Born in a Treacherous Time – Blog Hop

Today, I have the pleasure of taking part in the Blog Hop for fellow author Jacqui Murray’s historical novel, Born in a Treacherous Time. Some of us take our time crafting our creations – I took over 13 years with my debut, even though it was a mystery. It’s therefore totally understandable that Jacqui took two decades to research and write Lucy’s story.

So, as she says, “After 20 years, I really need a send-off for this baby!”

Lucy and her band of early humans struggle to survive in the harsh reality of a world where nature rules, survival is a daily challenge, and a violent band threatens to destroy everything Lucy thinks she understands.

 If you like Man vs. Wild, you’ll love this book. If you ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. It will bring that world to life in a way never seen before.



Born in the harsh world of East Africa 1.8 million years ago, where hunger, death, and predation are a normal part of daily life, Lucy and her band of early humans struggle to survive. It is a time in history when they are relentlessly annihilated by predators, nature, their own people, and the next iteration of man. To make it worse, Lucy’s band hates her. She is their leader’s new mate and they don’t understand her odd actions, don’t like her strange looks, and don’t trust her past. To survive, she cobbles together an unusual alliance with an orphaned child, a beleaguered protodog who’s lost his pack, and a man who was supposed to be dead.

Born in a Treacherous Time is prehistoric fiction written in the spirit of Jean Auel. Lucy is tenacious and inventive no matter the danger, unrelenting in her stubbornness to provide a future for her child, with a foresight you wouldn’t think existed in earliest man. You’ll close this book understanding why man not only survived our wild beginnings but thrived, ultimately to become who we are today.

This is a spin-off of To Hunt a Sub’s Lucy (the ancient female who mentored Kali Delamagente, the female protagonist).


“Murray’s lean prose is steeped in the characters’ brutal worldview, which lends a delightful otherness to the narration …The book’s plot is similar in key ways to other works in the genre, particularly Jean M. Auel’s The Clan of the Cave Bear. However, Murray weaves a taut, compelling narrative, building her story on timeless human concerns of survival, acceptance, and fear of the unknown. Even if readers have a general sense of where the plot is going, they’ll still find the specific twists and revelations to be highly entertaining throughout. 

A well-executed tale of early man.” 

–Kirkus Reviews

Click here for the entire review


An early reader’s review

Born in a Treacherous Time sheds light on a period of time that gave birth to the human race, and allow us to bear witness to the harshness and tenacious spirit that is uniquely human—to survive and endure. Readers with a thirst for knowledge and who enjoy historical fiction, this is a must-read. I am looking forward to reading book 2 when it is published.

 “I devoured the book in 2 sittings.”

 –Luciana Cavallaro, author of Servant of the Gods series and webmaster of Eternal Atlantis


Today’s question to Jacqui Murray is:

What one characteristic would you say allowed Lucy to survive in a world populated with Sabertooth Cats, violent volcanoes, and predatory species who liked to eat man?

“Really, with our thin skin, dull teeth, and tiny claws (aka fingernails), Lucy had no right to survive against the thick-skinned mammoth or tearing claws of the great cats of that time. But we did. The biggest reason: Even then, Lucy was a problem solver. She faced crises and came up with solutions. Where most animals spent their time eating and sleeping, Lucy had time left over. This, she used to solve problems.

To me, that thoughtful approach to living, one no other animal exhibits, is why we came to rule the planet.”

Man v Nature

Book information:

Title and author: Jacqui Murray – Born in a Treacherous Time

Series: Book 1 in the Man vs. Nature series

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Cover by: Damonza 

Available at: Kindle


Author bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Wild seriesShe is also the author of over a hundred books on integrating technology into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

Social Media contacts:

For a sample of this amazing novel, please visit Amazon and Look Inside.


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe  – a review


Today’s review post is of a book I re-read for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (Book Club). As a child, I had read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and it became a book that I’ve re-read a few times. I admit that it’s not my favourite Narnia book – that honour goes to The Magician’s Nephew, which I was intending to read next, but the set I have is too bulky to lug around in a wheelchair.

Anyway, on with the latest review.

Lion Witch Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 

(The Chronicles of Narnia (Publication Order) #1)


C.S. Lewis,

Pauline Baynes (Illustrations)

A full-color paperback edition of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, book two in the classic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia. This edition is complete with full-color cover and interior art by the original illustrator, Pauline Baynes.

Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie— step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the second book in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has been drawing readers of all ages into a magical land with unforgettable characters for over sixty years. This is a stand-alone read, but if you would like to explore more of the Narnian realm, pick up The Horse and His Boy, the third book in The Chronicles of Narnia.

Review 4.4 stars

This was still as enjoyable as when I read the book as a child some decades ago. and then, I read it again, a few times or more. The magic never goes when I return to Narnia and I will always encourage other kids to escape there, and to relish the magical use of words and phrases.

This book never gets old. It’s the first Narnia book that I encountered – and the first written then published, although chronologically the second.

I always felt that talking animals would be amazing and C. S Lewis makes them believable and unique characters. For me, the children were always of less interest than the creatures of Narnia – starting with Tumnus the Faun. Although in her defence, Lucy is always the most endearing child. Everyone has things that make them contrast with the others, creating a memorable cast including Aslan.

However, while giving human characteristics to a faun seems credible, it’s harder to accept animals described in similar terms. For Narnia, that works, but as an adult, I can sense it’s not being true to their real nature. But don’t let that spoil the weaving of the spell.

This is a classic fantasy for children, and disbelief is wonderfully suspended from the moment that Lucy Pevensie finds her way through the wardrobe and begins an enchanting adventure. In Narnia, we have a world where the unexpected is possible and magic is at the heart of the creation. For the older reader, this world poses a few questions. Perhaps that is why C.S Lewis felt compelled, after five books, to eventually write about the world’s origins in The Magician’s Nephew – my favourite Narnia book and chronologically Book 1.

Yes, there are aspects that are dated like attitudes to girls/women fighting, and there are the Christian undertones, but I can forget these as the whole creation transports me.                                                                                                                                                                   There is clever use of language, of humorous phrases, of adjectives to evoke emotions – both in the dialogue, and in the descriptive passages that abound, bringing Narnia alive in the imagination.

“…And you are riding not on a road nor in a park nor even on the downs, but right across Narnia, in spring, down solemn avenues of beech and across sunny glades of oak, through wild orchards of snow-white cherry trees, past roaring waterfalls and mossy rocks and echoing caverns, up windy slopes alight with gorse bushes, and across the shoulders of heathery mountains and along giddy ridges and down, down, down again into wild valleys and out into acres of blue flowers.”

I’m sure that Pauline Baynes’ illustrations were in the first copy that I read, and they helped create the vibrant images in my head of Narnia, but the words on the page were what transported me there. The most abiding image seems to be that lamp post and whenever I see a real or replica Victorian one in real-life, I drift back to that fir-fringed clearing in Narnia.

Time to introduce my great grandkids to this spellbinding world and this can be another book to encourage their imagination.

Story – four stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – three stars

Characters – four stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

The Secret Keeper – a review


How many books deserve a re-read as soon as we turn the last page? Today’s review is one of those wonderful gems that encouraged me to re-indulge by reading large sections throughout and to see and smile at how cleverly the tapestry was crafted.

The Secret Keeper


Kate Morton (Goodreads Author)

During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy—her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.

Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.

Dorothy’s story takes the reader from pre–WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond. It is the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.


Review 5+ stars

The blurb and other reviews for The Secret Keeper hooked me, and I am so grateful as this novel is an amazing read – deserving more than five stars.

When sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson glimpses her mother, Dorothy assault a man in self-defence, the act seems justified and she hides the memory. Thus, the secrets begin – or do they? That is one of the brilliant elements of this novel as there is not just one secret but many, inter-twined over the decades from before Laurel was born. Perhaps, there is more than one Secret Keeper.

Fifty-two years later, as Dorothy is dying, the Nicolson children gather to celebrate her ninetieth birthday, and the discovery of a photograph from WWII of Ma with another young woman poses questions about their mother’s past as the other woman is a stranger from her unspoken wartime experiences. Yet the woman’s name feels familiar to Laurel, except it is only in the end that she realises why.

‘Not about Ma, I mean that young woman. She was a different person back then, with a whole other life we know nothing about.’

Laurel is now sixty-six and a much-loved actress, and she uses her abilities and resources to discover more about her mother’s past. It was great to have this older main protagonist with all her evolving attitudes, memories and experiences – not just in 2011, but when she was much younger as well. And the reader is treated to some distinctive characters in the various periods, notably the 1940s and the present day [2011]. Each one has a unique voice and that memorable feature that fixes them in a reader’s mind.

The language feels correct for the various periods as do the settings from fashion and music to the gap between rich and poor. For me, growing up in the 50s and 60s the scenes in those period stirred so many memories. The research seems to have been meticulous at every turn – many of the sources are noted in the acknowledgements.

As the past is gradually revealed, the reader discovers more through Dorothy’s eyes, and Laurel’s discoveries uncover secrets. Kate Morton makes clever use of memories – memories that change over time, memories that are interpretations of events, and memories that spark a wave of emotions.

As a crime novel reader, I know how personal observation can be faulty. Who is Dorothy? Does that depend on who is digging? Who knows what happened? As I kept reading, I learnt about secrets, misunderstandings, and dreams all conspiring as fate propelled events. There were moments when I thought that I had sussed everything out – wrong. The author did a masterly job of weaving an intricate tapestry of events with revelations that kept skewing the plot.

Although Laurel and Dorothy are central to the drama, with some excellent secondary characters, there is a strong feeling throughout that family is everything – from the Nicolson children to the families lost in the Blitz.

Loss is something that many of the characters face. There are poignant moments that becomes memories, beautifully described, especially through childhood eyes. With both Dorothy and Vivien, we get contrasting memories and reactions to events, yet they have experiences in common – and they have secrets. As does Laurel whose own observations have informed her as an actress who can empathise – as the reader does.

‘Laurel knew quite a bit about keeping secrets. She also knew that was where the real people were found, hiding behind their black spots.’

Laurel finds those real people and learns some amazing truths behind the secrets. When I reached The End, I could see the tapestry, but I had to read every key paragraph and chapter again. That re-read was as magical, especially as I could now see the pieces slotting smoothly into place – and hiding the black spots and secrets.

The Secret Keeper is an amazing novel with so many clever twists – a masterful five star plus read.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars


#TheIWSG Titles or Names?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge


The months seem to be flashing by in leaping bounces. Is that the result of spring in the air, or the pull of summer? Whatever the reason, it’s time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post and my latest attempt to write to the IWSG voluntary prompt:

June 6 question – What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

The answer is that I’ve never pondered this too much. So far, the titles of my novels/WIPs seem to have come in a flash during plotting. Whether they are any good remains open to debate. Finding titles for my short stories has been harder, but nothing too taxing as the right title emerges before THE END draft one.

Character names require more extensive work as I like to research the meaning of names. Most of my characters have names that have an appropriate meaning, so there have been cases when I found something better. As with the detective protagonist in Fates Maelstrom, who went from Sparkle Morgan to Sparkle Anwyl. Sometimes the name change is to avoid confusion with another character, or because their nature changes.

So, character names must be harder.

That should be the post, except I’m having a meltdown. Why?

I’ve been focused on writing reviews, and these are making me insecure – well, reading great books might be invaluable, but… I’m committing a cardinal sin and judging my own ability by them. They give me ideas – like the bookend structure of The Last Wish – but I can’t hope to write as well as these masters of the craft. (Watch out for tomorrow’s review when I assess another five-star book.)

Is it time to just read and dream?

I’ve already lost my ability to take photos as my hands shake like a tree in the wind. Writing gets harder as my brain fogs and my thoughts jumble.

Or am I only achieving if I keep scribbling creatively?




 The awesome co-hosts for the June 6 posting of the IWSG are Beverly Stowe McClure, Tyrean Martinson, Tonja Drecker, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! 

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!
Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

Lord of the Flies – a review


Today’s review post is of a book read for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (Book Club). I read William Golding’s 1954 novel Lord of the Flies in February, and this is my belated addition to the group’s discussion. This novel was chosen by club members for how the author used symbolism throughout the story.


Lord of the Flies


William Golding

At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate; this far from civilization the boys can do anything they want. Anything. They attempt to forge their own society, failing, however, in the face of terror, sin and evil. And as order collapses, as strange howls echo in the night, as terror begins its reign, the hope of adventure seems as far from reality as the hope of being rescued. Labelled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies is perhaps our most memorable tale about “the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart.”

Review 4.5 stars

It’s hard to review a classic that has been around in many ways all my life from novel to screen. My first reaction was that it’s a gritty and a difficult read that may be literary in style, but the messages are there. The beast lives so why should kids be immune to its power? Yes, it could be written in other ways, – and it has been. But I understand the author’s intent (as does Stephen King).

In Lord of the Flies, symbolism is everywhere, from the moment a group of schoolboys are stranded on an uncharted island along an inevitable path to the heart-wrenching climax. As we meet the boys, each one is unique and typical of certain English schoolboys – like myself. Yet each one is an archetype that plays a specific role – none more so than Ralph, Piggy, Jack and Simon. Their distinct appearances add to their character and their roles as symbols.

The early scenes realistically show the boys forming groups, their personalities coming out in how they make friends – and in how they can quickly hurt the vulnerable people like Piggy. Tragic to see that bullying still exists today, although it is more often exposed – perhaps. (I was bullied but never like Piggy is.) However, at an early stage, it seemed that Piggy should be in charge, as the most grounded – the rational symbol of common sense…even if Ralph took that role in survivor’s eyes.

There were vivid images to establish the differences – from the choirboys like black-feathered creatures to the innocent, distracted young’uns. Sometimes, the imagery and description might feel heavily applied, but that can work if the reader lets the complexity carry their imagination to another level.

Golding paints images that show the multi-facets of symbols – like fire being the tool that nurtures society but also destroys. There is a cruel irony in the role that the signal fire plays and how the novel deals with the possibility of rescue.

Simon was crafted as both the hermit and the seer, just as the reader gets the sense that the beast is always real.

It’s hard writing this without spoilers just as it was hard to ignore the memories of Peter Brook’s film as I read, knowing what came next – and I know that the actors’ experiences mirrored the novel. Yet that inevitability as the story unfolds added to the fear that the writing engendered. There’s always that sense of the Lord of the Flies, aka the beast being unrelenting and still alive today. This might have been written in 1954 and a product of an era, and yet we live with the same underlying terrors.

Maybe our self-awareness, as portrayed most notably in Jack, has kept us from stumbling over a precipice and fuels progression as well as dangerous fascination. There is some dialogue at the end that hinted at adults not having the answer. Perhaps there is something in innocence after all.

So, a hard book to enjoy in the entertainment sense, but Golding as a master craftsman does incite a multitude of thoughts. That alone is worth four or more stars.

Story – four stars

Setting/World-building – four stars

Authenticity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – four stars

Editing – four stars


Is the paw is mightier than the pen?

I have been interviewed by my author friend, Kristina Stanley about my writing and the pets in my life. There were fun questions as well as one that made me think. What do you think?

Discover more about me here: Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Roland Clarke to the blog!