Posts Tagged ‘Guest Post’

The Legend of Sidri

Rauf Khalilov

In the mythical realm of Badalonium, a young boy named Sidri lived happily with his beloved parents. But the family is shattered by an evil figure from the afar, triggering a series of events that lead Sidri on a journey of self-development, friendship, family reunions and retribution.

Rauf Khalilov’s Favourite Books

1. Sans Famille by Hector Malot.
As a child I read this book probably a thousand times. I like this book because it showed the struggles and sufferings of poor people in capitalist France and England. The protagonist was probably the same age as I and I could relate to him and his struggles. I also loved the fact that he was in the end able to overcome his impediments and triumph. Every story must have a positive ending.

2. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.
I like this book for several reasons. This book was very popular in my household and I grew up with various elements that were taken from it. For example, my dad always called my oldest aunt Cossette. I had no idea why this was the case when I was a child. I only found out the reason when I read the book. Les Misérables is a book about human nature. It’s a book about injustice, human suffering and sacrifice. My most favourite characters are Jean Valjean and Bishop Myriel.

3. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
This is one of the first books I read in English. I was fascinated by it because it described the harsh realities of 19th Century England. I was fascinated by Dicken’s writing because he could describe England and the life of people there in such detail that I could picture it in my head. Years later when I arrived in England, I noticed everything I had imagined whilst reading Dickens was exactly the same.

4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevski

A masterpiece touching on a variety of moral and existential issues. One of my favourite moments is when Raskolnikov bows in front of Sonia and kisses her feet. He says “I did not bow down to you. I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity”. Of course, this sounds much better in Russian.

5. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
I love persian poetry especially the ones by Omar Khayyam. I find Khayyam’s poetry very interesting because he talks about deep issues through poetry. As a poet I find this fascinating because I know how difficult it is to philosophise through poetry.

Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: September 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 50
Genre: MG
Age: Children
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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Outremer IV

D. N. Carter

A great secret from antiquity is threatened; its eradication, if successful, will lead to mankind’s destruction. There can be no compromise in safeguarding it, whatever the fateful consequences to those entrusted with its continuation. Paul faces impossible choices, ones he cannot make alone. Who can he trust? How can he protect this secret as the world around him falls apart as Outremer descends into a deliberately orchestrated war of unparalleled violence, with Christianity and Islam pitted against one another? Amid the horrors of total war, Paul must decipher the secret, how it has been updated and encoded within the mysteries of Mary Magdalene and the sacred feminine, and how it must be restored if is to be preserved successfully so that mankind can claim its true inheritance, one of unimaginable power. Evil forces wish to control and destroy the secret to stop a new dawn of spiritual awakening, cultivating instead a climate of fear, anger, judgment and the eventual enslavement of our souls. Wiser, braver and nobler individuals step forwards, just as they have always done in the past to intercede against evil, and it is to those men and women Paul must turn. Just when all appears lost, Paul must find true courage, perseverance and faith, and make the ultimate sacrifice. Failure on his part will risk losing this arcane message forever. The time to act is now. Outremer IV is the final instalment of D. N. Carter’s epic historical quartet.

Top Five things about the main protagonist in Outremer

Paul Plantavalu.

He is the leading character within Outremer. Tall and handsome, fair haired with hazel eyes and of a quiet nature and disposition he was intellectually sharp, inquisitive and very much into the arts and architecture who placed honour, truth and justice above all things. He sought answers to what his real surname meant and why it was changed, Plantavalu not being his true identity. Paul fell deeply in love with Alisha al Komaty despite the many warnings he should not because she was from a Muslim family. Alisha was, in his mind, his world. His mother died giving birth to him but he learnt that his father was descended from Segisbert IV, son of Dagobert II and that all traces of their family were eradicated by the Roman Catholic Church. Paul was very much like his father Philip in both physical appearance and nature. Throughout Outremer being told, Pauls character is revealed as he grows from a young, somewhat naive and protected, some would say entitled and privileged upbringing, to manhood. It was not an easy path for an individual who sensed so much and felt things deeply…some would say too deeply at times to his own detriment.

1: He was a dreamer, in a very real sense, but learnt to use his vivid dreams that he would often experience to guide his designs, artwork and even actions in life. He became heavily influenced by several characters he came into contact with, three main ones in particular being Theodoric, Attar and Kratos. Kratos was a truly enigmatic and mysterious character who stood over seven feet tall. With blue eyes that appeared to have flecks of gold in them, similar to Alisha, he looked like a man in his early 60’s but with a full head of pure white hair and no flaws upon his white skin. No one had ever seen him ever look any different despite the passage of time. Living mainly in Malta, he was powerfully built and unbelievably strong and exuded confidence but also a genuine sense of warmth and kindness. He always carried a large staff and had knowledge beyond his time those who knew him would often claim; especially in the sciences and medicine. He would have a very deep and profound role to play in Paul’s life. Attar of Nishapur was a Persian Sufi Mystic famed for his poems. Abū Ḥamīd bin Abū Bakr Ibrāhīm, better known by his pen-names Farīd ud-Dīn and ʿAṭṭār which means apothecary. He was a poet, theoretician of Sufism, and hagiographer who had an immense and lasting influence on Persian poetry and Sufism. Manṭiq-uṭ-Ṭayr (The Conference of the Birds) and Ilāhī-Nāma are among his most famous works. Attar was the son of a wealthy chemist, receiving an excellent education in various fields. He initially practiced the profession of pharmacy and personally attended to a very large number of customers. The people he helped often confided their troubles in him which affected him deeply. Paul likewise was constantly affected by the people he helped and came into contact with…something he had to learn to manage carefully to keep his own sanity. Attar eventually, abandoned his pharmacy store and travelled widely to Baghdad, Basra, Kufa, Mecca, Medina, Damascus, Khwarizm, Turkistan, and India, meeting with Sufi Shaykhs and returned promoting Sufi ideas. He had a major influence on Paul’s studies and guided him wisely. He helped Paul learn how to interpret his dreams but also his growing insightful and spiritual abilities and how to trust his instincts. Then there was Theodoric. In his late sixties he was a wise esoteric maverick recluse who helped Paul to learn, but more importantly understand esoteric and exoteric codes. He also taught him martial skills of close combat. With a great sense of humour he wore an old habit and was rather pale looking and his weight often fluctuated between being thin to rather rotund, not fat as he would often argue…but always hungry. He was incredibly wise and insightful and imparted much of his knowledge and wisdom gained over several decades from many schools including Sufi mysticism and secrets of the Magi to Paul. He was a former knight with a mysterious past he kept close to his chest but Paul instinctively trusted him. Theodoric’s black sense of humour always came to the fore when he was in dire trouble with many funny comments and observations being made by him. Always calm and utterly unflappable he was an acknowledged great illusionist.

2: Paul was an accomplished artist being able to execute incredibly lifelike drawings of people and places. He drew many people in his time including some of the most famous names of the period from Saladin, King Guy de Lusignan, to Queen Sibylla of Jerusalem, Princess Stephanie and the infamous Reynald de Chatillon. He was even able to draw the enigmatic leader of the Ashashin, Al Rashid, the Old man of the Mountains himself. Paul felt that drawing people closely brought him a deeper sense and understanding of the person. But drawing in such fine detail and accuracy alarmed some people but also led to some very dire consequences later in his life as Outremer reveals.

3: Paul was fundamentally a very sensitive, kind and gentle soul…and consequently as a deep thinker his nature was at times often at odds to the scheming and violent world he found himself in. But it was Alisha who would galvanise his spirit to stand up and fight, to use extreme violence to protect his family and protect others in need when necessary; but this caused him a great personal inner conflict that he found hard to reconcile with the person he thought he was and his beliefs. As Outremer progresses Paul questioned everything he had ever known about Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

4: Having a genuine empathy for others he was naturally both loyal and courageous. Paul considered himself spiritual, not necessarily religious as he saw the two as being two totally different things. Totally believed in, and felt that all life was sacred and that humankind is inherently kind first and foremost and that love is the key to spiritually evolve. He felt that all of us are connected by the very nature of our eternal souls whether others believed in it or not.

5: Service to others before service to self was his overriding character trait. He was prepared to give up everything and sacrifice all that he loved and held dear for the long term benefit of humankind, especially when he considered with utter conviction from the things he had seen and learnt, that the information he was guarding for future generations and the planet we live upon itself, was ultimately for the very survival and advancement of our souls themselves…to guarantee we evolve. This is why he wrote down the codes of antiquity for future generations to rediscover when we again would recognise them for what they are. That generation and that time is now!

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: September 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 582
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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North of the Rock

Ian Jones

John smith is a man who solves problems, just don’t try to stop him. As a favour to an old friend in the FBI John returns to West Texas. But there is now a whole new town and way of life that has sprung up since he was last there ten years previously. He soon finds out he is in the middle of some very rich men who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

How North of the Rock become a book

by Ian Jones

This book started out as a vague idea I had after watching a documentary on the rise of far right politicians and public figures in the United States. I wondered if it would spread significantly over here in the UK and suspected that it probably could. So I came up with the idea initially of John Smith working to uncover an organisation in London, then as I started to write in earnest it evolved quite rapidly. I had written quite a lot then changed the text so the main body would be current day with a strong reference to work that John Smith had done several years previously while working for the government.

This was actually a very interesting book for me to write. I had been in El Paso several years previously for work, and found the whole area fascinating. I drove out to Odessa one day purely because I enjoyed both the book and the film Friday Night Lights, and there are hundreds of miles of nothing at all between the towns. There was a Sheriff’s convention at the hotel I stayed at, which was like a movie in itself. Most were friendly, but some would sit at the bar with a big shiny gun on their belt and talk furiously about the recent election at the time of Barack Obama, there was a lot of anger. The one thing that I noticed was how much the town deteriorated as it got down close to the border.

As the book unfolded I was able to establish Gray Rock so it became completely real in my own mind, and the three wise men were everything that was wrong with the rich manipulating the world to suit themselves.

Somebody who read the book said to me that I had made ‘the bad guys REALLY bad’ and I think that is probably true. Some of the facts we discover in the later stages unfolded almost on their own as I wrote (I actually write my books in order) but I don’t think that my story is incredible or unbelievable. There are those who believe themselves untouchable, and I wanted to give the book some definite right and wrong. It is fair to say that as I progressed the book almost started to write itself.

I am proud of this book, I know it isn’t perfect, and of course I know that not everyone will enjoy it but I am glad I wrote it.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: June 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 308
Genre: Thriller
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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The Rock ‘N’ Roll. ‘N’ That…

Steven J. Gill

“Rock ‘n’ roll is a nuclear blast of reality in a mundane world where no-one is allowed to be magnificent.” The former manager of The Runaways said that. The mad bastard. And Johnny Harrison swore by it. He had to. Almost forty, fully paid up member of the rat race and bored sh*tless. He had to believe in something. Then something happened. Something magnificent. A once in a lifetime band dropped out of the sky and right into his lap. A band unaware of just how great they could be. A band that had no idea what was about to hit them. A band that needed someone to light the fuse. That someone was Johnny Harrison and the truth was he needed them so much more. They were his ticket out. That’s how it is with THE ROCK ‘N’ THE ROLL. ‘N’ THAT. Buy your ticket and take the ride.


1) An incredible sense of achievement when I typed ‘The End’. Writing is a discipline and you need great levels of perseverance which is not easy when you get tied up in knots with narrative cup-de-sacs.

2) When I ‘outed’ myself as an author/writer, the levels of support and admiration from friends really was quite something. My favourite comment from a friend who read an early draft was “I’m really glad it’s not shit!”

Quite possibly the best back-handed compliment I’ve ever received.

3) Seeing the hard copy of the book was a proper head spin moment.

It arrived just after Xmas and I’d just placed a sizeable Amazon order which by my reckoning had all been delivered. Upon openings the package, I was stunned to see my name on the cover of a book. An actual book!

And do judge a book by the cover, because the artwork is brilliant and I’m biased about the story but I know it will hook people in.

4) I’m enjoying talking about it no. The gestation period feels so long the relief is now palpable and I can take a step back and talk about it.

5) And lastly, the best thing about writing my book was seeing the narrative unfurl and take unexpected directions. I knew the ending from the outset but not the journey it would take to get there. It’s great to surprise yourself because you know that you’ll also be surprising your potential readers!

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: January 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 217
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: N/A
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Running Across the Sky

Amanda Malben

Three years into the civil war that has turned his country upside down, Sami’s home village in Syria is hit by a deadly bomb attack and he is forced to leave behind everything he knows and loves. Eventually, Sami and his family are given refuge in Coventry, England, but city life is hard to adjust to. It’s grey and cold and there are no fields to play in or animals to tend. Worse still, Sami worries about the fate of his uncle and cousins back in Syria and struggles to make new friends. In a bid to take his mind off his homesickness, Sami is introduced to Harry Adams, one of the elderly residents at the care home where his mum works. Although wary of one another at first, the pair gradually form a bond, as Harry tells Sami the story of the unusually named Splen and his dog Bobby, who lived through the Second World War and the infamous Coventry Blitz. As Sami discovers more about Splen and his dramatic escape from the horrors of conflict, the two unlikely friends make peace with their troubled pasts and forge a new sense of hope for the future.

The story started from a mad conversation with my then 11-year-old grandson Alfie. We were chatting about names and he came out with “what did Splen do?” to which I replied “Well something splendid I guess!” the name stayed in my head. He also told me that books about wizards and talking trees, and strange creatures bored him and he wanted to read about real people that were, sort of, like him. So I had to listen to my audience, stop writing the story with the magician and get real. So Splen was born. Sometimes a character will worm their way so deeply into your psyche you have to accept the inevitable and write them.

I set the book in the 1940s because I felt the word splendid was a bit old-fashioned and seemed to sit in that era rather well. Having decided on an era I then needed to pick an event. To be honest if you’d asked me, “would you write about WW2?” I think I would have been very negative about it as my setting, but sometimes when you write, things just happen. I picked the Blitz in Coventry because it was a one-off event, one night of extreme horror. Something almost biblical about the night when the bombers came. The more I read about it the more it drew me in. I toyed with the idea of using the canal as the main location. Having lived on a canal boat for 12 years it’s a subject close to my heart but somehow I couldn’t make that work.

Coventry is a place that has rebuilt its self from a devastated City to an ambassador for peace and reconciliation. It is a City where hope is abundant, a City that could offer a young Syrian refugee healing and a future. I really wanted that message to be the overwhelming theme of the story.

I needed to bring the present day in as it would give the story more impact and resonate with us now, bring history to life. Syria is sadly a perfect example of, “we never learn.” War is war no matter when or where it happens. There are some moments in the book that are harrowing but I don’t believe we should sugar coat everything. Children never cease to amaze me with their emotional intelligence. They get it, they see it again and again on the TV, but they also need hope.

I also wanted to explore the wonderful relationship between the very young and the old. They seem to enjoy each other’s company with no barriers. My grandchildren get on better with my mother than any of her children or her grandchildren! They’ll happily listen to her stories which we have all heard, probably too many times!

Most of my research was done on line, what a wonder tool! Reading first-hand experiences for both Coventry and Syria. The first-hand experiences of the children in the refugee camps are extraordinary. Some of them are breath-taking in their refusal to be beaten by their tragedies, some inevitably painful and very hard to read. And books, copious books. Visiting Coventry and The Blitz Experience Museum gave me such a sensory understanding and helped me to feel it, take me right into the night of the Blitz.

Plotter or punster? Bit of both, I have a “story,” the bare bones, how it starts where it goes and how it ends. I tend to approach every scene as a mini story and once the basic structures in place then I let my imagination go. I also find that the characters have a habit of dictating the outcomes — when you write the characters and places become incredibly real. I do sometimes become a character and start talking like them, usually when out walking with the dog — I get some strange looks occasionally! So she gets to hear everything way before it gets committed to paper.

About the Author

Amanda Malben trained as an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama but has dedicated herself to teaching. She taught adults with learning difficulties at Northampton College, specialising in drama, and English as a foreign language to adults. A fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, she co-founded a project with Northampton University to help improve the language skills of immigrant children and their parents. Now retired, she lives in the Northamptonshire countryside close to the Warwickshire border and enjoys writing and walking her dog.

Publisher: Wrate Publishing
Publication Date: May 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: YA
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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Bamboo Road

Ann Bennett

Thailand 1942: Sirinya and her family are members of the Thai underground, who risk their lives to resist the World War Two Japanese occupation and to and help British prisoners of war building the Thai-Burma railway. The events of those years have repercussions for decades to come. The book tells Sirinya s wartime story and how in the 1970s she returns to Kanchanaburi after a long absence abroad, to settle old scores from the war years.
Bamboo Road is volume three in a Southeast Asian WWII trilogy that includes Bamboo Heart and Bamboo Island (the books may be read in any order).

Today we have Ann Bennett on the blog talking about Penang and how it is important to her Bamboo Trilogy.

The beautiful, exotic island of Penang in Malaysia, known in colonial times as the Pearl of the Orient, inspired scenes in both Bamboo Heart and Bamboo Island. When I wrote the books I had only visited the island once, for four days, in1985.
It made a huge impression on me, enough to stay with me for decades. It was the place I wanted Tom to dream of from his prisoner of war camp. It was also where Juliet and Rose had their first experience of Malaya in Bamboo Island, fresh off the boat, spending evenings in the Club, and days exploring.

Penang from the Butterworth Ferry

I took a sleeper train down from Bangkok, just as Laura does in Bamboo Heart. At Butterworth we boarded the ferry to Georgetown. I remember crossing the straits at sunset, standing out on deck in the warm evening, and watching the red sky and the mountains behind the town coming closer.

Cathay Hotel

We took rickshaws to the Cathay Hotel, a shabby old Portuguese Villa. The rooms were huge, and it was unbelievably cheap, but oozing old world charm. It seemed to obvious place for Laura to stay when she comes to Penang in search of the elusive Joy de Silva. Penang Hill with its views across the shimmering straits towards the mainland inspired scenes in that book, as did the jungle covered hills of the interior and the powder-white beaches of the north and east of the island.

Batu Ferrinhgi

Written by Ann Bennett

Publisher: Monsoon Books
Publication Date: March 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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