Author Archives: cindydraumrkopa

Red Sister – Book of the Ancestor #1 – Mark Lawrence

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Release date: April 6th, 2017
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Age Group:  Adult
Pages: 496
Format: E-galley
Source: Netgalley

I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…

 

Review:

It’s been five years since I read Prince of Thorns, Mark Lawrence’s debut dark fantasy novel. Back then I could see a lot of promise in his writing style and his creative thinking. The Broken Empire proved not to be for everyone, with some voices going up about the protagonist, an anti-hero taken to a whole new level. But even so, the books gained a lot of popularity and Lawrence has been publishing books at a steady pace since then. I haven’t had a chance yet to read his second trilogy, The Red Queen’s War, but it’s definitely on my TBR list.

Red Sister, the first book in a new series called Book of the Ancestor, seems to go down a different road than the previous books he’s written. It is set in a new world, written from a third person perspective and is less dark and gritty than The Broken Empire. Though different, it is just as cleverly put together and just as addictive as his previous books. When I finished Red Sister I had that genuine sad feeling that always seems to creep up on you after finishing a really good book. You don’t want it to end, you want it to keep going. It is a lot harder to pick up a new book after one like Red Sister too, because what will compare?

 

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Strange the Dreamer – Strange the Dreamer #1 – Laini Taylor

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Release date: March 28th, 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Age Group: (Young) Adult
Pages: 536
Format: E-galley
Source: Netgalley

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.

 

Review:

I was a big fan of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, which felt refreshingly unique and was written in such a way that it quickly and firmly claimed a place at the top of my favourites list. When word first reached me that a new book, first in a new series, was coming out I could hardly contain my excitement. The title was definitely promising. Strange the Dreamer. There are so many ways that could be interpreted. When the covers were revealed I knew for sure that this was a book I HAD to have. I didn’t even read the synopsis but just took the first opportunity to get my hands on it.

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Update: February

February was another busy month for me: I bought a car (watch out Australia!) and I’ve decided to move house. Unfortunately I have not been able to keep to my ‘one-book-a-week’ resolution, but I’m eager to catch up.

Work has finally settled into some form of routine, with less things going wrong which is really good for my stress-levels. This also means I now have a bit of time to explore what I want to add to the blog from now on. Exciting! I’m going to have a look around at interesting memes started on other blogs that I could participate in and I’ll be starting up the weekly Spotlight again.

 

Read this month

 

Edge of Dark – Brenda Cooper

I received this book from Pyr quite a while ago and hadden gotten to it yet. It was always in the back of my mind though and that’s why I brought it with me when I moved to Australia. I’m happy I did because I enjoyed Edge of Dark very much. It is set in a distant future where humans have colonised other planets, but mostly live in space on huge spaceships. Somewhere in humanity’s past we got technology to a point where we created powerful humanoids. Scared of what they could do to us, humanity banished them. But now they are back.
It was an interesting take on a story that has been told before, the ‘robots taking over’. Especially because this time it was also told from one of the robots. With the different factions of humans reacting differently to this new/old threat, it was also very realistic. It reminded me of how divided we are right now. Definitely eager to start the sequel next!

 

A Conjuring of Light – V.E. Schwab

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The last book in the Shades of Magic trilogy and one I had been eagerly awaiting. I pre-ordered the book for my Kindle, so I could start reading right away when it got published. I don’t really know what I was expecting from this book. I loved the previous two books in the trilogy with the second one probably being my favourite.

I’m going to keep my more detailed thoughts for my full review, but even though it was a satisfying end, I missed something. There was lots of action and I really enjoyed reading the conclusion, but there are some parts of the storyline I would have liked a different resolution for.

 

Currently reading

 

Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor

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Yeah, I’m still reading this one. I put it on hold for a bit to read A Conjuring of Light, but last night I picked it up again! It’s an intriguing story and I’m really curious to see where it goes.

 

Truthwitch – Susan Dennard

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This one came up as a bit of a surprise. I was shopping in Kmart and suddenly saw this one and Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman at prices I could actually afford to buy them. So I just went for it. I’ve heard a lot about Truthwitch, it seems like a very well-loved YA book. Will this fall into the category of hyped books that I don’t like? Or will it surprise me? We’ll see!

 

 

 

Posts this month

 

*Hangs head in shame* Again not a lot of posts last month, but at least some improvement!

 

Next books on the TBR list

 

So I didn’t stick to my last list at all. I guess what I decide to read really depends on what mood I am in. I’m still going to try to list some books that are at the top of my TBR though.

  • Spear of Light – Brenda Cooper
  • Children of the Different – S.C. Flynn

The Death House – Sarah Pinborough

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Release date: February 26th, 2015
Publisher: Gollancz
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: E-book
Source: Bought

Toby’s life was perfectly normal… until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test.

Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House: an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They’re looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it’s time to take them to the sanatorium.

No one returns from the sanatorium.

Withdrawn from his house-mates and living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear. But then a new arrival in the house shatters the fragile peace, and everything changes.

Because everybody dies. It’s how you choose to live that counts.

 

Review:

Sarah Pinborough’s books have always been able to captivate me and I’m slowly working my way through all her books. I enjoy her writing style and the amazing twists and concepts she puts in her books. The next one on my list was The Death House. I didn’t know too much about it when going in, which is the way I prefer it when I know the author is good. The Death House is not your usual kind of book. It centers on quite an emotionally heavy storyline, has practically only one location where the story plays out and it involves kids and adolescents in a very dark and somber setting.

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An Ember in the Ashes – An Ember in the Ashes #1 – Sabaa Tahir

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Release date: June 4th, 2015
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 465
Format: E-book
Source: Bought

 

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
 
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
 
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
 
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
 
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

 

Review:

If I look back at how I’ve been feeling about Young Adult books the last couple of years, I have to admit that have been mostly negative. Especially when books got quite the hype, somehow I didn’t get it. So I was a bit reluctant to believe the hype that surrounded this book. With a Goodreads rating of 4,32 stars and a synopsis that hinted at typical Young Adult storylines, I was scared that this was going to be another book that just wasn’t for me. But somehow, I loved it. It has all the elements that should make me not like it, but somehow Sabaa Tahir managed to weave it into a story that had me completely hooked.

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Update: January

The first month of the new year has already come to an end in what has been a whirlwind 4 short weeks. I think I don’t have to tell you how this month has felt. For a lot of us it feels like the world has started to crash and burn around us. The one main thing that has warmed my heart though is the thousands of people coming together and supporting each other. For all the heartwrenching, scary stuff that’s happening, at least that is a little light in the darkness.

 

I vowed to read one book a week this year, adding up to 52 books in 2017. So far I’m still on track, which makes me incredibly happy. Lately I felt like I couldn’t keep to any challenges I set myself, but I seem to be improving. I’m now fully settled in Australia, living the Aussie life. Work is slowly starting to pick up again and socially I’m also getting some consistency back into my life. This year I’m coaching the Adelaide Augureys quidditch team, a lovely bunch of people who have welcomed me into their family with open arms.

 

Let’s have a look at the book side of things though, because I’ve read some exciting books the last few weeks and I’ve got some great ones lined up for the next month.

 

Read this month

An Ember in the Ashes – Sabaa Tahir

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The many good ratings on Goodreads made me a bit wary about this book. Mostly it’s either hit or miss with me when they have such a high rating. To be fair, it has all the ingredients of a Young Adult book that would make me dislike it. Imagine my surprise when I absolutely freaking loved it. Somehow this book managed to avoid most pitfalls, which made me incredibly happy. It’s a real pageturner and had me hooked from the beginning. It’s not without some faults, but I enjoyed it a lot.

Review to come later this week!

 

A Gathering of Shadows – V.E. Schwab

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This is the second book in the Shades of Magic series. I read the first one late last year and fell in love with the characters and the simple, yet intriguing world(s). This sequel was even better than the first book, with the introduction of new characters and the forging of some interesting connections. I can’t wait for the third book, A Conjuring of Light, to come out!

 

 

 

The Adversaries – David Hair

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The second book in the Return of Ravana series and the sequel to a book that I enjoyed very much in 2015. The Adversaries is a great addition to the series following the same structure of the first book: alternating between past incarnations of the main characters and the present. The chapters in the past couldn’t quite entertain me that much this time around, but I really loved reading the adventures of everyone in the present.

 

 

 

The Fire Sermon – Francesca Haig

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I was really excited about this book, it sounded like such a great story! The first half of the book is paced perfectly, with a fascinating introduction into this post-apocalyptic world. However, in the second half I struggled more and more with keeping my attention on the book. Was it the pacing that slowed down or just the story that took a turn that didn’t captivate me as much? Maybe a combination of both. The ending was really good though, so mixed feelings about this book.

 

 

Currently reading

Strange The Dreamer – Laini Taylor

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I am a big fan of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, so of course I was excited to hear a new book of hers was being published. I’ve only just started it, so not much to tell yet, but I’m already intrigued by her writing style again.

 

 

 

 

Gardens of the Moon – Steven Erikson

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A ‘classic’ that I haven’t read yet, and it’s about time I do. I’m really curious about my reaction to this one as I’ve seen people who love it an people who don’t like it at all.

 

 

 

 

 

Posts this month

Unfortunately January has been a bit quiet because I started as coach for my quidditch team, which took up a bit more of my time. I’ve got some more reviews lined up though!

Review: Caraval – Stephanie Garber

 

Next books on the TBR list

  • Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch
  • Ninefox Gambit – Yoon Ha Lee

 

Caraval – Caraval #1 – Stephanie Garber

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Release date: January 31st, 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: E-galley
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . . 

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

 

Review:

With a great concept as this one, I was expecting to be drawn in and enraptured by this story straight away. However, I had some serious problems with the book that really diminished my reading pleasure. When first reading the synopsis, I imagined the fabled Caraval to be something like Cirque du Soleil. It is not though, far from it. It is a magical and mysterious game. People who are invited can choose to watch or to participate. If you participate you have to solve a mystery by following clues. The winner gets a special prize, in this case a wish. It’s a ruthless game though, that pushes the participants to their limits. Nothing is as it seems and nobody can be trusted.

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My 2016 in Books

Unfortunately I didn’t reach my goal of reading 60 books this year. Again! With about 10 days left and another 2 books that are almost finished, I’ll have read 38 books. Which is a bit disappointing. I definitely wish I had had more time to read this year. New Year’s resolution: finally stick to my Reading Challenge in 2017!

Nonetheless, I’ve read some amazing books this year that will end up on my favourites shelf.

 

Favourite books of 2016

City of Blades – Robert Jackson Bennett

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I figured it would be hard to beat the success of the first book, City of Stairs, but boy was I wrong. City of Blades blew me away with its complexity, its multifaceted characters and the amazing world Bennett has created. In April 2017 the next book, City of Miracles, will be published and I’m dying to read it! From the synopsis it seems a lot has changed and some shocking twists will probably make this book as interesting as the previous two.

Read my review here

 

13 Minutes – Sarah Pinborough

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If you’ve been following my blog or twitter you may know that I have a fierce love for Sarah Pinborough’s books. Not one of her books that I’ve read have disappointed me so far. 13 Minutes was no exception. This was probably one of the first thrillers I’ve read that kept me guessing, whereas I normally see through the twists and turns quite quickly. It was such a raw and real story of high school drama, a perfect mix between the common coming-of-age tale and a mind-bending mystery. Moooore, please!

Read my review here

 

Saint’s Blood – Sebastien de Castell

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One of the greatest things about this blogging thing is seeing authors rise to popularity and seeing people fall in love with their books. Sebastien de Castell was one of those authors. I still remember receiving an advanced copy of his debut Traitor’s Blade back in 2014 and immediately realising that this was going to be big. Three books later and everyone is still buzzing about the Greatcoats. All three books have consistently high ratings on Goodreads and it’s no surprise, because they are amazing. Saint’s Blood again exceeded all expectations, delivering an emotional roller coaster with sides of the by now familiar banter and exhilarating sword fights. Tyrant’s Throne, the 4th book in the series, will be published in April 2017. Something to look forward to!

Read my review here

 

Gods of Nabban – K.V. Johansen

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Another 3rd book in an incredible series that absolutely blew me away. Johansen’s Marakand series is not easily defined as a particular type of books. They are very special and the reasons why I liked them so much is very different from the reasons why I liked the books listed above. Similar to the previous two books, Gods of Nabban is a complex story full of detail and intriguing characters. Johansen’s writing style is elaborate and an absolute joy to read. Marakand is really incomparable to any other series and that is probably part of the reason I’ve fallen in love with it. A review of this book is still in the making, I find it hard to put my thoughts in to words with books like these.

 

 

Special mentions

The Tiger and The Wolf – Adrian Tchaikovsky

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The start of a new series by Adrian Tchaikovsky, who is best known for his Shadows of the Apt books. The Tiger and the Wolf has a completely different atmosphere than the Shadows of the Apt books, more wild and raw. I really loved this book and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, The Bear and The Serpent.

Read my review here

 

 

Planetfall – Emma Newman

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A thought-provoking science-fiction story that will leave you shaking in your boots. Emma Newman has a powerful way of describing emotions and Planetfall is an interesting book exploring anxiety and dealing with loss and guilt.

Read my review here

 

 

 

Vigil – Angela Slatter

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Vigil was such a refreshing book! I’m not usually a big fan of urban fantasy, but Angela Slatter wrote such a compelling main character in Verity that I couldn’t help but fall in love with her and her story.

Review to come!

 

 

 

 

What to look forward to in 2017

City of Miracles – Robert Jackson Bennett

Tyrant’s Throne – Sebastien de Castell

Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough

A Conjuring of Light – V.E. Schwab

Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman

Strange The Dreamer – Laini Taylor

Star’s End – Cassandra Rose Clarke

Brother’s Ruin – Emma Newman

The House of Binding Thorns – Aliette de Bodard

Brimstone – Cherie Priest

Spellslinger – Sebastien de Castell

Eagle and Empire – Alan Smale

The Bear and The Serpent – Adrian Tchaikovsky

 

 

The Apothecary’s Curse – Barbara Barnett

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Release date: October 11th, 2016
Publisher: Pyr
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 340
Format: ARC
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

This genre-bending urban fantasy mixes alchemy and genetics as a doctor and an apothecary try to prevent a pharmaceutical company from exploiting the book that made them immortal centuries ago.
In Victorian London, the fates of physician Simon Bell and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune entwine when Simon gives his wife an elixir created by Gaelan from an ancient manuscript. Meant to cure her cancer, it kills her. Suicidal, Simon swallows the remainder—only to find he cannot die. 

Five years later, hearing rumors of a Bedlam inmate with regenerative powers like his own, Simon is shocked to discover it’s Gaelan. The two men conceal their immortality, but the only hope of reversing their condition rests with Gaelan’s missing manuscript.

When modern-day pharmaceutical company Transdiff Genomics unearths diaries describing the torture of Bedlam inmates, the company’s scientists suspect a link between Gaelan and an unnamed inmate. Gaelan and Genomics geneticist Anne Shawe are powerfully drawn to each other, and her family connection to his manuscript leads to a stunning revelation. Will it bring ruin or redemption?

 

Review:

The Apothecary’s Curse definitely has an interesting premise and I was captivated throughout the majority of the book. However, the last part of the book, especially the part that is set in the present didn’t quite feel as good as the rest of the book.

A book presumably written by one of the fair folk has been gifted centuries ago to a mortal man in Scotland to pass on from generation to generation, hoping it would do some good in the world. It is a book that needs to be understood completely to work. It is full of recipes for different sorts of medicine, curing all kinds of diseases like the plague and cancer. However, one little mistake can turn it into the most deadly poison, or an elixir for eternal life.

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Spotlight: Wrath – The Faithful and the Fallen #4 – John Gwynne

The last book in the Faithful and the Fallen series! Anyone who loved the first book as much as I did will have been eagerly waiting for this book. I still remember reading an ARC of Malice and loving it to pieces. After that I decided to wait with reading the others until the series was complete. So after a reread of Malice, I’ll be reading through the rest of the series for the first time and I absolutely can’t wait!

About the book

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Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasures are in his possession. And together with Calidus and his ally Queen Rhin, Nathair will do anything to obtain the remaining Treasures. With all seven under his command, he can open a portal to the Otherworld. Then Asroth and his demon-horde will finally break into the Banished Lands and become flesh.
Meanwhile Corban has been taken prisoner by the Jotun, warrior giants who ride their enormous bears into battle. His warband scattered, Corban must make new allies if he hopes to survive. But can he bond with competing factions of warlike giants? Somehow he must, if he’s to counter the threat Nathair represents.

His life hangs in the balance – and with it, the fate of the Banished Lands.

Publication date: November 17th, 2016 (Tor)

 

About the author

John GwynneFrom John Gwynne’s website:

Well this is a strange thing, writing about myself.

I was born in Singapore while my dad was stationed there in the RAF. Up until he retired that meant a lot of traveling around, generally a move every three years or so.

I live with my wife and four wonderful (and demanding) children in East Sussex. Also three dogs, two of which will chew anything that stands still. I have had many strange and wonderful jobs, including packing soap in a soap factory, waitering in a french restaurant in Canada, playing double bass in a rock n roll band, and lecturing at Brighton University.

I stepped out of university work due to my daughter’s disability, so now I split my time caring for her and working from home – I work with my wife rejuvenating vintage furniture, which means fixing, lifting, carrying, painting and generally doing what my wife tells me to do…

And somehow during this time I started writing. I’ve always told my children stories at bed-time, and they pestered long and hard for me to write some of it down. At the same time I felt that my brain was switching off a little – vintage furniture is my wife’s passion, whereas my passions are much geekier!

That’s how The Banished Lands and Malice began, though along the way it became more than just a hobby. I’m still in shock that it is actually a real book, rather than just pages on my desk.

I hope that you enjoy the book, the website and the blog. I intend to have some fun on here, as after all, having a book published is a bit like true love – it doesn’t happen everyday. Please bear with me as this is all very new to me and I’m not the most technically proficient. I’ll try not to blow the internet up.

All the best,

John