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Review: ‘Snort and Wobbles’ by Will Macmillan Jones

Genre: Fantasy (children’s)
Length: 67 pages.

I have awarded this children’s short story 5 stars.

Summary: Wobbles (real name Lisa) is obsessed with dragons. So, when she meets a real life Dragon (Snort) at the bottom of her garden, she is extremely happy and excited, finding it really hard to keep it a secret! When her brother goes missing though, she knows that she needs to ask her new found friend for help. Will they rescue Jeremy?

Review: I found this story really fun to read! Well written and with easy to follow language, I can see it being a hit with children for generations to come! I even read it to my brother (aged 8) and he loved it! Plan to read it to my cousins next.

This story reads just like a tale a young child would tell you, with enough truth to make it believable, but enough craziness to make it sound like the workings of a child’s mind. The illustrations were a lovely touch, too. Highly recommended!

★★★★★ – a well written, easy to follow children’s story, with lovely illustrations. I will definitely be buying the paperback when it’s available!

Where to buy:
Amazon UK (Kindle)
Amazon US (Kindle)

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Review: ‘Alloria’ by David Staniforth

Alloria new xsmallGenre: Fantasy (Children’s / Young Adult)
Length: 347 pages.

I have awarded this book 5 stars.

Summary: Having found out on her tenth birthday that her parents aren’t really her parents, and she was found in their cellar wearing a magic amulet and carrying a doll, Alloria is desperate to find out who she really is. Realising that her amulet opens a portal into another world, right there in the cellar, she and her best friend Nathan enter in search of answers. They end up finding out more than they could ever have imagined!

Review: I really enjoyed reading this. Although technically a children’s story, it would definitely appeal to all ages. The story was interesting throughout, made even more so by the twists and turns. The characters were also well written and well developed (my favourite character has to be Bainberry, due to his loyalty). I also enjoyed learning about Alloria’s background along with her.

I found the story to be written in a thought-provoking and engaging way, with an easy to follow style. The situations that Alloria and Nathan found themselves in were interesting and had me wondering how they would get themselves out of them. The information about magic and the other worlds were also interesting and gave the story good depth. I would definitely recommend this, and can’t wait for the next Alloria story.

★★★★★ – Well written, interesting and would appeal to all ages. Highly recommended!

Where to buy:
Amazon UK (Kindle)
Amazon US (Kindle)

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Getting to know: Michael Cargill

Hi Michael.cargillphoto

Right, so we’ve done the serious interview, it’s now time for the silly questions!

So, What were you like at school?
Piss ant annoying would be my guess. I had the odd detention for not doing my homework, played crap football in the playground, and flicked elastic bands at other people’s heads. I often thought about setting fire to my classroom but I was too chicken to even buy the matches.

I made it through primary and secondary school without any detentions! Only because I never got caught, though…
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Lazy and bald?

What is the last book you read?
I had to check on my Kindle for this question but it was a non-fiction book called ‘March Women, March’ which was a very interesting read about the history of the Suffragettes. It was also quite depressing and the next time someone reminisces about the good old days, I can tell them with full confidence that they’re full of shit.

Suffragettes? Not exactly bedtime reading!
How lucky are you and why?
I once won £33 on the National Lottery after four of my numbers came up. I spent the dough on a fry-up lunch and CDs. This year I bought five tickets for the office Grand National sweepstake and got second and third place. I spent the winnings on McDonalds and socks.

If you had to sing a song on a talent show, what would it be and why?
Doop by Doop as it only has a solitary lyric: Doop.

(Link to song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvLDm8821jQ)

If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play you and why?
Bruce Wayne, because no matter what happens no-one will ever complain because I’m the motherfunking Batman.

Batman is pretty cool! Right. There’s a zombie apocalypse, and you can only use the item to your left to survive. How long would you live?
With a USB headset? Forever, because I’d pretend to be a DJ and them lumbering, lurching beasts are natural ravers.

I’d love to see raving zombies!!
If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?

I’d be Batman and my special superpower would be Batman. ‘Cos Batman is the motherfunking Batman.

If you only had 6 months left to live, what would you do?
Sit on the toilet and finish Candy Crush.

Such an addictive game!
Finally, If you could pick two celebrities to be your parents, who would they be and why?

Stephen Hawking and Helen Keller because I could lie about everything and do whatever I want… just like Batman.

Thanks, Michael!

Please click here for a link to the serious interview, with more information about Michael’s books.

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Author interview: Michael Cargill

Hi Michael!cargillphoto

Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Before we begin would you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m 35, my day job is in IT, and I live in the sunny green hills of Surrey. Although people say I look like a football hooligan this skinhead is just for show – it’s handy for deterring old people from asking me for directions but drunk homeless people ask me for money just as much as they ever did.

Great! Let’s get started!
First question. What inspired you to start writing?

In all honesty… I don’t really know. I’ve been working in offices for donkey’s years and there’s a large element of boredom that goes hand in hand with the usual 9-5 routine. Once I figured out how to use email an entire new method of skiving opened up; it wasn’t unusual for me to grab a few minutes here and there and send stupid emails out to colleagues. These emails were (usually) gratefully received so I just carried on doing it. One day a seed was planted in my head when someone said that I should write a book… so I did!

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
As much as I enjoy writing, the thought of actually sitting down and tapping away at the keyboard can feel like a chore. It’s kind of like going to the gym: when you walk in and start getting changed you can’t help but wonder why you’re putting yourself through such pain, yet when you’re finished and showered you feel great and wonder why you ever doubted yourself.

I’ve never heard writing compared to going to the gym before! Interesting!!
Where do you start when writing a new story. Main text? Title? Start? Ending?

Once I’ve got an idea I just plough right on in at the start and work my way through to its conclusion. I don’t bother with plans, notes, methods, or outlines, I just make it all up as I go. This is partly because I’m lazy but mostly because it’s the most enjoyable way of doing it. A lot of the time I don’t know what’s going to happen in my stories until the words have appeared on the page.

Do you have any regrets, or things you wish you’d done differently?
I wouldn’t say I have any regrets but if I could send some advice back to my younger self it would be that you really, really can’t self-edit stuff. Beta/proof readers are invaluable!

Do you have any advice for other writers?
For new writers? Plenty! Don’t worry about writing a story right off the bat. If you’re not cringing at your own work when going back through it then something is wrong. Even professional authors will have legions of proof readers, copy writers, and editors going over and over their work multiple times before it’s ready to be published.

Are there any books or authors that you feel have particularly influenced you?
Stephen King. He’s been my favourite author since I first discovered him at a church book stall I was helping out with when I was a wee boy scout. It’s hard to say how much he’s influenced me but I’d be very surprised if him and his beard aren’t lurking in amongst my work somewhere.

Your books are very historically accurate. How much research do you do?
Depends what it’s for. I’m a WWII nut so most of my research for stories set during that time has already been done. For Saying Goodbye to Warsaw, set in the Warsaw Ghetto, I had to do some more specific research on the Holocaust because it wasn’t something I was comfortable trying to guess my way through. I read quite a lot of non-fiction anyway these days so sometimes I’ll be doing research for future stories without even knowing it. Reading up on social history has been fascinating and has given me extra foundation for the personalities of my characters.

Have you ever experienced writers block, and how did you get passed it?
No but I’ve only been doing this writing malarkey for three-ish years. I get moments where I struggle with what’s going to happen next but that’s part and parcel of making things up on the spot.

Do you feel that you are like a particular character in your stories? If so, why?
There’s probably a bit of me in all my characters to be honest. Part of my ‘job’ is to get into a character’s head so I can justify and explain their actions and their motives to readers; I have to be able to figure out the logic behind their thoughts. One of my earlier works had a dangerous sociopath as a main character and quite often I found myself thinking “You know what…? He’s right about this, I’d probably do the same thing as well.”

If you don’t mind me asking, what are you currently working on?
I can’t tell you, it’s a secret.

Pleaseeee?
My next release is actually finished but I’ve put it on hold for a few months before I go back and do the editing. I had intended this to be a break but I’ve actually written two short stories and have started work on what is my first ever foray into the fantasy genre. ‘tis fun.

and finally, Is there anything you would like to say to your readers, or just in general?
All my books have my email address, Twitter handle, and Facebook page – so feel free to get in touch with any comments you have about my work! It’s always nice to hear from people who have read the nonsense that I commit to paper/e-ink so don’t be shy! In fact, if you don’t like my work then get in touch and I’ll give you a refund…

I can’t imagine anyone not liking your work! It’s very well written and historically accurate!

Thanks again for agreeing to be interviewed, Michael! It’s been great.

To learn more about the great Michael Cargill, please visit:
His Blog
His Facebook
Latest book: ‘Saying Goodbye to Warsaw’ – Amazon UK (Kindle), Amazon US (Kindle)

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Review: ‘The Experiment of Dreams’ by Brandon Zenner

Genre: Psychological Thriller
Length: 295 pages

I have awarded this book 5 stars.

Summary: Benjamin Walker has spent a large portion of his life testing different experimental medicines and participating in sleep study tests. Having spiralled into a deep depression when he lost his wife, Emily, Ben has lost his determination to live, and is instead existing. When Ben is then offered a steady income, in return for participating in a project named Lucy (short for Lucid Transmitter), a machine capable of recording a persons dreams, he cannot refuse. What will these studies cause Ben to remember? and how dangerous are these experimental medicines?

Review: Who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to have their dreams read? I know I would! I really enjoyed reading this. Well researched, with a very interesting story line, I found myself feeling really sorry for Ben and the way his life had turned out. The relationship between Ben and his memory of Emily was touching, and I found myself cheering when he met Sophia. He so deserves some happiness in his life!

I really liked that we learned right along side Ben, especially about all the different aspects of the Lucy project, and all the different test and medicines that were being used. I found the characters really engaging and interesting, and liked the way that the dialogue would focus the story during the tangents. The twists and turns at the end were completely unexpected for me. Very well written!

★★★★★ – Well written, well researched and unexpected twists. Highly recommended! 

Where to buy: 
Amazon UK (Kindle)
Amazon US (Kindle)

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Review: ‘Inhumans’ by Victor Darksaber

Genre: Sci-fi.
Length: 98 pages.

I have awarded this book 2 stars.

Summary: Mixing sci-fi and fantasy, Inhumans tells the story of Ichabod Gore. When his whole family Is executed in front of him, Ichabod, a Lycan, knows he must run for his life. Having lived apart from civilisation for a number of years, Ichabod feels ready to return, determined to seek vengeance for his family. Ichabod is not just an ordinary Lycan though, he is the last hope for his species. Ichabod, along with his sister Anazella know that they must kill the Eleven Lords that executed their family if their species is to triumph against the human race.

Review: I quite enjoyed reading this, as it had an interesting story line and was fast paced. However, in my opinion, the opening chapter contained  too much information about the different clans and species for me to process. It was interesting to know the background of the story before we met the characters, but I think that it should have been spread out a little, which would have made it easier to process.

I felt that the characters could have been a bit further developed as well; all we really know is their species, Ichabod’s ancestry and both Ichabod and Anazella’s thirst for revenge. Also, there were a noticeable amount of mistakes that I found difficult to overlook (missed words [‘driven by rage and unquenchable thirst for vengeance’] wrong tenses [‘it don’t break’] and mixed up phrases [‘how could you have broken me so deep?’). In my opinion, a lot of these mistakes could have been avoided with the use of a proof reader. As a result of the mistakes and the character development, I feel that this book earns two stars, which is a shame, as the story was quite interesting.

★★ – Fast paced story line, but would have benefited from a proof reader and further character development. An interesting story line, with a mix between sci-fi and fantasy.

Where to buy:
Amazon UK (Kindle)
Amazon US (Kindle)

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Blurb? Recommendations? How do you choose what to read next?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the best way to choose a new book to read. Unfortunately, I think I may have ended up with more questions than answers!

Obviously, there are many different ways of choosing what you’re going to read next. Do you look at the blurb? The reviews? Do you go by the cover? Title? Recommendations? There is also the question of whether you choose a digital version (such as Kindle) or a ‘dead tree book’ (paperback)? Then, of course, do you choose an independent publisher, or a publisher you know? Maybe you use a combination of all of these. Or maybe, you use a very complex algorithm. Who knows?

I know that I like recommendations. I also, and I know it’s awful, like an attractive cover! Reviews are important too, but this comes with it’s own problems. Which reviews are genuine? Does that reviewer like the same stuff as me?

One thing is certain though; while there are thousands of different ways to choose, and everyone has different methods and preferences, it is clear that there is no CORRECT way of choosing a book to read. Also, there is no BEST way of choosing a book to read, as everyone has different preferences. For example, I like to go by recommendations, but I know others that choose based on the blurb alone.

What I have learned, though, is that it is always a good idea to branch out of your comfort zone every once in a while. Before I started my blog, I would have stayed away from short stories. However, I branched out and found some that I have loved. I will definitely be reading more out of my comfort zone from now on!

So, how do you choose what you’re going to read next? And how often do you branch out of your comfort zone?