Ringlander: The Path and the Way Book Review

Ringlander The Path and the Way Book Cover

Ringlander: The Path and the Way – the debut fantasy novel from Michael S. Jackson – is an absolute riot.

Set in Rengas, a continent dominated by conflict, the occupying & brutish Bohr seek to quash an ongoing rebellion from the native human population. Meanwhile, an astral war engulfs the cosmos above, with the world torn apart by competing realities.

Sound complex? At first, it does come across a little abstract.

However, Jackson’s brilliant writing guides the reader deftly, navigating the various factions of Rengas, from the Tsiorc rebels to the Pathfinders of the North.

This is a fantasy novel with a truly original lore – and that’s a really exciting prospect for future entries in the series.

Overview – Ringlander: The Path and the Way

Fantasy lives or dies by three key elements: world-building, characters, and narrative.

And from the beginning, it’s clear that a lot of love has gone into Ringlander. It’s a well-realised world, with its own terminology and detailed topography. For this reason, both a map and glossary are included. These are welcome additions, designed to assist the reader in their journey through Rengas.

The glossary is oddly selective, however. More often than I would have liked, I’d consult the glossary, only to find that the entry I was looking for was conspicuously absent. It’s not a deal-breaker, as the novel does a decent job of introducing the reader to its concepts, but more definitions would have been welcome.

As for the characters – they’re an impressionable, well-drawn bunch for the most part. Kyria, Fia, Jagar, and Iqaluk are certainly explored in more detail than perhaps some of the supporting characters, for example. Nonetheless, I was impressed how Ringlander’s characters largely break free of the more overt fantasy tropes. 

Kyria and Atalfia, for example, are genuinely compelling in their own right, demonstrating charisma, single-mindedness, and courage. Nor do they require approval from their male counterparts. Plus they’re thankfully freed of the far-too-familiar shackles of hyper-sexualisation, which was welcoming to read. Meanwhile, Jagar, the banéman, remains an unsettling menace, whilst Rathe – half-Bohr, half human – experiences a particularly interesting arc.

The narrative presented is solid. Early on, it’s a little confusing whilst the reader acclimatises to the world. You may find yourself flicking to and fro between the map & the glossary. However, the patient reader is rewarded by a scintillating ending of drama that teases a sequel.


The first installment in Ringlander’s universe is a fantastic read. It’s clear, concise, and compelling.

Ringlander is a well-written fantasy novel, highly descriptive (though not obtusely so), and the prose reads exceptionally well. It’s liberating to read a fantasy novel that gets its point across in under 500 pages, avoiding the usual prevarication and overly descriptive writing associated with the genre.

The narrative is decent, the characters well-rounded, and the world-building impressive for a debut effort. And with additional books planned in the future, watch this space – I’ll certainly be checking out Jackson’s future entries in the world of Rengas!


Ringlander: The Path and the Way is available in at Amazon in paperback, hardback, or as part of Kindle Unlimited.

Full disclaimer: A review copy was kindly provided by the author and publisher in exchange for an honest review.

One Key Reason to Read the Book Before the Movie

Why You Should Read the Book Before the Movie Blog Header

‘Why read the book when you could just watch the movie?’

You’ve likely been asked this from one or two of your slightly less bookish friends.

It’s one of those moments where you’ve got a whole range of reasons lined up to explain why, but don’t wish to sound unkind.

But to be fair, there are plenty of very good reasons why someone might wish to experience the movie first. Here are a handful.

Reading is Daunting

For some, the prospect of opening a book at the end of the working day is just not desirable. For those who haven’t made reading a part of their life, it’s a hard sell when there’s an easier option.

People don’t like to feel stupid or vulnerable, and reading – being such a basic life skill – can make them feel that way if it’s something that isn’t part of their daily routine.

In that respect, it’s often easier to settle down and watch a movie.

The movie is shorter

(Unless it’s the Hobbit trilogy *snicker*)

But in all seriousness, the point of movie adaptations – other than making all of the moneys – is to create a more digestible form of media.

It stands to reason that some may prefer this method of media consumption – even if those of us in the book blogging community may not.

Credit: Reddit.com

Prefer the experience

Let’s be honest – there’s something spectacular about watching a movie on the big screen. The overpriced popcorn and coke taste automatically better than they ought to – plus you’re often with your mates. Watching a movie is a social experience.

Alternatively, with a home cinema setup with 4K, surround sound, and all the bells & whistles, it’s hard to not find that an inherently sexy way of experiencing media.

Compare that with the humble setting of you, yourself, and a battered paperback. Sure, it’s charming, but it’s at least understandable why some might prefer the big screen.

Struggling with reading

My brother loves reading, but as someone with learning difficulties, he sometimes struggles to follow the words without a visual cue.

For him, watching a movie first gives him the understanding of the outline of the plot – and who the characters are.

Then, when he reads the book, he already has a contextual knowledge of what’s happening on the page. This actually allows him to enjoy the book far more than going in without a point of reference.

And if that means he’s able to get more enjoyment from the book, who are we to judge?

Watching the movie can be an entry point into reading the book

Let’s not forget – it doesn’t need to be one or the other.

Look at Game of Thrones (the TV show). It was a television phenomenon that actually made people far more interested in picking up G.R.R.M.’s novels. I can think of a handful of people who don’t typically read, who picked up the box set and were making steady progress.

To return to the movie angle – plenty of people were enthralled by the cliffhanger ending of Catching Fire, and simply could not wait for the Mockingjay movies to come out. So they read the books.

Here's why you should read the book before the movie, however...

As discussed, there are a bevy of reasons why people might watch the movie adaptation first.

However, by doing so, you miss out on a one-time joy that you’ll never, ever be able to replicate again.

Experiencing a story free of bias.

When you read a book for the first time, your imagination fills in the details. Your idea of a setting & how characters look will inevitably differ to another reader’s.

Reading is an act of creation. Every time you open a book, without prior experience of the world contained within, the reader creates a textual palimpsest; another layer of fictionality that watching a movie robs the reader of.

Remember – a movie is one person’s interpretation of the source material. Watching that, without having read the book, robs the reader of their creative agency – and from a reading perspective, that’s quite tragic.

What are your thoughts? Do you try to read the book before the movie, or the other way around? Leave a comment and let me know!

Alien: Out of the Shadows Review (Audible)

Alien Out of the Shadows Audiobook Review

Alien: Out of the Shadows is a novel, audiobook, and – in this particular case – an Audible audio drama.

Set between Alien and Aliens, the first two movies, Tim Lebbon’s take on the Alien universe pits the crew of the Marion against a Xenomorph invasion upon a mining colony.

Respectful of the source material, whilst carving out its own path, Alien: Out of the Shadows is a thoroughly impressive production.

With a phenomenal cast, excellent sound engineering, and a solid narrative, this Audible audio drama is well worth your time.

Xeno Evil, Hear no Evil

In a tense, horror-like series like Alien, immersion is paramount so I was utterly thrilled by the production value of Out of the Shadows.

This is definitely one to listen to with your headphones on, rather than through speakers (bonus points if you have headphones with binaural audio!)

All of the classic sci-fi audio cues are here.

Metal clangs satisfyingly, sliding doors whirr open, and lift shafts judder and moan in their decrepitude. Meanwhile, – the protagonists’ voices echo authentically in the depths of the mining colony.

Occasionally you’ll hear the Aliens chitter away in the background, signalling their closer proximity. Always a threat.

Alien Out of the Shadows Book Review Spaceship
The menacing depths of the mining colony

And then there’s the voice acting, of which I’m not sure the English language possesses enough superlatives. Seriously – the cast is incredible.

Is Alien: Out of the Shadows a classic?

Out of the Shadows presents an enjoyable tale. Not wholly original, but thrilling nonetheless. However, it’s the characters that make it a success.

You’ll immediately recognise a familiar voice in Matthew Lewis (of Neville Longbottom fame). Lewis puts in a fantastic performance as Baxter.

Laurel Lefkow as Ripley is inspired. I actually had to pause and triple-check that Sigourney Weaver wasn’t in the credits. Amazing.

Meanwhile, Rutger Hauer plays a menacing AI – thwarting our heroes/fodder at every step. Again, an impeccably sinister performance. 

The crew themselves are good fun, with Hooper as the leader; voiced strongly by Corey Johnson.

Ripley & Jonesy Alien Out of the Shadows
Yes - Jonesy returns for another outing

Lachance is really great fun too, adding levity to an increasingly stressful journey, whilst Sneddon has easily the best arc in the narrative. 

Typically in this genre, characters are introduced simply to die. It’s therefore pleasantly surprising that the wider cast aren’t just ‘Alien fodder’ –  they’re an entertaining cast in their own right.

Out of the Shadows is packed with Alien tropes and fan service, but it doesn’t feel gimmicky. In fact, it’s a brilliant entry that’s on par with Ridley Scott’s movies.

There are even some neat references to the wider universe, including Alien: Isolation – the excellent survival horror video game starring Amanda Ripley (seriously, if you’re an Alien fan – or just a survival horror fan – you need to pick up a copy of that game).


With ten episodes at around 28 minutes each, Alien: Out of the Shadows is a really addictive listen. It has that quintessential ‘just one more episode’ vibe, which so many TV shows try (and ultimately fail) to capture.

If you’re an Alien fan – you’ll love this. And even if you aren’t an Alien purist, there’s a lot to appreciate here. Certainly more than the movies Fox has released in recent years.

The cast is wonderful, the narrative works as an efficient vehicle for the characters, and this Audible production is of the absolute highest quality.

I can’t wait to listen to it again, and I strongly encourage anyone reading this review to do so too!

And if audio dramas aren’t for you, the book is included in Amazon’s generous Kindle Unlimited programme.


You can listen to the entirety of Alien: Out of the Shadows for free, with a trial at Audible.

What it Feels Like for a Girl Book Review

Paris Lees Memoirs Book Review

Paris Lees is a journalist, model, and now a published author. 

Known for being the first transgender columnist for Vogue, What if Feels Like for a Girl is a memoir of her formative years in Hucknall, Nottingham. It’s even written in a Hucknall dialect!

Paris Lees’ book is remarkable. It’s an uplifting and empowering memoir of self-identity. It’s smart, witty, and authentic. However, it’s also filled with immense sadness, including stories of physical & emotional abuse.

There are very few books that make you want to laugh, cry, despair, cringe, and shout out for joy all in one chapter, but What It Feels Like for a Girl is one of them.

Through chapters named after popular songs at the time (feel good inc. / smack my bitch up / scream if you wanna go faster, etc…), Paris recounts her experiences through the prism of Byron – named after Nottingham’s own son, Lord Byron.

From being beaten up in Hucknall town centre for being a ‘poof’, to her wild nights in Nottingham with the Fallen Divas, eventual imprisonment, and beyond – the book charts her awakening as Paris in a lucid, highly self-aware way.

Numerous times, Byron – and then Paris – reflects upon why they can’t simply be treated as they are, rather than who society wants them to be.

What It Feels Like for a Girl Lord Byron
The eponymous Byron - the world's first 'rock star' poet (1788 - 1824)

Through What It Feels Like for a Girl, Paris holds a mirror up to the world, highlighting its treatment of trans people and, of course, what it means to be a girl.

Why What it Feels Like for a Girl Isn't A Trans Memoir

Both in newspaper articles, and in an excellent discussion on Owen Jones’s podcast, Paris has expressed frustration at the expectations surrounding this book.

Many (not unreasonably, to be fair) expected it to be a trans memoir, covering all of the details surrounding her transition. 

Her point is that Michelle Obama’s memoir isn’t a ‘woman book’, nor is David Cameron’s memoir a ‘man book’, so why should hers be a ‘trans book’?

It’s a fair point and well made.

But if this is not a trans memoir, discussing the ins-and-outs of Paris’s transition, then what is it?

Paris Lees promoting What It Feels Like for a Girl
Paris Lees promoting What It Feels Like for a Girl

Well, it’s the story of a working class East Midlands family coming to terms (or not) with the fact that their child is trans. 

It’s about Paris discovering her own identity, embracing it, and posing incisive, critical questions about British society’s tolerance of trans people in the early 2000s. 

And it’s about female empowerment and Paris taking control of her life.

Lots of love has gone into writing of What It Feels Like for a Girl, and it shows. 


What It Feels Like for a Girl is is a terrific book, and I’d strongly urge any of my readers to pick up a copy.

It presents a lens for which a reader, of any background, can get a glimpse into the LGBTQ+ experience in the late ’90s / early ’00s East Midlands. In this respect, it makes for a highly educational book, fostering empathy and understanding in the reader.

I grew up in Nottingham too, living there for 25 years of my life though admittedly on the more privileged end of the city. And in this respect, What It Feels Like for a Girl has given me a fresh perspective on a place I thought I knew inside-out – and that’s quite special.

To conclude, this is an excellent memoir. It’s a tough read at times, and the content can be quite distressing, but it remains an inspirational piece of writing and an essential read.


Paris Lees’ What It Feels Like for a Girl is available to buy at Bookshop.org.

Islands of Abandonment Book Review

Islands of Abandonment Cal Flyn Book Review Blog Header

Journalist Cal Flyn has published something truly special in Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape.

A non-fiction book, Flyn examines places around the world that have since been left behind by people. Often to the benefit of said places.

We travel to Chernobyl, out of town Detroit, the DMZ between North and South Korea, and even places closer to home in West Lothian, Scotland – just to name a handful of spots around the globe.

These places have typically been abandoned by humans following disasters, either natural or man-made. Others have been abandoned due to war or financial ruin.

Despite the somewhat sombre subject matter, Islands of Abandonment is a truly fascinating read, with shades of optimism and well worth anyone’s time.

There’s a strong climate change theme to Islands of Abandonment. Flyn finds, on her journeys, that whilst many of these places have been abandoned, they’re cultivating a life of their own. Nature is fighting back.

In fact, it’s argued throughout the book that in spite of mankind’s effects on the climate, nature can still rebound – create life of its own from the wreckage left behind. 

The phrase ‘in spite’ does a lot of heavy lifting here. Flyn isn’t arguing that people can continue to damage the environment. Rather, she floats the idea that nature endures. To quote Dr Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, “Life, uh, finds a way.”

Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park
Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park

In Chernobyl, trees intersect with buildings – extending through the floors and windows. In the Bikini ATOL, where the Hiroshima bomb was tested, a vibrant underwater community of aquatic plants and animals are thriving. 

And in the Korean DMZ – now a virtually untouched Eden, Sumatran tigers roam free.

Flyn writes about these places with wonder and amazement, interviewing locals for insight commentary on the backgrounds behind these abandoned places.


This is the climate change book we need right now. If climate change fatigue is the problem, then Islands of Abandonment is the antidote.

Flyn’s book is optimistic, though rightly cautious, and is an eye-opening insight into the abandoned world that exists between our towns & cities around the globe.

I’m not sure that the English language possesses enough superlatives for this book. Seriously, buy it, borrow it from the library, and shout about it – it’s a phenomenal piece of writing and a strong contender for Tales from Absurdia’s Book of the Year.


Cal Flyn’s Islands of Abandonment is available to buy at Bookshop.org

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue Book Review

Table of Contents

“Never pray to the gods who answer at night.”

This is what Estelle – the wizened old character of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – warns forebodingly.

So naturally, Adeline (Addie) prays to a god who answers at night.

To be fair to Addie, she was peering into the abyss of an arranged marriage in 1713 France.

Fearing being caged by domesticity, she barters with the devil for freedom.

But there’s a hitch. Because of course there is. It’s the devil. 

Addie will live forever. And yet no-one she meets will ever remember her. Once she falls out of their sight, she’s forever forgotten.

And thus begins The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.

An Invisible Life is a Lonely Place

It’s not easy being forgotten. Not when you yourself remember everything.

Think about your own experiences. Those coffee breaks with a friend which always end too soon – the nights spent in a beer garden until last orders, amongst great company. 

After all, memories are the fountain of the soul. Our experiences, often with other people, enrich our lives. A lot of this has been sorely missed in 2020 as a result of the global pandemic. So, in many ways, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue has come at a very pertinent time for many readers.

Addie, of course, can experience a veritable eternity of these moments – many lifetimes’ worth in fact. But they are experiences she cannot share with anyone beyond the time itself. 

She cannot even tell anyone her true name – the words failing on her tongue as she attempts the first letter. All part of her bargain with the devil.

There’s also the issue, which Addie faces frequently, where she tries to find somewhere to stay – pays her board – before being subsequently accused of squatting and then booted out onto the street.

Schwab captures this alienation spectacularly. It’s troubling, often getting Addie into difficult situations, let alone heart-breaking ones.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and Immersion

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a truly immersive novel.

This is my first experience of V. E. Schwab’s writing, but it’s excellent. From people’s mannerisms, their appearance, and especially Schwab’s outlining of setting – it’s all dripping with detail. It’s a genuine pleasure to read.

I was especially impressed by how unpredictable the plot was. About 10% into the novel, I was fairly sure I knew where it was going. So, I was pleasantly surprised as the twists revealed themselves and proved me wrong.

This is not a straightforward boy-meets-girl, star-crossed lovers affair. There is some of that, however, Addie’s tale is far more nuanced than that. It’s a powerful exploration of thought and memory.

I cannot wait to read more of Schwab’s work.

“Oh, Adeline...” - Thoughts on Addie

To be fair to the people Addie meets, she is quite forgettable. 

For someone who has lived for over 300 years, she lacks hobbies, interests, social awareness, and possesses a bizarre historical indifference.

This is a person who has lived through some of the most seminal moments in Western history. As a French woman, she’ll have experienced the French Revolution but only makes passing references to it, such as meeting Rousseau in a café.

Addie’s lived through multiple World Wars and has seemingly little to say about it, bar some interludes with Luc about death. She’s witnessed the rise of the civil rights movement in America and, again, has nothing to say about it.

We get a few passing references to the fact that she learned Greek and watched Hitchcock movies when they originally came out, but she doesn’t always read as someone who’s witnessed over 300 years of life & death.

Having said all of this, Addie is by no means a poor character – just limited. 

I felt her pain throughout, and she undoubtedly grows as a person. 

I particularly appreciated her first meeting with Henry (the first person to remember her). She doesn’t immediately fall for him, as one might expect in this type of novel. She’s (understandably) more drawn to the fact he can remember her. 

Addie doesn’t just have relationships with men either. Schwab explores the idea of Addie being bisexual, her views and preferences altering over time – as they might well do if one lives as long as Addie. I really appreciated this.

Addie is quite flawed but she’s harmless. I’d like to think that most readers would find her to be a likeable enough lead, if a little limited.

How is the Audiobook?

I listened to the audiobook of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, following a recommendation in AndOnSheReads’ Audiobooks to Relax With blog post. 

Julia Whelan’s performance as narrator is outstanding.

She captures the characters in an extraordinarily good way. Her voices for Luc and Henry are particularly strong, challenging my heterosexuality at pretty much every turn(!)

Luc’s voice is like velvet, yet with a cautionary sharpness. Henry’s is genial and approachable. 

The narration itself is clear, well-delivered, and captures the mood of the novel in a phenomenal manner. 

Should you choose to listen to the audiobook over the novel, you won’t miss out. It’s a brilliant experience.

IsThe Invisible Life of Addie LaRue worth reading?


It’s written with passion, precision and the themes of alienation and faustian pacts are very compelling. Readers who enjoy elements of romance, the supernatural, and YA fiction will adore this book. As will anyone who appreciates immersive writing.

Schwab makes you feel things. Whether it’s anxiety, sadness, or frustration at Addie’s predicament. It’s difficult to not empathise with Addie – you find yourself picturing yourself in the same situation; waking up in the morning and your partner & child not recognising you… walking out of a shop having paid, but nobody actually remembering you’ve paid… and so on.

The only thing that The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue falls down on for me is the lack of social and historical awareness. It does impact on immersion and makes Addie’s considerable struggle to live on a little less believable.

However, the scope of the narrative and the deep themes explored are well worth the price of entry.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a beautifully written book that is absolutely worth your time. I’d strongly recommend it.


The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is available to buy at Bookshop.org

Copywriting Is… Book Review

Copywriting Is... Andrew Boulton Book Review Wide

Table of Contents

There is no shortage of marketing and copywriting books out there. 

Pocket paperbacks promising simple, step-by-step solutions that help you generate all of the leads and make all of the monies.

Weightier tomes, costing an arm-and-a-leg, poring over sales funnels, the customer journey, and other topics that you’ll definitely do a Udemy course on …and then never do.

Copywriting Is… I’m delighted to say, is neither of those things. 

It is not a primer on how to write. Nor does it reveal the deepest, darkest secrets of a customers’ wants, needs, and desires.

It’s far more straightforward than that.

The author, Andrew Boulton, is lecturer, wordsmith, and – to borrow a delightful phrase from the blurb – ‘a seasoned alphabet wrangler’.

He, like many other copywriters before, has experienced the fun game of roulette when attempting to explain to well-meaning friends and relatives what exactly a copywriter is. 

Err towards the ‘copy’ and they’ll think you simply scribble down dictations. Err the other direction and you’ll hear your gran proclaiming to her peers on how you’re writing ‘the next Harry Potter’.

The truth is, copywriters exhibit a lot of talents, quirks, and attributes. There’s no one-size-fits-all definition for the trade of the copywriter. Copywriting is a lot of things, which is where this book comes in.

30-or-so thoughts on thinking like a copywriter,’ the canary-yellow front cover declares.

Copywriting is madness.
Copywriting is envy.
Copywriting is silly.
Copywriting is alive.

Buy this book. Twice. Perhaps Thrice.

If you’re yet to realise, this is an incredibly funny book.

Not like those books you get in a Christmas stocking, mind. The ones that claim to tell you the extent of your pet turtle’s intelligence. Those poor, unloved books that seasonal Waterstones staff solicit you with at the checkout. All apologetic, with puppy dog eyes, hoping that by shifting a few, James Daunt may actually put his hand in his pocket and pay his hardworking staff a fair living wage.

But it is an amusing book – a veritable trove of eclectic copywriting witticisms and observations. It’s also one of the most quotable books I’ve ever read.

If you’re in the business of writing words in exchange for money, do not sleep on this one – it’s well worth a read. Copywriting Is…. is a wonderful insight into creative thinking generally – a portable post-it of perfection, a cocktail of creativity, and other fine alliterative superlatives. 

But equally, even if you aren’t a copywriter, I’d strongly recommend this book. In some ways, I’d almost recommend it even more for a non-writer. At the very least, you’ll be entertained and at best you’ll appreciate the strange quirks that come with working alongside a creative writer.

I shall no longer be found without this book in my possession. If so, please return me to the nearest bookshop.


Andrew Boulton’s Copywriting Is… is a number one bestseller
and available at Bookshop.org