Tabitha Sparks and the Door to Everywhere – Jae El Foster [Audiobook Review]

tabitha sparksI don’t really listen to audiobooks, but I was approached very kindly by Kathleen Powell, the narrator for Tabitha Sparks and the Door to Everywhere, and asked if I would be interested in reviewing the audiobook. I decided I would give it a go.

Blurb

Intelligent, kind Tabitha Sparks has a wonderful life, with loving parents, a kind tutor, and an unusual connection to nature. But one day, when returning from her favourite place, she finds her parents and house completely gone, without a trace. Child Services take Tabitha to live with her last living relative, Aunt Demonia. In a cold, lifeless house, Tabitha discovers something wonderful, something which could lead her to her parents – the Door to Everywhere. But someone else is looking for the door, too, and Tabitha must stop him before it’s too late.

Book Review

Tabitha Sparks and the Door to Everywhere is a delightful children’s book, with plenty of creepy characters, mysterious happenings, and adventure to keep children and adults entertained. Tabitha is an endearing child, one it’s hard not to like almost instantly, curious and intelligent and keen to explore the immediate world around her home. She looks to adults for guidance and help, but often comes up against brick walls, with those who are supposed to help her turning out to be either useless or downright cruel. But she does find other adults, who really are looking out for her best interests, or at the least, help her in small ways.

Then there is Lapis, Tabitha’s feline friend, named after the protective stone. Lapis is a really fun character, supporting Tabitha through her trials and assisting where he can, although as he is a cat, he spends more time jumping into Tabitha’s arms than anything else!

My only real gripe with this book, and perhaps it’s because it’s audiobook I picked up on it more, was that there were a lot of adverbs. Notably, ‘curiously’ is repeated fairly often, and it got a little annoying at times.

Other than that, however, this is a really sweet story about friendship and kindness and doing the right thing, and a young girl searching for her parents. The different worlds we’re introduced to are intriguing and imaginative, and sure to entertain readers, old and young, with the different inhabitants and worlds Tabitha accesses.

Audiobook

I’ve only listened to one audiobook before, and that was Camilla, in Podcast format, so I listened to it between other podcasts, in ten and twenty-minute snippets. With Tabitha Sparks, I basically listened to it when I would usually listen to podcasts. And it was great! It felt like reading while at work, an ability to do other things while also being entertained by an audiobook. Although I understood why people listened to audiobooks before, I can definitely see the appeal more now.

There’s just something wonderful in falling into a different world through someone else’s voice, and the narrator Kathleen Powell does a fantastic job with Tabitha Sparks, hitting the right notes and affecting slightly different voices for each character. She has an absolutely charming style, one that really conveys the wonder and fear Tabitha goes through in the novel. It was a pure delight to listen to, and really made me feel like a little kid, gathering around for storytime.

Overall, I found this to be a fantastic, lovely book with a brilliant narrator really able to bring the story to life. I can only imagine the joy children would get out of reading this, or listening to the audiobook! It is definitely one worth checking out.

Audible

Goodreads

Amazon: UK   /    US

Kathleen Powell’s Website

Blogmas #6: 2019 Wrap Up & 2020 Goals

Blogmas #6One: I know I skipped day five. Two: This will possibly go up late. Re the first point, I couldn’t think of much for the prompt (gifts) and I said at the start I wasn’t going to push myself to post every day. I’ve been feeling under the weather this week, so I avoided rushing something yesterday, and I won’t rush this to get it out before midnight. But we’ll see how that one goes.

So. 2019.

What a year.

And I mean that in a really good way.

yay.gifSo I started the year off kind of…lonely, I guess. Like, I have my BF, who is amazing, but in terms of networking, and connections to communities, I struggled. I was querying stories, but had very few published, and I didn’t seem to making many connections with the #WritingCommunity on Twitter. I’d see bloggers interacting, getting ARCs, doing blog tours, and had absolutely no idea how to actually be a part of all that.

I had a couple of short stories published at the start of 2019, and I updated the blog more and had a handful of followers, and, as I still do now, I mentally cheered whenever I had a new follower, on Twitter or the blog. It was just constantly amazing to me that someone would be interested in the words I wrote.

thank you.gifJust before the summer, my BF and I talked about going to Disney. Basically, he remembered me saying how much I wished I could spend my 30th birthday in DLP, or at least one birthday, and how it was probably the closest theme park open in the middle of November, and it sucked because theme parks/amusement parks for my birthday were not really a possibility.

See, I love rollercoasters, and on a trip to Blackpool a couple of years ago, we discovered Rich does too, even if he was terrified while we queued for The Big One, the moment we stepped off he turned to me with a grin and said, “Can we do it again?”

emperors new groove.gifWe booked the trip. And shortly after, I decided to try beta reading through freelance website Fiverr. Turns out, that was an absolutely fantastic decision. Through doing this, I have met some fantastic writers, and they’ve now gone on to have stories published or to self-publish books, receiving amazing feedback. It feels great, to be doing something constructive, and to help other writers along their journeys.  Because of this, I am now considering looking at joining The Society for Editors and Proofreaders next year, and maybe taking a couple of courses, as editing is something I really enjoy, and judging from the consistent 5* feedback, apparently something I might actually be good at.

Around the same time, Dead Head Reviews posted asking anyone would be interested in joining their team. Apparently, I was one of the first. And it’s been really exciting. If you”re a horror fan, you should definitely check out the site. Through Dead Head, I’ve been introduced to some amazing indie publishers and authors, and have got to fantastic horror books, from anthologies to novellas to full novels, it really has been amazing.

This year, I also joined TheWriteReads gang, with my mid-year wrap up post being featured as a blog of the day. This has not only increased my views and followers, but also introduced me to some amazing people, allowed me to participate in the blog tour for the fantastic The Devil’s Apprentice, and I am also a panelist for the upcoming BBNYA.

Talking of blog tours, I’ve been invited onto a few now, so look out for them in the New Year! And I’ve started getting a few review requests thanks to my review policy page, and it’s always exciting to see an e-mail come in for that dedicated account.

anna excited.gifWith my own personal writing, things have been a little up and down. I’ve had a couple of short stories published, but many rejected. But I will keep trying and, of course, keep writing.

But one thing this year has taught me is that even though I am in an early stage in my own writing career, that doesn’t mean I can’t help other beginner writers. Whether it’s through the beta-reading/editing work I do, or reviewing books, I feel really happy when I can give another writer feedback to make them smile, and when I do come across a really good book, you can bet I’ll shout about it from the rooftops.

And of course, we went to Disneyland Paris in November. It was amazing and magical and an absolute dream come true – I cried during Illuminations, because I was standing next to my fantastic, wonderful boyfriend, in Disneyland, on my 30th birthday, and it was everything I could have wished for and more. And Illuminations is just…it’s emotional, okay? Here’s hoping we get to go back soon!

mickey and minnie

2020 Goals

So here we are. It’s coming up to the end of the year and we are approaching 2020. I’m not a big fan of setting ‘goals’ as such, as if I don’t hit them, I tend to feel a little bad. But I do try to set myself small, achievable goals. Things I know I can do, and if I exceed them, I can feel really, really good about it.

One thing that happened this year I didn’t mention about was I hit 100 blog followers (and hoted a giveaway to celebrate!). So this year, maybe I can double that. Hitting 200 would be fantastic.

I’ve exceeded my Goodreads Reading Challenge Goal (set at 50, currently on 65) and would like to do the same next year. I am definitely reading more, so I’m going to up the amount to 55. Still a small number, but if I can read over 50 in a year, I’m happy.

Have short stories being queried at all times. This year, I set myself to have five out on submission every month, and I’m going to try to keep that up. If I don’t achieve that, it’ll be because I’ve had stuff published, so even if I don’t hit that goal, it’s not a bad thing.

Other than that, I’m going to keep doing what I’m currently doing. Helping writers, whether it’s improving their writing or promoting their books via reviews, updating the blog regularly, and working on my own writing when I can.

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Huge thanks to Jenn for pointing me towards her Blogmas list.

Blogmas #1: Christmas TBR  /  Blogmas #2: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year  /  Blogmas #3: Christmas Reads  /  Blogmas #4: Bookish Naughty or Nice List

Blogmas #4: Bookish Naughty or Nice List

Blogmas #4I’ve really been looking forward to this one! And you should check out Jenn’s original list from 2017, too.

  • Received an ARC and not reviewed it  X

I will read them all! I just…got swamped, a little more quickly than I expected. I went from having no ARCs, never having touched an ARC, to having…a lot. It’s great, but yeah, I need time to get through them.

uh oh

  • Have less than 60% feedback rating on Netgalley X

I guess technically, I have 0% on Netgalley, as I’m actually not on there. I’m actually considering doing a post, maybe in the New Year, about why I’m not there. I want to be though.

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  • Rated a book on goodreads and promised a full review was to come on your blog (and never did)

Nope! Not done this one. I don’t write reviews on Goodreads until I’ve at least put them on the blog or on Deadheads, at which point I’ll add an extract, then link back to the original post.

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  • Folded down the page of a book X

Okay, yeah. Guilty. Sorry! I used to actually do this a lot. It was just how I saved my place. Never to someone else’s books though! And I stopped doing it a long time ago. Now, I have a nice little collection of bookmarks to use.

angry

  • Accidentally spilled on a book

Nope! Not that I can remember, anyway. I don’t actually drink when I’m reading, so that helps a lot in avoiding accidental spills.

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  • DNF a book this year

Nope! I’ve finished all the books I’ve picked up this year. I very rarely – if ever – DNF a book.

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  • Bought a book purely because it was pretty with no intention of reading it

Nope! I intend to read every book I buy, and honestly, I just can’t afford to buy books I won’t read right now. Though there are some books I would love to have and probably wouldn’t actually read,  if I could.

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  • Read whilst you were meant to be doing something else (like homework) X

Yeah, I probably read when I should be writing, to be honest. But it feeds into one another, right?

pluto angel

  • Skim read a book

Nope! This is another one that I just don’t tend to do.

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  • Completely missed your Goodreads goal X

Well, 2016 I missed it by 8. 2015 was the first year I started doing it and I’ve hit over my goal since then. I tend to set it low-ish, based on how many books I read the previous year. Otherwise I’d just stress myself out trying to hit it.

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  • Borrowed a book and not returned it X

Errrr yes. A long, long time ago. Let’s not talk about it.

my bad

  • Broke a book buying ban X

Yep! I just can’t help it. I want all the books.

gasp

  • Started a review, left it for ages then forgot what the book was about

Ha nope. I don’t think so anyway.

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  • Wrote in a book you were reading

Ha NOPE! I WOULD NEVER! I fully believe in a book is yours, to do with what you will, and if someone enjoys writing in them, then fair. But I just couldn’t do it.

faint

  • Finished a book and not added it to your Goodreads  X

I might have done this with one or two ARCs I’ve received before they were up on Goodreads.

fed up max

So there we have it. I don’t think I did too bad!

Again, huge thanks to Jenn for introducing me to Blogmas and giving me an awesome list to work from.

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Blogmas #1: Christmas TBR     /     Blogmas #2: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year     /     Blogmas #3: Favourite Christmas Reads

Blogmas #3: Christmas Reads

Blogmas #3Day 3. How did we get here so quick? Work’s ramping up, Christmas is looming and now I start panicking about who I haven’t got presents for.

While we’re here, I just want to say a huge thanks to Jenn over at Jennielywho pointed me in the direction of her Blogmas list. Go check out her blog if you haven’t already.

And so we come to the third Blogmas post…

Christmas Reads

I’ve said it before – I’m not great when it comes to seasonal reads! I’d love to read more Christmas themed books, but I’m terrible at getting books with the intention of reading them at a particular time of the year. That said, a book doesn’t HAVE to be Christmas themed to be a good Christmas read. (I still haven’t read A Christmas Carol, either!) Here are some books which I think of when I think of Christmas, books which I actually have read. And as always, if you have any recommendations for me, feel free to throw them my way.

Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkabanhppoa

Something about the HP books makes me think of autumn and winter – I’m pretty sure I included this on a Blogtober list, too. But anyway. Yeah, Christmas makes me think of PoA, and that scene when Harry and Ron enter the Great Hall, only to find there are currently 11 people seated at the table, with the prediction made that the first to rise will be the first to die. The film, as well, with our first glimpses of Hogsmeade, covered in snow, feels a little more Christmassy than the others. This was also the first HP I got for Christmas – opening it and feeling a tad upset because I hadn’t yet read the second one, thinking my mother must have been confused and got me the wrong one and then I opened the present from my brothers, to find Chamber of Secrets looking up at me from the wrapping paper. Day saved.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

the lion the witch and the wardrobeIs it possible to think of Christmas books without thinking of this classic? Again, another one I got for Christmas – I actually had the whole Chronicles of Narnia box set one year, and I cherished them. I watched the cartoon version of this over and over, tense at the Aslan scene even though I knew full well what was going to happen. Narnia, stuck in a constant winter with no Christmas, seemed like such a magical yet horrid place to me as a kid. Winter…with no Christmas? No lights and celebrations and amazing food and presents? And then, of course, Santa arrives, and things seem much more hopeful. In the middle of winter, when things are at their darkest, I think we could all do with that little touch of hope.

NOS4A2

nos4a2One for the horror fans and yes, I know the cover says R, but I’m British so my version said A.

(EDIT, Dec 4th: Friends, I was wrong. The above is a British cover, I thought it was American – my brain let me down when I was typing this yesterday. NOS4R2 = British, NOS4A2 = American, which makes more sense because the latter totally doesn’t sound like Nosferatu to me.)

This cover was just the one I found that seemed most Christmassy. Although the main events of this novel don’t actually take place at Christmas, the main villain of the story is obsessed with Christmas, in an almost childlike way – the kind of thinking kids have, about how amazing it would be if Christmas took place every single day. The book balances summer and winter, plunging you from July 4th fireworks into a wintery, snowy wonderland, and giving Christmas a really creepy, eerie edge. If you like horror and haven’t checked this out yet, I really can’t recommend it enough, especially for fans of King. Out of the novels from Joe Hill I’ve currently read, this is the one that, to me, reads most like his father’s work, yet unbelievably unique in its own right.

25-Post-Ideas-for-BlogmasBlogmas 1: Christmas TBR     /    Blogmas 2: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Blogmas #2: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Blogmas #2I love winter. I don’t like getting up in the dark or coming home in the dark, but if there’s no where else to go…

Well, it’s nice to be in a lovely warm house, maybe stretched out on the sofa watching A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, or curled up in bed with an enjoyable book. Winter seems like the ideal time to indulge. It’s cold outside, probably wet – especially if you’re in the UK – and dark. Time to play video games, or watch films, or read books.

And ahead of us is Christmas. I love Christmas. I love the lights and the warmth and, yes, the time off work. Christmas Day is also my brother’s birthday, and we’ve celebrated this day together every year except for one, when he was travelling around the world.

I admit, as I’ve got older, my love for Christmas has waned a little. In some ways, it’s become much more stressful. In others, more sad. But mostly, I try to focus now on the positives, the things I love about this season. Have a good reason to treat my family, whether it’s through presents or other gifts.

Winter isn’t always the best time. But for me, it’s a chance to relax over Christmas – I am very lucky in that I’m off over the Christmas period. A rare chance to unwind and hang out with my family, this year in Margate where my brother lives, and see his nephew and niece. Having children around makes a lot of difference!

Even though sometimes I get down, for me winter really is the best season. My birthday is November 12th – often it feels like the cusp of autumn and winter, right as nights really start drawing in and coldness chills the air. And after my birthday, the Christmas lights go on up town, Christmas music starts being played, and Christmas planning hits full swing.

And I try to read as much as I can before the end of the year, taking the chance to indulge in some longer books I may have not got to yet.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely – Brigid Kemmerer [Review]

a curse so darkI read this book immediately after The Queen of Nothing, hoping it would fill the hole left by Holly Black’s fantastic end to an amazing trilogy. And it did…but after finishing it, that hole now feels twice as big. Luckily, this series is still ongoing, and the sequel is out in January, so seems like I read it at the right time.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely  is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, with a slight modern twist. Prince Rhen is cursed to repeat the same season, over and over, transforming into a beast at the end and slaughtering everyone in his path, unless he can find a girl to fall in love with him. By the time we meet him, he barely knows of anything happening outside his cursed castle, and the only person left at his side is the commander of his Royal Guard, Grey.

After trying to find a woman among his own people, Rhen turns to Grey, and Grey is granted the ability – from the same enchantress who cursed them – to cross to the ‘other side’ at the start of every season.

Mistakes and errors lead Grey to taking Harper from Washington, DC to Emberfall. Harper doesn’t want to be there, she doesn’t want to deal with princes and guards and enchanted instruments – she wants to know her brother and her mother are safe, with her brother working for a loan shark to pay off their father’s debts, and her mother suffering from cancer.

I was completely and utterly gripped by the story, right from the very first page. The world painted is vivid, though it is dark and dangerous there are spots of warmth to be found, even with an eerie, empty castle. The characters are complex and interesting, each with their own issues to work through and trying to cope with the situations they find themselves in.

To me, Harper felt like a really strong character, one determined to do the right thing, even at risk to herself, and as she maneuvers through this world, learning about politics and royalty and other things she’s never had to think about before, she shows herself to be kind and endearing, considerate and strong-willed, and those aspects combined endear her to everyone around her.

There’s a very slight almost love triangle, but it never really grows into anything. There’s the potential of feelings between Harper and Grey, but that aspect is more played on when it comes to Rhen, watching them interact and seeing something deeper than what’s happening before him.

The aspect of Rhen being a beast some of the time, and the beast never being the same twice, was one I really liked – it added tension and uncertainty, as there was never any way to plan for what could happen.

I also really liked the interactions between him and Harper. Although she is kidnapped and forced to remain in Emberfall, so much of what happens between her and Rhen is about trust. There’s no insta-love here, but two wounded, defensive people trying to work around one another, approaching each other slowly and carefully, each as like as the other to take simple words or gestures the wrong way.

Although it is a retelling, there is little too predictable about the book, and it brings together elements of the fairytale well, while also mixing things up so nothing here feels overly familiar or overdone.

I really enjoyed the slow burn aspect to their relationship, and loved the way it unfolded. Overall, this is a really strong novel, one I could barely put down, and definitely worth checking out if you haven’t done so already.

 

Blogmas #1 – Christmas TBR

Blogmas #1.pngSo I thought I’d give Blogmas a go this year, because why not. Although I likely won’t be posting every day, I’ll do my best to post as often as I can and offer up some Christmassy posts for your enjoyment. Jenn, who has an absolutely fantastic blog you really should check out, pointed me in the direction of her Blogmas list, (which you can check out here) so I’ll mostly be using that, with some amendments of my own.

My Christmas TBR, much like my October TBR which I talked about at the start of Blogtober, isn’t really centered around Christmas. Mainly because I have so many books waiting to be read, and with my Goodreads challenge cleared, I want to try and get to some of the bigger ones.

However, there is one book I’ve been waiting a good few months to read, and which I started last night.

season of wonderSeason of Wonder is an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories, all centered around winter, Christmas and holiday themes. Edited by Paula Guran, the anthology brings together many names familiar to genre readers, and after reading the first story last night, I’m excited to dig into the rest, and nestle in with these wintery, Christmassy tales.

I tend now to have one book on the go for ‘pleasure’, and another for review. I do review ‘pleasure’ books, but they’re not ones I’ve specifically been asked to review and review books tend to be on my Kindle anyway. Right now, I’m reading Follow Him, by Craig Stewart, reading for a blog tour in Feb. I am really enjoying this one. It’s creepy and eerie, and I’m not really that far into follow himit. But it’s building up to be a tense, exciting read – keep an eye out for my post early next year.

Sticking with review books for now, I also want to try to get to Ritual by Steve Stred. I’ve heard really good things about this on Twitter from the horror community, so I am excited to dig into it. There’s also Cricket Hunters by Jeremy Hepler, which looks like a fantastic horror read.

The other two books I want to try and get to by the end of the year are both 2019 releases, and both sequels to books I’ve absolutely loved. The Testaments arrived with great fanfare, and because I pre-ordered with my local bookshop, and was the testamentsone of the first to do so, I was extremely lucky to get a signed copy. I’m eager to read this – I only read The Handmaid’s Tale this year, shortly before the sequel was announced, and one thing that kept hitting me was how relevant the novel still is. That’s not a good thing, but I think The Testaments is really needed in the current climate.

The last book is The Dragon Republic, which I feel everyone has probably read by now except me. The Poppy War was an amazing novel, and again, if I can get to this by the end of the year I’ll be super happy, especially as these are both fairly big books. We’ll see how it goes.

What about you, friends? What’s on your TBR for this month?

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The Devil’s Apprentice: Kenneth B. Anderson – Write Reads Blog Tour

DA Banner

Welcome to my stop on the Write Reads blog tour for dark YA Fantasy The Devil’s Apprentice. This book is the first volume in The Great Devil War series, drawing the reader into this vivid reimagining of hell.

Review

Philip is a very good boy; he always does his homework ahead of time, is polite to adults, and can’t tell a lie at all. Yet he finds himself in Hell, where he discovers Lucifer is dying, and requires an heir. Philip might be the wrong boy for the job, but with no other choice, Lucifer trains him, working to shape Philip into a devil ready to take over the throne.

the devil's apprentice

The Devil’s Apprentice is an imaginative take on Hell and The Devil, introducing sympathetic demonic beings and a young boy caught in a dark plot against Lucifer. But more than that, the novel shows how easy it is to fall to temptation, the ways in which our emotions can blind us, how even the smallest acts of kindness can have far-reaching effects, and elements of cruelty can cause consequences. Philip’s arc is interesting and engaging, drawing the reader effectively along. He starts off as almost insufferably sweet, a boy who for all his goodness has no friends. But in Hell, he learns about who he is and what he could be, and how sometimes, it’s not completely evil to tell a lie.

The characters are multi-layered and engaging, and Philip is surrounded by an interesting cast, including Lucifax, the Devil’s cat, love interest Satina, enemy Aziel and a Hagrid-like gatekeeper at the entrance to Hell.

There were some really dark moments in the novel, and a couple of times it felt like it was leaning too much into the morality aspects. The exploration of temptation is good, but there was a particular scene I personally felt was a little unnecessary, in terms of the people being punished and what their ‘sin’ was. And some elements of Philip’s character arc, especially towards the end, felt just a little bit rushed.

Overall, however, I did enjoy reading this novel, and would without a doubt continue with the series. It feels fresh and unique, and though it perhaps might not be suitable for the younger end of YA, slightly older teens would probably enjoy reading about the dark, dangerous landscape of Hell and Philip’s journey.

the devil's apprentice cover

Blurb

Philip is a good boy, a really good boy, who accidentally gets sent to Hell to become the Devil’s heir. The Devil, Lucifer, is dying and desperately in need of a successor, but there’s been a mistake and Philip is the wrong boy. Philip is terrible at being bad, but Lucifer has no other choice than to begin the difficult task of training him in the ways of evil. Philip gets both friends and enemies in this odd, gloomy underworld—but who can he trust, when he discovers an evil-minded plot against the dark throne?

The Devil’s Apprentice is volume 1 in The Great Devil War-series.

kenneth b andersonThe Author

Kenneth B. Andersen (1976) is an award-winning Danish writer. He has published more than forty books for children and young adults, including both fantasy, horror, and science fiction.

His books have been translated into more than 15 languages and his hit-series about the superhero Antboy has been turned into three movies. A musical adaptation of The Devil’s Apprentice, the first book in The Great Devil War series, opened in the fall 2018 and film rights for the series have been optioned.

Kenneth lives in Copenhagen with his wife, two boys, a dog named Milo, and spiders in the basement.

Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bookbub

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour, too!

the great devil war series