Tag Archive | The Demon of Darkling Reach

The Assassin by PJ Fox

One of my reading resolutions to myself this year is to read any PJ Fox book that I haven’t read yet. As you may recall, the first book I read of Fox’s, The Demon of Darkling Reach, became Segnalibro’s first ever Book of the Year in 2015. I was floored by its brilliance, and The Black Prince tetralogy (of which The Demon of Darkling Reach is the first book in the series), is definitely on my list of the best series of books I’ve ever read. My next PJ Fox book was The Assassin.

The Assassin follows the fortunes of Ceres, an assassin who has visited the strange, slum strewn land of Dharavi to kill a rogue “brother” from his organisation. Ceres is good at his job but does not bargain for tenacious, child-like but beautiful Udit, who introduced herself to Ceres at an inopertune moment , leaving him astonished and bewildered at the interruption of his job.

Despite being a fairly short book, the narrative had a bit of a slow build up to give readers a real sense of Ceres’ surroundings and of Ceres himself. Beautifully written by Fox, as I knew it would be, she builds up a picture of Dharkun and of Ceres, strangely conjuring up a vague image in my mind of Clint Eastwood strutting into town to slay the bad guy! (Pretty sure this is my vivid imagination playing tricks on me, though!)

Ceres is your consummate quiet, brooding, cold-blooded killer. He does his research and savours the kill. Udit deliciously throws him off balance with her strength of character juxtaposed against her tiny build. Ceres never loses control but Udit definitely wavers his composure as she throws into question his philosophy of life and love.

Fox seems to be giving somewhat of a social critique too. Trust is a rare commodity in Dharkun, and it is a dangerous place to be. This slum town is dirty and dank, it has tyrants at every turn, yet there is a loyalty there of each other, to a large extent. Strangers are noticed and there are dangers lurking around every corner, but the people who live there know where to avoid, for the most part. There seems to be an acceptance that the bad people will do bad things and nothing can be done about it. Fox also challenges the dynamic of how certain stereotypes are perceived by mirroring Ceres level of honour and responsibility to his brotherhood and to Udit against that of Udit’s father, a cleric who tries to appear righteous but in reality, has his own agenda.

The Assassin is essentially a love story. There are some not so pretty scenes but there are some really tender scenes too. However, the one constant is Fox’s beautifully sculptured narrative. I could wax lyrical about PJ Fox’s writing skills all day. She is definitely one of my favourite writers and while this was not my favourite of Fox’s books, I enjoyed it nonetheless. Her ability to create a scene so perfectly to envelope her multi-faceted characters into is nothing short of remarkable. I am currently reading her latest Wattpad novel Prince of Darkness,the follow-up to her first Wattpad novel Book of Shadows and again, they are beautifully constructed literary works of art. If you haven’t read these yet, you really should. As for The Assassin, it truly is a fantastic novel and I would definitely recommend it.

Segnalibro Book of the Year 2015

In my first year of book reviewing, I have read some fantastic books. The ones that have stood out particularly have been made Book of the Month in the month that I read them. I’ve given myself the unenviable challenge of picking one of these books to be the Segnalibro Book of the Year for 2015. As I write this post, I have to admit, I think it is going to be a very difficult choice. However, to help me to decide, and to give you a chance to offer your opinion on what you think should be made Book of the Year 2015, here’s a recap of the books I’ve had as my Book of the Month throughout the Year.

March 2015 – Wicked Game by Matt Johnson

It was Matt Johnson who I have to thank for my decision to review books on a regular basis. When I set up www.segnalibro.co.uk back in March, I wasn’t really sure what I was going to write about. However, having been approached by Rob Sinclair (author of the fabulous Dance with the Enemy and the equally fabulous Rise of the Enemy) to read their books, I found myself wanting to tell everyone who was interested what I thought of their books. After reading Matt and Rob’s great debut novels, I realised that I could enjoy books that were not in a genre that I’d necessarily choose, and with some fantastic support and advice from Matt, not to mention a great introduction to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books, I decided to make the bulk of my posts book reviews. I have enjoyed every minute and that is in no small part to Matt Johnson. His debut novel, Wicked Game, is a brilliant crime mystery novel which has a multitude of twists and turns in the life of main protagonist, Robert Finlay. I was so enthused by his novel that it was made March Book of the Month, Segnalibro’s first. This book has recently had a rejuvenation following Matt’s signing to Orenda Books and I am really looking forward to seeing how this amazing book has been improved.

Twitter ID: @matt_johnson_uk

April 2015 – The Last Days of Disco by David F. Ross


As previously mentioned, I was introduced by Matt Johnson to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books, who has kindly sent me a number of novels for me to read and review since. One of those books was The Last Days of Disco by David F.Ross. This book is brilliant because it enticed me on so many different levels. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me nostalgic as I considered my own 80’s childhood.  I loved this book when I read it and have since recommended it as a must-read. The follow up, The Rise & Fall of The Miraculous Vespas, has just been released and I am very much looking forward to reading and reviewing it in the near future.

Twitter ID: @dfr10

May 2015 – One Man Crusade by Steven Suttie

One Man Crusade by Steven Suttie was the first book this year that floored me by how emotive the narrative was and how beautifully constructed it was by Steven Suttie to have the maximum emotional impact. I was a an emotional wreck when I finished this book, leaving my partner to wonder what the hell was going on to leave me so inconsolable! The combination of the subject matter i.e. a vigilante killing paedophiles and the journalistic style in which it is written leaves the reader to formulate their own opinions without the author pushing one opinion or another on you. I have since recommended this book to anyone who would listen and those who have read it have been just as floored as I was. It’s follow up, Neighbours from Hell, didn’t quite have the same impact, but I believe there may be a third novel in the making that may sort out some of the open ends in the second book. I’m very much looking forward to reading it!

Twitter ID: @stevensuttie

June 2015

Matt Johnson had a second month as Book of the Month in June with his follow up to Wicked Game, Deadly Game. I had eagerly anticipated the release of this novel, and there is always a sense of trepidation when you have enjoyed a novel so much and the sequel is released, as it has a lot to live up to. Deadly Game didn’t disappoint, as twists and turns ensued and Robert Finlay was a fascinating main protagonist. These two novels were so cleverly written and had a lot of political resonance too. What I loved most about this book, is Johnson’s portrayal of Finlay’s struggle with the symptoms of PTSD, something that Johnson has openly admitted to suffering with, his first book being written as a kind of therapy to combat his symptoms. The decision to use this approach with Finlay undoubtedly lessens the direct action so prominent in Wicked Game, somewhat of a risk on Johnson’s part, but one that certainly paid off. This was a brilliant sequel and again, I’m very much looking forward to Finlay’s future adventures.

July 2015 – Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe

I got a little bit of stick from those who know me for making this book my July Book of the Month, as I am known to be a big Rob Lowe fan. Having made a massive deal out of getting a tweet from the man himself following my review of Love Life,  I can understand why this may have been an easy assumption to make! However, I can honestly say, hand on heart, that there was no favouritism involved in my decision to make this book my July Book of the Month. It is genuinely a fascinating, wonderfully written autobiography, that contains an intelligence not often found in celebrity autobiographies. There are plenty of celebrity tales, but it would have been impossible not to, mainly because Lowe has spent most of his life in and around celebrity circles (he used to play at Martin Sheen’s house with Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez as a child!). However, what struck me about this book, and it’s sequel Love Life, is that Lowe is not a name dropper for the sake of it. Every tale he tells are about people who have influenced his life, good and bad, decisions he has made, for better or for worse, and most importantly, how he holds the same values dear to him as many other people who do not have his celebrity status. His family are his strength, in particular his wife, Sheryl, and he portrays that so beautifully in both his autobiographies. Stories I Only Tell My Friends is not a self-obsessed celebrity boast, it is a moving tale of a boy who worked hard to make his dreams come true and he has embraced every moment with enthusiasm and awe of how incredibly lucky he is to have achieved his dreams professionally and personally. Read it if you don’t believe me! smile,emoticon,face,fun,happy,smiley,emotion,funny

Twitter ID: @RobLowe

August 2015 – Breaking Faith by Joy Eileen

Breaking Faith by Joy Eileen was the first release blitz and blog tour I was involved in and it was great experience, as have all the blog tours I’ve been involved with since. Although it was a bit of a slow starter, this was a brilliant debut novel that had me gripped. Eileen treated her readers to a chapter of the next in the JackholeS series at the end of this book which was a good job too considering the cliffhanger that she leaves the first book on! Whilst there is still enough anticipation left for the reader what happens next, without that first chapter of the next novel, it would have been unbearable to wait, a true testament to Eileen’s abilities. This is another sequel that I’m really looking forward to reading.

Twitter ID: @heyitsmejoy

September 2015 – The Demon of Darkling Reach by PJ Fox

PJ Fox’s novels have been a prominent feature on Segnalibro since I read this book back in September, the first book in The Black Prince tetralogy. As someone who enjoys classic novels as much as I enjoy more modern books, this series was a revelation to me when I first read it. The Demon of Darkling Reach is not only a wonderful novel that takes the best features from classic and modern novels but it has some of the richest characterisation I’ve read in a novel in a long time. Also, to read a PJ Fox novel is to educate yourself as she uses her location and time period to give the reader an insight into life in that time/place, in this series, medieval England in beautifully explicit detail. The narrative is wonderfully intelligent and her characters engross you from the start. I read a lot of books in September but this book stood out a country mile ahead of the others.

@Twitter ID: @pjfoxwrites

October 2015 – The Prince’s Slave Trilogy by PJ Fox

While I was waiting for the release of the final two parts of The Black Prince tetralogy, I wanted to read another PJ Fox novel to see if I’d enjoy her other books as much as I enjoyed The Demon of Darkling Reach and The White Queen (the second book in The Black Prince series). I downloaded The Prince’s Slave trilogy in it’s entirety and I was once again enamoured by Fox’s characters and her writing style. A modern re-telling of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale, The Prince’s Slave is completely engrossing and I could have read about Belle and Ash for more books than the three in this series. I have still to make my way through Fox’s back catalogue but I am sure it will be an amazing journey. I have also had the great pleasure of chatting with Fox on a regular basis and I am extremely pleased to have made her acquaintance.

Twitter ID: :@pjfoxwrites

November 2015 – Dear Mr You by Mary-Louise Parker

Dear Mr You fascinated me when I read it as an ARC copy via NetGalley. This uniquely written autobiography is one of the best autobiographies that I have ever read. It could actually read as a work of fiction due it’s style – a series of letters written to the men in Parker’s life who have knowingly or unknowingly had an effect on her life and her decision making over the years. Men who were close to her heart, men who she met only once in passing and imaginary men who she may meet or could have met. No name dropping, no big celebrity scoops, just a beautifully written series of letters that illuminate the highs and lows of Parker’s life.

 

December 2015 – The Black Prince Part One and Part Two by PJ Fox

These two books were so eagerly anticipated by me, there was a very real chance that I’d built them up in my mind to be better than they’d turn out to be. Not so in the slightest! The final parts of PJ Fox’s The Black Prince tetralogy were a very fitting ending to Isla and Tristan’s tale, as well as the other wonderful characters that the reader is introduced to over the course of the four novels. Fox manages to give plenty of page space to other characters, whilst still maintaining Isla and Tristan as the main protagonists and the focus of the novels. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and reviewing these two books, as much as I have with Fox’s other novels.

Twitter ID: @pjfoxwrites

So there you have it, the contenders for Segnalibro Book of the Year 2015. All of these books have connected with me one way or another and it will be a very difficult choice to pick one out of these ten books. Have you read any of these books? If so, let me know what you think of them in the comments below, or on Twitter or Facebook. I’ll announce my Book of the Year on 31st December 2015.

The Black Prince:Part 1 & 2 by PJ Fox

It is only a few months ago since I read, and loved, The Demon of Darkling Reach and The White Queen by PJ Fox but I feel like I have been waiting forever for the final two books in this amazing tetralogy, The Black Prince: Part One and The Black Prince: Part Two. I got a tantalising taster when I read the first seven chapters a month or so ago and it made me all the more desperate to see where Fox would take her two main protagonists, Isla and Tristan. Yet, I quickly realised that although Isla and Tristan are still the main protagonists, in these final two books, Fox gives equal, if not more narrative to other characters who are as worthy of the page space as Isla and Tristan.

The Black Prince Part One and Two follows on from Isla’s marriage, and sacrifice, to Tristan, as battles are ensuing across the lands to try and overthrow the King, led by Maeve, Asher’s mother. When Tristan acknowledges that he is Asher’s father, and Isla adopts Asher as her son, he becomes a pawn in a vicious battle between the warring sides. As Hart becomes an integral part of Tristan’s fighting force, he tries to battle his own demons as he finds love and great success in his own right. However, there are enemies hidden in all manner of places and some closer than they think, and there are plenty of unexpected twists and turns throughout the two books.

What I loved about this tetralogy is that Fox packs in so much information and so many characters, who could easily be main protagonists in their own right, yet I was never lost as to what was happening. Fox doesn’t skimp on the descriptive parts of the narrative, but neither does she overload you; the ratio for action and description is perfect. As I’ve mentioned in past reviews of Fox’s works, her talent for creating flawed, yet brilliant characters is amazing. She perfectly balances her main characters and surrounds them with a few extreme characters, such as Rowena and Rudolph to create a exquisite narrative that gives so much, yet doesn’t confuse the reader. The narrative is clever enough to keep the reader guessing as to who is friend or foe, but is clear enough to at least arouse suspicion in various parties.

As a reader, you can easily place yourself in the environment that Fox outlines. Her ability to paint a picture with words is truly a wonder to behold, whether it be the grandeur of Caer Addanc or the gross camping site of the warring troops. Fox uses her historical knowledge to give her descriptions authenticity and to give the reader a true indication of the medieval landscape.

However, it is her characters that make these books as fantastic as they are. Despite Tristan’s dark nature and demonic rituals, he is a very alluring character and, as a woman who loves the idea of a chivalrous man looking after the woman he loves fiercely, I absolutely fell for Tristan. His all-powerful persona allows him stand tall above and beyond the other characters in the book and a reader could forgive him anything. (The claws would be an issue though, as I’ve mentioned before! No man should have nails longer than mine!) I loved Isla too, and she is such a formidable character. She is a strong woman who has embraced her life with Tristan and as a mother to Asher and is not often afraid to speak her mind in defence of those that she loves. Her flaws are those that most people can relate to; she worries that she isn’t enough for Tristan, and that she is somehow to blame for her family’s nasty traits. However, the way Fox brings Tristan and Isla together and entwines them to become one entity leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind that these two characters were made for each other. The reader can also see that her concerns about her family are completely unfounded and they are just nasty pieces of work. The fact that Isla feels these things, however, makes her a particularly agreeable character who the reader champions throughout the novels.

Hart comes into his own in these two books. Whilst I loved his character in the first two books, it is in the two The Black Prince books where Hart is given a leading role. He is another perfect example of a character that is quite gross in many ways, yet the reader is left more than willing to ignore his baser features to appreciate what a wonderful character he is. Partnering him with Callas initially, they are a formidable duo who work together with a fantastic synchronicity. We are then introduced to Arvid, a tribesman with a bluntness that insults and amuses in equal measure, who becomes Hart’s right hand man. He is a loyal friend and provides much amusement to those who he isn’t insulting. Hart’s relationship with Lissa is beautifully depicted by Fox as both characters have their own issues but ultimately are drawn together and like Isla and Tristan, they rely totally on what their respective partners can give them, despite being able to hold their own in whatever situation presents itself to them.

Asher is also more prominent in these books, in fact, plays a very important part in the plot of these two novels.  Again, he is wonderfully developed by Fox, in terms of his expectations, dreams and the fact that he is only still a young boy who idolises those close to him but still can’t help but wonder how he has found himself in the position he is in. He emulates Tristan to some extent but his youthful worries and uncertainties give Asher more depth as a character and I found myself mentally shouting at him to watch his back and hoping he didn’t get swayed by his insecurities.

I could quite easily discuss each character at length and tell you how well written they are but I fear I would give far too much away and I would like to strongly encourage people to read these books rather than feel they didn’t need to because I’ve divulged too much here. However, I must mention Rowena, Isla’s sister, who has gone from being a vain little princess character in book one to a downright evil, vindictive, witch in these two books. She has been so well developed over the course of the four books that she never ceases to surprise with some of her actions and responses. Ultimately she keeps testing Isla’s loyalty to her to the limit and while Isla never seems to quite sever ties with her, I often wished she would! Rowena’s character is multi-functional in these books and her purpose is ever changing, keeping the reader amused and appalled in equal measure.

I can honestly say that this has been one of the best series of books I have ever read. In a very short period of time, PJ Fox has become one of my favourite writers and I fully intend to read her back catalogue, as well as her regular updates to her Wattpad book, Book of Shadows. I have been telling everyone who listens that they should read this series and will continue to do so, as I think that this series captures the essence of the traditional classic novel, but bypasses the restrictions of what was deemed appropriate to give the novels a modernity that enhances the classic style. I have nothing at all bad to say about this series other than to say that I’m gutted that the experience is over. In the Afterword to The Black Prince:Part 2, Fox poses some questions about what happens next and she says she is leaving it for the reader to decide. That’s not to say that Fox doesn’t tie the story off well. She does, but there is definitely scope for more. I would be the first to read any follow up to Isla and Tristan’s story and given their predilections, I bet a whole host of stories could be written based on them. Also, to anyone in the film industry, these books would make an epic film. It would never be as good as the books, but then again, they never are!

The Prince’s Slave by PJ Fox

It wasn’t that long ago that I made PJ Fox’s The Demon of Darkling Reach my September Book of the Month. Since reading, and loving, this book, as well as it’s follow up, The White QueenThe Prince’s Slave trilogy has been on my reading list. The time had come for me to read it and I started it with a little trepidation. I wanted to be blown away by it, as I was with the first two books in The Black Prince trilogy. I’ve been in this position before. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m a big Stephanie Plum fan (Janet Evanovich) so I was looking forward to reading Metro Girl when that came out and I was disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I expected to. In the shadow of a series I adored, Metro Girl didn’t come close. I was a little worried that after enjoying The Black Prince trilogy so much, I wouldn’t enjoy The Prince’s Slave.

The Prince’s Slave is a modern re-telling of Beauty and the Beast. The main protagonist is Belle, a confused college student, who attends a college in Dresden in the hope that she might find the answer there to what she wants to do with her future. She has been a keen ballet dancer until an injury dashes her hopes of a future career in dancing, but she suspects that this wasn’t her calling anyway. Determined to work hard and get a decent job so that she does not follow in the footsteps of her neglectful mother and her alcoholic father, we join Belle in a nightclub in Prague, having taken her homework with her on a night out that she didn’t want to attend, as she is neglected by her friends. She sees Ash, an intriguing, smart-looking but very intimidating man, staring at her, and when she is presented with an opportunity to speak to him, she uncharacteristically gets defensive towards him. She thinks that is the last she has seen of him until she is tricked into a dreadful situation that puts her in grave danger. Ash saves the day, or ruins her life, depending on how it is perceived, and we are shown how Belle reacts to Ash’s actions as her life changes beyond recognition.

I was overjoyed to find that I had nothing to worry about and was not about to have a Stephanie Plum crisis. I loved this trilogy from the first page to the last. As with The Demon of Darkling Reach and The White Queen, The Prince’s Slave is a really intelligent narrative that challenges pre-conceived ideas at every turn, and it is all the more refreshing for it. While this trilogy is loosely based on Beauty and the Beast, Fox continually challenges the ideology of fairy tales throughout, including the Disney versions, arguing against their perceived image of what true love should be. Not only does she challenge these accepted notions, she urges the reader to consider the possibility that perhaps the assumptions that are generally held about how a relationship might develop is not the only way. While Belle initially is abhorred by Ash, his acceptance and adoration of her just as she is makes her question whether she can overcome her anger and distress at the way in which they have been brought together; she is his slave as she understands the situation, and also this is how Ash understands it to an extent. However, both characters are experiencing new facets of their sense of self. Self-assured Ash realises that Belle is not, and never will be, a true submissive, and Belle is challenged and intrigued by the world that Ash is introducing her too.

In reality, Ash doesn’t want to change Belle beyond expanding her sexual horizons. He treats her differently to his “other girls” by allowing her to share his bed and by giving her all she desires. He introduces Belle to the sexual lifestyle of a dominant/submissive relationship and she is appalled, yet fascinated by her body’s reaction to Ash’s sexual approach. Belle is fighting against being told by everyone in her life that she should act to a rule book of conformity and Ash is introducing her to sexual experiences that confuse yet arouse, further encouraging her that conforming is not necessarily what makes a person happy. There are some highly erotic scenes throughout the trilogy but they are not gratuitous, and each serves a purpose of highlighting Belle’s transformation of no longer being the wallflower but being the centre of Ash’s attention. Ultimately, as Belle learns more about Ash and him about her, they are able to develop their sense of self so that they both get their own happy endings, together, putting to rest a few demons from their childhoods along the way.

One thing I have learned about PJ Fox is that she doesn’t take a beaten path with her writing, but more seeks the road less travelled. While there are undoubtedly minor comparisons to be made to that other BDSM-related trilogy, what Fox does with her trilogy is shows EL James how it’s done. Fox shows how to write characters that engulf the psyche of the reader so that they are able to leave their preconceptions to one side so that the main protagonists can get their happy ending with the reader’s blessing. She also shows how to write a narrative that entices the reader without resorting to formulaic, Mills and Boon style descriptions. Fox displays how to formulate a story without repeating the same coined phrases over and over and also how to educate the reader in more than different types of sexual devices. Fox doesn’t tell the reader what to think, more that she provides as much information as she can to allow the reader to reach their own conclusions, assuming that the reader keeps an open mind and considers that maybe, just maybe, there are other ways for people to be happy; that conforming to an image of what people think is right isn’t actually right for everyone. Everyone has their own predilections and as long as they are not breaking the law, who is anyone to tell them that it is wrong.

50 Shades of Grey has been my guilty pleasure; I’ve mentioned this on more than one occasion. In fact it was a discussion on PJ Fox’s website about 50 Shades… that made me read The Demon of Darkling Reach in the first place. Not any more. I couldn’t read it now without feeling completely irritated by its inadequacies (not that I hadn’t noticed them before). The Prince’s Slave is a much better trilogy in every possible way. It encapsulates all that 50 Shades of Grey could have been in the hands of more skilled writer and storyteller and is much more eloquently written, something I have come to expect from Fox’s narratives, whether it be in her novels, on her blog or indeed, her messages on Facebook! Aside from the 50 Shades comparison, it is just a fantastic story and a joy to read. Fox has previously mentioned that people have commented that her books leave them with the feeling that “they don’t know what to think”. I think that Fox tells a brilliant story in a wonderfully engaging style. No if, no buts. I will undoubtedly be reading Fox’s other novels and of course, the release of final parts of The Black Prince trilogy is just around the corner. However, I have no doubt that I will read The Prince’s Slave again, and again, and again… Christian who?

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Six Months of Reviewing Novels: An Education

It’s been a while since I did a train of thought post so I thought I’d put the reviews to one side for an evening and do one now.  My first few posts on Segnalibro were about my thoughts on things that interested me in the literary world. However, two conversations with the brilliant authors Rob Sinclair (Dance With the Enemy, Rise of the Enemy) and Matt Johnson (Wicked Game and Deadly Game) inspired me to review their début novels, as I found myself surprised that I was reading, and enjoying, books in a genre that would never have appealed to me before. It is pretty safe to say that I caught the bug and I have reviewed books in more or less every genre since then. Six months after that first semi-review of Rob and Matt’s books, I feel that I have learned a few things about this reviewing lark.

One thing I have found is that it is much easier to review books you have enjoyed immensely or hated with a passion. I’ve been very fortunate that I have read some lovely novels which have been engaging from start to finish and I have loved waxing lyrical about some of the books that I really felt stood out among the others I was reading at the time. There are three books that spring to mind as books that completely floored me with their amazing narratives and wonderful plots. The first one is The Last Days of Disco by David F. Ross. I loved this book for its nostalgic reminders of my childhood in the 1980’s and the hilarious antics of main protagonist, Bobby Cassidy. Just when I thought that this book couldn’t get any better, by the end of the book, the flood gates were open. If a book can make me laugh and cry, it’s a winner for me, and The Last Days of Disco did just that. This was also the first book I reviewed from Orenda Books and it won’t be the last, that’s for sure!

The next book that had me stunned was One Man Crusade by Steven Suttie. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book but after being contacted by Steven Suttie requesting that I tried his book, I thought I’d give it a try. Never have I had such an intense reaction to a novel. I broke my heart reading it. This gritty novel about a Manchester police department hunting down a paedophile killer left me reeling as Suttie, in true journalistic fashion, gives the reader an illustration of how a situation can escalate in a society that has 24 hour updates and constant social media feeds. Suttie merely gives the facts, leaving the reader to decide their own point of view, not to mention, his clever tactic of waiting until you are a several chapters into the novel before giving you the story of the man who is killing paedophiles and has become the hero of the nation for doing so. I implored everyone I know to read this book and if I’m ever asked to recommend a book, One Man Crusade is always one of the first I mention. A friend of mine read this recently on my recommendation and I was really happy that she liked it, so much so that she bought and read the sequel, Neighbours from Hell, which was released on Monday, which I haven’t even got round to reading yet!

The third book that has surprised me by its brilliance is a recent read, The Demon of Darkling Reach by PJ Fox. Again, I wasn’t sure that this was going to be a book that I’d enjoy, again allowing myself to be put off by the genre. (I will never learn!) However, this is one of the most beautiful narratives I’ve read in a very long time. When I was studying towards my English degree, I read many classics, a number of them gothic novels, and I was reminded of the intricacy of these novels when I read Fox’s tale of Isla, a feisty, young daughter of an imprudent earl who has squandered his money away to the point where he has to offer the hand of his daughter in marriage to the enigmatic duke, Tristan Mountbatten, aka The Demon of Darkling Reach. The plot itself is magnificent but what I loved was that the narrative had all the beauty of a classic novel but with the features of modern literature that are only hinted at in their predecessors, such as swearing and direct sexual references. This book was also an education in the traditions and practices of mediaeval life, which I found absolutely fascinating. This is another book that I am plugging endlessly to anyone who will listen!

Of course, these all fall into the “Books I’ve Loved” category. There has only been one book that has left me so irritated that I felt the need to write an almost fully negative review, which was Gray Justice by Alan McDermott. I was completely frustrated by this book because it had all the makings of a really enjoyable novel, if only the writer could be bothered putting the time into his main protagonist. As a reader, it was expected that you would sympathise and champion Tom Gray, yet we know barely anything about him. McDermott focuses his attention on the wrong characters, has unfeasible plot twists and the final showdown has so many characters in so many locations that it is impossible to fathom who is where, at what stage and what the implications are of where the characters are located for the rest of the novel. I was frustrated because it could be such a better novel than it is with a bit more investment from the author into the main character’s emotions, perceptions and by building an affinity between the reader and Tom Gray.

What these four books had in common is that they were easy to write about. The paragraphs almost wrote themselves as I typed away, because, good or bad, the narratives were rich in elements to comment about. What I have found during this reviewing learning curve, is that it isn’t always that easy. I will always give my honest opinion and I will always try to focus more on the positive than the negative, but sometimes, when the narrative is distinctly average or it is a book that doesn’t particularly interest me although it may be enjoyable to others, it is difficult to find the words, which for someone who can normally talk/write until the cows come home (this post being a classic example), is a very strange situation to find myself in. There have been a few books which, to be honest, have just not excited me. They were okay and readable, but there is just not much to say about them. I probably just need more practice, but that would mean reading many more “okay” books and less time reading the “amazing” books as I have noted above.

However, I have found that I have really enjoyed reading and reviewing books from all genres and I have loved the conversations that it has led to with the various authors who I have reviewed books for. Special mention must go to my lovely guest reviewer, J.L.Clayton, who has become an amazing Twitter/Facebook Buddy and is, without a doubt, my biggest supporter as she retweets/shares everything I post, which is invaluable to me. She has also wrote two fantastic books with a third in progress (A Spark of Magic and A Blaze of Magic) and I really value her encouragement and her experience in writing and publishing her own books.

The fact that I have generated a review feedback page attests to my joy at the great feedback I have received over the last six months. The feedback has been so gratefully received by me while I have been finding my feet at book reviewing and I want to thank every author who has taken the time to thank me for my efforts. Of course, my feedback tweet from Rob Lowe, though short and sweet, will be forever etched in my memory (and in my phone photos, and on my website, Twitter feed, Facebook page…) although a “Thanks for making Stories I Only Tell My Friends Segnalibro’s July Book of the Month” would have been nice! (Just kidding – I love my tweet for Love Life and I will treasure it forever!) In all seriousness, another thing I have learned in this process is that the authors I have encountered are lovely and I have been very fortunate that I have had nothing but encouragement from the authors whose books I have reviewed. Long may this continue!

Finally, I have learned that book reviewing is an addictive hobby. If I’m not reviewing, I’m reading (although I did a lot of this anyway) and it is a lovely way to enjoy my spare time. I have got myself into a little routine now: day job, time with the children, reading/reviewing, with a few meals and chores in between. I never thought when I started my website that I would be enjoying writing posts as much as I do. I wish I had more time to spend on it but nonetheless, setting up www.segnalibro.co.uk is one of the best things I have done and I am immensely proud of it. Here is to many, many more book reviews, train of thought posts, Golden Book Ratings, Segnalibro Book’s of the Month and to making contact with some amazing people. I hope this indulgent, not-so-little post hasn’t put you to sleep, and if it has, I hope that was the intention when you started reading, in which case, the post is a success! Thanks for reading and thanks for your support over the last six months. Lisa xx

 

Girl Online: On Tour

Zoe (Zoella) Sugg Release Date: 20 Oct. 2015 Buy new: £12.99 £6.49

The Signature of All Things

Elizabeth Gilbert The Signature of All Things 2 days in the top 100 The Signature of All Things (213) Download: £5.39

Millie Marotta's Animal Kingdom – A Colouring Book Adventure

Millie Marotta 261 days in the top 100 Millie Marotta's Animal Kingdom - A Colouring Book Adventure (1206) Buy new: £9.99 £3.99 46 used & new from £2.39

After Anna

Alex Lake 32 days in the top 100 After Anna (88) Download: £0.99

The Amazing Book is Not on Fire

Dan Howell , Phil Lester Release Date: 8 Oct. 2015 Buy new: £16.99 £8.49

Rogue Lawyer

John Grisham Release Date: 20 Oct. 2015 Buy new: £20.00 £10.00

Little Girl Gone

Alexandra Burt Little Girl Gone (18) Download: £0.99

The White Queen by PJ Fox

Following my recent review of The Demon of Darkling Reach, I’d been looking forward to when I’d get chance to read the second book in The Black Prince trilogy, The White Queen. I wasn’t remotely disappointed, although perhaps a little surprised at what I found when I began the first chapter.

The narrative doesn’t start where I would have expected it to, i.e with Isla and Tristan as their relationship develops. Indeed, it was several chapters later where we would rejoin the couple. Instead, the reader learns how the Tristan Mountbatten became The Demon of Darkling Reach in the first place. We are introduced to the original Tristan Mountbatten, Duke and necromancer, and the circumstances surrounding his reasons for summoning a demon in the first place. We are also given the demon’s point of view before, during and after he inhabits Tristan’s body, becoming the Tristan we know and love from book one. This tactic, ironically, humanises the demon and the reader cannot help but sympathise with the demon and his plight.

Fox illuminates how the demon made a split-second decision to inhabit the original Tristan’s body at that moment and had to figure things out for himself with no real guidance from anyone else. Juxtaposed with Isla’s own struggle to comprehend the enormity of the decision she has made to marry a demon and the changes she will be required to make, the reader feels a greater affinity with Tristan as he guides Isla as best he can and shows her how he does love her in the only way he can.

As with book one, the narrative is beautifully written, intricate in the descriptions of locations, emotions and educating the reader about historical traditions and processes. As with The Demon of Darkling Reach, the issues transcend not only the space in time from when the demon inhabits Tristan to the time he meets Isla, but also to the present day. Religion, war and prejudice play a massive part in current affairs, as does love and jealousy, and Fox has an amazing skill to make these historically based narratives resonate with the same issues from today’s society.

This book reads a little slower than book one but it is no less enjoyable for it. While book one puts the situation in front of the reader, this book explores those dynamics in greater detail. If The Demon of Darkling Reach raises many questions, The White Queen provides plenty of answers, them raises a few more! However, like The Demon of Darkling Reach, The White Queen reads like a modern gothic novel, much smarter than the gothic novels that pre-date it.

I was eager to get to the part where Tristan and Isla meet again at Caer Addanc, willing Isla’s journey to pick up speed whilst simultaneously taking in all the information provided by Fox that builds up the characters further. In fact, while frustrating a little at times, Fox cleverly builds up the tension by showing Tristan’s own struggles then expanding Isla’s journey to Darkling Reach, allowing Isla to expose her fears to the reader and  exacerbating the anticipation of their first meeting on Tristan’s territory.

I love Tristan. I’m not sure that I would be willing to make the sacrifices that Isla makes but there is something very attractive and appealing about the enigmatic demon. Whether it is his power, his self-control or the way he treats Isla with such respect and gentility, I don’t know, but I want them to have a happy ending together, in whatever way they can. Throughout the narrative of these first two books, Fox leaves the reader in no doubt that there are strong feelings between Isla and Tristan and that they connect in a way no other couple, certainly in these books, seem to be able to do.

I have no idea how Fox intends to end Tristan and Isla’s story and these novels often take a route that is completely unexpected, so I have no doubt that no-one could predict at this stage how Fox will close off these characters. However, this trilogy is one of the most interesting series I’ve read in a long while and I am eagerly awaiting the next instalment. Watch this space!

Until Jax: Until Him

Aurora Rose Reynolds , Kalya Robichaux , Jennifer Siegel , Sarah Eirew Download: £2.59

My Sister's Secret

Tracy Buchanan 44 days in the top 100 My Sister's Secret (197) Download: £0.99

Grandpa's Great Escape

David Walliams Release Date: 24 Sept. 2015 Buy new: £12.99 £6.49

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Illustrated Edition

J.K. Rowling , Jim Kay Release Date: 6 Oct. 2015 Buy new: £30.00 £15.00

After Anna

Alex Lake 30 days in the top 100 After Anna (77) Download: £0.99

A Spool of Blue Thread

Anne Tyler A Spool of Blue Thread 15 days in the top 100 A Spool of Blue Thread (175) Buy new: £7.99 £3.85 38 used & new from £2.49

Harry Potter Colouring Book

Warner Brothers Publication Date: 5 Nov. 2015 Buy new: £9.99

The Demon of Darkling Reach by PJ Fox

Recently, I started following PJ Fox on WordPress after I commented on a post she wrote about 50 Shades of Grey. I decided to download The Demon of Darkling Reach because Fox is such an eloquent writer in her blog posts and I was curious to read her novels. To be honest, books containing  demons, vampires or indeed, any other supernatural beings are not usually to my tastes, but I was surprised at how I fell in love with this book so quickly.

The Demon of Darkling Reach is about a young woman called Isla, a strong, pragmatic Earl’s daughter, who steps in to save her younger sister Rowena from a marriage of convenience, so that Rowena will be free to marry her childhood sweetheart, Rudolph. She reluctantly puts herself forward to marry the dark and mysterious Duke Tristan Mountbatten, who has been betrothed to Rowena to save the Earl’s manor from destitution. Tristan, however, is not quite like any other man Isla has ever been in contact with, especially with rumours circulating that he may have murdered his two previous wives, amongst others. Initially frightened of him but determined to save her sister from a life of unhappiness, she finds herself more and more drawn to the enigmatic Duke despite having certain fears confirmed and finding out that Tristan is far from an ideal future husband.

Fox has written a fascinating, intelligent narrative. While reminiscent of classic gothic novels, Fox applies a modern twist. There is not quite as much descriptive narrative as you may find in the classics, but there is enough to emulate the essence of these novels, with some more modern attributes, such as swearing and much more overt sexual scenes than you would find in, say, Wuthering Heights or Northanger Abbey. Fox challenges the pre-conceived ideas of the improprieties of society, whether it be through religious or political beliefs. She even challenges the influence of outside sources, much like today’s media influence on society, in the shape of the importance of a book on relationships that Rowena swears by and quotes often, called The Chivalrous Heart.

The characterisation in this novel is nothing short of brilliant. Isla is a strong and likeable main protagonist. She desires love with substance, although she is a realist when she considers that this kind of love is a rarity and most marriages are borne out of convenience or financial gain for the groom or bride’s father. She has no interest in the false image of love that her fickle sister, Rowena, desires. Rudolph is depicted as suitably ridiculous, yet a seemingly perfect match for Rowena. Tristan is horrifying and alluring at the same time. In fact, at times it is easy to forget that Tristan is a demon. If it wasn’t for the fact that he has “claws”, I’d find him somewhat attractive myself! Isla’s mysterious witch friend, Cariad, whilst being an enigma herself, provides the reader with a vehicle to gain answers to questions about Tristan in her own mystically cryptic way. 

The reader is also provided with an education by Fox on mediaeval practices, as well as highlighting that the same personal issues transcend the ages. To love and be loved is an innate human desire. Money talks. Knowledge is power. Religion and politics has an impact on all of society whether it is accepted or rejected. I also had to look up a number of words that Fox uses in the dictionary too whilst I was reading this. Whilst this may have irritated some readers, I was fascinated to learn new words that are not used regularly now but would most likely have been common-place in mediaeval times. 

The Demon of Darkling Reach is a wonderfully intellectual and fascinating novel, not only because of the educational elements but for the intricate plot and engaging characters. I absolutely loved this book and if it wasn’t for the fact that September is a blog-tour-crazy month, I’d be reading the sequel, The White Queen, immediately. As it is, it will have to sit in my Kindle library, constantly tempting me to abandon all the other books I need to read and encouraging me to once again be ensconced in Isla and Tristan’s unconventional, yet strangely beautiful relationship. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year and I am really looking forward to the first space in my blog tour diary to read the next instalment. 

Grandpa's Great Escape

David Walliams Release Date: 24 Sept. 2015 Buy new: £12.99 £6.49

Girl Online: On Tour

Zoe Sugg (aka Zoella) Release Date: 20 Oct. 2015 Buy new: £12.99 £6.49

My Sister's Secret

Tracy Buchanan My Sister's Secret 33 days in the top 100 My Sister's Secret (94) Download: £0.99

The Girl and the Bomb

Jari Järvelä , Kristian London The Girl and the Bomb (1) Download: £3.99

Sister

Rosamund Lupton Sister 233 days in the top 100 Sister (734) Download: £4.99

Old School (Diary of a Wimpy Kid book 10)

Jeff Kinney Release Date: 3 Nov. 2015 Buy new: £12.99 £6.49

How I Lost You

Jenny Blackhurst How I Lost You 60 days in the top 100 How I Lost You (634) Download: £1.49

An Inspector Calls (Heinemann Plays For 14-16+)

J.B. Priestley , Tim Bezant An Inspector Calls (Heinemann Plays For 14-16+) 282 days in the top 100 An Inspector Calls (Heinemann Plays For 14-16+) (268) Buy new: £9.75 £8.24 61 used & new from £3.50