Monday, 28 April 2014

Book Giveaway!

This last week has been really rather busy!

Wednesday was St George's Day (and Shakespeare's birthday - although as I am typing this, I am watching Last Will and Testement on my tv recorder thingy, which is a documentary about the doubt that Shakespeare actually wrote all of his sonnets, plays, poets and other writings...) and also World Book Day 2014... a day on which we are encouraged to give away books to people who don't usually read!

On Saturday, attended an event in Manchester (authorcon) which was to serve as Hazel's book launch for Chasing Azrael (now available on Amazon or  Waterstones and all other good bookstores). 

Between all of the interesting meals I ate, and the new places we discovered, not to mention the books that I purchased, as well as the good company, all-in-all, Saturday was a pretty good day!

Sunday, however, did not go as planned... I was planning on doing the car boot thing in the morning, but a migraine put paid to anything until about 10:30 - 11am, when I finally managed to medicate it into submission!

Then there was housework to be done, the mouse to prepare for her friend's birthday party and canapes to prepare for book club!

Sadly, Hazel couldn't make it (I was hoping for an author talk) as her car is poorly sick, but she is hoping to get it fixed and perhaps she can come next month instead. We also lacked a few members due to illness, marking (the perils of being a teacher), and I think there was some form of netball fixture! These things do happen, but never mind! A good time was had by all those who did attend, and we have potential new members for the next meeting!

Our book to read before next time is 12 Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup... if you happen to be reading it too, let us know what you thought before 1st June! 

Anyway; to business!

In honour of Hazel's book launch, and World Book Day, I have a signed copy of Chasing Azrael to give away!

If you would like to be entered into the draw, please leave a comment below saying which book you would have given to a non-reader for world book day, and why... please make sure to leave your name, otherwise I won't be able to contact you to let you know if you have won!

On Monday 5th May, I will put all of the names into a metaphorical hat, and choose someone to receive the book!

So that's it...

Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter Weekend

Easter, one of my favourite times of the year!

Lent is over, (Yay, Subway, takeaways, junk food, fast food!) chocolate abounds (mainly in chocolate egg format), and there is a four day weekend!! What could be better?

This year, the plan was to visit friends and relatives who we don’t get so see very often, so we booked a couple of hotels and planned our trip.

Thursday morning dawned, the last workday and the day our travels would commence, with me having a very sore throat, difficulty speaking and a sniffle. I made it through the working day and at the end of it, we set off. After an almost 170 mile drive, and around 3 hours of travelling, we arrived at our first hotel near to the Metro Centre in Newcastle. It was late, we were tired and ill, so we went straight to bed.

On Friday morning, we arranged to meet friends in the Metro Centre. I managed breakfast, although my head cold was now fully developed, and we walked (yes, walked) to the Metro Centre. I stopped at a pharmacy and we stocked up on painkillers, flu remedies and tissues, did a bit of shopping, and then stopped for some lunch. After lunch, the boys took Itsy to see Spiderman 2 (I refuse to call him “the Amazing” like he’s some old fashioned circus side show), and my friend, my Godson and I did a spot more shopping, including a bookshop, some clothes shopping, and ice cream bar and then the muffin shop… by this point, I had used more tissues than should be humanly possibly in a single day, and we walked to a restaurant where we had a slightly burned tea (it was a chain restaurant and we have been to that branch before and had excellent service, so we think they were just having an off day)… then we all went back to the hotel, where the boys tried to teach Itsy to play pool (she had to stand on a little stool and use a rest for every, single, shot). She was rubbish, but she loved it, and she is only six and that was a full sized pool table. My godson kept hiding his digger in the cupboards around the room and I sat in the corner trying to remember how to breathe through tissues!

Eventually, we gave up. Our friends took my Godson home, and we retired to our room where tried to convince Itsy to go to sleep. I think we were both asleep before she was!

On Saturday morning, Beloved took Itsy down to breakfast while I packed, I really, really, didn’t feel very well and couldn’t eat anything. We left around 9:30 in the morning and headed North up the A1. Itsy decided that today was the day she would start asking “Are we there yet?” Joy! She was clearly bursting full of energy! We took it easy on the way up, and it was around 11ish that we decided to stop at Berwick. We found a play park right on the coast, where we stopped for around half an hour so Itsy could run and play. There was a static caravan site at the top of the cliff, overlooking the sea, and we have decided to look into staying there another time, because it was really very pretty. As we left, we had to pass through a narrow tunnel (in the old town walls) and Itsy decided to turn into a back seat driver and tell Beloved to “watch out for the little boy on a the bike”, who was at least twice her age, and whilst our car was stopped, waiting for said pushbike riding boy to get through the short tunnel in complete safety. Her reason for turning into a backseat driver was that she got a ‘driving licence’ when she was at Legoland last week… I suspect that we may have to have a serious talk with her about how that isn’t a real driving licence at some point, but for now, we put her DVD player on and continued North.
The Beach/North Sea from the play park at Berwick
Itsy was very excited when we passed the Failte gu Alba sign, although we didn’t stop for a photograph of it… maybe next time…? We continued until Dunbar (around three quarters of an hour past Berwick), where we tried to find a chip shop I remember from my youth. Either it has changed dramatically, or it was a different chippy. Either way, they offered a haggis supper with salt and sauce, and Itsy had a pepperoni pizza. The Rotary club was selling second hand books outside the bank, so when we went to the cash line, I picked up a couple of Agatha Christie’s and Itsy bought a Shrek book and two tiny hardbacks! We ate our lunch overlooking the North Sea, although it was a wee bit blustery, which just sent Itsy’s hair into her pizza and she ended up with that orange pepperoni oil all over her face and in her hair, delightful!
The North Sea from Dunbar
I felt well enough to take over driving at this point, completely ignored the sat nav, and set off around the Edinburgh bypass, over the Forth bridge and up the M90 to Dundee. We checked into a different hotel, had a shower, and then went to meet family for tea, (another chain restaurant, reasonable, if not stellar service). But I did get to cuddle our niece, even with a stuffy head cold!
View of the Tay bridge from our hotel room
The Discovery, almost opposite our hotel in Dundee

We were pretty boring after that, we went back to the hotel, where I picked up a soft drink from the bar so I had something to take more flu remedy tablets with, Itsy was exhausted and went to sleep fairly quickly, so we sat up to watch Britain’s Got Talent (the late repeat) and then slept, badly, due to my inability to breathe.

On Easter Sunday itself, we had to wake Itsy up, as we had hidden some tiny Easter eggs around the room, one of which was on the window ledge and in danger of melting in the morning sunshine! She had one before breakfast, and after breakfast we made use of the late check out, so that we could take our time checking out of the hotel, and they braved the Tay bridge to get to Leuchars, where we visited relatives, watched the Liverpool/Norwich match and took the kids to the park, so that they could torment Beloved’s, brother’s dog… poor Odin!
Odin... the dog has the patience of a saint!
We left Leuchars in the early afternoon, and drove through the Kingdom of Fife, past some fun landmarks that we couldn’t stop at, and through the small town of Auchtermuchty, one of my favourite place names. We used the Clackmannanshire Bridge, through (well, on the motorway that goes past) Larbert, Stenhousemuir (which used to be home) and Falkirk, before heading to Cumbernauld (where we stopped for petrol and taquitos) and then we hit the M8 to the M73 to the M74 to the M6 (basically, we motorwayed home). Itsy slept quite frequently, but was awake as we passed Gretna and the sign welcoming us to Cumbria, and was pleased about that too.

We stopped at a few services (mainly for loo breaks) and then at Lancaster for tea. We quite fancied the Italian by the p&d carpark, but we decided to go for a walk and see what we could find… eventually, we stumbled across a Chinese restaurant called the Fortune Star, and quite frankly, I can’t recommend it enough. The food was fantastic! The staff were lovely, and the service was very good… alas, when the time came to tip, I only had a Clydesdale Bank £5 note on me, which we duly passed over, much to the amusement of the staff in Lancaster… it’s not exactly border country, they probably don’t see too many of those!

We made it home, the local council has “resurfaced” yet more local roads, without steam rolling them so if you drive over them at more than about 1 mile per hour, the little gravelly stones fly up and strip all of the paint off your car! We managed to only cross one resurfaced road, and were amazed to get home and find a good parking space! We unloaded and went to bed.

I was no better this morning (bank holiday Monday) which we treated as a duvet day. We’ve had some Easter eggs, watched a film, some telly, Itsy has made some crafty aqua bead things. We have eaten food, read books, done a bit of washing and ironing ready for next week. We have watered the plants in the garden (I think my arrow bamboo is potbound… but I’m not sure. So I watered it well, and will ask Mother to check it in the week), played with the cats (who were looked after by the cat lady, we didn’t leave them to starve), done nish all else until bath time, when daughter was read to (chapter six of Danny, the Champion of the World) before settling down to watch Game of Thrones… I’m still poorly, I have used around 4 boxes of tissues, a full packet of flu remedy tablets and many packets of halls soothers. Beloved now has a sore throat, this does not bode well… Itsy has also complained of a sore throat… and I have been informed that because I can’t breathe I have been snoring, which means Beloved can’t sleep (he assures me that this is unusual, which was reassuring), but I don’t hold out much hope that tonight will be any better… chicken soup for lunch for the next few days, continue taking the flu remedy tablets and hopefully, I will be well again soon!

In other news, I have discovered that I have won a signed copy of Sharon Penman’s newest book, A King’s Ransom… very, very excited about that!

All in all, we have had a good, but very exhausting, long weekend! We have driven around 658 miles between us, over around ten hours, and one duvet day hasn’t rested us as much as we would have liked, but you know what happens after a long weekend? A four day (& therefore short) week! So, although I am off to the office tomorrow, I can go to Subway for lunch if I want to (because it is no longer Lent), I have a shiny new audio book to listen to while I am driving, and better still, it’s already going to be Tuesday!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Interview with Hazel Butler, Author of Chasing Azrael.

As promised, I have managed to procure (if that is the right word in these circumstances) an interview with Hazel Butler, the author of Chasing Azrael (see review in previous post) which is to be published on 26th April, and is available to pre-order at Amazon, Waterstones and other booksellers now. As many of you will already know, I am rubbish and thinking up questions (one of many very good reasons that I am not a journalist), so my first order of business, apart from thanking Hazel, must be to say a huge THANK YOU to the wonderful people who helped me to come up with some good interview questions! You know who you are! I would also like to take a moment to direct you to Melanie's Blog, don't worry, it should open in another tab/window, so you can go to it in a little while, after you have read Hazel's interview...


Hazel is a twenty eight year old author, artist and archaeologist from Cheshire, England. She is currently in the final year of her PhD, which focuses on Gender Dynamics in Late Iron Age and Early Medieval Britain. She has been studying archaeology since she was sixteen, attending The University of Manchester for her Undergraduate course in Ancient History and Archaeology, then Bangor University for an MA in Celtic Archaeology and on to her PhD. She spent two years between her MA and PhD doing Corporate archaeology and research excavations, both in Britain and in Austria, and has two papers published in international journals.

Since 2010 she has been working on a series of Gothic Literary novels, the first of which, Chasing Azrael, is due for release next year. While her primary interests are in Gothic and Fantasy art and fiction, she reads a wide range of subjects and enjoys most forms of art. She also has a great love of dogs, and her King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Dexter (yes, after the serial killer), is her near-constant companion.

    Firstly, although Chasing Azrael is your first novel, you have other published works. Could you tell me a bit about them?

I have quite a bit of non-fictional archaeology work published, including two papers in international journals and several site reports. My first fictional piece, ‘Grave’, was published in November last year, that’s a short story in an anthology of dark fantasy fairytales in a volume called Willow, Weep No More. I have quite a few other things in the works at the moment, at various stages of completion.

      What inspired you to write Chasing Azrael?

The short answer to that is that I needed to write it. I had been working on a Fantasy series (something I’m hoping to go back to and finish at some stage), when I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2010. I’d been struggling for years and had never known why, I’d been told several times I had depression and been put on anti-depressants which only made it worse and, on two occasions, led to me attempting suicide. When I finally got the diagnosis is was in some ways a huge relief as I finally had an answer, but in other ways it left me with an awful lot to sort through, both in terms of understanding my condition, and understanding the effect it had on my life. I was in a very unhealthy relationship at the time, and had been in numerous unhealthy relationships in the past. So suicide, mental health, and relationships were all kind of jumbled up together in my mind. I needed a way of sorting them all out and making sense of everything. I started writing Chasing Azrael as a means of doing that, and it did prove to be very cathartic.

      Did you plan how the novel would end before you wrote it?

No not at all. I had no plan what so ever with this one, which is unusual for me because I’m usually an obsessive planner. I wrote scenes as and when they came to me, and once I had something resembling a narrative I sat down and tried to figure out the plot. The original ending to the book was very different to the final ending, and it changed several times. This was, for the most part, because I was still trying to figure out what was best for the characters in the novel—and by some extension myself, as Andee, the main character, does bear a vague resemblance to me.

    The book involves quite a lot of Russian mythology/superstition, how did you go about researching these?

The same way I research anything—I’m an archaeologist and currently in the final year of my PhD. Research is not new to me I’m very used to doing it. I utilised my books, and a lot of online resources, found some really good texts concerning Russian myths and used those as a basis. At one stage I was working with a literary agent from London on the novel as she was interested in representing it. She introduced me to the novel The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey and suggested we incorporate some of the myth that particular book was based on (the Snow Maiden) into the story. That worked well, I felt.

      Did all of your research make the final edit?

No, not even remotely. There is a wealth of information on Russian mythology and most of it was irrelevant to the plot. Even the points I found that were relevant, there is a limit to how much you can work into a narrative before it gets annoying. I have Lily, Andee’s best friend, providing the research within the narrative as she’s a lecturer, like Andee, but her specialty is Russian myth. That to me was a reasonably natural way to incorporate so much research into the story without it coming across as a huge information dump. Even so, I was conscious of including too much of my own research; I’m so used to writing in an academic style, it’s very easy to slip back into that while writing fiction, which results in very stiff prose.

      Can you tell us something from your research that didn’t make the book?

I had a lot of research on the Tsar (essentially mermaids), and the various bets and wagers they’re purported to have made with men. I love these stories, and I have a bit of an obsession with mermaids and sea creatures (which is very odd, as I actually have a really bad phobia of sharks and consequently don’t like going in the sea). I would have loved to incorporate this in the story somehow, but it just didn’t fit at all. Maybe in another book…

I also became quite enamoured with stories of Baba Yaga, a very famous witch in Russian mythology I first became aware of as a child when I read Sarah Zettell’s Isavalta trilogy (also based on Russian myth). This ended up forming the foundation for ‘Grave’.

      Did the plot work as you had planned, or did it change as you wrote the book?

They definitely changed as I wrote. I don’t think there are many aspects that didn’t change as I wrote, the whole book evolved over the course of the time I was working on it—nearly four years. I was going through an immense amount of personal change, for various reasons, and my perspective on things changed greatly over the course of that time. As a result, the novel changed, the characters changed, and in particular the plot changed.

      How much of your first draft is still there in the published novel?

The first draft was quite lacking in plot, it had the main events there but nothing truly linking them together. There were a lot of scenes that I wrote because they were important to me—in particular scenes concerning Andee’s relationship with her husband, James—but I wasn’t really sure how to connect that to the plot beyond the obvious fact she was dealing with it. The original draft, the very first one, only had one ghost in it (James), Natalya’s motivations were very different and the ending was completely different. It was also much shorter. There are quite a few elements that are still present from the original though, certain things that no matter how many times I redrafted, they never went away.

      Did you form a background ‘life’ for each character before you wrote the novel?

For the main characters, yes. This was especially important as I was planning on writing more than one book in this series. I had basic information on all the characters but the main ones—Andee, James, Josh, Lily and Robert, I had detailed biographies for them, as well as for a few characters I knew would appear in later novels (in particular Evelynn, the protagonist in the second book), right from the start.

      Are any of the characters based on real people?

Andee and Evelynn both have some parts of me in them, although I would say that has more to do with the situations they find themselves in than their actual characters. Evelynn in particular, due to her bipolar, is perhaps quite a bit like me. Lily was, to some extent, based on one of my best friends, but only in the sense of the closeness between them and the importance of the relationship to Andee. Other than that, no.

      How much did your life experience affect the novel?

A lot. Far more than I realised at first or would admit to for quite a long time. Andee has a lot of personal issues, as well as the supernatural issues that crop up in the book. Since writing the book was kind of my therapy I suppose it was inevitable that my issues became her issues. I don’t think I fully realised that though, until I found my editor reigning me in at certain points and pointing it out.

   Chasing Azrael is the first in a series, can you give us any clues as to where the series will go next?

The series is designed so that each book is a standalone novel, however the overall plot and characters will obviously develop from one book to the next, so if you read them in order you will get a lot more from them. The next in the series, Death Becomes Me, is all about Evelynn, a girl who actually popped up (very briefly) in Chasing Azrael, so the discerning reader can make of that what they will. There is also some crossover in all the books, and one of Chasing Azrael’s main characters will make an appearance as a minor character in DBM. The rest of the series will follow a similar pattern, each book will have its own core story and cast of characters, but there will be some crossover in each. Andee and Evelynn are the focal characters of the series however, and you will find that the main events revolve around them.

   What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on Death Becomes Me, the second in the series. I’m trying to nail the plot down before starting properly this time though, unlike the way I approached writing Chasing Azrael, so although I have a few scenes written, I haven’t started writing fully yet.

   What made you want to become an author?

Books. Books made me want to become an author. I’ve been an avid reader since I was a child, often reading things other people thought very odd for a person of my age (because they were adult books). I never progressed from Children’s books, to Young Adult, etc. as soon as I was able to read I read whatever I could get my hands on, and my father used to take me to the library once a week, every week, for a new haul. I did read Children’s and Young Adult, but I read a lot of other things too. I’ve always had stories in my head, characters clamouring to get out. For years I thought ‘one day I’d like to be an author’, and then at some point I stopped thinking ‘one day’ and just started writing.

   Which books and authors have most inspired/influenced you?

I’d read the complete works of Arthur Conan Doyle, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carol, and Edgar Alan Poe by the time I was about ten, I think. I loved them all. I’ve had an abiding love of Margaret Atwood and Angela Carter for years. When I was sixteen I read my first Robin Hobb book and I’ve never found another author I enjoy as much since. Those are the ones I would say inspired me, there are a host of others who have influenced me though, most notably Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, and Kelley Armstrong.

   Which book by someone else do you most wish that you had written, and why?

Definitely Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy. I have always wanted to be able to craft a fantasy world and characters like she does, they are simply exquisite.

     What, in your view, makes a good protagonist/antagonist?

Depth, faults, and damage. I realise that not all people in real life have these things, a lot of people are painfully shallow, many go through life without experiencing anything truly damaging, but I find that if a character I going to successfully carry me to the end of a story, they have to do so my dint of their personality and charisma. A plot can be excellent, but if you don’t have a strong protagonist I will quickly loose interest in it no matter how good it is. I have little patience for characters who are two dimensional and lack any real flavour. I also struggle to relate to characters who have never had anything bad happen to them, who have not got quirks of personality as a result of the bad things that have happened to them. I also find it impossible to relate to characters without flaws, because nobody is perfect. Where an antagonist is concerned, the same is true, but I also need a really good motive. I come across so many who are antagonistic simply for the sake of it, or have a banner of ‘insane’ hung around their neck as if that fully explains their actions.

   Who was your favourite author growing up? And who is your favourite author now?

I think C.S. Lewis was probably my favourite author as a child, just because I always found the Narnia books so enchanting, no matter how many times I read them (I read them a lot). Once I hit my teens that changed, Robin Hobb and Kelley Armstrong became my firm favourites, the former for her utterly flawless fantasy worlds and completely flawed characters (in particular Fitz), the latter for her wonderful books on the supernatural. I had read a lot of paranormal/supernatural books by the time I found Kelley Armstrong, but she was the first author I discovered who actually wrote good characters with strong plot lines, rather than empty characters and plots that hinged on unbelievable romances. This is not to say there isn’t romance in Kelley Armstrong’s books, only that it is believable, and quite squarely in the realms of sub-plots, rather than the main plot of each novel.

      If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

Well I’m an archaeologist, and currently work as a freelance copywriter, editor, proofreader and illustrator so, take your pick!

     Tell us something about you that most people don’t know?

I cry a lot over TV and films… honestly it’s really quite ridiculous. The slightest thing, happy or sad, I cry.

And finally; just for fun can you tell us;
      Your favourite colour

Either purple or red. Sometimes pink.

      Your favourite food

Macaroni Cheese.

      The last song you listened to?

Where Does The Good Go? By Tegan and Sara.

      The last thing you watched on telly?

Criminal Minds (and yes, I cried).

      The book you are currently reading (for enjoyment)?

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.

      And the last thing that you bought in a shop/online?

Actually it was lingerie (shhhh, don’t tell the boys), but the boring kind as I’m currently poor.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Book Review: Chasing Azrael by Hazel Butler

© AƤdenian Ink

Chasing Azrael (Deathly Insanity Book 1)
by Hazel Butler

Release Date: 26th April 2014

Paperback: £8.99 eBook: £1.99
Pages: 364

Ande Tilbrook has always had an unhealthy interest in death. As an archaeologist, and a person who regularly sees ghosts, she has comforted herself with the thought that this is somewhat understandable. When her husband James dies however, Ande’s preoccupation becomes an obsession that consumes her life.

It is only when her friend Josh is threatened by the presence of a strange woman in his life that Ande is forced back to reality. Her’s gut tells her something is wrong, and she’s soon proven correct. As a string of grisly murders rock the quiet coast of North Wales, Ande is reunited with the Detective who investigated James’s death, and is somehow enlisted in his inquiries. He is convinced Josh is somehow involved in the murders, and Ande must unravel an increasingly enigmatic puzzle in order to keep the people she loves safe.

I am going to be brutally honest here, this is not the type of book I would ordinarily choose to read. For a start, there's no guarantee of battle scenes, the main character isn't the detective, and worse, there are no Vikings!

However, there are two main reasons that I read this book. The first reason, is that I know the author. Let's be realistic, a friend of yours offers out advanced copies of a book that they have written in return for an honest review... yeah, I'm going to read the book!

Secondly, and I think the better reason, is that I am supposed to be widening my choice of reading matter. I need to read stuff that isn't already on my bookcase!

So there you are, you know that I know Hazel, which is how I have convinced her to do an interview for me (see my next blog post).

So, the book then.

The book starts with a prologue, a very short chapter, which begins to introduce the back story. I like this, I like how it tells you just enough to make you interested, to give you hints, but not enough to ruin the plot. Chapter one begins two years later and introduces the protagonist a little more. We are introduced to her friends, and to the fact that the protagonist can see ghosts.
There is another short chapter between chapters one and two, which carries on from the prologue, again, this aids with the backstory, but it builds both on the prologue, and what we have learned from the first chapter. The book continues in this way until we have all of the backstory. I should point out that some of the backstory makes for quite harrowing reading, but don't let that put you off. I've certainly read much worse, and it actually adds to the book, it feels real.

The characters are, to my mind, believable, the plot moves at a good pace, and the story neither drags, nor races, but it keeps you interested.

Right, there are ghosts in the book. Unlike other books (I once read one where Elizabeth I saw Anne Boleyn at the end of her bed, which was both utterly ridiculous and very uncalled for), the ghosts in this book feel sympathetic, although I have to be honest and admit that I missed the fact that one of them was a ghost for a while, I thought that she was a mildly annoying co-worker! It was probably me being dim, but I figured it out eventually. My favourite is Simon, you'll like Simon too. I probably feel most for Simon, because I can see myself dying the way he did! (No spoilers here)!

One scene where I felt the plot raced a bit more than I would like, was towards the end of the book, when Andee and Robert are in a car racing towards a farm with a lake and Andee is on the phone to her friend Lily, Lily needs to impart a lot of information while they are in a car moving quite fast. This just makes the pace go a bit quicker and you can cope for one scene, it was probably intentional!

There are a few plot twists in the book too. I didn't catch a fair few of them, and that's good. I like formula sometimes, but it's always better to be surprised.

As for the end, well, I've already said no spoilers... but to be fair, for a good proportion of the book, you aren't sure what would make a happy ending, and I wasn't sure exactly which way to root... but it does become obvious, and you are in suspense wondering how this will work out, right up until the end... this book isn't over until it's over, and I like that. I do so hate when you reach a point in a book and think, ok, that's all wrapped up nicely, what to you mean there are 20 pages still to read?!

Obviously, this book is the first in a series, and I will certainly read the rest of the series, and not just because I am lucky enough to know the author, but because I am interested in where the series will go next.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and gave it 4/5 stars.

Don't forget to check out next week's blog when I have an interview with the author, Hazel Butler and if you fancy reading Chasing Azrael for yourself, it's available to pre-order from Amazon, Waterstones and most other bookshops and is released later this month. Let's be honest, £1.99 for an e-book is less than the cost of a beer in most pubs now, so go on and treat yourself!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Ultimate Zoo Photographs

A selection of my favourite photographs (that I have taken), mainly from Chester Zoo, but also from Edinburgh Zoo, Woburn Abbey Safari Park and also from the Blue Planet Aquarium.

A Tree Shrew. This lives in the Elephant House at Chester Zoo, which you can visit before you reach the ticket barriers!

After visiting the Elephants at Chester Zoo, turn left. Go over the bridge, where the Camels are on your right, and stay left, past the Condors to reach the butterfly house:


Then, follow the canal round, for some actual wildlife (the heron was free to come and go as he pleased, he isn't an inmate) and some nice views of the Giraffes and the Okapi.

If you keep walking round, you'll come to a footbridge over the canal, which leads you to the inside of the Warthogs, the Giraffes and the Okapi on your right, and the Tropical House (full of reptiles and free-flying exotic birds) to your left. (If you view the giraffe house first, you come back out opposite the Tropical House, but if you follow the Tropical House through, it will lead you around to the Chimpanzee House.

After visiting the primates, head round to the jaguar house (there's a picnic lodge there if you have brought some lunch with you, don't panic if you haven't, the zoo has plenty of restaurants)... the jaguar house is also home to Sloths and Terrapins.

From there, you are a short walk from a playground (good place to exercise the little ones) and the Realm of the Red Ape, which houses some more birds and reptiles, but you can't always see them:

This will bring you out opposite the flamingos.

From here, it's a short walk to the penguins, and the aquarium.
Where next? Let's head back towards the Lions first of all.

Then the Mongoose Manor...

And from there the Tigers.

We have missed the Islands in Danger Exhibition, where they have Komodo Dragons.

Lets head up past the Cheetahs, because, awww...

Over the bridge past the Babirosa (which is a type of deer, doesn't look it eh?)
And into the Fruit Bat Forest (where the lights are low, flash photography is not permitted, and I have never yet, taken a decent photograph - one day, my friends, one day!) 

From here, we can quickly get to the spectacled bears...

I have no idea if this was an emu or an ostrich... that is not my hand by the way, nor is it the hand of anyone I know!

and the Zebra and the Sitatunga (awesome name)...

Then the painted dogs;

Round to the birds in the wetlands (you walk through a free-flying area)..

And the Rhinoceroses/Rhinoceri? Rhinos!

Then there are the Meerkats

Before the Monkey House and back to the main entrance! You've walked around 5-7 miles, depending on the route you took!

And I have missed out some awesome animals!

Finally, here are some photos from other Zoos and Safari Parks too!