#AtoZChallenge 2019 #Audiobooks ‘C’ is for C. J. Archer @CJ_Archer @Audible #TuesdayBookBlog #Fantasy

I’m thrilled to continue my AtoZ Blogging challenge with another of my favourite writers, C. J. Archer is an Australian author of historical fantasy and mystery novels.

C.J. Archer

I don’t normally read fantasy novels, especially not a ten book series, which I never expected to finish! So far I’ve read the first five, and I’m looking forward to gradually working my way through them in between contemporary psychological thrillers!

The Last Necromancer (The Ministry Of Curiosities Book 1) by [Archer, C.J.]

l’ll be totally honest with you, I didn’t expect to like this book, so why did I start the series? Well, I love Victorian fiction, I don’t mind fantasy that’s rooted, at least partly, in some form of reality, I love the covers, (aren’t they stunning?) The title of book one was intriguing (what’s a necromancer?), the blurb drew me in, and book one was free, so nothing would be lost, except my time, and if I hadn’t liked it, I wouldn’t have given it more than thirty minutes to convince me to continue reading (that’s my maximum, sorry, life’s short and there are so many books to read).

This is the AUTHOR’S NOTE, which was a great incentive for me:

If you like some or all of the following then you’ll enjoy THE LAST NECROMANCER: plot twists, waifs, assassins, secret societies, supernatural or paranormal fantasies with romantic elements, feisty heroines, cold-hearted heroes who melt, a slow-burn romance, ghost stories, a dash of humor, mysteries, history, quirky secondary characters, strong female characters, dissident noblemen, Victorian London.

****

Well, I didn’t need half an hour, the first paragraph of the first novel drew me right into the story. I checked on Audible and saw that there was a boxed set available with the first three novels, over 26 hours of listening. I listened to a sample and loved the narrator, Shiromi Arserio’s voice, so I bought it with my monthly credit and enjoyed every minute of the story!

Here’s my review of Book 1

It’s such a fun series, with likeable characters, nasty villains who get what they deserve, intricate plots, fantasy mixed with steam punk, mystery, the supernatural, and a sweet, ongoing romance.

Here’s the blurb:

A waif, her abductor and a twist you won’t see coming.

For five years, Charlotte (Charlie) Holloway has lived as a boy in the slums. But when one theft too many gets her arrested, her only means of escape lies with a dead man. Charlie hasn’t raised a spirit since she first discovered she could do so five years ago. That time, her father banished her. This time, she brings even more trouble upon herself.

People are now hunting Charlie all over London, but only one man succeeds in capturing her.

Lincoln Fitzroy is the mysterious head of a secret organization on the trail of a madman who needs a necromancer to control his newly “made” creatures. There was only one known necromancer in the world – Charlotte – but now there appears to be two. Lincoln captures the willful Charlie in the hopes the boy will lead him to Charlotte. But what happens when he discovers the boy is in fact the young woman he’s been searching for all along? And will she agree to work for the man who held her against her will, and for an organization she doesn’t trust?

Because Lincoln and his ministry might be just as dangerous as the madman they’re hunting.

****

The Ministry of Curiosities Series is an escapist read, especially for lovers of historical fantasy with supernatural elements, set in Victorian England.

C J Archer’s Audible Author Page

What? You’ve never read an Audiobook? Here are my 34 reasons why you should be reading audiobooks! 

I’ll be reviewing an audiobook a day throughout April, so come back tomorrow!

Would you like to read about the other authors and audiobooks I’ve posted about during the challenge, which started on 1st April? Here they are!

Find out more about this blogging challenge here!

 

#TuesdayBookBlog ‘The Last Necromancer’ by C. J. Archer #Audible #Amreading #Bookreviews

Today I’m reviewing The Last Necromancer by C. J. Archer, which is Book 1 of the The Ministry Of Curiosities.

It’s a historical novel set in Victorian London, but it’s more than that, as you’ll find out in my review.

Don’t you love the covers?

I love writing and reading historical fiction.

I’m always on the lookout for novels set in Victorian times. Recently I discovered a ten book series with the following blurb:

 A waif, her abductors and a twist you won’t see coming.

For five years, Charlotte (Charlie) Holloway has lived as a boy in the slums. But when one theft too many gets her arrested, her only means of escape lies with a dead man. Charlie hasn’t raised a spirit since she first discovered she could do so five years ago. That time, her father banished her. This time, she brings even more trouble upon herself.

People are now hunting Charlie all over London, but only one man succeeds in capturing her. 

Lincoln Fitzroy is the mysterious head of a secret organization on the trail of a madman who needs a necromancer to control his newly “made” creatures. There was only one known necromancer in the world – Charlotte – but now there appears to be two. Lincoln captures the willful Charlie in the hopes the boy will lead him to Charlotte. But what happens when he discovers the boy is in fact the young woman he’s been searching for all along? And will she agree to work for the man who held her against her will, and for an organization she doesn’t trust? 

Because Lincoln and his ministry might be just as dangerous as the madman they’re hunting.

****

I have recently read many intense family dramas and contemporary thrillers, most psychological, such as The Woman at the Window, Us, The Husband, Our House, The Good Girl, My Husband the Stranger, The Cellar, I Am Watching You, Silent Child, and A Stranger in the House, among others, so I felt I needed a break from the intensity. I was looking for a lighter read, and I found one, quite by chance!

The blurb of The Last Necromancer sounded interesting, but I must admit that the ten-book series put me off.

Do I have time to read a series of ten books?

Do I have the patience to read ten books by the same author?

I really didn’t think so, but I took a chance and downloaded book one to my kindle because it was free. I think this is a great idea to entice readers to try a new author, especially in such a long series. I then bought the audiobook for the reduced price of about $4 and listened to it in the space of two evenings (it was about eight hours long), and loved it! I’ll probably even read the following books in the series!

Read on for my review.

My Review

The Last Necromancer is a wonderful escapist read.

There’s a bit of everything I enjoy. It’s historical, set in the  Victorian era, there’s action, mystery, suspense and a hint of romance.

The lead character is Charlie, an 18-year-old girl who has been living on the streets of London disguised as a boy for the last 5 years. She also has special powers (she can summon and speak to the dead) so she is being sought by unscrupulous villains. Charlie is a wonderful character. She’s clever, tough, resourceful, street-wise, caring, and sensitive.

The male lead, Lincoln Fitzroy is enigmatic and apparently heartless, and the rest of the ‘real’ villains, his enemies, are cruel and ruthless.

There are many references to other Victorian authors such as Mary Shelly and Conan Doyle. The novel includes secret societies, plots against the Queen, some supernatural, gothic elements, such as Charlie’s paranormal abilities, and some fantasy elements, such as Frankenstein-like monsters and other characters with special powers and knowledge.   

The Last Necromancer is a well written and entertaining read, with plot twists, action, mystery, suspense and a slow burn, romance, which promises to bloom in future installments. 

It is especially for lovers of the Victorian era, fantasy, paranormal, and entertaining fiction.

There are plenty of reasons why I’m looking forward to reading the following books in the series, as an antidote to the draining intensity of contemporary psychological and literary fiction, and the occasionally tedious reality of daily life.

In fact I’ve just downloaded the box set which includes the first three books in the series on Audible.

US Buy Link to the series

UK Buy link to the series 

****

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#CarrotRanch #FlashFiction Challenge: Watching the Hanging @Charli_Mills

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly Flash Fiction Challenge

february-16

February 16, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a watcher. Respond by February 21, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published February 22). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

Here’s my take:

Watching the Hanging

‘We’re going to Horsemonger Lane, Boys,’ said Fagin.

Dodger pulled away. ‘Ain’t nothing there except Southwark prison.’

‘A public hanging!’ said Fagin.

When they arrived, the street was teaming with watchers, howling, screeching and yelling like animals.

Oliver gasped. The place was crawling with thieves and prostitutes fighting and shouting obscenities.

‘Might as well get some work done. Look, there’s a fancy looking toff over there,’ said Fagin, pointing to Charles Dickens.

‘Bet I can half inch his bread and honey,’ bragged Dodger.

‘Watch the hanging carefully, boys,’ warned Fagin. ‘Remember, if you get caught you’ll be brown bread.’

****

Some words explained:

Toff (Victorian slang) = rich man

Half inch (cockney slang) = pinch (London/UK slang) = steal

Brown bread (cockney slang) = dead

fagin__oliver_and_dodger_six__by_thebarefootedsasha oliver

The former flash fiction was inspired by a real event, which took place in London in 1849.

Dickens attended the execution of Mr. And Mrs. Manning, convicted of murdering a friend and stealing his money, on November 13, 1849 at the Horsemonger Lane Gaol in Southwark.

It was called the “Hanging of the Century” at the time because it was the first husband and wife execution in 150 years. Dickens and a huge crowd of rowdy, blood-thirsty Londoners (between 30 and 50 thousand) watched the public execution, performed outside the prison.

maria-and-frederick-manning

                         Maria and Frederick Manning.

Dickens wrote a scathing letter to The Times condemning the crowd, which can be read at the end of this post.

There were thousands of public hangings in the UK in the 19th century (more figures here). It was indeed a harrowing practice, meant to deter possible criminals, although it actually had the opposite effect. Pickpockets, prostitutes, and all types of petty criminals gathered around the event to carry out their illicit jobs. The police were enormously relieved when public hangings were abolished in England and Scotland, in 1868, because they drew huge crowds and greatly altered public order.

Public executions, and other types of punishment, have been part of most world cultures over the centuries. Looking back always makes me think what a long way we’ve come in Europe, from being the bloodthirsty barbarian spectators at the Roman coliseum, through public punishments such as whippings, the stocks, the pillory, to abolishing capital punishment altogether from our legal system in the 20th century. 

More about public hangings in the UK here.

Conclusion: violence does not deter violence, it breeds violence.

I’ve learnt over time, that all problems have simple solutions, or none at all:

If there’s a solution, Education is almost always the answer.

It’s a simple solution, but it’s not cheap to organise and offer or easy to train teachers and reach students, nevertheless it’s always worthwhile and rewarding.

Children without an education, like Oliver and Dodger in Victorian England, stood a 50% chance of being hanged or imprisoned, as Dodger will no doubt be in the future, as Bill Sykes and Fagin were, or ‘saved’ by a kinder, more socially conscious society, who will educate them and enable them to lead criminal free lives, like Oliver.  

I’ve also included Dickens’ letter condemning the event, below.

English novelist Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870), circa 1860. (Photo by John & Charles Watkins/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

English novelist Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870), circa 1860. (Photo by John & Charles Watkins/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Some people at the time, and even today, unbelievably accuse him of being bloodthirsty himself, for watching the hanging. Well, that’s like accusing a war correspondent of enjoying a war; a bit of twisted logic, I’d say.

Dickens’ letter to The Times Nov. 13, 1849

I was a witness of the execution at Horsemonger Lane this morning. I went there with the intention of observing the crowd gathered to behold it, and I had excellent opportunities of doing so, at intervals all through the night, and continuously from day-break until after the spectacle was over… I believe that a sight so inconceivably awful as the wickedness and levity of the immense crowd collected at that execution this morning could be imagined by no man, and could be presented in no heathen land under the sun. The horrors of the gibbet and of the crime which brought the wretched murderers to it faded in my mind before the atrocious bearing, looks, and language of the assembled spectators. When I came upon the scene at midnight, the shrillness of the cries and howls that were raised from time to time, denoting that they came from a concourse of boys and girls already assembled in the best places, made my blood run cold. As the night went on, screeching, and laughing, and yelling in strong chorus of parodies on negro melodies, with substitutions of ‘Mrs. Manning’ for ‘Susannah’, and the like, were added to these. When the day dawned, thieves, low prostitutes, ruffians, and vagabonds of every kind, flocked on to the ground, with every variety of offensive and foul behaviour. Fightings, faintings, whistlings, imitations of Punch, brutal jokes, tumultuous demonstrations of indecent delight when swooning women were dragged out of the crowd by the police, with their dresses disordered, gave a new zest to the general entertainment. When the sun rose brightly-as it did-it gilded thousands upon thousands of upturned faces, so inexpressibly odious in their brutal mirth or callousness, that a man had cause to feel ashamed of the shape he wore, and to shrink from himself, as fashioned in the image of the Devil. When the two miserable creatures who attracted all this ghastly sight about them were turned quivering into the air, there was no more emotion, no more pity, no more thought that two immortal souls had gone to judgement, no more restraint in any of the previous obscenities, than if the name of Christ had never been heard in this world, and there were no belief among men but that they perished like the beasts.

****

I love that Dickens wrote to make the world a better place, and campaigned for civil rights and a more socially conscious society in his private life, too. How can anyone not admire him?

 

Happy Birthday Charles Dickens! #amreading #amreviewing Oliver Twist

Today’s a very special day for English literature. On this day, 7th February, in 1812 , Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, United Kingdom.

On this special day, I’d like to suggest you read one of his novels, so I’m including my ‘special tribute review’ of Oliver Twist, which you can read for free as a kindle ebook on amazon, thanks to a community of volunteers who converted this novel from its physical edition to the digital format.

oliver-twist

My Review

If you only read one of Charles Dickens’ books, or if you don’t know where to start reading his books, I recommend you read Oliver Twist, the unforgettable story of a poor orphan boy, who spent his early years in a work house, before being recruited by a gang of pickpockets.

It’s not an easy book to read, and is not meant for children or the faint of heart, because it portrays some harsh events, many of which Dickens had experienced himself, or had personally investigated, and that is one of the main attractions of this book; It’s real.

You may read about child labour and the plight of the many orphaned children in Victorian England, but no history book will describe a workhouse, the inside of a prison, the starving dogs and hungry rats, the life of a pickpocket, a thief, a pimp, or a gang leader, a public hanging, or the cruelty of London slums, the way Dickens does.

Read it if you want to know what really happened, what the streets, people and life was like for Victorian Londoners.

I never tire of rereading it myself. Dramatic, yes, exaggerated, I doubt it, realistic, shockingly.

The plot is a page turner, and the characters come to life in every scene. We see their gestures, smell their ragged clothes and listen to their lies and truths.

I love Dickens’ use of the English language. It may be wordy by contemporary standards, but it’s smoothly done. A real pleasure to read for anyone who loves the English language and wants to take a short trip to Victorian London.

A book to read once and reread all your life. 

Although I usually read my paperback, this free kindle version makes it even easier to read. A big thank you to the volunteers who made this edition possible.

As a writer, I often read a random chapter or passage before I sit down to write. Dickens humbles me, but he also gives me great encouragement by showing me how the English language can convey so much using the right combination of words.

‘Capital!’ As Dickens would say.      

****

I’ve written a piece of Flash Fiction based on Oliver Twist, and included some information about child labour and orphans in Victorian England in this post.

I’d like to include one of Dickens’ quotes, which is one of my favourite.

quote-no-one-is-useless-in-this-world-who-lightens-the-burdens-of-another-charles-dickens-282503

Dickens wrote his books with the aim of making the world a better place, which he did, through numerous campaigns and by building awareness among the reading public, but his greatest legacy was the belief in the power of words to improve our world.

 ****

As well as influencing me as a writer, Charles Dickens also makes a personal appearance in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall, my sequel to Jane Eyre, and is a vital part of Jane’s recovery in Midsummer at Eyre Hall, although he is no longer physically present.

Here is the page with the moment Charles Dickens arrives at Eyre Hall to spend a few days with Jane Eyre, now Mrs. Mason.

They spoke about their private lives, the craft of fiction, and also about current affairs such as child labour and abuse, public hangings, and the dangers of the slums of London. It’s one of my favourite chapters.

Which is your favourite novel by Charles Dickens?

Why not write a review and share on a blog post to celebrate his birthday!