Book Review: The Beast on the Broch, by John Fulton #thebeastonthebroch

Publisher:  Pokey Hat (Cranachan Books)

Publication date:  September 2016

Beast on the Broch - My Review

The Beast on the Broch - CoverBrimming with legend and lore this exceptional tale features enigmatic stone carvings, a primitive religious order, a sword with two blades, a wise old woman, imminent invasion and not forgetting, The Beast on the Broch.

Spirited Talorca lives a quiet life catching fish to provide for her one parent family. Her father has died and her mother is often preoccupied. Soon the twelve year olds’ daily mischief is replaced by mayhem that came in on the tide and village life is about to get interesting when a group of ignorant intruders muscle their way in to take advantage of their shores.

Her introduction to the new arrivals doesn’t go well. From the top of the old broch Talorca spies three lads casually helping themselves to her nets and all the bounty in them! As she races to stop them, she slips from the tower only to come face to face something more menacing than the wretched thieves. She doesn’t believe her eyes when she finds herself staring at a long snout, two curly horns and a mouth full of razor sharp teeth, features she recognises from the mythical symbols carved into the ancient clan stone that stands in the centre of their village. And in a flash the creature vanishes, almost like it was never there at all.

While one threat has gone the other remains as it seems these uninvited guests are planning on staying a little while. The villagers try their best to accommodate their ‘superior’ neighbours who can’t speak their language and make no effort to learn it. But the chief’s three sons are so up for making trouble, taunting Talorca and goading her until her patience runs dry. And what on earth is her mother thinking when she invites these people for tea?!

With no one to confide in except a wise old woman, she and Talorca do what they can to make the visitors feel unwelcome. Although Talorca may be used to getting into scrapes things get very serious indeed and she finds that it’s not her fishing nets she will need to defend, but her severe recklessness.

There some wonderfully mysterious encounters with the enigmatic Beast and this one isolated girl. His presence may appear menacing, but it will prove to be an asset providing Talorca can coax him into lend a helping claw or two!

The Beast on the Broch is bursting with adventure, bravery, and a glorious Pictish charm. The very talented John Fulton has captured the vulnerabilities and extremes of living in a remote coastal village in 799AD and how things can go from bad to worse as the tide ebbs and flows. The story carries subtle morals of owning up when you are wrong, and also one regarding change – you don’t have to embrace it just try to adapt, as a time may come when you need to pull together to confront your true enemy.

Rating:  5/5

Huge thanks to the author for getting in touch for a review and to Cranachan Books for kindly organising this intriguing bookish parcel, complete with chocolate broch! …

Beast on the Broch Book Post

Beast on the Broch - Book Summary

(Courtesy of publisher)

A lonely girl.  A wild Beast. An unforgettable friendship.

12 Year Talorca is a Pictish girl living in North-east Scotland in 799 AD.  When Gaelic-speaking Dalriadans arrive in her village, her world is turned upside down.

Her only friend is a mythical Pictish Beast, who has been injured by the Dalriadans. Talorca decides to take a stand against the intruders and hatches a plan to drive them out. But she can only do that with the help of the wild beast on the broch.

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Beast on the Broch - Author Profile

(Courtesy of publisher)

John K Fulton is the son of a lighthouse keeper, and grew up all around the coast of Scotland.  These remote and lonely locations instilled in him a life long love of books and the sea. He studied at the universities of St. Andrews and Dundee, and now lives in Leicester with his partner Sandra.  While Leicester is about as far from the sea as you can get in the UK, their home is stuffed with books, which is the next best thing.

His first book, the WW1 spy thriller The Wreck of the Argyll, won the Great War Dundee Children’s Book Prize.

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Book Review: The Wreck of the Argyll, by John K Fulton

Publisher:  Cargo Publishing  |  Publication date:  24th September 2015  |  Edition: Paperback (Review Copy)

Wreck of Argyll Review

The Wreck of Argyll by John K Fulton CoverThe Wreck of the Argyll is a wonderfully thrilling story featuring an unlikely friendship and the endeavours to catch a German spy against all odds, which isn’t easy when you’re twelve years old!

There are two threads to this tale:  The friends’ adventure on land and their frustration when responsible adults refuse to take them seriously. Then there’s the ocean adventure of the crew of the HMS Argyll, a small ship that mustn’t fall into enemy hands under any circumstances and the dilemmas facing those on board.

We visit both journeys in alternating chapters and each is exciting and tense in its own right.

It’s 1915 in Wartime Scotland and Nancy fancies herself as a bit of an undercover detective. She suspects one of her teachers is working for the ‘other side’ and takes it upon herself to gather the evidence to capture him. One evening, when she’s following the alleged spy, she is involved in an altercation with some neighbourhood lads. That’s when she meets Jamie as he comes to her rescue. Yet their initial friendship isn’t entirely mutual.

Jamie wonders why a young girl is on the street at an ungodly hour and Nancy confesses her motives. Although a little reluctant to help at first, homeless Jamie shrugs aside any doubts as he nothing else left to lose. But before he knows it he finds himself involved in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

With HMS Argyll facing treacherous conditions and a mountain of communication difficulties hindering almost everyone, catastrophic consequences for the entire country seem unavoidable both on land and at sea – the story builds to quite a crescendo!

The marvellous nature of this tale is that it shows the extremes of life in 1915. Jamie lives rough after his father was killed in France and the lad found life with his mum strained. Midshipman Melville from the HMS Argyll is not much older and yet he faces huge responsibilities. Even restricted opportunities for ladies are touched upon (but it doesn’t always hold them back!). Plus, it’s fast-paced with some great dialogue exchanges and there’s the most fantastic conclusion to draw both journeys together. It really is quite a little gem.

The Wreck of the Argyll offers the perfect blend of perseverance, courage and skulduggery. It’s a snapshot of life in a bygone era where working together and having conviction in your beliefs can achieve more than anyone could ever hope for, despite the obstacles placed in your way.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  (Okay, so it’s for children but I absolutely loved it!)

Rating: 5/5

(Massive thanks to Cargo Publishing and Gill Tasker for providing a delightful paperback copy of this book for review.)

Wreck of Argyll Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Dundee, 1915. Twelve-year-old Nancy Caird is desperate to do her bit for the war. So when she suspects one of her teachers of being a German spy, she is determined to foil his plans, and ropes in the reluctant Jamie Balfour to help her uncover the scheme. Midshipman Harry Melville is on his first voyage aboard HMS Argyll as it forges through the black and stormy North Sea, unaware of both hidden rocks and German plots that threaten the ship. When Nancy and Jamie’s suspicions are confirmed, and they discover HMS Argyll is in deadly danger, they are drawn into a web of espionage, secrets, and betrayal, where no-one is as they seem and no-one can be trusted.

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Wreck of Argyll Author Links

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

John K Fulton is the son of a lighthouse keeper, and grew up all around the coast of Scotland. These remote and lonely locations instilled in him a life-long love of books and the sea. He studied at the Universities of St. Andrews and Dundee, and now lives in Leicester with his partner Sandra. While Leicester is about as far from the sea as you can get in the UK, their home is stuffed with books, which is the next-best thing.

The Wreck of the Argyll is his first novel, and is the winner of the Great War Dundee Children’s Book Prize.

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The Grindle Witch, by Benjamin J. Myers

Published by: Orion Children’s Books | Published: 2nd April 2015 | Edition: Hardback (review copy)

Brace yourselves and be prepared for a pacey, supernatural adventure – it’s an attention-holder for sure!

The Grindle Witch

Graphic cover, perfectly suited to the story.

Bored Jack Jolly had only been in the village of Grindle for two weeks when the first ‘incident’ took place. His father, a pathologist, was called out to investigate the death of a local chap, but the authorities are at a loss as to what could have caused such destruction (the shredding of his body).

It’s not a great start to a new ‘quiet’ life in the country, especially now the villagers are desperate to know who could have done such a thing. But the havoc doesn’t stop there…

Jack and his new friends, Paddy and Leila, are naturally curious and soon they stumble over the divide that separates them from relative safety and where they will connect with supernatural entities.

Needless to say, more trouble brews and the young teens get into all kinds of scrapes.  And when an odd character arrives, with his skinny limbs and a Fedora, things get a whole lot weirder…

Without a doubt, Jack makes the perfect unwitting hero. Being shy and a bit awkward, it’s great to hear his thoughts when he believes he’s said something so utterly stupid, only to make it ten times worse in his head, then say something even more stupid – you get the idea!

We see the trio’s friendship grow alongside their personalities, which in turn strengthens their bond. Between being faced with making decisions in some pretty bizarre circumstances and an evil showdown taking place, there’s also a lovely crush blossoming between two of the friends, but nothing heavy to worry about though.

It’s so refreshing to read that their battles can be fought without the aid of a single mobile phone or Google; in this creepy mystery / adventure, it proves that problem solving can be done with pure intellect and leg work (or cycle power in this case) and yet the story’s not in the slightest bit old fashioned – the unexpected twist at the end was a real gem!

Just one thing, I think younger children may find some descriptions a wee bit unnerving; some of them conjure up some pretty grim scenes, particularly where deaths have taken place. Don’t get me wrong, they are brilliantly portrayed, but it is a tad graphic in places.

Talking of graphic, that cover is just amazing in real life and totally compliments the story: Mayhem, magic and evil entities – ALWAYS A WINNING COMBO.

Rating: 5/5

(I must offer my sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me this hardback copy of this book for review. It’s a brilliant story so I’m truly grateful.)


You can follow the author on Twitter: @BenjaminJMyers | Publisher: @the_orionstar

Truckers, by Terry Pratchett (The first book of the Nomes)

Publisher: Random House Children’s Publishers / Corgi Children’s |  Published 12th March 2015  |  Edition: Kindle, via Netgalley

Truckers

This is the first book by the late Terry Pratchett I have read – it will not be the last. I LOVED IT.

This is a marvellous tale about a race of little people inhabiting the world of Humans. With a reluctant hero, and an unexpected and dangerous pilgrimage:

nomes

We’re talking little people alright, but not ordinary ones with a ‘G’. These Nomes live in the depths of a department store.

They have their own groups like The Ironmongri, Del Icatessen and the Millineri. There is an all presiding wise old Nome called The Abbot, leader of the Stationeri. Their unique quirks are peculiar to them and it’s very clever and ever so funny!  Each group takes what the Nomes need from the store when the humans are not around and live quite happily within its dry, safe walls. But more importantly – they thrive.

They live by Nomish ‘Commandments’. The Word according to all Nomes starts:

nomes book light this one

For many years, life at Arnold Bros has been grand. Yet out of the blue, the insiders come face to face with other Nomes, who have journeyed to the store from the outside, by hitchhiking aboard a lorry. The store Nomes have heard rumours of the outside and yet none had seen it and therefore do not believe it exists.

But despite their oddities and beliefs, their world will soon be turned upside down by something outside their control. All Nomes will be called upon to find a way to stop their interdepartmental bickering and find a solution before their world comes to an end.

Masklin, the reluctant hero

Masklin, an ‘outsider’ and unlikely hero – pictured here with the mysterious ‘Thing’.

With help from the primitive outsiders, including our reluctant hero, Masklin, and the mysterious all knowing ‘thing’ (that no one understands), the little folk find themselves organising a dangerous pilgrimage outside, whilst still acknowledging the most stupid Nome hierarchy.

But where will they go? More importantly, how will they get there?  When there are thousands of beings just four inches tall to save, any solution has to be a pretty BIG one.

It’s a brilliant frolicking, all-encompassing, feel-good book that can be enjoyed by those young and old.  You can’t fail to smile while reading. It will certainly be a firm favourite of mine for years to come.

(This edition coincided with Terry Pratchett’s passing as it was published on 12th March 2015.)

Rating: 5/5

(My sincere thanks to the publisher for providing the Kindle copy of this book for review.)


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