Genesis 4:16

Nod is never mentioned again in the Bible. Where was it? Where did the people of Nod come from? What became of Cain? Now we have the story of Nod, as told through the eyes of Lailah, the first person to encounter Cain outside of his family. The story of Cain and Abel is brought alive, and the aftermath examined in a way never before told. But more than that we get the story of a primitive people becoming aware of the world around them.

Please enjoy the interview below and check out my review!


 

Hi Jessica,

First of all I’d like to thank you for being a guest on my blog. I hope you are keeping well in these uncertain times.

Your latest book, NOD, was released earlier this month, would you like to tell us a little bit about the book?

NOD explores the Land of Nod, the place the Biblical Cain went after he was banished from home when he killed his brother, Abel. Cain is a character in NOD but the protagonist is a woman named Lailah, she’s a strong, independent woman who wants to explore her larger world. The novel really focuses on this primordial land, the world just after it ceased to be “formless and void” when people were still figuring out what humanity was. It is in many ways an exploration of humanity and explores how we got to this place with our social constructs, our economic systems, our prejudices but also our celebrations of life.

What made you decide to write a book on this subject?

I’m not a religious person but I was raised in a fairly religious household and I’ve met some compelling people of faith in my life and work and that helped inform how I looked at the subject of Cain and Abel as an archetype. I also just wanted to examine and explore primitive people and how they might have looked at the larger world. (Where do we come from?)and (Is there more out there?) are questions that truly fascinate me and I wanted to tell a story that explores those ideas fully. I also really fell in love with the character of Lailah once I started writing about her. She’s so independent and she’s not like the other women in Nod. She marches to her own drummer but there’s something caring about her that fascinated me.

I must admit I was very curious to read the book. I’m not religious but know of Cain and Abel and I wanted to see how you would approach the subject. Did you worry at all about writing a book based on biblical characters?

I’ve written a couple of books based on stories before and so I had an idea of how it was done. My first novel Betwixt and Between (under the pen name Jessica Stilling) is a literary retelling of Peter Pan and my second literary novel The Beekeeper’s Daughter (also under the pen name Stilling) looks at the life of the poet Sylvia Plath. But The Bible was a whole other challenge and I wanted to explore those stories while also building on them and creating a unique world and a unique take. I think storytelling in general has moved away from the idea that there is just one villain and they are the bad guy and there’s no wiggle room and so I wanted to create sympathy for Cain while also keeping Abel good. I wanted us to like Cain and understand him, but to also see what evil lurks inside of a man even when they try to do good. That was a challenge not only because of the baggage the story of Cain and Abel carries but because I did want to create a fantasy world that was also based on some reality.

As I read the book I found myself reflecting on life as we know it. Did it have the same effect on you as the writer? I mean, life would be so much easier if we just shared things and a value was not placed on items. At some point in time humans have decided to create the concept and we’ve went with it ever since.. I can’t imagine how it all started but NOD really gives you an idea..you can see the evolution of the people of NOD.

It’s funny you should ask that because there is definitely a subtle sense of anti-Capitalism in the book. I live in America and something the Coronavirus has taught many of us is that Capitalism is harming the people here. I won’t go into a long lecture on that right now, but I wrote this book many years ago, and edited it and then spent some time looking for a publisher and so it’s gone through many drafts. In all the drafts there is a sense that sharing and cooperation is better than blatant Capitalism. And the end, when Capitalism seems to have taken over, it feels like a defeat to people like Lailah, who just want the world to be good. This came from my research, older societies had more cooperation and more trade and I wanted to reflect that but then, I wanted to show how this turned to something that looks more like Capitalism. But when I got the final edits for the book we were deep into the Coronavirus scare and I decided that I needed to push the cooperation vs. Capitalism angle a little harder because I was seeing what it was doing to so many people in the US.

I’m always keen to know where an author draws inspiration from. Has there been anyone out there that really inspired you or is it just something you have a passion for?

 

I definitely feel like it’s a little of both. I have wanted to be a writer since the third grade when I wrote a short story about a horse for class and everyone really liked it. That story came out of nowhere and since then, I’ve loved stories and I’ve loved telling them. There have been people who have helped me along the way. My parents were always very supportive, some of my professors in my MFA program, especially Linsey Abrams and Felicia Bonaparte. Virginia Woolf is my favorite author. I just love her work and her life story.

What’s currently on your own bookshelf?

I own many books. I have about seven overfilled bookshelves in my New York City apartment and I know I need one, maybe two, more. My to-be-read pile for the summer consists of Morton Cohen’s Lewis Carroll biography, The Bone People, Susan Minot’s Evening, Hermoine Lee’s Virginia Woolf biography (I have read about seven Woolf biographies, but last year I went to a lecture Hermoine Lee was giving on Woolf and got her book as well) and Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. I’ve read it many times before but I also love getting inside Woolf’s head.

What would you say to convince readers to give your book a go?

The novel is simple but it will make you think deeply. The characters are real and compelling in their realness but they are also consciously and unconsciously a part of something bigger and their search for more drives them. NOD explores what it means to be human and what it means to be living alongside those who are more than human.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on a dystopian sci-fi novel set in the future, maybe about 150 years from now. It explores issues of climate change, the theme of human thought and human consciousness (and just what it is and how it drives our human understanding)…and there are aliens. I’m also working on a literary novel called Between Before and After that examines themes of nostalgia and the relationship between a mother and son. The second novel in my YA series The Chronicles of Pan (Book I is called Into the Fairy Forest), which is also published under the pen name JM Stephen, will be coming out later this year as well.


 

Let’s get to the nitty gritty!!!

Review –

This a story based around the biblical characters Cain and Abel along with the people NOD.

I’m certainly not religious and I’m going to state straightaway that the book really didn’t seem to be aimed to solely those who hold a religious belief.. more it just felt like a tale of a primitive group of people learning their way in life.

The story shows the people of NOD grow.. and struggle as they emerge. At first value has no meaning but as they progress you see them change.. most are happy to see things progress.. others not so.

Lailah was a joy to read. She always seems to see what others could not. She could see the good in advancements but could also see the negative effects it had on her people.

Cain and Abel, brothers.. they very much want similar things but their differences mean they come to blows with an ugly end. It’s a catalyst for the people of NOD and paves the way for new rules.. laws.. changes that again are both good and bad depending how you look at it.

Being based around religious characters I did wonder how the writer would tackle the subject, but they did a fantastic job of not alienating any reader. We hear of Adam and Eve… I felt it was written in such a way the reader can take from it whatever fits their own ideals. Cain shows up and has an almost magical effect on the people of NOD but wouldn’t that naturally happen if someone turned up with new ideas.. at one point in time fire was created for the first time.. that must have seemed otherworldly to those around at the time regardless of how Cain came to be..it must have been a wonderful time but also very scary.

After reading this book the thing that struck me the most is how it really made me feel..it had parallels with today.. there’s those who wish to take advantage..those who always want more..when life would be so much simpler if we could just share and help each other..but it just wouldn’t be possible.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to live at a time when things were unknown..and then suddenly commonplace.. the first time a shoe was made… the first time a shelter was built that protected from the wind and rain fully.. just even a time before toilets and baths..we take so much for granted but we’ve come so far… yet….

I can’t give any less than 5*, if you can take this subject on and make me love it you’ve earned it.

To find out more head to Goodreads, Amazon or D. X. Varos

Betray Them All (Detective Solomon Gray #7) by Keith Nixon – Review

Today I’m reviewing Betray Them All (Detective Solomon Gray #7) by Keith Nixon

Here is the blurb –

Genre – Police Procedural Thriller

It’s 3am on a wet, dreary morning in the south of England. Detective Inspector Solomon Gray raids an ordinary-looking house, but inside he finds the exception: an illegal cannabis farm run by a sixteen-year-old held against his will.

Within minutes Gray rushes to another nearby incident. A homeowner has stabbed and seriously wounded a burglar. Semi-retired Charles Sowerby, claims self-defence against the intruder – a traveller by the name of Aidan Jupp, a man with a violent history of targeting society’s most vulnerable.

The stabbing heightens local tensions, inflamed by far-right anti-immigrant activists and the Press. Jupp’s family swear revenge on Sowerby. Then Gray discovers Jupp wasn’t acting alone, so who’s his partner?

Somehow the cannabis farm and the stabbing are connected. Can Gray figure everything out before local tensions boil over?

Set in the once-grand town of Margate, the now-broken and depressed seaside resort becomes its own character in this dark detective thriller, perfect for fans of Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride, and Peter James. Betray Them All is the seventh book in this best-selling series featuring Detective Inspector Solomon Gray.

Review

We are back with our favourite detective Solomon Gray, or Sol to those who know him well.

From the outset things look juicy. There’s a raid on a house, a cannabis farm is located but the boy found there is unwilling to talk.

There’s no time for Gray to do much more as he is called away to a burglary gone wrong. It seems clear cut at first. Intruder gets what’s coming to him as the homeowner defends himself, there are just a couple facts that don’t add up.

Tensions rise quickly. The burglar is part of a group of travellers. The locals do not like them and it’s only a matter of time before things come to a head and someone else gets hurt.

This is an extreme headache for Sol as there is little he can do, although he does manage to form an agreement of sorts with the travellers. They seem to like his style and approach to things, and they trust him though there is only so much they can control too. Sol must work fast.

As the blurb for the book suggests the cases are linked and I won’t spoil how but as always, the author manages to weave a wonderful complex tale. Nixon really is adept at this kind of story, effortlessly putting you there with Sol. Things click into place and there is that magical moment when all becomes clear.

As a fan of series it was great to see a recurring character pop up and for us to learn of his part in recent events. Again I cannot spoil it, but this ongoing situation of Sol’s is brilliant, and I do wonder how long it will be before Sol takes a fall.

Sol has the added stress of a baby on the way, it wasn’t planned and it’s even more complicated since she is a colleague, and no one knows about them. It’s this personal stress that really makes the character likeable. We all go through difficult events we would rather not, but to give him that human side enamours you to him.

As important as character development and plot are, I also have high demands when it comes to writing style, how the tale is paced, how language is used. Nixon just knows exactly what I need as a reader. The flow is perfect, chapter length spot on allowing you to really enjoy the tale. The only downside is I now must wait for the next book to be released!

Nixon is a master of the police procedural thriller and I eagerly await more 😊

5/5 Stars!

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

 

The JJ Stoner Series #7, #8 & #9 by Frank Westworth

Today I’m going to be doing 3 quick reviews for Frank Westworth author of The Killing Sisters and The Stoner Series.

Frank is adept and writing short sharp self-contained espionage thrillers packed with action..but few words.. that’s just JJ Stoner’s style! These novellas feature characters from the authors full length novels and serve to support the series but at the same time act as an intro for anyone wanting to learn Frank’s style of storytelling.

7

Seven Hells – Here’s the blurb

A terrorist atrocity will occur today on the crowded streets of a British city. The authorities have been forewarned, and tactical squads scramble to likely locations. They’re playing a waiting game with a deadly opponent, a religious extremist with a lethal message in mind. But who will make the first move?

JJ Stoner – the ex-military man with a sideline in silencing people – should play no part in this operation. But an old opponent from the times of the Troubles has other ideas. He knows who to manipulate to lure Stoner into the killing zone – and into conflict with his closest friends and allies…

Review

We are back with book 7 in the JJ Stoner series.

It starts with a meeting between Stoner and The Hard Man.. Stoners boss. Drinks have flowed and the conversation turns to work.. but of a more personal motivation… Stoner doesn’t do personal.

The meeting ends abruptly as a terrorist threat has been reported and there’s still time to stop the attack!

JJ is thrust back into contact with his ex-lover, Bernadette, who has a source.. but they will only meet with Stoner. There is some tension building I can feel it.

As you can imagine things do not really go to plan and Stoner is lucky to not have his ass blown off.

There’s a few twists along the way and I always love how Stoner is a man of few words..the more you read the more you think you know him.. but you don’t..you never quite know which direction he will take but rest assured it will be the way packed with explosions and bullets.

Another cracking instalment from the author.

4/5 Stars!

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

 

8

CzechM8 – Here’s the blurb

The life of a contract killer can be complicated.

JJ Stoner’s boss wants him to kill someone. His best friend’s girlfriend also wants him to kill someone. His best friend could kill him for getting cosy with the wrong woman.

Stoner just wants to ride his Harley – but the forces of law and order have other ideas…

Review

JJ just wants a simple life.. point and shoot.. no hidden agendas..no deceit..but that will never happen in his line of work.

This book heavily involves Shard, a colleague of Stoners. Shard seems to be quite jealous of Stoner talking to a woman.. why? Well this lady has had one or two dances in the bedroom with Shard if you get my drift.

To be fair to Stoner.. she just wants him to kill someone for her.. but this isn’t just an ordinary man either.

In typical Stoner fashion the job is done.. deniability concrete. I loved the Yuri’s..brought in to help Stoner with a particular part of the plan. The mission goes quite smoothly for once!

I always love that the author lets Stoner’s passions shine through each tale.. In this one it’s his love for motorbikes..at other times it’s his music..it just adds a little depth to a man of few words.

4/5 Stars!

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

 

9

Nine Lies – Here’s the blurb

Even an accomplished assassin can have a bad day. JJ Stoner certainly didn’t expect brain tissue and skull fragments to feature quite so prominently in a routine surveillance operation. That’s bad enough, but things get worse as the week goes by.

Machiavellian inter-agency intrigue sees Stoner pretending to be a Russian agent while fulfilling a mission for the CIA. Somehow JJ ends up at the wrong end of a gun barrel, dodging bullets. And not all of them miss their target…

When you’re a deniable – potentially disposable – covert operative, killing people is sometimes the easy option.

Staying alive isn’t always so straightforward.

Review

So…Stoner gets shot!! Yeh that got you listening.

The tale starts with JJ Stoner and Stretch McCann on a routine mission, interagency cooperation. Things go smoothly.. so much so The Hard Man, JJ’s Boss has another job for him and JJ decides to bring Stretch along for backup.

Things go sideways.. and it’s not coincidence either.. but who set them up..and who’s the target, Stoner or Stretch, and why?

Well JJ won’t let a little bullet stop him getting to the bottom of things but it does take some well placed connections to put the pieces together.

I quite enjoyed this one, showing Stoner isn’t invincible and I loved the back and forth between Stoner and Stretch…brothers form different mothers type of feel.

4/5 Stars!

To find out more head to Goodreadsor Amazon.

Overall I really enjoy these books, short sharp and enticing. There’s always that wiggle room for interpterion.. you never quite know how Stoner will react and it is this unpredictability that keeps me reading.

The Last King (The Ninth Century #1) by M J Porter – Review

Today I’m reviewing The Last King (The Ninth Century #1) by M J Porter

Here’s the blurb –

Genre – Historical Fiction

They sent three hundred warriors to kill one man. It wasn’t enough.

Mercia lies broken but not beaten, her alliance with Wessex in tatters.

Coelwulf, a fierce and bloody warrior, hears whispers that Mercia has been betrayed from his home in the west. He fears no man, especially not the Vikings sent to hunt him down.

To discover the truth of the rumours he hears, Coelwulf must travel to the heart of Mercia, and what he finds there will determine the fate of Mercia, as well as his own.

Review

The book starts with a brilliant scene that details Lord Coelwulf’s capture as he’s brought before the Raiders. It sets the tone of the book perfectly. Coelwulf isn’t afraid to use a bit of bad language and blood will be spilt.

Chapter one goes back to the past to detail the events that led up to his capture as he’s quickly swept up in battle. Coelwulf is used to protecting Mercia from the Welsh but this new threat has come from nowhere.. and at first he hasn’t a clue why.

We soon learn that King Burhred of Mercia ha fled leaving it to the whim of the Raiders.. There’s one hope.. Coelwulf!

Coelwulf has ties back to the throne but doesn’t see himself as a King..but he does like to kill people.. the battle fame.. the thrill of being the best.. and that’s just what Mercia needs right now to survive.

It’s a hard journey for him and his men.. and they don’t come out of this unscathed. I really thought the detail into the battles and injuries was fascinating. I particularly liked the recovery with the constant risk of infection. We are lucky with have antibiotics and such to fight infections.. back then not so much..

The Raiders are numerous..Coelwulf doesn’t stand a chance given the numbers but he knows just how to tip things in his favour.. He has home court advantage so to speak. He’s not alone in this though.. if only the men of Merica could come together to fight.

The final few chapters were pure magic for me as we relive Coelwulf’s capture and learn of his fate. I found myself reading that chapter the 2nd time with different eyes.. a different outlook and that is credit to the author that they were able to mould how I felt and imagined events playing out so easily.

To say this book is excellent would be a understatement.. it’s a blood and gore fest for any fan of the period or this type of novel. You would be forgiven to think a tale with so many battles might get repetitive but no..each are unique and exhilarating.

Overall I loved it, the detail, the use of language, the characters, damn.. I could go on and on.

5/5 Stars!

To find out more head to Goodreadsor Amazon.

If you love it why not pre-order – The Last Warrior: England: The First Viking Age (The Ninth Century Book 2).. I have

The Architect of Murder by Rafe McGregor – Review

Today I’m reviewing The Architect of Murder by Rafe McGregor.

Here’s the blurb –

Gerne – Historical Thriller

Major Alec Marshall VC, newly back in London, is enlisted to make inquiries into the will of the late Cecil John Rhodes, the wealthiest man in the British Empire. That same night one of the witnesses to the will, Eric Lowenstein, is found beaten to death in a seedy boarding house, where he was lodging under a false name. As London prepares for King Edward VII’s coronation, Marshall discovers that Lowenstein harboured a deadly secret concerning not only the vast fortune Rhodes amassed, but the very future of the Empire. Marshall’s investigation takes him into the dark heart of a flawed genius, and sets him on a personal journey that will change his life forever.

Review

Major Alec Marshall, an ex-policeman has returned to England to sad tidings. His sister Ellen has died in an unfortunate accident.

While back he is enlisted to help Supt. Melville of Scotland Yard. There’s a case and things don’t add up.

The body has been found of Eric Lowenstein, one of only two witnesses to the will of  Cecil Rhodes, a very rich man.. is there anything to the murder related to the will? Or just wrong place wrong time?

Marshall, with the aid of Inspector Truegood find links that could shake the British Empire at it’s highest level!

While cracking this case Alec become close to his sister’s best friend,  Miss Roberta Paterson. Roberta is struggling to come to terms with the death of Ellen and believes there could be more too it that meets the eye… Alec promises to find out the truth.

When reviewing my notes what I’ve mainly highlighted is the characters and their development…and just how good it was. There’s plenty of detail added to the plot to set the scene but the characters alone shine for me. Believable, interesting, and fun.

Truegood, my favourite, a big brute of a man but he’s as straight as they come. You know he will get the job done. I loved every scene with him in even though he’s a man of few words.

I found myself easily sucked into this one, the plot is expertly woven and the flow perfect, chapter length just how I like it. At not much over 200 pages there’s a lot packed in, and damn.. it’s pretty good.

4/5 Stars!

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

 

 

 

 

Gilding The Lily by Justine John – Review!

Today I’m reviewing Gilding The Lily by Justine John! The author very kindly offered me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Here’s the blurb –

Genre – Thriller

A gripping mystery of jealousy, murder and lies.

An invitation to her estranged, wealthy father’s surprise 75th birthday party in New York sees London-based Amelia and her husband, Jack, set off across the pond to meet a whole new world of family politics.

Amelia, now a successful businesswoman, has guiltily never liked her father’s women, but does her upmost to give his new socialite partner, Evelyn, the benefit of the doubt. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could just all get along? But there’s something very dark, determined and dangerous about her…

When Amelia’s father, Roger, becomes ill, Jack grows suspicious that there is more to it. Amelia understands why, but no one else will believe them. They travel back to America to piece together the puzzle, but when Roger goes missing, the couple are driven to their wit’s end. It takes a DEA officer and a secret assassin to bring them any answers. The ruthless truth is something no one expected…

This fast-paced psychological debut will keep you guessing until the very end.

Review

Amelia and her father, Roger, were estranged for years due to a strained relationship with Helen, her step mother, but slowly after Helen dies the rift starts to repair. They may live miles apart but they talk a lot.

Roger’s current partner, Evelyn, plans a surprise party for him and invites Amelia and her husband over to join the festivities.

They soon butt heads.. Evelyn plans something that Is a bit over the top for Amelia’s tastes. Amelia is sure her father will hate it.. which he does.

The differences between the woman soon become very clear… they will never like each other. They both think they know Roger the best but there’s more to come as Evelyn shows her rather unstable jealous streak.

Evelyn resents the connection Amelia has with her father and tries to force a wedge between them.

Things settle a little and Amelia is looking forward to having some alone time with her dad. Roger though is unwell and Jack/Amelia soon believe there’s more to it than meets the eye.

There’s a few twists along the way.. Evelyn is clearly a bit fixated on Roger and overly jealous but at times Amelia does seem to push it with the constant calls/emails..is it just daughterly concern? Should she just give Roger some breathing space? Or are her concerns well founded? and who would believe her any way? Evelyn is a master at twisting things.

The ending was really good with a final twist for an “OMG” moment.

Overall the plot was intriguing and I was invested to find out the outcome. Evelyn was just a horrible person.. I hated her..I felt Amelia’s frustration and I would have snapped if I was her… credit to the author for making me feel like I was there myself.

4/5 Stars!

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

NEW RELEASE – Empires of Bronze – Dawn of War by Gordon Doherty – Review!

Today I’m wishing Gordon Doherty a very happy publication day as we see the release of Dawn of War, book2 in the Empires of Bronze series.

If you’re not familiar with the series, you can read my review of book 1 in the series – Son of Ishtar here 😊

Now..on to the new book 😊

Here’s the burb –

1294 BC: The fragile accord between the Hittite and Egyptian empires is crumbling. The ancient world braces itself for war on an unprecedented scale. Prince Hattu, the greatest of the Hittite generals, suffers dreams of terrible consequences – conjured by the Goddess Ishtar. But Hattu refuses to accept her prophecies, adamant that there is one last chance for peace.

This fragile hope lies in the borderlands of the east, where the two rival empires touch. Hattu gathers a chosen band and sets out for this distant, blistering desert land, determined and defiant. Yet the further he ventures, the darker and more twisted his mission becomes. Old ghosts rise around him and Ishtar haunts his every move.

The Goddess’ divinations cannot be avoided, men say. Hattu will walk through fire to prove them wrong.

Review

Wow! Now this is the kind of story I want as the author ramps up the odds against Prince Hattu.

Hattu is haunted by the Goddess Ishtar who saved his life when he was born… it came at a price.. a price that is still to be paid. He refuses to believe the prophecies put forth and will do anything to prove them wrong.

With the evil Volca out of the way there is a kind of peace for the Hittites but it’s not going to last long.

It soon becomes clear the Egyptians are on the war path and with Hattu now one of the Hittite’s best generals, he sets out to secure alliances but all he will find is hardship.

Along the way many will die… those trusted will show their true colours..and in the end it will leave Hattu broken.

Once again Gordon has provided the reader a real treat! Beautifully written and packed with detail..so much so I can’t believe it’s not an 800 page tome! Gordon just knows exactly the right mix of detail and plot to keep the tale flowing.

The detail of the differences between the armies, the structure, what they wear.. it all made for a fascinating immersive tale.

I highlighted lots of text while reading… why? Oh my god.. some of the things Hattu and other men are put through are horrendous and I paused quite often to share these events with my wife.. the details of torture were just brutal.. you just can’t imagine anyone doing these things to another.

The Sherdan Volca doesn’t stay quiet for long either and has a very big part to play. Will Hattu ever get the revenge he needs? I’m not sure he will if I’m honest.

During the journey Hattu forges new friendships and I loved the bond that was created between the Hittites and the Kaskan warriors. I also really enjoyed the addition of Iranzi who ends up being someone Hattu can really rely on.

War is still coming but after the events in this book I’m left wondering how will Hattu come back from the brink.. and will that bastard Volca ever die? He has more lives than a cat! Ha

Two of the main characters really came to life in my mind. Pharoah Seti.. at first blinded by greed…then vengeance. King Muwa also shines through. There’s a scene in the tin mines that really cements Muwa as being a great leader.. he’s not prefect.. no one is.. but he will do anything to show his people they can survive..that he can save them all.. even if it’s not true he knows just how to get the people on side.

Oh, side note for the author.. I think I’ll have nightmares about getting stuck in a small space now..cheers for that.. either that or spiders…urghhhh.. again cheers! Ha.

For me Gordon is simply a master with wordplay.. he knows how to write a tale in such a way it will never leave you. I think I’m going to need a better bookshelf at this rate to hold all his books!

The best and most brutal from Gordon to date.. loved it!

5/5 Stars!

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

 

 

Athour Spotlight – Steven. A. McKay plus review!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a little author spotlight..lets rectify that now as I welcome author Steven A. McKay to my blog. Keep reading for my lastest review as well!!

Steven is author of the brilliant Forest Lord series and now The Warrior Druid of Britain series. Not to forget if you are a fan of Audible you should check out his Roman slave tale Lucia!

Let’s get on with the Q&A.. Welcome!!

So I’ve a few questions I hope you won’t mind answering.

After the success of the Forest Lord series it must have been quite daunting starting a fresh new series. Did you worry at all and how has the new series been received?

Yes, it was a bit of a wrench to leave behind my Forest Lord series. Not just because I had really grown to know and love the characters, but because it had done so well for me in terms of sales and reviews. There’s always a chance any new series won’t garner as much interest so, yeah, I was a bit apprehensive of starting a new book with all new characters. But then I began writing The Druid and I realised I was enjoying it immensely – that’s always a good sign! If a book is fun to write, and the characters really entertain you as the author, well, readers might enjoy it too.

I’d say most of my readers like the druid books even more than they did the Forest Lord ones, although some, like you I believe, prefer the latter. As a writer you always want to improve, and create better stories, but it’s also nice to know your previous work has also really touched someone and given them a few hours of entertainment.

N.b – I love them both for very different reasons but without the Firest Lord series we may never have seen you develop and produce The Druid… 5* books every last one!

 

For those who don’t know about your latest series what would you say to entice them to pick up a copy?

I think it’s set in a period of history that isn’t really that well covered in fiction – post-Roman Britain. It was called the “dark ages” for a long time, but people are now beginning to realise that civilisation didn’t just completely collapse when the Romans left this island. Things changed, of course, and quite drastically, but everyone didn’t become a mad savage overnight – they still had culture and religion and so on and it’s interesting to explore all that. Then of course you add in my main characters like the giant warrior druid Bellicus, little princess Catia, the former centurion Duro, dangerous Saxons Horsa and Hengist, and all the various kings of the time (even Arthur makes a small appearance in the first book) and, well, they’re the perfect guides to Britain in the fifth century.

Apart from all that, the books are free on Kindle Unlimited so if you have a membership why not check them out? They are a great way to escape all the lockdown bleakness just now.

 

Now I can’t ignore the obvious going on around us. The dreaded COVID19. How are things for you? Many may think this is an ideal time for writing but I know you’ve an important day job.

Important day job? It depends on what you mean by important. It pays my mortgage, but even in these times when so-called “unskilled” workers are finally gaining recognition, I don’t know if a part-time gas and electric meter reader would be classed as that important, ha! But my company told us we weren’t to go out working about 5 weeks ago now, so me and the family have been staying home. Yeah, there’s lots of free time to write, but when there’s so much fear and uncertainty going around, it’s extremely hard to get into the right frame of mind to sit down and work on a novel.

Last week, I decided to write a new Warrior Druid of Britain short story to give away to my email list subscribers and, honestly, that was great. There was no real pressure, I just had to write something fun and entertaining with the specific idea of entertaining myself and my subscribers and the result was “Over The Wall”. My readers enjoyed it and I thought it was good too, so I’ve expanded and polished it and since it was set at Beltane, I’ve decided to make it available on Kindle this May 1st  – Beltane! Complete with a professional new cover.

It was really enjoyable to write and kinda focused my mind so I’ve been able to get back onto the novel writing again this week and book 3 in the druid series is coming along nicely.

N.b – All jobs are important if they pay the bills! Ha and look out for my review of Over The Wall… Keep scrolling!!!

over the wall medium

Giving the current situation I’ve seen authors have release dates pushed back by their publishers. What’s your take? Me personally I’ve been looking for more books than ever and really do see these luxuries a way to keep us indoors safe.. Ebooks even more so.

Yeah, I agree, it seems a bit strange NOT to publish a new book if it’s all ready to go. Personally, I’ve had a Kindle Unlimited subscription for a long time but I’ve only started to really use it in the last month. I’ve read lots of books on things like ghosts and the unexplained, purely to take my mind off all the scary stuff in real life just now. So, when everyone is stuck at home, looking to be entertained, why not give them new books to read? It seems like publishers are shooting themselves in the foot in that regard, but then hardly any of my sales come from actual print books. About 95% of my readers do it via Kindle so I’m thinking of it in that sense – maybe the big publishers would lose out on a lot of business if they couldn’t have a launch party for a hardback? I don’t know. I suppose, if there’s less books coming out, there’s more chance people will find my back catalog so…

Whats your plans for the next book.. Will we see Bellicus return? he’s got plenty fight left in him?

He’s still in his twenties, so I think he has many years left to kick ass. Duro is older, although, sadly, even though he’s the veteran centurion, he’s a few years younger than me! But yes, Bellicus and Duro are both back in the next book and they’re facing a very tough time. I don’t want to give away too much, but the plot so far has been influenced by what’s happening in the real world just now so it’s pretty bleak in places. But, as anyone who’s read my previous books will know, I always like my characters to live in hopes of prevailing, no matter how dark their circumstances. So, I’m about a third finished and I don’t know how it will end, but I’m sure the gods won’t abandon our heroes!

N.B – I’ve always felt Bellius as a little older… I guess it’s the respect he commands and his presence…certainly he’s far wiser than I was in my twenties! ha

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Any chance of any more Robin Hood themed short tales? You have quite a talent for the novella I must say?

Thank you! Yes, I like writing the shorter things as there’s not so much to keep track of, it can all be a bit more linear. My last one, Faces of Darkness was really well received – I think it has the highest average rating of any of my books on Amazon UK, so, although novellas and novelettes never sell as well as novels, it’s great to know that readers appreciate them. It spurs me on to create more in a similar vein so yes, there will be more Forest Lord novellas. I already have a basic outline for another Friar Tuck/Little John mystery, again, like Faces of Darkness based on a real criminal case which I heard about on a podcast. I would expect it to be published in the autumn or winter, all being well with the next druid novel coming out before it in the summer.

If you’re anything like me I’m sure you’ve not had much downtime since lockdown but what have you been doing to keep yourself and the family busy? I know you like your guitars? I’ve never learned to play… I really should.

Oh yes, my guitars have been a really good way for me to escape reality. There’s been a few times, particularly at the start of the lockdown, when I started to feel quite stressed and fearful, and I’d pick up one of my guitars and just start playing along to Metallica or some old death metal song and I’d completely lose myself in the music. Not for very long, but enough to let me relax and really chill out. I’d recommend you start learning an instrument given all this free time we have!
Other than that, my family keep me busy – there’s always another meal to cook, or clothes to be washed, or stories to be read, and there’s the home-schooling thing too just now. I’ve actually never been bored at all, which is pretty incredible. Any time I do feel like quiet time, like I say I’ve been reading stuff on Kindle or browsing the creepy  r/unresolvedmsyteries pages on Reddit.

This post is of course a way for me to highlight your awesome books but if you had to pick someone who you think is on fire at the moment in the book world who would it be?

Well, I don’t read much fiction anymore since I have to spend most of my reading time on research for my own books – even in lockdown I’ve been mostly reading non-fiction. I have been really impressed, and pleased, with Matthew Harffy’s rise though. His newest book, Wolf of Wessex, was a cracking read which I was happy to endorse and now he’s even got a TV series in the works which is probably every writer’s dream. I won’t deny I’m jealous of that success, but not in a bad way – he’s a good guy and supports other authors and he likes Iron Maiden so good luck to him!

 

Lastly, If Bellicus was here today.. would he have any words of wisdom?

I tend to think of Bellicus and Friar Tuck in a similar way, since they’re both hard, fighting men who represent a higher power. I think Tuck’s wise words to Robin in my second novel, The Wolf and the Raven are particularly appropriate for all of us in these frightening times. I wrote that book when I was going through a very tough period in my own life since our second child had just been stillborn, and this particular line of Tuck’s was as much for me as it was for Robin, who’d been beaten, imprisoned and was very close to breaking point:

His eyes welled up, but he angrily wiped them, not giving in to the self-pity that threatened to overwhelm him and he remembered Tuck’s words from not so long ago: “Never give up hope!”

He clenched his fists and forced a smile into the oppressive darkness. It would take more than this to break Robin Hood.

Never give up hope everyone, and stay safe.

If you’d like to sign up for my email list and receive a FREE Forest Lord short story, “The Rescue”, along with regular chances to win signed books, posters, mugs and Audible downloads click here: http://eepurl.com/bqatb5


 

I’d like to give a big thank you to Steven for appearing on my blog today and what better way can I do that then with a review for his lastest book Over The Wall..

Here’s the blurb

Beltane, AD425
Northern Britain

Midnight approaches and in Dun Breatann’s great hall the Beltane feasting continues, with stories and songs and as much meat and ale as anyone could wish for.
On the western side of the towering fortress however, ten small figures make their way up the shadowy rock. Armed to the teeth, and hand-picked for their particular, deadly skills, these warriors have travelled far across the sea from Dalriada and are utterly focused on their mission, despite the fact most – perhaps all – of them will die this night.
High above, guards patrol the fortress walls as usual, but they expect yet another quiet shift for, as everyone knows, Dun Breatann is impregnable.
Isn’t it?

Review

Over The Wall is a 31 page novella, part of the author’s Warrior Druid series. Written during the lockdown of 2020.

As night falls and drink is flowing King Coroticus’s enemies approach..

Will these dark assassins manage to carry out their plan? it’s almost certain death for them.

What they don’t know is that Bellicus and his trusty hound Eolas are in attendance in the great hall.

31 pages isn’t a lot to fit a story in to but McKay manged it perfectly leaving me eager for the next book in the series to come out.

The plot was fun and the story linking with the Trojan horse fit perfectly.

McKay always manages to give life to characters, even in such a short space of time and I loved the interactions with Gavo, the captain of the guard.. I love that guy.

A fun novella which any fan will be excited to read.. and if you are anything like me it will have you rereading the series.. I need another Bellicus fix and fast.

5* Novella!

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon

Footprints in the Sand (The Lucy Lawrence Mysteries Book 2) by Pam Lecky – Review

Today I’m going to be reviewing Footprints in the Sand (The Lucy Lawrence Mysteries Book 2) by Pam Lecky.

Here’s the blurb

Cairo 1887: A melting pot of jealousy, lust and revenge. Who will pay the ultimate price?

Lucy Lawrence throws caution to the wind and embarks on a journey of self-discovery to the land of the pharaohs.

Travelling to Cairo as the patron of the charming French Egyptologist, Armand Moreau, Lucy discovers an archaeological community plagued by professional rivalries and intrigue. It is soon apparent that the thriving black market in antiquities threatens Egypt’s precious heritage.

When the Egyptian Museum is burgled, Lucy is determined to solve the case, much to the annoyance of the local inspector of police, and the alarm of Mary, her maid. But when an archaeologist is found murdered in the Great Pyramid, Lucy is catapulted into the resulting maelstrom. Can she keep her wits about her to avoid meeting a similar fate?

Review

First off.. have you read book 1 in the series? No Stone Unturned. You don’t need to in order to read Footprints in the Sand but it would certainly help you understand Lucy and her motivations.

After the death of her husband Charlie and the events that followed it’s time for Lucy to find herself.. to enjoy herself a little..lord know she needs it.

Lucy’s quite an independent woman… at a point in time when this would be highly looked down upon. It’s the whole Men do the real work kind of thing but Lucy pulls no punches and doesn’t listen to these silly views.. she will do exactly what she wants. She’s a little headstrong too at times which isn’t always a good thing for her.. impulsive and that leads to trouble.

When Lucy meets Armand Moreau she’s captivated not only by him but also his profession.. he’s an archaeologist working in Egypt.. the whole idea fascinates Lucy and with no one waiting for her to come home to she decides to be a patron of Moreau and agrees to accompany him on the dig.

Soon a theft occurs.. and a black market in goods becomes clear.. is this really a good place for Lucy to be?

Things soon become even worse when a body is found in the Great Pyramid and the murder weapon is… oh well I’ll let you find that out ha.

There’s twists and turns along the way, some subtle..some quite glaringly obvious but Lucy needs to put the pieces together to understand the events and the meanings behind them.

Why doesn’t she just go to the Police you ask? Well she quite fancies herself as a amateur detective.. and more so she wants to prove she’s capable of anything she puts her mind too.. sod what anyone else thinks.

I really enjoyed the plot and the final twist in the tale. It’s paced well and I loved the characters and their development..everyone seemed to get their fair share of the limelight.

For me Footprints in the Sand is a fun and easy read..you’ll flow through it like a hot knife through butter..it’s just written in a way it’s effortless to read..you just get sucked in.

Pam Lecky is really good at writing female lead novels which I find I really enjoy.. her characters have their good and bad points.. that makes them human.. you can’t be perfect after all.

What also shined through is Pam’s commitment to the subject as she balanced the plot perfectly with tit bits of information to show she researched well. Archaeology and Egypt have always fascinated me so It was lovely to see she didn’t skim on this but neither overegged it.. spot on.

A fun and fresh series I’m very much enjoying. More please.

5/5 Stars!

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

Flash Gordon – War Of The Citadels by David Hagberg – Review

Today I’m going to be reviewing War of the Citadels book 2 in the Flash Gordon series by David Hagberg.

Here’s the blurb

Sent on a rescue mission by the leaders of the planet Earth, Flash Gordon and his companions Dale Arden and Dr. Hans Zarkov find themselves involved in an intricate war plan which threatens the existence of the entire universe. Each step they take propels them further into the complex plots and counterplots of two warring worlds.

Review

This is the 2nd instalment in the series by David Hagberg. In the 1st instalment we learned of the ⁰reappearance of the Interstellar Exploration ship GOODHOPE.. with it’s crew all found dead. The ship had been launched 200 years prior and Zarkov was tasked with discovering what had happened aboard ship when suddenly the drive spools and our heroes are whisked away across the galaxy to a distant planet.

We soon learned of a war that has raged for thousands of years that could impact everyone..Flash, Zarkov and Dale decide to help.

While on the planet a ship from Citadel II appears.. the enemy..and all hell breaks loose.. they’re more advanced than first thought and this could mean the end of Citadel I and our heroes.

One hope remains.. The creators of Citadel I came from a planet called Centrus. The location of this planet has remained secret.. for everyone’s sake.. but they may still be alive, or at the very least have technology that can save them. Zarkov soon finds a way to locate Centrus and sets off in search of something to help them in their quest.

As with the previous instalment the author throws in some great twists alone the way leaving the reader wondering what the hell is going on.. gripped.. and excited..It’s not all smooth sailing and sometimes you can be left wondering who actually are the good guys in this? Is Flash backing the right team? Is this to save people or will it simply cause the war to continue?

Overall a really exciting read..I’m really enjoying the series. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get around to reading them.

If you can pick up a copy I highly recommend you do..old school SyFy.. what’s not to love!

5/5 Stars!

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon. I also highly recommend AbeBooks if you want to find a copy :)