Thursday, 20 November 2014

Unworthy by Joanne Armstrong

A new review was posted on Amazon this morning, from a writer who I both respect and enjoy reading. Reviews such as this one make me want to keep working towards a fabulous Book 2!

"4.5 Stars - First, I'm not usually drawn to YA novels, but I picked up the book because I'm intrigued by dystopian or alternate worlds. This story is driven by two main characters (although it has a strong plot) Arcadia and Alex. There is a secondary character, Bastian, who I assume will return in the sequel to Unworthy.

I recently discovered this is the author's first book and...I'm impressed by that. I had no idea whether I'd enjoy the story after discovering in the initial chapters a wide-sweeping illness had devastated the world and left survivors with a new set of rules and a system based on survival of the fittest. The heroine is strong with 'grit' and backbone even though she is deemed 'unworthy' by a society who has little time for physical (sick) weakness. This society believes in putting all its resources into those they 'know' will survive. Arcadia bests not only the rigid rules of survival, but what she's always been led to believe are her betters. After the death of her beloved Grandfather, who encouraged and loved her through every step of her life, Arcadia is summoned to appear before what she assumes to be the Polis, the elite who rule their lives. She doesn't know why and like anyone would be, is terrified. Enter our other main character, Alex, her escort on the journey. Alex is portrayed as a physically imposing man who rarely smiles. He's all business until Arcadia, with her loving, caring nature carves a path to his heart.

I don't want to give away too much of the story, but on the journey, bonds are formed, masks are removed, and we learn more about the characters than what we originally thought. But then, in Arcadia's life, no one who is they said they were and nothing is at it seems.

If you like YA and dystopian novels, you'll love this book. It's compelling, addictive. Like me, you'll want to find out what Arcadia will discover along the way and what waits for her when she reaches her destination.

Well done, Ms. Armstrong. I'll be on the lookout for the sequel,

Winterblues"

See the original post on Amazon.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Unworthy by Joanne Armstrong

Sandra Richardson of "Jeanz Read n Review" book blog has written a glowing review of Unworthy, and gave it five stars on Goodreads. Here is an excerpt of her review, the rest of which you can find over on her blog.
"This book is so action packed as well as emotionally packed in places too. Arcadia may be marked Unworthy but that doesn't mean she has no morals or standards she keeps and holds others up to. There is a real twist near the end of the book, it really has you saying "oh, wow!" You really couldn't guess at it. I really loved reading this book. I thought the characters of Alex and Arcadia were great, so thought out well and how they react to one another, and their friendship blossoms during the arduous journey they have to undertake.
I could seriously go on and on and on about this book I loved it sooo much! If the next book had been available I would have been asking when I could read it right away. Nearer the end of the book we meet those who "govern" and make the rules for hubbites to follow and see how they react to Arcadia. Arcadia is certainly left with a lot to think about right at the very end of the book. Is she up to the task that lies ahead of her? Can she change how their society works at the moment? I think she can, and I hope Alex will be at her side to help her through it too. There's so many questions still to be answered, as well as others to arise and be answered too.
So did I enjoy the book? I loved it, every chapter, and every word, I loved all the characters, even the nasty ones were great!"

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Chasing the Dead by Keta Diablo

About Keta Diablo:

Keta Diablo is a multi-published author of paranormal, historical and occasionally gay fiction (paranormal). In 2009, her erotic romance Decadent Deceptions was a finalist in the RWA Molly contest. In 2010, Keta's entry Phoenix Rising finaled in the Scarlet Boa contest and in 2011 Keta's acclaimed paranormal shifter, Where The Rain is Made, was nominated by Authors After Dark for a BOOKIE AWARD AND by Deep In The Heart of Romance for BEST ROMANCE OF THE YEAR. In 2014 Sky Tinted Water was nominated for a Rone Award.

Many of her books, including her gay fiction series CROSSROADS have won numerous awards: Top Reviewer's Pick, Recommended Read and Best Book of the Month.

About Chasing the Dead

Madrid Arrende is a young woman of Mexican descent who has inherited her mother’s abilities to communicate with the dead. She’s beautiful and feisty, set to inherit the large prosperous ranch which her father has built up from nothing. She is engaged to marry a weak and pasty town boy, but has known love and lust in the past, thanks to a rugged cowboy named Deacon Bannister. A woman with her fire and her future needs a Deacon Bannister by her side; we all know this. But how will they come together?

Chasing the Dead gave me everything I have come to expect from a good western romance: strong, likeable heroines, desert sunsets and palpable settings I could lose myself in, and Most Important Of All, that dreamy lustable male character. Deacon is everything a western hero should be: strong, manly, outdoorsy (he breaks horses), rugged, stubborn, insanely handsome, and ever so swoonfully dedicated to the one love of his life. (Of course, in real life, who could live with a man like this? BUT, that’s why we have book boyfriends. They stay in their books where they belong, forever hot, twenty-something, and forever the ardent lover.)

Now for the rest of the story. I was a little unsure of the ‘communicating with spirits’ bit, but this was very well done. The spirits were sit within the context of Native American beliefs. I am far from an expert in this culture, but knowing Ms Diablo, she will have done her background research and traditional customs will have been drawn on. The Spanish certainly was spot on, except for one instance where it stood out like a sore thumb - and then I realised that a gringo was speaking, and it made me laugh instead.

I loved that the main character came from a Mexican background. I liked reading about a heroine whose skin was not alabaster. She spoke a lot of Spanish and her home had a very strong Catholic influence. It was very substantial, and believable.

There were other likeable characters too. Deacon’s brother and the Apache girl who Madrid becomes friends with are both strong, three dimensional characters with their own back stories and their own motivations.

The story arc is nicely done, and I would expect nothing less from Ms Diablo. Her character introduction is splendid, and the story builds with the usual crests to the climax, and a well-earned happily ever after.

All in all, there is very little that is new here, which fans of this genre will be relieved to hear. Ms Diablo has kept the romance bones in the usual order- ankle connected to shin then knee etc etc - and fleshed them out with an Apache / Mexican / Cowboy overlay. Which I really like. The paranormal thread sews all three together very nicely, and not too weirdly, which I can’t handle (I’m not much into zombies and everyone turning into werewolves).  The finished story is the one we all demand - of love, lust, romance, strength and individuality - whilst also giving us a beautiful underlying story of ethnic co-existence and co-dependence.

And that’s the story I really appreciated here.
 
Read about Chasing the Dead on Goodreads here
Buy it for $3.51 here on Amazon
Read more about Keta and her books on her website
Connect with Keta via Twitter here

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Mail Order Tangle by Caroline Clemmons and Jacquie Rogers

Contains two stories by best-selling Western Romance writers

Mail Order Promise by Caroline Clemmons is the first, followed by Mail Order Ruckus by Jacquie Rogers

Clemmons has created a wonderfully real setting filled with three dimensional characters we’d all love to meet in real life.

About Caroline Clemmons

Caroline Clemmons is an Amazon bestselling author of historical and contemporary western romances. Her books have garnered numerous awards. Her most recent novel, BLUEBONNET BRIDE, is a poignant tale of tender redemption. A frequent speaker at conferences and seminars, she has taught workshops on characterization, point of view, and layering a novel.

About Mail Order Promise

Mail Oder Promise unfolds amongst the backdrop of the a-little-bit-tamed Wild West, on a cattle ranch where the cowboys ride armed and the women earn their keep. It sets itself up for a sweet romance between a tough, practical young rancher and a pampered rich girl who has been brought down in the world and in desperation signed herself up to be a mail order bride. They sum each other up pretty quickly, each writing the other off as an unrefined bully and spoiled brat respectively. How will they be persuaded to see past their prejudices?

The characters are beautifully portrayed. Ellie is hugely dislikeable at the start, but still I couldn’t help relating to her. Her greatest sin is the inability to shut up, and I think we’ve all been in the position of putting foot in mouth at the worst possible time. Having been brought up surrounded by prosperity and opulence, she has never worked a day in her life, and her arrival on the ranch is a rude awakening.

Thank God her character is the one who goes through the biggest transformation. It was a little bit of a stretch, but she becomes a more likeable, hardworking ranch woman by the end of the story.

Kage, the male love interest, is hugely likeable. He sizes her up pretty quickly and I have to admit fairly accurately. I think he’s way too good for her, but it’s a mercy he didn’t listen to me because the ending is predictably sweet. Where Ellie’s problem is her big mouth (and inability to boil the jug), Kage’s problem is his stubbornness. They find each other attractive but unsuitable, and the usual misunderstandings follow.

The pace of the story is mostly good. I felt the ending didn’t have the “punch” in the right place, ending with a rather sickly picture of family bliss, which I felt was not necessary to the story. I was wondering if someone was about to jump out of a box. But no, it was just a few extra pages of happiness.

The rest of the book however does some perfect head switching from her to him and back again; just the right amount spent in his for us to know that she is the author’s main focus, but that he doesn’t find her wholly unattractive… just annoying. Which I did too, so she had to get herself over that.

I found the calf burial exceptionally comedic. It wasn’t till I’d finished the scene that I realised I’d found it ridiculous, because I think I expected a different point to it, but when it was over I realised it was all about him showing his softer side. At the time it was telling me that she was soft in the head, and I was seriously rethinking the direction the story was taking. Markers about her “delicate condition” were beginning to make sense, and I started wondering if the story would have a more serious side, falling somewhere among the mental health stars. But no. It wasn’t that she was a bit loony or seriously immature, she was just far too well bred. (A calf burial though? On a cattle ranch? Bless his cotton socks, Kage found it ridiculous too.)

So he is great the whole way through, she is annoying at the start and less annoying at the end, and the rest of the cast are pretty darn good. The sister is an also ran who could have been left out - I got no reading at all on her personality. Not even a blip. Grandpa and Inga are simply gold. They breathe beautifully. I especially I love the scene where Inga doesn’t let the also-ran sister Laura go to help Ellie with the washing. She says it all in that one line.

All in all Mail Order Promise delivers all it promises: well-rounded characters, a slow-to-develop storyline that builds with good pace, dialogue and beautiful scene-setting, and a very sweet romance between two - er, one and a half - likeable characters.

You can find Caroline Clemmons here http://www.carolineclemmons.com/index.html

Friday, 14 November 2014

Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer by Andrew Joyce


Tom and Huck fans will love it

About the Author:

Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until decades later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written three books, and a collection of forty-three stories that is comprised of his hitching adventures, written as veiled non-fiction called BEDTIME STORIES FOR GROWN-UPS, and his latest novel, REDEMPTION. He now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

About Redemption:

I’m always a little wary of writers who take on another author’s characters. I’m not a supporter of fan fiction. I assume that all fan fiction is going to be bad - after all, if the writer is good, why not start their own story? Have they no ideas of their own?

Writing the follow up to classics such as Mark Twain’s is dangerous territory. It throws up all sorts of warning flags for me. These are characters who generations of readers have grown up with. Even if it’s not hallowed ground, it’s at least shaky.

All that being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the book. Joyce manages to capture not only the essence of Twain’s writing style, but also the gentle flow of adventure which the boys find along the way. They are now, of course, all grown up and the tone of the adventures takes a great big step forward into adulthood. Joyce remains true to the boys’ characters in a clever and intriguing way. I think the danger could have been to err too heavily on the side of caution, ending up with two bland characters who blend into one generic youth of the 1860s. Joyce avoids this neatly.

I have to acknowledge the courage the writer shows in taking on Twain’s classics. The vision behind the book was grand, and he stuck to it. He took bold risks, and they pay off. The writing is perfect - he imitates the original books to a tee - and it is well edited and easy to read.

For those who enjoyed the original books, this is a must-read. Get set to reacquaint yourself with favourite characters from your past, and to become lost in the world of your youth.

You can find Andrew Joyce online:



Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Theodora’s Descent by JE and M. Keep

About the authors:

J.E. & M. Keep are dark fantasy fiends.

With a lust for fantasy and science fiction, they bring you an eclectic selection of works. They write for both male and female readers, with rich detail, developed characters and settings, and explicit sex. All stories are erotic, with many dark romances, and they range from demons and elves that jump into bed at the slightest provocation, to the slow, exquisite tortures of denial. Fall in love with the characters, root for the villain, and always come back for more.

About Theodora’s Descent:

Dante’s Inferno and Hieronymus Bosch - that’s what this book was. I have to admit that I didn’t pick it at first. Prolific as they are, I’ve never read these authors before, and to be honest, I never have any idea what Ingrid Hall is going to throw at me next (hurrah! I love surprises!), so I really had no idea what to expect, and no pre-conceived notions.

Theodora’s Descent started out as a pretty staid gothic novel. Can I say boring? It started out pretty boring. Ho-hum. A young woman inherits her aunt’s estate. Guess what, she’s rich. Guess what, she’s beautiful. Guess what, she’s strong and independent and very modern for her era. And oh, guess what, there’s a dark and mysterious set of stairs leading downwards that she simply must explore.

I’m sorry but my eyes glazed over and I was about to throw it back Ingrid-ward. I’m not sure how many more times I could hear that Theodora was petite. And that her large, pale blue eyes shimmered. And she had a tiny frame. And that she had lustrous golden hair. Gawk.

But then - oh my gosh. How did I ever get past the first few chapters? I have no idea but thank God I did. What an absolutely mesmerising read. Once she does descend those very suspicious stairs, she finds herself in a nightmare. I’m not exaggerating; a nightmare. Creature after sickening creature attempt to kill, devour, enslave or rape her, each more grotesque than the last.

That’s when Bosch’s work sprung into my mind.

I used to pore for hours over his work, the twisted details of his perverse imagination fascinating and disgusting at the same time. And this book was exactly like that. Theodora’s story is so sick it became fascinating. And much as the authors dwelt on their main character’s perfection at the start, so too did they dwell on the horrifying ugliness of the creatures that she found in the world below.

I couldn’t stop reading. It did tend to go on… I think I would have liked the book to have been shorter, and an epilogue about eight chapters before the end did throw me rather, but it was lengthy. But the surprises were well-timed and cunningly laid. Like the traps which Theodora falls into time and again, the reader falls into icky gooey rotting traps too. Clever.

The authors’ hero is a monster. I’m not kidding, he’s gross. But they play with our understanding of a hero most beautifully, presenting us with what we have come to expect from him and yet questioning the need for him to be attractive. Or even - um - human. I found it interesting on so many levels. The story, and especially the characterisation, made me consider quite deeply what is necessary in our protagonists in order for us as readers to find satisfaction. What makes the hero heroic? What makes a villain villainous? (Or in this case, many many villains villainous?)

Think Beauty and the Beast - but the uncut non-Disney version. This is the X-rated version that comes on TV after 11pm. Beast is not just a little fluffy round the ears, he’s actually got extra pairs of arms, triangular eyes and a snake-like tongue. I kid you not.

So, basically, Theodora descends into the bowels of hell where it’s dark and creepy and everything that moves is a threat. Except for one guy (I use the term loosely) who wants to protect her. She spends the rest of the book trying to escape either him or everything else. And most of all to get back to the surface where she came from. Of course he doesn’t want her to leave, but he also wants her to be happy, so it’s a little tricky. Will she fall in love with him? (ew, gross!) Will she ever leave? And what would happen to him if she did?

A simple story. But told in such a fascinatingly creepy and mesmerizingly tangible way, you’ve just got to see it for yourself.

You can find out more about JM and E Keep here on their website http://jmkeep.com/

Where they have an enormous list of novels and novellas for you to browse - there will surely be something for everyone.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Unworthy by Joanne Armstrong

A couple of new reviews of Unworthy appeared on Goodreads over the last few days, and they're really positive. They encourage me to keep writing.

What follows is an excerpt from what the reviewer "Tuxedotwig" wrote:

The author gave me a free ebook in exchange for an honest review.

This book had definite flow. I read through the whole thing in about an hour and I never mentally-tripped over awkward phrasing or unclear sentences. The writing is the kind that I prefer – very descriptive and sort of rhythmic.

I liked the concept – survival of the fittest and all that. Also, wasn’t that much romance, which I think is a good thing. But if you enjoy a really gushy, romantic book, this might not be for you.

I really liked this book, and I can’t wait to read the second book. There was a really awful cliffhanger at the end, so if you absolutely can’t stand cliffhangers, then I’d suggest you wait until the other book(s) are released so that you don’t have to wait to find out what happens.

You can read the entire review here on Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1100410119?book_show_action=true&page=1

Sunday, 9 November 2014

MH370 - By Accident or Design? by Peter Lee


What an amazing book. I enjoyed every moment that I read this very short and fascinating dissection of the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines flight in March 2014.

 A little about Peter Lee:

Peter Lee is an alias.
The book begins with a short author bio, which is a must not be skipped. The reader begins the book with an understanding that this book is not written by a plane watcher, bereaved relative, or conspiracy fanatic. It’s written by an aviation expert with a professional background in aviation. Or rather, this is what the book states. And I do believe that if the reader is to enjoy the book as intended, the writer’s professional expertise needs to be taken as a given.

The first paragraph of the bio follows:

Peter Lee has a military and intelligence background. He trained first as a pilot and then became a military air traffic controller, holding licenses for both terminal (airfield) and area (transit) duties. He was a fully qualified controller holding every possible military ATC licence. He worked at the three principal Royal Navy air stations in England, at Shetland Radar at RAF Saxa Vord on the island of Unst, the northern-most of the Shetland Islands, and at the London Military Air Traffic Control Centre (LATCC (Mil)) then based at RAF West Drayton, as both a radar controller and as an allocator, as well as on various warships.

About MH370 - By accident or design?
I opened this book just before bed, intending to read for five minutes and get a bit of a handle on the style of the book then go off to sleep. I couldn’t put it down.

I approached it with suspicion and distrust, almost sure I’d dislike it. I don’t read non-fiction for fun, and I’m not much into conspiracy theories.

But let’s be clear from the start: this book isn’t a conspiracy theory (although some of the more entertaining conspiracy theories were mentioned in the book, and provided some levity on an otherwise fairly sombre subject). The book is one man’s theories about the disappearance of an entire Boeing 777 aircraft - something which most of the world cannot believe is possible in this modern era of internet, satellites, and mobile phones.

And I found it absolutely mesmerising.

Lee starts with the basics - the facts. What we know happened. He also adds in the conflicting reports from different countries, adding a political element to the story and giving his opinions about why they, at times, are completely at loggerheads to each other. And then he adds his own embellishments to flesh out the story, based on his experience in air traffic control and his knowledge of satellites and aircraft equipment.

Lee makes clear distinction between what is accepted as fact, and where he has added detail, completing the picture for interested readers in a way that is entirely plausible. He does not present his theory as the only one, instead giving many alternate scenarios and inspecting each in turn.

I think that this very short book is a must-read for all those who are interested in knowing - or at least surmising - what might have happened to the Malaysian flight. 
You can find the book here on Goodreads, and here on Amazon.

 

 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Aversion by Kenechi Udogu

A teen novel for fans of gentle paranormal fiction.

About Kenechi Udogu:

Kenechi lives in London and enjoys writing fantasy fiction and short stories (some of which she posts on her blog). She also hates the cold and hopes to one day figure out how to hibernate in winter.

About Aversion:

Gemma Green is a semi-normal fifteen year old making her way through high school, coping with her first crush and the lack of a female parent, and being raised by her father.

She is also an averter, which means that she was born with the ability to sense when an intervention is necessary and can step in to re-route a bad decision which will have a serious impact on an individual’s life. For example, the first aversion which Gemma is called to make is for a boy named Russ, who will drink and drive, killing his friends and injuring himself in the process. As a result of her intervention Russ chooses not to go to the party and … well, you know the rest.

The storyline is fairly predictable. Love follows (strike that - make it “forbidden love” since that is so much more exciting), along with the usual parental reluctance and withholding of some very useful information.

I may be an old cynic, but I found a lot of the story stale. There seems to be something missing - perhaps in character depth, or in structure. Whilst I found the story itself rather predictable, the characters did not always behave in predictable ways, their actions seeming forced or unrealistic. The writer also relies heavily on telling rather than showing, which came to be a little monotonous after a time. The wording was at times stilted and old-fashioned, and I struggled to hear a youthful, fifteen year old voice in its words, no-matter how mature Gemma thinks she is.

In its defence, I believe that young teens will really enjoy it.

The world which Kenechi has created, where teenagers move among us invisibly wielding great power and keeping everything on track, may be regurgitated, but it is also most certainly very popular. Show me a teen who doesn’t feel on the outer, different, socially awkward. Don’t they all dream of finding their power, learning to control it, and winding up in charge of the universe?

I’m not a huge fan of paranormal fiction, but as they go, this one has been very gentle on me. It hits the markers for an easy teenage read. Teen hottie: check. (“Cute” mentioned twenty times). Falls for the socially outcast protagonist: check. Overprotective parent: check. Knows something he’s not sharing: check. Strong female heroine: semi-check.

I won’t be rushing out to read the next one, but having said that, I will definitely be recommending this book to young teens. We all had to start somewhere.

Aversion is the first book in Udogu’s Mentalist Series. The second is Sentient, released in 2013, and for fans of the series, Udogu has also released a prequel called Broken Ties, which is currently available free from many online retailers.

You can find Kenechi Udogu online at Amazon:


Smashwords:


And on her blog:

Friday, 7 November 2014

Which site should I purchase from?

I have had this conversation with a few people about the best place to purchase copies of my book. I usually give them a watered down version of my point of view, so decided to air it properly here.

For many readers, the whole royalty thing is a bit of a mystery - they purchase a book (either a print copy or a digi copy) and make the fair assumption that somehow a percentage of what they have paid ends up in the hands of the writer - the creator of the tome in their hands, which has put the most time and energy into it by far . Most readers assume that almost all of their money will end up with the writer, but it is not the case.
I will give you an example of how royalties work for me - this may be different for other authors, and I don't want to make assumptions, so I'm being very specific to my own book.

Print Copies
My print copies are available from Create Space for the list price of $15 (US).
If you purchase direct from Create Space, I end up with $7.46 in my hand.
If you purchase through Amazon, I end up with $4.46 in my hand.
If you purchase through The Book Depository (and other extended distribution channels), I end up with $1.46 in my hand.
There are other mysteries to untangle also such as the fact that Create Space only pay out royalties when they reach $100 or more. So I haven't actually had any royalties for my print books yet - I hope maybe sometime in the future when the world discovers them the cheques will be flooding in. However, before that happens I will have to sell 68 books through The Book Depository.
Of course there is more to consider for the reader too - such as the price of postage. The Book Depository offers free postage, which is a huge selling point anywhere in the world. I've used them myself, and will probably continue to do so unless I can work out a cheaper way of sending books overseas.
Digital Copies
My digital copies are available through Smashwords for the list price of $2.99 (US). Obviously if you download a copy for free there are no royalties for the author.
If you purchase directly from Smashwords I end up with 80%, or $2.39
If you purchase from Kobo, Apple or Barnes & Noble, it's 60%, or $1.79
The Smashwords threshold for paying an author is $10 (US). (that wasn't a typo)
My digital copies are also available through Amazon Kindle at a list price of $2.96 (US)
The royalty is 70% for most countries, and 30% in some. Which means either $2.07 in my hand, or $0.88.
However, the threshold for royalties - what I have to reach before they send me a cheque - is $100 US, so I'll have to sell 48 books through Amazon before I get paid. (I have $9 in my Amazon account so far!! Whee!!!)

So where to buy? Speaking from the author's point of view, I would recommend Create Space for print copies, and Smashwords for digi copies. It just means I'll get paid sooner!
During this whole Indie author journey so far, the only place I have received royalties from is Smashwords, because their threshold for payouts is so reasonable. (One of the reasons I love Smashwords). I may never receive any money from Amazon, or Create Space. We will have to wait and see.
Which then begs the question... how many small authors are out there, with $95 owed to them in royalties from companies such as Amazon, which they will never see? Add those royalties up... well, you get the picture.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and finding out how much your purchases mean to Indie authors.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Severed Bonds by Kyra Dunst

Ho-hum… a mere mortal being convinced that she is now part of a secret world full of vampires, werewolves and fairies.

About the author

Kyra Dunst is a wife, mother, author and dreamer. She typically lives in her own world most of the time, but can often be found wandering around in Indiana with her husband, a daughter, a dog, a cat and some fish. When not writing, she is often thinking about writing, or trying her hand at various crafty things that she may or may not be good at doing. She is pretty sure her neighbor is a vampire, and that her eleventh grade math teacher was a werewolf, but the jury is still out on the Fae.

About Severed Bonds

Alrighty, where do I start? So the world is not new, it’s so thoroughly regurgitated that others in the lounge with me were asking what I kept sighing about. I couldn’t help it. Oh, the predictability! Female human, werewolves, vampires, fairies… and she happens to become a highly desirable pivotal character, wielding great power and saving the world though many more experienced power-players were present.

On the positive side, the book was well-written. The wording flowed, was descriptive and well-edited. Grammar, spelling, tense… nothing jumped out at me from the page to make my inner grammar-Nazi cringe. And even though the paranormal genre is desperately over exposed at the moment, I do feel that Dunst has something to add. Her world ticks all the boxes which fans of the paranormal will require, but on top of these, she has added some clever twists of her own. The usual love triangle was dealt with from a new angle, which was refreshing. The protagonist begins by resisting the love interest’s advances, although boy wins girl over partway through the book. I was interested to see how Dunst would be able to add further angst and indecision after the relationship was apparently sealed, but she did manage to continue the love theme well right to the end.

The age of the heroine did not work for me. She is supposed to be an adult, fresh from a broken marriage, but she whinges and throws tantrums in fine style - to match the teenage heroines which frequent books of this kind. I found her intensely dislikeable. I think that Dunst was probably going for the effect of a young, vulnerable yet strong (and hugely attractive) woman thrust into a world which she had previously not known existed, and struggling to come to grips with it, but instead she came off as immature, whining, weak, ungrateful and distinctly unattractive.

Why do the alpha men want to protect Alexandra? It’s beyond me. Hasn’t Ian got anything better to do? Why should Kade be attracted to her? Just instinct? I can’t see any other reason for it.

In summary, if you like paranormal fiction (and I know that many, many do) this is for you. If you love anything about werewolves, this is for you. There are some new and interesting additions to the usual formula here, and you may well not see the twists coming. Not that I’m implying that Severed Bonds has been written to a formula; perhaps it would have been stronger if it had. I do believe that many will enjoy this book, and will be recommending it to fans of this genre.

Severed Bonds is the first in Kyra Dunst’s Annwn Unveiled Series, the second of which The Stygian Kiss is also available now.

Where you can find Kyra Dunst online:




Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The Runaway by Aritri Gupta

A fantastic first draft

About the author:

Aritri Gupta, 25, was born into a family of arts and culture, in West Bengal, India. A consultant working with Bristlecone, Mahindra, writing has always been her passion and something she pursued with diligence. She loves observing the candid shades of life through the lens of her creativity. Though an engineering degree in Metallurgy and an MBA from one of the top schools in India sounds otherwise, her alter ego is one with the creative hues of art and culture. Reading, dance, music and painting are her other interests.
Life, with all its mysteries, and people have always been her inspiration to write, and that's what her stories essentially comprise of - emotions!

About The Runaway:

I wanted to really dislike this book, because the author committed so many of my most hated sins. Tense jumping around. Overusing the thesaurus. Plonking a word in there ‘cause it looked fancy, with the rest of the sentence screaming blue murder at it. Two dimensional characters. Settings and words that don’t agree (a sheriff? In Scotland?)

But the truth is that I think Gupta has the makings of a fantastic novel here. The story is fascinating. A serial killer on the loose, each grisly murder bringing him closer to the person who he has obsessed about for years. I love this premise, and I think so much more could be done with it. Gupta should heighten the mystery, give us more time to work out for ourselves what the link between the victims is.

The law-enforcement throughout the book is frustratingly useless. Everyone knows who the killer is. He still hangs out in the same places he always has. Everyone knows who he’s after. And we know where she hangs out too. So why can’t they catch the damn guy? I realise, from the author’s point of view, that he needs to remain on the loose, but with a more intelligent police force the killer would have to have been more intelligent also, and this would make for a much more frightening villain. As it was I found him a little ho-hum. He was definitely evil - just not as clever and calculating as I’d have liked.

Gupta had many interesting back-stories, which filled out the novel very well. However, although she gave her characters each a past, somehow this wasn’t enough to push them forward into 3D. I wonder if it was because she jumped so quickly from one flashback to another. I was often reeling with the speed of it, trying to catch up on where we were up to, who had been killed, and whether the murderer was in prison or out of it.

In short, this is a wonderful first draft. I enjoyed it immensely. With the right editors I know it can be teased and reworked into a very enjoyable, grisly thriller. And I think that the cover is absolutely perfect for the book, it drew me in immediately. With three books to choose from today, The Runaway was my first pick - thanks solely to the cover art.

 

You can find Aritri Gupta online:


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Unworthy by Joanne Armstrong

This blog post originally appeared on The Review Hart, 3.11.14. Click here to see the original post.

Postcard Review:
This is a book for people who enjoy good character development with palpable emotions. The plot itself is interesting, and while I’m back and forth on the ending, the overall premise and world-building is well-done. The characters shine in this book, their motives are carefully thought through, the personalities are strong and clear-cut, and the emotions are realistic and palpable. This is clearly the first book in a series, but it’s a quick read (in a good way) and shows promise for the rest of the series.
Full Review:
The characters are the big selling point to this book. They are very much the focus of the story, and while the plot is still present, it’s clearly the first book in a series. The overarching question is resolved and the journey completed in the loosest sense, which does give some resolution. There are a lot of questions and threads left open at the end, meaning that the plot arc as a whole isn’t completed, but it’s resolved enough to give a feeling of satisfaction. That being said, the plot arc is a particularly simple one, although the twist at the end leaves a lot of potential for further development of the characters and the world. That, however, doesn’t mean that this book reads like idle filler or a book of pure exposition. Unlike so many first books in a series, there is some character development and forwards progress through the plot. The world-building gives some insight into the setting and lays a solid foundation for further plot in later books. The real focus is on the character development and the insight given into the character’s history and personalities.
The protagonist, Arcadia, in particular shines as a very real teenager who has grown up in less than ideal circumstances. Her personality was forged by her upbringing and surroundings, yet she’s still a strong, interesting woman. That then gives room to explore the secondary characters around her as they react to her, and all of them prove to be thoroughly developed and interesting. Each of the characters has a well-thought-out backstory that fits in with the world as it’s established and explained.
The broad strokes of the world are very familiar, in that there is an oppressive regime that the majority of people are happy to accept. The regime came about after a disaster that destroyed most of humanity, and that same disaster is used to support the choices they make and keep people in their place. How the author chooses to construct that world makes it stand out. The world is described with vivid and emotive imagery that, with geography, has understandable effects on the politics and evolution of the society.
There’s an interesting mix of traditional superstition and speculation over a broken future and what would happen should the disaster strike. It’s familiar while being quirky and fitted to this particular plot and set-up. The focus of the world is on health and strength, in face of the great plague that wiped out most of humanity. That leads to those who are deemed to be weak and unfit being pariahs, almost like the Untouchables in Hindu life. There are a number of plot points and moments of character development for Arcadia and a number of secondary characters where the author uses that set-up and caste system within the society to move the plot forward. It ties together to form an interesting narrative and is used well.
The actual plot is a little thin, but that’s barely noticeable, with the focus being on the characters, how they adapt to their new understanding of the world, and the development of the world itself. On a technical level it’s very clean. There were a couple of typos, but I could count them on one hand. The choice of tense and voice may throw some people, as it’s first person present, but I found it enjoyable and a lot of other readers will no doubt agree with that.
Altogether, this is a well-written book with thoroughly developed characters. The writing style means that the emotion shines through and the vivid imagery brings the interesting world to life. Unworthy is very much a character-driven book, which means that the plot is a little thin, but it remains in the background and allows the characters to develop and be the focus. That being said, the final twist was interesting and gives potential for something much more in the next book. Technically it’s very sound; some readers may find themselves a little put off by the tense, but that’s a personal choice and I feel it works well. There’s a lot of potential here and I hope the author fulfils it.

Shen Hart, The Review Hart
Reviewer Bio:
Shen stalks innocent stories down dark alleys where she dissects them, revealing the bare bones and silky threads. She is driven by the need to sate her readers’ lust, their addiction for new books to ravage. She is, the Review Hart.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Lifting the Lid by Rob Johnson


A comedy thriller about overbearing mothers, toilet mishaps and dogs that refuse to do as they’re told.

About Rob Johnson:

Even before I read his bio, I knew that Rob Johnson would be an interesting person. His book told me that he just had to be. So here’s the bio, and you’ll see what I mean:

Having worked for several years as an administrator and publicist for touring theatre companies, I decided to try my hand at writing plays myself. Four of these were professionally produced and toured throughout the UK, but when public funding for non-commercial theatre virtually dried up overnight I was forced into the world of ‘proper jobs’ as my father liked to call them.

During this period, I also made use of my Equity card and appeared in numerous TV shows as a ‘supporting artiste’, otherwise and somewhat less attractively known as an ‘extra’. (Ricky Gervaise was spot on by the way. Just wish I’d written ‘Extras’ myself.)

I now live on a 5-acre smallholding in Greece with my partner Penny, six rescue dogs and three cats and divide my time between writing and growing olives organically for oil.

About Lifting the Lid:

It’s taken me ages to read this book. That’s not code for “it’s not very good”, honestly, just bear with me. It took me ages because I wanted to read every word properly - no skimming allowed - and because there have been so many other things on the go recently that I haven’t been able to concentrate on it. And I wanted to.

Now that I’m done, I’ve been wholly rewarded. The story is just so much FUN! Trevor is a boring (yes) man with a boring job and an AWFUL mother who decides to chuck it all in one day and buy a camper. So he and his dog Milly head off into the sunset and look for adventure. He doesn’t get very far as the camper needs repairs, so he books into a hotel for the night.

And so begins Trevor’s adventures. His dear mother sets the police onto him simply because she doesn’t like him much, and before he knows it, a private detective, MI5 and group of crooks are after him as well. Quiet, boring Trevor can’t understand what he’s done to bring the wrath of the good, bad and ugly down on himself. All he did was break a cistern lid, that’s not a crime is it?

I loved the story. It is entertaining, well-written, cleverly planned and expertly timed. The separate threads of Johnson’s story are carefully prepared and then expertly woven together to culminate at the finale. The characters are larger-than-life, without quite slumping into the “caricature” pit. Johnson gives his reader variety in mood, pace, setting and dialogue, never giving them a chance to become bored or to be able to predict where the story is heading.

You can find out more about Rob Johnson and his books on his website: http://rob-johnson.org.uk/

 

 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Elizabeth Clansham by Catherine E. Chapman


A mesmerising read, skilfully and humorously woven together.

Catherine E Chapman is a writer of women's fiction and romance. Her longer works have been described as quirky romances and accessible character fiction, her writing style said to be filmic. She also writes shorter fiction in the genre of historical romance.

Her books are available from Smashwords, their retailers and Amazon.

For those interested in a taste of Chapman’s contemporary writing, the short stories, 'The Ramblers,' 'Opening Night,' 'The Family Tree,' 'The Office Party' and 'All the Trimmings', are available to download free from Smashwords.

'Elizabeth Clansham' is a contemporary romance, set in the Highlands of Scotland.

Elizabeth Clansham arrives in a small Scottish village to teach literature. Well, in fact what she really is doing is running away from dealing with the loss of her father and the realisation that she has no meaningful “others” in her life, whilst telling herself that she is going to write a novel.

The village accepts her into its bosom and she becomes a part of its daily life. Through the eyes of her pupils, we see her as a teacher, the subject of a teenage crush, and as a romantic heroine. In the eyes of the village gossips she is a single woman (strike that - a spinster) for whom a beau must be found amongst the local bachelors. Through the eyes of a scowling, troubled child she is a witch.

Elizabeth is all of them and more (although I have to admit I never really “got” the witch one). She’s also a loner; a recluse who is unable to deal with personal questions or judgment, mainly because she is afraid of what she will see when she eventually turns the mirror on herself. Her character’s development is clever to say the least. At the start I struggled to get a handle on her, and as the book progressed I realised that the opinions I was forming of her were all wrong anyway - and not to trust her point of view, since it was so stubbornly myopic.

I loved that it was so subtle.

The book isn’t just about Elizabeth though. Chapman introduces us to her English class (thankfully small, as I was wondering if I’d keep track of everyone), both the day and night-time students, plus the local gamekeeper, the gossips and the neighbours. We have a good handful of characters to pick and choose between. Who will be cast as the literary sacrificial lamb? (Oh surely not him, surely not her!) Who will get together with who? I know who I wanted to get together, but will they work?

It is a wonderful story with wonderful characters. They live and breathe beautifully. They have their own language (I especially loved Ronnie’s, every third word an expletive), their own back stories, their own motives and desires. I thought that Chapman wrote the students to perfection. She deals with teenage-hood with a light brush, covering everything both respectfully and without moralising. In this book you will find teen drinking, bullying, many teenage crushes, dropping out, arson, anger issues at being abandoned, curiosity about gay sex, curiosity about heterosexual sex, and living with the town drunk as your father. And above all, friendship. All this was in the classroom Elizabeth Clansham walked into on her first day on the job, blissfully unaware. She’s still blissfully unaware of most of it by the end of the year too, but thankfully much more tuned in to her students’ day to day issues by then.

Elizabeth is the main story, the students from her class woven in as a side story beautifully. The other side story which I thought was absolutely spot-on was the seven-year-old child’s (the one who decided she was a witch). I suspect that Lauren’s story began as a small by-line but quickly grew. For me it threatened to eclipse the main character’s, since I enjoyed it so much. Lauren comes to stay in the village because her mother is running from her past too, and although Laeticia and Elizabeth are absolutely chalk and cheese when it comes to characters, they strike up the closest friendship Elizabeth is likely to have while she remains so hell-bent on protecting her emotions.

My final accolade for this book has to go to the constant references to literature. Elizabeth is teaching a high school literature class, trying to encourage her students to read widely among Austen, Bronte, Shakespeare and Shelley. And it wasn’t not long before I started seeing the characters everywhere - although Chapman did have to lay a few solid traps for me before I noticed what she was doing. There’s Macbeth and Lady Macbeth! There’s Mr Darcy. There’s Heathcliff (thank God he’s a little bit tamed), and she’s just got to be Emma… She has brought them all together, put them in a Highland village and given them modern names, but still, here they are. How will they fare meeting each other?

Clever, clever, clever. It has made me want to reread my old favourites to draw the similarities for myself. And to answer the question which the book never attempts: just who is Elizabeth?

Catherine E Chapman can be found here on her website.
Elizabeth Clansham is FREE to download from Smashwords at the moment, so get into it!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Decadent Deceptions by Keta Diablo


I thoroughly enjoyed this well written romp through a dangerous cat and mouse game of desire and deception.

About Keta Diablo:

Keta Diablo is a multi-published author of paranormal, historical and occasionally gay fiction (paranormal). In 2009, her erotic romance Decadent Deceptions was a finalist in the RWA Molly contest. In 2010, Keta's entry Phoenix Rising finaled in the Scarlet Boa contest and in 2011 Keta's acclaimed paranormal shifter, Where The Rain is Made, was nominated by Authors After Dark for a BOOKIE AWARD AND by Deep In The Heart of Romance for BEST ROMANCE OF THE YEAR.In 2014 Sky Tinted Water was nominated for a Rone Award.

Many of her books, including her gay fiction series CROSSROADS have won numerous awards: Top Reviewer's Pick, Recommended Read and Best Book of the Month.

About Decadent Deceptions:

The story takes place in 1856 in Savannah, Georgia, all flouncing lavender dresses and drawling accents. Diablo does a wonderful job of capturing the essence of the south, giving her reader exactly what we expect and require, without quite tipping into a cliché.

Her heroine, Olivia, is strong minded and independent, one who women of our times can relate and aspire to, and is really quite out of place for 1856. This is all part of the set-up though - Diablo weaving an intricate and thoroughly believable story of a wayward young lady being brought to heel first by her father (unsuccessful), then her brother (again, unsuccessful) and finally her soul mate (beautifully and predictably successful - but on her own terms). The story had the feel of The Taming of the Shrew, and I really warmed to Olivia in the character of Katherine.

Now for her hero. He was simply perfect. We all love a manly man, and Morgan is definitely that. He had plenty of the rugged rogue in him, enough to entice the wayward Olivia (and us) in and hold her interest, plus enough of the romantic to clearly fall head over heels in love. Who could resist such a man? I predict that few of Diablo’s readers will be able to.

Al Diablo’s characters were fleshed out and real - even the secondary ones such as the brother, sister in law and local Madam. All of them behave consistently and believably throughout the story, making it so much more easy to immerse in.

The story versus bedroom scenes were balanced perfectly, plus there was just that tiny touch of mystery to add interest and intrigue; although thankfully not much, as it simply wasn’t needed.

I conclusion, this was a thoroughly enjoyable book with likable and lustable characters who are sure to please fans of sexy, sensual fiction.

If you want to find out more about Keta, she can be found here:

Friday, 31 October 2014

Cafe Insomniac by Mark Capell


Quick blurb:

Twenty-five-year-old insomniac Justin Brooks opens an all-night café. But soon after opening, one of his customers is murdered.

The fallout from the murder makes his insomnia worse -- much worse. He completely loses the ability to sleep.

Strange things start to happen in Justin's world, things that are hard to explain.

About Mark Capell:

For my sins, I used to be a television director. And I was lucky enough to win a Royal Television Society Award.

During that time, I met all sorts of weird and wonderful people, including a gangster who offered to kill anybody who upset me. But instead of taking up his offer, I decided to join the exciting digital revolution and take my storytelling skills to the world of fiction.

My first novel, a crime thriller called Run, Run, Run, reached number one on the Amazon UK crime and thriller chart.

My aim as a writer is to tell exciting stories that haven't been told before, and to introduce readers to intriguing characters they haven't met in other books. In that way I want to be an explorer.

My take on the novel:

In a word, muffled.

It had an interesting start. Justin Brooks, an insomniac, very quietly opens a night café and quietly his clientele starts picking up. A patron is quietly murdered around the corner. Justin quietly reacts to this, and to the strange man who seems to be quietly threatening him and his family.

All very quietly, as if seen through fog. Muffled noises, muted emotions. No, not through fog… as though it’s a dream. Some parts are heard in detail, and some parts brushed over, as though inconsequential or as though they didn’t happen at all.

The Edward Hopper work, Nighthawks, was at the forefront of my mind. The whole atmosphere of the painting; the stillness, the quiet, the frozen scene in the heart of a bustling city, the lack of any kind of relationship between the characters… this was perfectly personified in the pages of Capell’s story. It was entrancing. I’ve always loved Nighthawks, and it was like I had jumped right into the scene.

I read on, waiting for the Technicolor to explode. Waiting for the event to happen that would kick the dream world where impossibly strange people turned up and did unexplainable things to the curb. I was looking forward to seeing how Justin would cope with this new world. The real one.

The event did take place, but it was muffled. Justin coped very well. So reasonably. So logically.

Sigh.

The muted emotions continued. I wasn’t right in all my predictions about the dream world, but I was close enough to find the “reveal” not as surprising as I’d imagine it was intended.

I have a few frustrations to air. The muted feel of the story is okay for a while, especially if the pace changes about a third of the way in - but not for an entire book. Capell is verbose. Many conversations are relayed word for word, adding length to an otherwise simple yet compelling story. The description of insomnia was repetitive. The characters were neutral. I didn’t like them or dislike them, I simply didn’t get a handle on them at all. All down to that muffled writing. They were too simple. The most interesting one was the father, but his character at the end is not believable.

However, I also have some high praise.

The muffled writing is absolutely perfect for this character. Justin goes through his days / nights in a daze, because of his tiredness. The style of writing perfectly mimics this feel of being half-in and half-out of a dream world at all times. It captures perfectly what it would be like to be constantly tired. Nighthawks again. A perfect pairing.

And although I wanted him to snap out of it towards the end, when the climax takes place and forces a reality check (plus he’s had some sleep), he doesn’t. I didn’t like this because I wanted more, more, more… something. More realness. And this too is appropriate, because although the man has slept, he’s still… well, you’ll have to read it and find out. I’ve given away far too much as it is.

Ooo and I love the covers. I have seen two, and they are both good.

Not particularly fast-paced, and a little long-winded for me. But you will like this book if you enjoy gentle suspense, gentle psychological thrillers, gentle who-dunnits where you get given all the clues from page one and can enjoy finding out if you were right.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Affinities by Chris Hollis


Affinities by Chris Hollis

Wow! What a book!

Affinities is an unnerving, creepy psychological thriller. There is plenty of guesswork, with many twists and turns.

About Chris Hollis:

At an old wooden desk in a chilly sports hall, a teenage Chris Hollis first realised he wanted to write. The exam paper asked for a short scene about a person being chased. Chris ran over the word count.

Then he ran out of paper. Then he wrote on the back...

Many (enough) years later, he has developed a flavour for fast-paced fiction, and a sense of paranoia that has invited comparison to the likes of James Herbert, Kafka, and his main source of inspiration, H. G. Wells.

Other favourites include John Wyndham and the modern horror of Graham Masterton. Chris is always hard at work on the next thriller, with no shortage of ideas.

About Affinities:

I opened up Affinities to make sure that the file conversion had worked and that I didn’t have a garble of script in front of me, intending to get a proper start on it in the morning. Well, chapter one had me gripped and I found myself at the end of it before reminding myself it was well after midnight and that I had work in the morning. I also wondered whether it was the kind of thing to be reading just before sleep!

Chapter one was unsettling, drawing on the common fear around what happens when I go to sleep? The scratching and scuffling noises which Andrew hears at night were truly frightening, rather than falling into the children’s night-time monsters category. Having not read the blurb, seen the cover or read any more of Hollis’ work, I wondered if I had picked up a horror, happy to return it in the morning.

I’m very pleased that I didn’t. The story unfolded quickly. Andrew Goodwin is a man whose life has come apart at the seams. The reader comes in when he is at his lowest, and strange noises haunt him at night. He realises that he is losing whole days of his life, sleeping through all daylight hours, and only managing to stay awake for a couple of hours every night.

I won’t say anything more about the clever plot, as the less informed a reader is (as I was), the more likely s/he is to enjoy the book. The reveals are well-timed and well-explained. Hollis allows his readers the odd prediction, timed perfectly so that they can pat themselves on the back for being so clever when they turn out to be right.

My only negative comment is that the first section of the book does tend to go on for a bit. I realise now that this is necessary - the blow-by-blow of Andrew’s waking hours is important so that later the reader can piece together his days and nights - but still, it did begin to drag. Alright, this is weird and frightening, something odd is happening to him and he’s afraid; I get it - what next? If that section had carried on for much longer with the questions not being answered, I would have been in great danger of skipping pages.

The quality of Hollis’ writing is excellent. His use of language flows well without feeling forced or repetitive. His depiction of paranoia is beautiful to behold, and very believable. Hollis’ roots in Wyndham and HG Wells are clear. Most of his characters are well rounded, with all their hard lines and soft curves. I haven’t got a good grasp of Isabel yet but I do notice that she will be further teased out in his second book of this series.

Affinities is Hollis’ first book in his Lifecycle Series. The second, Outshine, is due to be released later this year, and deals with some of the characters his readers met in Affinities.

All in all, wonderful work. I very much enjoyed reading the book and am thrilled to have been able to review it.

Big thumbs up, with four and a half stars out of five.

Where you can find Chris Hollis online: