Darlene Foster's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘books

One of my goals for 2021 was to read more and to read a variety of books. I set my goal with the Goodreads reading challenge at 40 books. I am pleased to see I have read 46. And what a variety. From classics to contemporary, humorous to serious, books for children, middle grade and young adult, cosy mysteries, romance, historical, fantasy, poetry and short story collections, I covered a lot of ground. It’s good to expand your reading interests.

Check out all 46 books I read in 2021. I wanted to list my favourites but it would be too difficult as they were all good. I have left a review for each of them on Goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/25837732

Our tree is decorated and we are gearing up for Christmas, so I want to share a wonderful story by a writer friend of mine. Whatever your beliefs are, it’s a story that never grows old. I love her realistic take on this age-old story.

Christmas Story by Sue Champion

Mary stepped into the night with trepidation. She felt chilled in the evening air. The donkey ride had not exactly been comfortable in her condition but was grateful she did not have to walk.

Horrified when Joseph told her they had to go to Bethlehem to register for the census. She would have given anything to have stayed at home with her mother to have the baby. It was only when Joseph read the scriptures to her, which foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, that she understood it was God’s plan, and she must go with him.

Nevertheless, it was scary being in a strange town with nowhere to stay, knowing her baby was due very soon. Joseph had many relatives in Bethlehem, and he was confident one of them would have a room for them. Most greeted Joseph warmly, but when they saw Mary, they seemed embarrassed and turned the couple away. Of course, they knew Joseph had been betrothed for some time. They had all been to the engagement party, but they also knew that no wedding had taken place.

At last, one cousin had compassion on them and took them in, but was very sorry all his upper rooms in the house were full, as with this census, many travellers wanted accommodation. However, he offered them the lower part of the house where the animals were kept. By this time the couple were grateful for anything and thanking him, they agreed. There were bundles of hay to be used as a bed, and he lent them a couple of thin blankets.

That night the baby came. There was no midwife, only Joseph. No clean towels or hot water, and only one of the animal’s feeding troughs to use as a cot. Yet, when Joseph eventually placed the child on her breast, she felt an astonishing sense of joy and love. The couple looked at each other in helpless wonder, the baby was crying, messy, covered in straw, not unlike a newborn lamb might be. Could this really be the Son of God?

Joseph went outside for some fresh air, looked up, and was amazed to see an unusually bright star right above the house. He then saw some shepherds approaching, and wondered where they had come from. They came right to the door of the room. One of them told Joseph that they had been in the field minding their sheep when an angel of the Lord appeared to them and told them to go worship the child, whom they would find by following the star above. The star now shining above this very house.

Joseph let them in. Mary had used one of the blankets to wrap the child and had laid him in a manger. Joseph gazed at the scene and imagined he saw an angel kneeling next to them. He thought he heard him say, “Fear Not”.

Susan Champion, December 2021

Bio:

Sue Champion spent most of her childhood and a considerable amount of her adult life in Africa. This is reflected in many of her poems, for as anyone who has lived in Africa knows, the continent steals a part of your soul. She only began writing after retiring to Spain, where she joined a writers group and discovered a love of writing, especially poetry.

Sue has written a heartfelt book of poetry called Prayer, Praise and Poetry which can be found on Amazon.uk.com

Amazon.com

and other Amazon sites.

This book is for anyone aged nine to ninety plus. Dip into it at any time of day. Read it quietly or out loud. Let it uplift you. It would also make a great gift.

Here is my review:

A wonderful collection of contemporary poems, written from the heart. Each poem holds its own story and addresses many topical issues. It is a perfect book to pick up and open at random. Every time I do, the page speaks to me. Like when I read, “Storms Never Last.”

The book is divided into sections such as Praise, Our Planet, On a Lighter Note, War, Kids, and Bereavement. It ends with a moving poem, “Tribute to Nelson Mandela” and a lovely piece, “Wild Swans” in honour of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II on her 90th birthday. And finally, “Why Write?” which will ring true to most writers or those who wish to be.

This feel-good book of poems should be on everyone´s night table.

I ‘ve read some amazing books this year. But the most incredible reading experience I’ve had was joining a read-along which enabled me to complete The Brothers Karamazov. The Book Club Mom has shared my review.

Book Club Mom

Title: The Brothers Karamazov

Author:  Fyodor Dostoevsky

Genre: Classic/Literature

What’s it about? I have wanted to read this novel for years but found it intimidating. I recently joined a read-along where we read one chapter a day of this amazing book. That was one chapter a day for 96 days! I am so glad I did as it was the best way to savour this incredible story. It is essentially a story of three, possibly four, very different brothers from a dysfunctional family, and how their actions affect each other and the people around them. One brother is a ladies’ man and a spendthrift, another an intellectual and the youngest, kind and religious.

The story covers everything, love, hate, family, religion, history, philosophy, mystery and much more. Every chapter makes you think, some make you laugh and others make you sad. The themes are timeless and as…

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allauthor.com




Cover of the Month


Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady

Hey Everyone,

I’m excited to tell you that my book has been nominated for the “Cover of the Month” contest on AllAuthor.com. It will help me a lot if I could see some votes coming in, so please remember to vote my book. It’s quite easy.

Vote Now »

This is one of my favourite covers designed by my amazing publisher.

Thanks so much for your votes. I hope to get enough votes to get to the next round.

Just when I thought life couldn´t get any better, I woke up to this fantastic review the other morning. I love when the reader gets what I try to do with these books; inspire a love of reading as well as provide some interesting facts about a place. Thanks, Toni.

Toni Pike

My book review this week is a five-star review for Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady by Darlene Foster. This is the eighth book in the Amanda Travels series, mysteries ideal for children aged 9 – 12 years. If you’re looking for an exciting children’s adventure set in a fascinating country, then I can’t recommend this highly enough.

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Please check out this amazing post about adulting, as well as an interview with me, a sort of adult. You can also listen to this article as a podcast! https://anchor.fm/depe9/episodes/Adulting–Why-Darlene-Foster-Writes-For-Children-e175nif

Happiness Between Tails by da-AL

What was the day you became an adult?

Young Adult (aka YA) is a major category when it comes to selling fiction, especially because people of all ages enjoy reading it. If I could swing it, I’d aim for that, rather than the harder sell of literary fiction, which the genre of the novels I’m working on.

Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing a couple of young people leave home to start college. In one case, friends were driving their son to begin university classes in San Jose, 400 miles north of Los Angeles. My husband and I flew to meet up with the parents and then the four of us enjoyed a leisurely drive back south.

Khashayar takes our photo as José and Alina look over his right shoulder. Our southbound cruise along Pacific Coast Highway included Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Granted, it was a weekday, but it was still eerily quiet for peak summer season. Note the aerial ride is vacant, aside from a mannequin. Us, Dangerous Minds, Sudden Impact, Harold and Maude, and The Lost Boys, are some of the movies filmed there. Khashayar takes our photo as José and Alina look over his right shoulder. Our southbound cruise along Pacific Coast Highway included Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Granted, it was a weekday…

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The year is more than half over so it might be a good time to see what we’ve read so far. I read about this book tag on There’s Something About KM’s blog

https://theressomethingaboutkm.com/blog/mid-year-freak-out-book-tag-2021/

I thought it would be fun to join in.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Best Book You’ve Read So Far in 2021

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

My review: “A wonderful story told from the point of view of a stiff, emotionally repressed English butler whose only goal in life was to provide perfect service to his employer. Even though his employer was a man of dubious character and misplaced allegiances. The author does a superb job of depicting a man devoted totally to his job, at the cost of friendship and romance. This is writing at its finest.”

Best Sequel You’ve Read so far in 2021

The Family Way by Laura Best

My review: This much-anticipated prequel to the popular Cammie stories did not disappoint. Even if you have not read the other books, this story stands alone very well. The fact that the story is based on a tragic part of Canada’s history, makes it even more intriguing. The writing is so engaging, I felt transported back to the days of the start of WWII.
Like Lucy Maude Montgomery, Laura Best knows how to write an awesome story from the point of view of a young person. Tulia May is a delightful character who tells it like it is. She is a twelve-year-old seeking independence, a young girl who wants to do what’s right. She is wise beyond her years, as is often the case of the youngest of a large family. She says, “I understand that sometimes you do things not because they’re the right thing to do, you do them because sometimes you have no other choice.” Tulia, I couldn’t agree more!

I loved Tulia May but there are many other appealing characters in this story as well like Tulia’s mother, a widow who raised a number of children and is struggling to make ends meet. And Finny Paul, a First Nations boy who faces overt racism. And the delightful Millie Turple, who arrives in a tizzy and takes the world on by storm. This book kept me guessing until the end, and then I wanted to read it all over again. I wish there were more than 5 stars for this book.

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Want To

The Gentleman’s Daughter by Bianca M. Schwarz

Biggest Disappointment

I haven’t been disappointed with any book I’ve read so far this year.

Biggest Surprise

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

My review: Wow! A terrific read. I couldn’t put it down. I needed to know what happens to Andy and Alex. History is skillfully woven into a story with contemporary themes. Present-day Andy is suffering badly. Not from your regular teenage angst but with serious issues. The reader feels her pain. A visit to Paris with her distant and estranged father, the discovery of a diary belonging to Alex, a young girl who lived during the French Revolution, and her connection to a mysterious musician from the past will either help her or drive her over the edge. Vivid descriptions of today’s Paris and the Paris of 1795 add to this engaging novel. 

Favorite New Author

Nancy Blodgett Klein

Newest Fictional Crush

Prince Larkin from Lava Red Feather Blue by Molly Ringle

My review: A gem for readers of fantasy. Ms Ringle has created an awesome world where humans and fae live together in somewhat harmony. When the Sleeping Prince is accidentally woken up, all hell breaks loose. (You read that right, it is not a Sleeping Princess). It is Merrick, half-human, half-fairy, who breaks a 250-year-old curse by waking up the handsome prince and now he has to pay for it. And pay for it he does as he enters forbidden and dangerous territory to find and stop Ula Kana before she destroys everything and everyone on his island. What he doesn’t plan on happening is falling for the handsome prince from the past, which complicates things. There is plenty of action, fabulous world-building and amazing characters. But this is more than a fantasy novel, this is a story about family and relationships. And ultimately it is a love story with a Fairytale/Lord of the Rings feel written with a humorous undertone. An enjoyable read even for those who don’t usually read fantasy.

Newest Favorite Character

Brody Cody from Brody Cody and the Haunted Vacation House by Toni Pike. I just love this kid.

My review: I fell in love with Brody Cody and his friends in the first book, Brody Cody and the Stepmother from Outer Space. I was pleased to learn there was a second book in the series. In this book, Brody learns he will be a brother soon and is not sure if this is a good thing. Then on a holiday in the Blue Mountains, Brody and his friends discover there is a ghost in the vacation house. They are determined to catch the ghost. This fun book is perfect for kids 6 to 9 as they will easily relate to the characters. The descriptions are vivid and clear with just the right amount of action and tension. I hope there will be more books in the series. 

Book That Made You Cry

Sword of Destiny by Sue Vincent. It made me cry because this wonderful author is no longer with us.

My review: Yorkshire is the perfect setting for this sublime adventure that includes ordinary mortals, ancient deities and Merlin! If you are a follower of Sue Vincent’s blogs and books, you will recognize her wise words and incredible wit. Merlin, one of my all-time favourite characters, echoes the writer’s wisdom, especially when he explains things like happiness, good and evil, light and dark. At one point the mage says, “We can bare far more than we think we can.” Another character says, “Yet by surrendering to beauty and joy, the darkness could find no hold on me anymore.” Pure Sue Vincent gold. The seriousness of the quest to find the sword of destiny is offset with clever humour. This from the ancient Merin had me laughing out loud, “It gets harder to stay up all night after the first millennium or so.” A readable fantasy with plenty of life lessons, humour, romance and gorgeous Yorkshire descriptions. I will never look at the moors the same way again without thinking of Sue Vincent and her amazing words.

Book That Made You Happy

Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies by Barb Taub

My review: I loved this book. A laugh-out-loud collection of stories based on the author’s life. Vacations with her mom, dad and nine siblings, as well as later vacations with her husband, four kids and a dog – what could possibly go wrong? The stories are written with heart, humour and truth. I found myself nodding as I recognized the frustrations of motherhood, smiling when the love of the author’s family shines through and choking on my tea at the hilarious episodes in Barb’s life. If you have read her blogs, you will know that Barb finds humour in most situations. This book does not disappoint but makes you want more of the same. My favourite chapters were about her dad, the WWII hero who fathered ten, a wizard at fixing cars long after their best before date, and saw that all his children got a good education. These are the heroes who have made our world so great. Thanks for the reminder, Barb, and for the giggles. 

Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd (OK, I didn’t buy this book, it was on my mom’s bookshelf and now on mine. I love the cover and the beautiful words.)

My review: A profound story full of emotion, told by a master storyteller. The author states in the prologue, “They say you can bear anything if you can tell a story about it.” I believe this to be true. The story centres around Jessie, a woman in crisis. When her mother does something horrible, she returns to her island home to look after her and try to discover why she did such a thing. Immediately she is thrust back in time and besieged by memories of a much-loved father who died when she was very young. “The wind is spiked with the smell of my childhood.” Filled with interesting island characters and fascinating descriptions of the area, the story takes the reader along Jessie’s journey to find independence, answers and acceptance.

Books You Need to Read by the End of The Year

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky I have recently joined a readathon where we read a chapter a day of this book. We will finish it on the 200th anniversary of the authors birth. A great way to read a classic that is a bit intimidating.

Of course, I read many other great books. This is just a sample.


Now into the first week of August, I tag you, my dear readers, to look back (and forward) at your 2021 reading up to this point. I’d love to hear your answers in the comments or on your own blog.

Once again Sally has come up with a great way to help promote new authors and their books. I am delighted to be part of the Smorgasbord Coffee Morning and I brought along a special guest, Nancy Blodgett Klein with her latest books.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Recently I ran a series Public Relations for Authorswhich focused on how we are perceived by those who view our profile photographs, biographies and presence on social media. This included guest posts on other writer’s blogs. Here is an opportunity to not only promote your own blog or books, but those of someone you admire as well.

Is there an inspiring individual, blogger or an author you would like to give a boost to who might enjoy joining you for a coffee and a piece of cake with us all?

Details on how to participate are at the end of this first post in the series.

Today children’s author Darlene Foster brings along her guest fellow Nancy Blodgett Klein. Nancy I am delighted to say will be joining Darlene and the other authors on the shelves of the Cafe and Bookstore.

Author Darlene Foster and guest Nancy Blodgett Klein

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I am happy to be part of Jacqui Murray’s book blast for her most recent prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Book 2 in the Dawn of Humanity series.

A boy blinded by fire. A woman raised by wolves. An avowed enemy offers help.

Summary

In this second of the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, the first trilogy in the Man vs. Nature saga, Lucy and her eclectic group escape the treacherous tribe that has been hunting them and find a safe haven in the famous Wonderwerk caves in South Africa. Though they don’t know it, they will be the oldest known occupation of caves by humans. They don’t have clothing, fire, or weapons, but the caves keep them warm and food is plentiful. But they can’t stay, not with the rest of the tribe enslaved by an enemy. To free them requires not only the prodigious skills of Lucy’s unique group–which includes a proto-wolf and a female raised by the pack–but others who have no reason to assist her and instinct tells Lucy she shouldn’t trust.

Set 1.8 million years ago in Africa, Lucy and her tribe struggle against the harsh reality of a world ruled by nature, where predators stalk them and a violent new species of man threatens to destroy their world. Only by changing can they prevail. If you ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. Prepare to see this violent and beautiful world in a way you never imagined.

A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!

Book information:

Title and author: Laws of Nature

Series: Book 2 in the Dawn of Humanity series

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Editor: The extraordinary Anneli Purchase

Available print or digital) at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU  Kindle India

Author bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman , the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Winter 2022.

Social Media contacts:

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog: https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/

LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter: http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website: https://jacquimurray.net

Writing a Series vs Stand-alone

By Jacqui Murray

I got into a discussion with Robbie over at Robbie’s Inspirations about the mechanics of writing a series. She writes stand-alone books while I write mostly trilogies. The issue was:

When you write a series in the same setting and featuring the same people, how do you keep the descriptions fresh in each book? In other words, how much attention do you give to describing the people and places in the subsequent books to keep the books stand alone and yet part of a series? 

What a great question. Here’s what I do:

I struggled with that at first and then analyzed how other authors did it in series. Sometimes, they included a quick summary of important facts in subsequent books within the series. Sometimes, they provided tantalizing hooks–maybe to drive readers to the earlier books. Other times, when something wasn’t terribly relevant to the story, they skipped it.

I do a hybrid of all three. Where the story would limp without some background, I add that briefly, usually as narrative but occasionally (as in my current publication, Laws of Nature) as a flashback. One answer doesn’t fit and I respond to the particular needs of the current volume in the series/trilogy. Because I read a lot of series, I take note of how authors address this and mostly, when it fits the author’s voice and the story’s pacing, I like their varied efforts. 

What do you do?

Thanks, Jacqui. Although I write a series, they are not sequential and each book can easily stand alone. I make sure the two main characters, Amanda and Leah, maintain their same personality, appearance and voice. I seldom mention anything from the previous books, except in passing. Those who have read the other books will catch on, but it’s not necessary. I do however hope that once a reader reads one Amanda Travels, they wish to read others.

It will be interesting to hear what other writers do.

Excerpt from Laws of Nature

Chapter 1

Hunting

South Africa

Lucy

Fresh blood streaked Short-tooth’s muzzle, her golden eyes alert to every movement around her as she munched on Gazelle’s meaty carcass. Each movement made the Cat’s tawny fur ripple over the powerful muscles beneath her skin. She raised her head, chewing slowly while studying the grass field in front of her, especially toward the back where it blended into the forest. She couldn’t see Mammoth but smelled it, close to the Uprights, maybe protecting them. Despite being the size of a boulder, this pachyderm could outrun most predators and would think nothing of crushing them beneath its massive feet.

Short-tooth wasn’t interested in the Uprights. Their bodies had little meat and less fat. Gazelle was more satisfying.

Catripped a slab of fragrant meat from the hind leg. Snarling-dog—to the far side—slapped the ground. He was hungry but wouldn’t eat Gazelle until Short-tooth finished. Cat purred loudly, close to a snarl, and Snarling-dog withdrew, but not far. Carrion-bird overhead tightened its circle and a tiny shrew the size of Short-tooth’s paw waited patiently, out of Cat’s range, eyes bright, nose twitching. A shred from the carcass was all it needed. 

None of these creatures mattered to Short-tooth. She was the apex predator in her savannah habitat. 

Sticky yellow globs of Mammoth dung slid down Lucy’s back and plopped to the dry thatch. The dung coat was melting under Sun’s intense heat, exactly as Lucy planned. Its purpose was to confuse Short-tooth Cat. The hotter Sun became, the stronger Mammoth’s smell. 

Lucy and her young pairmate, Garv, lay motionless, like Snake sleeping, bodies pressed into the prickly grass, oblivious to the feathery feet that scurried over their backs. She and Garv, too, wanted what Short-tooth didn’t consume. They were more patient than Snarling-dog but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t eat first. The first to arrive got the best of the leftovers.

Lucy rubbed her raw eyes, bleary from watching Cat bite, rip, and chew. If Short-tooth knew of their presence, it was not because she saw them. Lucy and Garv blended into the landscape. Their skin was the color of dirt and dry grass, impossible to find if you weren’t looking. No part of their bodies moved except their narrowed eyes as they scanned the surroundings, evaluating each new arrival to the feast. The dominant scents never changed—Snarling-dog, Short-tooth Cat, something decaying in the nearby forest, her pairmate Garv’s sweaty body, and Gazelle’s ripening offal.

Sun’s relentless heat washed over Lucy in waves. Sweat dripped down her face, over her pronounced brow ridge and into her eyes, but for reasons she didn’t understand, despite his fur pelt, Snarling-dog was dry. He reminded Lucy of Ump, her tribe’s Canis member. Even on the hottest days, Ump didn’t sweat. Instead, he panted more.

Today, Snarling-dog panted hard.

Short-tooth raised her feline head, inspecting her habitat as her jaws crunched through the fresh carrion. She reeked of malevolence which meant scavengers like Lucy and Garv willingly waited their turn.

Sun climbed through the cloudless blue sky. The morning haze had burned off long ago. The dew Lucy hadn’t licked off the leaves, Sun’s heat had. Her throat was dry, lips cracked, but that mattered less than securing scavenge. Her tribe was hungry.

Lately, unexpectedly, when Lucy sat quietly as she did now, a tingle deep inside her chest told her Raza, her former pairmate, was in trouble. The first time she experienced this tingle, what Garv called “instinct”, it churned through her body as a current does in a stream. She thought she was sick until Garv explained this was instinct and it warned of danger, not illness. He told her always to listen, but how was she to do that? Raza had been captured by the tribe’s worst enemy, a formidable Upright called Man-who-preys. She didn’t know where they’d taken him. As often as she brushed the feeling away, it returned, each time stronger than the last.

Cat’s yellow eyes snapped open and her methodical jaws slowed. Something caught her interest, maybe Snarling-dog’s impatience or Carrion-bird’s relentless approach. After a warning hiss, Short-tooth shook her big head and pawed her face. A swarm of black flies lifted, buzzed briefly, and then resettled where they’d started, again gorging on the blood and carrion that stuck to Short-tooth’s face

The flies are thicker than usual.

Short-tooth returned to her meal and Lucy sniffed, wondering what drew Cat’s attention. She didn’t expect to see Man-who-preys here, but took nothing for granted. The tall, big-headed, hairless enemy always carried a long stick which he used to kill prey. Sometimes, he didn’t eat the animal, just watched it die. This unpredictability, that he followed no norms, made him more treacherous than other predators.

She inhaled, but didn’t smell his stench so turned her attention back to the hunt. 

Carrion-bird floated overhead, feet tucked beneath its sleek body. The longer Cat ate, the more of the huge birds arrived. They thought their powerful sweeping wings, sharp claws, and piercing beaks made them the mightiest among the scavengers. What they didn’t realize was that Lucy and Garv possessed an even greater weapon: They could plan. Before Carrion-bird or Snarling-dog got too close, Lucy and Garv would take what they needed and flee.

They always did.

In the edging forest, Cousin Chimp hooted, the pitch and length describing the location of a tree newly bearing fruit. Leaves rustled as his band raced away. Lucy hoped they would leave enough of the succulent produce for her and Garv.

She hunkered deeper into the tall waving stalks, tracking the other scavengers and noting again how far away the trees were in case she needed to flee. A snake slithered over her foot, through the thatch and out of sight. She and Garv had been motionless for so long, Snake probably viewed them as dirt mounds in its path.

Garv tweaked an eyebrow and Lucy motioned, hands a tight circle in front of her chest, well hidden, “Dull colors, no knobs on snake’s tail—no danger.”

Her kind—Man-who-makes-tools—used a sophisticated blend of communication including body language, hand gestures, facial expressions, mimicking, and vocalization. One of their greatest defenses in this brutal world was the ability to become part of their surroundings. Voices were unusual sounds heard nowhere in nature except from Uprights, mostly the big-headed Man-who-preys. Lucy’s kind occasionally whispered and Tree-men, like Boah who was part of Lucy’s tribe, rarely made any sounds beyond huffs, grunts, howls, and moans. Only Man-who-preys jabbered endlessly.

Lucy’s eyelids drooped. This hunt had started yesterday when Lucy and Garv found the fresh cloven prints of a Gazelle herd. Lucy’s kind ate copious amounts of roots, nuts, fruit, juicy stems, and insects, but only meat gave them the energy to survive their dangerous lives. Because they hunted only dead animals, they depended upon predators to make the kill. Gazelle’s fleshy body always attracted Cat and its cousins, like Short-tooth. They would pick off the injured, and Lucy’s tribe would eat what they left.

Because not enough daylight remained yesterday, Lucy and Garv set out today, at Sun’s first light. They followed the herd while the rest of the tribe—the Tree-man Boah, the child Voi, and the Canis Ump—stayed at the homebase’s cave. Before Sun had traveled far, a snarl and a screech told Lucy a predator claimed its prey. When Carrion-bird and its cousins started to circle, she and Garv knew exactly where to go.

Garv nudged Lucy, the movement so subtle the grass didn’t even move. “Short-tooth is leaving.”

Lucy bit her lip and shot a look at Garv. His face radiated excitement.

She studied Short-tooth, tried to see what Garv saw and finally gestured, “I don’t see anything. Why do you think she’s finished?”

He motioned, one finger moving against his palm, “Instinct.” Nothing else.

But that was enough. Garv had taught her to stalk prey, knap tools, hunt, and protect herself. Because of him, she became an accomplished hunter, never missed a print, a bent frond, the fragrance left on leaves or bark, or any other sign. As partners, they always brought meat to the tribe. Most hunters didn’t.

Garv’s instinct had found more prey than Lucy’s tracking skills or senses ever did. She had no doubt Short-tooth would soon leave.

Cat’s big tongue, as long as Lucy’s forearm, licked the bloody scraps from her muzzle, a sign even to Lucy that she had finished. Lucy shifted to her hands and toes, knees hovering above the ground, prepared for what must come next. Garv did the same, his body hard from the life he lived, senses alert to every noise. Carrion-birds cawed and tightened their circle. On the opposite side of the field, Snarling-dog’s pack bared their canines, tails stiff. Drool dripped from their jowls and their gaze bounced between Cat and the Uprights, knowing from experience the scrawny but agile creatures were vigorous competitors.

You are fast, Snarling-dog, but we are smart. We will always get there first!

Lucy tensed as Short-tooth pushed up to her massive paws, canines red with blood, saliva dripping in strands from her jowls. She yawned, her mouth a dark cavity vast enough to swallow Lucy’s entire head, and ambled off. Lucy and Garv exploded to their feet and sprinted toward the carcass. Their powerful legs churned while nimble hands pulled cutters and stones from the sacks strung around their necks. Lucy’s job was to delay Snarling-dog and Carrion-bird while Garv stripped the carrion.

“Argh!” Lucy roared, waving a leafy branch through the air to make herself bigger to Snarling-dog while Garv attacked the carcass. Ignoring the fetid stench of dung and urine, he swung the sharp cutter and sliced through the hide and then muscle and tendon.

Lucy flung a stone at the lead Snarling-dog. It hit his temple, hard, and he dropped with a squeal. His pack slowed to reassess the upright creature and Lucy threw another stone, this one at the new leader’s eye. He yipped and stumbled, shook his head, and pawed at the blood that oozed from the wound and dribbled down his muzzle.

“Lucy!” Garv tossed an almost pristine haunch to her and then swung his chopper at Gazelle’s ribs. Carrion-bird, well into its death dive, talons extended, screeched its imminent attack.

“Let’s go!” Lucy called, the unexpected sound of her voice meant to startle the scavengers.

She hurled a rock at the lead Carrion-bird. It squawked and withdrew, which slowed the rest of the flock. Lucy grabbed an almost-meatless leg bone. It would be filled with nutritious bloody marrow. Meat secured over her shoulders, she and Garv fled. No one chased them. Why abandon certain meat for an uncertain meal? Lucy raced past a termite mound, noted its location, rounded a boulder bed, and lost sight of the fracas.

Not the scent, though. The tantalizing aroma sailed through the air, announcing to every scavenger around the availability of meat.

I am pleased to be part of the blog tour for Bloodstone (The Curse of Time Book 1), a YA Fantasy/Paranormal by M J Mallon, published by Next Chapter Publishing

The Blurb

Fifteen-year-old Amelina Scott lives in Cambridge with her dysfunctional family, a mysterious black cat, and an unusual girl who is imprisoned within the mirrors located in her house.

When an unexpected message arrives inviting her to visit the Crystal Cottage, she sets off on a forbidden path where she encounters Ryder: a charismatic, perplexing stranger.

With the help of a magical paint set and some crystal wizard stones, can Amelina discover the truth about her family?

A unique, imaginative mystery full of magic-wielding and dark elements, Bloodstone is a riveting adventure for anyone interested in fantasy, mythology or the world of the paranormal.

UK Book Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bloodstone-Curse-Time-Book-1-ebook/dp/B097QZBKNY/

US Book Link: https://www.amazon.com/Bloodstone-M-J-Mallon-ebook/dp/B097QZBKNY/

Canadian Book Link: https://www.amazon.ca/Bloodstone-M-J-Mallon/dp/B097SQNYP6/

Universal book Link: http://mybook.to/bstmm

Here is my 5-star review:

For someone who doesn’t usually read fantasy, this YA novel caught my interest. The teenage characters in the book are very real with typical issues such as lack of confidence, jealousy, confusion, parental disagreements, and volatile friendships. Amelina comes from a dysfunctional family with a paranormal twist. If she can figure out the curse, perhaps her family could be happy once more.

In her quest, she meets a self-harming girl locked in a mirror, a heartthrob boy with a mean side, a cottage full of amazing crystals and an old woman with sage advice. I like that the story is based on a real clock, the Corpus Chronophage clock, in Cambridge, England. (Chronophage means time-eater). There is some time travel in the story, which I love. There’s a lot happening in this very descriptive book and not everything is explained. But that is because it is the first book in a series. I look forward to reading more about Amelina and her quirky friends.

I received an ARC of this book from the author. The review is my own.

The 2nd in the series, Golden Healer – The Curse of Time Book 2 is coming soon!

M J Mallon by the Corpus Chronophage clock

AUTHOR BIO

My alter ego is MJ – Mary Jane from Spiderman. I love superheros!

M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of writing began inspired by their vivid storytelling. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations and this early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives in the UK, in the Venice of Cambridge with her six-foot hunk of a rock god husband. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery, heart-warming smile to greet her.

MJ’s writing credits also include a multi-genre approach: paranormal, best-selling horror, supernatural short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. She worked with some amazing authors and bloggers compiling an anthology/compilation set during the early stages of COVID-19 entitled This Is Lockdown and she has written a spin off poetry collection, Lockdown Innit.

She’s been blogging for many moons at her blog home Kyrosmagica, (which means Crystal Magic,) where she celebrates the spiritual realm,her love of nature, crystals and all things magical, mystical, and mysterious.

MJ’s motto is…

To always do what you Love, stay true to your heart’s desires, and inspire others to do so too, even if it appears that the odds are stacked against you like black hearted shadows.

Her favourite genre to write is

Fantasy/magical realism because life would be dull unless it is sprinkled with a liberal dash of extraordinarily imaginative magic!

Check out her eclectic blog where she shares her love of reading, reviewing books, writing, and photography: https://mjmallon.com/

AUTHOR SOCIAL MEDIA DETAILS

Authors Website: https://mjmallon.com
Authors Amazon Pagehttps://www.amazon.co.uk/M-J-Mallon/e/B074CGNK4L
Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon

#ABRSC – Authors Bloggers Rainbow Support Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1829166787333493/


Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17064826.M_J_Mallon

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/m-j-mallon 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mjmallonauthor/

Spiritual Sisters: https://www.facebook.com/5SpiritualSisters

Kyrosmagica Publishing (MJ’s Imprint), Books by MJ Mallon

Pandemic Poetry:  Lockdown Innit

https://mybook.to/Lockdowninnit

Poetry, Prose and Photography: Mr. Sagittarius

http://mybook.to/MrSagittarius

An anthology: This Is Lockdown 

Kindle: mybook.to/Thisislockdown

Shorter version – Paperback: mybook.to/Thisislockdownpb

Excerpt from Bloodstone

My mouth gaped open in surprise. I had waited so long, and here it finally was. I couldn’t contain my excitement, and my hands shook in anticipation of my visit. I breathed in, saturating my lungs until they felt they were about to burst with the deliciousness of this moment. I pondered the realisation that since it revealed itself to me; I sensed that the cottage had made me wait. But why?

I shook off my questions and marvelled instead at the beauty of the quaint old cottage. It had a gated door leading into the garden where many varieties of roses and a fragrant patch of herbs grew. The smells were heavenly. In the front, I spotted a large courtyard filled with bird tables and bird feeders hanging from the trees. Breathless at the beauty, I stood, marvelling in the sights.

I revelled in the sight before me. The cottage sported a round, arched front door. The tiny, shuttered windows and door were a pastel green colour which blended into the landscape, and the stone cottage’s brilliant white exterior colour gleamed. An ornate plaque with angels clustering around the edges like a halo hung next to the door frame. To the right of the door hung another plaque, engraved with gold lettering displaying the name: Crystal Cottage.

I swung round when I heard a sound. The doorstep mat lifted from the ground and spun towards me like a magic carpet. When it reached my side, its coarse bristles formed a mouth that spoke. ‘Open your eyes and you will see.’

I couldn’t believe what I saw. This whole extraordinary experience had me brimming with excitement. I reached out to touch the mat, but it frowned. ‘No touching!’ it said, stiffening. Seeing my confused expression, its bristles softened. ‘Come in! Come in!’ it urged.

I blinked. I struggled to comprehend that I had arrived at the Crystal Cottage of my dreams. I followed the mat’s advice and stepped through the door. Everywhere I looked, a reward of beauty met my eyes. Light reflected off the surfaces of the many crystals and bounced around the room in a kaleidoscope of colour. A myriad of gemstones twinkled at me, winking in a musical symphony of colour, brightness, and warmth. The walls of the cottage twinkled with crystal faceted gems. Their names leaped out at me in quick succession. There were Amethysts, Black Obsidian, Bloodstone, Merlinite, Red Jade, and Honey Calcite, to name a few. Skylights in the ceiling let in rays of sunlight that reflected on the crystals, creating a dazzling display.

The remarkable sight made me feel like crying. I turned in circles, delighted with the sights and sounds. The deceptively large inside of the cottage hid an array of bird cages, housing doves who were bathing in cups filled with rose water. I peered further into the cottage and locked eyes with the owner. She appeared as a delicate, almost bird-like wisp of a person I wouldn’t have noticed if it hadn’t been for her colourful streaked hair. She stood amongst the bird cages, whispering to the doves in a gentle, chirpy sing-song voice.

The tiny woman caught my eye and smiled. ‘I am Leanne, the owner of this dear cottage. Welcome, Amelina. It’s so wonderful to meet you at last! You have been a welcome visitor in my dreams.’ The woman bowed, and smiled wider, adding, ‘No longer a stranger, for here you are before me.’

If you are looking for a fun summer read, this book would be a good choice. And, you don’t have to be young to enjoy young adult fiction!


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