Blogger’s Books: Marc Sander

I am happy to promote this new book from blogger Marc Sander. Here is his introduction.

The Driveway Rules is my book of memoirs. It focuses on my struggles when it comes to dating but also has fun entries about various adventures in my life. I am introspective and have learned a lot about my struggles through the years. The point of our struggles is to use them as an opportunity for growth and perhaps to help others later in life. This book is poignant, philosophical and humorous. Next to penicillin laughter is the best medicine.

And here is a link to where you can purchase the paperback.

Book Review: Storming Party

I recently read and reviewed the first book in this series, ‘Turncoat’s Drum’.

I mentioned then that I had already bought the second book, and I have just finished reading it.

Following on from the very last line, we continue the adventures of the characters embroiled in the English Civil War, during the 17th century. This time, the author adds a few more characters, and gives us a look into the court-in-exile of Charles I and his queen, in the city of Oxford. The fawning sycophants, aristocrats and merchants seeking favours, and the romantic affairs and dalliances during the midst of a bitter war.

Carter also adds an unusual Civil War element to the action, the war at sea, with the reader travelling on a Parliamentary warship, following the fate of the prisoners from the previous book. As we reconnect with all the characters, and watch as they interact with the new ones, all roads are leading to the mighty fortress city of Bristol, where the opposing sides are set to clash in bloody conflict. As Parliamentary stragglers seek refuge in the beleaguered city, adding to the small number of desperate defenders, the Royalist general Prince Rupert arrives with a huge army, and many cannon. The scene is set for a desperate siege, followed by a massive assault by the Royalist forces.

Once again, historical detail is flawless. The cramped back streets of Bristol are accurately brought to life, (many still exist today) and the plight of both the defending army and trapped civilians feels all too real. Despite the now familiar characters, the author manages to avoid any ‘soap-opera’ tropes in their relationships, and keeps surprising the reader with unexpected turns in the story. Everything from the preparation of the siege guns, to the desperate hand-to-hand fighting around shattered earthworks is fast-paced, and exciting to read.

The small details are a delight too. From how many teeth someone has, to what is available to eat. As well as the descriptions of clothing, personal habits, and the physical appearance of exhausted and wounded soldiers.
At 371 pages, it didn’t seem that long, and I found myself staying up late to read more. This was also only 99 p, so great value.

Highly recommended for fans of Historical Fiction, and those interested in the background to the actual events of that 17th century war.

The third book of six is already available, but I have to read some others before buying that one.

Here’s an Amazon link.

Book Review: Turncoat’s Drum

This title was ‘suggested’ to me by Amazon. It is set in a period I am interested in, and on offer at just 99 p for 377 pages, I thought it was good value too. This is book one in series of six, by the same author. It forms part of the ‘Shadow On The Crown’ set of novels, all set during the turbulent years of The English Civil War, from 1642-1651.

Like many similar books in the genre, it takes a series of real events, then peoples them with characters who actually existed, mixed in with fictional ones who mainly drive the plot. In this case, we see the effects of the Civil War in the Western sector of the conflict through the eyes of the opposing generals of the Royalist army, and the Parliamentary rebels seeking to overthrow the monarchy. Also individual soldiers and cavalrymen on both sides, as well as the officers and noblemen drawn to conflicting causes.

Civilian life is dealt with in detail too. The ravaged countryside, looting, stealing of food and livestock, and destruction of property during bitter sieges and larger battles. Women on both sides hoping for love or marriage in the midst of war, strumpet camp-followers trailing both armies selling their bodies for financial gain, and unscrupulous businessmen seeking to profit from selling goods to both sides at inflated prices.

And the ‘Turncoat’ of the title is reflected too, with some soldiers willing to change sides after losing in a battle, or for the chance of better pay, or more loot.

This book has an old-fashioned style, but that is a good thing. It reflects life in 17th century England well, a time when landowners demanded obedience from their workers, mothers sought good matches for their sons and daughters to retain their wealth and inheritance, and bitter differences in religious practices often lent a ruthless fanaticism to the battles. There is a softer side too. Relatives and old friends discovering each other on the opposite side during a skirmish, families divided by adherence to one cause or the other lamenting the events that brought them to this.

Historical accuracy is first rate, as all the engagements between the two sides actually happened. Then there is the description of camp life, or the hardships of defending a town under siege. The weapons used, the uniforms worn, and the tactics employed by the opposing armies, all are related in authentic detail. And when it comes to the full-on battles, the author has done his homework, with completely believable blow-by-blow accounts of 17th century warfare, from cavalry formations, to the ghastly wounds inflicted by the weapons of the time.

This is my kind of book, and I lapped it up. I have also just bought the second book in the series, which follows on from the last page of this one.

If you like your history bloody, bawdy, and completely true to life, then this is a book for you.

Here is an Amazon link. (It is still just 99 p on Kindle.)

Book Review: The Noise Effect

Stevie Turner is a writer and published author who resides in Suffolk, not far from where I live in Beetley. Here is a link to her Amazon author page.

She is also a highly engaged blogger, and a valuable part of our WordPress community. When I saw this new book for sale, I bought the Kindle edition for just 99 p, and read it last night in around seventy-five minutes. As you can see on the cover, it is described as a ‘short story’. At just 64 pages, it certainly isn’t a conventional book, and is following a recent trend of what I think of as ‘short books’. These quick reads are always good value, and more satisfying than a typical short story of under 3,000 words.

I am starting this review by letting you know that The Noise Effect is excellent. I certainly could not have contemplated not finishing it in one sitting, as I was immediately engaged with the main characters from the first paragraph, and eager to discover their fate. Set in the recent past, and in a part of England familiar to anyone who knows it, we have a complete tale of the events that rock the life of an average young couple, concluding with a delicious twist.

Anyone who has ever read one of my own fiction stories will know how much I love a twist!

Eve and Leigh are like so many young couples. Hopelessly in love, and not that well off. They begin married life having to live with Eve’s parents, pinning their hopes on being selected for a new council house being built on an estate close to where they both work. When they are allocated a modest two-bedroom house, they are overjoyed. It doesn’t matter that they have to use hand-me-down furniture, buy some cheap rugs, and eat egg and chips for dinner. They have their home, they have each other, and can now plan for the baby that Eve is desperate to have to complete the family.

After settling in, and being able to walk to both their jobs, they feel that life is wonderful, and their future is spread out ahead of them, full of possibility.

Then the next-door neighbours move in. A father and two sons. Unfriendly, unemployed, and inconsiderate. From the first day, they have parties all night, with loud music and noisy guests milling around in the street. Leigh tries to reason with them, but they are aggressive and threatening. Eve turns to the council for help, and registers a complaint about the noise. But such things take time, and the troublesome family next door are well-known to be difficult to evict.

What follows is a nightmare for the previously happy couple, resulting in a chain of events that spirals tragically out of control.

Stevie gets it all just right. The period details fix the era, and the descriptions of everything from surrounding streets to the music being played is all completely authentic. As someone whose life was also plagued by irresponsible noisy neighbours when I lived in London, I immediately identified with the sense of helplessness and frustration overwhelming the couple.

And then there was that good twist I mentioned.

Highly recommended.

Here is a link to Stevie’s blog.

And this is an Amazon link, if you want to buy your own copy.

Book Review: Clash of Empires

Ben Kane is a best selling author in the Historical Fiction genre, but this is the first time I have read one of his books.

At 448 pages, it took me a while to read it, but that is no reflection on his lively and authentic writing, which at times had me staying up far too late to finish a chapter. Kane interweaves real historical figures with fictional characters, setting them in and around actual recorded events. In this book, he deals with the enmity between the Macedonian Empire of Philip V, and the might of Ancient Rome. As well as those two main players, we have the various Greek states involved on both sides, and allies who can turn their coats for the right reasons.

Kane deals with the style perfectly. He uses some main characters from each side, and we follow the same events through their different viewpoints. Whether a new member of the fearsome Macedonian phalanx, or an experienced Roman legionary, the story is at all times completely believable, and feels very authentic too. We get the view from the nobles at the Macedonian court, and the behind the scenes political machinations of Roman senators and Consuls vying for power and wealth.

There are detailed descriptions of the training of the soldiers, the composition of the various regiments, and the fighting tactics. The effect of total war on the civilian population is covered too, as well as the incredibly harsh punishments inflicted in the armies. With the action switching from Rome, to Athens, then up to Macedonia, all locations are genuine, and maps are supplied too. We visit the camps of the different soldiers and see what they do when they are idle, then follow them to taverns and sporting events.

But it is without doubt during the battles and sieges that Kane’s skill excels. With compelling descriptions of formations in combat, the use of catapults and missile weapons, and the courage and fear shared equally on both sides, he delivers an edge of the seat experience that at times makes you imagine you are there. This shows real writing skill, and reminded me of the books of Bernard Cornwell and Steven Pressfield.

I wasn’t aware of it when I bought this Kindle version for just £1, but the book finishes leaving no conclusions, as it is the first in a series. The second one, featuring many of the same characters, and continuing the events from the last page, is now available.

I will certainly be buying more of his books, and this one is unreservedly recommended.

European ‘Roach Trip

I don’t reblog very often, as you know. But I couldn’t resist this fun post from an English blogger who has written a great book for kids, and has taken it on her travels around Europe.
Check out The Little Cockroach.

The Little Cockroach - Children’s Book Author

Whoop whoop… off we go. The van is packed, excitement is high & Pedro is ready. European vacation here we come!⠀

Pedro has made it to Amsterdam!! I absolutely love this city. The first time we came here with the kids it was Pride and there were parties every where. Elsie couldn’t believe adults could be so fun & silly. It set the bar high and although they both still love it … it will never be as bright, colour and fun as that first weekend.

On our way to Stuttgart we noticed Backnang was only 25 minutes away from where we were heading, so we decided to swing by. It’s beautiful. I’ve seen ‘Twinned with Backnang’ so many times on the ‘Welcome To Chelmsford’ sign. I always wondered what it was like and I never thought I’d visit…. but here I am!! ⠀

We went from Backnang to Stuttgart…

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The Indie Writer’s Handbook

A great resource for writers, brought to you by Nicholas. And only $3.99 too!

Nicholas C. Rossis

I was lucky enough to be sent an ARC for The Indie Writer’s Handbook by one of my favorite authors, David Wind. David has included a kind mention to this blog in his book, which is specifically aimed at Indies, hence the ARC.

“A great primer for new Indie authors (as well as ones who have been around and are wondering if they are doing everything they can to succeed). The easy, conversational style makes the fact that it is packed with information painless, the screenshot walk-thru’s of how to fill-out and accomplish various tasks online were a great idea – I’d definitely recommend!”

USA Today and WSJ Bestselling Indie Author Amy Vansant

David Wind

David Wind is a Hybrid author with 40 books of fiction published both Traditionally and Independently. He is a member of the Authors Guild, The Mystery Writers of America, The Science Fiction and Fantasy…

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Book Review: The Three

I bought a used copy of this book in hardback, following some very good reviews around the blogs. It has taken me some time to get through it, with 480 pages, and a weighty ‘real’ book to prop up at bedtime.

Thinking of this review, I am left wondering ‘where do I start?’

This is a book about writing a book. Publishing that book, and what happens after that. The bulk of it is presented as the research done by that author, alongside news reports, survivor’s testimony, and interviews with people who knew other characters. It uses whole chapters of ‘text speak’ to show teenagers conversing, and others that are transcribed from taped conversations. Although this adds a very complex structure, it is never once confusing, and everything is in context throughout. Here is an online synopsis.

They’re here … The boy. The boy watch the boy watch the dead people oh Lordy there’s so many … They’re coming for me now. We’re all going soon. All of us. Pastor Len warn them that the boy he’s not to­­–
The last words of Pamela May Donald (1961 – 2012)

Black Thursday. The day that will never be forgotten. The day that four passenger planes crash, at almost exactly the same moment, at four different points around the globe.

There are only four survivors. Three are children, who emerge from the wreckage seemingly unhurt. But they are not unchanged. And the fourth is Pamela May Donald, who lives just long enough to record a voice message on her phone. A message that will change the world.

The message is a warning.

So, is it a science fiction book? Sort of.
An investigative thriller? Sort of.
A doomsday scenario? Sort of.
A dystopian tale? Sort of.

It seems from reviews that it is each of these to some readers, and all of those to many too. With global action switching from Japan to South Africa, Britain to the United States, it is certainly an ambitious book, with immense scope. It feels meticulously researched, much like the way the character who is writing the book inside this novel researches her story. There are androids, spooky children, bitchy men and women, and Christian cults in America. The Biblical references are many, and the culture of modern-day Japan and South Africa is examined too.

Suffice to say, there is a lot going on. But it certainly held my attention.

It also has one really great last page.

But all the way through, I couldn’t help but feel there would never be any conclusion. I suspected a sequel was in the works, and possibly a dramatic adaptation too. That made it difficult for me to get completely immersed, as much as I would have liked to.

No surprise then to discover a sequel is available now, and that the BBC is adapting this book into a TV serial.

This is currently only 99p in the UK, for the Kindle version. (As opposed to £14.99 for the original hardback)
If it sounds like your thing, here are some links.

Tales from the Irish Garden – Serialisation – Winter: Christmas Under the Magnolia Tree by Sally Cronin

Here is your chance to read the serialisation of Sally’s lovely book!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Winter: Christmas Under the Magnolia Tree

By December, high in the mountains, the rain fell as snow and lay deep on the ground in the magic garden. Christmas was just two days away and beneath the roots of the old magnolia tree preparations were well in hand. The bees, that had been forced to hibernate in the special honey-chamber when the Winter Fairy brought early snow; hummed festively in the background.

Queen Filigree was very excited, not just because she adored Christmas, but because her favourite son, Prince Zachary, was coming home for the holidays. He had married a princess who lived in the gardens of a Royal Palace many miles to the north and she had not seen him for many years. They were due to arrive tomorrow and the ladies of the chamber were bustling around in the guest apartments, preparing the beds for the visiting royalty and…

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