blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Girl, The Ghost and the Lost Name – Reece Carter

If my hair looks like bright green seaweed, it’s because that’s exactly what it is. My eyes, a pair of abalone shells, polished blue by sand. Teeth, two rows of pebbles. And my skin is made of wax.

Corpse never asked to be a kid ghost. She doesn’t remember anything from her life – all she knows is her home on the rock-that-doesn’t-exist, her friend Simon the spider, and the vile Witches whose magic she steals.

So, when she discovers that there’s a powerful treasure which could give her all the answers to what she’s lost – her memories, her family, her name – Corpse sets off to find it. On her journey across the stormy sea, she must battle magic, sea monsters and a cruel figure from her past. But the Witches want the treasure too. And they’ll do anything to get it first.

A deliciously dark adventure, packed with chills, fizzing with magic and introducing a truly unforgettable heroine.

Reece Carter is a high-profile Australian nutritionist who has written two non-fiction books for adults, appeared on many of Australian’s major television networks, and written for magazines like GQ. He grew up in rural Western Australia and now lives in Sydney. He has always wanted to write for children and The Girl, the Ghost and the Lost Name is his first novel, perfect for fans of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman.

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My thoughts: this was a sweet, if somewhat sad, story of a ghost with no memory, a spider chum and three monstrous Witches who are chasing the same treasure – an item that could give Corpse the answers to their past. As Corpse and Simon the spider set off a dangerous adventure, you hope they’ll be OK and get some answers. But there’s always those awful Witches on their tail.

There’s a bit of magic in the story, it’s charming and Corpse is a resourceful protagonist, gently narrating their afterlife, their determination not to fade away and to find out who they were in life.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: Kingdom Come – Danielle M.Orsino

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Welcome to the book tour for the beautiful fourth installment in the Birth of the Fae series, Kingdom Come! Read on for more details and a chance to win a FairyLoot Crate!

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Kingdom Come (Birth of the Fae #4)

Publication Date: May 30th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy/ Fae

All is peaceful in the Veil, which is usually when everything falls apart…
Queen Aurora of the Court of Light and King Jarvok of the Court of Dark have fallen in love despite all odds. A relationship of political convenience has turned into something real and tangible for the two monarchs. After centuries of conflict and mistrust, the two Courts are about to unite as one: the Court of the Fae. But not every Fae is happy about the impending union.
Queen Aurora’s most trusted advisors have never lost touch with their old Angelic ways. These bishops still believe that Virtues and Power Angels were never meant to mix. According to them, Queen Aurora is no longer suitable to rule. As they mount a complex coup d’état to grasp the throne, a new threat to the monarchy makes their move.
Will the entire foundation of peace crumble with one last act of betrayal? Or will the bond between Court of Light and Dark prevail in the face of danger?

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About the Author

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Danielle M. Orsino is a fantasy novelist whose lifelong vision to create whimsical realms that her readers can escape to. Her compelling word-weaving pays homage to a multitude of personal muses, from Chris Claremont and George Pérez (both famous comic book writers), to Anne Rice and Wonder Woman.

The creative spark of storytelling has been with Danielle ever since she was a child, but martial arts and her nursing career took center stage into adulthood. Then, on a day like any other, it was reignited during the most unexpected of moments: while treating one of her patients. Seeing that they longed for a distraction during their arduous treatments, the floodgates of inspiration soon burst forth. So, Danielle took it upon herself to tell them a story; a fantastical narrative that would leave the confines of that IV room’s walls and land upon a page. Before she knew it, what started as an imaginative tale to pass the time, turned into book, followed by an entire series: The Birth of Fae. This awe-inspiring series includes Locked out of Heaven (Book One), Thine Eyes of Mercy (Book Two), and From The Ashes (Book Three), all of which are published by 4 Horsemen Publications, Inc. And with an unwavering passion for cosplay and comics, it was a unanimous decision to place her on the cover of each book in all her Fae cosplay glory. The Birth of Fae also features Los, an affable chameleon dragon inspired by her fun-loving Yorkie named Carlos.

When writing wasn’t at the forefront of her mind, Danielle was a successful Martial Artist. Some of her achievements include “1999 World Martial Arts Hall of Fame Inductee”, “Female Martial Artist of the Year”, “WKA World Champion Silver Medalist 2008”, and numerous more. She has also garnered hundreds of martial art tournament wins, various other national and world titles, and features on big-name channels like TLC and CBS. She even had the rare opportunity to perform for former U.S. President Bill Clinton and collaborate alongside Vincent Lyn and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. From there, she pursued her Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science, and she is now a Licensed Practical Nurse who focuses on Lyme disease research.

This “New Queen of the Fae’s” unmatched world-building and masterful Fae-origin retellings have led to an ever-growing queendom of “Fae-natics”. To begin embarking upon a quest in an epic world unlike any other, visit Danielle M. Orsino’s official website at http://www.BirthOfTheFae.com. You can also connect with her on Instagram (@BirthOfTheFae_Novel) and Twitter (@BirthOfTheFae).

“After summoning this world into existence through an imaginative force of will, Danielle has scoured every inch of the landscape several times over. Critics often praise a story’s world building by saying that it feels “lived in.” Well, the world of the Fae certainly seems like that because Danielle herself has happily lived there for years as she worked to put all of this together… My favorite part of this story is that it is gloriously depicted in vibrant images.”

-Clete Barrett Smith, New York Times Bestselling Author of If We Were GiantsAliens on Vacation series, and Magic Delivery

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Blog Tour: The Woman in the Library – Sulari Gentill

In every person’s story, there is something to hide…

From award-winning author Sulari Gentill comes a mischievous, twisty crime novel in the vein of Only Murders in the Building and White Lotus.

Four strangers in the Reading Room at Boston Public Library are introduced by a scream. Caught up in the subsequent murder investigation, each one finds themselves revealing more than they intended about their pasts as they race to solve the murder before one of them gets hurt. Whilst their stories unfold, so does another.

Dear Hannah…

As correspondence between the author and an avid fan becomes interwoven with the core tale, the boundaries between what is fiction and what is real life begin to blur, highlighting the lengths people will go to keep their secrets. Through these entwined narratives, Gentill delves into the complicated nature of friendships, the lives we show versus the lives we lead and the ways in which art can imitate life. Or perhaps it’s the other way around?

A sharply thrilling literary adventure, The Woman in the Library is contemporary crime with a clever twist.

After setting out to study astrophysics, graduating in law and then abandoning her legal career to write books, Sulari now grows French black truffles on her farm in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains of NSW. Sulari is the author of The Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, historical crime fiction novels (ten in total) set in the 1930s. Sulari’s work has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Best First Book), the Davitt Award, the Ned Kelly Award and the ABIA. She won the Davitt Award for the A Decline in Prophets, and the Ned Kelly Award for her most recent standalone novel, Crossing the Lines. @SulariGentill

My thoughts: this was a very clever story within a story. There’s the murder at Boston Public Library that brings four strangers together and then there’s the increasingly disturbing emails written to the author of that story. One feeds the other and vice versa. As the letter writer gets closer to the object of his affection (?) and his letters become more sinister, the four library friends become involved in a nasty mess of their own, and there’s a body count. So, who’s the killer? You’ll have to read it and see…

I really enjoyed both the concept and the two intertwining narratives, in both stories you get increasingly invested in what is going on. Is Hannah safe? Is her novel giving us clues or just using up ideas from Leo’s letters. How much of Hannah is in her heroine? I did enjoy all the metatextual stuff but also the whodunit itself, the mysterious scream in the library, was that the victim or the person who found her? Lots of clever little hints and plot twists around. Highly enjoyable and lots of fun.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions

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Blog Tour: Death Among the Diamonds – Fliss Chester

Everyone in 1920s London knows the Honourable Cressida Fawcett: fiercely independent (though never apart from her little pug Ruby), lover of martinis and interior designer extraordinaire. She’s solved many crimes of fashion… so how about murder?

Cressida Fawcett is heading to the English countryside for a weekend of cocktails and partying at her friend’s glamorous mansion, the location of a recent diamond heist. But just hours after her arrival, Cressida is woken by an almighty scream. Rushing to the landing, she looks down into the great hall to find a trembling maid standing next to the body of Harry, the friendly young chandelier cleaner.

Everyone believes Harry’s death was an accident. But as Cressida examines the opulent hall and the beautiful grounds, she thinks something darker is afoot. Why clean a chandelier in the early hours of the morning? And who overheard Harry boasting about coming into unexpected wealth? A small piece of torn silk found near the body has Cressida looking at the guests’ elegant clothes with fresh eyes…

The short-tempered Detective insists that she keeps her curious nose out of the investigation, but it’s Cressida who realises the stolen diamonds were hidden in the sparkling chandelier. Convinced there is a connection between the theft and the murder, the case takes a sinister turn when a guest is killed in his sleep after a brandy-fuelled night of cards. With everyone unable to leave, can Cressida’s sharp eye for detail catch the killer before another life is taken?

An absolutely gripping and utterly charming 1920s murder mystery packed with wit, glamour and intrigue. The perfect whodunnit for fans of Agatha Christie, T.E. Kinsey and Downton Abbey!

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Audio Links: UK US 

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Fliss Chester lives in Surrey with her husband and writes historical cozy crime. When she is not killing people off in her 1940s whodunnits, she helps her husband, who is a wine merchant, run their business. Never far from a decent glass of something, Fliss also loves cooking (and writing up her favourite recipes on her blog), enjoying the beautiful Surrey and West Sussex countryside and having a good natter.

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My thoughts: this was lots of fun, Cressida(and pug sidekick Ruby) pop over from their Chelsea flat to visit Dotty, Crssida’s best friend, whose family home has suddenly become host to a series of crimes – theft of diamonds and a murder! Luckily, as well as impeccable taste in interiors, Cressida is an excellent solver of mysteries – if the detective from Scotland Yard would just stop telling her off!

Someone in the house knows something, but is it a guest or a member of the family or someone below stairs?

I really enjoyed this, these historical crime books are fun, all huge country houses and locked rooms, lots of eyes and ears but no one saw or heard anything and there’s always a ghastly aunt or brother or in this case fiance to fend off too. Cressida and Ruby are an entertaining pair, one with a nose for crime and one with a nose for sausages! More please.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: The Silent Oath – Michael L. Lewis

The Silent Oath is the fourth in The Oath series that depicts life at Blackleigh Public School, and also serves as a stand-alone novel.

1958. Jonathan Simon, 17, is in his fourth year at Blackleigh. Self-conscious about his appointment as one of five Prefects in Trafalgar House, he’s apprehensive as to whether he has what it takes to carry
out his responsibilities.
Jonathan knows: 1) The school code of conduct mandates no snitching on anyone. 2) The student Prefects have absolute power to discipline. 3) Mr. Phillip Temple the new Headmaster is determined
to revise the school admission policy to achieve a more even playing field in education.
The pressure mounts in an unforgettable school trip to Paris, prejudice spreading through the school and to the school’s Board of Governors as they ruthlessly oppose the new Head. They will stop at
nothing to get their way. In his effort to strive to support the Headmaster’s goals, Jonathan will have

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Michael L. Lewis was born and raised in England. After preparatory school in London, he was educated at Stowe School, Buckingham. This is the fourth novel in the Oath series, taking readers on a journey through the lives of three dynamic schoolboys between the ages of 13 and 15. Michael now lives in Los Angeles, California, has a law degree, and writes full-time. He was on the Board of
Trustees for several schools and has been a member of the same book club for twenty-five years.

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My thoughts: returning to this rather awful school where violence and racism seethe behind closed doors and where the teachers seem completely oblivious to the terrible things the boys do to one another, was interesting. Jonathan is now a prefect, and girls have joined the school.

There’s a new Headmaster with a radical plan to make the school a more inclusive place, but a vicious gang of thugs are determined to stop this and get rid of Jonathan too.

Their evil campaign costs one young boy his life, but they won’t stop. The cruelty is random and focused. But Jonathan and his friends, including the clever and lovely Jenny, are willing to fight back.

There was bullying at my school certainly, but nothing like this. I honestly don’t see how the staff remain so ignorant of it. I think they must be choosing to do so. Which is sad and should see more of them sacked. The ghastly Hunter finally gets his comeuppance, though I don’t think he’s quite done with Jonathan yet, especially as his younger brother remains at the school. Intense and shocking, clever and honestly quite disturbing, this series continues to pack quite a punch.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: Dreadful Beauty – L.M. Rapp

A girl undergoing a terrifying transformation goes on an epic quest to find a refuge from her ruthless father.

Nymphosis, a disease that turns Humans into Chimeras, is ravaging the land of Gashom. The More-Than-Pure, determined to protect themselves, have seized power and enacted segregationist laws. 

The daughter of a high dignitary, young Neria learns she is afflicted by the very disease her father is determined to eradicate. Forced to surrender her privileges, she must flee her home in the capital and traverse the strange wilds to seek refuge with her fellow kind. 

Will she have the courage to fight oppression to emancipate the Chimeras from the yoke of the More-Than-Pure?

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Interview with the author

On writing:

How did you do research for your book?

The research took place mostly on the internet. A word I stumble upon while writing can instantly turn into several hours of reading. 

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?

None of the characters were easy to write about, but certainly the most difficult was the tyrannical father. I read three different books about serial killers before I began to understand the reasoning of a psychopath. 

In your book, you describe the gargoyles’ people. What made you use elements of Gothic architecture for creating these characters?

During a visit to Notre Dame de Paris, I was able to admire the sculptures of gargoyles that adorn its facade. Their mere presence evoked a fabulous universe and served as great inspiration in my novel. 

Where do you get inspiration for your stories?

The ideas seem to me to be floating around, in books, events, and encounters, and that it is enough to sit for long hours in front of a computer screen and concentrate on arranging them in a new way.

There are many books out there about chimeras. What makes yours different?

The story follows a family and a people through a tone that is both intimate and epic, which is rather unusual in this kind of literature. The plot captures the struggles of humanity through a fantasy lens, making it both digestible and thought-provoking.

What advice would you give budding writers?

Don’t give up! Remember that this journey takes time and you won’t find all the answers from the start. Find yourself a smart, professional, and gentle literary advisor who can guide you in the process.

If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you be?

I think I would like to be Matar, the Pedler. I envy his freedom and independence, despite the difficulties he faces in his life. 

Do you have another profession besides writing?

I have had other professions in the past, but writing has become my main focus at the moment. I still practice and teach aikido, which actually turns out to be really useful when I write combat scenes. 

How long have you been writing?

I’ve only been writing for five years, but I’ve been reading every day for as long as I can remember, which certainly helped me a lot.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?

Never. I think the writer’s block happens when you force yourself. I take the first topic that comes to my mind and I write only about what strikes me as exciting. I make no judgment during the first phase of writing. I let the ideas flow. 

What is your next project?

I will soon publish a thriller about a woman who decides, after a divorce, to take over her parents’ farm: a return to nature that does not go as planned. I also just started writing a science fiction book.

What genre do you write and why?

I choose the story first. The genre follows. I don’t force myself to create series. I think that having fun while writing increases the chances that the reader will have fun too.

What is the last great book you’ve read?

Lately, I’ve read Philip Roth’s Human Stain. I found the beginning of this book stunning and the scenes taking place around the main protagonist and the university’s life incredibly well done. 

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?

My favorite compliment is that once started, it’s difficult to put the book down.

How are you similar to or different from your lead character?

It’s a difficult question. I’m too close to her to tell. The similarity would be that she doesn’t give up easily. That being said, I find her more stubborn than I am.

If your book were made into a movie, who would star in the leading roles?

Odeya Rush for Neria, the heroine.

Lior Raz, for the Pedler

Lior Ashkenazi, for Valterone, the ruthless father.

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing your book?

It was incredible to see a world coming into life out of my mind. The greatest challenge was to make it right—to find the right balance between all the elements.

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like?

It’s a difficult, but worthwhile road.

Which authors inspired you to write?

Tolkien, Barbara Pym, Kazuo Ishiguro, Camus, Albert Cohen, Proust, Baudelaire and many others.

What is something you had to cut from your book that you wish you could have kept?

I regret nothing because I hope to use these discarded parts for a sequel.

On rituals:

Do you snack while writing? Favorite snack?

I don’t usually snack because it distracts me. But I drink green tea to stay alert.

Where do you write?

I write mostly in my studio, but I also like to write on the go, in coffee shops, hotel rooms or in my car.

Do you write every day?

Six days a week.

What is your writing schedule?

I’m a morning person, so I usually start writing as soon as my youngest daughter leaves for school. I write at least two hours a day, sometimes more, and Iusually keep the afternoons for other activities, like publishing and marketing.

Is there a specific ritualistic thing you do during your writing time?

I just sit down and look at my computer screen, my hands ready on the keyboard and my mind traveling.

In today’s tech-savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?

No. I’ve just drawn a diagram for the protagonists’ relationship and a map.

If you’re a mom writer, how do you balance your time?

I’m a mom, but my daughters are quite grown up now. So it’s less of an issue, although I have the best focus time in the mornings when everybody is still sleeping or busy.

Fun stuff:

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

I would like to be able to move in time according to my research. For example, take a leap into antiquity to observe the hotels of that era. It would be amazing if we could see everything in person instead of relying on archaeological digs or writing found on the internet.

Favorite travel spot?

New York

Favorite dessert?

I try to cut off sugar, so no dessert for me please.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, which three books would you want with you?

I’d take Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Barbara Pym’s Some Tame Gazelle, and Proust’s In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower.

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you? The scariest? The strangest? 

I was kidnapped by aliens who looked like Buster Keaton. Just kidding… I live a quiet life, like many writers I suppose. Most of my adventures take place in my head.

What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

I hesitate between leaving France, my birth country, or having three children.

Any hobbies? Or Name a quirky thing you like to do.

The main ones right now are Aikido and basketry. I like making sculptures or baskets with branches I find in the garden.

If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?

I’d prefer they’ll remember my books. That’s where I store the most important things I have to say.

What is something you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic?

I love silence and quiet, but the pandemic was too much, even for me.

What TV series are you currently binge-watching?

Severance

What is your favorite thing to do in summer?

Swimming and eating mango.

What song is currently playing on a loop in your head?

“Eem rak taskimi” by The Idan Raichel Project

What is your go-to breakfast item?

No breakfast. I started intermittent fasting a few years ago and I found it keeps my mind clear until the first meal of the day.

What is the oldest item of clothing you own?

A fox fur collar that belonged to my great-grandmother. My mother passed it down to me. Even though I oppose the use of animal fur for clothing, I can’t get rid of it.

Tell us about your longest friendship.

My friend Sylvie lives in France. I met her in high school and even though our paths parted, every time we speak on the phone or meet (rarely), it’s like we’re immediately back in the old days. 

Who was your childhood celebrity crush?

When they were first released, Star Wars and Indiana Jones were some sort of revelation. And Harrison Ford was the handsome cool hero in both of them.

L.M. Rapp has lived in different countries and practiced several professions: dentist, web developer, artist, aikido teacher, farmer. Eager to learn and discover, she uses her experiences to enrich her stories. She has also written a thriller, Of Flesh and Tears.

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Excerpt

One moment, she had been enjoying the security and comfort of her family home. The next, she was left helpless in a deserted square. An oil lamp rested in Neria’s hand. A clay container, filled with a greenish-yellow liquid. A wick, coiled within its heart, snaked up to the groove that guided it into the open air. A flame danced on its tip, a paltry defense against the darkness of that night, one of those gentle nights that often follow the heat of the day. The moon watched her with a wry smile.

Neria suddenly felt she was going to collapse, crumpling like a sheet that had fallen to the ground. Without the warmth of the hand curled inside hers, she would have indeed done so. She remembered the last time she had seen Arhel’s hand, crimson and reaching out of the covers. Who knew what the disease would do to her? But before she succumbed to it, she would save Anaëlle.

She breathed in, then out, and took a step forward. Her aching limbs strained at first, but after a few minutes, she was walking briskly, her head bowed like a servant, the child in tow. First, she had to find the secret passage her mother had told her about and cross the wall of the High District without going through the ever-guarded gates.

She came to a dead-end and saw the dried-up well and a withered pistachio tree lined with shrubs of rosemary leaning against the perimeter wall. It concealed a narrow, low opening. She went in first, crawled into a tunnel bereft of cobwebs and emerged behind an olive tree, also surrounded by shrubbery. Crouching down, she peeked between the branches. No one was there. She called to Anaëlle in a hushed voice, the child joining her. They emerged from their cover and arrived on the street. Before long, they had made their way to an impoverished part of town they had never been to before. The hovels were huddled together, separated here and there by narrow, randomly arranged passageways. The first on the left… The second on the right…

“Hey there, little lady! Where are you off to in such a hurry?”

Three guards had concealed themselves in a nook to drink to their hearts’ content.

“Lady Yarine’s sent me on an urgent errand.”

She hoped they would be too drunk to do anything and turned away. She tried to maintain her composure, a technique that had worked for her that morning. Yet heavy footsteps came ever closer behind her before her arm was seized by a coarse grip.

“You’ve got more than enough time to come give us a little cuddle.”

One of the guards looked at her, a yellow smile spread across his brown beard. He reeked of alcohol and nauseating filth. She tried to pull away from him, but his grip tightened.

“Stay still or we’ll give you a good hiding. It’ll go better for you if you don’t put up a fight, believe me. Leave the kid here and come on.”

The two others approached.

The lamp fell and shattered. Neria took out her knife and stuck it in the arm restraining her. The guard howled in pain and let go of her.

“You’re going to regret that you whore.”

The guards now surrounded her. She threatened them with her bloodied weapon. She couldn’t believe she’d been so stupid not to have stabbed him in the stomach. Her assailant barely seemed bothered. She spun around, Anaëlle clinging to her clothes. The girl was sobbing.

One of the men drew his sword, “Drop the knife or I kill the kid.”

Neria’s hand trembled. The knife fell on the dusty ground with a dull thud.

“Run, Anaëlle, get out of here!” 

The wounded guard threw himself on her, seized her elbow, slipped behind her, and choked her with his good arm.

The child, small and spirited, ran away. Just as Neria thought she was going to make it, the man with the sword grabbed her mid-flight.

Neria struggled, hitting the arm that choked her. His hold tightened. Her mouth gasped but the air would not come, and her movements weakened. Suddenly, the guard holding her let out a yowl of pain and released her. She collapsed, heavily panting gulps of air on all fours. Her assailant lay there with his throat slit. The coarse, black-nailed hand that moments before had clamped down on her arm now clawed at the earth. The corpse’s glassy eyes stared up into the starry sky. His red tongue in his gaping mouth, his fleshy lips, his fat cheeks swallowed by his beard… like a giant sea urchin washed up from the sea, his insides hanging open. A shrill cry rang out and she covered her ears.

A monster, half-man, half-beast, had ripped open another guard and had now set its sights on the third. The remaining guard was still holding Anaëlle hostage and keeping the beast at bay with his sword.

While the tiger and guard danced their macabre dance, Neria, still on all fours, fumbled for her knife. She grasped its hilt, ran towards the soldier, raising her weapon, a wild howling in her throat. The monster took advantage of the diversion to pounce on its adversary. Neria sheathed her knife, picked up the child who had fallen to the ground, and fled, pursued by screams of agony.


The construction of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris started in the 12th century. At the beginning, water flowed from the roofs onto the streets, splashing the walls of the building. Gargoyles in the shape of fantastic winged animals appeared in the early 13th century. They served as gutters and became decorative elements inspired by the medieval bestiary.

Portrait of a man – 1957 “I have a great interest in madness, and I am convinced art has much to do with madness,” Jean Dubuffet

On a trip, about ten years ago, I admired these motionless and threatening gargoyles without the faintest idea of the journey they would later take me. Premier and medieval art seem to possess an evocative power that the more modern arts, bogged down in their technicality and theories, have lost. I’m not sure that, as the painter Dubuffet wrote, “Art has much to do with madness,” but clearly art, like fairy tales, often finds its inspiration in our fears and anxieties.

Bored Gargoyle of Notre Dame de Paris

According to art historian Michael Camille, “To protect himself from the demons he is charged with sculpting, the medieval artist mocks them.” No doubt that the attentive observer will be able to perceive, barely masked by ferocity, a sense of saving humor. For isn’t it through humor that we tame our fears?

I myself have developed an obsession for these magical creatures. They have crossed time and borders. From superstition and religious beliefs, they have invaded popular culture and can be found on the Internet, in archaeological or modern art museums, fantasy books, Marvel movies, Disney cartoons, Japanese manga, video games, and elsewhere.

In ancient Greece, the word Chimaera referred to a hybrid creature capable of breathing fire, a lion with a goat’s head and a serpent’s tail. Such a mosaic of animals leaves one dreaming. Dracula seems so conformist in comparison.

Manticore of a medieval bestiary

The manticore, a legendary monster of Persian origin and imported in Europe by a Greek doctor, has the body of a red-furred lion, a man’s face, and a tail with poisonous spines that it projects on its prey – preferably human. It devours them, bones included, thanks to its three rows of teeth, going from one ear to the other. It symbolizes evil. Over the years, it seems to have evolved into the Sphinx. Of all these characteristics, the mouth is the most frightening to me. Human-like at first sight, until it opens wider and wider to reveal too many sharp teeth… 

Ancient Nue versus modern one

The Japanese have their Nue with the head of a monkey, the limbs of a tiger, the body of a tanuki and the tail of a snake. Now it stars in a Baruto anime. 

Forg, cover detail of the French version. Don’t be fooled by appearances.

I decided to paint these hybrid creatures, to invent some of my own, and to tell their stories. In the 19th century, Violet-le-Duc added chimeras to the roofs of the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral. They received a lot of praise at the time and inspired me to create a gargoyle people, fierce, mischievous, and tender. 

I’ve only brushed this vast and complex subject, and I’m sure that you too have your favorite chimera. Which one do you prefer? Which one scares you the most? 


My thoughts: this was an interesting book featuring gargoyles and chimera, hybrid beasts often found in ancient mythology. Neria is a bit of a spoilt brat to begin with but she has to find her inner strength when her mother sneaks her and her niece out of the house to protect them from her father’s cruelty as Neria starts to become the very thing she has been taught to fear – a chimera. Her niece can see the future – mainly the actions of her own parents, but that too puts her in danger.

Change can be literal but also metaphorical – Neria might be shifting into a different form but she also has to change her world view and become strong enough to fight back against her father and his cruel, murderous policies that would see her killed.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: A Taste of Iron and Gold – Alexandra Rowland

The Goblin Emperor meets “Magnificent Century” in Alexandra Rowland’s A Taste of Gold and Iron, where a queer central romance unfolds in a fantasy world reminiscent of the Ottoman Empire.

Kadou, the shy prince of Arasht, finds himself at odds with one of the most powerful ambassadors at court—the body-father of the queen’s new child—in an altercation which results in his humiliation.

To prove his loyalty to the queen, his sister, Kadou takes responsibility for the investigation of a break-in at one of their guilds, with the help of his newly appointed bodyguard, the coldly handsome Evemer, who seems to tolerate him at best. In Arasht, where princes can touch-taste precious metals with their fingers and myth runs side by side with history, counterfeiting is heresy, and the conspiracy they discover could cripple the kingdom’s financial standing and bring about its ruin.

My thoughts: it took me a while to understand how the world in this book works, and how people relate to each other as the court is very formal and full of rules about who can do or say what to whom. But once I got my head around all of the traditions and relationships, it all flowed very nicely.

The Prince, Kadou, wants to cement his bond with his sister – the Queen, and his new baby niece, who he’s very fond of, and by taking on a complex investigation into counterfeit coins, the Shipbuilder’s Guild and some of the servants closest to the royal family. There’s a conspiracy here and he must get to the heart of it before anyone he cares for is placed in danger.

I liked the growing connection between Kadou and his bodyguard Evemer, the complex layers of servitude and courtly manners making it hard for them to even say exactly what they mean at times. But as they grow closer, it takes on more complexity as Kadou’s former guard is still around and still trying to foster a relationship with Kadou that he doesn’t want. I really liked Eozena – the guard captain and also the only person allowed to tell the Queen and Prince what to do. She was very funny at times, bossing Kadou about in her affectionate, almost parental way.

Kadou was at first quite hard to read, he’s shy and quite reserved, keeping things to himself and struggling to form friendships and connections. Kept separate from most people because of his status, he struggles to bond but with Evemer, he opens up. It’s rather sweet.

The world building was fascinating and complex, lots of layers and etiquette involved. The story was clever, with the conspiracy and counterfeiting, something you might expect royalty to have nothing to do with, cutting right to the heart and Kadou having to become a detective to solve it with Eozena and Evemer to help him.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: Someone Like You – Rachel Dove

One broken marriage. One broken heart. One chance to meet someone new.

Hannah leaves her unhappy marriage with her daughter Ava and moves to the village of Leadsham to start afresh. She plans to keep a low profile, focusing on Ava and making a new life for them, far away from her violent ex-husband.

What she hadn’t counted on was Andrew Brody. A police officer with a strict moral code, he knows something’s wrong as soon as he meets Hannah, and he wants to help. But Hannah has been let down by the police – and men – before, and pushes him away.

But the more Hannah tries to ignore Brody, the more she’s drawn to him. Caring, kind and patient, he’s nothing like the man she’s running from. Can Hannah finally put her past behind her, and open her heart to someone new?

My thoughts: as the author says, domestic violence can happen to anyone, but maybe that person will be as lucky as Hannah, whose friend Kate helps her leave and the new home she finds is full of kind people who want to help her, if she can just open up.

She finds new friends, a new job, and a new love, if she can let him, and his dog, in. Brody is a police dog handler, Bullet his partner and Hannah the mysterious woman he’s falling in love with. Bullet prefers baby Ava – notorious as babies are for dropping food, perfect pal for a hungry pooch.

Hannah’s running scared and can’t trust anyone but as she starts to settle in to her new life and the bruises fade, maybe it’s time to. As long as her awful husband doesn’t find them.

Written sensitively and with obvious compassion, this is the best possible outcome for someone fleeing violence, and Hannah finds a new home and a fresh start. Not everyone gets that, but this is a hopeful book, written with heart.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: The Prism Effect – J. Wint

ThePrismAffect copy

To celebrate the release of the second instalment in The Skylight Series by author J. Wint, we’re going back to where the adventure began with The Prism Effect! Read on for more details!

The Prism Effect MIDJOURNEY EBOOK

The Prism Affect (The Skylight Series #1)

Publication Date: September 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy/ Sci-Fi

LIFE has never been easy for young Jet Stroud.

He is affected by a rare condition known as ephebus mortem, also called the youthful death, and legend says it will kill him before his twenty-fourth birthday. To make matters worse, the legend also claims that its victims become delusional as they grow older.

However, things take a turn for the better when he is unexpectedly accepted into the renowned Skylight University–an orbiting system in the Earth’s atmosphere. At first, he doubts the legend and begins the semester hoping to learn more about his strange disease. As the school year unfolds, he meets a group of students like him and they band together. Soon, strange things start to happen–mysterious shadows follow them, bizarre holographic prophecies appear that only they can see, and haunting voices cloud Jet’s thoughts. He begins to struggle on the blaze pitch and with his studies. The small group of students threaten to splinter apart as the semester races to a close and Jet wonders if he will survive. In the end, he uncovers something about himself so profound that it will change his life forever.

Excerpt

“Jet?” she asked. “Everything okay?”

He didn’t respond, still gazing in the direction of the fountain. She snapped her fingers in front of his face to gain his attention.

He blinked and looked at her. “Sylvant, over there next to the fountain… do you see it?”

It was the heat mirage again. It shifted around the base of the fountain, blurry and transparent. But it was too cool for a heat mirage, though it looked exactly like the ones he’d seen on hot and humid days.

She glanced in the fountain’s direction while pulling him out of the street. She shook her head. “No, I don’t see anything. Are you sure you’re okay?”

Jet looked at her defensively. “I’m fine, thanks.” He walked towards the fountain with the mirage in his sight. Sylvant followed, the heels of her shoes clicking across the vacant intersection. Jet stepped up to the fountain’s basin for a look around, but the mirage was gone.

“I swear… it was here,” he said.

“What was here? What are you talking about?” she asked.

“There was a… a shape, or something like a mirage here, just now.”

Sylvant cleared her throat. “Why don’t we go inside. We need to talk about this.” She flashed her sister’s journal in front of his face.

Jet hesitated. He wanted to understand what he’d just seen as much as he wanted to hear about the journal.

The shape suddenly reemerged near one of the alleyways, steam momentarily cloaking it. Then, the sunlight dimmed and turned everything a shade of rust.

“There. It’s there!” he hissed at her. “You can’t see that?”

She peered toward the alleyway. “Jet. You’re starting to worry me.”

“You don’t believe me, do you?”

“Jet, I’m trying to understand, but I don’t know what to say.”

“I’m going after it,” Jet said. “I want to prove to you—”

“Whatever it is, let it go!” Sylvant looked down the dark alley and back at him. “We can talk about it inside the café, alright? My first concern is your safety.”

Jet could see the uneasiness in her expression. “Sylvant, I’m asking for your help, not your protection.”

It was growing darker, and an unsettling stillness seemed to descend around them. Sylvant recovered her composure. “As a professor to a student, it’s my responsibility to look after you. You need to come with me.”

Jet watched the mirage move down the alleyway and vanish into the steam. “I can take care of myself. I’ll call you later, Sylvant. I promise.” He sprinted down the alleyway, leaving her behind.

Plumes of steam gushed from the buildings lining the alley and hid the fleeing mirage. The sunlight was nearly gone, making it difficult to see. Jet had to stop a few times to see where he was.

The chase came to an abrupt halt when the alley ended at a brick wall. The mirage was gone. Jet backtracked, looking for signs of it. He noticed a ladder on one building and climbed up three stories and onto the rooftop. He skirted the parapet and stopped to regain his bearings.

The sunlight flickered and dimmed, like someone sliding a gossamer drape in front of it. Jet looked at his watch, surprised to see there should still be half an hour of daylight left. What happened next made the hair on his arms stand up. One of the system’s outer belts crossed slowly in front of the sun, casting a long shadow over the cityscape beyond. The eclipse’s shadow inched eerily across each building, engulfing the city in darkness. Jet had read an article about the event, something called a skylight eclipse.

His skin grew cold as the eclipse overtook him. From the rooftop, he watched the leading edge of it creep doggedly across the pitted field and towards the dimly lit factory in the distance. Fleeing just ahead of the eclipse was the shimmering mirage.

Jet leapt over the building’s parapet and onto an adjacent rooftop. He scrambled across a metal bridge spanning the alleyway and sprinted across the field.

He entered the abandoned factory minutes later and slowed to a halt, kneeling against a storage tank to catch his breath. He could hear equipment running in the distance, which seemed odd since the factory appeared to be vacant. A rust-colored smog from old chemicals still lingered in the air. Rogue weeds grew up through cracked concrete, and above him, a maze of catwalks and pipes cast a kaleidoscope of patterns onto the pavement.

He crept further into the factory, searching for the mirage. The ground below his feet quivered, and the sound of equipment grew louder. Tremors accompanied a dull scraping noise that sounded like metal grinding on metal. Something big moved below the surface. He placed his hand on a storage tank and felt it vibrating rapidly.

Jet followed the thrumming for several minutes before stumbling upon a vast clearing. Rusted sheet metal walls rose up to create a circular pit. Sand and dirt covered the ground, and tumbleweeds piled along one end like skeletal remains. In the center stood an oddly shaped contraption that resembled the smokestack of a ship. Its bow pointed skyward like a steel chimney with steam spewing from it.

An uneasy feeling settled over him as he hid in the shadows. He was in the middle of nowhere and chasing a mirage. It was getting late, and the eclipse had him on edge.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

wint - 1

Wint graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. He is a licensed architect and LEED accredited professional who believes in a strong, sustainable community. As a student of architecture, he developed a love for design and continues to push for creative solutions.

As a child of the 70’s, he developed a love for cheesy science fiction movies, and later became an avid fantasy reader. His youthful influences—combined with his college experiences and background as an architect—have propelled his work as a writer to create the Skylight Series.

J Wint | Twitter | Facebook

Book Tour Schedule

September 19th

R&R Book Tours (Kick-Off) http://rrbooktours.com

@genoviareadingco (Review) https://www.instagram.com/genoviareadingco/

@takealookatmybookshelf (Review) https://www.instagram.com/takealookatmybookshelf

Nesie’s Place (Spotlight) https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com

@fle_d (Spotlight) https://www.instagram.com/fle_d

 September 20th

Bunny’s Reviews (Review) https://bookwormbunnyreviews.blogspot.com/

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

September 21st

@gryffindorbookishnerd (Review) https://www.instagram.com/gryffindorbookishnerd

Liliyana Shadowlyn (Spotlight) https://lshadowlynauthor.com/

Sadie’s Spotlight (Spotlight) http://sadiesspotlight.com/

September 22nd

@margiebythebookcase (Review) https://www.instagram.com/margiebythebookcase/

Book Reviews by Taylor (Review) https://www.bookreviewsbytaylor.com/

Rambling Mads (Spotlight) http://ramblingmads.com

September 23rd

@wolfesbooks (Review) https://www.instagram.com/wolfesbooks

@booklymatters (Review) https://www.instagram.com/booklymatters/

Stine Writing (Spotlight) https://christinebialczak.com/

Book Tour Organized By:

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Blog Tour: When Things are Alive They Hum – Hannah Bent

Set between Hong Kong, London and China in the year 2000, When Things are Alive They Hum by Hannah Bent tells the story of two sisters, the grief that shapes them as children and the lengths to which they will go to save each other as adults. Of her debut novel, Hannah says ‘My inspiration is my sister Camilla who is living with Down syndrome. Our relationship has taught me so much about love, life and grief. I do hope that some of the gifts that Camilla has given me may now be passed onto you through this story.’

Harper, born with a congenital heart disorder and living with what she calls the Up syndrome, is happily living in Hong Kong and in a relationship. On the other side of the world, Marlowe is studying a rare species of butterfly when she is called home with devastating news — Harper’s heart is failing and she has been denied a necessary transplant because she is living with a disability. So begins a journey for the two sisters, both fiercely determined to protect the other no matter the sacrifice.

When Things are Alive They Hum poses profound questions about the nature of love and existence, the ways grief changes us, and how we confront the hand fate has dealt us. Intensely moving, exquisitely written and literally humming with wonder, it is a novel that celebrates life in all its guises, and what comes after.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Hannah Bent completed her Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art and Film from Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design in London. She undertook further study in both directing and screenwriting at the Australian Film and Television and Radio School and has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Technology, Sydney. She was the 2013 recipient of the Ray Koppe Young Writers Award for her novel as a work in progress. Instagram: @hannahbent_author Website: http://www.hannahbent.com

My thoughts: this was lovely, be warned you will need the tissues though. Love is a funny, complicated thing. Marlowe loves Harper, her younger sister, and would do anything for her, but the thought of Harper dying from the heart defect she was born with causes her to spiral.

Harper is very perceptive – she can see the pain her sister is in. Pain that dates back to the death of their mother when they were both very young. Marlowe has been carrying her grief around with her.

As Harper’s condition worsens, Marlowe takes things to an extreme, desperate to save her sister. But she isn’t listening to what Harper wants. It’s only when she starts, that she understands and can stop trying to fix everything.

Beautiful, sad, and intensely moving, this was a joy to read although it made me cry. Harper’s way of seeing the world is magical and colourful, all she wants is to be happy, to be with her family, her friends, her Louis, and her Marlowe. Tender and heartbreaking, I think we all need to try to be a bit more Harper.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.