#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 37: Question 31

I suppose I’m behind in all other aspects of my life, so it only makes sense I be behind in my blog posts too…

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

31. Book recommendations | Fans of your book might also enjoy…?

If you like the age of sail and/or pirates…

The Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb

Ship_Of_magic The_Mad_Ship Ship_Of_destiny

These books are probably the closest in tone, style and setting to The Mayor— both being fantasy books with an 18th century colonial feel and strong focus on characterisation. The Liveship Traders was of great inspiration to me when I was first conceiving of The Mayor. The premise may sound a bit bonkers — living ships and whatnot — but I promise you, the execution is stunning. These are my favourite books of all time.

I’m also recommending Kingston by Starlight here by Christopher John Farley.

Kingston By Starlight

Told from the perspective of Anne Bonny, one of two women — the other being Mary Read — who sailed with the infamous pirate, Captain Jack Rackham, Kingston by Starlight is a beautifully written, if very short book. I read it around the same time as The Liveship Traders and it contributed greatly to the development of The Mayor as a result. How exactly? Well… read both and you might find out!

If you like grimdark…

The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

The_Blade_itself Before_They_Are_Hanged Last_Argument_of_Kings

Tighter, leaner and more tongue-in-cheek than the works of George R.R. Martin (i.e. the poster boy of grimdark), The First Law brilliantly subverts a number of tried and tested fantasy tropes. The trilogy’s greatest strengths lie in its characters however.

Also, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (Book 1 in the Gentleman Bastards series — I’ve only read book 1 so can’t comment on the others).

The Lies of Locke Lamora

Again, like The Liveship Traders, I think The Lies of Locke Lamora is quite similar to The Mayor in terms of its tone, style and setting. The city of Camorr is based on late-medieval Venice, but it is situated within an unnamed fantasy world (not unlike New Hardway, which I ground very firmly in the 18th century). Thus they’re both historically accurate to a point, but just different enough to merit a fantasy label.

If you like a bit of rough and tumble…

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (also known as Cross Stitch here in the UK)

Outlander

Genre-bending, time-travelling hijinks ensue when 1940s combat nurse Claire Randall accidentally travels back in time to 18th century Scotland and winds up married to an honourable highlander with a glutton for punishment. Packed with steamy sex, fascinating examinations of politics and buckets full of blood, don’t let the sexist marketing fool you; Outlander is about as far from an air-headed historical romance as one could possibly get. It’s well-written, well-researched and the characters are glorious. Expect trauma at the hands of a paperback. This is another one of my favourites.

If you like claustrophobic family dramas…

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The Miniaturist cover

Secrets and lies threaten to tear a family apart amidst corruption and greed in 17th century Amsterdam. You can read my review of this wonderful book here.

If you like villains you love to hate…

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The_Pillars_of_the_Earth

This book was actually recommended to me after someone read a really early draft of The Mayor, and asked me to develop my villain, William Kale, a bit more. The villain in this book — also called William, funnily enough — …oh boy, is he a piece of work! In the words of Follett himself:

Of all the villains I have created, William Hamleigh is the one readers most love to hate. Critics sometimes say that a villain should not be all black, but should have a streak of gray, some redeeming trait, to be realistic. The heck with that, say I, and William proves my point. He’s realistic because he’s driven by believable psychological demons.

~Ken Follett, Notes & Highlights from The Pillars of the Earth

Judging from some of the reactions I’ve received from my readers (see here), I’d like to think the same now applies to William Kale, too!

Villain aside, The Pillars of the Earth is also a ripping good yarn that you’ll absolutely tear through despite its enormous size. Love it.

Diana Gabaldon’s villain Black Jack Randall from the Outlander series (mentioned above) also fulfils this criteria as well, so even more reasons for you to read Outlander!

S.E. Berrow

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2017: Year In Review

Last year when I did my annual review, I talked about how I felt as though I’d sleepwalked through the whole of 2016 (click here). I didn’t write, didn’t exercise, felt like I was sinking beneath a mountain of debt and like I’d never amount to anything. Amidst a pretty depressing backdrop of political upheaval, numerous celebrity deaths and an overwhelming sense of generational pessimism, it’s no wonder I felt so low.

BUT! I’m very pleased to report that 2017 could not have been more different. I made 3 New Years Resolutions and made excellent progress with every single one:

1. I trained my arse off and took part in Tough Mudder London South (and signed up again to take part next year).
2. I put my flat on the market and have successfully managed to find a buyer (I’m looking to move somewhere new with my boyfriend in early 2018).
3. And, most excitingly of all, at the time of writing I have added a whopping 76,088 words to The Mayorwith more to come before the year is out. Amazing! I’m on track to complete Book 1 before my new deadline of 28 February 2018.

The world is still a political clusterfuck of awful, but I’ve been patiently and steadfastly tending to my little patch and things are beginning to grow ♥

1. Album that surpassed all others:

Will To Power by Arch Enemy

Will To Power Arch Enemy

What. An. Album. A tremendous follow-up to War Eternal, Arch Enemy take their sound to new dizzying heights with their new guitarist Jeff Loomis and Alissa White-Gluz’s effortlessly versatile vocals. I don’t think there’s a single bad track on this album, but my favourite moments — hands down — have got to be:

  • Alissa’s delivery of “Get the guards and walk a dozen paces” in the gut-wrenchingly harrowing ‘First Day In Hell’; a tribute to her grandparents who survived a Nazi Concentration Camp.
  • The towering, sweeping empowerment of album closer, ‘A Fight I Must Win’.
  • The effortless slide from clean to harsh vocals in ‘Reason To Believe’ (the first clean vocals to ever feature on an Arch Enemy album).

Stunning.

Favourite tracks: ‘First Day In Hell’, ‘A Fight I Must Win’, ‘Blood In The Water’, ‘Reason To Believe’

2. Most missed artists:

Although Rasputina had an album out this year (The Feel Good Hits of 1817), I’ve come to realise that I sincerely miss the band they used to be. Melora Creager is making a concerted effort to completely remove herself from the internet, thus making anything new she puts out extremely difficult to get hold of. She’s vowed to make everything US Mail Order-only from now on i.e. no ordering online, no Paypal, no digital downloads and extremely limited pressings.

Whilst I totally get where Melora is coming from here (she got catfished quite spectacularly and it’s clearly messed with her quite badly), I do find her efforts unintentionally discriminate against fans who live abroad. For example, if she’d gone through with her original intention to make The Feel Good Hits of 1817 US Mail Order-only, it would have cost me £25 just to take out an international postal order, plus the cost of shipping which is $17 for an LP, $10 for a CD, plus the price of the album… a whopping total of $60-$70 for an album that was mostly covers and re-releases anyway. CRAZY!

But y’know, I’ll probably end up paying it anyway, because I’m a die-hard fan and will support this woman ’til the day I die. It just makes me infinitely sad that my favourite artists (like Melora Creager, Abney Park, Voltaire) rally so hard against the internet when I am literally only aware of their music because I discovered it through the internet in the first place ♥

Rasputina

3. Album that really surprised me:

Heart Shaped Wound by Aurelio Voltaire

Heart Shaped Wound

Surprising because of how personal it is!

Heart Shaped Wound contains a number of songs about gothic-folk musician Aurelio Voltaire’s tumultuous three-month relationship with an internet-famous cosplayer shortly after his divorce.

I distinctly remember Voltaire’s Instagram posts from around this time. Every single day he was posting pictures of himself with this young woman, shouting from the rooftops about how much he loved her, whilst she clearly didn’t feel the same way.

So when I heard the lyrics, “You get a tiny matching tattoo on that pristine canvas four decades new to impress a walking ransom note who’s got more ink than all the plays that Shakespeare wrote”, I did a double-take because I knew precisely who and what that song was about. Usually I’m not a fan of break-up songs. I mean, I don’t know the full story, but if any man came on to me that strong and then wrote an album about me after I broke up with him, I’d be pretty peeved! But hey, the music is good and Alissa White-Gluz features on one of the tracks… so hooray!

Favourite tracks: ‘The Folly of Love’, ‘Leaves In The Stream’ (feat. Alissa White-Gluz), ‘Human Nature’

4. Person I would most like to have tea with:

The inimitable Victoria Schwab. I’ve spoken at length before about how much I love this woman and why, so click here to learn more!

Victoria Schwab

5. The things I’ve completely had enough of:

The orange baby. Brexit. The rise of Nazism and the empowerment of the far-right. Theresa fucking May. Nigel “Garbage Fire” Farage. The political landscape in general. This whole year has been one huge political clusterfuck and it doesn’t look like it’s going away soon. Must. Stay. Strong.

6. The thing I wish I had bought myself but didn’t:

A Summer holiday. Mark and I went to Colombia very, very early on in the year (an… interesting experience), so by the time Summer rolled around, everyone else was disappearing off abroad whilst I was stuck at work with a broken air-con. It sucked.

7. Page-turner:

I. CANNOT. CHOOSE. BETWEEN THESE. THREE BOOKS. OMG.

A Darker Shade Of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Magic! Princes! Pirates!)
Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb (Magic! Princes! Pirates!)
A Court Of Mist And Fury by Sarah J. Maas (Magic! Princes! Faerie porn!)

8. Album that stirred my soul:

Ritual by In This Moment

Ritual in This Moment

Another album devoid of a single bad track. Though I confess myself a little disappointed at the complete lack of heavy vocals, Ritual is a stunning exercise in exquisite song-craft. From the galloping stampede of heavy-metal ‘Black Wedding’ (featuring Rob Halford of Judas Priest), to the beautiful vulnerability of ‘Twin Flames’. Ritual impresses again and again and again.  Plus every other song seems to be about setting someone on fire; my villain William Kale would have an absolute field day.

Favourite tracks: ‘Roots’, ‘Joan of Arc’, ‘Black Wedding’ (feat. Rob Halford), ‘Twin Flames’

9. Album that made me smile:

Kingslayer by Almanac

Almanac Kingslayer

I mean, with cover art like that how can you not smile?

Markedly leaning more towards the power side of symphonic metal than their previous effort, Almanac have once again delivered a stonker of an album with Kingslayer. This was a solid contender for ‘Album that surpassed all others’, very nearly knocking Will To Power off the top spot.

Favourite tracks: ‘Regicide’, ‘Hail To The King’, ‘Last Farewell’, ‘Guilty As Charged’

10. Most stylish person:

Edgar has been rocking his winter coat this year. He has essentially become an explosion of fur.

img_7303

Such a majestic fluffbutt.

11. Best ‘thing’:

Successfully rescuing my boyfriend’s niece’s cat Dolly after she went missing for 10 whole weeks. I lost so much sleep over this, it was so distressing! She was incredibly shy and nervous cat, even before she escaped; she’d never set foot outside before, flat-out refusing to come when called; and, because her owners live over a pub, she was too terrified to come home with so many strangers about.

Thankfully, my boyfriend spotted her hiding out in the local field and we set a trap for her. We checked back after couple of hours and there she was! Terrified and very thin but otherwise perfectly healthy. We could hardly believe it!

She’s now back home now, safe and sound, and apparently has become much more confident and affectionate since her ordeal ♥

Dolly

Also Mark and our friend Ant discovered the joy of The Panic Room this year!

So far we have successfully completed the Lovecraft-themed ‘The Gilman Hotel’ (i.e. the best escape room ever), ‘Old Father Time’ and ‘Defective Detective’. We’re booked in to do ‘The Dollhouse’ next… God knows why. It’s a horror-themed room and I’m a wimp; I could hardly handle Gilman!

I cannot recommend these guys enough! They have two locations: one in Gravesend and one in Harlow.

12. Favourite visual feast:

The Loot Train Attack scene in Game of Thrones (S7:E4). WOWZA. Chills. Here’s a cool video on the making of it:

13. Best fictional character since Sirius Black:

This year is the year I became obsessed with a bat-winged faerie prince called Rhysand. Click here to read a little bit more about him; he’s the most recent addition to my list of Top 10 Book Boyfriends.

img_5538

14. Coolest rock star:

Victoria Schwab. Wait, what do you mean she’s not a rock star?!

VE Schwab

QUEEN. See my answer to Question 4 above.

15. Best gig:

It’s a toss-up between going to see Evanescence at the Eventim Apollo (14 June 2017) for the sheer nostalgia value, or Amaranthe at the Islington Assembly Hall (3 November 2017). So much crackling energy and a stellar setlist!

Sadly I never got round to writing a review for either of these events because I’ve been so busy squirrelling away at The Mayor. I hope to be able to write more gig reviews in 2018 once Book One of The Mayor is complete.

16. Most special moment:

My long-weekend away with my boyfriend in November. We visited the wonderful ‘Terry Pratchett: His World’ exhibition in Salisbury, saw the Magna Carter, and took in the gorgeous Georgian architecture and Roman baths of Bath.

Screen Shot 2017-12-28 at 14.52.02

17. Song of the year:

‘Roots’ by In This Moment has become my anthem for 2017.

 

18. Biggest achievement:

TOUGH MUDDER.

Tough Mudder

Without a doubt the hardest thing (physically) I’ve ever had to do in my life. I laughed. I cried. I almost died. Nothing can compare to the sheer elation and sense of accomplishment upon crossing that finish line!

Best Obstacle: Block Ness Monster
Worst Obstacle: Arctic Enema (BECAUSE I THOUGHT I WOULD DIE)

19. Biggest regret:

Je ne regrette rien.

20. New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Complete Book One of The Mayor
  2. Complete a second draft of The Mayor
  3. Move in with my boyfriend and our menagerie of animals

Bonus! Instagram’s #2017 Best Nine:

BestNine

Happy New Year!

S.E. Berrow


For more information on items, people or bands mentioned in this post, please click the below links:

Music:

http://www.archenemy.net/en/
https://rasputina.com/
http://www.voltaire.net/
http://www.inthismomentofficial.com/
http://www.almanac.band/
http://www.evanescence.com/
http://amaranthe.se/

Books:

http://www.veschwab.com/
http://www.robinhobb.com/
http://sarahjmaas.com/

TV:

https://www.hbo.com/game-of-thrones

Madness:

https://toughmudder.co.uk/

‘Rhysand’ fan art is by Taratjah.

Top 10 Book Boyfriends

I have a confession to make, Dear Readers. It is this: I am a serial cheat.

I have a boyfriend, it is true. A real-life, living and breathing boyfriend whom I love very deeply. He is all I could ever ask for — and more. He makes me very happy indeed.

But there are Others.

Yes, Mark, my dear, the truth is, I’ve been having it off with ten other people behind your back. Some of them I was even seeing before I started dating you. Unfortunately for me — but very fortunately for you — none of them actually exist. They are not real. They are fictional.

They are my Book Boyfriends.

So, in the spirit of my writing partner K.F. Goodacre’s Top Ten Tuesdays, I have compiled a list of 10 men (mostly) from the world of literature who have captured my heart in various ways. Here they are in no particular order:


Rhysand from A Court Of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas


img_5538ETA September 2017: For the first time since writing this post, I have actually had to move a Book Boyfriend off the list (see below… way below) in order to make room for a new one…

If you’d have told me back in July/August 2017 when I was still reading A Court Of Thorns and Roses (Book One in the eponymous trilogy by Sarah J. Maas) that Rhysand — feared and reviled High Lord of the Night Court — would feature on my list of Book Boyfriends, I’d have laughed in your face. He who sent severed heads to the Spring Court as a mere taunt. He who plied the protagonist with faerie wine, dressed her in cobwebs and forced her to dance upon his lap. He who forced her lover to kneel before him and beg him to spare her life. Who forced the protagonist into a bargain marked upon her flesh that would require her to spend one week of every month with him for the rest of her life, like some twisted bat-winged Hades.

“I don’t get why everyone loves Rhysand,” I remember texting K.F. Goodacre as I was nearing the end of A Court of Thorns and Roses. “Literally do not get it. He’s not just awful. He’s vile.”

Au contraire! Along comes Book Two: A Court Of Mist and Fury, and it turns out there’s a second-meaning behind literally everything Rhysand does. He: respects women; encourages independent thought; is not controlling or abusive (seriously, I can say this with full sincerity even after the reprehensible actions I describe above); does not withhold information; really cares about his people; campaigns for equality; lives by what he preaches; takes responsibility for his mistakes; doesn’t stick his head in the sand about matters of life threatening importance; utterly self-sacrificing in every respect; super intelligent; really quite sarcastic and funny; good looking; sexy as hell; filthy in bed.

He is literally perfect. He has no flaws. None. And that is why he has catapulted himself to the top of my list of Book Boyfriends and why bat wings are a huge turn-on for me now.

“Rhysand is the most handsome High Lord.
Rhysand is the most delightful High Lord.
Rhysand is the most cunning High Lord…”


Jamie Fraser from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon


Jamie Fraser

Jamie Fraser’s inclusion on this list will come as a surprise to precisely no one who has read Diana Gabaldon’s time-travelling epic historical romance novel, Outlander (published under its original title of Cross Stitch in the UK and Australia). A Scottish warrior from 1743, Jamie Fraser is the husband of the book’s protagonist, Claire Randall (née Beauchamp) — a combat nurse from 1945. I know it sounds mad, but trust me, it works.

Essentially written to be the perfect man, Jamie is passionate, headstrong and incredibly brave. He will not hesitate to put himself in mortal peril to protect his family and the woman he loves, and can take more punishment than a Nokia 3310. Wickedly funny and hilariously stubborn, reading Jamie bash heads with the comparatively modern sensibilities of his wife is so much fun to read. To top it all off, he swears like a sailor, looks good naked and is extremely generous between the sheets. What’s not to love?

If you cannot be bothered to read the book, I strongly recommend Starz excellent TV adaption of Outlander where Jamie is played to absolute perfection by the very talented Sam Heughan (pictured above).


Captain Kennit from The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb


Captain KennitOh, Kennit. Ours has been a… rocky relationship to say the least. You are by far the most controversial character to feature on this list, and considering it also includes two skeletons — literally — that is really saying something.

From the very first chapter of Ship of Magic — the first book in Robin Hobb’s stunning The Liveship Traders trilogy — I fell in love with her beloved pirate captain. Charismatic, handsome and impressive to all who meet him, Kennit’s only ambition is to possess a liveship and become King of the Pirate Isles and woe betide anyone who stands in his way. Though Kennit’s actions are outwardly benevolent and his knack for cultivating the affections of others unrivalled, his manner is relentlessly cold and utterly devoid of empathy. With a horrifying past that is only revealed to the reader in gradual snippets, he is driven to commit an act so repulsively abhorrent that anyone ‘in the know’ is likely screaming at me right now, demanding to know why I put him on this list.

The truth is, I cannot help it. I loved being inside Kennit’s head. I loved reading about him, loved wondering what the hell he was going to do next, how he was going to get out of this scrape or that, how he was going to keep up his web of lies. I fell in love with him for the same reasons Etta, Wintrow and the rest of his crew did; I was manipulated to do so. Damn you, Robin Hobb…

As a side-note, Kennit is by far the most compelling and complex villain I have ever, ever read. Not only that, but he remains to this day my favourite ever fictional character.


Kell Maresh from Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab


Kell MareshEveryone’s favourite Black-Eyed Prince, Kell is the most recent addition to my list of Book Boyfriends. In fact, at the time of writing, I still haven’t read the final book in V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy (A Conjuring Of Light), but nevertheless, Kell still features because he’s just that attractive. I absolutely adore him.

Kell is what is known as an Antari, or Traveller; a two-of-a-kind magician with a rare ability to travel between parallel worlds connected by the city of London. Magic surges so strongly in an Antari that they are marked with one completely black eye devoid of iris or sclera. Disliking the admiring looks he gets from some and the fearful reactions he gets from others, Kell chooses to hide his mark behind a fringe of red hair. Raised as a prince in his home world of Red London, he also serves as an interdimensional messenger between the monarchs and practises a bit of smuggling on the side. It is this latter practise that lands him in trouble with potentially world-breaking consequences.

Kell’s appeal lies in his overwhelming desire to do the Right Thing, regardless of the enormous personal cost. He is fiercely protective of his little brother, the Crown Prince Rhy, as well as highly intelligent, endearingly strong-willed and an exceptionally snappy dresser. He also has a serious knack for triggering ‘Florence Nightingale’ syndrome in me by being unfairly treated by his step-father King Maxim on a regular basis and routinely taking a few life-threatening knocks. Come here, Kell. I’ll turn that perpetual frown of yours upside down…


Aragorn from Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein


Aragorn StriderConfession time: Aragorn probably wouldn’t feature on this list if it wasn’t for Viggo Mortensen’s jaw-dropping (and rather attractive) performance in Peter Jackson’s cinematic adaption of Lord Of The Rings (2001-2003). I have tried to read Tolkein’s book no less than three times and it was only on the third attempt that I finally managed to struggle through to the end. The character of Aragorn — or “Strider” as he is more commonly referred to by the hobbit protagonists — was one of the highlights of my reading.

Aragorn’s appeal comes from the contrast between his outwardly scruffy appearance and his high birth (“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost…”). He is a fearsome warrior who protects the hobbits to the very best of his ability, as Frodo-and-Friends’ mission to cast the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom conveniently coincides with his own mission to a) take his place as the rightful King of Gondor and b) win the hand of his elf love Arwen, whose father has refused permission for him to marry unless he fulfils the latter. Tolkein wrote Aragorn to be a hero in the truest sense. As such, he is essentially flawless.

Here is an extract from my reviewof The Fellowship of the Ring, which tells you all you need to know about my feelings for Aragorn:

But then Strider happened at the Prancing Pony. And there were Ring Wraiths. And daring escapes and near-death experiences. And Rivendell. And Strider. Did I mention Strider? Seriously. Strider. Strider, Strider, Strider.

Strider ♥

Fun fact! Aragorn and I share a personality type: INFJ. Clearly we were meant to be…


Skulduggery Pleasant from Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy


Skulduggery PleasantHere he is; the first skeleton on my list. And you thought I was joking…

Skulduggery Pleasant is the “skeleton detective” dual-protagonist of Derek Landy’s nine-book series, Skulduggery Pleasant. Skulduggery became a skeleton when the evil sorcerer Nefarian Serpine killed his wife and child in front of him, tortured then killed him… only he didn’t do it properly. Somehow Skulduggery was able to pull himself back together and has been terrorising bad guys in Ireland ever since.

In his own words — for I am sure that is how he would most like to be described — Skulduggery is “sophisticated, suave and debonair” as well as a wise-cracking element-wielding sorcerer and flamboyant egotist. Though he has no body, is borderline insane and y’know… dead… Skulduggery’s dogged determination, strategic brilliance and laugh-out-loud one-liners make my heart soar. Plus if you can’t sleep for fear of being shunted into an alternate dimension where everyone wants to kill you, he’ll stay by your bedside and sing you to sleep with that lovely velvet voice of his. Be still my heart ♥


Mark Blackthorn from The Dark Artifaces by Cassandra Clare


Mark BlackthornYou can keep your Herondales, your Carstairses and your Lightwoods. Me? I favour a Blackthorn; Mark Blackthorn to be precise. “First the flame and then the flood…”

The only non-straight character appearing on my list (unless you count the dangerously-repressed Captain Kennit which I absolutely do), Mark Blackthorn is half faerie, half Shadowhunter — a secret race of humans descended from angels who hunt demons. Following events in City of Heavenly Fire (Book 6 in The Mortal Instruments series), Mark is stolen away from his Shadowhunting family, the Blackthorns, and given over to the Fair Folk to become a prisoner of the Wild Hunt*. In Lady Midnight (Book 1 of The Dark Artifaces) the Fair Folk spit Mark back out again in exchange for the Blackthorns’ help in defeating a common enemy. Although perhaps Mark has been with the Wild Hunt for too long…

Mark is a prime example of a great character in a bad book. Lady Midnight was so poorly written that reading it made my head hurt, but Mark’s presence — in addition to all the Edgar Allan Poe references — was what made me grin and bear it. Pretty and puckish with a sarcasm detector that could rival that of Drax the Destroyer for ineffectiveness, Mark “[speaks] like a poem and [walks] like a dance”. Torn between his love for his family and that of the faerie prince Kieran of the Unseelie Court, Mark’s struggle to find his place in the Shadow world is palpable and just makes me want to give him a cuddle (yep, ‘Florence Nightingale Syndrome’ again, I’m a sucker for it). Plus, the delivery of one particular line of dialogue — the infamous “Why lie?” — made me positively squirm with sordid glee. I am looking forward to seeing how that panned out when the sequel Lord of Shadows is released later this month.

*K.F. Goodacre has a series surrounding the Wild Hunt called The Wild Hunt Chronicles. I’d tell you to check them out but she hasn’t written them yet, so instead I will tell you to watch this space…


Death from Discworld by Terry Pratchett


DeathHere we are then at skeleton no. 2, and not just any skeleton but the Grim Reaper himself. Death is one of the main characters in Terry Pratchett’s fantabulous Discworld series and appears in pretty much every single Discworld book with the exception of The Wee Free Men and Snuff. This is unsurprising given his job, which is of course to usher souls from one world into the next. There is quite a bit of death on the Discworld, so for the most part he’s kept pretty busy.

Death has an irrepressible fascination with humans that often lands him in trouble, usually with the Auditors of Reality — spectral beings that like to mess with The Rules, such as stopping time so that they can catch up with their paperwork. In attempting to understand human behaviour, Death often tries to emulate it — something else the Auditors can’t stand– but almost always misses the mark to endearingly hilarious effect. Despite being largely devoid of any emotion, Death is very passionate about certain things with a deeply ingrained sense of morality and duty. He has had to save the day multiple times just to keep the Discworld ticking along, making do with little to no thanks for the trouble. A true hero.

I’m also a big fan of Death’s aesthetic; as well as tapping into my fondness for morbidness and skulls, he wears a black cowl, carries a scythe, SPEAKS LIKE THIS, enjoys curries and absolutely adores cats. See? We’d get along splendidly.


Valkyrie Cain from Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy


Valkryie CainLook, Top 10 Book Partners doesn’t have the same ring to it as Top 10 Book Boyfriends, all right? And Valkyrie is most definitely in my Top 10, so on the list she goes. Deal.

Valkyrie Cain (real name Stephanie Edgely), like Skulduggery, is the dual-protagonist in Derek Landy’s aforementioned Skulduggery Pleasant series. Although she is just twelve years old in the first book (bear with me), she blossoms across nine books into a 21-year-old fireball throwing, shadow-wielding, lightning-charged badass. With a wit to rival Skulduggery’s and a fiery temper to boot, I fell in love with Valkyrie’s headstrong personality and no-nonsense attitude. Though she doesn’t suffer fools gladly and has a tendency to get bored with her romances very quickly, she is supremely loyal to her friends and family and there’s nothing she won’t do to help them.

You might get a wild, passionate fling with Valkyrie if you can bring yourself to see past the aloof gothic ice-queen she presents herself as. Sadly however it’s Skulduggery who holds her heart in all the ways that matter, so you’ll probably just be left out in the cold.

We can but dream.


Knightshade Valerian from The Seelie Court by K.F. Goodacre


Knightshade Valerian
Images provided to me by K.F. Goodacre to give you guys a ‘feel’ for the character. I know. I’d like to feel him too.

The last Book Boyfriend I have to tell you about is a bit different from the others. He doesn’t exist yet!

His name is Knightshade Valerian and he is a character in my writing partner’s upcoming middle grade fantasy novel, The Elder Throne, the first book in The Equinox Trilogy and The Seelie Court series.

Being born to both a Seelie and an Unseelie parent — the latter of whom betrayed her army by defecting to the other side —  Knightshade has suffered prejudice all his life. He has had to work ten times as hard to earn his position as Commander of the Seelie army (what with his mother being a known traitor and all) and despite all the bullying and routine humiliation he suffers even as an adult, he is nothing short of brave, honest, kind and good. Though a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, he never raises his voice or starts a fight. He also has an hilariously misplaced sense of morality when it comes to women, mostly because he doesn’t know how to talk to them. I find his fusty awkwardness incredibly endearing.

Like I said, Knightshade technically doesn’t exist because K.F. Goodacre is currently in the final editing stages of her book, but I am very confident you will meet him soon and I sincerely hope you love him as much as I do. He’s very much the type of man you want to take home to meet your mother, although to be honest, you probably don’t want to meet his…


Dumped Book Boyfriends:

No relationship is set in stone. Here are some Book Boyfriends that I’ve mentioned in the past, but have since moved on from to make way for new ones. Alas, alack etc.


Andevai Diarisso Haranwy from Spiritwalker by Kate Elliott


AndevaiI can barely remember anything that happened in Kate Elliott’s historical-fantasy steampunk mash-up beyond the fact that I loved Mr Dar– sorry, I mean Andevai. From what I remember, the protagonist Cat Barahal is forced to marry Andevai in order to uphold some kind of bargain between her family and his. How romantic…

Except that it is, because what follows is a truly wonderful “hatemance” filled with catty remarks, fierce rebuttals and witty repartees. Initially cold and exceedingly arrogant, Andevai eventually softens as his love for Cat grows, if a little too quickly for my liking. The chemistry he and Cat have when they fight is nothing short of spectacular and my heart skipped a beat every time he appeared on the scene. Plus he built her a bed to take her virginity on. A bed, People. He built her a frikkin’ bed.

My writing partner read the first book in the trilogy, Cold Magic, and absolutely hated it. But she does remember really liking Andevai, so there you go. Such is the level of his sex appeal.

He built her a bed


And that’s everyone! I hope you enjoyed reading about my Book Boyfriends. Who knows, perhaps we unwittingly share a few? Do please tell. I love a bit of gossip…

Take care,

S.E. Berrow


Be sure to check out all the authors mentioned above by visiting the following websites:

http://www.dianagabaldon.com/
http://www.robinhobb.com/
http://www.veschwab.com/
http://www.tolkien.co.uk/
http://www.skulduggerypleasant.co.uk/
http://www.kateelliott.com/
http://cassandraclare.com/
https://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/
https://kfgoodacre.com/

None of the images contained in this post are mine. Where possible, I have provided a source (click the image to view). If you own any of these images and are not comfortable with me sharing them here, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will endeavour to find a substitute!

Legacy by Michelle Lowe: Book Review

LegacyVeteran indie author Michelle Lowe gave me a free eBook copy of her seventh book Legacy — the first in a seven-part Steampunk series — in exchange for an honest review. Not wanting to let the author down (and I must apologise to Michelle for taking so long to get around to reading it as well; I generally don’t do well reading books off of computer screens), I was really delighted when Legacy turned out to be a well-written, fast-paced adventure that takes place across both sides of the English Channel. It features a whole host of well-illustrated characters that I couldn’t help but love.

Archie Norwich, son of the nobleman Tarquin Norwich, is sent out by his father to find the notorious Pierce Landcross — a wanted fugitive and a thief. Tarquin wishes to interrogate Landcross on the location of the mysterious toymaker Indigo Peachtree and his even more mysterious journal which contains the key to world domination. Accompanying Archie, Pierce and Tarquin in their race for the journal are Archie’s plucky and resourceful sister Clover, his troubled alcoholic brother Ivor, Pierce’s possessed brother Joaquin, an airship manned by Apache slave-liberators, gypsy travellers, vampires and more.

Without a doubt, Michelle’s beloved anti-hero steals the show. Pierce Landcross is the absolute highlight of this book with his debonair wit, glittering cleverness and inconvenient moral compass that gets him both into and out of scrapes with reckless abandon. He played well off of the staunchly uptight, feckless Archie, whom I wanted to strangle several times, and both he and Archie had a really endearing relationship with Archie’s little sister Clover. Michelle is really good at “show don’t tell” when it comes to her writing, and she isn’t afraid to knock her characters about a bit either. Characterisation is definitely her greatest strength.

Michelle LoweFor me personally the plot was a little bit all over the place. Whilst being fun and really quite complex with a lot of twists and turns to keep me guessing, we did end up travelling great distances across the country from one place to another without any major inconveniences. Everyone seemed to know straight away where their targets were (this is discounting Mother of Craft’s supernatural hints to Tarquin) and were able to find each other just a little too easily despite being miles apart. There were also a couple of points that threw me out of the story completely, such as the baffling Prologue (we never hear from Jack Pack and Thooranu again) and the mysterious Mother Of Craft, although her role will most likely play out in later books. World-building was also regrettably thin on the ground, the Steampunk elements in particular being quite downplayed; the Apache airship was the only real tell that I was able to pick up on and I think Michelle can definitely afford to up the ante in later books.

Overall I really enjoyed Legacy and feel it sets up the series very well. I really loved all the characters and thought Michelle’s writing was tight and nicely paced, completely devoid of purple prose and overly long sentences that notoriously bog down the fantasy genre. I recommend it for anyone looking for well-written, fast and rollicking adventure. I am really looking forward to Book 2, and I hope to actually buy a copy this time!

Verdict: 3/5

S.E. Berrow


For more information on Michelle Lowe and the world of Legacy, please visit the below links:

http://www.michellelowe.net/
http://www.nordlandpublishing.com/titles/legacy/

Michelle also has a really lovely little .PDF where you can meet all of her characters! Totally stealing this idea for my own website at some point. Watch this space…

 

Sorceresses, Fools, White Rabbits and Jules: World Book Day Shenanigans

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, on Thursday evening a few friends and I met up for a book-swapping party in honour of World Book Day. In addition to book-swapping, we also dressed up as our favourite literary characters just like hundreds of children across the country were doing for school, because we felt like revisiting our youth.

(I say this like it’s something I used to do as a child, but my school was incredibly boring and never hosted dress-up events on World Book Day. Thus I was super excited to be doing it for the first time!)

My character of choice was Valkyrie Cain from Derek Landy’s excellent Skulduggery Pleasant middle-grade series; a kickass young goth-sorceress who hangs around with a skeleton detective. Below is a picture of what she looks like. Being a kickass young goth-sorceress myself, I think it’s pretty easy to see why I chose her!

Here is what I managed to put together:

To create my Valkyrie look I used a fabulous real-feel synthetic black wig by YOPO Cosplay Wigs for Valkyrie’s signature long black locks. Makeup-wise I painted my entire face –including my lips — with Kat Von D’s Lock It Foundation (Light 42 Neutral) and used no blusher or face contour to get a pale, not-quite-human look. I also used Lipcote lipstick sealer for good measure to make sure the lips stayed pale and weren’t affected by any food or drink I consumed that night. For the eyes, I figured that as a young teenage girl Valkyrie might be more concerned with fighting bad guys than doing her makeup, so I kept it light with contouring shades from Kat Von D’s Shade & Light eye palette in Smoke and just a very sparing application of Buxom Lash Mascara on my upper eyelashes only. Lastly I used the ‘Define’ shade from the Kat Von D palette to darken my eyebrows to match my hair. Then I whacked on a pair of black jeans, black boots, a blood-red T-shirt and a black leather jacket, used a black hair-tie to make Valkyrie’s necromancer ring, grabbed one of my (many) decorative skulls for Skulduggery’s head and off I went!

Here is my book haul for the evening:

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Of the above, I’m most looking forward to reading V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic which I’ve heard such good things about. I was even more excited after I read the blurb to learn that some of it is set in the 18th century, the same time period that The Mayor is set in. My ‘TBR’ shelf grows ever heavier…

Check out some of the other characters my friends dressed up as below!

mad-fool-cain-julian
From left to right: Maria is the White Rabbit from Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland; Kim is the Fool from Robin Hobb’s The Farseer Trilogy; I am Valkyrie Cain from Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series; Cassie is Julian from L.J. Smith’s The Forbidden Game trilogy.

Did you do anything fun for World Book Day?

S.E. Berrow

 

Happy World Book Day!

world-book-day-20

Are you guys doing anything fun to commemorate World Book Day? My friends and I are having a book-swapping party round K.F. Goodacre‘s house and dressing up as book characters like we used to do in school (well, like everyone else used to do in school; my school was boring and never did this). I’m going as Valkyrie Cain from Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series. Pictures and book haul to follow, I am sure!

S.E. Berrow

2016: Year In Review

For me personally, 2016 was a total write-off. I feel like I sleep-walked my way through most of this year. I hardly managed to do any writing, I didn’t do enough exercise, and financially I seem to be worse off than when I started. These last couple of months have been better, because back in late November I decided to ditch the antidepressants I’d been prescribed since 2012. This was because I noticed a direct correlation between taking these tablets and my lethargy levels, which have impacted my weight, work and overall mood. The withdrawal symptoms have been truly godawful, but these have lessened now (if not entirely gone) and my energy levels are way, way up. I still have Bad Brain-Chemistry days, but seeing as my anxiety and depression is active, not reactive, that will always be there; it’s just that I am now armed with the means to deal with it more easily than I was before.

On that positive note, it’s worth remembering that there were some really good things about 2016 amidst all the depressing celebrity death and political upheaval. I list a few of these things below in my annual sum-up (you can read 2015’s effort here). So, without further ado…

1. Album that surpassed all others:

Dirge For The Archons by Diabulus In Musica

dirge-for-the-archons

The Spanish symphonic metallers actually managed to out-Epica Epica this year with their stunning fourth album, Dirge For The Archons. Old-school, stripped-back symphonic goth-metal at its absolute finest.

Favourite tracks: ‘Marble Embrace’, ‘Earthly Illusions’, ‘The Hawk’s Lament’, ‘Zauria’

2. Most missed artists:

Of the numerous celebrity deaths that have occurred this year, none have hit me quite so hard as the very first that was announced. The world is a much bleaker place without David Bowie in it ♥

lazarus

Also the late Andrew Sachs, whose brilliantly quotable work as Manuel in Fawlty Towers continues to take-up a disproportionately large amount my dialogue.

manuel

3. Album that really surprised me:

Lemonade by Beyoncé

lemonade

Where on Earth did this album even come from? It’s rock, it’s roll, it’s blues, it’s full of rawness, empowerment and badassery and I love it. As if that wasn’t enough, it even has contributions from Jack White and the Weeknd on it. Not every song is my cup of tea, but I can totally appreciate every single one of them. Excuse me please, I’m off to join the Beyhive.

Favourite tracks: ‘Formation’, ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’ feat. Jack White, ‘6 Inch’ feat. The Weeknd, ‘Daddy Lessons’

4. Person I would most like to have tea with:

I’ve really missed my Southern belle gal pal Lindsay this year. It’s completely rubbish that there is a whole ocean in the way between us. Personally, Lindsay, I think you should take advantage of the rubbish exchange rate and visit Jamie, Jasmin and I in the UK asap!

screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-08-21-06

5. The things I’ve completely had enough of:

The EU Neverendum, Brexit, the Labour Leadership crisis and the US Presidential election, all of which I’m happy to lay the responsibility of at the feet of our loathesome, unregulated press for bigging up the most vile, odious little toad that ever stepped foot on the political stage: Nigel not-even-an-elected-MP fucking Farage.

Also a lack of funds, but that’s just an inherent part of life that I am slowly learning to live with.

6. The thing I wish I had bought myself but didn’t:

One word: shelves.

7. Page-turner:

This is a tough one for me to pick this year… My reading habits were largely dictated by the Mr B’s reading subscription that Mark bought me for last Christmas so I didn’t read as much as I normally would have. One book really sticks out in my memory though, and that’s because it had such a profound impact on the way I think about the meat industry.

Under The Skin by Michel Faber

Under The Skin

Click here to read my 3/5 star book review (although looking back on it now, I’d definitely rate it higher).

8. Album that stirred my soul:

Paper Dolls by Ayria

paper-dolls

Released early in 2016, Canadian industrial act Ayria’s fifth album was almost prophetic in its pessimism of the year to come:

“You’ve broken her,
Crushed her will,
Maybe for all future generations.
It’s too late to say that you’re sorry
For taking her down with mob mentality.
She could have ruled the world,
But we fed her to the wolves
Because we all abhor it,
Our vanity, it kills.
We left her there as a warning in case it wasn’t clear.
Don’t misunderstand: we rule by fear.”

Favourite tracks: ‘Underneath The Water’, ‘Feed Her To The Wolves’, ‘Chameleon’, ‘Sticks And Stones’

9. Album that made me smile:

The Shadow Self by Tarja.

the-shadow-self

It is impossible to listen to the Imaginaerum-esque lilt of Nightwish kiss-off  track ‘Diva’ and not smile.

Favourite tracks: ‘Supremacy’, ‘Diva’, ‘Too Many’, ‘Demons In You’ (feat. Alissa White-Gluz)

10. Most stylish person:

This year I have been taking all my style cues from a Epica’s Simone Simons — she was totally rocking the blue lipstick in Epica’s ‘Edge Of The Blade’ video; I have worn Kat Von D’s Studded Kiss lipstick in ‘Poe’ almost exclusively this year as a direct result — and Charlotte Wessels, whose ombre-pink hair I have shamelessly copied in recent weeks.

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11. Best ‘thing’:

It feels a bit weird calling a living creature a thing, but that would of course be my new shelter kitten Edgar. Even though he is a brat who wakes me up before my alarm goes off in the morning, perpetually pesters Petra and destroys my beautiful black and white-striped wallpaper, he is also a cuddly, needy, purry little beast and I absolutely adore him.

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12. Favourite visual feast:

Gosh, there are so many contenders for this award this year: the music video for Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’; the ‘Pretty Lavinia’ video by American Murder Song, Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, Rise Of The Tomb Raider and the gorgeous Skyrim remastered edition for PS4…

I think I’m going to have to give this particular award to the final scene of Episode 5 in Game of Thrones, Season 6. I cried to the point of being sick.

hodor

13. Best fictional character since Sirius Black:

Lara Croft, aka. the Tomb Raider, who turned 20 this year!

lara-croft-20-years-of-tomb-raider

14. Coolest rock star:

The super talented Kat Von D, who finally, finally released her incredible make-up line in the UK this year exclusively at Debenhams. No more international trips to Sephora for my poor put-upon mother! I wear a lot of dark eye make-up and bold lipsticks, so for me her make-up is just perfect, and it’s all completely cruelty-free too ♥

kat-von-d

Kat also just seems so super nice and amazingly passionate about everything she does and I love that about her. Plus her cats are just the most gorgeous creatures I have ever seen:

poe-and-piaf

In fact, sorry Kat, but I’m going to name Poe and Piaf as this year’s coolest rock stars in your place. Is that allowed? Too late, it’s done.

15. Best gig:

Delain at the KOKO, Camden (13 November).

delain-mine

So much fun! You can read my review of the night here.

16. Most special moment:

screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-01-54-49

This one ♥

Also going to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child with my jammy friend Michael who won us an incredible pair of front-row tickets on the Friday Forty back in July:

the-cursed-child

17. Song of the year:

I’m going to defy convention. There will be no song of the year this year. Instead, there shall be…

17. PODCAST OF THE YEAR!

My Dad Wrote A Porno by Jamie Morton, James Cooper, Alice Levine and Rocky Flintstone.

my-dad-wrote-a-porno

If you haven’t listened to this podcast yet, oh my goodness, you simply must. The very first episode had me in tears of laughter on my daily commute. Literally, there were actual tear tracks running down my face as I struggled to contain the laughter in public. The really great thing is, everyone around me was doing the same thing. Everyone in London is listening to My Dad Wrote A PornoEveryone.

Come, join the esteemed ranks of Elijah Wood, Daisy Ridley and yours truly… Become a Belinker today!

18. Biggest achievement:

Running the 5K Colour Run in the Summer and also helping to raise so much money for Battersea Dogs & Cats with my tea party.

19. Biggest regret:

 

The fact that I didn’t put as much effort into reducing my credit card bills as much as I should have.

20. New Year’s Resolutions:

1. Get healthy and fit in plenty of time for Tough Mudder in September.
2. Buy a house with my boyfriend and move in with our menagerie of animals.
3. Write Book One of The Mayor.

Bonus! Instagram’s #2016Best Nine:

 

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Happy New Year!

S.E. Berrow


For more information on items, people or bands mentioned in this post, please click the below links.

Music:

http://diabulusinmusica.com/
http://legacy.davidbowie.com/
http://www.beyonce.com/
http://www.ayria.com/
http://tarjaturunen.com/
https://americanmurdersong.com/

http://www.delain.nl/

Books:

http://www.michelfaber.com/
http://www.mydadwroteaporno.com/

Games:

http://www.tombraider.com
https://elderscrolls.bethesda.net/skyrim/

Theatre, Film & TV:

https://www.harrypottertheplay.com/
http://www.fantasticbeasts.com/

http://www.gameofthrones.com/

Style & Beauty:

http://www.smoonstyle.com/
http://www.katvondbeauty.com/


Note: The original ‘Year In Review’ structure and the vast majority of my questions were shamelessly stolen from a MySpace blog post written by the inimitable Darren Hayes many years ago. So old is it that I’m not even sure the post exists anymore (I can’t find it regardless)! You can find out more about Darren Hayes and his wonderful effervescent self here:

http://darrenhayes.com/