Extracts

The Woman In The Woods – J.E. Rowney

Happy Publication Day to J.E. Rowney, who’s latest psychological thriller, The Woman In The Woods is released today. I have the honour of sharing an extract of the book with you all as part of the publication day festivities.

BLURB:

Seb is an asshole. Katie is an angel.

When Seb’s night-time activity stretches their relationship to its limits, the couple decide to take a last-chance holiday to see if there’s anything left to be fixed.

The cabin looked idyllic, but behind the soft furnishings and fluffy throws there’s a creeping sense of unease.

They thought they were fighting for their relationship – will they end up fighting for their lives?

You can purchase your copy of The Woman In The Woods HERE

the woman in the woods cover

EXTRACT:

The road to the cabin takes us through Culloton. It’s one of those nowhere places. A name on a map. A village you’d only be aware of if you were a local. The village is not on any route to anywhere. The curtains are closed in the tiny windows of the tiny terraced cottages that line the narrow road. The streetlights seem dimmer here than they do back home. I’d like to say that it’s atmospheric, but really it feels plain eerie, like any minute a fog is going to descend and zombies are going to come thundering down the road. The image isn’t helped by the creepy ass sign that hangs outside the only building with a light on.

Something about it catches my attention.

“Watch the road!” Katie says, nudging me unnecessarily as I turn my head to do a double take.

“Weird name for a pub.” I nod my head towards the rear-view mirror.

She shuffles around in her chair to look over her shoulder.

“Not really,” she says, sounding disappointed. Disappointed in me, not disappointed by the pub. Disappointed that I raised her expectations. You’d think she would be used to it.

‘The Woman in the Woods’. Maybe it’s not such a weird name, but something about it gave me a chill. Must have been my melodramatic, zombie-creating brain at work. If you have a dull life and dull thoughts, you have to start making things up.

“Maybe we can come down for drinks one night?” I take a shot at turning things around.

Katie grunts a response that could mean yes or no. I give up.

She’s got her feet up on the dashboard now. I’ve told her, more than once, not to do that, but she doesn’t listen. That’s a lie. She clearly did listen, because she’s taken her shoes off. Instead of her dirty Birkenstocks, she’s resting her bare soles on the dash. She’s got the seat pushed back as far as it will go, but she’s still scrunch-folded, trying to fit into position in the tiny space.

I can’t let myself get too pissed off about it; I’m concentrating on the road, trying to work out where the turning is. My satnav has already given up trying to guide me. The satellite connection is almost non-existent out here.

“Hey,” Katie says. She jabs a finger into my arm like a small blunt dagger. “Hey,” she repeats as she prods.

I take a hand off the wheel and bat at her as if she were a mosquito.

“Quit it.” I glance at her quickly, looking for long enough to catch her expression. That miserable sulky look I’ve come to know and hate. That look is one of the reasons we are here.

“Answer me then,” she buzzes.

I take a deep breath and try to remember what it was that she asked me.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

author photo jerowneyJ.E. Rowney spent several years in the cold Yorkshire hills, but now lives on the south coast of England. She spent ten years working as a midwife before turning in her gloves to become an author.

She is an award winning poet, and also enjoys writing short stories. In May 2020 she was the winner of the Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction.

“Charcoal,” her first novel, was published in 2012 to wide critical acclaim, and was a bestselling novel on Amazon within days of release.

She spends lots of time writing in coffee shops, so if see her, say hello.

Ms. Rowney says: “I always dreamed of being a writer, until I realised that I was. Then I started to write.”

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Meet the Author

52 Weeks of Writing Author & Journal Planner, Vol. II – Mariëlle S. Smith

This time last I reviewed volume I of Mariëlle S. Smith’s 52 Weeks of Writing Author & Journal Planner, and you can read my review here. I was a big fan of this planner, so I am delighted to be a part of the blog blitz for volume II. Many thanks to Mariëlle for sitting down to answer some questions, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to join the blitz. Please give Mariëlle a warm welcome as we get to know her a little better before I tell you all about her book (I have to say, I am loving the colour scheme for this volume).

Tell us a little more about the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner, Vol II.

As the name suggests, 52 Weeks of Writing, Vol. II is a journal and planner all thrown into one. It will help you plan and keep track of your writing while making you reflect on your progress and any obstacles that might show up.

Because you’re constantly reflecting on what you’re doing – or what you haven’t been doing – it helps you understand why certain things work for you and others don’t, why you aren’t where you want to be, and so on.

Each week also includes a thought-provoking quote and a prompt or exercise. Some weeks focus on improving your craft, while others are all about improving your author mindset.

How is 52 Weeks of Writing, Vol. II different from all the other journals and planners out there?

The way I combine both, I would say. I see a lot of helpful books around me that either focus on the author mindset OR on planning for authors. 52 Weeks of Writing, Vol. II connects the two explicitly because just focusing on planning doesn’t help. At least not if you’re not dealing with the reasons your plans keep going off track.

Writers who have been using the first volume of 52 Weeks of Writing have been calling it the holistic approach to writing, and that it’s like having a writing coach in book form. Some have told me it’s like I’m sitting right next to them, guiding them through the process. I’m guessing that’s what sets the journal and planner apart as well.

Why did you feel the need to create a second volume? Isn’t 52 Weeks of Writing an undated journal and planner?

It is, and I never felt that need until I was asked about it. When I started working on the journal and planner, I was convinced it would be a one-time project that would do its thing while I focused on other exciting projects.

Now, I was only asked whether I’d change the cover after twelve months so no one would end up with a row of the same journals, but I immediately knew it would have to be its own volume. So, it has a different cover, different quotes, different prompts and exercises, a different look. I fell in love with the project all over again.

And yes, I’m already working on the third volume. I run a Facebook group called the Accountable Wordsmiths and I’ve already shared some of the quotes and prompts that will end up in it with my followers. The cover is done, too.

There’s no order to the volumes, though! There’s no reason you can’t start with Vol. II first. Just pick the one with the cover you like best.

Who will benefit the most from 52 Weeks of Writing, Vol. II?

Any writer who wants to develop a writing practice that works for them and takes into consideration their needs, dreams, and day-to-day reality. I’m very wary of comparisonitis and I think it’s one of the main reasons why we get in our way in the first place. 52 Weeks of Writing, Vol. II is all about figuring out what you want to do with your one precious life and how you can get there without constantly burning out or feeling you’re not good enough.

It’s for those who want to create a sustainable practice that actually fits the lives they’re leading.

What is the best writing advice you were ever given?

The quote that changed my entire life is one by Paulo Coelho:

‘If it’s still in your mind, it is worth taking the risk.’

It’s a piece of advice I constantly give to my coaching clients. If a story doesn’t leave you alone, that means something. That you need to write it, no matter how much the thought scares you.

52 Weeks Cover

BLURB:

‘With this book by your side, anything feels possible.’ Jacqueline Brown

Tired of not having a sustainable writing practice? You, too, can get out of your own way and become the writer you’re meant to be!

52 Weeks of Writing:

  • makes you plan, track, reflect on, and improve your progress and goals for an entire year;
  • helps you unravel the truth about why you aren’t where you want to be; and
  • keeps you writing through weekly thought-provoking quotes and prompts.

With this second volume of the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner, writing coach and writer Mariëlle S. Smith brings you the same successful strategies to craft the perfect writing practice as she did in the first journal. The only difference? Fifty-three different writing quotes and prompts and a brand-new look!

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Germany

Amazon Canada

A printable PDF is available through: https://payhip.com/b/0YgJ Get 50% off until 31 March 2021 by using the coupon code 52WOW during checkout.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

52 Weeks AuthorMariëlle S. Smith is a coach for writers and other creatives, an editor, and a writer. Early 2019, she moved to Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, where she organises private writer’s retreats, is inspired 24/7, and feeds more stray cats than she can count.

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Book Review

The Once And Future Witches – Alix E. Harrow

I am diving into one of my favourite genres today with a review of The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow. Many thanks to Alix, and to Little, Brown Book Group UK, for my copy of the book, which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be. 

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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REVIEW:

As you well know by now, I adore books about witchcraft and The Once and Future Witches is a book that practically sings with magic from the very first page. I lost some serious sleep over this book as I had to really force myself to put it down and go to bed.

The Once and Future Witches is a story of three women not so much pushing through the boundaries placed on them by gender, race and sexuality, but more burning those boundaries to ash, a story of empowerment and of women claiming their place in the world.

There is a lot to love about this book, and in fact I could wax lyrical about it for hours if nobody stopped me, but I will attempt to contain myself to my particular highlights here. One of these was the rhymes and witch-tales that are interspersed through the book, familiar, yet not, as Perrault, Lang and the Grimms are reimagined as women. I loved each of the Eastwood sisters for different reasons, although bookish Beatrice won a particular place in my heart. In contrast, Gideon Hill is an antagonist to make your skin crawl and give you goosebumps.

Some books just demand to be held as a physical print book and the e-book is just not enough. I was trying to justify buying the hardback when I already had the e-book, so it absolutely made my day when the lovely K T Robson gave me a copy for Christmas. I just know this is a book that I will be rereading and guarding with my life as a treasured possession.

 

Book Review

All Girls – Emily Layden

Today’s review is for coming-of-age novel, All Girls by Emily Layden. Many thanks to Emily and to John Murray Press for my copy of the book, which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

A keenly perceptive coming-of-age novel, All Girls captures one year at a prestigious New England prep school, as nine young women navigate their ambitions, friendships, and fears against the backdrop of a scandal the administration wants silenced.

But as the months unfold, and the school’s efforts to control the ensuing crisis fall short, these extraordinary girls are forced to discover their voices, and their power. A tender and unflinching portrait of modern adolescence told through the shifting perspectives of an unforgettable cast of female students, All Girls explores what it means to grow up in a place that promises you the world––when the world still isn’t yours for the taking.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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REVIEW:

There is something about books set in prestigious boarding schools that I just find irresistible, so I was so happy when I was approved to receive a copy of All Girls. Unlike most boarding school books I have read, which are focused on back-stabbing, bitchiness and bullying, All Girls deals with a number of different issues. The girls of The Atwater School are outwardly nice, well-rounded girls, but as each section of the book focuses on the experiences of a very different girl over the course of one academic year, it quickly becomes apparent that there is more to these girls than meets the eye.

Covering issues including sexual assault, unhealthy relationships, mental health issues, sexuality, affirmative consent, and gender disparity, All Girls is a book that, for me, the title says everything – all girls are struggling with something, and all girls should read this book. Yes, the subjects are challenging, and not always easy to read, but Emily Layden handles each of them with sensitivity and nothing is included simply for the shock factor to keep the reader engaged.

With such a range of characters telling their stories, I think everyone who reads this book will find someone to relate to. Although I am significantly older than the target demographic for this book, I could still see elements of myself in more than one character and found myself totally engaged with each of their stories. What I found particularly interesting was, with the frequent changes of point of view, you saw each character through their own eyes and through the eyes of the other narrators, and it was fascinating just how different people’s opinions of themselves and others was.

All Girls is an engaging read that makes you challenge things that perhaps you have always just accepted and highlights just how many struggles teenage girls are facing.

Book Review

Botanical Curses and Poisons: The Shadow-Lives of Plants – Fez Inkwright

I have two beautiful books to tell you about today! Whilst officially this is the blog tour for Botanical Curses and Poisons by Fez Inkwright, it would be remiss of me not to tell you about Folk Magic and Healing at the same time. Many thanks to Fez and Liminal 11 for providing me with copies of both books, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour.

BLURB: BOTANICAL CURSES AND POISONS – THE SHADOW LIVES OF PLANTS

Discover the fascinating folklore, lurid histories, and malignant properties of toxic plants.

Poisonings are among the most memorable deaths in history, from the Roman Empire, to the Medieval era and beyond. Concealed and deliberate, it is a crime that must be planned in advance. And yet there is a fine line between healing and poisoning – Paracelsus argued that only the dosage matters.

In Botanical Curses and Poisons, illustrator, author and folklorist Fez Inkwright returns to archives to uncover the fascinating folklore, lurid histories, and untold stories behind deadly plants, witching herbs and fungi.

Filled with beautiful illustrations, this treasury of folklore is packed with insight, lore, and the revealed mysteries of everyday flora!

Botanical Curses Cover

BLURB: FOLK MAGIC AND HEALING – AN UNUSUAL HISTORY OF EVERYDAY PLANTS

A book of the folklore, history and healing properties of common plants.

Throughout history, plants have played a key and vital role to our existence. Many of the old wives’ tales about plants were created to spread knowledge of their medicinal and nutritional properties, and many have become entwined with stories of local spirits, deities, and more ancient legends.

Folk Magic and Healing is, ultimately, a collection of many of these beliefs, aiming to inspire a greater appreciation of our wild plants and countrysides.

This stunningly illustrated treasury of the folklore of flora is packed with insight, lore and the revealed mysteries of everyday plants – perfect for gardeners, writers, folklorists, witches and general knowledge buffs alike.

9781912634118

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK – Folk Magic & Healing

Amazon UK – Botanical Curses & Poisons

Amazon US – Folk Magic & Healing

Botanical Curses Graphic

REVIEW:

I read a lot on my Kindle these days, but some books just demand to be touched and to  be held. Everything about this book duo, from the gorgeous covers and illustrations right down to the quality and feel of the paper is just beautiful. These elements add up to books that feel like they have been handed down through the ages, a kind of grimoire passed from generation to generation. I heartily recommend buying them both as they make a stunning pair.

As a writer, I spend a lot of time looking at books for research purposes, and because of the theme of the books I am writing, I have amassed quite a stack of books about plants and their uses in healing and poisons. Fez Inkwright’s books have quickly become firm favourites in my collection.

Botanical Curses and Poisons covers everything from the history of poisoning and witchcraft, to a comprehensive A-Z of plants, from apple to yew and everything in-between, some that will be familiar to you and others that won’t. Inkwright has included facts about the nature of the poison and the plant, alongside anecdotes and tales from ancient civilisations and mythology. In Folk Magic and Healing, we learn about the magic of plants, different forms of preparation, and look at plants from agrimony and back to yew.

I love the literary and poetic quotes at the start of each plant’s section. The inclusion of these just serves to add to the magical feel of these wonderful books. They are absolutely fascinating and very easy to read. As I read each of them, I was buzzing with inspiration for how I could incorporate each plant into my book, and I can’t wait to dive back in to writing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Fez Inkwright Author PcFez Inkwright is an illustrator, author and folklorist. Her great passions are botany, nature, primitive religions, and folklore, which flavour most of her work. For the past eight years she has produced work for children’s books, hand-drawn maps and tattoo design and now spends her time indulging in conservation work and writing. She lives in Bristol with two cats and several hundred bees.

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Make sure you visit the other blogs taking part in the tour for more on this stunning books.

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Book Review

Shiver – Allie Reynolds

I have a chilling (quite literally – put on a jumper before reading this) thriller to share today in the form of Shiver by Allie Reynolds. Many thanks to Allie and Headline for my copy of the book, which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

They don’t know what I did. And I intend to keep it that way.

How far would you go to win? Hyper-competitive people, mind games and a dangerous natural environment combine to make the must-read thriller of the year. Fans of Lucy Foley and Lisa Jewell will be gripped by spectacular debut novel Shiver.

When Milla is invited to a reunion in the French Alps resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, she drops everything to go. While she would rather forget the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can’t seem to let go.

The five friends haven’t seen each other for ten years, since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don’t know who has really gathered them there and how far they will go to find the truth.

In a deserted lodge high up a mountain, the secrets of the past are about to come to light. 

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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REVIEW:

I do enjoy a good psychological thriller, especially one where the characters are completely cut off from the rest of the world in some way or other with limited or no means of escape. Even better if the threat to their safety apparently comes from within. In Shiver, Allie Reynolds delivers on all these fronts and then some. The location, the isolation and the mysterious invitations to a reunion at a deserted ski resort gave me chills that had nothing to do with the weather (although as previously mentioned, just reading this book made me cold!).

I loved the dynamics between the characters in this book, both in the situation they currently find themselves in, and in the events of ten years ago which are slowly revealed throughout the split timeline of the story. Each and every character has a secret to hide, and something to feel guilty about, and with them not knowing who did or didn’t do things themselves, it makes for a very twisty read that I truly had no idea how it was going to end.

Shiver is the perfect winter’s read – although perhaps not if you are yourself tucked away at a remote ski resort. Maybe read it when you get home. If you are a fan of Lucy Foley, then you will thoroughly enjoy this book. It is a brilliant debut and makes me excited to read whatever Allie Reynolds writes next.

Book Review

The Crow Folk – Mark Stay

Today I am joining the blog tour for The Crow Folk by Mark Stay. Many thanks to Mark and Simon & Schuster UK for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour.

BLURB:

Faye Bright always felt a little bit different. And today she’s found out why. She’s just stumbled across her late mother’s diary which includes not only a spiffing recipe for jam roly-poly, but spells, incantations, runes and recitations… A witches notebook.

And Faye has inherited her mother’s abilities.

Just in time, too. The Crow Folk are coming. Led by the charismatic Pumpkinhead, their strange magic threatens Faye and the villages. Armed with little more than her mum’s words, her trusty bicycle, the grudging help of two bickering old ladies, and some aggressive church bellringing, Faye will find herself on the front lines of a war nobody expected.

Fall in love with the extraordinary world of Faye Bright – it’s Maisie Dobbs meets The Magicians.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Bookshop.org

The Crow Folk Cover

REVIEW:

The Crow Folk is an unusual mix of genres, part utterly charming in a Darling Buds of May sort of way, part something else altogether with an army of the reanimated scarecrows who sent me straight back to my childhood when I was banned from watching Scooby-Doo because it gave me nightmares (I wish I was joking, but I am not).

In the people of Woodville, Mark Stay as created a wonderful community of characters, each of whom has their set role in the village, and a rich history behind how they got there. There are hints of scandals and squabbles going back through the years that show just how much thought has gone into creating this little slice of Kent, and which make it feel so real that I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to find it was a real place and the characters real people.

Our 17 year old heroine, Faye, is full of the exuberance of youth, feisty and determined, and it is impossible not to get swept up in her enthusiasm. She puts her heart and soul into everything she does and will do anything for the people she loves. Miss Charlotte and Mrs Teach are quite the double act and I loved their interactions throughout the book.

Pumpkinhead makes for a sinister and powerful villain of the piece and gave me something of a shiver down my spine throughout the book. Whilst his scarecrow companions unnerved me to begin with, I loved that they had their own personalities, some of which we got to know, and the story behind these personalities was both sad and lovely at the same time.

As you will know from past reviews, I am a big fan of magical realism, and the way in which the magic and the reality are combined in this book is simply wonderful. The setting in the early years of the Second World War is inspired, adding challenges for our villagers to overcome that just wouldn’t be present during any other period of time. I fell completely in love with this book, and I look forward to getting to know the people of Woodville better in the future.

Oh, and once you have finished reading this, go and sign up for the author’s newsletter. It is an absolute treat!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mark Stay Author Pic

Mark stay co-wrote the screenplay for Robot Overlords which became a movie with Sir Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson, and premiered at the 58th London Film Festival. He is co-presenter of the Bestseller Experiment podcast and has worked in bookselling and publishing for over twenty-five years. He lives in Kent, England, with his family and a trio of retired chickens. He blogs and humblebrags over at markstaywrites.com

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Don’t forget to visit the other blogs taking part in the tour for more on The Crow Folk.

Crow Folk BT Poster

Guest Posts

Locks – Ashley Nugent

Today I have the privilege of hosting Ashley Nugent, author of Locks, talking about the hero’s journey. Many thanks to Ashley for taking the time to talk to me, and to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour for Locks.

BLURB:

“1993 was the year that Stephen Lawrence got murdered by racists, and I became an angry Black lad with a ‘chip on his shoulder’.”

Aeon is a mixed-race teenager from an English suburb. He is desperate to understand the Black identity foisted on him by racist police, teachers, and ‘friends’. For want of Black role models, Aeon has immersed himself in gangsta rap, he’s trying to grow dreadlocks, and he’s bought himself some big red boots.

And now he’s in Jamaica.

Within days of being in Jamaica, Aeon has been mugged and stabbed, arrested and banged up.

Aeon has to fight for survival, fight for respect, and fight for his big red boots. And he has to fight for his identity because, here, Aeon is the White boy.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon US

News From Nowhere

Locks Cover

GUEST POST:

After completing the first draft of LOCKS, in 2013, I picked up a book I’d been meaning to read for a while: The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. In it, Campbell describes the narrative arc he noticed as a recurring theme in myths and religious stories. The hero’s journey, as he called it, dates back to antiquity and is prevalent throughout the world.

This blew my mind for a number of reasons: because it seemed so incredible that we’d been telling the same story the whole time; moreso, because the idea felt so right to me; but mostly because I’d just written a hero’s journey without any prior knowledge of its existence. And, if that wasn’t incredible enough, LOCKS isn’t a story I picked out of the ether; before writing LOCKS, I lived it.

I hurried back to my manuscript and scanned the whole thing. Amazing! Not only were all of the stages described by Campbell there in the story I’d written (and lived), they were even narrated in perfect order, step by step.

I have since come to recognise the hero’s journey myth as it is disseminated in contemporary western culture through comic books, science fiction movies, novels and so on. Popular examples include Marvel, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Frozen, Wonder, and The Hunger Games.

For those who aren’t familiar with the theory, here’s a breakdown: The protagonist is prompted to leave the ordinary world behind and go on a journey. They either refuse or society tries to stop them. Then they meet a wise mentor who guides them over the threshold and into the world of the adventure. Once there, they have to work out who are their friends and who are their foes. They prepare for a big battle which culminates in their death (real or metaphorical). Coming back from the darkness, they seize their newfound power and return back home to make the world a better place.

So, how would it come to be that we all tell this story? And why is it so powerful that it’s inspired us throughout the millennia? And how could it be that I lived a mythical narrative I’d never even heard of?

To answer my first question is to answer my third question. We all connect with this narrative because we all live it. It is, in its simplest form, the story played out in the firmament: every 24 hours the sun lives, dies, and is reborn. The moon plays out a more protracted version every month. And the plants and animals that die so that we may live all go through the cycle. And this happens everywhere, for everyone. Moreover, we all face challenges that take us over the threshold: coming of age, marriage, childbirth, a new school, a new job, divorce, sickness, loss. And those who do their best, seize their power, and then use it to make the world a better place; they are the ones to be revered – the real heroes.

And so to my second question: why is the hero’s journey so powerful? People have told this story to each other around the campfire as a guide, as a moral compass, and to offer hope in times of despair. And we have found no better way of telling a story that achieves those ends. And once a story becomes so prevalent it resonates in and all around us. It is not only in the mouths of our parents and their parents ad infinitum, it’s also in our dreams, and in our genes.

I lived a hero’s journey when I was stabbed, mugged, imprisoned, and, finally, forced to flee Jamaica in 1993. It is now the subject of my first book, LOCKS.

And sat here now, in January 2021, trapped in another lockdown, I am prompted by yet another opportunity to embark on a hero’s journey. Will I dare to venture into new realms, to leave old, tired patterns of behaviour behind, to shed my skin and emerge with a power great enough to change my world?

The likes of Joseph and I may be wrong, of course. Maybe we have no such universal narrative. But what we definitely do have is choice in how we interpret the world. To quote Negus, a character from LOCKS: “Some people say all story are different. But I suppose it just depend on perspective – some are always seeking difference; some are always seeking the unity in all tings.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Locks Author Headshot 2020 6Ashleigh Nugent has been published in academic journals, poetry anthologies, and magazines. His latest work, LOCKS, is based on a true story: the time he spent his 17th birthday in a Jamaican detention centre. LOCKS won the 2013 Commonword Memoir Competition and has had excerpts published by Writing on the Wall and in bido lito magazine. Ashleigh’s one-man-show, based on LOCKS, has won support from SLATE / Eclipse Theatre, and won a bursary from Live Theatre, Newcastle. The show has received rave audience reviews following showings in theatres and prisons throughout the UK. Ashleigh is also a director at RiseUp CiC, where he uses his own life experience, writing, and performance to support prisoners and inspire change.

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Don’t forget to visit the other blogs joining the tour to read more about LOCKS.

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Book Review

Secrets Of The Starcrossed – Clara O’Connor

I have the first book in what promises to be a fabulous new series to share with you today. Secrets of the Starcrossed is book one in The Once and Future Queen series by Clara O’Connor. My thanks to Clara and One More Chapter for my copy of the book, which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

In a world where the Roman Empire never fell, two starcrossed lovers fight to ignite the spark of rebellion…

Londinium, the last stronghold of the Romans left in Britannia, remains in a delicate state of peace with the ancient kingdoms that surround it. As the only daughter of a powerful merchant, Cassandra is betrothed to Marcus, the most eligible bachelor in the city.

But then she meets Devyn, the boy with the strange midnight eyes searching for a girl with magic in her blood.

A boy who will make her believe in soulmates…

When a mysterious sickness starts to leech the life from citizens with Celtic power lying dormant in their veins, the imperial council sets their schemes in motion. And so Cassandra must make a choice: the Code or Chaos, science or sorcery, Marcus or Devyn?

Panem meets the Grishaverse in this explosive new YA trilogy perfect for readers of Marie Lu, Bella Forrest, and Cassandra Clare.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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REVIEW:

Part historical fiction, part dystopia, Secrets of the Starcrossed appealed to me on so many levels. Clara O’Connor has created a series that presents a clever twist on history, entwining hints of real British history with a reimaged world where the Roman Empire still reigned supreme. From a history perspective, I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of familiar names such as Owain Glyndwr, Elizabeth Twdwr, and the Plantagenets, and how their stories had shifted in this alternate world.

As we follow Cassandra to her classes, I found myself picturing ultra modern monorails whizzing around the Colosseum in Rome and the amphitheatre in Verona. The landscape of Londinium with its street and area names that I have walked many times was easily recognisable, but at the same time strange and unknown, and I found this intriguing. The concept of taking something so familiar, both in terms of geography and history, and twisting it into something so very different made this book absolutely fascinating to me right from the start.

As soon as I finished reading I had to dash to Amazon to pre-order the next two books, and I am very interested to find out what happens next and hopefully learn more about the people of Britannia.

Book Review

The Boy I Am – K.L. Kettle

Today I am reviewing YA novel, The Boy I Am by KL Kettle. Many thanks to KL and Little Tiger Group for my copy of the book which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

They say we’re dangerous. But we’re not that different.

Jude is running out of time. Once a year, lucky young men in the House of Boys are auctioned to the female elite. But if Jude fails to be selected before he turns seventeen, a future deep underground in the mines awaits.

Yet ever since the death of his best friend at the hands of the all-powerful Chancellor, Jude has been desperate to escape the path set out for him. Finding himself entangled in a plot to assassinate the Chancellor, he finally has a chance to avenge his friend and win his freedom. But at what price?

A speculative YA thriller, tackling themes of traditional gender roles and power dynamics, for fans of Malorie Blackman, Louise O’Neill and THE POWER.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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REVIEW:

Set in a dystopian world where women rule all and boys/men are nothing, simply toys paraded in pageants to the highest bidder, The Boy I Am presents an interesting twist on the sexual inequalities faced in this world.

Although the physical world in which Jude lives is not explained in great detail it is instantly captivating and I quickly formed an image of it in my head and it soon became clear that it is a world where no one is safe. It is an incredibly insular society, with an in-built fear of the ravaged world outside meaning that there really is no place to hide or escape to.

Throughout the book there are lots of little nods to the role reversal from the world we know – the swimsuit round in the pageant, never asking a man their age, assuming men can’t understand science or politics, women manhandling men and laughing about it with their friends. Whilst these made me chuckle at times, they were also food for thought, as I realised that although some comments and actions addressed towards Jude and his companions shocked me as I read them, in real life I just accept them as the norm.

My own unconscious bias came into play  whilst I was reading this, as I had assumed that the author was male and was really surprised to discover I was wrong. K.L. Kettle has created a world that is both thought-provoking and deeply unsettling, and I look forward to reading what she writes next.