Archive for September, 2012

Self Published Sunday: His Black Wings

This week Big Book Little Book welcomes Astrid Yrigollen as she tells us about her new book His Black Wings and shares and excerpt with us.

Astrid Yrigollen is a self-published author of young adult and children’s books. Astrid started her writing career when she began work for the international video game giant, Sega of America. Working her way up the ranks, she began writing companion guides for games. With a love for writing fiction since childhood, she took her short stories out of storage and had her first story ever written published. It was only after that she found out that first stories are never published! She has resumed writing full time and has succeeded in putting out the titles, The Doughnut Tree, Mysterious Pootkins, and The Mosswoods–to name a few. Her short stories have appeared in the literary journal of Threshold Press and Shock and Awe Magazine. She now has a new YA fiction releasing in early November, titled His Black Wings. Astrid thinks of His Black Wings as her pride and joy!

Tell us about your book?
His Black Wings is set in a post apocalyptic world, but it’s not Mad Max like at all. That reference may be a little old for some, so I will say it’s not all gloom and doom and cannibals. It’s about a young woman, Claren Maidstone who grows up during a Victorian era revival period with futuristic technology, but the aesthetic, buildings, clothes are Victorian. Her parents die in an accident and Kurten Wandsworth, a mad man who is in love with her, attacks her. She escapes, but goes from the frying pan to the fire as they say. She ends up in an old mansion called Westwind where Etrigan Lowood, a brooding young man lives. He has been isolated his whole life because he has these massive black wings and he doesn’t want her there. If readers enjoy Beauty and the Beast and Jane Eyre type stories, I think they will enjoy His Black Wings.

Do you ever experience writers block? How do you overcome it?
Most times that I am writing my fingers are flying and I can’t keep up with the story. It’s like its telling itself and I am just a middle man. But there will be times when I have to figure out how to connect events or people but it’s not coming to me as I type. So I immediately get up, do some house chore while thinking of the scene. Then a few minutes later the answer comes to me. Maybe that’s why the dishes never get done.

What are you currently reading?
Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

What/Who inspired you as a reader?
My father was always an avid reader and taught me to treat books with respect and to collect books for my own library. There would be times I would have a stack of 8 books by my bed and finish them all off in a week’s time. Now I am down to two at a time since I am writing much more. In first grade I also developed a great love for the library and consider it a second home .

If your book had a soundtrack which artists would feature on it?
Cocteau Twins, The Sisters of Mercy, The Smiths, The Cure, Karl Orff for the intense scenes and I would have to figure out how to sneak in some Tom Waits.

His Black Wings is…
Beauty and the Beast set in the future during a Victorian era revival.
The Grand Council has brought the world peace, but will it last?
Malice, revenge and lust are not easily defeated…
Claren Maidstone has been forced to flee her childhood home, following the death of her parents and a vicious attack from a man who intends to marry her.
She assumes a new identity and finds employment as an assistant to the handsome, Fredrick Lowood. However, Fredrick’s generosity isn’t without a price and Claren soon finds herself forced into a strange friendship with his disfigured son.
Unaware of how Claren’s past entwines with his own,
Etrigan Lowood begins to yearn for her love.
Unfortunately, the past is not far behind.
Is his love for Claren enough?
Or will Etrigan remain alone with his black wings…

His Black Wings by Astrid Yrigollen
Beginning of Chapter 1

I didn’t’ know what to say , so I sat there stupidly. He grinned at me from behind white teeth. His ice blue eyes held a coldness and judgment I had not seen before. My heart fluttered and felt like a huge fish was rolling over in my breast.

“Well?” he said as he traced the outline of my knee through my heavy skirt with his slender, white finger.

“What is your wish, Claren?” My heart, upon hearing him use my real name beat harder. I felt the adrenaline push itself through my veins. He seemed to be aware of it, and licked his lips quickly.

“I don t know what is it you ask Sir.’ I stammered, my own voice sounding as a childs would when confronted with some wrong doing.

He had used my real name, was it safe to assume he knew who I really was?
He stopped smiling and cocked his head to one side, contemplating me.

“But you do Claren, you know very well what I want, what you want.”

How did it ever come to this? I thought franticly. What was I going to do, now that he knew who I was? He seemed to read my thoughts in my eyes because he answered my question without it ever being posed.

“What will I do indeed? What can I do is the question, Claren. Here we are on a train, bound for the quaint countryside. No alarm has been raised, no Porter is valiantly trying to fight for your honor or to even help and cover your embarrassment, your lies. Thus, it shall remain so. At least, until we arrive at our destination.”

“Then what? “ I questioned quietly.

I am resolved to die, but not without a fight. He knows this that is why he will not attempt to take me here, on a train full of people. My question hangs in the air between us, like a solid thing. He still has not answered as the whistle of our train shrieks into the wind, we race into the tunnel, blackness engulfing our private car.

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The Patchwork Marriage

Jane Green

Andi has spent much of her adult life looking for the perfect man, and at thirty-seven, she’s finally found him. Ethan–divorced with two daughters, Emily and Sophia–is a devoted father and even better husband. Always hoping one day she would be a mother, Andi embraces the girls like they were her own. But in Emily’s eyes, Andi is an obstacle to her father’s love, and Emily will do whatever it takes to break her down. When the dynamics between the two escalate, they threaten everything Andi believes about love, family, and motherhood—leaving both women standing at a crossroad in their lives…and in their hearts.

I actually really enjoyed reading this but as I come to write the review I fear it might sound a bit negative!  I did have many moments in the story when I was frustrated with the characters and wanted to give them a piece of my mind.  A bit like shouting at the telly I suppose!  However I was drawn into the plot and the family dynamic.  Having worked with young people and spent time talking to many about life in step families, I felt that the views and feelings at the heart of this were incredibly common and though it may not be a realistic account of blended family life it resonated with my experience of hearing those teenagers stories.

As it says in the burb above Andi and Ethan are married and Andi is step mother to Emily and Sophia.  Sophia has accepted the situation but Emily is doing everything in her power to make life difficult.  She is an intelligent child and seems to know she has her father at her finger tips, manipulating him to get her own way in every situation.  Andi feels neglected and impotent to deal with this as Ethan seems unable to stand up to his ‘little girl’ as he copes with the guilt of the divorce and all that came with it.

Things are further complicated by the fact that Andi would dearly love to have a child of her own and has been unable to do so.  Ethan has refused to consider adoption and Andi’s anger and hurt are looking for a channel!  The pressure on Andi and Ethan’s relationship is at breaking point as they are unable to find a way to manage any of these issues effectively.  Throw into the mix further problems from Ethan’s ex-wife who is an alcoholic, Emily’s lack of friends and Andi meeting a handsome engaging man and think; is it any wonder things aren’t going well?!

The characters in the story are generally very self-centred; the focus is on their needs.  On the whole they seem to be unable to see someone else’s point of view or understand how their actions might make things worse rather than better.  I know that we are all selfish deep down but they seemed so blinkered sometimes.  Ethan seems completely incapable of seeing Emily’s manipulation; Andi can’t see that having a baby would probably be the last straw for everyone.  Although it has to be said I thought Ethan really dealt with whole situation totally unfeelingly.  I did have sympathy for the characters, being childless when you want a child is terrible, making up to your child for putting them through a difficult divorce is totally understandable, but they just could not communicate effectively with each other.  The naivety on both sides in creating this knew family was blindingly obvious.

I did like how the novel was told from the perspective of many of the different characters.  This worked particularly well in building up a picture of Emily as seen through Andi’s eyes so that she seemed completely awful and then hitting a chapter from Emily’s standpoint that made you completely re-evaluate her.  There was that lostness in her, and also recognition of her inability to control her temper and that Andi often wasn’t so bad but Emily just can’t help herself.  A real teenager!

I also must mention that my favourite characters were the two gay men who lived next door.  Their dinner parties sounded amazing and often they were the only ones who spoke any kind of common sense at all!

As the story develops things become more complicated and I can’t tell you more or it’ll be a spoiler!  But it is interesting that even though there is some resolution this is not a happy ending type fairy tale. Even so in some ways it was too tied up for me, after all the messiness of their lives there is a lot to work out and some of the resolutions found I didn’t like, some of it is too convenient. 

Verdict: On the whole this is a good reflection of the imperfectness of family life and the difficulties faced by blended families.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: June 2012
Format: eBook
Pages: 416
Genre: Chick Lit, Family
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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Dreamless

Josephine Angelini

Tasked with descending to the underworld and killing the Furies, Helen must endure hellish torture whenever she goes to sleep – she wanders around the various levels of hell with no idea how to complete her task, and she’s beginning to suffer from extreme exhaustion. Although she still trains with the Delos clan, Helen and Lucas are coming to terms with the fact that they cannot be together. Lucas believes that the only way Helen will complete her quest is if he leaves her alone completely, so he tells her he doesn’t want to see her again and that he never loved her. Distraught, Helen carries on with her mission, and for the first time meets another person down in the shadowy underworld: Orion, descended from Adonis and with the power to control desire, he is the heir to the house of Rome and an outcast. He’s also kind of hot. Confused by her conflicting emotions but glad to have an ally in hell, Helen begins to realize the enormity of her task…

This is the second book in a series and as such may contain spoilers for book one Starcrossed.(Read our review of Starcrossed here)

I was so excited to read this book. I loved ‘Starcrossed’, stayed up all night so I could finish and almost threw the book across the room when I finished it as I was so desperate to read the next book straight away. So the second ‘Dreamless’ arrived I started it and although I wouldn’t say I was disappointed it was nowhere near as good as I expected it to be. This could have been the result of my high expectations, it could be middle book syndrome, I don’t know, but I didn’t feel the same urge to carry on reading the way I had with the first book. I read ‘Dreamless’ in three parts, a couple of weeks between each section, I normally devour books in one sitting, but to be fair this is not the first second book in a series that I have read in parts lately.

This almost makes it sound as though I disliked ‘Dreamless’, but I did genuinely enjoy the book and am looking forward to the conclusion, I just didn’t get swept away to the same extent this time. I would recommend reading ‘Starcrossed’ again if it’s a while since you read it. There is very little recapping and I did at times struggle to remember what was happening.

It was lovely to return to characters I loved so much before. I know very little Greek Mythology, but this book, more than the first left me with a thirst to find out more. I hurt alongside Helen and Lucas as they struggled to contain their feelings for each other and act as cousins should. My heart broke for them as they realised how impossible that was. There was some attempt to introduce a love triangle to the story, but I didn’t find it overly convincing. I loved Orion as a character, in fact I like him much more than Lucas, but it is so obvious that he is not the one for Helen. There were times where I almost disliked Helen as I felt that she was leading him on and settling for second best.

As in the previous book the secondary characters play a very important part. They support Helen in her quest in the underworld, but their feeling of being useless is reflected well in the reader. They also provide respite from the trauma that the main characters of Helen, Lucas and Orion are going through. Although there were times I wanted to scream at the characters for being either so stupid or self obsessed that they couldn’t see what was happening, it was almost refreshing to see that people, including demigods are fallible and they don’t always get things right.

Verdict: So whilst ‘Dreamless’ didn’t grab me in the same way that ‘Starcrossed’ had, I did enjoy the book. It serves as a good bridge to what promises to be an explosive climax.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: MacMillan Children’s Books
Publication Date: July 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 512
Genre: Supernatural, Mythology
Age: YA
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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Something Beginning With Blue

Sally Symes and Nick Sharratt(illustrator)

I spy with my little eye, something beginning with blue… and green… and grey. Peep through the holes and follow the clues – can you guess what’s hiding in there?

This book came home to us, along with two or three others, from preschool in a little cloth bag to encourage reading at home. Thankfully, we don’t need too much encouragement around here and we plunged right in!

This particular one has turned out to be a favourite. It’s based on ‘I spy’ which I’ve already played in the car on a bazillion occasions with my older two, often turning out to be highly annoying as my eldest son would always think of the abstract and come up with things like ‘smudge’ ‘look! It’s right there on the window, can’t you see?’ Humph.

Well, now I get to start again with my younger two, using the far simpler method of colours, which is already a game we play in the car. The book is great fun and uses the game’s phrase ‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with…’ then has a colour. There is a nice little rhyme to help you guess and you can look through the peep holes which are the eyes of each figure to see the colour then turn the page and find out what it is.

Josh has pretty much learnt the text off by heart and shouts out the answer before we turn the page, and Samuel is enjoying learning his colours and various animals and other things and loves the ‘surprise’ when we turn the page.

The illustrations are bright and colourful and appealing to toddlers and the simple rhyming text is great for Josh who ‘wants to read all by myself’ quite a bit these days.

A lovely book, fun and appealing.

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date: September 2010
Format: Hardback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture book
Age: Picture Book review
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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Self Published Sunday: The Serpent’s Ring

H B Bolton has joined us today to share a tasty morsel from her latest book, The Serpent’s Ring.
A middle grade fantasy adventure,The Serpent’s Ring, features fantastical creatures and elements of norse mythology.
Although an established self published author this is H B Bolton’s first book for children.
Check out the other stops on The Serpent’s Ring blog tour via Candace’s Book Blog.
Evan and Claire Jones are typical teenagers, forced to go with their parents to yet another boring museum…that is, until something extraordinary happens to make their day a little more than interesting. After following a strange little creature into a closed exhibit, Evan and his older sister, Claire, discover the Serpent’s Ring, one of the magical relics formed from the shattered Mysticus Orb. Purely by accident, they have awakened its powers and opened a portal to Sagaas, land of ancient gods.
Before the siblings can comprehend what has happened, the Serpent’s Ring is wrenched from Evan’s hand by an enormous bird and flown back to Aegir, the Norse god of the sea. Evan and Claire, accompanied by a band of unlikely heroes, must retrieve the Serpent’s Ring before Aegir uses its immense powers to flood all the lands on Earth.

Popping Out and Dropping Down
Book Excerpt

“It won’t take long for Aegir to figure out how to use the Serpent’s Ring,” Vor continued, but he’d already lost Evan’s attention.

Dunkle and Barfel were far more amusing, as they were attacking treats with a vengeance. Their movements so fast, they were a blur. They were loading up their arms with puffed pastries and other goodies, and stuffing their faces with rainbow-colored tarts. Crumbs flew everywhere, landing across the room on a shaggy, white rug. Evan was transfixed by the spectacle and had trouble looking away.

He grabbed a round puffed pastry. Unlike the imps, he wasn’t going to gobble up the whole thing in one bite; he wanted to enjoy his treat. After all, he wasn’t sure how long it would be before he could eat again. Besides, he felt manners were in order while in the company of a Norse goddess and an ancient professor.

“Excuse me,” Evan interrupted. “What’s this called?”

“A Poppin-Droppin,” Vor said and continued with her tale.

With a strange name like Poppin-Droppin, Evan wasn’t sure what to expect. The soft pastry smelled like sweet-cream butter, so he knew it must be good. He shrugged his shoulders and bit it in half. To his delight, the Poppin-Droppin’s layers flaked apart, melting in his mouth. Its center was filled with whipped chocolate, delivering the most incredible sensation Evan had ever experienced. That was until the remaining bite in his hand sprouted out another pastry, and then another and another. Poppin-Droppins multiplied, popping out and dropping down so rapidly that Evan couldn’t catch them. It didn’t take long for him to realize how the Poppin-Droppins came by their name.

Dunkle stopped devouring food long enough to say, “You must eat that particular pastry all in one bite; do not leave even a crumb. Otherwise, it will multiply and make a mess.”

Evan stuffed Poppin-Droppins in his mouth as quickly as he could. Dunkle and Barfel helped by shoveling in bouncing pastries. Thank goodness the professor and Vor were too busy talking with Claire to pay much attention to the spectacle.
Evan hoped Claire was listening to Vor’s advice closely, because at that moment, he was preoccupied.

Currently, Barbara Brooke resides in sunny Florida with her supportive husband, two adorable children, gorgeous greyhounds, and scruffy mutt. She is actively creating new worlds and interesting characters for the next book in one of her series. Shhhh, can you keep a secret? Not only does she write spellbinding, heart-pounding women’s fiction, she also writes books for the young-at-heart, adventurous sort who yearn to dive into a good young adult fantasy story. These particular books are written under the name H.B. Bolton, but that is another story altogether.

Magic and exotic treats are sprinkled throughout The Serpent’s Ring. Like most boys, Evan is on the constant lookout for something to help ease the rumbling in his stomach. While in Asgard, he discovers there isn’t a food or drink he isn’t willing to try: Poppin-Droppins, Fizzy Whizzles, Woof-Out Bars…thank goodness, not all of them cause bizarre side effects.

Food is comfort. Food is familiar. Food is something people have in common.
And although few people have eaten pastries with magical properties, who couldn’t relate to sinking one’s teeth into soft, buttery pastry? By bringing Poppin-Droppins to life, Evan is able to not only share his experience, but to heighten the readers senses and bring the reader into the room with him. The reader can smell the doughy goodness, feel the moist layers, and taste the gooey chocolate.

Sure, it’s important for a novel to have a strong sense of plot, realistic and interesting characters, and believable dialogue, but what about the extras? such as Harry Potter’s butterbeer, Alice’s “eat me” cakes, and Bilbo’s ale bring life to a story.
Extras like Dorothy’s sparkling shoes, Snow White’s poisoned apple, and Tinker Bell’s pixie dust bring richness to a scene. Many readers yearn to be a part of a world where enchanted items exist —have a replica of Dumbledore’s wand and a chocolate frog to prove it.

What item do you wish had magical properties? What food or drink from a movie would you like to try?

Guest post by H B Bolton

Photo Credits
1 Rainbow Pastries
photo credit: starbooze via photopin cc

2 Puffed Pastry
Photocredit: Minette Layne via photopin cc bochallavia photopin cc

4 Honeydukes
photocredit: Orihimehimex3 via photopin cc

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Poltergeeks Blog Tour: Interview with Sean Cummings

Today on Big Book Little Book we are delighted to welcome Sean Cummings as he celebrates the upcoming release of Poltergeeks.

15-year-old Julie Richardson is about to learn that being the daughter of a witch isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When she and her best friend, Marcus, witness an elderly lady jettisoned out the front door of her home, it’s pretty obvious to Julie there’s a supernatural connection.
In fact, there’s a whisper of menace behind increasing levels of poltergeist activity all over town. After a large-scale paranormal assault on Julie’s high school, her mother falls victim to the spell Endless Night. Now it’s a race against time to find out who is responsible or Julie won’t just lose her mother’s soul, she’ll lose her mother’s life.

What was your inspiration for Poltergeeks?
I’m not sure if I had a specific inspiration for the book other than waking up one Sunday morning and thinking that POLTERGEEKS would be a cool title for a young adult project. Being the huge urban fantasy fan that I am, I thought about it for a while and considered how I would write something that might be attractive to young people – immediately ideas started rushing to my word processor as I started plugging away at a few paragraphs. The overall concept of a teen witch and her dorky best friend sort of spawned as a result.

What is it that attracted you to writing urban fantasy?
What attracts me? Very simply, urban fantasy is just plain old unbelievably cool. There’s no boundaries with the genre – we’ve got everything from demons vs. angels to wizards working for the Chicago PD to soul collectors for hell. It’s just a genre that offers up wild adventures where good vs. evil is played out in the back alleys of your home town. I just love UF.

Why did you choose to set Poltergeeks in Calgary, Canada?
Calgary is the city where I grew up so I’m writing about a place that I know like the back of my hand. As well, there’s not a great deal in the way of UF that takes place in Canada and all of my books with the exception of UNSEEN WORLD take place in Calgary.

How is work progressing on Student Bodies?
It’s done. My agent loved my revisions and I sent the full manuscript off to my editor Amanda Rutter at the end of August. I expect there will be more revisions, but it’s a tremendous story. It’s very dark where POLTERGEEKS is a wild ride.

As a Published author of three adult novels, what motivated you to write a YA series?
The challenge. I love the challenge of trying out something I’ve never done before. POLTERGEEKS is the book that landed me an agent and got me a book deal with Strange Chemistry Books. I’m really lucky that I woke one Sunday morning and thought it might be cool to write a YA book called POLTERGEEKS.

From “home-schooled” Julie’s training in witchcraft to the numerous nods to Star Wars, the Apprenticeship-master relationship was a reoccurring theme in Poltergeeks. What is the most important lesson you have learnt in your apprenticeship as a writer?
That the apprenticeship never ends. You’re always looking for ways to become a better writer. There’s always room to tighten up your dialogue or explore different directions. It’s a craft – it truly is a craft.

Who are your personal masters of story telling? Which Storytellers have most inspired you as a reader and writer?
Stephen King, obviously. But also John Saul who writes scary books that almost always involved children or teenagers. His earlier books are sort of milestones for my life in terms of what I read. I remember exactly where I was when I bought a paperback copy of WHEN THE WIND BLOWS – I was in Junior High and I bought a copy at a 7-11 on my way to school. But even now, at 45 years of age, I’m still inspired by the quality of a good book. Chris F. Holm’s THE COLLECTOR series is bloody well brilliant. Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black is one of the most messed up and darkly fascinating characters that I’ve read in a long time. I love the whimsy of Simon R. Green and of course, Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden always entertains.

I understand from yourwebsite that you still maintain a “day job”. How do you manage to fit your writing around your work and family life?
Every writer dreams of writing full time and I’m one of them. But to make that dream a reality you need to sacrifice a lot. For me, I’m up early at around 3 or 4 AM and I write until I go to work. I write during long weekends. I write during vacation time. It’s hard to maintain the balance, but I’ve got a lot of support from my spouse and family, so I’m really very lucky that way.

Do you use anything to sustain you during the writing process? Coffee? Chocolate? Music?
Does spell check count? You know, I actually envy those authors who can write a book with music playing in the background. For me, I need silence because I sort of zone out into the story and I can’t stand being distracted. Coffee helps. A good chocolate chip cookie goes a long way 🙂

If Poltergeeks came with a soundtrack which artists would feature on it?
That’s a darned good question. I think there would be a lot of RUSH. A smattering of Iron Maiden. A bit of John Williams thrown in for good measure and probably a lot of kettle drums strings.

One of my favorite things about Poltergeeks was the realistic portrayal of the mother-daughter relationship. The way you captured the Juxtaposition of a daughters continuing dependence upon her mother and her need to express her independence and identity, really struck a cord with my memories of my adolescent relationship with my mother. As someone who is neither a mother nor a daughter, how did you go about creating such a realistic relationship?
Ha! I got batted in the head by my editor Amanda Rutter who reminded me that mothers and daughters have that love/hate thing going on. I think every teenager wants to be independent. I think every parent (myself included) fears for their children and wants to step in to shield them from the realities of life. I drew on my own fears as a parent and I think the friction between Julie and her mother is genuine.

In Poltergeeks Julie learns that the most powerful form of magic is that which is inspired by strong emotions. What inspires strong emotions in you?
Fear of one’s own mortality. I’m officially middle aged – I feel like I have so much to write and so much to say, I suspect that’s one of the reasons I write so much because becoming a successful author is pretty much my sole focus in life at this stage of the game.

When it comes to learning the truth from a protector spirit the skill appear to be in asking the right questions. If you could ask anyone, living or dead, one question and receive a completely truthfully answer, who would you question and what would you ask?
Where did they bury Jimmy Hoffa? No, actually I think I’d ask whether or not something comes next – you know, once we’ve lived out a full life. I’d want to know whether this is it or there’s something else out there. I’d like to believe there is – it’s one of the reasons I write UF.

Sean Cummings is a comic book geek, superhero junkie, zombie fan and a total nerd. (He’s also a gold mine of completely useless information about films made prior to 1960. Don’t get him started on “Arsenic and Old Lace” because he won’t shut up about it.) He’s been writing since his Grade Five teacher Ms. Flowers said that he might possibly have some talent and that he should continue writing…
…which he did and still does every single day.
His interests include Doctor Who and really, all Time Lords wherever they may be. He’s an English Premier League fan with a soft spot for Blackburn (Gah! Relegated!!), Norwich City FC and Tottenham Hotspur. (Although Spurs consistently break his heart more often than not.) When he’s not geeking out online or watching football (soccer) on the dish, he can be found in his home office, writing away like a man possessed.
Sean’s published works include Shade Fright (Snowbooks 2010) Funeral Pallor (Snowbooks 2010) and Unseen World (Snowbooks 2011). He is currently working on the follow up to Poltergeeks, STUDENT BODIES.

A huge thank you to Sean for taking the time to stop by Big Book Little Book and providing such deep and honest answers to our questions.

Poltergeeks will be published in the UK on the 4th of October 2012 and is available to preorder now via Amazon.

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Fearless In High Heels- A High Heels Mystery


Gemma Halliday

Morning sickness sucks. Which is why fashion designer turned amateur sleuth Maddie Springer has spent the last six weeks being a couch potato and Moonlight vampire movie devotee. But when Maddie’s best friends finally convince her to venture out, Maddie stumbles on a dead body of a girl who has been bitten on the neck, and life suddenly imitates art in the most deadliest of ways. Now Maddie is smack in the middle of a murder investigation involving a deadly dance club and a coven of Hollywood “vampires”. Not to mention navigating the world of baby showers, diaper genies and Lamaze classes with her LAPD Homicide detective husband who would rather his pregnant wife not continue popping up in his murder investigation. Between the hormones, the homicides, and a flurry of fangs, Maddie and her gang work to track down the deadly truth… before the killer bites again!

Please note that this review contains spoilers for the previous books in this series.

I have been avid follower of this series since I picked the first one for free on my Kindle. The box set followed next and then the novella, so I was excited to see that a new one arrived last year. It has taken me a while to get around to reading it however!
The series centres on Maddie Springer who is, to be frank, a little ditzy. She is a proper girlie girl, into clothes and a shoe designer herself. She has a penchant for junk food, often fails to meet deadlines and would rather be shopping than having a workout. I think she is a fabulous character. She lives in LA and as a Brit she and her friends highlight all those things that you imagine LA would be like with fast cars, celebrities and slightly barmy (in a nice way) Americans! In the first novel Maddie’s boyfriend disappears and is accused of murder. Maddie is determined to clear his name and embarks on a little amateur sleuthing. This leads to her always being in the right place at the wrong time (or the other way around!) and being accidently and peculiarly quite good at solving mysteries. Her theories are wacky and and her methods totally unorthodox, often she goes on off on what seems to be completely the wrong tangent but the ensuing antics are wonderful to behold. Well, that is unless you are local homicide cop Ramierez, who is the hottest cop on the planet and finds Maddie’s interference annoying (to say the least) but possibly in an attractive kind of way…!

So now we are seven books down the line and in spite of everything Maddie has solved a number of cases and won over Ramierez in the process. They are finally happily hitched and in this story Maddie is expecting their first baby. This gives rise to a lot of humour with her crazy Mom trying to prepare Maddie for motherhood; Maddie sticks the baby doll she is supposed to be practicing with in her handbag most of the time.

The mystery is as crazy as ever and as Maddie is pregnant there is a greater need than usual to suspend your disbelief about some of the situations she gets herself into. However the cast of minor characters are as good as ever. Dana, Maddie’s best friend and her boyfriend (a movie star) continue to spur Maddie on. I loved the vampire twist with a little finger pointing at a well-known set of vampire stories.

Verdict:This is not the best of the series however it is still an enjoyable scramble through Maddie’s capers and there are some great moments. It still kept me turning the pages, but more due to Maddie’s scrapes than the mystery this time. I would highly recommend that you start with the first one of the series (Spying in High Heels) to see if it’s for you.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: December 2011
Format: eBook
Pages: 187/311KB
Genre: Chick Lit, Humour, Mystery
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: Oldest Book
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Grave Mercy

Robin LaFevers

Young, beautiful and deadly.
Trained as an assassin by the god of Death, Ismae is sent to the court of Brittany, where she finds herself underprepared – not only for the games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?
A dangerous romance full of intrigue, poison and ultimately finding one’s way.

Ismae is a handmaiden of death. Saved from being sold into marriage to a brutal man, she enters the convent of Saint Mortain, one of the old gods of death, and is trained to become an assassin. She is then sent to court in Brittany and finds herself embroiled in a web of political intrigue and violence. Along the way she discovers much about herself , her God and the convent who trained her.

I think I might be getting a bit of a thing for books about female assassins. The only other book that I have enjoyed this much this year is ‘Throne of Glass’. ‘Grave Mercy’ is incredibly gripping, keeping you hooked to the end. But at the same time it is also a slow grower. When I finished I knew that I had loved the book but it wasn’t until I thought about it that I realized just how good it is. I finished this book halfway through a train journey, normally I would have gone straight to the next book and started that but in this case I couldn’t. I found that I needed time to process the story, not so much for emotional reasons but so I could think about the finer points of the plot.

As someone with an interest in history I normally approach historical fiction with some caution, especially those about this time period as I specialized in this at university. In the case of ‘Grave Mercy’ I didn’t find that I was trying to pick holes. This could be because although I know the basics of what happened in Brittany in this time period I don’t know the details, but I suspect it was probably because of the fantasy element. The book reads like a historical novel, but does at times venture into the realm of the supernatural. This isn’t sensationalized to any extent though and is just treated as though it is a normal part of life.

Ismae really come into her own as character throughout the book. When she leaves the convent she appears quite brainwashed and unable to think for herself, but as time goes on you get a real sense of how she grows as a person and by the end she becomes a strong character, with a real sense of self and her god. Whilst at first she seems quite uncaring, though her relationships with minor characters you see just how big a heart she has as she discovers that the ability to bring death carries with it a responsibility of mercy as well as vengeance.

Like most books in YA there is also a strong romantic side to the story. I loved the relationship between Ismae and Duval. I find ‘instant’ love in stories quite unbelievable, but this is a relationship that builds. Yes, in some ways it is quite clichéd as they start out disliking each other, but I liked that what brought them together was a shared sense of purpose and what attracts them to each other are shared values. One character comments that they seem very well suited and as a reader you can see that they really are.

I became so invested in these characters that I was disappointed to find out that the next book in the trilogy will be from the point of view of another character. Whilst I have no doubt that I will grow to love Sybilla as much as I do Ismae, I know that I will miss her internal dialogue and the relationship that she has with Duval. At the same time I am very much looking forward to reading ‘Dark Triumph’.

Verdict: Well written historical fantasy, with characters that become very real to the reader. Can’t wait for the next one.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Andersen
Publication Date: June 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 496
Genre: Historical, Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: Debut Author
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The Knight, the Princess and the Magic Rock: A Classic Persian Tale

Sara Azizi and Alireza Sadeghian (illustrator)

Long ago in the land of Persia, there lived the brave young knight, Bijan (Bee-JAHN). While on a mission for his noble king to save some poor farmers, he falls in love with the beautiful princess Manijeh (Mah-NEE-jeh), daughter of the neighboring king, who is an enemy of Persia! Soon, their secret love is discovered, and Bijan is imprisoned in a deep pit with a magic rock covering the entrance. The sad princess feels that her beloved knight is lost forever. In desperation, the King of Persia asks a famous warrior, the legendary Rostam, to risk his life and try to rescue Bijan from the enemy.

The classic tale of Bijan and Manijeh, is mostly told through very bright and colourful pictures by Alireza Sadeghian. Being a folklore Persian story the illustrations narrating this short tale are faithful to the artistic Persian style.

Bijan and Manijeh is a short, simple and timeless classic story of the kind that were passed down from generation to generation. It speaks of bravery, love and magic in very easy terms for little people to understand.

Verdict: I would recommend this book to those who like reading fables from distant lands and who like to sit-down and explore pictures.Title: The Knight, the Princess and the Magic Rock ( A Classic Persian Tale)

Guest review by Prudence

Publisher: Wisdom Tal
Publication Date: April 2011
Format: eBook
Pages:
Genre: Classic Retelling
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Guest: Prudence
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: Debut Author
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Self Published Sunday: The Pyramid Legacy

Two weeks a go we were delighted to interview Clive Eaton about his reading and writing experiences.
Clive has kindly returned to Self Published Sunday to share an excerpt from his debut novel The Pyramid Legacy.

For over four millennia the Great Pyramid of Giza has guarded a secret image; until NOW!
A prominent young Egyptologist is murdered by a colleague, deep within the bowels of the Great Pyramid of Giza. The authorities are keen to cover it up, but they know they can’t achieve total closure whilst English robotics engineer, Ben Anderson, remains in possession of a powerful image. An image, which suggests the Great Pyramid at Giza was not built by ancient Egyptians.
What the Egyptian authorities don’t know is that unless the true meaning behind the image can be established, along with other images which will later surface, the future of mankind will face the most serious threat imaginable. Anderson manages to escape Egypt at the earliest opportunity, together with his astrophysicist girlfriend, Samantha Gibson, but the authorities are quickly on their tail when it becomes evident they have arrested the wrong person. Keen to establish who really built the Pyramids, Anderson seeks to gain additional proof to support his theory.
As he and Gibson begin to discover a series of seemingly disparate clues, they soon realise that everything is far from straightforward. Whilst seeking additional resources, Gibson is unwittingly embroiled in the internal politics of the US military, with the result that she becomes a pawn in a vicious power struggle involving a corrupt senior officer. Her path crosses that of an ex-lover and her relationship with Anderson stretches to breaking point. As Anderson begins to see Gibson from a totally different perspective, his focus changes, and he pushes himself well beyond the limits of his comfort zone in an attempt to discover the truth. Gibson is now prepared to do anything to fulfil a lifetime ambition, but as her objective becomes almost within her grasp a virulent virus threatens to stop her . . . and Anderson has the antidote . . . together with a totally different agenda. And so an unprecedented race begins to finally reveal the true legacy of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The Pyramid Legacy is a thriller, but also has a story of love and deceit deeply woven in

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness . . .’ Genesis 1:2

Prologue

Northeast Africa, 2350BC
They stood in an excited group, evaluating the task they had almost completed. Seven of them, no more, no less, gathered among the last rays of the sun. Silence descended upon the celebration when the leader raised his hand and wrapped a withered arm around his youngest prodigy. His eyes sparkled with warmth.

‘It has been decided that you will be given the honour of positioning the final component,’ he declared, squeezing the young man’s shoulders with pride.

A broad smile swept across the youth’s face as his colleagues cheered.

The sunset painted their creation and its surrounding landscape with a warm orange glow. The leader lifted the corner of a large cloth, allowing the low sunlight to give life to a brightly coloured object trapped beneath. He studied the young man’s expression and read warm respect reflected in his prodigy’s eyes.

‘Carry out this task with the utmost care,’ advised the sage, patting the youth’s shoulder with a paternal touch. A glimmer of a smile and the slightest of nods gave the leader the response he sought.

Twenty minutes later the task was complete. All the equipment was cross-checked against the master inventory and securely packed away.

The leader faced his team and regarded each of them in turn, appreciating the pride in every familiar face. ‘You have all done outstanding work and deserve to be congratulated on your achievement.’
He gazed towards the heavens, watching as dusk drifted into nightfall. The last flicker of sunlight quietly retired beyond the horizon.

He returned his attention to his team and held out his arms, indicating what they had done. ‘Enjoy our creation for one final moment,’ he advised. ‘We may not return for some time.’

They stared, mesmerized until a blinding light shot suddenly from above, encapsulating the entire team. They each held up a hand to protect their eyes. Then they were gone.

Chapter 1

Cairo, 2025AD
A voice rose over the hum of a mobile air-conditioning unit, bright with excitement. ‘Khalfani! Mohammed! Come and see what we’ve found.’

The two men peered over their companion’s shoulder, their attention on his monitor. The trestle table on which it sat was in a small anti-chamber, deep within the bowels of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Images blinked on the screen, emanating from a camera which had reached a previously inaccessible chamber and now revealed mysteries unseen by anyone in centuries.
Khalfani Rashid squinted, studying the screen. ‘It’s some form of engraving. What do you think it symbolises?’
‘I’ve no idea,’ replied Sa’eed, his voice still carrying the excitement of his discovery. ‘I’ll do some searches on the computer to see if I can establish exactly what it is. Give me a few minutes.’
Rashid glanced towards Mohammed Acbel. ‘Any ideas?’

Acbel shook his head and continued to stare at the screen. ‘Let’s sit down over there and leave Sa’eed to carry out his search.’
In less than ten minutes Sa’eed called to his colleagues, announcing he had a match. ‘Although the engraving in the chamber is actually the mirror image of what I have here, I can now tell you exactly what we are seeing.’ Sa’eed turned towards the other two, his face drawn with concern. ‘And believe me, you’re not going to like it.’

Rashid scrambled to his feet and made his way to where Sa’eed, perched on an upturned crate, operated both the computer and the remote camera. He glanced over Sa’eed’s shoulder, reading the description on the screen. It took a few moments before he realised the significance of what he was seeing. Then he paled and clung to the side of the table for support, mentally comparing the images he had just seen to what technology he knew had been available to his ancestors.

‘No, no, no,’ he muttered. ‘This is impossible. This can’t be right. There must be a—’ The ground beneath his feet seemed to lurch in that moment. Rashid’s legs buckled and he collapsed onto the floor.

‘Khalfani? Khalfani! What’s wrong with you?’ Acbel tugged at his colleague’s limp body, shifting him into a seated position and tucking his head between his legs. Within seconds, he showed signs of life. ‘Khalfani!’ Acbel repeated. ‘What’s the matter with you?’
Rashid, still disorientated, glanced up and blinked at the other man. ‘Look at the computer. Read the description.’ He shook his head slowly. ‘Please tell me I’m seeing things. It can’t be true. It’s not possible.’

Acbel examined the computer screen and suddenly made the same connection as had his colleague. He shook his head like a dog and placed a hand on the wall of the pyramid to steady himself.

‘It can’t be.’ He refocused on the screen and spun to study the other monitor, comparing the two. ‘How did that get there?’ he managed.

Rashid struggled back onto his feet. ‘More importantly, who did it? It couldn’t have been our predecessors.’ Groaning, he pressed his hands against the sides of his head. ‘This is catastrophic news. Do you realise this discovery puts a huge question mark over the entire origin of this pyramid? This could destroy everything we’ve ever known.’

Sa’eed and Acbel nodded, their expressions anxious. All three scrutinised the images on the screens for several minutes.
Sa’eed finally stood, breaking the silence. ‘Ben should be here by now. I’ll go get him and show him what we’ve found. He might know something we don’t.’

Rashid grabbed Sa’eed’s arm, eyes wide. ‘No! Anderson mustn’t see this under any circumstances. Nobody can see this.’
Sa’eed yanked his arm away, confused by Rashid’s behaviour. ‘Don’t be ridiculous. He’s part of this team. Without his robot we would never have made this discovery. He deserves to know what we’ve found.’

Rashid glanced at his watch. Sa’eed was right; Ben Anderson would be waiting for them outside the pyramid. Rashid shook his head, feeling his hands grow clammy with sweat. He couldn’t allow Sa’eed to share their find with anyone, least of all Anderson. If any of this got into the public eye, he, and everything he had ever worked for, would be ruined. He gripped Sa’eed’s arm tighter.
‘Sa’eed. Listen to me. You know as well as anyone that what we have discovered today has to remain secret from the outside world. Think of the consequences if it becomes public knowledge. The very foundation of our country’s proud history would crumble beneath our feet. It would affect the economy, and—’

Sa’eed pulled away his arm and shook his head. ‘You’re wrong. So wrong. I won’t be part of a cover up. I see it as my duty to present my findings in an accurate manner. If we can understand what the image symbolises, we can—’

‘Your findings?’ roared Rashid. ‘This is my project. Mine! And it would serve you well to remember that.’

‘Again, you’re totally wrong.’ Sa’eed swept his arm around the anti-chamber. ‘This doesn’t belong to you. This represents the history of our country, whatever that history may turn out to be. None of us owns the pyramids, but we can all learn from them. I, for one, want to understand why something which is clearly not the work of our forefathers has been engraved on the ceiling of a chamber. Especially here within this, the greatest of all the pyramids. Think about it! This is a four thousand year old mystery waiting to be solved.’ Sa’eed glared into Rashid’s eyes, daring him to disagree. ‘And I want to solve it. So if you’ll please excuse me, I’m going to get Ben.’

Sa’eed turned his back on the other two and headed for the exit.

Rashid stood paralysed for a moment, a sense of desperation sweeping through him. All he could think was that Sa’eed must be stopped. Immediately. He glanced at the toolkit lying on the ground next to the other equipment and picked up a lump-hammer.

Clive Eaton initially trained as an aircraft engineer in the Royal Air Force and worked on Vulcan bombers for a number of years.
He now works as a freelance international trainer in the area of business improvement, and his work has taken him to over 30 countries around the globe.
The Pyramid Legacy is his debut novel and the inspiration came when Egyptian authorities discovered a secret door inside the Great Pyramid of Giza. Although nothing was actually found on that occasion it triggered a ‘what if?’ question, and from there the story developed. Clive is now writing the sequel, which will be titled “Operation Stonehenge”.
The Pyramid Legacy was initially published as an e-book, but now is available as a paperback.
Clive lives in a very peaceful setting, with his wife Judy, in the heart of rural Norfolk, England, which he believes is an amazing place for getting in the right mood for writing.
To learn more about Clive and his debut novel The Pyramid Legacy follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

The Pyramid Legacy is available to buy in paper and ebook formats from Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Smashwords and iTunes for books.

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