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Another Friday and another wonderful book to share with you from the mind of the hugely talented John K. Fulton.  Last year I was incredibly fortunate to read a copy of John’s second novel The Beast on The Broch  and absolutely fell in love with the way he writes, bringing the stories alive through the eyes of a younger perspective and giving me a glimpse of a world I’d never experienced.  Today I am honoured to be able to share a review with you of The Wreck of The Argyll which is set in 1915 Dundee and is the tale of plucky young Nancy Caird and Jamie Balfour.

 

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** My thanks to Anne at Cranachan Books for my copy of this wonderful book **

 

Description:

WHEN YOUR TEACHER’S A SPY, WHO CAN YOU TRUST?

Dundee, 1915.

When twelve-year-old Nancy suspects one of her teachers is a German spy, she ropes in the reluctant Jamie Balfour to help her uncover the scheme.

Midshipman Harry Melville is aboard HMS Argyll in the stormy North Sea, unaware of both hidden rocks and German plots that threaten the ship. Nancy and Jamie discover HMS Argyll is in deadly danger and they are drawn into a web of espionage, secrets, and betrayal, where no-one is as they seem and no-one can be trusted.

My Thoughts & Review:

The Wreck of The Argyll is a wonderful tale that explores the idea of WWI and spies through the eyes of 12-year-old Nancy Caird and her unwilling companion Jamie Balfour.  But also gives readers a glimpse into the life of a young Naval crewman on his first mission at sea in what proves to be a drama packed journey.

Nancy is the perfect mix of inquisitive, brave and determined, and so it’s only natural for our young protagonist to feel she’s wasting her time attending school when there’s a war on and her time could be better spent contributing to the war effort.  She fancies herself as a detective and is soon on the case of an enemy agent, following one of her teachers down the darkened streets of Dundee.  She’s sure that he must be a spy, and is out to prove it when she stumbles across a situation that even her quick thinking can’t save her from.  Her rescue by Jamie Balfour marks the beginning of a new friendship, and a new partner in the hunt for an enemy spy.

Meanwhile, aboard the HMS Argyll a young Midshipman is finding his feet on his first ship at sea, a rather stormy sea.  The conditions for sailing are far from perfect and it soon transpires that this ship must get to it’s destination and avoid the enemy at all costs.  Whilst Midshipman Harry Melville may come across as mature and responsible, it’s hard to remember that he is only a young lad, not that much older than Nancy Caird and Jamie Balfour.

The thread of the plot around the ship and crew is fascinating and holds so much intrigue.  The tension is perfectly paced with some superb characters that readers will eagerly race through to find out what will happen next.  But equally, the storyline of Nancy, Jamie and the spy is absolutely wonderful.  The dialogue and characters are spot on and work so fantastically.  The snippets of historical information are cleverly woven into the plot and make this hugely enjoyable, I loved the attitudes and sense of humour of the returning soldiers.

Casting a young person as the driver for the story allows readers a rare glimpse into a mindset that questions things at face value.  The way that Nancy sees something is wrong and feels that she must do something about it is commendable.  Perhaps it’s because of her young age that she’s not world-weary yet, or perhaps it’s her nature, but either way it makes for a wonderfully rich and authentic tale that draws readers in and makes them feel flutters of excitement, momentary dread and carried them off on a whirlwind adventure.

A fascinating and exciting tale that I would highly recommend for all readers with some very important messages sprinkled throughout the text, namely that working together will help you overcome obstacles.

So highly recommended!!

You can buy a copy of The Wreck of The Argyll via:

Cranachan Publishing (publisher)
Wordery
Amazon UK

 

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Welcome along to another Friday, and another post to celebrate Indie Publishing!  Today I am delighted to share another wonderful book from Cranachan Publishing – this time the fantastic “The Beast on The Broch” by John K. Fulton and share a short interview with the author behind this Pictish tale.


Book Feature:

Published: 9 September 2016
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Description:

A lonely girl. A wild beast. An unforgettable friendship.

12-year-old Talorca is a Pictish girl living in North-east Scotland in 799 AD. When Gaelic-speaking Dalriadans attack her village, her world is turned upside down. Her only friend is the mythical Pictish Beast, who has been injured by the Dalriadans. Talorca decides to take a stand against the invaders and hatches a plan to drive them out.

But she can only do that with the help of the wild beast on the broch.

My Thoughts & Review:

I absolutely love a story that reaches into the depths of my imagination and kindles my love of folklore and mythology and “The Beast on The Broch” definitely does that.  Incorporating Pictish legend, Scottish history, and a mythological beastie this is a wonderfully rich tale about a young girl coming to terms with an evolving society and finding her place.

Talorca is a marvellous character, so headstrong and driven, and despite her young age she has a remarkably wise head on her shoulders at times.  Other times though, the veil of youth colouring her perception of adult subjects and concerns.  However her love of her people and their traditions cannot be questioned or faulted, so the arrival of Dalriadans in the village is a huge cause of concern and unhappiness for her.
The gradual development of Talorca is masterfully done, she transforms from a ‘wild’ ( I use that in the sense of running around the village in her youthful capers) to becoming wise, refined in her thinking and less hasty in her actions.

The combination of young Talorca scheming of ways to drive out the invading Dalriadans with The Old Woman of the village is superb!  Seeing both old and young coming together to plot and share stories reminds me of time spent with my grandmother – sharing stories, planning mischief and enjoying the company of a loved one.  That’s how I came to look upon the relationship between these characters, Talorca seeking something she felt she could not get from her mother.  Talorca’s mother Mael being described as preoccupied with other things but also trying to parent the spirited child alone following the death of Talorca’s father some years previously.

Through The Old Woman and Father Cormac the reader is swept up in tales of yesteryear and folklore, tales that are rich in detail and full of mystery.  I particularly liked the tale of the “The Wishing Tree”, a tale the author’s father told him when he was growing up.

The Beast, well that’s an odd entity….Pictish stones throughout Scotland have a wealth of beasties carved upon them, and the author has kindly added information about this at the back of the book for interested readers to find out more.  Being lucky enough to live down the coast from the Broch in this tale I have had the pleasure of seeing some Pictish stones and the carvings are magnificent and awe inspiring.  Some of the animals that are depicted make the imagination come alive.  The Beast is a wonderful character, I love the symbolic connection between girl and beast here, the care that this wild creature shows towards Talorca is fascinating.

At the heart of it all, this is a charming tale that has some important themes running through it.  This novel reminds us that acceptance is a two way street, change isn’t always a bad thing but you have to try and be open to it.  But most of all, it reminds us of the importance of owning up to what you have done.

Although “The Beast on The Broch” is marketed towards a younger audience, I would say this is a brilliant read for adults and children alike.  It’s packed with detail and information that brings NE Scotland alive in 799AD, the characters are interesting and engaging, and the story is one that you can happily become transfixed with and spend a happy few hours soaking in every page of this beautifully written novel.

Another eBook that I have to buy the tree book version of!

You can buy a copy of “The Beast on The Broch” via Amazon here or via Book Depository here.


Author Feature:

John K Fulton is the son of a lighthouse keeper, and grew up all around the coast of john-k-fulton-bio-photoScotland, including Tarbat Ness Lighthouse near Portmahomack, which became the inspiration for the setting of The Beast on the Broch. The often remote and lonely locations of his childhood instilled in him a life-long love of books and the sea. After going to school in Edinburgh, Portmahomack, Portree, and Montrose, he studied Classics at the University of St. Andrews, then went on to take a Masters in IT at the University of Dundee. This led to a career as a technical author, which is just like being a proper author, except it’s excruciatingly boring.

He now lives in Leicester with his partner Sandra. While Leicester is about as far from the sea as you can get in the UK, their home is stuffed with books, which is the next-best thing. In 2015 his first novel, The Wreck of the Argyll, a First World War spy thriller, won the Great War Dundee Children’s Book Prize. He regularly blogs and reviews books at www.johnkfulton.com

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

The feeling you get when you finish writing a first draft. There’s been a point in writing every book so far where it seemed like getting to the end was going to be impossible, so to come out of the other side of that is a great feeling. Of course, all the hard work of revision and editing is still ahead, which tempers the celebration somewhat.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?  

Having to deal with rejection. Rejection doesn’t end once you’ve been published, and no matter how hard you try to convince yourself that it shouldn’t get to you, the cumulative effect can be very disheartening.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

I was thinking about some of my favourite books (The Hill of the Red Fox, The Lord of the Rings, The Player of Games, Norwegian Wood, Aegypt, Lanark, Black Hearts in Battersea, Mortal Engines) but I really can’t say that I wish I’d written any of them – because then they’d be completely different and probably not as good. All of these books are so distinctive that they just couldn’t have been written by anyone else. I’ll just be content with having written my own books.

How do you spend your time when you’re not wrapped up plotting your next book?

Reading! I’m a great believer in the maxim that you can’t write well unless you read well. For me, that means reading a lot in my own genre (children’s fiction), but also reading other genres of fiction, particularly science fiction and fantasy. I don’t read nearly enough non-fiction, but when I do it’s usually targeted towards some writing project I’m working on.

I also watch a fair bit of telly, which can be equally instructive in terms of dialogue, plotting, characterisation, and pacing. Writing is writing, as far as I’m concerned. Sometimes I think the influence can be a little bit too strong, though – I’ve caught myself inserting scene breaks in my books where I think an advert break would be.

Do you have a set routine for writing?  Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

As long as I’ve got my Scrivener writing software, I’m happy. I write on my iPad on my armchair with a wireless keyboard, or in the study on the PC; I write in silence, or with music (never music with lyrics, though – I prefer classical or film and TV scores when writing); I write on weekdays and weekends, work days and holidays; I write in the morning, or the afternoon, or the evening, depending on what time I can fit around my full-time job. My only real ritual, if you could call it that, is more of a trick – at the end of each session, I leave a sentence half-completed. This makes it easier for me to start writing the next day, as I already know what I’m going to write.

A huge thank you to John for taking part and letting us know more about himself, if you’d like to know more about John and his books you can check out his website www.johnkfulton.com or follow him on Twitter @johnkfulton

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If you are an independent publisher or author and would like to feature on “Celebrating Indie Publishing” Friday please get in touch – email and twitter links are on the “About Me & Review Policy” page

 

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