Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Celebrating Indie Publishing’

  • Title: The Chessmen Thief
  • Author: Barbara Henderson
  • Publisher: Cranachan Publishing
  • Publication Date: 29 April 2021

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Win. Lose. Survive.

I was the boy with a plan. Now I am the boy with nothing.

From the moment 12-year-old Kylan hatches a plan to escape from his Norse captors, and return to Scotland to find his mother, his life becomes a dangerous game.


The precious Lewis Chessmen―which he helped carve―hold the key to his freedom, but he will need all his courage and wit to triumph against Sven Asleifsson, the cruellest Viking in the realm.


One false move could cost him his life.

Barbara Henderson has woven a thrilling origin story around the enduring mystery of the Lewis Chessmen, their creation in Norway, and how they ended up buried in the Hebrides before being discovered on Lewis in 1831

My Thoughts:

I have been a huge fan of Barbara Henderson’s writing from the moment I discovered the wonderful and magical worlds she creates in her books. There is something truly special about the way that Barbara writes and brings her characters to life, inviting the reader to see the story through the eyes her young protagonists and experience the often convoluted, confusing world they are surrounded by. Combine this with intricately detailed settings and expert plotting and you’ve got a book that appeals to readers of all ages.

12-year-old Kylan is a character that readers cannot help but like, he’s brave and strong, he finds courage and takes chances. But he’s also a young lad who’s been taken from his home, his family and held captive by raiding Norsemen. Life has changed drastically for Kylan, he no longer enjoys the life of freedom, instead his place in the world is as thrall in a Norse workshop with craftsmen. It isn’t an easy life, he works hard and has earned a level of respect, albeit grudgingly from some of the craftsmen. The narrative has readers experiencing life in the workshop with Kylan, seeing the big, powerful men around him and contrasting this with the intricate carvings and crafts produced by the hands of these masters. It’s hard not to become lost in this world, watching ideas taking shape and becoming carved items, being awed at the skill poured into chessmen that are created and falling down a rabbit hole on the internet looking up images of the carved chessmen.

Locations are a key part of any Barbara Henderson book, and The Chessmen Thief brings locations to life as if they were almost characters in their own right. I felt that I travelled with the characters, I could see Trondheim through Kylan’s eyes and experience life in the trading post, marvel at the cathedral and imagine the workshop high on the hill. I could feel my stomach rolling and lurching as the longship ploughed through the seas on the way to the Hebridies … to say I was glad when they reached land was an understatement! But what a journey it was, fraught with danger, drama, and a wonderful glimpse into character that had been cloaked in mystery. I don’t want to say too much about the locations as I have a magnificent guest post from Barbara to share about the setting of The Chessmen Thief and her travels around them.

I would highly recommend this book to readers of all ages, it’s a superb story that carries the reader off into a world of adventure and danger, it allows you to explore new worlds and makes you want to learn more about the places and the chess sets that were carved and travelled so far.

Landscape: The setting of the Chessmen Thief

As if the mystery of the Lewis Chessmen were not enough, the landscapes of the Western Isles and Orkney have a magnetic draw all of their own. I will never forget the first time I arrived on Lewis with my family. We traced our way south to the Isle of Harris, and I maintain that the landscape there, barren though it may be, is the native territory for stories.

It is in these wild, remote stretches that touching the past is tantalisingly possible. I am willing to bet that much of the shoreline has changed very little since the Lewis Chessmen came to rest on the island. I have returned several times since.

In the writing of The Chessmen Thief, I was also lucky enough to be able to hark back to a summer trip to Norway, long ago when our oldest was a baby. Unfortunately, we never got as far north as Trondheim, but I had a feel for how the land lay, how the light has such a clarity, how the mist lingered on the fjords.

The book begins in Trondheim. The city is the most populous in Norway now, but it was established in 997 as a trading post. That is still at the heart of how I portray the place in the Chessmen Thief. It served as the capital of Norway, but I don’t explicitly say this in the book as the characters would all know, and therefore have no need to mention it. At the time of the book’s events in the 1150s, a new Archdiocese had been established and this serves as a catalyst for the events in the book. In my story is situated

Trondheim, its trading posts and its iconic cathedral are located by the sea fjord, but the workshop in my story is situated on an elevation above it (I did research this) where the light lingers longest, affording the craftsmen a longer working day. Kylan, the slave and hero of The Chessmen Thief, looks out daily over the sea and is reminded of his home: The Western Isles where he was abducted in a raid. He often runs errands to the trading station, purchases raw materials and watches out for new ships coming into the Fjord.

When he finally contrives a way of travelling back to the Hebrides, he spends time out at sea under the wheel of stars. I did have to use my imagination here – what would it feel like to be tossed by the waves in a longship? How terrifying to lose sight of land? How much more terrifying to be attacked by another ship?

I reached Orkney. I had visited before, again, when our children were young. It was flatter than I had imagined. Luckily, there was an opportunity to visit again with friends, blissfully unaware that lockdown was only a month away. The seas were suitably stormy. We didn’t see a whale (as Kylan does), but we arrived in one piece and I set about exploring. The Earl’s Palace ruins were still standing in Kirkwall, as was the massive St Magnus Cathedral. Should I accommodate my characters here? I decided against it. Ophir and the Earl’s Bu were the more likely place for a bunch of ailing, fevered sailors to recover, out of the view of the rich and powerful who could present a threat to their safety. Apart from that, there were records of a drinking hall at Orphir in Orneyinga Saga. Orphir it was. I visited the ruins, looked out over the Scapa Flow and imagined ambushes.

Onwards to the Isle of Lewis. I defy anyone to find a more beautiful, rugged and dramatic stretch of coastline than the west coast of Lewis. I would have loved to have sailed along it, but I had to make do with the road instead, taking me past an ancient broch, the Standing Stones of Callanish and the towards the Uig peninsula. Inland, the island resembles a barren moonscape with lochans and rocks covered in lichen, but the combination of light and sea against a rocky and grassy backdrop of shelving hillside provided the perfect setting for a chase. Lewis is a threatening, forbidding place in the book, but glorious too. The Isle of Harris to the south represents shelter and finally, safety. Of all the writing in The Chessmen Thief, I am proudest of the concluding epilogue, set on Harris.

The book needs the Chessmen, and their historical context. It needs characters to root for and dangers to threaten what they hold dear. But I think this book would be nothing without the north wind of the Atlantic blowing in your hair, without the rocks and crevices of the Lewis coast, without lochs and fjords, endless beaches, and trickling springs.

Let the book take you there. And then explore the stunning backdrop to this adventure as soon as it can be safely done. You won’t regret it.


by Barbara Henderson
Barbara and the Chessmen

Read Full Post »

  • Title: The Cabinet of Calm
  • Author: Paul Anthony Jones
  • Publisher: Elliott & Thompson Ltd
  • Publication Date: 14th May 2020

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Sometimes we all need a little reminder that it’s going to be okay… Open The Cabinet of Calm to discover a comforting word that’s equal to your troubles.

The Cabinet of Calm has been designed to be picked up whenever you need a moment of serenity. Just select the emotion listed that reflects whatever you’re feeling and you’ll be offered a matching linguistic remedy: fifty-one soothing words for troubled times.

These kind words – alongside their definitions and their stories – will bring peace, comfort and delight, and provide fresh hope.

Written with a lightness of touch, The Cabinet of Calm shows us that we’re not alone. Like language, our emotions are universal: someone else has felt like this before and so there’s a word to help, whatever the challenge.

So much more than a book of words, The Cabinet of Calm will soothe your soul and ease your mind. It’s the perfect gift.

My Thoughts:

Books are often the thing that many people turn to in a time of need; they provide a means of escape, a form of comfort and indeed they are way to cope when in an uncertain world. And I definitely think that The Cabinet of Calm is a book that deserves its place on the shelf of “books for the soul”.

I am a huge fan of Paul Anthony Jones’s books, each of them has a place on my bookshelf and I’ve worked my way through them more than once, enjoying the luxurious feel of the language within, learning new things and allowing myself to be carried off on a wave of pure escapism and joy.

A heartfelt introduction from the author at the beginning of this book makes you stop and think about the importance of words, the power they hold and the comfort they bring. And as you weave through the pages of the delights in the book, so many resonate …

Take for instance “mooreeffoc”. Jones writes “when we become bored by the everyday world and the sights and sounds in it, taking a step back and appraising it with a fresh pair of eyes can be all that is needed to revitalise our thinking, gain a better understanding of it and revive our interest or approach to it“, a timely reminder to change the way we look at things, or change the way we think about things, may in turn change the way we feel.

A spellbinding and almost melodic collection of words, there is quite likely a word for whatever you’re feeling at the moment. As I flicked through the pages initially I was drawn to certain words and terms, feeling that I agreed with many or thought “so that’s what that feeling is called”. I love a book that gives me knowledge and Jones’s books always do that. Often it’s those phrases you’ve always wondered about but never taken the time to stop and look up, or you’ve just long accepted a meaning for the phrase without question.

A hugely recommended book, and one I would say would make the perfect gift for the word lover in your life.

Now to go and deal with a child with a case of the bocksturrocks

Read Full Post »

  • Title: The Final Game
  • Author: Caimh McDonnell
  • Publisher: McFori Ink
  • Publication Date: 17th March 2020

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Dorothy Graham is dead, which is inconvenient, not least for her. Luckily, she has planned for this eventuality. Now, if any of the truly dreadful people she is related to want to get their hands on her money, they’re going to have to do so via a fiendish difficult and frankly bizarre competition of Dorothy’s devising. After all, just because you’re dead, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a last laugh at the expense of people who made your life miserable.

Paul Mulchrone, to his unending credit, is neither related to Dorothy or happy that she is dead; What he is however is a contestant in this competition whether he likes it or not, which he definitely doesn’t. He and his off-again on-again girlfriend, the formidable Brigit, are supposed to be running MCM Investigations, a detective agency. Instead, they have to go into battle against Dorothy’s bloodsucking relatives. As if that wasn’t enough, they get hired by the aforementioned dead woman to find out who killed her.

DI Jimmy Stewart is enjoying his retirement – in the sense that he definitely isn’t. He is bored out of his mind. When the offer comes to get back into the crime solving business, it is too good to turn down. But when he finds himself teamed up with the nephew of a man he threw in prison, and a flatulent dog, he starts to think that taking up lawn bowls wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all. 

The Final Game is a standalone crime novel perfect for readers new to Caimh McDonnell’s blackly comic take on his hometown, as featured in the international bestselling Dublin Trilogy books. His previous works have been optioned for TV and nominated for awards, which they somehow keep managing not to win.

My Thoughts:

If you search for Caimh McDonnell on this blog you will find reviews of all of his books so far, and you will see that I have absolutely loved each of them. Especially the ones that feature the enigmatic Bunny McGarry. So when I saw that The Final Game featured the original colourful cast of characters I couldn’t wait to get reading!

Following on from the success of the Dublin Trilogy series, McDonnell crafts a wonderfully vivid tale that will have the reader smirking and giggling as they follow Paul Mulchrone and his girlfriend Brigit through a competition that tests their skills and stomachs. The commentary team are hilarious, we need these guys on TV!
As well as the competition, readers watch retired DI Jimmy Stewart navigate widowhood and juggle working a case that has more questions than answers. Things aren’t helped by the fact that he’s teamed up with a flatulent German shepherd with an attitude problem and the nephew of one of his previous collars.

Each of the characters is a creation of brilliance, their quirks and personalities are so very vivid. You can hear their voices, you can see the looks on the faces of those around them, their reactions to the situations that occur around them, everything.
But not only this, readers get a clear image of the settings and the action that plays out in each scene like it was on the big screen. It all makes for a thrilling and exciting read, a much needed escape and utter joy.

If you’ve not read any of the previous books by this author, I would seriously recommend binging! The wit and humour that McDonnel weaves throughout his writing is pitched perfectly. There are few books that I know will have me laughing out loud, but laughter feels guaranteed when you pick up a book by this author.

Read Full Post »

Today’s Celebrating Indie Publishing post is joining up with damppebbles blog tours to share my review of Neil Lancaster’s thrilling second novel in the Tom Novak series.

  • Title: Going Rogue
  • Author: Neil Lancaster
  • Publisher: Burning Chair
  • Publication Date: 21st November 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Tom Novak is back.

When a spate of deadly terrorist attacks hit the streets of London, Tom finds himself thrust into the middle of a fight for the survival of all he holds dear.

When the attackers hit closer to home than he could ever imagine, Tom is forced to make a choice between his duty or his conscience. In doing so, he enters a series of increasingly dangerous worlds, in the darkest corners of humanity.

Can Tom and his colleagues get to the bottom of a plot which threatens the very fabric of society?

Will they stop the terrorists before it’s too late?

When faced with the ultimate choice, which way will Tom go?

After all, as Cameron always says: “Always do right, boy…”

Going Rogue is the follow-up to the hugely successful thriller, Going Dark: the book that introduced Tom Novak as the hero who, in the words of best-selling author Tony Parsons, “makes Jason Bourne look like a vegan Pilates teacher”.

Get Going Rogue today, and start a rollercoaster ride of a thriller that you won’t ever want to put down.

My Thoughts:

If Neil Lancaster isn’t a name on your author list then get his name added there quickly! The Tom Novak series is thrilling and exciting, the sort of thing you read while holding your breath in anticipation of what will happen next.

Reading the books in order will definitely give you a more rounded appreciation for this character and his back story, and I felt that having read Going Dark first, I understood this complex character and his life a little better. When you start reading, it’s hard not to wonder if this will be another rogue detective story, someone who has little attachment to those around them and will throw themselves into the most dangerous situations for nothing else other than a thrill … all under the guise of saving someone or saving the world. But in Tom Novak, the reader is given a character that is deep, complex and so fascinating. There is so much detail written into this character, he is multidimensional and as the story unfolds you are drawn to him.

The plotting is once again brilliant, Lancaster writes with great skill and the action feels believable, authentic, something I would expect given his previous career in policing. The pace is like a whirlwind, I wanted to not blast through this book, but at the same time, the author baits the chapters perfectly to hook the reader and ensure they will keep reading, even if it is until late into the wee hours of the morning. Using current events makes the plot very realistic and gives the reader pause for thought to consider who vast and diverse society is.

I really don’t want to say anything that will give away the plot or hints about what will happen, but it’s the sort of book you can easily lose a few hours to once you’re hooked. It’s an action packed, thrilling read that is packed with subtle details that build such a crisp picture of the scenes and the tensions that bubble under the surface. The characterisation is clever, the plot is immersive and this is one series that screams out to appear on screen!

Read Full Post »

As Christmas draws closer I thought it might be nice to feature a Christmas book in the spotlight. Today’s book is Christmas at the Little Cottage by the Sea by the lovely Rachel Griffiths.

  • Title: Christmas at the Little Cottage by the Sea
  • Author: Rachel Griffiths
  • Publisher: Cosy Cottage Books
  • Publication Date: 15th November 2019

Copy purchased via http://www.amazon.co.uk

Description:

This winter, curl up with the new festive novella from the author of The Cosy Cottage Cafe series.

Driving around unfamiliar country lanes, while enduring the scorn of her teenage daughter, wasn’t how Pippa Hardy thought she’d start the Christmas holidays, but her satnav seems to be more confused than she is.

Joe Roberts has had a difficult year following the loss of his mother. Added to this, he’s trying to run his own business while dealing with pressure from his sister about when he’ll finish renovating their mother’s house. So when his best friend, Luke Hardy, invites him to a remote Welsh cottage to join his family for Christmas, it seems like the break he needs.

Christmas at a cottage by the sea sounds appealing, but sometimes having all the people you care about together in one place can be a festive recipe for disaster — especially when unexpected guests arrive.

As snow falls, carols play and Pippa and Joe face the ghosts of Christmas past under the mistletoe, they realise that there might actually be more than festive magic sparkling between them.

My Thoughts:

There’s something so lovely about grabbing a book by one of your favourite authors, and as soon as I hear that Rachel Griffiths has a book due out I have a pre-order in. I was absolutely thrilled to see Christmas at the Little Cottage by the Sea pop onto my Kindle last month, but I did have a sneaky preview of this book in my role as a proofreader over at Noble Owl Proofreading.

Pippa Hardy is a character that many readers will connect with, she’s a wonderfully kind and compassionate character that cares deeply about her family and friends. Being a mum, sister, daughter, friend … her time is spent putting everyone else first. So this Christmas, with her daughter being that little bit older, Pippa can look forward to a break and relaxing. Finding an old friend joining their family gathering makes Pippa falter, but that’s not the only expected guest to appear.

A Christmas tale usually needs laughter, mishaps and love, and Rachel Griffiths gives her fans all of these and more! I laughed at the way things played out, I gasped in shock when revelations were uttered and I smiled so much while reading this story. The wonderfully rich details woven throughout make this such a treat for readers, the atmospheric setting comes alive through Rachel’s writing, you can smell the mince pies that are baking, you can see the delights in the farm shop and the Christmas market … she has such a way with words that you feel you’re there, watching the story play out right in front of you as if it were on a TV.

If you’ve read any of her other books, you will know that there’s a cosy loveliness that emanates from the pages, and in Christmas at the Little Cottage by the Sea, Rachel Griffiths manages to pull together characters that are genuine, and relatable, some may well remind you of your own family members. Their lives reflect a lot of what we have going on around us and seeing them struggle and find a course to follow is ultimately heartwarming.

It’s fair to say this book is also a wonderful escape from the festive madness of shopping, wrapping, cooking … it’s the perfect accompaniment to a hot mug of cocoa, tea or coffee, one warms the stomach and the other warms the soul.

Read Full Post »

I’ve decided to make today a Celebrating Indie Publishing day, sometimes there are just so many brilliant indie books that I won’t have a chance to squash them all in on Fridays. So I’m sharing a review of a book I discovered by chance. Today’s post sees a delve into the world of a historical novel, WWII to be precise. The book in the spotlight is The Knife-Edge Path by Patrick T. Leahy, published by Amsterdam Publishers in 2019.

  • Title: The Knife-Edge Path
  • Author: Patrick T. Leahy
  • Publisher: Amsterdam Publishers
  • Publication Date: 6th December 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Driven by destitution in war-torn Berlin, a beguiling woman is cornered into accepting a precarious role in espionage to keep from being thrown out on the street.
As Geli Straub becomes the seductive Mlle. Simone Miroux, on orders to discover whether SS officer Kurt Langsdorff is all he seems to be, her plot to betray him falters on conflicted feelings. Drawn past the point of no return into his life, she cannot sell him out.
How, then, is she to save him without shedding the identity of the woman who deceived him, and on whom her life depends?

My Thoughts:

All too often espionage tales feature a lead character that goes deep undercover, risks everything for the good of their country … willingly. But The Knife-Edge Path is different, here we have a protagonist who is left with little choice but to take on a guise and act as a spy for the SS.

Geli Straub plays a dangerous game when she “agrees” to become Mlle. Simone Miroux for an SS officer to spy on one of their own. Asking favours of her new SS friend is dangerous, and initially she thinks nothing of using her connections for information, cigarettes … whatever it is that she might need. However, the life of a double agent is a precarious one, never knowing who’s watching and if everyone is who they say they are. For Geli/Simone this is only one aspect that is making life difficult. Whether as Frau Straub or Mlle. Miroux, she is a target of suspicion, her motives are questioned and her life is in danger.

Delving into the world of WWII espionage, the author takes readers on a journey filled with intrigue and danger as his characters face perilous situations and risk everything for what they think is right. As she gets to know SS officer Kurt Langsdorff, Simone Miroux sees there’s a side to him that is at odds with his SS facade and develops feelings for him that she knows she shouldn’t have, clashing with her mission and potentially putting everything as risk.

The writing is everything I would look for in a book set in this era, crisp details of the characters and their lives, the unnerving feeling of danger lurking ahead, the harrowing details of atrocious acts carried out in the name of the Third Reich and above all, it’s hugely emotive.

Read Full Post »

Celebrating Indie Publishing today sees a review of Heleen Kist’s latest book, Stay Mad, Sweetheart, a thought-provoking read that has readers shouting and cheering in equal measure.

  • Title: Stay Mad, Sweetheart
  • Author: Heleen Kist
  • Publisher: Red Dog Press
  • Publication Date: 13th November 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

There’s a fine line between innocence and guilt. An even finer line between justice and revenge.

Data scientist Laura prefers the company of her books to the real world – let alone that cesspit online. But when her best friend Emily becomes the victim of horrific cyberbullying, she makes it her all-engulfing mission to track down the worst culprits.

Petite corporate financier Suki is about to outshine the stupid boys at her firm: she’s leading the acquisition of Edinburgh’s most exciting start-up. If only she could get its brilliant, but distracted, co-founder Laura to engage.

Event planner Claire is left to salvage the start-up’s annual conference after her colleague Emily fails to return to work. She’s determined to get a promotion out of it, but her boss isn’t playing ball.

As the women’s paths intertwine, the insidious discrimination they each face comes to light. Emboldened by Emily’s tragic experience, they join forces to plot the downfall of all those who’ve wronged them.

But with emotions running high, will the punishments fit the crimes?

My Thoughts:

Heleen Kist is a hugely talented writer who never shies away from the harsh realities and uncomfortable truths. In Stay Mad, Sweetheart, Kist offers readers a glimpse into the world of a devastated friend who will utilise every skill she has to track down those responsible for tormenting her best friend online, and ultimately pushing her to commit suicide. Cyberbulling is something we are becoming more and more aware of in recent years, and so seeing how data scientist Laura approaches her investigation is fascinating, her frustrations at things never being straightforward or easy are understandable and realistic.
But Laura isn’t the only character that readers follow, the narration comes from the perspective of Suki, another hugely intelligent character. Through Suki, readers see another side of Laura, the side of a client who is frustratingly busy and unable to engage in the discussions necessary for the successful conclusion of the biggest deal of Suki’s corporate financial career. And there’s also Claire who is trying to pull off a conference, against impossible odds, and juggle things as best as she can to prove she deserves a promotion and the recognition that comes with all of her hard work. The lives of these three women are linked, and like many women they face hostility, discrimination and sexism.

Through her writing, Heleen Kist ensures that readers are engaged constantly, but they are also furious and horrified at what they read. The characters are ones that many will connect with, will perhaps recognise from their own circles of friends or family, but most importantly, these characters are ones that readers cannot help become invested in.
The plot is emotive, immersive and utterly compelling. It forces readers to think and has them pondering the dangers of social media, the ramifications of mob mentality when it comes to the frenzied activity we witness across the various platforms. It reminds us that sexism and bullying exist in many workplaces and situations, and it is totally unacceptable.
Revenge and justice are vastly different, and there is a fine line between them. In chasing for justice, what happens when you become so focused that it borders on obsession? When do the actions of the pursuer become unacceptable and too like those they are pursuing? Kist throws so many questions to her readers, asking them to stop and think about everything they read and look around at the world around them.

A hugely engaging and powerful read, one that I think will have people talking for quite some time, and would be perfect for book groups.

Read Full Post »

Today I am thrilled to share a review of a book that I’d followed eagerly on Twitter. I first heard of this book in 2018 when I happened to spot a tweet by a local author, I had sporadically read blog posts with local connections by her and was quite intrigued by the idea of her book. Witchcraft is something intrinsically woven throughout Scottish history, but the majority of the tales seem to be concentrated in the central belt of the country, with little mention of anything near Aberdeen. But with research and a determined outlook, Ailish Sinclair has taken the stories of three of these accused women and crafted it into a story.

  • Title: The Mermaid and the Bear
  • Author: Ailish Sinclair
  • Publisher: GWL Publishing
  • Publication Date: 16th October 2019

Copy purchased via amazon.co.uk

Description:

Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird.

Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning…

Until the past catches up with her.

Set in the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and the Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

My Thoughts:

The moment I heard about this book I was intrigued, I do love a historical read and if you throw in a tale with some witchcraft, well you’re pretty much guarantee to grab my attention. The publication date couldn’t roll around quick enough for me and so on 16th October it magically arrived on my kindle and I instantly started reading.

Readers meet Isobell as she flees for her life under the cover of darkness with her brother and friend, and their escape brings them to the safety of Scotland. There they have jobs waiting for them, safety and a new lives, which all seems idyllic in the setting of a castle surrounded by woodlands, lochs and a stone circle.
As a young lass finding her feet in a new place, Isobell soon finds an ally in the cook, Bessie Thom. Through her chats with Bessie, readers find out more about the Laird and the Manteith family. And the more Isobell finds out about the elusive Laird and his son, the more she comes to like them, and indeed a chance meeting with Thomas Manteith sets in motion events that change everything.

With beautifully flowing narrative, it’s not difficult to get caught up in the story. Rich, atmospheric descriptions bring the scenes alive, readers can see the delights that Bessie and Isobell create to serve at the feasts, can feel the crispness of the cool air and waters of the loch.
The characters are brought to life so well, each of their individual personalities become so real as they develop from being mere names on a page. I found myself becoming infuriated by the actions of some, feeling appreciation for others, and will admit that I did find a fondness towards others.

This wonderful magical tale then takes a deviation towards the darkness and from here Sinclair’s research and writing really shines. Her portrayal of 16th century Scotland is entrancing, and the details of the witch-hunts taking place in that time are fascinating. Taking inspiration from events that took place in Aberdeen during this time, Sinclair has highlighted a horrific world where power wielded over innocent people under the guise of religion or witchery. The actions of those heading up the hunts were deplorable, but at the time, this was accepted as the “norm”, there was little understanding of things fell outside these parameters.

Although there is a romantic arc to the plot, there is so much more to this book and I would urge any fans of historical fiction involving tales of witchcraft to look into reading this book.

Read Full Post »

  • Title: The Crown Agent
  • Authors: Stephen O’Rourke
  • Publisher: Sandstone Press
  • Publication Date: 7th November 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:
In 1829, disillusioned young doctor, Mungo Lyon, is recruited by the Crown to investigate a mysterious murder and shipwreck off the coast of Scotland. His adventures lead him on a pursuit across the Scottish countryside, to kidnap and treason, an unwanted trip to the West Indies, an insurrection and love.

My Thoughts:
I can see why Stephen O’Rourke won a a short story competition in 2012 when he used the basis for this story as his submission, and I am mightily glad that he went on to write The Crown Agent in all it’s glory. This is a stunning book, the plotting is superb, characterisation is brilliant and I loved the style of writing.

Every so often, there’s a book that blows you away and I admit, I have been pretty lucky recently as there have been a few books that have stopped me in my tracks and pulled me in to discover the worlds inside their covers. The Crown Agent is one of those books, while I read it I was very aware of how invested I was in the story, feeling a great intrigue about the characters and their schemes, wondering what was going to happen to our disillusioned protagonist and how would he get out of this seemingly impossible situation!

Dr Mungo Lyon becomes involved with an investigation of murder and shipwreck on behalf of the Crown after those in the medical profession find their reputations blackened after the fallout of the body snatching escapades of Burke and Hare. But he has no idea of the danger that lies ahead on his journey, nothing is as it seems and help comes in the most unlikely forms. Weaving through the Scottish countryside, readers are treated to some wonderfully atmospheric scenes, and the vivid descriptions allow crisp mental images to form of the barges used, the rugged terrain and the ports of call along the way. I found myself carried off with the descriptions, I could imagine it all so clearly and it had me keen to go off and look up images online to compare.

Historical tales are always fascinating when they cover aspects I’m not always overly familiar with and I have to say that I felt I’d learned something from reading this book. Although this book is a work of fiction, a lot of research has gone in to making it fit the period of the setting, and making the characters feel authentic and realistic. The plotting is clever, the writing is crisp and O’Rourke sets a pace that keeps readers turning pages as they devour the information to find out the fate of Dr Mungo Lyon.

I think this is a book that fans of historical fiction will be desperate to get their hands on!

Read Full Post »

One of the things I love most about this feature is that it brings my attention to books that I might not have normally picked up or discovered otherwise, and today’s book is one of those. Tam O’Shanter is a tale that I’ve always been aware of, indeed I heard about it at school when I was young, various aspects of it woven into other stories and popular culture but the presentation of this book really intrigued me. Adapting the work of Robert Burns and turning it into a graphic novel makes it infinitely exciting, vibrant and accessible for younger readers.

  • Title: Tam O’Shanter
  • Author: Robert Burns
  • Adapted by: Richmond Clements
  • Illustration : Manga artist Inko
  • Publisher: Cranachan Books
  • Publication Date: 31st October 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

When Tam has one too many drinks on a big night out, his journey home turns into a terrifying ordeal as he runs into witches, warlocks—and the devil himself—in the local graveyard… Will Tam live to tell the tale?

This vibrant and appealing adaptation of Tam O’Shanter brings one of Roberts Burns’ best-loved works, and the Scots language, to life for a new generation through the medium of Manga.

My Thoughts:

I’ve been aware of the tale of Tam O’Shanter for years, but never actually read it fully, so when I heard that Cranachan Books were publishing a Manga style graphic novel of the tale, I was really intrigued. Would this make reading the story easier? Would the storytelling be improved with the illustrations?

As I read through the book, I was thrilled to see it come to life through the vibrant and fun artwork, the Scots language flows well and carries the reader off on the exciting adventure that Tam and his trusty mare embark on. The beasties and ghouls that Tam sees on the ride home after a skinful of drink intrigue and worry him. But our intrepid and inebriated hero soon calls out and draws attention to himself when he calls out to the dancing witch, Nannie. The ensuing chase towards the River Doon sees Tam fleeing for his life and brings about the reason for Maggie losing her tail.

I enjoyed exploring the story, finding out details that I’d not known before. The vibrancy of the illustrations makes the story easier to read and understand, the Scots language is often hard to interpret written down and so the artwork by Inko gives great context to allow readers to grasp what’s happening even if they don’t fully “get” what the words are telling them. I raise my hat to the the team behind this publication, it’s fun and accessible so that youngsters might feel an excitement at learning a tale from Burns, unlike the dread I and some of my classmates felt at school when we learned we were to study Burns. The language was like wading through treacle and we didn’t have the wonderful illustrations like these to capture our attentions.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

write4bairns

Writing for Kids

The Auld (Woolly) Alliance

When a Scottish Knitwear and Toy Designer and a French Compulsive Knitter Meet...

Put it in Writing

The Blog & Website of Anne Stormont Author: Writing, Reading, Reflecting

bibliobeth

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” - Cicero

Not Another Book Blogger

Reading, Writing, Drinking Tea

BookBum

A friendly space for all horror, mystery & thriller lovers

Broadbean's Books

Welcome to my blog where I share my thoughts on books.

Berit Talks Books

“I'm just a girl, standing in front of a book hoping I will love it.”

Yvonne - Me and My Books

Books, book reviews and bookish news.

The Beardy Book Blogger

Reading and Reviewing Books - May Contain Beard: "From Tiny Book Blog Buds Shall Mighty Book Blogs Grow" - TBBB

Book lovers' booklist

Book news and reviews

Rosepoint Publishing

Blogger-Book Blogger–Book Reviews of Bestsellers & Indie Authors

Crime Thriller Fella

Crime reviews, news, mayhem, all the usual

juliapalooza.com

Books, bakes and bunnies

A Knight's Reads

All things bookish

Letter Twenty

it's all about the tea

On The Shelf Books

A bookblog for readers

Gem's Quiet Corner

Welcome to my little corner. Grab a cup of tea (or hot drink of preference), find your happy place and join me to talk all things bookish...