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review 2020-01-17 19:36
War of the Wolf (Saxon Stories #11) by Bernard Cornwell
War of the Wolf - Bernard Cornwell

Uhtred is still Uhtred in all his glory. You can still talk me into reading anything he's involved in. However (and I hate to say this), things are getting a little stale. I think it is time to send Uhtred to Valhalla where he belongs. I would not be opposed to having this continue from his son's point of view. 


Read 1/7/2020-1/17/2020

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review 2020-01-07 21:20
After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry
After Me Comes the Flood - Sarah Perry

This book is due for an American release, but since it was published in the UK in 2014, I'm publishing the review now.


Drought grips London and the surrounding country and John decides to visit his brother on the coast. Before long his car overheats and John idly wanders into the nearby woods and happens upon an old brick house. The residents there have been expecting him, and even greet him by name.


Most of the book keeps up this great feeling of suspense - John feels like an imposter, but is unable to own up to his deception - the people of the house invite him into their interior lives and the narrative breaks from John to give most of the residents a chance to recap their history and how they came to the house.


As a reader sometimes it is difficult to tell if a book was unsatisfying because of some oversight on my part or on the part of the author. There were times when the narrative voice changing felt jarring and was occasionally unclear. At the same time the characters made sense in the hazy summer heat-stricken world of the novel.


I enjoyed Perry's other two novels, but this one left me with doubts.

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review 2020-01-01 21:46
Book Review of Secrets and Surprises: From a Spark to a Flame (The Chateau series Book 3) by Emma Sharp
Secrets and Surprises: From a Spark to a Flame - Emma Sharp

More for Escape to the Chateau lovers


Join Laura and her friends as she continues her exciting and unpredictable roller coaster ride at her beautiful Chateau in the South of France.

With Laura and Xavier’s relationship having more stop, starts than a journey on a London bus, she’s beginning to wonder if the decision to continue with her pregnancy was a good idea.

As if that isn’t enough, Laura has to deal with two conmen who repeatedly turn up to harass her. As well as a spate of natural disasters. Will she find any more treasure, and where will that lead her?


Read on to find out how she deals with a foe from the past. Who she had hoped she’d seen the last of. And how the repercussions of the savage acts from the war years are still affecting the community today. The accumulation of these stressful events eventually takes its toll.


Review 5*


Secrets and Surprises is the third book in The Chateau series written by Emma Sharp. I am not sure if there will be any further books in the series or whether the series remains as a trilogy. I enjoyed it!


Laura Mackley is a character I struggled to like in the first book of the series. However, in this book, I found myself admiring her a lot more and enjoyed watching her grow and flourish as the story progressed. Laura is an ex-nurse from England living in a chateau in France she inherited from her Aunt Mary.


Most of the characters from the first book appear in the consecutive ones. Xavier is a French farmer, working for Laura. He comes across as intense and broody at first, but he seems to soften as this story unfolds. Alice is his elderly mother. Who, after recovering from her stroke, is now helping Laura and her son with the running of the farm. Then there is Gus, Xavier's ten-year-old young son. He helps around the farm when not at school and is a lovely character. Jenny is Laura's best friend from England, who is a nurse and is in a relationship with the mechanic from the French village. There are a few more characters that make an appearance, which gives the story a lovely realistic feel, and a shadowy figure behind the break-in attempts revealed.


The story picks up from the end of the second book. I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't read the first two books. Therefore, all I will say is that Laura finds herself facing many more challenges as she tries to get her new business established, as well as dealing with her conflicting feelings for Xavier. And she is dealing with her pregnancy, among other things. The story told through her eyes. The story also continues about the history of the chateau. And the involvement of the inhabitants of the village during the Second World War. I still found this aspect interesting.


The book ends satisfactorily with no cliffhanger, but the author has left it ambiguous enough that if she wanted to do so, she could continue adding to the series.


Emma Sharp is a debut author who has written an intriguing story. Her writing has improved considerably since the first book. It's not often that the second or third book is better than the debut, but this one shows the growth of the author as well as the characters. It is still not as fast-paced as some books I've read, but it was enough for me to keep turning the pages. The story flows well, which makes it more enjoyable too.


Although there are some scenes of violence, and there is some mention of a sexual nature (which fades and is not explicit), I do not recommend this book to younger readers, as I feel they may struggle with it. I do, however, recommend this book to readers of women's fiction, historical fiction, literary humour and romance. - Lynn Worton

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text 2019-12-31 00:21
24 Festive Tasks: Door 10 - Russian Mothers' Day: Task 4 AND Door 15 - International Human Rights Day: Tasks 3 AND Door 16 - St. Lucia's Day: Task 1




Famous first words -- Harriet Vane upon being woken by the St. Lucia maidens on December 13:

"I say, Peter, what am I to do with all these ladies?  It's one thing to be talking piffle about ancient girlfriends, but it's really a bit much to bring them all here just so I can meet them, don't you know.  After all, we have already had our honeymoon and one other holiday ruined by someone's murder ..."



(Door 10, Task 4: Forget-me-nots and handmade medals of honor are important Russian Mothers’ Day gifts.  Create a medal of honor (with or without the image of a forget-me-not) for a favorite book character or for a family member or friend of yours that you’d like to pay respect to.


Door 15, Task 3: Nominate a (fictional) character from one of the books you read this year for a Nobel Prize – regardless which one – or for a similarly important prize (e.g., the Fields Medal for mathematics) and write a brief laudation explaining your nomination.


Door 16, Task 1: Famous first words: Tradition has it that the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize are woken up by the St. Lucia maidens, as St. Lucia’s Day (Dec. 13) is just three days after the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony and many laureates stay long enough to be able to take in the St. Lucia festivities.

Imagine one of your favorite (fictional) characters had won that prize: How would you think (s)he would greet the maidens?  (If you’ve used the Nobel Peace Prize for Door 15, Task 3, this can be the same character, of course … or a different one, just as you wish.))


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review 2019-12-30 10:00
Focused Backstory Review and GIVEAWAY!

About the Book


Book:  Focused Backstory

Author: Carol Alwood

Genre: Non-fiction, writing resource

Release Date: June 26, 2019

Learn how to write characters readers will love.
Has an industry professional told you not to dump character history at the beginning of your story? If so, you aren’t alone. But what’s the solution to this common advice? Most writers take the time to design interesting characters with troubled pasts. They long for readers to care about the characters’ lives. However, the sad truth is on page one, readers don’t care—yet. That’s why industry gurus tell writers to stop overusing character history, also called backstory, at the beginning of stories. Have you ever wondered… How to use backstory correctly? What are the ways other writers successfully incorporate backstory into their work? Do tools exist to help writers better plan stories so the backstory isn’t such a problem? In Focused Backstory: The Key to Writing Deep Character Journeys, you’ll find answers to these questions and more. You’ll learn how to avoid the dreaded info-dump and instead, harness curiosity so readers keep turning pages. This resource breaks down focused backstory into simple pieces to use flexibly in any story no matter what genre or length. Worksheets, tables, questionnaires, and templates will help you plan an engaging story with deep characters. Examples from popular stories will help you understand this method.

You’ll learn how to
• design a character around a troubled past.
• create additional characters around the main character.
• weave interesting sub-plots within a characters’ journey toward healing.
• design proper obstacles which interfere with characters’ goals.
• guide readers’ emotions so they have a satisfying reading experience.

No matter what kind of writer you are, if you take the time to analyze the use of backstory, it will enhance your style. Focused Backstory: The Key to Writing Deep Character Journeys is the missing gadget in your writing tool kit.
Click HERE to get your copy.

About the Author


Carol Alwood has an unending passion for fiction, and she can’t think of a better way to spend her life than writing books for young adults and teaching about techniques she has learned along the way. With a Master of Education, experience as a content editor, and over a decade of establishing and working with critique groups, she is an excellent resource. An award-winning author, Carol finds joy in helping writers find the right tools to plan, draft and revise their novels so they can achieve excellence in storytelling.

More from Carol


Focused Backstory resulted from a personal quest to please industry critics who suggested I keep character history out of the first pages of my novels. My initial questions to this advice were: What? Why? I searched for resources to figure out how to write a more powerful beginning without relying on the past but found little help. On a mission to find answers, I studied popular books, television and movies to abstract what made stories work and — boom! I found it! We can break down backstory into simple pieces to use flexibly in any story without compromising artistry. This book provides definitions, examples, worksheets, templates, and comics to help writers study the art of using powerful character histories to keep readers turning pages. I’m so excited to offer this resource and hope it will empower your writing as it has mine.

My Review


At first glance, this book seems like an anomalous choice for me because I write book reviews and not novels, but it sounded interesting and I was hoping to glean some insights that I might be able to share with some of my friends who are writers. It never hurts to learn more about the craft you’re working with, either; I thought that I might learn something pertaining to the critical analysis of literature, which I employ in my reviews. I have to say, this book certainly surpassed my expectations!

Unlike many references books, “Focused Backstory” is not a dry, hackneyed text that might be accessed once in a long while for a particular topic but otherwise left to collect dust. On the contrary, author Carol Alwood brings her own expertise, honed by years of experience, to offer writers a vade mecum of character development. Regardless of the story you are writing, the characters become the focal point and can make or break the book. “Focused Backstory” concentrates on fictional writings, but the concepts have a ready application to other media as well. Alwood notes: “These tools will work when writing any story, from complicated literary works to short stories, screenplays, memoir, biography, and more.” For that matter, they are also appropriate for those interested in literary analysis.

“Focused backstory involves deep pain covered up with lies. A complete history is tedious. Focused backstory filled with pain is intriguing,” Alwood writes. “Once you have focused backstory, the core of your story, the possibilities are endless.” One of the best elements of this handbook is the way in which the author includes a multitude of examples, utilizing movie, book, and TV references to make her concepts easily understood. This book is such an engrossing study of developing engaging characters that I often felt like I was reading a psychology manual due to the incredible depth of the characters themselves.

“Focused Backstory” is a dynamic and interactive read. It identifies five focused backstories and the eleven elements that constitute them, branching out from there and building on how to compose a story with engaging characters. Alwood discusses the Enneagram Institute personality types and K.M. Weiland’s 8 ½ character archetypes, providing examples throughout the book for easy comprehension. Each chapter includes a brief epigraphic list of what will be covered and is bookended by a chapter summary and final writing tips. Within each chapter, Alwood employs tables for ready reference, templates, worksheets, and clues about an unwritten novel in order to demonstrate how to gradually reveal information to keep readers involved. She also uses bullet lists and endearing stick-figure illustrations. The combination of these methods reinforces learning in a practical and fun manner, and I highly recommend this book to all writers and to anyone interested in learning more about character development.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through CelebrateLit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

Blog Stops


Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, December 28

Holly Jo Morris, December 28

janicesbookreviews, December 29

CarpeDiem, December 29

Jacquelyn Lynn, December 29

For the Love of Literature, December 30

Mary Hake, December 30

Blogging With Carol, December 31

All-of-a-kind Mom, December 31

Genesis 5020, January 1

April Hayman, Author, January 1

Pause for Tales, January 1

Through the Fire Blogs, January 2

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, January 2

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, January 3

Emily Yager, January 3

Remembrancy, January 4

Stephanie’s Life of Determination, January 4

A Reader’s Brain, January 5

Spoken from the Heart, January 5

Sara Jane Jacobs, January 5

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, January 6

Godly Book Reviews, January 6

Blossoms and Blessings, January 7

With a Joyful Noise, January 7

Inklings and notions, January 8

Stories Where Hope and Quirky Meet, January 8

A Diva’s Heart, January 8

Artistic Nobody, January 9

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, January 9

Hebrews 12 Endurance, January 9

Texas Book-aholic, January 10

Stories By Gina, January 10




To celebrate her tour, Carol is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.


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