Blog Tour: The Devil’s Feast by M. J. Carter

Historical fiction is really my thing – really, really my thing – so I was thrilled to be asked to take part in a blog tour for M. J Carter’s latest Blake and Avery mystery, The Devil’s Feast. By happy coincidence, I was treated for my last birthday to a fantastic reading spa at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights (I have the best friend EVER) and The Strangler Vine, the first Blake and Avery novel, was one of the recommendations that I ended up buying. Having read that, I can’t wait to get stuck into The Devil’s Feast, but for today, Miranda has written a piece for us about her transition from historian to historical fiction writer.

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I am so not a natural storyteller. I started out writing non-fiction, I am an historian by training and passion, and in the biographies and histories I wrote I never had to worry about what was going to happen next.

Then, about fifteen years ago, I had an idea for a Victorian detective, a world-weary working-class guy, brilliantly clever—much cleverer than his superiors, a lone sceptic seeing through the cant and injustice of Victorian England, but forced to kowtow to those above him because he has to earn a living. I knew just where I wanted to put him, in London in the 1840s, the first decade of Victoria’s reign, an amazing city full of surprises, in a time of tumultuous change, amazing inventions, and terrible poverty. A vision had popped into my head of my protagonist going to visit a witness named Charlie Marks in seedy lodgings in Dean Street in Soho. The conversation starts and gradually we realise that this witness, with his huge beard, constantly complaining about the boils on his bottom, is none other than Karl Marx himself. I’d recently read Francis Wheen’s biography of Marx and it had painted a portrait of a raffish, often irresponsible character, who suffered dreadfully from boils on his bum.

Marx only arrived in London in 1849, and so far in my books my protagonist Jeremiah Blake (as he ended up being named) and his sidekick William Avery have only got to 1842 so they’ve a way to go yet, but this first idea started me off thinking about how I could mix real historical figures with my fictional characters, and that all sorts of very surprising people ended up in London during this period, and one could have a lot of fun with that.

Where had all this come from? My incessant history reading, of course. Anyway, the idea sloshed around in my head for years. I had a character and a set-up. But I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do plot. I’d never been a natural at making stuff up, how would I manage now? The key proved, of course, to be my old mainstay, my history reading and research.

I’m never happier than when I’m researching —basically being paid (a bit) to read books and find out about things, and I’ve always been good at gathering a lot of information very quickly. I’d say that historical research kick-starts every plot idea and bump I have.

The idea for my first book came to me when I was reading about colonial India and the Thugs, the bandit gangs who befriended, then strangled, unwitting travellers on the roads of India. I read about the British officer who succeeded in crushing them, and the fact that now there is a fierce debate among historians about whether the Thugs ever really existed, or were a convenient British fabrication. Ah! I had the plot of my first thriller: The Strangler Vine. My second, The Printer’s Coffin, came out of a book I came upon by chance at the London Library about the democracy- and freedom-of-speech campaigners and revolutionaries of the 1820s, who all ended up either selling pornography, and blackmailing in London’s red-light district in the 1840s or publishing gossip mags that blackmailed their subjects.

The third, my new book, The Devil’s Feast, came out of two things. Firstly, reading about Alexis Soyer, the first great celebrity chef, who cooked at the Reform club in the 1840s. His kitchens were so cutting edge and amazing, that people paid to take the tour, and the papers called him ‘the Napoleon of food.’ Secondly, the fact that the 1840s were the beginning of the Victorian ‘fashion’ for poisoning—there were 98 murder trials involving poison over the decade, all of them gleefully covered by the press.

No, I’m not what you’d call a natural storyteller. But when I’m stuck these days I know where to go, back to my history books.

Huge thanks to Miranda for that – The Devils’s Feast is published on 27th October by Penguin.

You can keep up to date with Miranda Carter via Twitter, or Facebook.

The Devil’s Feast
the-devils-feastLondon, 1842. There has been a mysterious and horrible death at the Reform, London’s newest and grandest gentleman’s club. A death the club is desperate to hush up.

Captain William Avery is persuaded to investigate, and soon discovers a web of rivalries and hatreds, both personal and political, simmering behind the club’s handsome façade – and in particular concerning its resident genius, Alexis Soyer, ‘the Napoleon of food’, a chef whose culinary brilliance is matched only by his talent for self-publicity.

But Avery is distracted. Where is his mentor and partner-in-crime Jeremiah Blake? And what if this first death was only a dress rehearsal for something far more sinister?

The blog tour for The Devil’s Feast continues this week, details below, so please do check out some more of the fantastic content Miranda has written…

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Book Review: Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan

img_20161007_074424Thorn, an outlaw’s son, wasn’t supposed to be a slave. He’s been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they’re headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire.

Lilith Shadow wasn’t supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?

Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.

What I Thought:
I gave a quick precis of what I thought of Shadow Magic in the blog tour post I published on Monday, and I can reiterate how good it was.

In that blog tour post, Joshua Khan gave some examples of books that are his favourites and that have been inspirational, and – for the ones I have read at least – you can see some of those influences coming through. Although this is a fantasy book, and there is a necessary thread of magic running through it, there are also lots of threads coming through from real-life history, which make it all the more riveting.

I loved the characters of Thorn and Lily, despite their very different backgrounds and upbringing, they work very well together, and it’s easy to believe that this peasant boy could be our hero. The reveal of the villain is done well, and the scenes in the cemetery have enough zombies for even the most hardened horror lover.

This is the first book in a series with the second, Dream Magic, due in 2017 – I for one can’t wait to see what Joshua Khan has in store for Lily and Thorn!

I was provided with a copy of Shadow Magic by the publisher (Scholastic) in return for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

51doqoci6xl-_sy344_bo1204203200_When New York journalist and recently bereaved mother Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet these are not the nightmares of a grieving parent, she soon realizes. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees, if only she can make sense of them.

After a little boy in a boat appears in Charlie’s dreams asking for her help, Charlie finds herself entangled in a thirty-year-old missing-child case that has never ceased to haunt Louisiana’s prestigious Deveau family. Armed with an invitation to Evangeline, the family’s sprawling estate, Charlie heads south, where new friendships and an unlikely romance bring healing. But as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust—and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could’ve imagined.

What I Thought:
What an atmospheric book! I love books that are able to strongly evoke their setting and The Gates of Evangeline certainly does that. Small-town Louisiana is painted in as hot and cloying a light as TV would have me believe, but it does not all come from the humidity. The historic Deveau family are all at once close-knit and backstabbing, with a declining matriarch who might not be quite as gripped by dementia as she seems.

Charlie Cates is a likeable heroine, who has been through what no parent ever should, and carries her grief with dignity and a sense of her wanting to move on, but not knowing where to start. It’s interesting to see her move through her grief to a place of acceptance and start looking forward, always accompanied by her son, but not so disabled by the memory of what she has lost.

As a thriller, The Gates of Evangeline works well, there are what seem to be obvious solutions to the mystery, but they are twisted to create a whole other scenario and it is paced very well, not revealing anything too soon. This is the first in a series of Charlie Cates books, the second of which is due out next year – I’ll definitely be looking out for it.

I was sent a copy of the book by the publisher (Century) in return for an honest review.

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Blog Tour: Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan

It’s a busy time for blog tours at the moment, and we’re off again – this time with Middle-Grade fantasy adventure Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan. My review will follow, but Shadow Magic is the first in what promises to be a riveting series set in a land ruled by six great Houses, where magic and mystery flourish and a powerful ruler can still be saved by a peasant boy.

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More on that later (summary down below) but first, I’m thrilled to be hosting a piece by Joshua Khan, telling us all about his favourite and inspirational books – I know I’ve read a few on this list, but I’m definitely open to more recommendations!

THE HOBBIT by JRR Tolkien
My fav book of all time, by a long margin. Had this read to me at school during the summer when i was about 7. I remember the moment clearly, looking at the tree outside the half-open window. The story transported me and I don’t think I ever fully came back. It’s probably why I’m a writer.

220px-thebookoflostthingsBOOK OF LOST THINGS by John Connolly
The very grimmest of Grimm fairy tales. Connolly is famous for his Charlie Parker detective series (which has a healthy dose of supernatural too) but this is my fav. Boy gets transported into a magical realm to chase after the Crooked Man. Oh, the creepiest of stories! Managed to get my copy signed. Result!

THE COMPANY OF LIARS by Karen Maitland
Set during the years of the great plague, and the book absolutely drips with atmosphere. You really feel utterly part of the world. The story plays as strange historical fiction but the boundaries get increasingly blurred between what is natural and what is supernatural as the company travels.

JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL by Suzanne Clarke
Where to begin? Massive in scope, utterly absorbing in detail, rich in history. This is a fantasy world built with love, dedication and a huge amount of care. Deserves all the praise heaped upon it and, at last, fairies down well. Macabre, capricious and inhuman. Meddle with them at your peril. You must get through the first 200 pages though. The same applies to the tv series, the first episode and a half are rather dull, but thereafter, truly magical!

CONAN by RE Howard
Bloody, gutsy, full of passion and raw in delight. Even now no one writes pulse-pounding action the way Howard does. They are not subtle but like sitting round a campfire listening to the roar of an old warrior’s laugh as he tells you his life story. The writing’s not subtle, but it wouldn’t work if it was. It’s pure adventure!

ELRIC by Michael Moorcock
In a way the very opposite of Conan. Elric is a true anti-hero. Born an ruler of a dying empire, physically weak so dependent on drugs and (later) magic, sophisticated and conflicted, he is the Hamlet of fantasy fiction. An albino wearing black armour, dragon-riding and wielding the dreaded Stormbringer, the Elric stories are high fantasy with a string streak of nihilism. It does not end well for ANYONE. I read them when I was a moody teen, which explains a lot, but they have profoundly influenced my idea of what a hero can be and I don’t think Lily Shadow, the heroine of SHADOW MAGIC, would exist without Elric. She’s definitely related to the doomed prince.

9781407130224NORTHERN LIGHTS by Phillip Pullman
I didn’t succumb to the Harry Potter craze. I wasn’t one of those adults reading him on the tube during the late 90s and early 2000’s. In fact I didn’t read Harry Potter until after I’d become a children’s writer. But a friend insisted I try Phillip Pullman. He leant me the first book and I left it on the shelves for months. But he’d ask if I’d read it every time we’d meet so eventually, just to avoid more embarrassment, I did. Once I realised what children’s books were capable of, I was determined to become a children’s writer.

MORTAL ENGINES by Philip Reeves
Probably my favourite children’s author. This is an epic steampunk series with motorised cities, terminators and a huge, rich world of wonder. I don’t know where to begin with this, but you will lose yourself in a setting that, for me, cannot be topped.
The tale starts off centred around Tom and Hester, one a boy working in London, and Hester driven by revenge. They are great by Shrike, the stalker (basically a terminator) begins to develop emotions, and he’s one of the greatest characters in modern fiction. The prequels you learn how he was made and there’s a shiver running through me just thinking about it. The world is complex, and violent. Characters die and very abruptly!

THE BLOODY CHAMBER by Angela Carter
This is a bit of a cheat as it’s a collection of short stories. It includes a Company of Wolves, the story that inspired one of my favourite films ever. So, we’ve got violent, creepy and romantic fairy tales from a feminist angle and we have werewolves. What’s not to love? If you love Carter can I recommend ‘Women who run with wolves’? It’s non-fiction, but similar-themed. It looks as the origins of many world myths and fairy tales as lessons in understanding a woman’s place in the cosmos. Utterly brilliant.

DUNE, by Frank Herbert
This book’s been tainted by the long and increasingly rambling books that followed it, but this remains untouchable in scope, inspiration and scale. Its influence on all the sci-fi that followed, especially Star Wars, cannot be overestimated. What appeals most in the non-European setting (in this case Arabic). When fantasy and sci-fi still struggle to add something (dare I say it?) more diverse in scope, Frank Herbert shows how its done, and this is way back in the 1960s. In its simplest form it’s the struggle between noble houses in the far, far future. Computers are long gone, and superhumans have evolved, such as the human computers called Mentats, swordmasters, and witches (the Bene Gesserit). The book centres around the rule of Arrakis, the planet nicknamed Dune, and the one place that produces spice, the drug that allows navigators to send ships across the vastness of the galaxy. The key player is Paul Atriedes, and his rise from noble scion, to outlaw to messiah.

Huge thanks to Joshua for taking the time out to tell us about some of his inspirations – having read Shadow Magic, you can really see some of the influences in the story.

Summary:
Thorn, an outlaw’s son, wasn’t supposed to be a slave. He’s been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they’re headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire.

Lilith Shadow wasn’t supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?

Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.

The blog tour is still ongoing, so please check out the #ShadowMagic hashtag for more reviews and unique author content.

Shadow Magic was released in paperback on 6th October by Scholastic.

I was sent a copy of Shadow Magic by the publisher in return for participating in the blog tour, and providing an honest review.

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Blog Tour: Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody

_20161002_195042Nothing ever happens in August, and tenacious sleuth Kate Shackleton deserves a break. Heading off for a long-overdue holiday to Whitby, she visits her school friend Alma who works as a fortune teller there.

Kate had been looking forward to a relaxing seaside sojourn, but upon arrival discovers that Alma’s daughter Felicity has disappeared, leaving her mother a note and the pawn ticket for their only asset: a watch-guard. What makes this more intriguing is the jeweller who advanced Felicity the thirty shillings is Jack Phillips, Alma’s current gentleman friend.

Kate can’t help but become involved, and goes to the jeweller’s shop to get some answers. When she makes a horrifying discovery in the back room, it soon becomes clear that her services are needed. Met by a wall of silence by town officials, keen to maintain Whitby’s idyllic façade, it’s up to Kate – ably assisted by Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden – to discover the truth behind Felicity’s disappearance.

And they say nothing happens in August…

What I Thought:
Death at the Seaside was a perfect marriage for me – historical fiction: check, crime fiction: check! I don’t know how I’ve not heard of Frances Brody before, but seeing as this is the eighth book in the series, it looks like I have some reading to catch up on…

The setting of the book is quintessentially English, and the author has a lot of period detail of the 1920s without it seeming forced, or being full of facts – as a character, Kate Shackleton could easily fit in in the present, but there are lots of subtle reminders that she’s a 1920s girl.

The plot here seems quite straightforward at first, but there is a lot going on and it is all revealed at a good pace, neither too breakneck or too slow to care about, and additional scenes from Felicity’s point of view give another dimension to the case.

I’m not sure how Kate’s supporting characters fit in in the other titles in the series, but they don’t really feature a great deal here and they seem likeable enough.

As I said, I’m quite excited to catch up on the previous Kate Shackleton novels now and see what else this independent lady detective has been up to!

Death at the Seaside is published by Piatkus Books on 6th October 2016.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher to participate in the blog tour and to provide an honest review.

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The Blogger and The Green-Eyed Monster – The Million Dollar Blog

41ykdgzthwl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Today we’re wishing a happy book birthday to Natasha Courtenay-Smith, as The Million Dollar Blog is published today! As part of the blog tour for this really useful guide to making your blog as successful as you wish it to be, I’ve been asked to share something that might help steer new bloggers in the right direction. I’d like to talk about something that I think is really important, and something I think all bloggers have been guilty of at one time or another – Envy!

I started my blog five years ago and initially had the mantra ‘if you build it, they will come’ – and they didn’t. I published the blog, started wittering away with no real focus and my page stats reflected this. I saw myself as a mummy blogger and began to put myself about in that community and things did start to get better, but as I did so, I fell into the trap of seeing what other mummy bloggers were reviewing and having the opportunity to experience (Disneyland Paris!!!) and I did wonder why they were getting these opportunities and I wasn’t. Of course if I’d’ve thought about it at the time as I do now, I’d’ve realised that there is only one reason that those lovely ladies got those opportunities – they worked bloody hard for it!

It’s really easy to look at a blog and skim past the hours spent designing the template, producing really great photographs, and then finding relevant and engaging content to tempt time-poor readers to stop. There are the hours of publicising posts and building relationships on Twitter and Facebook and – for the most successful bloggers – answering dozens of emails, deciding which opportunities and products are going to enhance their blog, which ones they have to, regretfully, decline and also the constant worry that they’re putting in all this hard work but no-one seems to be commenting…

The best thing you can do, as a new blogger, is actually learn from these established bloggers – build relationships with other bloggers, spend time not only on your own blog, but also commenting on others. Get to know other bloggers through social media, and you’re guaranteed to find either bloggers at the same stage as you, or those who are further down the road – no matter which – I’ve found other bloggers to be hugely supportive and giving of their time and advice, so even though it is so very easy to get swept up on a wave of envy (it really, really is!) if you invest the time and energy in your own blog, improving the quality of your own product, you’ll find opportunities coming your way.

Now, I’ve found a niche in which I am happy to blog – books. I don’t really think of myself as a ‘mummy blogger’ anymore, nor do I tend to have a specific genre of books that I cover – I review the books that I like to read and this suits me. Who knows what I might want to do in future? I might want to try and monetise the blog more fully, perhaps refine the reviews to a single genre or start something completely new, but my experience over the past five years has given me a strong foundation and a healthy respect for the hard work that goes in to making any blog a real success.

About the Book

In a world where everyone wants to blog and blog posts are ubiquitous, how do you stand out? How do you blog your way from nobody to somebody? How do you, as a business owner, use content to build your brand and drive your success?

Blogging has become the ‘it’ career of the modern world and every business knows that blogging should be an integral part of their marketing and success, but it’s actually never been tougher to be shine in the digital storytelling landscape.

No matter who are you – a mum at home, a budding fashion blogger or a small business owner –The Million Dollar Blog will be your ultimate guide to starting a successful blog or taking your existing blog to the next level.

Through a combination of practical advice and interviews with some of the world’s most famous and successful bloggers, vloggers and content strategists, including Seth Godin, Lily Pebbles, Vicky Psarias (aka Honestmum.com), Grant Cardone and Madeleine Shaw, entrepreneur and digital strategist Natasha Courtenay Smith shows you how to build a blog that will increase your profile, create new opportunities, earn money and change your life.

About the Author

Natasha Courtenay-Smith is a British entrepreneur and media expert. She is the founder and former director of press and publicity agency Talk to the Press, one of the UK’s first online press agencies, which helps individuals sell their real-life stories to newspapers and magazines. The business won numerous awards under Natasha’s guidance. In 2014, Talk to the Press and its online associated membership website Case Study Link were acquired by the UK’s largest newswire operator, SWNS, and Natasha left the business following a handover period.

Natasha now works with talented and high profile individuals on their websites, digital strategy, google search conversion, profile and publicity. She is pioneering at method that allows celebrities to create and publish their own news stories.

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Review: Blog Tour – War Orphans by Lizzie Lane

war-orphans-cover“If at all possible, send or take your household animals into the country in advance of an emergency. If you cannot place them in the care of neighbours, it really is kindest to have them destroyed.”

Joanna Ryan’s father has gone off to war, leaving her in the care of her step-mother, a woman more concerned with having a good time than being any sort of parent to her.

But then she finds a puppy, left for dead, and Joanna’s becomes determined to save him, sharing her meagre rations with him. But, in a time of war, pets are only seen as an unnecesary burden and she is forced to hide her new friend, Harry from her step-mother and the authorities. With bombs falling over Bristol and with the prospect of evacuation on the horizon can they keep stay together and keep each other safe?

What I Thought:

War Orphans is what I would classify as a lovely book. I read a lot of crime fiction, so to read a story with some heart is a very nice change!

Joanna is a determined little girl, who is abominably treated by her stepmother, and finds comfort in an equally determined puppy. Despite her deprivations and the very poor conduct of her stepmother, she keeps her strength and spirit to help her puppy survive – making new friends along the way.

The supporting characters, including Joanna’s caring young teacher are a world away from Joanna’s own domestic situation, but they have heartaches of their own, made worse by the continuation of the war.

It really isn’t spoiling anything to say that the book wraps up to the reader’s satisfaction and War Orphans is a rewarding, heart-warming read.

War Orphans is out now in paperback (Ebury Publishing).

I was sent a copy of this book as part of the War Orphans blog tour and in return for an honest review.

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In Memoriam: James George Jupp, died 23/9/1916

A short break from all the regular bookish things to allow me to put my Family History hat on.

I’ve mentioned in quite a few posts (mostly A-Z Challenge) some of my research into my family history, and today is remarkable in my family tree as 100 years ago today, my Great, Great Grandfather – James George Jupp – was killed in action in the First World War.

A farrier by trade, James Jupp was living in Richmond, where he completed an entry for the 1911 census. James and his wife Louisa had, at that time, 6 children which included my Great Grandmother, Dorothy.

At some time after the start of the First World War, James Jupp enlisted in the Royal Artillery as a Shoeing Smith. Given his age and marital status, it seems unlikely that he would have been called up for service – he was 46 at the start of the war – so I can only think that he volunteered.

After looking at the war diary for ‘C’ Battery of the 187th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery at the National Archive, I was unable to pinpoint the exact circumstances of his death on 23rd September 1916, but I corresponded with some WW1 historians – namely Andy Smerdon, an expert in the use of horses and mules in WW1 – and they managed to come up with a likely scenario for his death. The concensus was that James Jupp was posted with a Battery and travelling with them to shoe horses in emergency situations, many times under fire. It was likely on one of these occasions, that he was shoeing a horse with another Smith when they were hit by enemy fire – apparently over 700 Shoeing Smiths died in similar circumstances – and the site of Jupp’s burial, alongside only one other member of his Battery indicates that they were killed closeby and buried there with regular combat troops.

As you can from this Streetview, the area is quite open, so there would be little cover from enemy fire.

The site of this burial is at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery (managed by the CWGC) as shown below:


View Larger Map

As part of my research, I was able to find a photo of James Jupp’s CWGC grave online, along with some general views of Caterpillar Valley.

Jupp_JG

No doubt this is just one of many, many family stories about ancestors killed in WW1, especially with the centenary currently ongoing, but I feel a much closer connection to those events of so long ago, knowing that my family was involved.

If you are especially interested in stories of those who died in the First World War, Lives of the First World War is working to make sure all those killed are remembered.

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Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

img_20160921_200401In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomach-ache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of beasts.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose . . . it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

What I Thought:

Wow! What a start to a series! A twisted plot that is full of mystery alongside the fantastical setting, with a veritable buffet of strong, inspirational women, I was absolutely hooked to Three Dark Crowns.

All three Queens must fight for the throne, but only Mirabella has shown any of her power – surely she is the obvious Queen of choice? Whichever Queen succeeds, her representatives will coax, scheme and bribe to get themselves to the Queen’s right hand and everyone seems to have an agenda.

The personal lives of each of the Queens and their retinues are explored here, each showing moments of intimacy and love, and others of grisly determination and violence to either claim the throne or flee from it. Three Dark Crowns is a multi-dimensional epic – I can’t wait for more!

Three Dark Crowns is published today (22nd Sept) by Macmillan Children’s Books and comes in one of three stunning paperback versions. I was sent the Naturalist cover, which represents Queen Arsinoe; the others are the Elemental (Queen Mirabella) and the Poisoner (Queen Katharine).

I was sent a copy of Three Dark Crowns in exchange for an honest review.

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Books I’m Excited About in September

We’re already half way through the month, so I thought I’d do a quick run-down of September books that have so far caught my eye.

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Keith Stuart’s fantastic A Boy Made of Blocks (pub. 1st Sept).

Meet thirtysomething dad, Alex
He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn’t understand him. Something has to change. And he needs to start with himself.

Meet eight-year-old Sam
Beautiful, surprising, autistic. To him the world is a puzzle he can’t solve on his own.

But when Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other…

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Some good, old-fashioned rompy fun with Jilly Cooper’s latest Rutshire Chronicle, Mount (pub. 8th Sept)

In Jilly Cooper’s latest, raciest novel, Rupert Campbell-Black takes centre stage in the cut-throat world of flat racing.

Rupert is consumed by one obsession: that Love Rat, his adored grey horse, be proclaimed champion stallion. He longs to trounce Roberto’s Revenge, the stallion owned by his detested rival Cosmo Rannaldini, which means abandoning his racing empire at Penscombe and his darling wife Taggie, and chasing winners in the richest races worldwide, from Dubai to Los Angeles to Melbourne.

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Kendare Blake’s thrilling and dark series opener, Three Dark Crowns (pub. 22nd Sept)

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomach-ache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of beasts.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose . . . it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

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Book 6 in the DI Helen Grace series, Hide and Seek (pub. 8th September). The last book left Helen in a bit of trouble, how will it resolve…?

Detective Inspector Helen Grace has spent her whole life running.

From the past. From herself. From everyone who’s ever tried to get close to her.

She’s spent her whole life hiding.

Behind the badge. Behind her reputation as one of the country’s best detectives. Until – framed for murder – she became one of its most high-profile prisoners.

Now there is nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.

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A non-fiction title, that has already been really helpful! Natasha Courtenay-Smith’s The Million Dollar Blog (pub. 29th September)

In a world where everyone wants to blog and blog posts are ubiquitous, how do you stand out? How do you blog your way from nobody to somebody?

How do you make money blogging, how do you start your own blogging business, and how do you, as a business owner, use content to build your brand and drive your success?

What do the world’s most successful bloggers know that you don’t know (yet)?

No matter who are you – a mum at home, a budding fashion blogger, a lifestyle blogger, a food blogger, a big business owner or a small business owner – The Million Dollar Blog is about blogging the smart way.

A bit of something for everyone there, I think, but still only a small fraction of the fantastic books that have (or will) come out in September – enjoy!

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