4 Aug 2015

ANNOUNCING DISTANT SUNS: THE SILEXOUS.

It's with great pleasure that I'm able to bring you an excerpt of part three in the Distant Suns series, The Silexous, by Patricia Smith who I interviewed here.



As the survivors of the catastrophe that turned Earth into a barren rock are settling on their new planet, an enemy from a past encounter finds them and a new fight for survival begins. 

“There’s a ship coming around from the dark side of the planet. I’ve tried communicating with it, but have so far received no response,” Lauren informed. 

“Is it the Cyroux?” Joel asked. 


“It doesn’t look like the original craft we saw.” Then, as the vessel cleared the planet and moved away from the murky effect of the atmosphere, Lauren leapt from her seat and lunged for the captain’s chair. “It’s the ship that attacked us,” she yelled.

“Get out of there,” Joel called, “go anywhere, just get away.”

Lauren pulled on the headset used to control Terra’s systems and was just about to instruct the ship to go to warp, when the screen was swamped by a powerful pulse of energy.

As the alien vessel grew larger, Lauren realized Terra was moving towards it when a set of numbers, indicating their location in space, changed rapidly on the holographic display which appeared ahead the moment her brain waves connected with the ship’s systems.

She instructed Terra to go to warp. Space ahead blurred slightly, but before the craft could make the leap, a pulse of energy was fired from the attacking vessel again and the warp drive was disabled.

“They’ve got us in a tractor beam, we’re being dragged towards them,” she told the captain on the surface.

She now instructed the ship to reverse. For a moment, the numbers on the holographic display held static and Lauren had some hope they might escape the grip of the beam until another pulse pounded Terra, resonating throughout the hull, and the figures returned to their previous state, continuing to climb.

“What about the force field?” Anton suggested, dragging his eyes away from the enemy ship. “Could we repel them with the force field?”

“It’s on. It activated the moment the system sensed I was alarmed.”

A hiss, soft at first, but increasing with proximity, began to grow on the flight deck. It decreased slightly when the front of the alien vessel opened out to reveal a massive cargo hold. Then, as Terra continued to be dragged in, the hiss climbed again until it reached a painful level.

“What’s happening?” Joel called.

“We’re being pulled into the ship. They’re taking Terra inside their vessel.”

“The force field is overloading,” Anton informed. “The energy levels are into the red.”

“Deactivate it,” Joel instructed. “Do everything you can to escape. We’ll...” Then the link was severed as space behind Terra disappeared. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sounds like it will be another great addition to the series I'm sure you'll agree.

Available to pre-order on Kindle from Amazon.co.uk and, for American readers, Amazon.com, as of the 12th of August. Mr T will be reviewing Distant Suns: The Silexous very soon. Meanwhile to read his review of Distant Suns and a pre-view of Distant Suns: The Journey Home simply click on the book title above.

2 Aug 2015

THE PHARAOH'S CAT.


THE PHARAOH'S CAT by MARIA LUISA LANG.

BACK COVER BLURB: The Pharaoh's Cat, narrated in the present tense by the cat himself, is the story of a free-spirited, quick-witted stray in Ancient Egypt who suddenly finds himself with human powers joined to his feline nature.

The cat immediately captures the attention of the seventeen-year-old Pharaoh, making him laugh for the first time since his parent's death, and is brought to live with him at the royal palace.

The cat also become friends with the High Priest of the god Amun-Ra and seeks his help in solving the mystery of his human powers and the supernatural manifestations that later plague him. He has an enemy in the Vizier - the Pharaoh's uncle and the second most powerful man in Egypt. The Vizier hates him for himself and even more for his relationship with the Pharaoh.

- An abridged version, please click on the book title to view full synopsis. 

FIRST SENTENCE {Chapter 1}: Water is filling my ears.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 124}: Elena! I feel so guilty. If only I hadn't been such a glutton, she would still be free, the High Priest would be eating his four sandwiches and his Danish while washing it all down with coffee, and I would be nice and warm under his coat hating his guts.

SOURCE: My thanks to the author from whom the book was received for review.

MY THOUGHTS: Obviously a lover of both cats and Egypt, the author's fondness for both shines through in this, the first part of a series.

A time travel tale that takes us from ancient Egypt to modern day New York. Combining the history of ancient Egypt, a sweet romance, a pantomime villain and a talking cat with a great sense of humour The Pharaoh's Cat is as entertaining as it is educational.

But ....

Unsure as to exactly what age range this is targeted at as whilst some of the story line and explanations of ancient Egyptian life led me to believe perhaps older primary school readers (what I believe the Americans refer to as mid grade) upwards the authors usage of the word piss would suggest otherwise.

A humorous read from the off. Wrappa-Hamen's (the cat) mischievousness compelling. I did however feel that generally speaking it took Lang a while to find her stride, for the book to appeal  to me in the way that I hoped it would.

Still, with great potential. I'd be interested to see where the sequel (The Lady Of Mystery) and any other subsequent books in the series take us.


30 Jul 2015

INTERVIEWED.

 My thanks to Aspen for not only naming Pen and Paper as one of her favourite book blogs but for asking to interview me for a school project.

A: Have you always loved books?

T: In a word, yes. Rumoured to have been born with a paperback clutched in my fist. Some of my earliest memories are of books being read to me.

A: What makes a good/bad book?

T: I don't (or at least I hope I don't) claim to know what makes a good/bad book. People like what they like. What I do know though is what I like/dislike in a book.

A: OK. So name two things you like and two things you don't like in a book.

T: Hmm. I like 'good' characters. In many ways they are even more important to me than an outstanding plot and definitely more so than world building. And, and I'm hoping this makes sense, even if I know something doesn't exist I have to believe it does if only for the length of that story.

As for dislike? I guess gratuitous violence closely followed by too much sex/swearing are the things guaranteed to put me off a book.

A: They say you should never judge a book by its cover, do/have you?

T: I'd really like to say no of course not but the truth is I have picked books up/passed them by simply by glancing at their covers. And certain covers - IE those featuring topless men or leather clad, gun toting women are certain to put me right off.

A: What is your favourite type of book(s) and what author(s) would you recommend?

T: Ooh! Overall I have a fondness for historical fiction that is rooted in fact as I have a great admiration for the amounts of research that goes into them. My favourite authors of this genre being Philippa Gregory and C.J. Sansom.

I also enjoy crime fiction ... if it isn't too violent. I love Faye Kellerman's Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series as they combine crime with Peter's journey after he finds out he is in fact Jewish and then there's the forensic science of Kathy Reichs' books which I find totally fascinating.

A: I've noticed you feature lots of 'up-and-coming/self published' authors on your blog, why?

T: Why not?

I admire anyone who has a story in them and has the courage to put themselves out there and if my blog is a platform to getting their work that bit better known than that's all to the good.

A: If you could have any author past or present do a piece for Pen and Paper who would it be?

T: Ooh grief, that's a toughie.

Hmm, I've said this before. I'd really, really like to have tea with Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, as I'd love to know what he thinks of modern vampires such as Edward Cullen of the Twilight books. 

A: I'm a fourteen (almost fifteen) year old into the supernatural, which ONE book would you recommend I try?

T: Now there's a question?

I'm going to have to cheat a bit here and recommend a series. Laura's Bickle's The Hallowed One's followed by its sequel The Outside. Both good vampire stories BUT with an Amish twist which is a community I'm fascinated by. I love that the books deal with so many different themes such as relationships, religion vs science and, most of all, faith.



28 Jul 2015

DESIRE FOR CHOCOLATE.


Desire for ChocolateDESIRE FOR CHOCOLATE by CARE SANTOS.

PRESS RELEASE BLURB: Winner of the Ramon Llull Prize 2014.

Absolutely addictive ... three women united across the centuries by the same passion for chocolate.

Three women, three centuries and the same porcelain chocolate pot: Sara, the scion of a dynasty of chocolatiers from Barcelona, who prides herself on maintaining the family tradition; Aurora, the daughter of a nineteenth-century maidservant, for whom chocolate is a forbidden luxury; Mariana, the wife of a famous seventeenth-century chocolate manufacturer, an official purveyor to the French court and the inventor of a revolutionary chocolate mill.

In Desire For Chocolate, Care Santos takes us on a spellbinding journey, masterfully juxtaposing the destinies of her protagonists, chronicling the history of our favourite confection and exploring Europe's changing social norms. Luscious and addictive, this novel will delight the reader's senses from start to finish.

FIRST SENTENCE {Prelude: Resurrection}: Sixteen white porcelain fragments of different shapes and sizes and a tube of superglue.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 200}: As was to be expected, you were assigned a small windowless room below stairs, with four grubby walls, a door on broken hinges, a bed, a wardrobe and a chamber pot. A menial's room, not that you expected anything more.

SOURCE: My thanks to Alma Books who kindly sent me a copy which can be purchased by clicking here.

MY THOUGHTS: Three different stories, three different women, three different writing styles, at the heart of which is the same chocolate pot. 

In part one, written in the second person, we get to meet the thoroughly modern Sara, a chocolatier torn between her husband and a fellow chocolatier who just so happens to be her husbands best friend.

Whilst in part two (by far my favourite part of the book) we get to meet nineteenth-century maidservant, Aurora, whose story, largely informed by a scandal, is narrated by an unseen party. 

And finally, part three (written in what I felt was a unique if somewhat odd blend that was somehow part letter part play) in which we follow the journey of seventeenth-century chocolate maker, Mariana, who faces adversary due to her being female.

I don't know whether it was what I call the 'curse of the award winning novel' which often sees me, perhaps expecting too much, disappointed by award nominated/winning books or one of several other factors but to me whilst Desire For Chocolate was an enjoyable enough read it wasn't exceptional.

Beautifully written, lyrical and yet not too flowery. Perfectly translated. A good choice for chocolate connoisseurs and those into the whole 'foodie' genre so popular at the moment. Its just a shame that jumping around from the present day to the nineteenth century then back to the seventeenth century as it did I felt the story didn't flow as well as it might otherwise have done.

Then there was the different writing styles. Something that either appeals to readers or doesn't, I'm afraid I fall into the latter category and felt it another thing that impaired the flow of the narrative.

As for characters. Definitely interesting, well voiced and wonderful in their portrayal of the change in gender roles but it was only really Aurora that I found myself totally engaging with.


27 Jul 2015

COWS IN HI-VIZ VESTS? A PREGNANT NINETY-NINE YEAR OLD? WHATEVER NEXT?

Please Note: Whilst I endeavour to keep Media Monday family friendly some of the newspapers featured do have links to articles of a more adult nature.

Cows in Hungerford could be fitted with fluorescent lights and hi-viz vests to protect them from speeding motorists at night.

A Hampshire hospital has apologised for sending a 99 year old great-grandmother an antenatal appointment.

A letter addressed to 'Your man Henderson, that boy with the glasses' made it 85 miles from Belfast to a small town in Donegal.


A gun alert which saw armed police sweep on a quiet Worcestershire high street was triggered by a tennis racket mistakenly reported as a firearm

Must see images of the week .....


A picture showing the moment Milo, a six month old cat from Cumbria, wakes up from neutering and realises his testicles have gone has prompted men around the world to cross their legs and wince.  


A father from Liverpool captured what looks like a shark in the clouds.



24 Jul 2015

THE WHITE PRINCESS (COUSINS WAR #5).

Book five and the penultimate book read for this years What's In A Name? challenge: 'Book with a colour in the title' category.

THE WHITE PRINCESS by PHILIPPA GREGORY.

SOURCE: A Christmas present.

INNER FRONT COVER BLURB: Somewhere beyond the shores of England, a Pretender is mustering an army. He claims to be brother to the queen, and the true heir to the throne. But is he the lost boy sent into the unknown by his mother, the White Queen? Or a counterfeit prince - a low-born enemy to Henry Tudor and his York princess wife.

When Henry Tudor picked up the crown of England from the mud of Bosworth Field he knew he would have to marry the princess of the rival house - Elizabeth of York - in an effort to unify a country divided by war for nearly two decades.

But his bride was still in love with his enemy - and her mother and half of England still dreamed of a missing heir and a triumphant return for the House of York.

The new Queen Elizabeth has to decide if she can stand by a king whose support and courage are crumbling before her eyes. She has to choose between Tudor and York, between her new husband and the boy who claims to be her beloved lost brother: the rose of York come home at last.

FIRST SENTENCE {Sheriff Hutton Castle, Yorkshire, Autumn 1485}: I wish I could stop dreaming.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 123}: As they come down the curve of the stair I see first the booted feet of the leading man, then his deep scarlet leggings and then his bright scarlet tunic trimmed and quartered with gold lace: the uniform of the yeomen of the guard, Henry's newly created personal troop. Behind him comes another, and another; they have sent a corps of ten men to collect a pale and shaking little boy of eleven.0

MY THOUGHTS: An odd series in so much as to read it in the order of publication* is to read it in a different order to the chronological order. I personally felt that to read the story in chronological order would be easiest to follow.

The latest instalment in the Cousins War saga, The White Princess as told from the perspective of Elizabeth of York (daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville aka The White Queen) follows on from where The Kingmaker's Daughter left off.

As I've come to expect from Philippa Gregory a generally well researched novel though as she admits in her author notes the book is a 'fiction about a mystery - so two steps from any historically recorded fact'.

Given that two of the main female characters - Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort (aka The Red Queen) - have featured before (the former in 2009, the latter in 2010) whilst it was good to see them further fleshed out I feel as if a re-read of their stories might have proved beneficial.

Still, an enjoyable enough read but perhaps not quite as strong a story as the previous books in the series. A tad too long - at times it really felt as if two dozen words where used when a dozen would have sufficed - with a tendency to be repetitive. I feel as if the author went over the top in striving to get across certain aspects of the story - aspects generally involving Henry, his anxieties, his suspicions, his seemingly all consuming paranoia.

An author readers seem to love or hate/can take or leave. What can I say? A long-standing fan of her work I'm eagerly anticipating reading The King's Curse (my choice for the 'Book with an ING in the title' category of What's In A Name? 2015) and what I'm led to believe will be the sixth book in the series (The Last Rose).


~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Publication order (Chronological order in brackets)
#1 The White Queen (#3)
#2 The Red Queen (#2)
#3 The Lady Of The Rivers (#1)
#4 The Kingmaker's Daughter (#4)
#5 The White Princess (#5)
#6 The King's Curse (#6)