A planet without power. When a solar storm hits the earth, the lights go out across the planet. But this time the blackout won’t be over soon – it could last for years. Aubrey and her stepson now face the biggest challenge of their lives.
A society without rules. Soon they hear rumours of riots, the struggle for food becomes real, and even within their small communities, the rule of law is collapsing. Aubrey’s estranged brother Thom, a self-made billionaire who abandoned her years ago, retreats to a gilded desert bunker where he can ride out the crisis in perfect luxury.
A race to build a better world… But the complicated history between the siblings is far from over, and what feels like the end of the world is just the beginning of a personal reckoning long overdue…
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
The author creates an atmospheric ethos, excellent characterisation and vivid sensory imagery in this dystopian styled adventure with a scientific edge. There is intricate world-building, setting the scene for the catastrophic event and the subsequent fallout. The characters are complex and believably flawed, and the story unfolds through their experiences and motivations. The scientific details create a believably menacing world that demands a lot from the characters, and the engaging quality is in finding out whether they will excel or fail in the new dark world.
A heartbreaking choice. A secret kept for centuries.
1784. When Esther Harris’s father hurts his back, she takes over his role of helping smugglers hide contraband in the secret cellar in their pub. But when the free traders’ ships are trapped in the harbour, a battle between the smugglers and the revenue officers leads to murder and betrayal – and Esther is forced to choose between the love of her life and protecting her family…
Present day. Fresh from her divorce, Millie Galton moves into a former inn overlooking the harbour in Mudeford and plans to create her dream home. When a chance discovery behind an old fireplace reveals the house’s secret history as a haven for smugglers and the devastating story of its former residents, could the mystery of disappearance from centuries ago finally be solved?
I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher.
In a dual timeline story set in Mudeford near Christchurch in Dorset, divorced, Millie moves into an old historic former Inn needing renovation; as the work progresses, the house begins to give up its secrets. In 1784 Ester lives and works in the Inn at Mudeford. She and many townsfolk are involved in smuggling. The sense of betrayal and danger immerses the reader in the historical part of this story. Historical details vibrantly bring 1784 Mudeford to life. The Inn is the link between the past and present, and the two interwoven timelines create an engaging story full of adventure, mystery and romance.
I love the clever plotting that links the two time periods, the believable characters and the mystery to be solved.
Kathleen McGurl lives near the coast in Christchurch, England. She writes dual timeline novels in which a historical mystery is uncovered and resolved in the present day. She is married to an Irishman and has two adult sons. She enjoys travelling, especially in her motorhome around Europebut her home is Mudeford, where this novel is set.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Sisters Erin and Lori have a close bond. When Lori’s long term relationship breaks down, Erin is there for her, so it’s natural Lori wants them to be together on her trip to a remote Fijian island. It’s written from the sisters’ viewpoints, Erin in the present, and Lori, in the past. Immersed in their story from the beginning, it’s an intensely poignant read.
Vivid sensory imagery makes it easy to imagine the action and settings. An addictive balance of action and introspection has believable twists. The realistic ending retains a pleasing element of unpredictability.
“My bus takes off with a sonic boom, straight through the wall and out of my room…”
Finn and Fred Octopus are off on a magical adventure to the Arctic. They meet a kindly seal, a hungry polar bear and an angry walrus. The whales sing to Finn, and Finn arrives home with an important message to share…
I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher in return for an honest review.
Finn and Fred go on a fun adventure to the arctic. They meet various arctic creatures and see how global warming damages their habitats. The easy to read text, and bright illustrations, make it easy for children to understand environmental issues.
This story will appeal to young readers and is perfect for families to read together and discuss.
Jocelyn’s writing career began when she was asked to write a story for a preschool magazine. That story was the first of many. Jocelyn became the writer/editor of several preschool magazines and continued in that role for 15 years. Writing one new story every month, plus rhymes and activities was a tough gig, but very exhilarating. Time is the big difference between writing for a magazine and writing a book. You see your work on the supermarket shelves within a few weeks of completion. A book takes longer – a lot longer. Jocelyn has to be patient now – not something she’s good at. Before becoming a writer, Jocelyn worked in higher education as International Students Officer. It was a rewarding and interesting job even though she was on call 24/7. Jocelyn also trained as a counsellor and volunteered at drop-in centres. She never knew who would arrive for counselling and had to be prepared for anything. This work gave her insight into some of the darker corners of life. Motorsport was one of Jocelyn’s early loves, she had the spine-tingling thrill of taking part in a 24-hour national rally as navigator – those were the days when rallies were held on public roads! Jocelyn worked as an au pair in Paris in her teens. Having visited the city on a school trip, she fell in love with it, and always wanted to return. Jocelyn’s first book published by Full Media is The King Who Didn’t Like Snow, illustrated by Michael S Kane. Finn and Fred’s Arctic Adventure is her second book under Full Media and is illustrated by Leo Brown.
GRACE ON THE HORIZON is the second full-length novel in The White Sails Series. Grace and Seamus, united by their past experiences, are adrift on a raft of shamein the sea of 1830s London society. After a personal tragedy, Grace’s desperation to leaveLondon forces Seamus to accept a dubious commission on the private explorer, Clover.
With the expedition financed by Colonel Hamilton and his private backers, Seamus is tasked with mapping a round-the-world voyage. But Colonel Hamilton has an additional package that requires delivery—Father Babcock—a priest wanted for murder. The church wants Babcock transported far from England to set up a new mission in South America.
Battling his overprotectiveness, Seamus breaks his oath to always tell Grace the truth and hides Babcock’s identity from her. But the journey aboard the Clover is far from smooth sailing, and Grace suspects a saboteur. Trapped within the ship’s confines, she must learn to forgive her husband’s well-intentioned duplicity and determine who wishes them harm—because now she also has her unborn child to protect.
Is it an aggrieved member of the Admiralty who believes Seamus disgraced the service by resigning his command to chase after Grace? Perhaps Grace’s father, Lord Flint, seeking revenge against her for ruining the family name? Or a jealous suitor determined to ruin the life Grace is trying to build with Seamus?
From the damp cobbled streets of London, around the freezing stormy tip of Cape Horn, and into the scorching dusty bush of New Holland, GRACE ON THE HORIZON promises another adventure on the high seas, bursting with action and suspense. It is historical women’s fiction that will appeal to fans of the strong female protagonist in Outlander and Poldark.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
The second in the White Sails series sees Grace on a dangerous adventure where she has more to protect than herself. The story is full of richly described historical details that make excellent use of sensory imagery. The time and place are brought to vibrant life, making this an exciting read.
I haven’t read the first book in the series, and I feel it would have been even more enjoyable if I had. This is a romantic story full of menace and mystery with cleverly crafted characters and settings.
Emma Lombard was born in Pontefract in the UK. She grew up in Africa—calling Zimbabwe and South Africa home for a few years—before finally settling in Brisbane Australia, and raising four boys. Before she started writing historical fiction, she was a freelance editor in the corporate world, which was definitely not half as exciting as writing rollicking romantic adventures. Her characters are fearless seafarers, even though in real life Emma gets disastrously seasick.
DISCERNING GRACE, is the first book in The White Sails Series.
I received a copy of this book from the author and Full Media Ltd in return for an honest review.
When a young boy has a visit from a genie, he is granted superpowers for seven days. Which will he choose? The book’s easy to understand rhyming verse is beautifully illustrated, with bright, humorous images. The boy learns something on every adventure and realises that things aren’t always as good as they first appear to be. This is a story about being happy with who you are and knowing that just because something looks better, it might not be.
The story is perfect for reading to young children or for early readers.
Izzy Rees was born in West London, but has spent the last thirty years living in Derby. Ten years ago, when her three girls were young, she began work on a series of rhyming picture books, created in snatched moments, and initially written on small scraps of paper or whatever was available. She always intended to revisit them, and Covid and lockdown presented the opportunity; unable to continue her work as a neuro physiotherapist, working with vulnerable patients, she decided it was now or never! She has written six books so far in the ‘The Boy Who’ series, The Boy Who Breathed Underwater being the first one. The others will be published in the near future.
King Mark is a higgledy-piggledy king and he gets into a pickle every day. “Do something, Bert!” he shouts, and Wizard Bert, and his sidekick, Broderick the bookworm, always save the day. When snow fell on Windy Hill Castle, everyone was delighted – except for King Mark! King Mark didn’t like snow and he started to sulk. Will Bert and Broderick save the day again? Will King Mark walk into trouble? Do the children of Windy Hill Village have the answer…?
I received a copy of this book from the author and Full Media Ltd in return for an honest review.
This is a fun story involving a wizard, bookworm and a King who always liked to get his way. Bert the wizard and Broderick the bookworm found pleasure in simple things like conversation and playing games. The King liked everything easy, and if it wasn’t, he asked his wizard to change things. This is a story about looking at things positively and making the most of what you have. The story is easy to read and has humour and positivity.
This is a good book to read to young children and one that early readers should enjoy too.
Jocelyn’s writing career began when she was asked to write a story for a preschool magazine. That story was the first of many. Jocelyn became the writer/editor of several preschool magazines and continued in that role for 15 years. Writing one new story every month, plus rhymes and activities was a tough gig, but very exhilarating.
Time is the big difference between writing for a magazine and writing a book. You see your work on the supermarket shelves within a few weeks of completion. A book takes longer – a lot longer. Jocelyn has to be patient now – not something she’s good at.
Before becoming a writer, Jocelyn worked in higher education as International Students Officer. It was a rewarding and interesting job even though she was on call 24/7.
Jocelyn also trained as a counsellor and volunteered at drop-in centres. She never knew who would arrive for counselling and had to be prepared for anything. This work gave her insight into some of the darker corners of life.
Motorsport was one of Jocelyn’s early loves, she had the spine-tingling thrill of taking part in a 24-hour national rally as navigator – those were the days when rallies were held on public roads!
Jocelyn worked as an au pair in Paris in her teens. Having visited the city on a school trip, she fell in love with it, and always wanted to return.
A twisting tale of elemental magick and a broken ecosystem, Earthlings is the spellbinding debut from Ray Star exploring family, friendship and the intrinsic value of nature
Peridot Watkins has always lived a very sheltered life. Raised on a remote island by an over-protective mother, she has never spoken to anyone outside of her family.
Until one day, a strange boy Euan knocks on her window, mumbling about escape from captivity on the mainland and Peri quickly learns that the world isn’t safe for people like them. It isn’t safe for Elementals, those who have the power to control earth, air, fire, water and spirit.
On her quest to learn the truth, Peri escapes the island to discover that the world is worse than she could have possibly imagined. Humans are slaves, animals can talk and the world is run by unruly chickens.
Peri is thrown into a world she barely understands; caught in an ongoing battle for freedom and struggling to command her magick whilst trying to find Euan, who is entangled with people who may not be as straight forward as they seem. Peri’s abilities may be what is needed to save humanity but at what cost?
I received a copy of this book from the author via Midas PR in return for an honest review.
Earthlings is intended for the young adult fantasy age group, but it explores issues that affect everyone. There is something in this story to capture most people’s interest. It envisages an alternative world where the balance of power shifts from humanity to the animal world. Whether you are an advocate of animal welfare or not, it’s hard not to see that current practices using animals are likely to harm not just them but humans too.
Peri’s sheltered life leaves her unprepared for her exceptional skills and the real world she encounters. This story is about how she copes and the difference she can make. It’s a coming-of-age fantasy story, but its setting and the world-building gives it a dystopian ethos. The inhumanity shown to animals is reversed in this world with humans as the farmed captive creatures. The story has a serious message that is impactful because of the quality of the storytelling. Adventure, friendship, family and relationships are all explored. Magickal practices feature strongly in this story through the main protagonist and as a major plot strand giving this story an engaging vibrancy.
The characters are believably crafted and draw the reader quickly into a world that should defy belief but doesn’t.
Q&A with Ray Star – #Earthlings
When creating your story, which comes first, the characters, plot or setting? Why do you think this is?
I am going to be completely honest with you, I have no plan of action when it comes to writing. The words find their way to me when I’m in the moment, and I rarely, if ever, know what I am going to write.
The Earthlings story came to me bizarrely when I was at lunch with my mother, a few weeks after my dad’s funeral. We were seated next to a small tropical fish tank, and I remember feeling so sad for the fish that would inevitably spend their lives swimming round in circles, never experiencing freedom.
I remember vividly, turning to Mum and saying quite out of the blue, “I’m going to write a book about animals that can talk.”
She stopped eating, put her fork down and said with a smile, “Well, why not?”
“Yes,” I thought, “why not indeed?”
I looked down at my dad’s ring that I wear always, and as the green gem twinkled back at me, Peridot’s tale came to life from there.
What are the inspirations for Earthlings – The Beginning, your debut fantasy novel?
Animals and the environment were the reason behind the creation of the Earthlings trilogy. As a practising eclectic green witch, I have a deep love for the natural world, and it pains me to witness how humanity neglects our home and its inhabitants.
I wanted to write a book that had a conscience to the narrative, enabling readers to contemplate how life could be if we were no longer the dominant species on the planet.
World-building is an essential component of fantasy novels. How did you create yours?
This was surprisingly the easiest part of writing Earthlings, I looked at modern day society and without giving too much away, reversed some of the roles.
I remember thinking another writer might have a similar concept and beat me to it, itching to publish the book so I didn’t miss the opportunity to share the Earthlings tale.
Did you set out to write a book suited to the young adult market? If so, can you share why you believe they are your target audience?
I knew from the moment I wrote the first chapter that I wanted the story to revolve around teenagers, finding their inner power and trying to make positive changes for the planet. It’s a concept I believe we can all relate to.
Deep down, everyonewants to make the world a better place.
I also wanted to incorporate some of my daily practises as an eclectic witch into the novel, as an avid YA Fantasy lover, giving Peridot magick (yes – magick with a ‘k’), was too tempting to resist.
This was the only aspect of Earthlings that I debated – whether to include magick. In the end, it was my love for YA Fantasy that made it an easy decision to make.
Is this book part of a series? If so, what aspect of elemental magick and the ecosystem does the second book explore?
Earthlings includes genuine magickal practises that I use in my own rituals, from herbal lore, crystal healing and invoking the elements to following moon cycles – I wanted to include practical magick that works and that we can use in our lives today.
Earthlings is book one of a trilogy as the story has many depths that I wanted to cover, and I physically could not cram them all into one book, as much as I wanted to!
The following book in the trilogy (Dominion) is in the editing process due for release this festive period, with the final instalment (Land of hope and glory) to be released next year.
A little inside secret for your followers; I will be writing a prequel (The Changing) which will be Peridot’s mother’s story explaining how the Earthlings world came to be, and I plan to have a spin off series from this once that book is complete.
Readers can sign up to my newsletter on raystarbooks.com for more details on this to come next year!
What five words summarise your story. Can you explain why?
Earthlings is the world we live in today, reversed, and with a hearty helping of magick added to each page.
Ray Star is a Fantasy author from Essex with a passion for animal rights and eco-living. She can often be found writing, exploring nature and occasionally stargazing underneath a full moon with a tarot deck in one hand and a strong cuppa in the other.
Earthlings was conceived from a love for the environment and inspired by her father, whose passing was a catalyst in leading a greener lifestyle.
Ray’s dream is to one day open an animal sanctuary and wildlife reserve in memory of her father. Earthlings is Ray’s debut novel and the first book in the Earthlings trilogy.
A truly stunning novel of one man’s dangerous obsession with immortality, from the BAFTA award-winning creator of Bodyguard and Line of Duty
ONE OF THE GUARDIAN‘S ‘1000 NOVELS EVERYONE MUST READ’
Yefgenii Yeremin is a flyer and a phantom.
Destined to go down in Soviet history books as ‘Ivan the Terrible’, the most deadly fighter pilot of the Korean War, one moment of madness sees Yefgenii throwing his reputation to the wind. Exiled to a remote Arctic base, his name unknown and victories uncelebrated, he must endure a fate worse than death: anonymity.
But when a man arrives from Moscow’s Space Committee in search of a volunteer prepared to sacrifice himself for his country, Yefgenii seizes his one last chance of immortality.
I received a copy of this audiobook from Penguin Random House UK Audio via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is an intense story well suited to the audiobook. The narrator keeps the listener’s engagement throughout.
The story explores the historical period from the Korean War in the 1950s to the space race in the 1960s from the Russian viewpoint. Yefgenii Yeremin lost his family during WW2 and suffered life-changing emotional damage. His early life is brutal and devoid of nurture. Disturbing to listen to it shapes him into to driven man he becomes.
His missions during the Korean War are deniable and secret and eventually leave him without the recognition he seeks. The relationships between the fighter pilots are complex and relatable. The story is absorbing as it moves to the frozen north and anonymity. Yefgenii is always seeking something just beyond his reach. He denies himself basic human comforts and emotions desired by most people. His part in the space race gives him a chance of the immortality he seeks but at the expense of everything else in his life.
The research is detailed, and the sense of place and time succinct. The story is an absorbing mix of action and introspection, poignant and with a conclusion that resonates.
Today is publication day for The Wolf Mile by C.F.Barrington by Aries Fiction, the adventure fiction imprint of Head of Zeus Books. The first in a series of five books this promises something different for the adventure fiction market.
A forbidden contest. An international game.
Bankrolled by the world’s wealthy elite and followed by thousands online, two teams of warriors vie for dominance … and the streets of Edinburgh run with blood.
Into this secret struggle steps Tyler Maitland, seeking his lost sister, and Lana Cameron, grieving her dead child. When they are accosted by figures in black hoodies and each handed a silver amulet, they recognise the Triple Horn of Odin – the talisman of the Valhalla Horde.
They are being recruited into the great game known as The Pantheon. And one day they will change everything.
Now they must risk their lives and join the ranks of seven ancient warrior teams which inhabit this illicit world. Their journey will be more wondrous and horrifying than anything they could have dreamed, taking each of them to the depths of their souls … and testing them to breaking point as they search for loved ones and for the meaning in their lives.
I thought your readers might like to hear about my debut novel – The Wolf Mile – which is being launched by Head of Zeus adventure imprint, Aries Fiction, on 6 May (digital) and 8 August (paperback). It is the first in a five-book saga about The Pantheon, with Book 2 (The Blood Isles) launching in October 2021 and Book 3 (The Hastening Storm) coming in spring 2022.
I’ve chosen it because the story – and indeed the genre – has sparked much discussion amongst my early readers, because it is hard to pin into a single category and defies my many attempts to condense it into a snappy teaser. The most concise description came from one of my advance readers, who said it was ‘Fight Club with swords’. I’ll take that! And my agent (Laura Macdougall at United Agents) said it had ‘elements of The Hunger Games’ when she first read it.
What inspired you to write The Wolf Mile?
It is a story which is first and foremost inspired by a sense of place. Apart from a sojourn into the forests of the Highlands, the book’s action all takes place in the closes, tunnels and rooftops which flow from the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Indeed, it was Edinburgh’s Old Town which really allowed the story to manifest. The dark, malevolent history of the Old Town and its stunning architecture and rumours of tunnels and secret passages, set my mind ticking. I am sure that the whole concept of The Pantheon could not have come together if it had not been for my life in and around Edinburgh.
The story was also prompted by two other factors: Firstly, I had always wanted to take my love of historical fiction and coax it into a modern thriller – without going down the well-trodden route of some sort of time-travel. Secondly, after a career spent in major gift fundraising for charities and universities, I had communicated with many very wealthy individuals and I got to wondering what makes someone excited when they can buy everything? As the book asks….. Imagine riches beyond your wildest dreams. What would you do with them? Travel the world? Buy a yacht? Now times it by ten. A hundred. We’re talking mega-wealth – the kind that buys governments, shapes economies, enervates security forces and makes a mockery of justice systems. NOW what would you do with it? Less certain?
In ancient times, the wealthy of Rome spent their money and energies on forsaking human life in the gladiatorial stadia – and that’s where the concept of The Pantheon grew from in my head.
The Wolf Mile charts the rise of Tyler Maitland and Lana Cameron as they are plucked from their normal lives to become players in The Pantheon, a secret game bankrolled by the world’s wealthy elite and watched online by thousands. Warriors from seven ancient civilisations are trained, sworn to allegiance, then pitted against each other in battles amongst the claustrophobic alleys which flow from Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and filmed in real-time.
Set in today’s city, this is very much a modern thriller, but it mixes elements of historical fiction, as well as a sweeping romance over the five-book series, which takes the protagonists from friends, to sworn enemies and finally to lovers. So when Aries came along and declared it was, above all, adventure fiction, it was perfect – because this is exactly what the saga is: A twisting, turning, relentless adventure with a big cast of characters, which propels the protagonists on a journey more horrifying and wondrous than they could ever have dreamed, into a world which perhaps we all secretly wish we experience.
Comments so far include:
‘The Wolf Mile is a thrilling ride and a heck of a debut. C F Barrington knocks it out the park.’
‘Featuring two compelling yet flawed lead characters, an intriguing mystery and unrelenting action, I can’t wait to see where Mr Barrington takes us in the future.’
‘It is a very cool idea and I think if done right will become one of my favourite secret societies.’
‘Get ready for a rip-roaring adventure through the streets of Edinburgh – The Wolf Mile is the perfect escapist read!’
I’ve included some photos of the Old Town which have helped inspire me. One evening before the pandemic, a friend and I toured the Old Town cameras in hand. We ended up climbing onto buildings and lying in the middle of roads, getting carried away discovering the dark, brooding essence of The Pantheon. It was great fun and hopefully the images provide a taste of what to expect in The Wolf Mile.
C F Barrington spent twenty years intending to write a novel, but found life kept getting in the way. Instead, his career took him into major gift fundraising, leading teams in organisations as varied as the RSPB, Oxford University and the National Trust.
When his role as Head of Communications at Edinburgh Zoo meant a third year of fielding endless media enquiries about the possible birth of a baby panda, he finally retreated to a quiet desk beside the sea and discovered the inspiration for the Pantheon saga.
Raised in Hertfordshire and educated at Oxford, he now divides his time between running over the hills of the Lake District and dog walking on the beaches of Fife.
My website is www.cfbarrington.com – and provides lots of visuals and backstory about Edinburgh’s Old Town.