MJ Reviews August Catch Up – Book Reviews #bookreviews #poetry #flashfiction @SarahBrentyn @BalroopShado @Frank_Prem

I’ve been behind on adding my reviews to my blog due to lots happening in my personal life plus my blog tour for my poetry and flash fiction collection: The Hedge Witch And The Musical Poet which released mid August!

This is review catch up 1, and there will be catch up 2 next.

So, here are three fab books I recommend, the first is flash fiction and the last two are poetry. Enjoy!

On the Edge of a Raindrop by Sarah Brentyn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


If you have ever wondered about the power in the brevity of words then this collection by Sarah Brentyn is for you! It’s a wonderful collection of flash fiction which I loved reading.

It is divided into three sections:
Mindscapes, Lifelines and Micro bursts (the shortest of which! )

Here are 3 of my favourite microbursts:

We wake the same as we slept. Strangers.
Dreams cling to our eyelashes as we sip coffee & pretend to believe the beautiful lies we tell.

Fed up with death, she entered the reincarnation lottery, returning as a farmer famous for her prize-winning ghost peppers.

I wake to hundreds of spiders crawling across my floor, up the walls. They are everywhere. I want to scream. But I feel them on my lips.

Highly recommended especially to those who enjoy flash fiction and as a fine introduction to the form.

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Sarah Brentyn is an introvert who believes anything can be made better with soy sauce and wasabi.

She loves words and has been writing stories since she was nine years old. She talks to trees and apologizes to inanimate objects when she bumps into them.

When she’s not writing, you can find her strolling through cemeteries or searching for fairies.

She hopes to build a vacation home in Narnia someday. In the meantime, she lives with her family and a rainbow-colored, wooden cat who is secretly a Guardian.

You can find her online at www.sarahbrentyn.com

Emerging From Shadows : Poetry by Balroop Singh by Balroop Singh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Balroop Singh’s collection of poetry is thoughtful, emotional and stirring to the soul. Her love for the natural world, love of words, and her inner resilience shines through in her light and dark poetry.

Really enjoyed. Highly recommended for poetry enthusiasts.

The Call of Calmness is one of my favourite poems in the collection.

View all my reviews

THE CALL OF CALMNESS


Gentle breeze breathes a quiet message…

I am here to bless you

To softly swing,

Sway with your dreams

Don your dewy dress of harmony

Hold me in your arms lightly

I can take you beyond branches

Of those trees, stirring serenely

Inhale that cogent calmness

Expunge all angst and anger

Trust my trail, believe in hope

Breathe in breezy light of love

We can fly beyond boundaries

I can show you the gale of happiness

It follows us wherever we go

It changes its face when it has to flow

Over the vales of wishes

Even the dales of despair

Surmounting them all

Into the lucid light of serendipity.

Balroop Singh, an educator, a poet and an author always had a passion for writing. She would jot down her reflections on a piece of paper and forget about them till each drawer of her home started overflowing with poetic reminders, popping out at will! The world of her imagination has a queer connection with realism. She could envision the images of her own poetry while teaching the poems. Her dreams saw the light of the day when she published her first poetry book: ‘Sublime Shadows Of Life.’ She has always lived through her heart. She is a great nature lover; she loves to watch birds flying home. The sunsets allure her with their varied hues that they lend to the sky. She can spend endless hours listening to the rustling of leaves and the sound of waterfalls. She lives in California. You can visit her blog at http://balroop2013.wordpress.com

I read Frank’s poetry a while ago while I was in Portugal! And shared my reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, etc. Here is the review:

The Garden Black by Frank Prem

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Thank you to poet Frank Prem for an advanced copy of The Garden Black. It seemed the perfect opportunity yesterday to read this poetry collection while I was relaxing on a beach! It’s a little different from some of Frank’s other collections with a speculative fantasy vibe to it. Being a keen fantasy reader and author I enjoyed it. Frank’s free verse form of poetry is always a delight, easy to read and enjoy and reflect upon.

My favourite poems with their titles below:
I who am, (I liked this for its references to: wind, sun, dark, soil, leaf, bough, root, bark, sap, wood, tree!)
the hunter writes a letter
swell, (this poem relates swimming to driving!)
storm and the sea (bubbles of foam)
I dig (a forest)
it is not clear (from the dream below)
a song for the (far) horizon
a line of destiny
pain control
garden black
isosceles and me (and the war over the pond,) – very unusual but in a good way!
davey’s interview (pre-recorded)
in the stone: through the water
a song for the (deep) horizon
the second beat.

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Frank Prem has been a storytelling poet since his teenage years. He has been a psychiatric nurse through all of his professional career, which now exceeds forty years.He has been published in magazines, online zines and anthologies in Australia, and in a number of other countries, and has both performed and recorded his work as spoken word.He lives with his wife in the beautiful township of Beechworth in North East Victoria, Australia. https://FrankPrem.com

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Book Review: Amanda In France by Darlene Foster #netgalley #arc #review @supermegawoman

Synopsis

Amanda explores the exciting streets of Paris, the fabulous Palace of Versailles and the gardens of the painter Claude Monet, while being drawn into the mystery surrounding the destructive fire of Notre Dame cathedral.

Amanda is in love! With Paris – the city of love. She’s in awe of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, and Notre Dame Cathedral. While there, she gets to work as a volunteer and stay in a famous book store, along with her bestie, Leah, and Leah’s eccentric Aunt Jenny. A dream come true for a book lover like Amanda.

Except, while she’s at the Paris Opera House there is a bomb threat. Then the lights go out during their visit to the Louvre. Worst of all, a devastating fire blazes in Notre Dame. Why does a mysterious man, who claims to be a busker, writer and artist, show up every time something bad happens?

Join Amanda as she explores the exciting streets of Paris, the fabulous Palace of Versailles and the gardens of the painter Claude Monet, all the time looking for clues as to who would want to destroy such a beautiful, historic cathedral.

Join Amanda as she explores the exciting streets and sites around Paris, all the while looking for clues as to who would want to destroy such a beautiful, historic place.

Be sure to read all the books in this exciting Amanda Travels series!
1. Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask
2. Amanda in Spain: The Girl in the Painting
3. Amanda in England: The Missing Novel
4. Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone
5. Amanda on the Danube: The Sounds of Music
6. Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind
7. Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action
8. Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady
8. Amanda in France: Fire in the Cathedral 

My Review

Amanda in France: Fire in the Cathedral by Darlene Foster

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This series of books set in different countries is a fun and clever way to introduce youngsters to different cultures.

Darlene Foster’s entertaining style draws the reader in and keeps their attention throughout. In this latest adventure, Amanda in France, we are treated to the wonders of Paris with mention of many famous places.

Amanda and her friend Leah are staying at Shakespeare and Company Bookstore whilst doing volunteer work there, accompanied by Amanda’s aunt. Jenny. The two girls are treated to wonderful sights such as Sacre Coeur, the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, The Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Monet’s Garden and unexpected panic at the Opera House! There is a topical focus on the destructive fire at Notre-Dame with Amanda, Jenny, Leah, and Philippe becoming part of the human chain to help.

Amanda becomes embroiled in a mystery… who’s behind the fire at Notre-Dame? And who are this gang of youngsters ? And what part do Jerome and Philippe have to play in this mystery?

Great fun for kids and adults too. It whisked me away to Paris for a short while and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

A fun, easy and enjoyable read, with educational elements. I particularly enjoyed the ending with the advice about terrorism, and bombs. That was a nice touch and wraps up nicely from the earlier discussions in the book about terrorism and the French Revolution. .

Many thanks to Central Avenue Publishing, the author Darlene Foster and NetGalley for this title. All opinions are my own.

My rating 5 stars.



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About Darlene Foster

Growing up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, Darlene Foster dreamt of writing, traveling the world, and meeting interesting people. She also believed in making her dreams come true. It’s no surprise she’s now the award-winning author of Amanda Travels, a children’s adventure series featuring a spunky twelve-year-old who loves to travel to unique places. Readers of all ages enjoy following Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. When not traveling herself, Darlene divides her time between the west coast of Canada and the Costa Blanca, Spain with her husband and entertaining rescue dogs, Dot and Lia. www.darlenefoster.ca

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Robbies Inspiration Book Review Golden Healer

Many thanks to Robbie Cheadle for this comprehensive, thoughtful and illuminating review for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Robbie’s Review:

Golden Healer is the second book in The Curse of Time series and continues this unique fantasy story with its unusual and intriguing storyline. Book one ended with a happy environment after Amelina’s father was finally restored to his family at the correct age and Esme disappeared from the mirror, presumably to a better place. Book two starts with small but obvious indications that all is not as it seems and the issues involving both Amelina’s father and Esme are not adequately resolved.

The beginning is a bit slower moving as the author skillfully unwinds the reader’s beliefs that all is well and hammers cracks into the happy environment. The stage is set beautifully with fascinating and intricate scenes and dreams spun like a spiderweb from the author’s pen. Amelina’s first dream travel in this book has catastrophic results as while she is away from her body her bloodstone is stolen and this accelerates the cracks in her home environment.

This book is not an easy read and you have to concentrate as you read in the same way you would while reading a classic novel. It is worth the effort as the descriptions and concepts are outstanding and beautifully depicted.

There are a few stand out scenes for me in this book, as follows: the grasshopper in the meadow, the clowns in the café, and Aunt Karissa’s chocolates. For me, these were unbelievably imaginative and full of mystery.

Aunt Karissa features plays a small role in this book, introducing some welcome lightness and humour as Ryder’s darkness and power continue to grow. The reader learns a bit more about Ryder and his origins and homeland.

Another memorable feature of this book is that each chapter or puzzle piece starts with a tanka poem that hints at what is to follow in the chapter. The author is also an excellent poet and the poems were a lovely addition.

A few memorable quotes from this book:

“The grasshopper monster propelled time forward in a steady, slow, rocking motion, as if he was devouring our lives in seconds, minutes and hours as we gazed upon him.”

“Hello my beautiful reflection. You came! You always come when I need you the most. I have been so anxious listening to the troubles of this family which has become my family. What have you been doing? I see sweet flowers covering the red cuts on your left wrist.”

“”She opened the wrapper with trembling fingers. Inside, there was a small, round milk chocolate. It grew in her palm. the chocolate split into two halves, one half dark, and the other half white. In the centre, a dividing line moved form side to side as if whipping up the chocolate angrily.”

In conclusion, I would like to add that when I was a girl of 10 years old, I discovered the books written by Eva Ibottson. Every book of hers I read was a complete delight to me with its amazing fantasy creatures and gorgeous depictions of the lives of hags in dribbles and wizards in towers surrounded by mist. Throughout my adult life, I have search for an adult author who can invoke the same magical worlds and belief in magical creatures that I discovered in Miss Ibottson’s stories, and in this series by M.J. Mallon, I do believe I finally found an adult equivalent.

Do pop over to Robbie’s wonderful blog to read the post in its entirety: https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/2022/07/16/robbies-inspiration-book-review-golden-healer-by-m-j-mallon/

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Book Review Magic Bound: The Haven Chronicles Book 2 #new #release #arc @FisWritingHaven @Burning_Chair

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The magic returns.

When Hartley Keg and Blessing go missing, Steve Haven, the young heir to the Haven Robotics Corporation, once again finds himself plunged back into the chaos of Darkacre.

Teaming up with the darkling, he finds himself on the run from the Council and their enforcers, the Hidden, as he seeks to keep safe those he holds most dear.

Things are complicated further when a new player emerges: the Parity, who are far too keen in the Haven Corporation, and the magical device which nearly led to its destruction.

What follows is a race not only against time but through a series of worlds, each more fantastical and dangerous than the last, as Steve and his friends try to keep one step ahead of their pursuers.

Magic Bound is the second adventure in the Haven Chronicles, following on from Haven Wakes, a unique blend of fantasy and sci-fi which has been described by readers as “shades of Artemis Fowl, hints of Harry Potter… and Skulduggery Pleasant”.

My review – ARC copy releases 2nd August

Magic Bound is the 2nd book in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed book 1, Haven Wakes.

The second book continues the adventures of schoolboy Steve. It begins with the revelation that Hartley and Blessing have disappeared. Initially, I found the storyline a little difficult to follow but it certainly becomes more engaging the further I read with shots fired and an armed grenade!

It is a fun filled fantasy adventure I enjoyed. There is quite a lot going on in this second book with many new characters/organisations/operatives to get to grips with… the council, the three sisters at the sanctuary, the revenants, the parity, the grayling, the cyclops to name but a few.

I loved the magic of Hartley’s pixie tailor, the omnometer and the squirrel mail! And the robots. The dashes of perfectly placed humour brings further smiles as it did in book 1.

In book 2 young Steve turns 13! Now a teenager!

Note: Little mention is made of Steve’s parents in either book 1 or 2. Even less so in book 2. The emphasis being on Steve’s adventures, new experiences, and new friends.

Recommended for magic, sci fi and fantasy fans whether young or old!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Through The Nethergate #paranormal #urban #fantasy #ya #review @RobertaEaton17 @TSLpub

Blurb

Margaret, a girl born with second sight, has the unique ability to bring ghosts trapped between Heaven and Hell back to life. When her parents die suddenly, she goes to live with her beloved grandfather, but the cellar of her grandfather’s ancient inn is haunted by an evil spirit of its own. In the town of Bungay, a black dog wanders the streets, enslaving the ghosts of those who have died unnatural deaths. When Margaret arrives, these phantoms congregate at the inn, hoping she can free them from the clutches of Hugh Bigod, the 12th century ghost who has drawn them away from Heaven’s White Light in his canine guise. With the help of her grandfather and the spirits she has befriended, Margaret sets out to defeat Hugh Bigod, only to discover he wants to use her for his own ends – to take over Hell itself.

Review

Through The Nethergate illustrates the author’s ability to write an engaging tale which not only entertains the reader but weaves in historical facts against the backdrop of a ghostly setting.

Poor 16 year old Margaret has been recently bereaved, both her parents have died and she is now living with her Grandfather. Soon it becomes clear that she has a gift, the ability to transform ghosts to become more human in appearance.

There follows an age old battle between good versus evil, with characters as examples throughout history, (Heinruch Himmler, Reingard Heydritch and Adolf Eichmann,) and a clever part showcasing the potential danger of technological advances, (the dark web and terrorism,) to the soul of man.

Events unfold with Lucifer, two priests, a black cat, Hugh Bigod, (who has held the ghosts trapped – in his form as the black dog,) haunted bungay characters: Lizzie Bowlynge, Rex Bacon, Katherine de Montacute, Henry Scarle, and the infant serial killer Amelia Dyer, John Collins, Nero, Caligula and the incarnates.

Some historical figures were mentioned briefly while others played a bigger part in the tale. Perhaps a deep connection to a single character is lost somewhat due to the number of characters embodied in the narrative.

Of them all, I particularly was fascinated by the true life story of John Collins and the political discussions in the tale.

The pace and excitement picks up in the second half of the book which I really enjoyed. The ending is fantastic. It is a clever, ambitious, unusual and imaginative tale, just what you would expect from Roberta Cheadle.


Recommended for those who enjoy horror, dark and ghost tales and YA fiction.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

https://tslbooks.uk/product/through-the-nethergate-roberta-eaton-cheadle/

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has two published novels:

* Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy; and

* A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has ten children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written seven publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

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Book Review: Haven Wakes, The Haven Chronicles: Book One #fantasy @FisWritingHaven @Burning_Chair

The year is 2110.

Everyone has their own robot, and magical worlds are just behind the next door…

Steve Haven always thought he was just another ordinary twelve-year-old boy. Well, as ordinary as he can be given he’s the nephew of Rex Haven, founder of the Haven Robotics Corporation.

But when Rex dies in mysterious circumstances and Steve is given a strange artefact known only as the Reactor, he finds out that the world he thought he knew is a lot stranger and more threatening than he ever imagined.

On the run from a group of dangerous villains, Steve finds himself plunged into a hidden and dangerous magical world. With his parents missing and no one in the normal world he can trust, Steve must join with his new-found magical friends to discover the truth about the Reactor and his uncle’s death.

Haven Wakes is the debut novel by Fi Phillips and the first in The Haven Chronicles, an exciting and enthralling journey through new worlds, both futuristic and magical.

If you enjoy fantastic settings, magical powers and futuristic devices, then you’ll love Haven Wakes.

Book Review

It is the year 2110. 12 year Steve’s father is an archaeologist. There is a falling out between his uncle Rex ‘robotics genius and philanthropist’ and his father. He is lonely, his parents are always away and are ‘a team.’ He is stuck at school, feeling sorry for himself but… a massive adventure is about to happen!


It becomes clear that his uncle’s death is a murder and there is a lots to get to rips with… what with auras, and characters who ‘seethed wiith magic,’ a darkling… and a place called dark acre.

It’s funny in bits and definitely entertaining!

““You’d get on with my chemistry teacher,” said Steve. “He’s never happier than when he’s blowing things up.””

“The sight of the fire imp had scared off his hangover and he felt in dire need of a weapon to defend himself.”


And some lovely character descriptions, this is of Frobisher the gatekeeper:

“Frobisher sat in a deckchair beside an archway that stretched between two red-brick terrace houses. His hair was patchy and his baldness, plus his frown, emphasised the generous size of his nose, which jutted out like it wanted something to be hung on it.”

This is for you if you like: Magic, pixies, goblins, revenants, fairies (darklings) travelling magic, fire imps and devourers! A fun packed and imaginative adventure. Really enjoyed. Entertaining and funny in parts. Loved the characters and the magic! The ending wrapped up any loose ends and opened up the potential for book 2 which is on my reading list. Looking forward to continuing this series. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

For many years Fi Phillips worked in an office environment until the arrival of her two children sent her hurtling down a new, bumpy, creative path. She finds that getting the words down on paper is the best way to keep the creative muse out of her shower.

Fi lives in the wilds of North Wales with her family and a pooch called Bailey, earning a living as a fantasy novelist and real life copywriter. Writing about magical possibilities is her passion.

‘Haven Wakes’ is her debut novel, the first in a futuristic fantasy series for an 11+ readership, published by Burning Chair Publishing.

You can find her at http://fiphillipswriter.com/

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Choke Back the Tears Blog Tour: Mark Richards – Michael Brady Book 4. #author #interview #review @lilmissmorfett

I’m delighted to be joining Donna’s blog tour for Mark Richards new release today with an interview and review too!

Once upon a time I had a business in financial services: nice suits, smart shirts, stripy ties. But always with a small voice inside me. “Let me out,” it said, “I’m a writer.”

I kept the small voice securely under lock and key but then – in 2009 – my brother died of cancer. It was one of those pivotal moments in life. I either let the small voice out and pursued my dream, or I forgot about it for good. So I sold my business, sent my stripy ties to the charity shop and started writing.

Now my time divides between writing for clients – copywriting, ghostwriting – and writing for myself.

In the spring of 2016 I suffered the latest in a long line of mid-life crises and invited my youngest son to come for a walk with me. That led to ‘Father, Son and the Pennine Way’ – the first of three books ostensibly about walking, but really about my ever-changing relationship with my son.

…And now – in September 2020 – I’ve turned my attention to novels. ‘Salt in the Wounds’ in the first book in the Michael Brady series and, when that’s finished, I’ll look to develop two other crime series.

You can connect with me online at:

W www.markrichards.co.uk

F https://www.facebook.com/MarkRichardsAuthor/

BLURB

Michael Brady looked at Sandra Garrity’s face. Grey skin. Bloodshot eyes open. Blue lips, her tongue protruding.
“Did you watch your husband die, Sandra? Or did he watch you die?”

“Brilliant. Brady is fast becoming the Yorkshire Rebus.”

Billy and Sandra were childhood sweethearts.
Writing their names on a lovelock. Fastening it to the end of Whitby pier. Throwing the key into the sea.
A lifetime together. A happy retirement in a peaceful hamlet on the North Yorkshire Moors.
Until the day they were brutally murdered.
“Whoever did this – he didn’t do it quickly. And he enjoyed it…”

Billy was a fisherman, making a living in the cold, cruel North Sea. One night his boat went down. Two crewmen drowned. Billy survived.
Are the families looking for revenge? It’s the obvious conclusion.
But why have they waited so long?
Why have they killed Billy and Sandra?
And why kill them in such a barbaric way? “This isn’t a murder, Mike. It’s an execution. A medieval execution.”

Choke Back the Tears is the fourth book in the Michael Brady series.
Kershaw’s away, Brady’s in charge. The bucks stops on his desk. But at least Frankie Thomson is back to help him. For now…
There are no clues. No motives. It’s a perfect crime scene.
All Brady has is his experience and his intuition. And his small team is gettng smaller by the day…
Meanwhile he’s battling problems in his personal life. His daughter Ash wants to know the truth about her mother’s death. Brady can’t put off telling her any longer.
He’s having doubts about everything. Even the memory of his dead wife.

Choke Back the Tears is the most personal Brady book yet.
He has to find the killer.
He has to keep his team together.
And he owes his daughter an explanation.
Michael Brady needs a friend.
But he doesn’t have one…

The Michael Brady books are perfect for fans of J D Kirk, Jason Dalgleish, David Gatward, T G Reid – and anyone who likes characters you’ll come to think of as friends.

“Mark Richards has created such a likeable character in Mike Brady that you want to become his friend, go for a drink with him or give him a hug when he obviously needs one. I’ve read all three Brady books within a week and am waiting for the fourth with bated breath.”

Interview with Mark…

Why write a novel?
The brutal truth is that I wrote a novel because I ran out of excuses. Travelling back in time I was a dull bugger in a suit, with a business in financial services. I also had this small voice which tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Let me out, you want to be a writer.”
In 2009 my brother died of cancer. It was one of those pivotal moments in life. I realised that I either let the small voice out and did what I really wanted to do, or I forgot about it for good. So I sold my business, sent my stripy ties to the charity shop and started writing – starting a new business as a freelance copywriter.
Then the small voice started up again. “Let me out, you want to write a novel.”
Fortunately I was too busy – no time. Then lockdown struck in March 2020: I immediately lost two clients in the day job and ran out of excuses. Suddenly I did have the time. I skulked away to the spare room and started Salt in the Wounds…
Why mystery/thriller/crime?
If I was going to move into commercial fiction I wanted a big market and clearly mystery/thriller/crime comes second after romance. My intention with Mike Brady was to land the books fairly and squarely in the middle of the target – to write books that were at least equal to those that were selling well. I read a couple of books by popular authors and thought I could do that.
But the books are really about Michael Brady’s internal journey as much as they’re about the crimes. There’s a great quote – supposedly attributed to Joseph Wambaugh – along the lines of, ‘the best crime fiction isn’t about cops working on cases, it’s about cases working on cops.’ That’s how it is with Brady, and you’ll see the impact of the cases over the course of the series.
Would you consider any other genre?
I’ve got about 10,000 words of a post-apocalyptic book written. When I lost my clients and ran out of excuses it was really a toss-up between Mike Brady and Rafe Mueller (another damaged soul…)
I have got other books out there: I’ve written three books about long distance walks I’ve done with Alex, my youngest son. Again though, they’re not about the walks as much as the relationship between Alex and me. Pop ‘Mark Richards, Father, Son and…’ into Amazon and you’ll find them.
But brand is important for an author, so I don’t feature those books on my website:
for the foreseeable future, I’ll focus on mystery/thriller/crime.

Why did you choose Whitby for the books?
As a few people know I live in Scarborough, 20 miles down the coast from Whitby. I chose Whitby because it has such a good ‘sense of place.’ Captain Cook, Dracula, traditional English fishing port, history, Heartbeat, the Moors, fish and chips.

Living so close to it I thought I knew the town quite well. You don’t know a town at all until you start planning to murder someone there…
Where did the idea for Michael Brady come from?
We have three children – boy, girl, boy. When Eleanor was 14/15 it’s fair to say she went through a fairly rebellious phase. We’re great pals now and she’s my football-buddy, but at the time father/daughter relationships were slightly strained, and there were certainly boyfriends I wasn’t told about.
I used to lie awake at night and ask myself a very simple question: ‘how the hell will I cope if anything happens to my wife?’
Simply put, that’s where the idea for Michael Brady came from and at the start of Salt in the Wounds that’s exactly where he is. His wife has been killed in a hit-and-run and he’s driving across the North York Moors with Ash (Ashley), his teenage daughter. He’s determined to start a new life, be a good dad to Ash and has absolutely no intention of going back into the police. And then his best friend is
murdered…
So Brady’s relationship with Ash is very much my imagined relationship with Elle (Eleanor). The sarcastic replies she gives him are exactly the sort of replies Elle gave me and – like I was when she was in her early teenage years – Brady has a permanent struggle between being protective and allowing her enough freedom.
Interestingly one reader in the US took me to task, saying he wouldn’t allow his daughter to speak to him in the way Ash talks to Brady, “but I guess that’s the difference between the US and the UK.” I thought he missed the point – like many teenage girls Ash feels physically awkward around her dad, so when they have these ‘banter conversations’ she’s really giving her dad a sort of verbal hug.
By the time you get to Book 4 Brady is tentatively starting his first relationship after his wife – and obviously Ash is going to have some views on the potential new girlfriend. And be on hand with dating advice…
‘All characters are fictitious…’ But what about Archie?
Nail. Head. Archie isn’t fictitious. Archie is Pepper, our Springer Spaniel, brought back to life. We got Pep in January 2006. She was just the most brilliant family pet, and my walking buddy on the cliff top. We finally said goodbye to her in November 2019 – and I still drop my toast on the floor and expect her to be there.
So Mike Brady’s dog, Archie, is Pepper brought back to life. Archie’s love of sausages and his desperate need to roll in a dead fish? That’s Pepper.
If you want to know more about Pep I brought all the short stories I wrote about her and family life together in a book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08BCGLZTW
How much research do you do?
Compared to other writers? Honestly, I don’t know. I suspect ‘above average’ is the answer. I do all my own research and that includes the physical side of it. I’ve hung off the end of Whitby Pier (Alex held on to me), gone trespassing on a railway line, trekked across the Moors…

For ‘Choke Back the Tears’ I was contemplating jumping into the North Sea fully clothed (you’ll see why) but as I was recovering from Covid at the time I had a long conversation with a girl who goes wild swimming instead.
One of the best things about research is how incredibly helpful people are. For Salt in the Wounds I had two or three long conversations with an officer in a woman’s prison, plus a paramedic. The River Runs Deep was witness protection and drowning. For The Echo of Bones I had long, long e-mail conversations with a forensic pathologist in Tennessee. And for the latest book about five trips to Whitby and a detailed conversation with a midwife.
Coming up? Brady still owes Dave a fishing trip. I’ll have to go out on a boat and try and catch a ten-pound cod. I’m not looking forward to it – I don’t like boats – but it has to be done. And an idea I had this morning means I might have to sleep rough for a night.
And while I didn’t use it in a book, my research has also taught me what to plant if you’ve buried a body in your allotment. Roses at first, then brassicas – cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli…
How much of you is there in Brady?
Brady’s 42 and his sister tells him he ‘looks a bit like Chris Hemsworth,’ so there aretwo boxes I don’t tick straightaway…
I’m in a lot of the small details of Mike Brady. How he likes his bacon sandwiches, how he has his tea, eating fish and chips by the harbour. But Brady’s physically brave – I’m not. Then again I’ve done stand-up comedy in Barnsley…
Brady’s relationship with Ash is unquestionably based on my relationship with my daughter. The replies she gives him – ‘This is a cool town, Dad. Two garden centres and a garage. Oh, and a Chinese takeaway. And a car park. I’ll certainly be coming here with my friends’ – are exactly the replies Ellie would have given me.
Ditto, Archie. We had a Springer for 13 years, before we lost her in November 2019.
Archie is simply Pepper re-born, and when Archie rolls in a dead fish, that’s Pep.
Rumour has it you’ve done stand-up comedy. How useful
is that when you’re writing a novel?
I have. I woke up with a midlife crisis one Saturday morning and told my wife I wanted to try stand-up. I did it for a year and was reasonably good – good enough to get paid and good enough to realise how good the top performers were. I did a gig in York where I was the warm-up for Russell Howard as he was just breaking through, and he was on another level.
But stand-up is brilliant training for writing. When you’re writing stand-up material is has to be tight and sharp – I could give you a great example, but it involves a lot of swearing. The same is true of novels. ‘Get it right, keep it tight, cut out the £$%&e’ as the old newspaper editors used to say.
You’re self-published at the moment. Would you like to be
traditionally published?

As a few people know I had a little bit of a flirt with a publisher around Christmas/New Year. They offered me a contract but I turned it down because of changes they wanted to make to the books.
In the short-term that was probably a poor decision, at least from a commercial point of view, but what they wanted to do was simply wrong and would have made the books worse.
Long-term let’s see what happens. For now I’m concentrating on the next book in the Brady series which I’ll have written, edited and published for Christmas. No way could you do that with a traditional publisher.
Netflix knock on the door: who plays Brady on TV?
You know what? I don’t mind. I consciously don’t do detailed descriptions of my characters because I want to give the readers the freedom to imagine the characters as they see fit. If I can give them an impression, that’ll do fine. When Brady first meets the man who’ll be his boss, Kershaw, he’s described as ‘silver-haired, silver-tongued.’ Seriously, do you need any more? Who hasn’t had a boss like that?
So no, I’m happy to leave it to the readers. Several of them see Frankie as Suranne
Jones. I think she’s too old for Frankie, but I’m happy to leave it to Netflix. I’ll only get cross if they mis-cast Archie…
What’s your favourite thing about writing?
Let me say one thing straightaway: writing is an incredibly selfish pastime. You have to say to your wife/husband/partner, ‘Yes, I’m very willing to build you a cold frame/paint the kitchen/go out for a drink… But not now, because I have to finish this chapter.’ There are also plenty of times when I’m ‘there but not there.’ My wife will say something to me and I simply won’t reply. I’m in an alley in Whitby murdering someone…
That said, I love writing. Why do I write? The same reason as I breathe. I’m not someone who believes in inspiration but occasionally you’ll write a sentence/para and it’s exactly right. Possibly even funny. There are not many better feelings.
And two things I didn’t even consider when I started writing novels. The research (see above) and the interaction with readers, which I love.
And your least favourite?
Other than the comment above about selfishness, writing is time intensive. There are no economies of scale. Two thousand words takes twice as long as a thousand, and it has to be done – especially if you have a deadline and Jeff Bezos is threatening to flog you in the market square if you don’t meet it.
On a lovely day that’s tough. The other kids are outside playing on the grass: you’re in the classroom writing your English essay.
Your favourite fictional character?
Probably Lisbeth Salander in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She’s in such a good place at the end of that book that I won’t read the next two.

Thomas Cromwell in the Hilary Mantel books if he’s allowed to qualify as a fictional character. And obviously Hannibal Lecter. “More than my job’s worth, mate.” “Fair enough, I’ll eat your liver.”
Plotter or pantser? Gardener or architect?
One of the things that stopped me writing a book for a long time was my conviction that I couldn’t plot a novel. I knew I could write reasonably well, but I thought I was limited to articles/blogs in the 600 to 3,000 word range. Essentially what I wrote for clients in the day job as a freelance copywriter.
Then lockdown struck, I immediately lost two clients and my standard excuse – I don’t have time to write a novel – went out of the window. So I invented Michael Brady, killed his wife, stuck him in a car with Ash and let him get on with it.
Right now I’d describe myself – whichever term you go for – as half way between the two. I know where the story is going and I know some of the key signposts along the way – but I do think you have to let the characters talk to you.
Possibly the best example of that is Ruby in ‘The Echo of Bones.’ I had no real idea of Ruby until I started writing about her. But then she opened her mouth, started talking and was fully formed in front of me. The moment she spat in the tea Brady had given her I knew I had a really great character.
You’ve got three children. Have any of them inherited the
writing gene?
‘Yes’ is the simple answer. Dan has just finished his PhD at Leeds University which involved a fair amount of writing. Alex wrote a western during lockdown – which I need to edit for him. But girls always come out on top don’t they?
Elle used to go upstairs to write her English essays and come down again 15 minutes later. She’s always been able to write at speed and I introduced her to an American hybrid publisher who specialised in post-apocalyptic books. She wrote four series for him and made enough for the deposit on a house. #ProudDadAlert
What do you do when you’re not writing?
A few people know the awful truth. I am North Yorkshire’s only known supporter of Wolverhampton Wanderers. I watch illegal streams of their games and shout a lot.
What do you write on? Wax tablet? State of the art Mac?
I’ve got an HP laptop. I think it was about three hundred quid. It’s on a stand on my desk and I use a full size keyboard which connects to the laptop via magic. All I really do on my laptop is use Word and Excel, so I don’t need anything powerful. Oh, and the illegal streams, of course. But keep that to yourself…

Purchase Links:

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Thank you to Mark Richards for being my guest today. I really enjoyed finding out more about him and his writing. And… I couldn’t resist reading and reviewing!

It’s rare that I read crime and I am now wondering why!

My review:

Many thanks to the author for an advanced review copy and to Donna Morfett for including me in the tour.

I absolutely loved this. I’m late to discover Mark but so glad that I managed to dive in and read book 4. First thing that struck me whilst reading Choke Back The Tears #4 is the short, snappy chapters, which carry your attention brilliantly. And the great characterisation, Brady is so well written, as are all the supporting characters and potential murderers/suspects. The murder scene is gory and much detail is given for the reader to deliberate the who and the what and the why. The setting of the scene in Whitby works well, you can just about smell and taste the fish, chips and bacon sarnies. And I just knew that Archie was fashioned on the author’s dog, guessed it before I read Mark Richard’s interview on my blog. I enjoyed the personal elements woven into the tale about Brady’s daughter which gave the story a pleasing human touch which I appreciated. But… perhaps the aspect I enjoyed the most was the story’s insight into how tough it must be for coppers and law enforcers to cope with the heinous impact of crimes such as these on their stomachs, (as in keep from puking,) and their daily lives.

It’s an easy one to rate… a page turning 5 stars.

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The Apprentice Storyteller by Astrid V.J. #review #fantasy #fiction #Alchemist #spaceopera #fiction

Blurb

The Alchemist meets fantasy with a splash of space opera. Viola Alerion, a renowned storyteller in the Haldrian Empire, wants to be left in peace. For years, she’s been hounded by her past, never to find a moment’s rest. Then she meets a boy who wants to become her apprentice. He refuses to take no for an answer, and she reluctantly yields, even though she knows taking him with her could endanger his life. As their journey progresses, Viola begins to understand she’s not the only teacher in the equation. The nameless boy also has something to teach, but Viola makes for a reluctant student.

Can she give way to possibility and embrace a future in alignment with what she’s always wanted? Can she find the courage to embrace the principles that will transform her life? Can she overcome her circumstances and face her past? Or will she keep on running with nowhere to hide?

And what of the boy who guards untold secrets and exhibits mysterious powers that defy belief?

The e-book of The Apprentice Storyteller also includes exclusive access to “Viola’s Guide to Achieving the Impossible”. This workbook to help guide you through the first steps towards achieving your own dream is based on key transformational principles from the DreamBuilder™ Course and is not intended for publication. The workbook is only accessible through The Apprentice Storyteller e-book. The link to Viola’s Guide to Achieving the Impossible is embedded in a concealed place. This is a treasure hunt. 

About Astrid V.J.

Award-winning and USA Today Bestselling Author, Astrid V.J. was born in South Africa. She is a trained social anthropologist and certified transformational life coach. She currently resides in Sweden with her husband and their two children. In early childhood, she showed an interest in reading and languages—interests which her family encouraged. Astrid started writing her first novel at age 12 and now writes fantasy in a variety of genres, exploring her passion for cultures and languages. When she isn’t writing, Astrid likes to read, take walks in nature, play silly games with her children, do embroidery, and play music.

Astrid writes transformation fiction: incorporating transformation principles in novels, rather than writing another self-help book. She loves exploring the human capacity for transformation and potential to achieve success in the face of adversity. Astrid is interested in minority group questions, considerations on social standards of beauty and the negative consequences these have, and would like to make the fantasy genre accessible to people of non-white, non-Christian backgrounds. Astrid feels the fantasy genre has become too restrictive with limited representations of race, ethnicity and culture. She seeks to explore other paths on this writing journey, incorporating her background in anthropology and psychology to create engaging experiences, which also provide food for thought on the diverse topics she finds most important. These include: racism, minority rights, cultural diversity, culture change, intolerance, humanity’s environmental impact, the representation of people on the autism spectrum in among the general populace, the human capacity for transformation, and much more.

https://www.elisabethandedvard.com/

My review

The Apprentice Storyteller by Astrid V.J.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is book 1 in the Wishmaster series.

Such a beautifully written almost poetic tale. The strengths lie in the perfect placement and beauty of words, the thoughts (philosophical, considered,) and the growing relationship between the Storyteller Viola and her young apprentice who has supernatural powers.

Viola has been a loner on the run for twenty eight years and her mysterious background is hidden until much later in the book. Now, in mid life she longs to settle down and live a simple life: “she dreams of a life living in harmony with her purpose as a storyteller, but where she can also stay in one place. She sees herself sitting in a window, her fingers flying over the keys as she records new tales onto a device.”

Her apprentice is just thirteen and spiritually wise for his years, but there is a vulnerability about him too. In some ways, roles are reversed as he becomes a teacher to the older storyteller. In time, the two, (who surprisingly have much in common,) learn to trust, teach, appreciate and value each other.

The first half of the tale is perhaps a little slow, giving details of both the characters but speeds up towards the end with more ‘action,’ and a magical portal!

Overall, I would say this is not so much for readers who like action packed stories. This is more for those who love the wonder, magic and beauty of storytelling, secrets, and thoughtful reflections of life. And for those who appreciate a beguiling story which is focused on two main characters with less emphasis on secondary characters.

The Apprentice Storyteller also has a planetary futuristic aspect, with spacecrafts, and different lands. Jo, the apprentice, comes from his home planet Mshrali. There are deep discussions about the damage humans do to the world, to the peoples, “We have marginalised, killed and driven to extinction all the other beings such as elves, kobolds, and trolls,” and the rainforests: “the serpent in the forest,” which is referred to as “a levianthan.”

I am sure there are many more revelations to follow. A beguiling and interesting start to the series. I thoroughly enjoyed. Highly recommended.



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My rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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The Station Master’s Cottage @PhillipaNClark #review #romance #mystery #saga #historicalfiction

Blurb

Christie is happy in her life… or so she tells herself. Despite a tragic childhood, she has built a satisfying career and loves her city apartment. But deep down she yearns for a simpler life. Family. A garden. And a place to heal her heart.

The decision to attend a funeral in a town she’s never heard of throws her safe world into disarray, exposing the cracks in her life. As she deals with the fallout, Christie moves into a rundown cottage she’s inherited and there, makes a discovery.

Fifty years ago, a heartbroken young artist waited each dawn on a jetty for his true love to return. And each night, he wrote her a love letter.

What Christie uncovers will change her life forever.

This is a beautiful tale of love – sometimes lost, sometimes found and sometimes both. This is also a book with a mystery to solve which keeps your interest in the story. The author did an amazing job writing this book. The characters were well developed, the story was unique, and the descriptions helped you to feel the emotions, smell the scents, and visualize the persons, places and objects. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy romance with a bit of mystery and a HEA. Karen Thurmer.

 NEW COVERS ON ALL IN THIS SERIES AUGUST 2021. Recommended reading order:
The Stationmaster’s Cottage
Jasmine Sea
The Secrets of Palmerston House
The Christmas Key  

Review

The Stationmaster’s Cottage by Phillipa Nefri Clark

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is book one of four in the River End Series.

Even though I don’t usually read romance, saga, historical fiction novels, I really enjoyed this so much.

It was the mysterious aspect, the fantastic characterisation, sense of place, the dawning realisations, sexual tension, secrets, cute cottage and the mysteries regarding the deceased grandmother, Dorothy, and the painting – all of these managed to draw me in. And keep my attention. From the opening chapters, oh, how I hated the lead character Christy’s fiance Derek! He was a total toad and even in the moments when you thought perhaps he wasn’t as bad you were soon whisked off by the narrative skill of the author to a deeper understanding of his intentions. And conversely, I loved Martin!


Great read, moving, a little soppy in parts but highly recommend for romance saga and mystery lovers and all those who enjoy fantastic storytelling. The ending is terrific.

Listened to on audible, and the narrator did a fantastic job too. Also, have the kindle version.



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Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

About the Author

Phillipa writes from the heart about love and life with all its joy and sadness. She believes in happy endings and the power of hope and resilience, no matter what the situation. She grew up around wild beaches and misty cliffs, always with a horse or dog as her companion. Now she lives in regional Victoria, Australia on a small acreage close to a mountain range. Her great loves, apart from writing, are her family of two young adult sons and her husband, their Labrador, music, reading, research, fine wine, and an oversized vegetable garden. Phillipa is a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, Sisters in Crime (Aust), Writers Victoria and more. 

Next Audiobook review Jacqueline Evans Nostra Dame, A True Story.

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The Poison Ember Serpentstone Book 2 @AMObstWriter #new #book #preorder #ARC #review

Blurb

Faced with a task that could turn them into monsters, Sarnd and Jessa must decide whether to run away or save the world.

Six years ago, twins Sarnd and Jessa thought they’d rid their world of the malevolent Serpentstone. Since then they’ve worked hard to set their shocking past behind them.

But the Serpentstone has returned, and they’re asked to carry it to an abandoned mine where it will be sealed deep underground. The Stone appears to be much weaker than it was, but they learned the hard way never to trust it.

The Stone starts to regain its terrifying power, and while Sarnd is desperate to complete their mission so he can go back to his new life, Jessa has other ideas.

As their mission becomes a race against time, can the twins learn to trust each other again and avoid becoming the creatures they fear the most?


Buy the thrilling sequel to The Hungry Fire and enter a world of chaotic magic, treacherous allies and underdog heroes!

Release date: 23rd July, available to preorder now.

Review

Thank you to the author for an advanced reader’s copy which I read and review freely and without bias.

This is book 2 in the Serpentstone series. I managed to read book 2 without any problems. But ideally, it would be best to read the 1st book in the series: The Hungry Fire (Serpentstone Book 1) which is available at special offer price via this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08TCFWY8B

SARND: “I’m a monster, created by my so-called parents as a weapon using the corrupted power of the Serpentstone.”

The Poison Ember is a story of magic, power, fighting, sparring, revenge, adventure and secrets. “Known to the Academy as the Orufasu, the Stone was the greatest concentration of magical power ever discovered.”

“The Stone was so mighty, and had the power to strip away all that she thought she was, turning her and Sarnd into projections of its own violent and callous will. How could they be deluded enough to think they could come near it and survive?

And now, here he was, carrying a bag that held the greatest concentration of magic ever found. Against his will, he was caught up in a new adventure—one likely to end in tragedy rather than triumph.”

It’s a tale in which you suspend belief and take a magical journey into a land created wholly by the author’s imagination. Amusing in parts, I appreciated the revelations about the stone, the sibling banter, and uncertainties of trust played out between Sarnd and his twin sister Jessa. 

The latter chapters of the story became more exciting as the adventure continued.

Overall, this is a well written, high fantasy adventure tale. Please note: a fair amount of dialogue and the story is delivered with quite a few characters to get to grips with, which is (not uncommon with high fantasy books, but usually there is one central character who is the main focus.) In this story, there are three main protagonists – the twins, Sarnd and Jessa, and of course the stone, who also becomes a character in many ways.

My rating: an enjoyable 4 stars. Recommended for high fantasy, epic fantasy, adventure, sword and sorcery fans. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Author Bio:

An Australian living in the United Kingdom, A.M. Obst has always loved to daydream and make up things about places that don’t exist. An avid reader of fantasy novels, he has also been spotted holding books from other genres, including science fiction, crime, thrillers, horror, romance and historical adventures.

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