blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Million Story City – Marcus Preece*

An author whose experience embodies the struggle faced by millions of other working class regional writers

When the filmmaker, teacher and editor Marcus Preece died in 2017 he left behind incomplete notes and drafts for dozens of short stories, screenplays, comic strips, poems and music journalism. He was also in the process of writing an inter-connective short story collection Adventures in Million-Story City from which this collected works, edited by his friend, author Malu Halasa, takes it name.

Million-Story City is a fabulous place populated by highly original, delightful characters, where storybook conventions mix and flow in a sequence of tales for both adult and younger readers: Two guys named Tom Bone. A spaceman speaking only lyrics from pop songs, confusing the aliens. A Gogolesque telesales agent with a dog problem. A return to a desolate Australian mining town. Cowboys, detectives and witches, unlike any you’ve ever seen. An irate email to Sepp Blatter. Wise children. Musings on whiskey, the sea and the end of the damn world. It all made Preece one of the most interesting writers you never got the chance to hear of.

Marcus Preece was a solidly working class writer based largely in the Midlands, and the themes of his screenplays, short fiction and poetry – racism, migration, sexism and corrupt government – resonate loudly today. He was a punk at college in Walsall when he became friends with the Birmingham-based director John Humphreys. Their first film together was United Bad Art (1989) about graffiti and other scripts of his were made into films for Yorkshire TV and BBC2. If someone in a bedsit on one of those tumbled down two-up-two-down terraced houses had some success in the wider world than anyone in Birmingham could do it.

But Preece’s personal story is one still experienced by writers around the country, and especially in the regions. In Birmingham it was too hard to make the necessary contacts and when he couldn’t earn a living from his scripts and articles Preece worked as a builder with his dad in East Grinstead. In the 2009 he retrained as a teacher of English as a second language and moved to Hanoi, where he taught English, edited the Voice of Vietnam’s English-language website and held legendary pub quizzes in dive bars when he wasn’t obsessing over his latest short story for the page or film.

Preece’s life was tragically cut short but what remains are his wonderfully acerbic and witty comics and screenplays, his melancholic poems and this anthology is a sheer delight and tribute to that.

As the UK faces an uneasy future, Marcus’s undiscovered writings, his outrage and politics speak volumes now.

Paper + Ink founder Mitch Albert said, ‘Marcus Preece’s writings reveal a man who had considerable talent and vision, and once I tucked into the stories, comics, screenplays and poems, it was a while before I looked up again. In short, I’m a fan, in addition to admiring Malu’s meaningful and highly worthwhile tribute to a fallen friend.’

Malu Halasa is an editor, writer and curator based in London. She has written the novel, Mother of All Pigs, and edited many anthologies including Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline and The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie: Intimacy and Design. Usually she writes about the Middle East but for Million-Story City she returns to Britain’s second city, which inspired her after she moved to the UK in the 1980s.

My thoughts:

Even in the shortest of this collection of writing you can feel how good a writer Marcus Preece was and what a loss his death is.

He creates a strong sense of place and time, drawing pictures that linger in the mind. Even in the opening piece about his birthplace of Ima in the Australian Outback, a tiny no horse town, you can see the things he’s describing so clearly, without ever having been there.

Living in the UK’s second city, Birmingham, for much of his adult life, gave him a unique perspective on its inhabitants and society. As an outsider he could see the idiosyncrasies while also feeling a deep bond and affection for his adopted home town.

This is a book that shows you snapshots of people and places, gifting them to you on the page. In the short stories, poems and screen plays, he creates whole worlds in a few words, strongly drawing you into his characters’ lives. Truly an underrated writer.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: The Black Coast Mike Brooks*

War Dragons. Fearsome Raiders. A Daemonic Warlord on the Rise.

When the citizens of Black Keep see ships on the horizon, terror takes them because they know who is coming: for generations, the keep has been raided by the fearsome clanspeople of Tjakorsha. Saddling their war dragons, Black Keep’s warriors rush to defend their home only to discover that the clanspeople have not come to pillage at all. Driven from their own land by a daemonic despot who prophesises the end of the world, the raiders come in search of a new home . . .

Meanwhile the wider continent of Narida is lurching toward war. Black Keep is about to be caught in the crossfire – if only its new mismatched society can survive.

My thoughts:

This was a really good, solid fantasy book, it’s also nice and chunky with lots to get your teeth into as a reader.

Setting up a new series can be tricky but this balances world building and lore with characters and a plot that draws you in, gets you invested – especially in the events in Black Keep, and starts building out the overarching narrative of conflict and politic machinations gone awry.

I liked the way the two very different societies start to get along, learning each others’ culture and traditions, beliefs and languages. They come together over festivities and sport, defending their home and feeding themselves. The author says the Brexit referendum sparked this book and I can see how – we are more alike than we care to admit – is a bit theme here.

It’s not just in Black Keep, the burgeoning relationship between Jeya and Galem also reflects this – though from different cultures and classes, they form a bond, which I imagine will only become stronger as the series progresses.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: Queen to Ashes – Mallory McCartney

QueenofAshesAudio

Exciting news folks!!! Queen to Ashes by Mallory McCartney is now available as an audiobook! 

Read on for more details and a chance to win either your choice of a hardcover edition of Queen to Ashes, or an advanced reader’s copy of Kingdom of Iron (Black Dawn #3)!

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Queen to Ashes (Black Dawn #2)

Publication Date: April 21st, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy

“You lived your entire life feeling like half of you was missing. Fight for the missing part. Fight for this.”

Emory Fae has abandoned everything she thought she knew about her previous life on Earth. Stepping up to her role as Queen of Kiero she makes a startling sacrifice- feigning her allegiances to Adair Stratton, the man who murdered her parents and casted Kiero into ruin. Emory’s memories slowly piece together, and she soon realizes the Mad King may not be all he seems— and the man who was once best friend, may be fighting beneath the surface.

With the King’s attention on her, can she buy Black Dawn Rebellion enough time to recuperate their forces? And when the times comes, will she be able to kill Adair, ending his tyranny and rising herself as the rightful Queen? Fighting to hide her secret, Emory navigates the brutal trials of the Mad King, trying not to lose herself in the process.

Sequel to Heir of Lies, now a bestselling series, the sparks are ignited, as Emory learns the cost of freedom, and her heritage. Will the rebels unite in time? A sinister force has spread across the land, stripping everyone bare- their betrayals, their secrets, their intentions. But above all, what will their decisions cost? By refusing to give in to the darkness, will Emory rise as Queen?

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Excerpt

All she could hear was buzzing. Tight, unrelenting buzzing. The world dipped, and she was a ghost amongst the living.

Her mind screamed that she was going into shock as the color drained from her skin, as her limbs trembled harder. Her body betrayed her for the briefest of seconds as Adair looked at her hungrily, his dark gaze ravaging her.

 The room seemed to tilt, and her mind felt thick and constricted. The bloodied sword was still in her hand, and Brokk’s body splayed out lifelessly between them: Life and Death. Love and Loss. Light and Dark. This is the divide her life had taken, and one that she was completely and utterly lost in. Suffocated in.

What had she done?

What. Had. She. Done?

Before Emory could take another look, to convince herself that it wasn’t him—it couldn’t have been—a strong hand gripped her arm and Adair said something she didn’t register. Then, she was ushered out with the promise of tomorrow on his gaunt lips, and the burly guard led her away from the king.

The door shut, sealing away the gory scene.

Breath lodging in her throat, Emory tried to adjust to the world around her. It was numbing, her senses overloaded, the bustle of Adair’s world seeming too sharp and loud as they moved through it. Her pulse roared, and beneath the grime and blood she held on, trying not to give in to the panic tearing through her

Available on Audible 

Other Editions:  Amazon | B&N | Indigo  

For your chance to win your choice of either a hardcover edition of Queen to Ashes, or an advanced reader’s copy of Kingdom of Iron (Black Dawn #3), click the linl to enter!

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About the Author

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Mallory McCartney currently lives in Sarnia, Ontario with her husband and their three dachshunds Link, Lola and Leonard. When she isn’t working on her next novel or reading, she can be found day dreaming about fantasy worlds and hiking. Other favorite pastimes involve reorganizing perpetually overflowing bookshelves and seeking out new coffee and dessert shops.

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Blog Tour: Takakush – Raine Reiter

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I’m thrilled to share this wonderfully dark fantasy with you all today. It’s called Takakush by Raine Reiter!

Read on for an excerpt and a chance to win an amazing giveaway – A copy of the book AND a bunch of swag!

Takakush-Kindle

Takakush: Genus Magic #1

Publication Date: January 25th, 2021

Genre: Mature YA/ NA/ Urban (Dark) Fantasy

When Professor Elena Lukas returns to her cozy Pacific Northwest hometown with a broken heart, she’s plunged back into the fate she tried to escape. Like her mother and grandmother before her, Elena must now dedicate her life to a powerful ancient Lithuanian goddess. Although she is prepared to live as a priestess hiding in a contemporary tourist town, she arrives to find that a series of so-called animal attacks have terrorized her forest.

With the help of a handsome detective from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Elena uses her expertise in invasive and endangered species to identify that these are no normal animal attacks. The woods are stalked by a dark, mystical creature bent on ravaging the area in an attempt to quell its insatiable hunger. When her little sister goes missing, Elena realizes that the beast can only be vanquished if she is brave enough to face it in-person, embrace her identity as a high priestess, and expose her powers to the man she is growing feelings for.

Raine Reiter weaves together an empowered, female-centered narrative with rich descriptions of nature and an ever-present sense of mystery. Her vivid, flowing prose takes readers of dark fantasy into a world that looks and feels real, while still evoking the enticing paranormal creativity shared by authors such as Richelle Mead and Kat Richardson.

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Excerpt

Crunch, rustle, crunch. Gabby turned toward the noise. “Come on, boy. Here, kitty.”

A statue stood silhouetted against a backdrop of trees. Clouds gathered in the night sky, the moonlight faded, and stars disappeared. Goosebumps rose on her arms. “Trouble?” Gabby got to her feet and stepped forward for a better look.

It took her a moment to recognize the sound; air rasping in and out. Something very close breathed.

Then the statue moved. Gabby froze.

That’s not made of stone. It’s someone. Adrenaline hit her bloodstream with an electric jolt. Her heart sped. Gabby squeaked, short and high as a rodent in a trap. She turned and sprinted toward the house.

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About the Author

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Raine cavorts in the wilds of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula with her dog, Luke, and writes Northwest Gothic. Her first novel Takakush will be published on Amazon in January 2021. This is the first book in the Genus Magica Series.

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Book Tour Schedule

February 15th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

The Cozy Pages (Spotlight) http://thecozypages.wordpress.com/

Rambling Mads (Spotlight) http://ramblingmads.com

The Invisible Moth (Review) https://daleydowning.wordpress.com

February 16th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

Nesie’s Place (Spotlight) https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com

I Love Books and Stuff (Spotlight) https://ilovebooksandstuffblog.wordpress.com

The Faerie Review (Spotlight) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

I Smell Sheep (Review) http://www.ismellsheep.com/

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

February 17th

@brendajeancombs (Spotlight) https://www.instagram.com/brendajeancombs/

@_ebl_inc_ (Review) https://www.instagram.com/_ebl_inc_/

@hoardingbooks.herdingcats (Review) https://www.instagram.com/hoardingbooks.herdingcats/

Phantom of the Library (Review) https://phantomofthelibrary.com/

February 18th

@joanna.zoe (Review) https://www.instagram.com/joanna.zoe/?igshid=1xipr7pa6a9zl

Bookish Laura (Review) http://www.bookishlaura.co.uk/

@dreaminginpaged (Review) https://www.instagram.com/dreaminginpages/

February 19th

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

I’m All About Books (Spotlight) https://imallaboutbooks.com/

Sophril Reads (Spotlight) http://sophrilreads.wordpress.com

Book Dragons Not Worms (Review) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1

@jypsylynn (Review) https://www.instagram.com/jypsylynn/

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Book Excerpt: Beneath the Crimson Willow – Martin Niewood

Beneath the Crimson Willow jumps into the fantasy world of 17-year-old Violet Noone, as she and her family continue with their life on the run, fleeing from The Marked, a secret organization focused on revenge. Beneath the Crimson Willow weaves together a fascinating fantasy world, a protagonist you can’t help but cheer for and a dark, fast-paced mystery to bring readers on yet another whirlwind into a land where nothing is ever quite as it seems.

Although outwardly ordinary, this house was filled with secrets. The mounted security cameras around the property were concealed in such a way that casual observers might not spot them. A thick layer of decaying leaves covered the ground, and the surrounding trees isolated the home from others in the neighborhood. Stepping over a metal hose, as we made our way to the back of the property, I followed Leonard’s movements carefully, recalling his previous disclosures about various snares. I spotted a small but explosive anti-personnel mine intended to deter intruders as we passed through the gate.

Reaching the back door, Leonard swiped his band. Generally, a single swipe would allow access to one’s private residence, but Leonard and Georgina had installed a secondary security system involving an alpha-numeric code and an electronic keypad. Leonard tapped the buttons and the door clicked open. Turning the knob, we stood in a large but unimpressive kitchen. From our vantage point we could see most of the first floor. The kitchen led into a dining room and a small entry hall for the front door. Immediately to the left of the hall, was the living room and behind it a single bedroom and bath. Leonard and Georgina were either not good at their chosen profession or they hid their money elsewhere. One thing was certain, their ill-gotten gains were not spent on their home.

From the discolored ceiling, cracked windowpanes, and splintered floorboards, the home appeared to have suffered from years of neglect. Looking around at the kitchen sink overflowing with dirty dishes and unwashed laundry strewn around the floor, I suspected that after Georgina’s death, things went from bad to worse. The place was an absolute disaster.

It was apparent that something had occurred in the small entry hall. Furniture had been knocked over, and broken picture frames, umbrellas, and various pairs of shoes and boots cluttered the floor. Glass from a broken mirror, coated with dried blood, crunched underfoot. There was a smear of blood on the baseboard and a splatter of some dark red secretion across the ceiling. The black, tarry slime that had poured out of Georgina’s eyes and ears had seeped into the floor and lay trapped between the uneven boards. It was obvious that Leonard had tried to wipe some of it up, but the slime had hardened and was now embedded in the grain of the wood.

Leonard caught me staring at the hallway. “Difficult to look at, isn’t it? My first thought was to clean it up and act as though none of this had ever happened, but I was too depressed to do anything.” Leonard stared down at the floor. “I couldn’t just leave her there, so I buried her body out back in the woods. It was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do.”

I heard the sadness in his voice whenever he mentioned Georgina. “I’m assuming this is where you found her? In the hall?” I walked over to the spot with the most dried blood and slime. “When you found her, how was she positioned?”

Leonard cleared his throat. “What does that have to do with anything?”

I leaned down to the ground, imagining the events before her murder. “I’m trying to get a sense of what happened. Can you walk me through everything you know about the night she was killed?”

Rubbing his chin, Leonard replied, “I had gone out for about an hour. I had a meeting downtown.”

“Who did you meet with?”

“That’s none of your business, and it has nothing to do with this.” Leonard stormed off, presumably annoyed by my question, but then returned as though nothing had happened. “I don’t get it. There’s no sign of forced entry and except for here, there’s no blood anywhere else in the house.” He stood there looking through the front window, scratching his thinning hair. “You see, one of the traps was set off, a nasty one at that. The intruder would have been injured and bled profusely, but there’s almost no blood inside the house. If the murderer was that injured, how did he clean up his blood before I’d returned? That would have required a team, but it’s clear that there was only one person because, as you can see, there was an intense struggle before she ingested the poison. I believe that multiple assailants would have tied her up and controlled her with ease.”

Pressing my fingers against my lips, “Okay, so we’re dealing with a single person that is most likely injured. They somehow get into the house without forcing the lock, then creep up behind Georgina when she is making her way to the kitchen. Why then? Is it safe to assume that she might have heard… Wait, what about the Caldwell cameras outside? They’re pretty high end, military grade—didn’t they catch anything?”

Leonard rolled his eyes. “Cameras were wiped clean. The only evidence I found was blood on one of the spike traps outside. I took a sample and sent it to one of my connections in the Foxglove police department to see if anything came up on their database. So far, there aren’t any matches to any known offenders.”

“You wouldn’t happen to keep any first aid stuff in your kitchen, would you?”

“Yeah, why?”

“I might be completely off, but what if Georgina knew her murderer? You said that neither the front nor back door was forced.”

“That’s right.”

“And the gate?”

“Locked,” Leonard responded.

“And all of the windows?”

“Nailed shut, so what?”

“So, we know that the intruder set off a trap outside. Georgina surely would have heard the commotion and seen the intruder on your security cameras. Suppose she recognizes him or her and rushes to the front door to help them. Georgina brings the injured intruder into the hall and heads for the kitchen to get the first aid kit. As she turns toward the kitchen, the killer strikes, forcing the poison into Georgina’s mouth. She resists, causing the two to struggle, knocking down furniture, breaking items in the hall. After a few moments, the poison overtakes Georgina, who convulses in pain and dies, lying in a fetal position on her side.”

As I spoke, Leonard stared silently at the stained floor.

More info at the author’s website

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Blog Tour: The Crow Folk – Mark Stay*

Faye Bright always felt a little bit different. And today she’s found out why. She’s just stumbled across her late mother’s diary which includes not only a spiffing recipe for jam roly-poly, but spells, incantations, runes and recitations… a witch’s notebook.

And Faye has inherited her mother’s abilities.

Just in time, too. The Crow Folk are coming. Led by the charismatic Pumpkinhead, their strange magic threatens Faye and the villagers. Armed with little more than her mum’s words, her trusty bicycle, the grudging help of two bickering old ladies, and some aggressive church bellringing, Faye will find herself on the front lines of a war nobody expected.

Mark Stay co-wrote the screenplay for Robot Overlords which became a movie with Sir Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson, and premiered at the 58th London Film Festival. He is co-presenter of the Bestseller Experiment podcast and has worked in bookselling and publishing for over twenty-five years. He lives in Kent, England, with his family and a trio of retired chickens. He blogs and humblebrags over at markstaywrites.com.

My thoughts:

This was a great fun read, I really enjoyed it. Faye was a relatable protagonist, of course she wanted to know more about her mum, and I imagine it would get frustrating when everyone else doesn’t seem to be able to see the things you can.

Woodville is that very traditional English village, familiar from so many novels (I kept expecting Miss Marple to appear having dropped by from SOE – blatantly where she spent her war, after hearing about some strange things) and a certain Kinks’ song.

But where there are quaint villages, there are witches and magic and odd goings on. As English as tea and scones. And I love it.

I do now need more about Vera Fivetrees, she’s very intriguing.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Book Blitz: Kingdom of Jior – Wendy L. Anderson

KingdomofJoir

Great news Fantasy lovers! The Kingdom of Jior series by Wendy L. Anderson is now available as a digital box set! See details below and enter the giveaway for a chance to win the box set for yourself!

image005Kingdom of Jior Box Set

Publication Date: February 10th, 2021

Publisher: Infinity Publishing

Experience adventure, fantasy, and magic in this collection of novels combing all the five books of the Kingdom of Jior epic fantasy series.
Discover a race neither human nor demon. The Ny-Failen are from the Heavens. Led by King Forlorn Icefall of Jior, these beautiful shape changing creatures live, love and battle to survive in the world of the humankind.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

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Wendy L. Anderson is a Colorado native and mother of two boys. She has an English Degree from Regis University and writes books, short stories and poetry. Wendy is a devout reader of the classics, fantasy, sci-fi and historical fiction. She has decided it is time to write down the fantasies from her own mind. Writing about everything from fantastical worlds to the stuff of her dreams she takes her stories along interesting paths while portraying characters and worlds she sees in her mind’s eye. Her goal is to deviate from common themes, write in original directions and transport her reader to the worlds of her creation.

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To enter for a chance to win The Kingdom of Jior box set (digital), click the link below!

Giveaway is open to everyone and will close February 13th!

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Blog Tour: MU: The Grimm Cases – Lyla Oweds

MU

Welcome to the book tour for MU: The Grimm Cases by Lyla Oweds! Read on for more details and a chance to win a print copy of this amazing collection!

The Grimm Cases Omnibus 1-3

MU: The Grimm Cases

Genre: New Adult/ Urban Fantasy

Publication Date: August 15th, 2019

Length: 688 pages

Bianca, a timid and shy university student, has no choice but to step outside her comfort zone to seek answers to her ghostly problems. The only problem is that, because of what she finds, she now has more questions than before.

The things I see aren’t for the faint of heart.

And I am no longer willing to ignore them. Not even when my family, and my best friend, tell me to keep quiet about what’s happening. They say people will think I’m crazy.

Maybe I am.

But the spirit haunting my professor’s house is definitely trying to tell me something, and I’m the only one who can see it.

The one person who can help me is my best friend’s brother. But I don’t know if I can trust him or his friends. Or if I can step outside the protective bubble I’ve built around myself.

At this point it’s a toss up: the ghosts will kill me or my panic attacks will.

Either way, I figure I’m going to die.

This bundle includes The Grimm Cases books one through three, the Home novella, and bonus scenes from the guy’s point of view.

*Reader Warning: The Grimm Cases deals with the psychological aftermath of character trauma and abuse, although nothing graphic happens within the time-frame of the book. Please keep that in mind when you begin the series.

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Trail through a mysterious dark old forest in fog. Autumn

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About the Author

author

Lyla Oweds is a paranormal romance author who resides in the beautiful Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania. She grew up near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and is a native of Baltimore, Maryland, and has a deep appreciation for the paranormal, hauntings, and Edgar Allan Poe. As such, she loves all things fantasy, mystery, crime, and horror.

She is the author of the Paranormal Reverse Harem series, The Grimm Cases and related novellas. She has also published the first book of Gloria Protean’s story, The Red Trilogy. You can find out more about her current and upcoming works at her website, http://lylaoweds.com.

When not reading, writing, or working as a web programmer, Lyla can be found doing adult-y things such as being a mom, decorating the house, and baking. She also frequently enjoys makeup videos, massages, wine, and coffee.

Lyla Oweds | Lyla’s Grimmlins | Instagram | Twitter

Click the link below to try an win a print edition of the MU: The Grimm Cases omnibus!

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Book Tour Schedule

February 8th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

@brendajeancombs (Spotlight) https://www.instagram.com/brendajeancombs/

Nesie’s Place (Spotlight) https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com

@fle_d (Spotlight) https://www.instagram.com/fle_d/

@tabz_talks_tales (Spotlight – Review to Follow) https://www.instagram.com/tabz_talks_tales/

February 9th

I’m All About Books (Spotlight) https://imallaboutbooks.com/

Rambling Mads (Spotlight) http://ramblingmads.com

@esmeralda_lagiggles18 (Review) https://www.instagram.com/esmeralda_lagiggles18/

February 10th

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Spotlight) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

Bookish Laura (Review) http://www.bookishlaura.co.uk/

Phantom of the Library (Review) https://phantomofthelibrary.com/

February 11th

Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1

@better_0ff_read (Spotlight) https://www.instagram.com/BETTER_0FF_READ/

Dark Whimsical Art (Spotlight) https://www.darkwhimsicalart.com/blogs/news

Entertainingly Nerdy (Review) https://entertaininglynerdy.com/

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

February 12th

Book Review Crew (Spotlight) https://bookreviewcrew.blogspot.com

Banshee Irish Horror Blog (Spotlight – Review out of Tour) www.bansheeirishhorrorblog.com

The Faerie Review (Spotlight) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

Lou’s Book Stuff (Spotlight) https://www.lousbookstuff.com/

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Blog Tour: A Conventicle of Magpies – L.M.R. Clarke*

Rook is a thief, and entirely unapologetic about it as she’s determined to do anything to ensure her mother and siblings survive the squalid and dangerous streets of Stamchester.

Rook slips in and out of the homes of the ruling elite of Stamchester, the Avanish,like a shadow taking what she needs without regret.

Why should she? Had the Avanish not stolen her own people, the Saouiasei, from their own homes years before and transported them across the ocean to Stamchester to work as virtual slaves?

And, now the Avanish had no more use for Rook and her people, where they not determined to dispose of them?

The Avanish had already laid waste to a swathe of Saouiasei homes, a region which had become known as ‘The Scar’, in an attempt to drive them out?

However, Rook was not the only person hiding in the shadows. A far more dangerous figure was haunting the filthy streets of Stamchester striking fear into Avanish and Saouiasei alike; Billy Drainer, a serial killer who not only murdered his victims but drained them of every ounce of their precious, life giving blood.

For within blood was a highly sought-after commodity, the ability to enhance a person’s natural abilities through the art of Bloodskill. To be faster and stronger than a normal person was something those with money were willing to pay handsomely for.

‘A Conventicle of Magpies’ is a fast-paced gaslamp fantasy adventure set in a Victorian-inspired world. Perfect for fans of Charlie N. Holmberg’s Spellbreaker and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

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Safe and sound in the Magpie’s Nest, Rook divested herself of her corseted dress and heels and returned to the comfort of a shirt and trousers. The young woman fell into an armchair, threw her booted feet onto the battered coffee table, and plucked up a newspaper. Even though she’d been out all day, she hadn’t seen the latest in the Stamchester Review. As she scanned the page, Rook shook her head, and a lock of black hair fell over her face.

YET ANOTHER BLOODLESS CORPSE

At two o’clock this morning, a police constable came upon the scene of yet another gruesome murder. The body, which has not yet been identified, was found on the southbank end of the Buxridge Bridge. Like the other five bodies found in similar circumstances over the last few months, the corpse appeared to be drained of every last ounce of blood. Suspicion for this killing falls once more on the elusive fiend known only as Billy Drainer, although Inspector Kip Kerstammen declined to comment on this observation.

Rook licked her thumb and flicked to the next page. Inches and inches of news stretched through the broadsheet, as always full of sensationalism and very little fact. Only two parties enjoyed Stamchester’s string of murders: so-called Billy Drainer himself, whoever he was, and the newspapers. Both made significant gains from the events. News was always a profitable commodity in Stamchester, but blood was more valuable than gold. Those corpses weren’t bloodless for no reason.

A cough came from the doorway. Rook glanced up from the grim columns. A slim figure stood in the doorway, a tiny girl at the end of her teenage years. Pigeon stood in the low doorframe that led to the main Nest bar and jerked her head. The action sent her mass of dark curls tumbling to one side.

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I’m LMR Clarke, though you can call me Rain, and I’m a writer from Northern Ireland. I’m thirty-something, a parent, and a teacher. I love books and I also draw.

I’m an enby (non-binary) and am still finding my way! My stories are all about identity and acceptance and trying to find your place in the world.

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My thoughts:

This was really enjoyable and a great start to a new duology, setting up explosive events to come, as Rook and her friends determine to stop the oppression of their people once and for all.

As well as fighting against monstrous government oppressors determined to do terrible harm, there’s also a serial killer stalking the streets, and Rook runs into him. He needs stopping too, but can she bring herself to take a life?

Rook is an interesting protagonist, her crimes never harm anyone directly and she tries to be a Robin Hood type figure, taking from rich factory owners to help out their poor employees, whose wages don’t stretch far enough. She’s loyal and her family mean everything to her.

I look forward to reading book two of this smart and intelligent series.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: White Trash Warlock – David R. Slayton*

Not all magicians go to schools of magic.

Adam Binder has the Sight. It’s a power that runs in his bloodline: the ability to see beyond this world and into another, a realm of magic populated by elves, gnomes, and spirits of every kind. But for much of Adam’s life, that power has been a curse, hindering friendships, worrying his backwoods family, and fueling his abusive father’s rage.

Years after his brother, Bobby, had him committed to a psych ward, Adam is ready to come to grips with who he is, to live his life on his terms, to find love, and maybe even use his magic to do some good. Hoping to track down his missing father, Adam follows a trail of cursed artifacts to Denver, only to discover that an ancient and horrifying spirit has taken possession of Bobby’s wife.

It isn’t long before Adam becomes the spirit’s next target. To survive the confrontation, save his sister-in-law, and learn the truth about his father, Adam will have to risk bargaining with very dangerous beings … including his first love.

David R. Slayton grew up in Guthrie, Oklahoma, where finding fantasy novels was pretty challenging and finding fantasy novels with diverse characters was downright impossible. Now he lives in Denver, Colorado, with his partner, Brian, and writes the books he always wanted to read. White Trash Warlock is his first novel. In 2015, David founded Trick or Read, an annual initiative to give out books along with candy to children on Halloween as well as uplift lesser-known authors or those from marginalized backgrounds. Find him online

My thoughts:

This was a really fun read, it reminded me a bit of the very short lived TV series Midnight, Texas (of which I may be one of a total of three viewers) in that there’s a hero with the Sight and a ragtag band of supernatural friends along for the ride.

It’s also hella gay, which is very much my bag. Supernaturals, gays, monsters, yes please!

Adam is an everyman figure who really wishes he didn’t have any magical powers thanks all the same, but he does and he wants to use them for good. He’s been tracking a warlock making artifacts containing the souls of various creatures and then his brother, who he very much does not like, calls and he, being a better person than he wants to be, goes to help.

I basically love, want to be his best friend, although the scary elf queen might have a problem with that, and why are you still here? Go read the book.

As someone who would quite happily drown a certain boy wizard and his Terfy creator, this was a balm, sometimes you need to learn what they can’t teach you in any fancy pants wizard school, and the only way to do that is by, well, doing.

This was a fun, funny (the dry humour was very much my thing too) and clever romp of magical proportions and I enjoyed it very muchly. It has really heart too, in the shape of Adam and Vic and the whole reluctant hero thing.

Can’t wait to see what madness book two will hold in store, since Adam still has a few things left to tick off his to do list…

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.