Halloween Toddler Reads

Halloween Reads

Halloween has been a life long love and now as a mother, my daughter doesn’t have a choice in the matter. I will indocturn her into the seasonal love of Halloween reads. What I’m reading to my toddler this month:

Funnybones by Allan Ahlberg & Andre Amstutz

My dear dear funny bones. Do you remember books? Do you remember the TV show? Do you remember the amazing intro:

“In a dark dark street is a dark dark house and in the dark dark house there is a dark dark cellar and in the dark dark cellar live some…skeletons!”

It’s great getting to know the Funnybones characters all over again: Big, Little and Dog and their crazy adventures. My daughter loves it, once a story is finished she wants it to read again…..which means I get to read the intro again, happy times.

Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski

Meg and Mog, the beloved witch and her stripy black and white cat. My daughter loves staring at all the pages with their bright colors, shapes and sounds mummy makes in weird voices. It really is great for helping her learn her colors and shapes. I’ll be halfway through making a noise before her little pointy finger comes out pointing at a shape or color as she says its name. The book may have been written in the ’70s but it hasn’t aged a day! Dear daughter doesn’t know it was made into a cartoon yet…..

Let me say, as I turn each page the nostalgia is hitting me in the face like a pumpkin pie fight, whats better…..my baby’s loving every word and every picture. Heart cuddles!

Now for the reads, dear daughter chose last year when we went book hunting. They are modern so unfortunately no nostalgia for me but the wee baby might have, with her babies one day!

Pop-Up Peekaboo Pumpkin by Clare Lloyd & Victoria Harvey

Pop-Up Peekaboo Pumpkin is the Halloween festive book from the vast Pop-Up Peekaboo series. Dear daughter has always loved this series as it does what it says on the tin. Each page has a large flap to lift and a Halloween surprise behind each. The story centers around each character looking for the next. I’ve considered buying multiples of this book….its went through a lot and is mostly held together by tape. Either because of my hard work or the bond dear daughter has created to each rip I haven’t been able to part with it yet for a newer copy.

Creak! Squeak! Halloween by Clare Lloyd & Dawn Sirett

Another by Lloyd! This one is very similar to the previous, Pop-Up Peekaboo Pumpkin. A lot of the characters are the same and the characters are still searching for each other behind large flaps. The locations are different and the highlight of the book. It makes noises! Dear daughter loves this! In fact, she loves it so much she imitates the noises…definitely not disturbing at bedtime with the lights off…

Always read to your kid, you rediscover child you and get to see the book again for the first time through their eyes.

Top 5 Newly Released Scary Autumn Read

IT’S OCTOBER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love October! Everything is orange and cozy and spooky, its the perfect recipe for snuggling with a book. I’ve just moved house and even though I am surrounded by boxes, all I want to do is make a reading nook den in my living room next to the big patio windows, overlooking the garden changing colours and cozy up with haunted reads to celebrate!

That being said what are my Top 5 Newly Released Scary October Reads I hear you ask. I’m a reviewer for the wonderful, amazing NetGalley and in the months leading up to October, there have been many a scary tale to review. Here are my favorite’s that are out now:

5 – Whickering Place by London Clarke

Image Supplied by London Clarke

Whickering Place by London Clarke is the second book in her Legacy of Darkness Series and published by BooksGoSocial. It is advertised under Horror and Mystery & Thriller but I would also add YA too.

Avery Tullinger, surviving death at a young age now fears the world. She can’t leave her house without panic attacks and this has led her into a life of isolation but is trying to regain a normal life through therapy. When her father dies and leaves her a Historical Mansion in Ashville, North Carolina, Avery faces her fears and moves out there.

The house has a dark history and Avery knows nothing about it. Soon a disconnected phone keeps ringing and shadows move around the house making Avery question her sanity. After finding her fathers journal perhaps Avery isn’t as insane as she thinks. Add into the mixture ritual scarifies, a cult and a love story this book is well worth a read.

Unfortunately, Whickering Place is in the number 5 spot because even though I really enjoyed the book and demons in the house were given a voice. I felt this let the book down as I like my evil to be voiceless, I don’t want to know their motives, I just want a good scare!

Published – 30 July 2019

4 – Asylum by Jack Adams

Asylum by Jack Adams and published by Atlas Productions is billed under Adult General Fiction and Mystery & Thrillers.

Two, ten-year-old best friends make friends with an asylum patient who they talk to through the wire fence of the asylum’s recreational garden. The two boys can’t see that anything is wrong with the man, they don’t understand why he’s in there, he’s just their friend Joe. Joe goes missing and the boys grow up. Now they are partners one working as a psychiatrist and the other a private detective. They both receive a letter asking them to meet up with Joe’s lawyer as Joe has left them an inheritance after being declared dead. From here the best friends return to their youth, determined to either find Joe or his body but most importantly the truth of his disappearance.

I would have to say that this book is curious. I liked the synopsis and the cover as this is the type of book I go for. I enjoyed how easy the book was to read and it did hold my attention. However, I did find there to be cliches and sometimes the characters annoyed me but my curiosity came when I wasn’t reading it. During these times it began to keep popping up in my mind and I am sad now that I’ve had to say goodbye. For all its faults this book has made an impact on me and will stay with me. I think that the reason for this is the sometimes annoying characters. They are so human and are going through their own life-shattering problems, whether it be divorce, loneliness or abandonment issues, etc. They seek company with each other, this little band of misfits who I find myself caring about. I would read this book again and I would recommend it to others, but be warned this book has a power that grows when not reading it

Published 14 July 2019

3 – Violet by Scott Thomas

Image supplied by Inkshares

Violet by Scott Thomas is published by Inkshares.

Violet tells an amazing story of how grief can grow into a rot that can spread across your life and that of others. Kris Barlow first lost her mother to cancer at the tender age of ten and has now lost her husband at 41 years old. Calling to mind a romanticized, nostalgic summer lake house retreat her parents owned, Kris remembers how the house helped her overcome her former grief and therefore decides to return, taking her 8-year-old daughter with her. But the lake house is neglected, the town isn’t thriving anymore, girls have gone missing and her daughter is suddenly laughing and enjoying life with not a care in the world. Furthermore, what is making her so happy is an invisible friend….. Thomas writes this horror story as a slow burner so much so, that I forgot it was a horror as I was so invested in Kris and her daughter’s struggle to survive the recent death. When the horror did hit, it hit hard, because I was so distracted! This ability makes this novel a stand out horror novel for me. At the end of the book, in the acknowledgments, Thomas states that his father had cancer and you can feel the grief of this real-life horror bleeding into the work, because of this, I hope that Thomas found writing this book as therapeutic, as I did reading it.

Published 24 September 2019

2 – One by One by D. W. Gillespie

Image supplied by Smith Publicity Inc

One by One by D. W. Gillespie is published by Flame Tree Press.

What a book! After reading this, I am completely certain Hollywood will be knocking on Gillespie’s door wanting to do a movie deal. What a perfect haunted house story! It was a toss-up between this book and the next which would take the number one spot!

How do I explain how amazing this book is without giving out any spoilers? The Eastons have found a new house to live in at a steal. After moving in the youngest of the family discovers a family of stick figures hidden behind wallpaper in the hall. Oddly the stick figure family is almost a stick figure family of the Eastons. Suddenly, they start going missing one, by one and as they go missing a stick figure gets crossed off…

This book is the first novel I’ve read from this author and having finished it, I’ll be going out of my way to read more of Gillespie’s work! I can’t believe it ended! This author had me hooked right from the beginning and turned into one of those books that eat you up and leaves you with a hunger for more when finished. This was a perfect haunted house story with all the right elements

Published 26 September 2019

1 – Bone China by Laura Purcell

Image supplied by Bloomsbury Publishing

And, my number one pick – Bone China by Laura Purcell published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Laura Purcell is becoming the defining author of my twenties as J. K. Rowling is the defining author of my childhood. I truly love her work and each book ticks all my boxes for a great story. So much so, I would camp outside a book store the night before a release to get one of the first copies. Her latest addition continues to cement her growing reputation as the Queen of Gothic Horror. Bone China is set in Cornwall during the Georgian era, where a ladies maid seeks new employment in a house set on the cliffs far from civilization. She is running from her dark past but this same dark past is running after her too. Once she arrives, she is plagued by the superstitions of the staff and a strange mistress with an interesting past involving a tuberculosis experiment conducted on criminals in the cave beneath the house. But what if its not superstition after all and the warning should be heeded? After all, everything can be explained away rationally until it can’t, isn’t perception reality? I can’t possibly say enough good things about this book! Each chapter, each page is alive!

Published 3 October 2019

Once again a big thank you to NetGalley and the publishers who gave me electronic ARC’s of these books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

October Author of the Month – Christopher C. Fuchs

Image Supplied by Christopher C. Fuchs

The first installment of Christopher C. Fuchs’ epic adventure, Lords of Deception is out today in e-book format. To celebrate, Christopher C. Fuchs is my Author Interview of the Month! Without further ado lets hear from the man himself:

First off, let’s get to know you:

Were you a lover of books from a very early age, which book would you say defines your childhood and what book would you say defines your life now?

My favorite childhood book was The Woodland Folk Meet the Gnomes because it illustrated in great detail a whole little world. But overall I didn’t read a lot on my own as a kid and spent more time outdoors. Only as a sixth grader did I start to take a real interest when I read Hatchet and The Cay, both adventure fiction about wilderness survival. It’s not reading, but videogames on the first Nintendo and the later Final Fantasy series inspired me to start writing and drawing. But what really grabbed me as I got older was nonfiction, mostly history and astronomy, which is what I still read most today. Most genre fiction writers seem to be voracious readers of their own genre, and its encouraged by the experts to “know what’s out there.” I’ve just never been that way as a reader.

If any, have you gone on any literary pilgrimages?

Not intentional pilgrimages, but I have visited places that boast a literary culture, like Edinburgh, Paris, and New Orleans. I love to travel and keep a little notebook in my pocket for ideas, and of course pictures are inspiring. But my photo collection is, I think, atypical. For example, I’ve taken dozens of photos of symbols carved into 17th century crypt slabs in Dutch cathedrals. I draw a lot of inspiration from these little details.

Does writing energise you or do you feel exhausted after a writing session?

Definitely energized. I write slowly and old school: first draft always with pen and notebook. I find a computer distracting and constraining, but a notebook allows me to be more free to let my scenes flow. I can draw big arrows and move stuff around and sketch places or objects on a whim. Pages often look more like engineering schematics or treasure maps than chapters. I enjoy the building of a book like that, especially at the beginning when I have to organize what is often years-worth of notes and random jots to get a feel for the direction of a new novel.

What do you find is the most challenging thing about writing?

Usually the first 10 minutes of sitting down to write is the hardest obstacle. Like many writers, I have to force myself to overcome all the excuses not to write, even though I want to. But I also get a thrill when push through that to find my rhythm each time. I never lack ideas (I have more notes and concepts than I’ll probably ever have time to write) and I’m very skeptical that writer’s block is a real thing. So really it’s just keeping a daily writing routine that is hardest.

Do you have any unpublished or half finished books up your sleeve?

Yes, where do I start? Lords of Deception was actually the third novel I wrote. The first two will be published in December and February as a double-prequel to Lords of Deception. I wanted to take my time before publishing them because I wanted the story arc to be just right. I also intend to diverge from traditional series writing because I think it’s neat for a reader to be able to wander and choose which characters or events to explore further in side novels and half-tales, rather than just a linear trilogy or such. Two of those half-tales were published this year, which you can get for free by subscribing to my site, EarthpillarBooks.com. Two more are ready to be published next year. So there is plenty to explore while I write the true sequel to Lords of Deception.

Now for your new book!

Image Supplied by Christopher C. Fuchs

Lords of Deception is a rabbit hole of plot, intrigue and fleshed out characters, what came to you first the characters or the plot?

If by ‘rabbit hole’ you mean you got completely lost and consumed by a deep, new world where you wanted to stay, then that is success to me! The characters came first, mostly. I wrote most of this book more than a decade ago, but it wasn’t very good. I grew a lot as a writer during that time and completely re-wrote it. So I knew the general plot and roles of the characters, but, as weird as it sounds, the characters made up their own minds on the direction they wanted to go and the plot changed to account for that. I definitely do detailed planning for my novels, but I’m flexible once I get going based on what is (or becomes) natural for the characters.

Reading through the book we can gleam hints of European history that may have inspired you, did you do much research reading through history books? If not then what research did you do for the book and how long did it take?

I read more history than anything else. Not just military or political history, but the history of technology and trade. Certainly Europe has been a big influence, but also Asian and African history. I can’t read a history book without taking lots of notes on how I would use certain details or plots in my writing. Beyond this, I did look up things like the distances traveled in a day by an army, a ship, or a mounted courier, because my novels span continents. I also did a ton of research on things like metals, minerals, plants, and chemistry to build a broad system of alchemy, which I guess is my realist equivalent of magic systems often used in fantasy novels.

You’ve created a vast world and i’ve always wondered if creating a map comes easily to an author and what inspires them to choose the place names that they do, can you shed any light on this?

I do my own cartography and really enjoy it. The map in Lords of Deception is a scaled-down version (only about one-third of one of the continents) of hand-drawn geography with icons and other details added on top digitally with Procreate. I wrote a compendium of a couple dozen cultures within the Earthpillar world, with naming conventions adapted from real-world languages and mash-ups. For example, Donovard names are mostly Franco-German (except for the older Brintilian colonial settlements, which are similar to Scandinavian names). In the novels that will be published in December and February, there are mashups of Sumerian, Welsh, Ethiopian, and Mongolian. I want a reader to eventually know just from the name of a newly-introduced character where they are from, just as other characters in the book might. So I tap into all this when I’m writing about the dynamics between kingdoms and empires across the continents and seas, while striving to show how those strategic machinations impact individual characters and organizations. It may sound complex, but I don’t think any more so than the character roster for epics like Game of Thrones.

Which scene did you find the hardest to write and why?

Chapters 106-117 were hardest. They are shorter than normal and the characters that are followed by the reader are well-tread by then. But this is the climactic part where a lot of action is taking place simultaneously. There were a couple times while writing it that I had to avoid getting ahead of what another character was doing. So I essentially wrote several chapters at the same time on side-by-side sheets of paper. More than once I got it out of order because of some detail that impacted a different character’s stream of action. But keeping everything consistent is vital to avoid distracting the reader. I’m biased, but think it came out well!

I have a soft spot in my heart for Fetzer as I see him as an underdog. Do you have a special soft spot for any of your characters?

I’m fascinated that you chose underdog to describe Fetzer, but I don’t think you’re wrong. Without giving too much away, he certainly has a disadvantaged beginning and is determined to rise up like an underdog would. But he’s also a deviously clever, self-serving, and ruthless person who has lost any moral compass. He is certainly a focus for me in this book (more to come!), but I also have a soft spot for three others. Serdot, the gifted young spy-becomes-counselor (a la Walsingham?). Princess Milisend, for her secret fondness of thievery, but also because I have some idea of where she is headed. And the professor Danleri, who is burdened by the regret of not having taken drastic measures against a friend as a young man, and is torn between hopelessness and finally facing that erstwhile companion later in life.

Lords of Deception is the first book in your epic, did you write one book at a time, jump back and forth between the books or write it all in as one?

Lords of Deception was the first to be written years ago, then later re-written after I had already finished two other novels that serve as prequels. There will also be a proper sequel, which is my next project. But I often have a couple half-tales in progress on the side while I’m working on the novels.

Do you have any hidden secrets in your book that only a few people would know or notice?

It’s too early to give things away, but I have planted seeds or breadcrumbs that I will expand on in the future. I like to link all my novels and half-tales together to stoke those “ah-ha!” or “ohhhh” moments later.

If your epic was ever to become a movie or tv series which actors do you see playing which characters?

I actually do attach photos of real actors to my personal profiles on characters, to help me visualize them. Arthan would be the younger Jim Caviezel in The Count of Monte Cristo. Arasemis would be the bloody-bearded Brendan Gleeson in Kingdom of Heaven. And Milisend would be Katheryn Winnick similar to how she was in Vikings. I do this for minor characters too. For example, Livonier would be the loyal and even-keeled commander played by Tomas Arana in Gladiator.

Do you have anything you would like to say to any readers out there who are about to start reading your book?

I would say thank you for giving my Earthpillar world a try. There is no shortage of book choices, now that new technologies and market changes have lowered the barrier to publishing. I took a third route between traditional and self-publishing by creating my own publishing company and hiring professional freelance editors, proofreaders, and illustrators. With those refinements, I think I offer some good books, so thanks for diving in! And if you like it, tell a friend, which is the biggest complement you can give to indie authors.

And lastly, where can we purchase Lords of Deception and keep up with all your news?

It is available now in e-book from online retailers (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc.), and paperbacks and hardbacks will be available by November from the same stores, or order from your favorite bookshop by providing the ISBNs. You can find each format’s ISBN on the website, EarthpillarBooks.com,where you can also subscribe to my mailing list. I send updates infrequently (more time for writing), and you receive discount codes and other exclusive content I’ll be rolling out over the next year. And the double-prequel to Lords of Deception will be released in December and February, so definitely watch for those!

Witches: A Tale of Sorcery, Scandal and Seduction

Image supplied by Tracy Borman

Borman published Witches: A Tale of Sorcery, Scandal and Seduction in August 2013 and after reading a review of it in the Sunday Times during a lunch break I went out and bought it. As this book is about witch trials it is associated in my mind with October and Halloween. When looking out my seasonal books for display this one is always in the mix and always gets me in the mood for harvest.

In the UK we have a few famous witch trial stories, arguably the most famous being the North Berwick Witch Trail which Shakespeare adapted into Macbeth. But what of the Witches of Belvoir? I hadn’t heard much about this but the story is fascinating. The Belvoir Witches were a mother and her two daughters who were accused of using witchcraft to cause the deaths of the 6th Earl of Rutland’s two heirs in 1613, who’s seat is Belvoir Castle. What makes this story so compelling? Apart from the scandal involving a great aristocratic family the accused confessed! Not only did they confess they complained in court that the devil hadn’t come to rescue them. An open and shut case surely? Enter stage right, the Duke of Buckingham – a rascal of a man, the Duke wanted Rutlands daughter as his wife, going so far as to taint her honor. And with Rutland’s heirs dead, that would make the daughter the heir apparent. The Duke of Buckingham theory I believe is Borman’s interpretation. I know that in the 1600’s there was a high rate of infant/child mortality and perhaps the boys were never murdered at all. The first 200 pages of the book is a well-research history of the witch trail craze and I learned a lot I didn’t know before. As to whether I have been convinced that the Duke of Buckingham is the one to blame, my mind changes from day to day. It’s similar to King Richard the III murdering the princes in the tower. In both cases, there was something to gain by the boy’s deaths….. I guess I’ll have to wait for a body in the car park (or under the tower steps), so to speak. Regardless, Borman’s book is a favorite and after writing this, with the wind and rain howling on my living room window, its time for a blanket, Earl Grey and my well-read copy to come down of the bookshelf again!

Tracy Borman knows her stuff and has made a name for herself in the heritage world as she is a joint Cheif Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and Cheif Executive of the Heritage Education Trust. She has also published several other books such as Elizabeth’s Women: Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen and The King’s Witch. If you haven’t read her works I highly recommend that you do.