Book Review: The Toll by Neal Shusterman

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About the book

The Toll blurb

My thoughts

This was an incredible read. I’d no idea what to expect but it was better than anything I could imagine. It is violent and bloody, but the story explores our morals.

Set in the future, death is no longer a problem. If you were to become deadish, you can be revived. To restore the balance a group called Scythes take on the sacred duty of gleaming (killing) life. They have quotas and rules to follow.

Teenagers Roman and Citra both (on seperate occasions) meet Scythe Faraday on a gleaming job. Their interactions with him stand out and he makes them his apprentice. Never before has a Scythe taken on two apprentices and there’s no rule against it. Still, it causes uproar and an edict is agreed that when one of them passes their apprenticeship, their first task will be to kill the other.

Scythe Faraday blames himself for putting Citra & Rowan in this position. He gleams himself to free them from the apprenticeship, but instead two other Scythes step forward to train them.

Rowan is taken on by Scythe Goddard who has a reputation for his blood lust, enjoying massacres to hit his quotas.

Citra is taken on by the famous Grande Madam of Death, Scythe Curie. She shows compassion to the family members of those gleamed.

Now the pair have very different apprenticeship experiences. Citra doesn’t believe Scythe Faraday’s death was an accident, and her inquisitive mind gets her in trouble.

Meanwhile, Rowan’s training involves parties and mass killings as Scythe Goddard tries to encourage him to find joy in kill craft. Goddard’s cruel methods push Rowan too far and he is no longer the boy he started out as.

The story continues to move toward the final conclave where they’ll both have to pass their last test. Passing the test will means one of them gets ordained and must kill the other. Despite all that has happened since Faraday, they still care deeply about each other. Both are plotting for a loop hole in the edict.

This was a brilliant story. There is a lot of death as they are Scythes, but the twists and surprises in the story is what makes you gasp and need to read another chapter!

Read it for a story full of twists and surprises, and to explore ideas of mortality and morals. Don’t read it if you don’t like blood, gore, or sensitive about death.


You can buy this book from:

Amazon: The Toll (Arc of a Scythe)



If you enjoyed this, check out this:


Find your Summer Reads in the latest WIW Brochure

This June the latest World Indie Warriors Brochure was released.

Indie Books

The brochure is packed full of indie books, their blurbs, where to buy and how to connect with the authors. But, thats not all…

Indie Services

There is a directory of service providers. These are small indie business offering services that support the indie community. It’s a great resource to discover cover designers, book formatters, editors, coaches and marketing.

Indie Products

The brochure also showcases indie businesses that make and sell their own products. This enables you to discover unique and custom items that can’t be bought in mainstream shops.


The brochure is full of useful information from start to finish. There are tips for readers and an interview with a book blogger. There is an interview with the author who won a book cover contest. And you can discover what World Indie Warriors is all about.

It’s FREE to download

If you’ve read this far, you probably want to know how to get your hands on it.

Just visit their website and download it.

How to get included in the next edition?

The brochure is to showcase World Indie Warrior members. To join you just need to follow them on Facebook or Instagram – they are working on a forum.

They do lots of different activities to support the indie community. For example, this month, they are doing CampNaNo on Instagram and have a goal tracker on Facebook. Being part of a team is a great way to stay motivated towards achieving whatever creative goal you set.

If you check their blog you’ll find details on how to get your content included in the next edition.

If you enjoyed this, you will like:

Where to find the best indie books…

Why I love World Indie Warriors

Camp NaNo April 2020 progress

WIW Brochure December 2019

Behind the Book: Annabelle by Elexis Bell

Interview with author Elexis Bell

Annabelle is your second published book but the first book you self published. Why did you choose to self publish?

I self-published Annabelle because it’s a novella, and getting a traditional publisher to consider a novella is…well, rather difficult. Only later did I decide to self-publish all my books. Part of that decision was born of impatience. Traditional publishers take months, sometimes even a year, to get back to you, and only accept about 1% of the manuscripts submitted to them. It can take years to get a book deal. So, while I was wasting time and energy on query letters and five different synopses of different lengths for each manuscript, along with one sentence summaries, summaries of varying page lengths, and all manner of other things (formatted differently for each publisher or agent) to even submit…All my work was gathering dust. Since I write quickly, the manuscripts were also piling up. So I did some more research and found that self-publishing would be a better fit for me. Having creative control and the final say on each step played a huge role, as did the fact that most of the marketing (a.k.a. the part I really wanted a traditional publisher for) is up to the author in traditional publishing, unless the author is already famous.

Annabelle by Elexis Bell (Blurb)

What genre is this book and can you name any similar books?

Annabelle is a bit of a hybrid. It’s a thriller, specifically a vigilante justice story set within a western. I’m terrible with comparisons, but one reviewer said that fans of Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn or The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins will like Annabelle.

Please share a snippet or teaser from Annabelle?

I walk along the main road of another dirty western town and sashay past the saloon, knowing my prey follows close behind. My silken yellow dress and all of its lace flows behind me, trailing in the dust.

I can hear him getting closer but pretend to be so absorbed in the folds of my parasol that I don’t notice. Really, I’m checking over the mechanisms concealed within it, making sure that everything is in working order.

I turn down a bare alleyway as the sun begins to dip below the horizon. He follows. Still, I pretend not to notice that anything at all is amiss. A smile spreads across my features.

Where did you come up with the idea of a weaponized parasol?

Annabelle was originally inspired by a statuette made of starched doilies, which actually became a gift for someone else. I was looking at it as I boxed and wrapped it, and just imagined it coming to life, twirling its delicate little parasol. But my mind doesn’t really leave things…delicate. It very quickly morphed, becoming something much darker. For the time period, a parasol was a perfectly acceptable thing for a girl to carry, making it a perfect concealed weapon.

What do you want readers to get out of your book?

The courage to speak up. Now, obviously, I don’t endorse serial vigilantism. But victims of sexual assault need to speak out, and people need to take it seriously. Victim blaming NEEDS to be a thing of the past, as does sexual assault. But neither of those things will ever happen if people keep ignoring or hiding or minimizing the problem.

If you could have any super power what would you choose and why?

Either flying or teleportation. I’ve always wanted to be able to fly, but the idea of not having to spend days in a car or hours on a plane to travel is pretty appealing.

Tell me about a typical day in the life of author Elexis Bell.

Usually, it starts with me posting to my author pages from the passenger seat as my husband drives us to work. Then, I spend the day brainstorming while working in the factory. Repetitive work, mostly comprised of muscle memory, is great for thinking through story arcs and world building. After work, I do chores around the house and watch an episode or two of one of our shows with my husband. Then, somewhere between midnight and 2am, I start writing or editing. I don’t usually go to bed until 5 or 6am. On days off, I just start earlier on my book stuff.

Where can we find out more and buy your books?

My website has information and links for all my published works, as well as little tidbits about my WIPs. My blog is chock full of (blunt) writing advice and updates on all my work.

All my books are available on Amazon, and can be found on my Amazon author page.

If you enjoyed this, you should check out:

Behind the Book: Gem of Meruna by Elexis Bell

Behind the Book: Crown of Conspiracy by Kara S Weaver

Behind the Book: Number Eight Crispy Chicken by Sarah Neofield

Book Review: Crown of Conspiracy by Kara S Weaver

To discover more ways to connect, click my link tree.


Writers and YouTube Playlists — Ally Aldridge

Novel Playlist.png

In the same way a song can make you think of a person, place or time, it can also inspire writers to develop chapters. Music can bring chapters, characters and moments to life. It is a great aid whilst developing your story.

The connection writers develop for their creations is personal, like a parent to their child.  This is why sometimes criticism (no matter how constructive) can hurt. But, this post isn’t about that.  This post is about the connection writers make with music.

Writing a novel is a long process. You develop a relationship with the characters, their environment and experience their highs and lows.  I struggle with writing horror because I frighten myself. Then I can’t sleep!


In the same way a song can make you think of a person, place or time, it can also inspire writers to develop them.  Music can destroy writers block and bring to life chapters, characters, places and moments.

Currently, the song that is really inspiring me to write a horror – if I can get over my fear of my own mind – is Ruelle’s “Monsters”.

I haven’t given up on this idea. Originally the idea was for the MC to be haunted by a demon (a mix of the urban legend of Slender Man, the manga character Orichimaru from Naruto and the Goblin King from Labyrinth). Although I am still struggling to get the outline right, I am now swaying towards this novel being part of my shifter series.

My story’s playlist

As I edited Drift, now Jewel of the Sea, for the umpteenth time, I created a playlist for the chapters.  This playlist was added to Wattpad using YouTube links as I worked on improving the story.   Some songs have been there since the start whereas others got added as the story developed.

Click here to listen to the playlist on YouTube:

  1. Taylor Swift – Everything Has Changed ft. Ed Sheeran
  2. Leona Lewis – Run
  3. Mazzy Star – Fade Into You
  4. Lykke Li – Little Bi
  5. Hunter Hayes – Invisible
  6. Christina Aguilera – Beautiful
  7. Evanescence – Bring Me To Life
  8. Birdy – Wings
  9. Coldplay – Yellow
  10. All Saints – Pure Shores
  11. Angel Olsen – Windows
  12. Wilco – Kamera
  13. Seafret – Skimming Stones
  14. Lauren Aquilina – Ocean <related chapter now cut>
  15. Dorothy – Gun In My Hand
  16. Katy Perry – Rise
  17. Ellie Goulding – Starry Eyed
  18. Ed Sheeran – Give Me Love
  19. John Legend – All Of Me
  20. Safety Suit – Anywhere But Here
  21. Demi Lovato – Stone Cold
  22. The Paper Kites – Bloom
  23. The Ligthouse and the Whalers – I want to Feel Alive
  24. Amer Run – I Found
  25. Evanescence – Bring me to life
  26. Ed Sheeran – Thinking Our Loud

Sometimes I hear songs and they inspire me to write (see 7, 8, 14 and 15). They draw up pictures and feelings in my mind and drive my imagination wild.


Other songs, I hear after I’ve written the story, usually whilst editing.  They remind me of the vision I had and help me focus on what I need the chapter to deliver (see 12, 13, 20, 22 and 24).

I’m not a fan of editing.  I spend way too much time being critical of my writing and ripping it apart.  I don’t enjoy the process and if I could afford to pay someone to do it for me, I would!  Having a playlist does make it a little more enjoyable and you can create one of all your favourite songs to keep you motivated.


When I first started writing Drift,  “Starry Eyed” by Ellie Goulding was playing on the radio and resonated with the way the story felt to me.

Once I finished editing Drift, I found that the song that resonated with the overall feeling of the story had changed.  The song is now “I Want To Feel Alive” by The Lighthouse and the Whaler.

Perhaps it’s a result of how the story has evolved or how my music tastes have changed over the years.  The bottom line is, music fuels my imagination.  It certainly makes editing more enjoyable.

Please share your playlists with me

If you have a writing playlist, please share it with me.  I would love to listen to and to know why those songs made your playlist.

NB Previously posted: Writers and YouTube Playlists — Ally Aldridge

If you enjoyed this, check out:

Where to find great story ideas…

Day 23 – Avicii

How I edited my novel – 12 tips for self editing

Do you keep notebooks of story ideas?

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