#Blogtour #Extract: In Two Minds by K. T. Findlay @rararesources #HistoricalFiction

In Two Minds

Today I’m thrilled to be hosting a stop on the blog tour for K.T. Findlay’s medieval historical fiction novel In Two Minds. If you’re a fan on time-slip novels or alternative history, check out the excerpt below!


In Two Minds CoverTitle: In Two Minds

Series: The Prince Wulfstan Series

Author: K. T. Findlay

Publication Date: November 1, 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction, Alternative History

Themes: Medieval History, Time Displacement


Synopsis

Hurled twelve hundred years into the past, into someone else’s body, things could hardly be worse. And then the body’s owner wanted it back…

Museum curator Thomas and ten year old Anglo Saxon Wulfstan have to cope with a fifty year age gap, a huge culture clash and never knowing from one moment to the next who’s going to be in control.

As they’re trying to come to terms with it all, they inadvertently antagonise Wulfstan’s father, King Offa of Mercia. The King is already frustrated with his son’s “late” development and issues the boy a challenge. Wulfstan is given just a year to find and train ten slaves who can beat the King’s own champions in a fight to the death, but there’s a twist.

When his son accepts the challenge, Offa turns the screws to make him back down and limits him to females only. In the brute strength world of Anglo Saxon battle they surely haven’t a chance, but Thomas convinces Wulfstan that if they can find the right people, a few new ideas and enough practice might just give those women the tools to become the heroes Wulfstan so desperately needs.


Extract

The extract takes place in the palace market the day after Rowena and Berthilda have joined Thomas and Wulfstan’s team. They’re taking advantage of the fact the market sells the best horses in the country.

‘Now,” he said, “I believe you’re a pretty good horsewoman too. Let’s go and choose our mounts.’

Being the palace marketplace with the King in residence, some of the finest horses in the country were there. They did an initial check of all three horse merchants to see just what was on offer, before they settled down to the selection process.

‘We’ll start with one for you Hengist.’ said Wulfstan.

‘But I already have a horse Your Highness.’ said Hengist.

‘That’s true, but he’s your personal mount. I’m going to get you one specifically for our challenge. That way, if anything happens to it, you’ll still have your own. Now, go and choose one, and don’t worry about the money. You can get your own back on my father at this point!’ he laughed.

Hengist grinned, a little sheepishly, then picked out a beautiful piebald stallion that at 14 hands was one of the biggest in the country. He also seemed to have a mind of his own, but Hengist was confident he could handle him.

Rowena fell for an almost pure white gelding. The horse was beautifully muscled, yet gentle in nature. When she was astride it, with her glorious red hair and pale complexion, the effect was otherworldly.

Berthilda chose a lovely roan gelding with three white feet. He wasn’t quite as good looking as the other two horses, but handsome enough and Berthilda sensed something in him. He in turn seemed to bond almost instantly with her.

That left Wulfstan, but at this precise moment he found himself outside the body again, watching Thomas.

‘Bother! I could get really tired of this!’ he shouted. ‘Oh well, we both want the same one, so go get him Thomas.’

From the moment they’d seen him, Thomas and Wulfstan’s hearts had settled on an almost pure black gelding. Its muscles rippled under the sheen of its coat as it stood proud and aloof, held by the merchant’s servant.

The boy was bored and began to play a game, tossing the end of the lead rope into the air and catching it in the same hand. The higher he tossed it, the less accurate he became, and eventually he got it wrong. The end knot landed heavily on the horse’s nose, causing it to flick its head in alarm. The boy took the blow full in the face and was sent flying. The merchant rushed up and prepared to strike the horse with his whip, but Thomas leapt between them and held up his hand to stop him.

‘Your Highness!’ called Hengist. ‘You should stay back! He could flatten you!’

Thomas turned slowly to face the horse, who watched him warily. He held out his hands in front of him, open, showing he had nothing in them before taking a step slowly towards the animal. The horse stepped skittishly away, keeping the distance the same.

Thomas cocked his head to one side, dropped his shoulder, and snaked his head gently towards it.

The horse stood still, watching carefully.

Then Thomas turned his body so he was parallel to the horse, and again cocked and snaked his head.

The horse remained still.

Another couple of rounds of this and Thomas was next to the horse. He held up the back of his hand, limp, so the horse could smell him. It began to nuzzle him gently, and in turn allowed Thomas to softly stroke its nose.

Within a minute it was calm enough for Thomas to nestle his forehead into its neck. The horse lowered its own head over Thomas’ shoulder, and closed its eyes in pleasure as the little human scratched it behind the ears.

‘We’ll take him.’ said Thomas.

The others were watching him with astonishment. He shrugged his shoulders with an embarrassed smile. ‘I just behaved like a horse. I used my body like another horse would, and he understood I meant him no harm.’

‘But where did you learn how to do that?’ asked the merchant. ‘It’s like magic!’

Thomas shook his head. ‘No. Not like magic. I’ve been watching horses for a long time, and learned how they behave, how they move. I thought that if I tried to speak their language, it might help, and it did. Berthilda does it too if you watch her. That’s why she’s so good with them. They trust her.’

‘I do that?’ asked Berthilda.

‘Sort of, only you’re much better than I am. For you it’s a natural thing. You’re just not aware you do it. But how many others can ride with no reins? Very few. The reason you can, is that they trust you, and you’re directing them with your legs. That’s all they need from you. It’s a gift, but it isn’t magic.’


About the Author

In Two KT FIndlay above swing bridge 1 - CroppedK.T. Findlay lives on a small farm where he dovetails his writing with fighting the blackberry and convincing the quadbike that killing its rider isn’t a vital part of its job description.

Follow K.T. Findlay

Webpage : www.ktfindlay.com


Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in the Blog Tour.

 

 

 

#Blogtour #Guestpost: Hidden in the Shadows by Imogen Matthews #RandomThingsTours #HiddenInTheShadows @AmsterdamPB @ImogenMatthews3

Hidden in the Shadows BT Poster

Today I’m thrilled to be hosting a guest post on the tour for Imogen Matthews latest WWII novel, Hidden in the Shadows. If you’re keen on learning about the inspiration behind a book, read on, as Imogen discusses how her heritage and family history influenced her latest in the guest post below.


Hidden in the Shadows Front coverTitle: Hidden in the Shadows

Series: Untold WW2 Stories

Author: Imogen Matthews

Publisher: Amsterdam Publishers

Publication Date: December 2019

Genre: WWII Fiction, Historical Fiction

Themes: War, love, Survival, Loyalty


Synopsis

Escape from the hidden village is just the beginning

September 1944: The hidden village is in ruins. Stormed by the Nazis. Several are dead and dozens flee for their lives.

Instead of leading survivors to safety, Wouter panics and abandons Laura, the love of his life. He has no choice but to keep running from the enemy who want to hunt him down.

Laura must also stay hidden as she is Jewish. Moving from one safe house to another, she is concealed in attics and cellars. The threat of discovery is always close at hand.

On the run with no end in sight, the two young people despair of ever seeing each other again.

As cold sweeps in signaling the start of the Hunger Winter, time is running out.

Wouter’s search now becomes a battle for survival.

Where can Laura be? Will they ever be reunited?

Hidden in the Shadows is an unforgettable story of bravery and love, inspired by historical events.


Guest Post

Author Imogen Matthews’ Dutch background inspired her latest novel: Hidden in the Shadows  

All my life I have heard stories from my Dutch mother about the war and the terrible Hunger Winter when she was forced to dig up tulip bulbs in frozen fields to save her family from starvation. She was a young woman of 19 when war broke out. Her stories were not entirely bleak – she described how she had many intensely exciting experiences, such as clambering over the rooftops with illegal leaflets to escape German soldiers who were searching for anyone working for the Resistance. It was these stories that sparked my imagination – what must it have been like for young people living through the thick of war? 

I still have close connections with Holland, visiting the beautiful Veluwe for family cycling holidays every year. I thought I knew the woods well, until a few years back I came across a memorial along one of the cycle paths. This large engraved stone told how the local community had helped build a village of underground huts for people needing to flee from the Nazis. They selflessly provided food, medicines and clothing to ensure their survival. It was a poignant reminder of what happened to millions of Jews during WW2 who weren’t so fortunate. I knew I had to get this story down, so I wrote The Hidden Village, a novel based on these real-life events, underpinned by my mother’s vivid stories.   

My new novel, Hidden in the Shadows, is a sequel, but written as a standalone book. The opening scene is set just after the village was ambushed by the Germans, but with two characters who played a secondary role in the first book. I felt that it was time for Wouter and Laura’s stories to be heard: as they flee from danger, they lose one another, but must keep moving to avoid capture against all odds. As cold sweeps in signaling the start of the Hunger Winter, time is running out and Wouter’s search for his beloved Laura becomes a battle for survival.  

Hidden in the Shadows and The Hidden Village are available as ebook and paperback on Amazon. 


About the Author

Imogen Matthews Author PicImogen Matthews is English and lives in the beautiful University town of Oxford. Before she wrote The Hidden Village, she published two romantic fiction e-novels under her pen name, Alex Johnson. The Hidden Village is published by Amsterdam Publishers, based in the Netherlands.

Imogen has strong connections with the Netherlands. Born in Rijswijk to a Dutch mother and English father, the family moved to England when Imogen was very young.

Every year since 1990, Imogen has been on family holidays to Nunspeet on the edge of the Veluwe woods.

It was here that she discovered the story of the hidden village, and together with her mother’s vivid stories of life in WW2 Holland, she was inspired to write her novel.

You can follow Imogen on Twitter @ImogenMatthews3, and find her on Facebook and Goodreads. Imogen also has a lovely website.


Many thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in the Blog Tour.

 

 

 

#Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner #YAFantasy #SciFi #Dystopian

So, this whole lockdown thing has got me going a little squirrelly lately, and as a result I’ve been craving a little escapism by way of some delicious YA fantasy. Enter These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. Jam packed with a surprisingly capable heiress, a dashing war hero, some serious corporate shenanigans, an intergalactic disaster, and a crash landing on an abandoned planet and you have the recipe for a dang good time. Reader, let me tell you, it was just what I needed.


13138635Title: These Broken Stars

Series Title: Starbound

Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Publication Date: December 10, 2013

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Romance

Themes: Survival, Romance, Family, Corporatism, Colonial Enterprises

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.


My Review

Okay, let me start off by saying that this wasn’t the deepest book that I have ever read, with more of a focus on romance and character development than the action and critical analysis of social issues that I’ve come to expect since reading The Illuminae Files. But, these are very different books with, I imagine, very different audiences. That’s not to say that there isn’t any social analysis, just that it’s secondary to some of the other elements.

I actually really enjoyed the discussion surrounding class-stratified society and corporate greed, and felt that it did a really good job of establishing the tensions between Lilac and Tarver. It served as an excellent vehicle through which to create complicated and compelling characters that both embodied and defied their stereotypes, as well as adding excitement and interest to the storyline. The poor soldier boy and the little rich girl is not a new story, but it’s one that never seems to get old regardless of genre.

Despite some initial misgivings, I ended up warming to Lilac’s character – especially her internal conflict. She is a girl who wants desperately to be free of her father and the expectations of her set by society, yet she also expects to be taken care of and catered to by everyone se encounters. But what I loved more than anything, was how this pampered princess had acquired some menial skills so far beyond the repertoire of the average society girl. Sure, Lilac can navigate a ship in stiletto heels and emotionally destroy any possible suitor with a few well formed words, but she can also wire just about anything with more skill than a maintenance crew. If this book suggests to anyone that you can be a girly-girl AND rock some serious practical skills, I’m all for it because these concepts aren’t mutually exclusive. Sure, there were a few times I wanted to shout ‘girl, NO!’ at Lilac for being spoiled and ridiculous (seriously, who tries to cross a mountain range in the aforementioned stilettos?), but her grit and determination eventually won me over.

The Major, on the other hand, took absolutely no warming up to. I was on his side from those first few pages where he was uncomfortable at yet another first-class party. He hates the pretension and posing for pictures, hated feeling like a thing to be put on show like a novelty – I knew then that Tarver would be the character to carry me through the book. I adored his tough-love approach to coaxing Lilac through her first experience in the wild, how the Major treated her like a green soldier rather than a corporate princess, and especially how he planed from Lilac’s needs but still had the compassion to wait for her to voice those needs before preferring any help. Oh, and did I mention that Tarver’s a poet? Soft boy, strong boy – consider me sold!

Both of the characters have beautifully complicated pasts and emotional wounds that make them extremely compelling. Both of their emotional emotional and physical journeys are well placed and carefully crafted. They’re just two kids ripped from their journey through space, who crash landed on an abandoned planet inhabited by spectres, trying to get back to any form of civilization. What could wrong? I enjoyed following along as they grew both more vulnerable and more capable as the days passed by. Their challenges are not small, and each victory is hard wan. What starts out as a superficial YA space-romance draws you in and tricks you into getting lost in a carefully wrought world that promises so much more to come.

Would I recommend this book? Yup! It was an absolute joy to read and I can’t wait to dive into This Shattered World the next time these COVID restrictions start to get me down.

#Review: We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal #Fantasy #YAFantasy

Today I am thrilled to be sharing my review for We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal, and oh my goodness is it ever amazing! Every sentence from the first to the last will draw you into a richly constructed world filled with magic, mystery, and magnificently complex characters.


WHTF_JKT_2p.inddTitle: We Hunt the Flame

Series Title: Sands of Arawiya

Author: Hafsah Faizal

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Genre: YA Fiction, YA Fantasy, Fantasy

Themes: Magic, Survival, Friendship, Romance.

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a gripping debut of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands.


My Review

This book came into my life at just the right time, I was going through some shiz-nazz and needed something that I open up and get completely lost in on a plane ride. Needless to say I started on chapter one and that airplane fell away. Perfection.

I really enjoyed that We Hunt the Flame brought a world that did so much more than rearrange the furniture in Tolkien’s attic. I loved the concept of the Arz and the dark magic that lurks within, especially how it can either devour people or turn them mad. I really liked to, the idea of an island turned magical prison. My only complaint is that I wanted more! The descriptive writing reeled me in hook line and sinker, and I could have let myself get lost in it all day. There were a few things that could have used a little more attention, especially on Sharr because this crazy dark island has so much potential to break away from the conventions of genre. But, this is just the first book in a very promising series, and with that ending (!) I know there is so much more to come!

When it comes to the story, sure, there a few things that we’ve seen before. Like the enemies to lovers with a slow burn romance and bad-ass woman who carries her people in secret. But I don’t hate these tropes, not one bit, in fact I often find myself craving them. Sometimes, when you’re building up to something big and new you have to start with something comfortable and familiar before going in for the kill. And please take note of my use of comfortable in describing the character dynamic – it’s the kind of story that you can slip into like your favourite pyjama pants knowing that it’s going to be good. I am here for this romance, here for the quest, and loving every drop of drama and magic that Hafsah Faizal has injected into this world. 

Now, onto the peeps that make this story as fabulous as the world building. Zafira, Nasir, and Altair. Zafira and Nasir are cut from the same cloth – two people that were forced into lives they didn’t way at a young age, and more than a little salty about it. Zafira is the  one person who can hunt the Arz and feed her struggling village, while Nasir must act as an assassin at the whim of his tyrant father. I definitely felt a lot more for the dynamic between Nasir and the King, because it was so dark and twisty that I simply couldn’t look away. And then there’s Altair. Daaaaaamn. Seriously! Because everyone else is heavy and introspective, his levity was a breath of fresh air. I adore him, and his love of coffee. Come here funny boi, you can join my zumra.

Between the beautiful writing, the world of Arawiya, and the tumultuous dynamic of the gang on their quest to restore magic in the world, I genuinely enjoyed getting lost in this book. I can’t wait to see where book two goes, especially since there were so many juicy tidbits alluding to future drama dropped along the way.

If you want a fun adventure with a little steam and set in a wonderfully original world, then give We Hunt the Flame a try!


I purchased this book as a result of blogger recommendations, all opinions are my own.

#ARC #Review: Dark Skies by Danielle L. Jensen #Fantasy #YAFantasy @torteen

What do you do in a pandemic? Read!

What do you do when it’s been strongly suggested that you self-isolate for 8 weeks because you fall into a high-risk category? Read fantasy!

And so, today it is my absolute joy to be presenting a ARC review for Danielle L. Jensen’s second instalment in the Dark Shores series, Dark Skies. If you crave imagination, beautifully wrought characters, and meticulously crafted systems of magic then you should seriously consider pre-ordering this baby – it’s May 5 publication day can’t come fast enough!


dark skiesTitle: Dark Skies

Series Title: Dark Shores

Author: Danielle L. Jensen

Publisher: Tor Teen

Publication Date: May 5, 2020

Genre: YA Fiction, YA Fantasy, Fantasy

Themes: Magic, Romance, Tyranny, Rebellion, Survival

Features: N/A


My Rating: 5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

A RUNAWAY WITH A HIDDEN PAST
Lydia is a scholar, but books are her downfall when she meddles in the plots of the most powerful man in the Celendor Empire. Her life in danger, she flees west to the far side of the Endless Seas and finds herself entangled in a foreign war where her burgeoning powers are sought by both sides.

A COMMANDER IN DISGRACE
Killian is Marked by the God of War, but his gifts fail him when the realm under the dominion of the Corrupter invades Mudamora. Disgraced, he swears his sword to the kingdom’s only hope: the crown princess. But the choice sees him caught up in a web of political intrigue that will put his oath – and his heart – to the test.

A KINGDOM UNDER SIEGE
With Mudamora falling beneath the armies of the Corrupter, Lydia and Killian strike a bargain to save those they love most—but it is a bargain with unintended and disastrous consequences. Truths are revealed, birthrights claimed, and loyalties questioned—all while a menace deadlier and more far-reaching than they realize sweeps across the world.


My Review

Sometimes a series suffers from the second book slump – they have this great opening, and a fantastic conclusion, but that book in the middle is just a bridge to get you from A to B. Friends, Dark Skies is NOT that book. If anything, it’s even better than Dark Shores and I freaking loved that book!

When the book was first announced I was saddened to hear that Dark Skies would be an alternate beginning that stepped away from Teriana and Marcus and instead followed Lydia and Killian. I’m not going to lie, I wanted more of my old friends and a bit of steamy escapist romance to add some levity to these trying times, but between a few chapters of overlap in the beginning and some serious character building and backstory through the eyes of those that know Teriana, those feelings of separation anxiety didn’t last long. In fact, the stories of these four characters were so expertly intermeshed that it felt as though they were written simultaneously – there were no gaps or continuity errors, and each character provided a different facet to another’s character development. The result was a beautiful juxtaposition between personal introspection and public perception that really drew me in.

And while I wasn’t exactly Lydia’s biggest fan in Dark Shores, she turned out to be exactly the heroine that I needed to read. Nerdy, introverted, and physically weak she was a surprisingly atypical female lead. She’s terrible with a sword, her magic makes her weak to the point where she needs almost constant protection when she’s using it, and she lacks even the basic street smarts needed to care of herself on a good day (let alone one a bad one when she’s thrust into a world she doesn’t know) and yet she somehow manages to get by on sheer nerve and book smarts alone. Yet, her naivety and determination brought a good deal of humour to a dark and rather hopeless situation, and now I can’t wait to see where she’ll go in book three.

Killian is another fabulous character, made only the better because of his flaws. He walks a precarious line between what is expected of him and what he is compelled by his mark to do, what the world believes a Marked soldier is and the reality of the experience, and those he is sworn to and those that he loves. He is pulled in so many directions at any given time that it’s almost impossible not to let your own heartstrings get tangled in his mess. He is resourceful, determined, and loyal to fault – I have no doubt that when he finally comes face to face with Marcus there will be some serious friction between these two bull-headed battle prodigies.

I could talk about the slow burn romance that leaves you dangling off a cliff (noooo, I’m not salty about that, AT ALL), or a high court that has misdirection and manipulation down to a tee, but instead I’m going to focus on the magic and world building. Because, seriously, OMG! Jensen has taken on the behemoth task of creating not just one or two kingdoms with variant beliefs, but an entire world where the disparate parts are so unique that they’re almost unrecognizable from one another. And the level of originality is practically next level. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fairy/ elf/ fae/ witch/ mage story as much as the next fantasy fan girl but I adored being able to get lost in this story without any preconceived notions about the people or how the magic should work.

With Dark Skies and Dark Shores serving as companion novels, where either can be read as the first book in the series, I highly suggest you dive into this world with reckless abandon. Let yourself get swept up in the dangerous games of politics and romance, soak up the subtle critiques on critiques on colonialism and patriarchy, and ride along with your favourite new characters as they rebel against everything that was ever expected from them.

Read it book lovers, you won’t regret a single sentence.


I requested and received a review copy of this title through #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.