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Monday, 15 December 2014

Braedric's Bane (The Golden Key Chronicles 04) by AJ Nuest

Title: Braedric's Bane
Author: AJ Nuest
Series: The Golden Key Chronicles 04
Read Type: ARC for HarperImpulse
Stars: StarStarStarStarImage from the Silk icon theme by Mark James *'''Source:''' http://www.famfamfam.com/lab/icons/silk/ photo HalfStar_zps439ec261.png

You can purchase a copy of this instalment of the series from Amazon UK and Amazon US
Alternatively you can purchase the entire Golden Key Chronicles on Amazon UK and Amazon US
You can find out more about the author on her Website, Blog, Facebook, Author Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest





Series Synopsis
The key would unlock his future and the safety of his kingdom, but he never imagined the sorceress would unlock his heart…

Antiques restorer, Rowena Lindstrom, finds herself the owner of an ancestral armoire containing a hidden key and a magic mirror leading to another realm!

But the handsome warrior prince waiting on the other side is truly the final straw. This must be an elaborate joke, right? As she struggles to discover the truth, Rowena learns Prince Caedmon Austiere needs the key to save his kingdom. In the end, she cannot deny him anything. Including her heart.


~~~

Lost in a world she doesn't recognize, Rowena struggles to find her place.

Yet her abilities with a blade and the loyalty of a fierce falcon don't discourage the heated advances of the handsome Prince Caedmon, and the connection between them seems much deeper than her troubled heart can recall. 



~~~


For two years Prince Caedmon suffered in the dungeons of Seviere’s keep, leaving him with more than just lash marks lacing his back. He now retains the secret behind the key, and is the only one who understands its grim connection to his beloved Rowena.

Torn between telling her the truth and risking their future, he agrees to join her perilous quest. But their enemies to the north are not the only menace determined to see them fail and, to prove his love, he must conquer the demons of his past.



Book Blurb

The key would unlock his future and the safety of his kingdom, but he never imagined the sorceress would unlock his heart…

To escape the clutches of the evil Wizard Gaelleod, Rowena and Caedmon flee to the future. With her memories in tact and the help of her dear friends, Rowena is confident they can uncover the clues behind her connection to the key.

Yet Violet's dire prophecy does more than detail their history. Caedmon's worst fears are confirmed. Though they must return to his realm, everything he loves stands to be ripped from his grasp.

The conclusion to the breathtaking new Fantasy Romance series from AJ Nuest!

 

Author Bio

I am a multi-published, award-winning author who lives in the middle of a cornfield in NW Indiana. My loving husband, two beautiful children and a bevy of spoiled pets have agreed to stay and, in exchange for three rations per day and laundry service, tolerate my lunacy.

While I spend most days happily ensconced in crafting romance across a multitude of genres, an underground coup has been percolating. The dogs just informed me the cat is secretly vying for dictatorship. 




Review
My previous reviews for this series can be seen below:
Rowena's Key
Candra's Freedom

Caedmon's Curse


 I received a copy of The Golden Key Chronicles from the author in return for an unbiased review. At the author's request I will read and review each novella separately, followed by an overview.


Strong language: Yes
Drugs: No
Violence: Yes
Sexual content: Yes


Stepping in right where Caedmon's Curse left off, this novella exploded onto on reader. This is almost a role reversal of the first novella, Rowena's Key, as both Rowena and Caedmon dive through the magic mirror once more and back into modern day.

It appears time has passed the same here as in the past, for things have moved on, while staying lovingly the same. Ollie, her larger than life friend, has kept the armoire in case Rowena should ever return, so the intrepid duo crash land onto his carpet in his bedroom – naked! Ollie now has a partner, Jon, and neither of them minded eyeing up the cautious and embarrassed Caedmon.

The first few chapters were a lot of fun, getting up to speed with what's been going on and setting the ground rules to Jon, like an Ollie on Viagra! From steamy sex scenes, Jon's fruitless attempts at wooing and Rowena proving she no longer needed protecting from every little bump in the road it made for a great read.

I particularly felt for Caedmon, at least Rowena had learnt history in school so knew how things worked to a certain extent, and the loss of her memories when she went to the past probably helped her to acclimatise. For Caedmon, however, he entered a world or electricity, cars and where to him everybody was a wizard, he was is shock. Yet I felt Rowena's only reply was to seduce him, not explain like she probably would have preferred were the situation reversed.

Soon the adventure is on, learning the prophesy (it seems it paid to have owned an antiques shop with loyal workers knowing how to find past details) it is clear they have to return to rescue everything they hold dear.

The ending is an exciting adventure, with the prophesy that was foretold, so many times I expected one of them to fall or lose. AJ Nuest wrote this to really keep us on the edge of our seats. Explosions, battles, betrayal, it all mounted to what the previous three novellas had been pushing for.

Psst, you over there. Yes, I'm talking to you. Don’t tell anyone but I'm a softie at heart. Reading the epilogue put a silly grin on my face. It was a satisfying end, although I would always like to see more of this world.


The 411


Overall, this was a mix of genres: romance, adventure, danger and just plain old fun, I'm sad to see the series end, but I think it ended right and left me feeling fufilled.

My one complaint would be Rowena's treatment of Caedmon in this instalment. Whereas they'd always been in tune with each other's emotions and she knew from first hand experience how daunting it could be to step into a different time I felt she neglected his emotional needs, expecting him to just buck up and follow along. Otherwise I loved this and just wanted one more page.. and one more… and…

Overall I give this a 4.5 adjusted to a 4 for reviewing sites

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Naughty List by L. A. Kelley

Title: The Naughty List
Author: L. A. Kelley
Series: No (Trying to convince the author otherwise!)
Read Type: Author request
Stars: StarStarStarStar

 You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon UK, Amazon US, B&N US, B&N UK, Apple Ibooks, Google Play and Kobo
You can find out more about the author on Goodreads and her Blog
Book Blurb
This is not your typical yuletide tale.


Murder, mystical artifacts, an invisible demon with anger management issues, and an overbearing cupid—not what Rosalie Thatcher wished for on her Christmas list.

The holidays had always been a magical time for Rosalie, but not this year. Stephanie, her new manager at Penrose’s Department Store, is determined to make this season the most profitable in the store’s history, even if it sucks the life out of every employee. Introducing arbitrary rules and stealing the affections of Anthony, the cute temp Santa, were bad enough, but forcing Rosalie into the stupid elf hat was the worst. The worst, that is, until she meets a real E.L.F. (Elemental Life Form) named David and gets lassoed into a desperate hunt for the stolen Naughty and Nice List. Now all Rosalie and David must do is dodge a murderous invisible demon and recover the missing artifact before hellhounds track them down.  The couple race against time for without the magical guidance of the Naughty and Nice List, the world will tumble toward eternal chaos.

The Naughty List is an updated version of the Santa legend. Spiked with humor, action, and romance, the story will banish the bah humbug from anyone’s holiday spirit.



Author Bio
L. A. Kelley lives in Florida where the heat and humidity have driven everyone slightly mad. She never cleans under her sofa.


Review

Strong language: Mild
Drugs: No
Violence: Mild
Sexual content: Mild

I received a free copy of this novel in return for an unbiased review

Rosalie Thatcher is one of the few in this world who truly loves her job. She works in an old fashioned department store in a modern world, taking customer service seriously. She also loves Christmas. But then on the day the new manager was to be announced, widely expected to be her hard working friend, the most hated woman in the store is promoted instead.

Stupid persnickety rules, ridiculous hats and fake shoppers designed to report even the slightest infraction of the rules rule everybody's lives. Tempers rise and spirits fall, things get progressively worse. And then of course there's the shopper hiding behind the clothes rails spying before work even starts… except whenever she pulls the clothes back there's no one there and nowhere to hide.

The adventure soon kicks in as she finds, David, an E.L.F imposing on her life and begging for her help. She's thrust into a world of demons, demi-Gods and many others in between as she finds herself helping David rescue The naughty and nice book stolen from his care and the blame placed on him. There's the mall matter of hellhounds and other descendants of Gods after him, many who'd like to take her along for the ride, so times of the essence.

This is a thoroughly modern take on ancient fables and myths as they are brought into the 21st century and have to adapt to fit in. over the centuries they have bred with humans to keep their lines going, a fact that allows them to look fully human and integrate much better, assuming they don't still want to live in draconian Medieval times, with rape, torture and pillage at the top of their to do lists.

As David and Rosalie search in vain for the book they also spend time getting to know each other, and getting far closer than either intended. "He's not even fully human for God's sake!" is Rosalie's excuse to herself, but since when did the heart listen? It's a sweet, tentative romance, that she realises too late she'll do anything to keep. She'll keep working and doing whatever she has to to clear his name, and hopefully get him back.

There was a good mix of danger, different species and characters to get to meet in the book. Something new was always just around the corner, but always with enough of a break to not feel rushed.

I liked Rosalie and felt she was well rounded out. She had a cool calm to her, but also wasn't afraid to freak out at new experiences and revelations, making me laugh. For the most part the secondary cast also felt real, with everything frm a shopping mall santa complaining of back pain on the ancient throne used in the grotto, to a best friend with money troubles and a sick child.

The ending felt good and complete, I liked that they had to fight for their rights, but in the end… well, it's Christmas, and the Santa's around, how could things stay wrong. It is a feel good novel and an easy read, but long enough to get your teeth into and settle back with a hot chocolate and some festive lights. A modern take on the santa story, I think this was well done, covering many bases, while keeping to a world adults know and are comfortable in. That said, I think teens will also get something out of this story and have a laugh along the way.

While this is currently pegged as a stand along I hope to see at least one sequel following the different characters we met along the way, I think there is a lot of story left to be told, both in the past, present and future.


The 411
Overall I felt this was feel good novel for the Christmas season, and a good take on the myths surrounding it, as well as touching on many other myths from a wide variety of cultures.

The writing was good, I felt some characters had their emotions stated too often, as opposed to shown, but this was just a minor problem. The plot was good, with a wide mix of themes, layered so you never got bored of a particular one. From romance to adventure, to danger and facing down demons there was always something new and an aspect for everybody.

I hope to see a sequel.

Overall I give this novel a 4

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Unworthy (Unworthy 01) by Joanne Armstrong

Title: Unworthy
Author: Joanne Armstrong
Series: Unworthy 01
Read Type: Author Request
Stars: StarStarStarStarStar

You can purchase a copy of this book from Smashwords and Createspace (in print)
You can find out more about the author on Facebook and her Blog
Book Blurb
“What about the Sickness?” I ask more calmly, turning back to the wide ocean and squinting, as though I can see particles of disease like pollen in the air. “Is it still out there?”

He rubs his chin thoughtfully. “Now that is a more interesting question.” It’s clear he doesn’t know the answer, but looks at me speculatively. “If you assumed it was still out there, circulating, what would you do?”

“I suppose I would do everything I could to prepare myself to fight it.”

He nods thoughtfully. “Preparation is always a good thing.”

We stand for a moment in silence, looking out to sea. I’m imagining a black cloud approaching, like a swarm of locusts, and wondering how I would prepare myself to fight a disease.

Nearly two hundred years after a killer disease swept the planet, an island nation continues its isolated survival due to the ruthless dedication of the military. The laws and culture of the country are based on the survival of the fittest, distrust of disease, and tight control of the general population.
a
Marked at birth as “Unworthy” to be raised, a young woman questions the necessity for the cruel practice, so many years after the Isolation was declared. She embarks on a journey which will uncover truths about her past and about her society which she could never have imagined.



Author Bio
Previously a full-time primary teacher, I have fifteen years of teaching experience with students of various ages from 7 - 15. I currently teach one day a week and spend the rest of the time either with my two children or writing.

My parents tell me they always knew I'd write a book one day, which surprises and delights me, since I certainly didn't know it myself.

A New Zealander by birth, my formative years were spent in some interesting places, and I completed my B.Ed in Art and Education at Cambridge in the UK. I now live in the South Island of New Zealand, which, after close scrutiny of a few other places as a child, I have decided is simply where my soul resides. I get to wake up to the sound of bellbirds every day.

Unworthy is my first novel and I intend it to be closely followed by my second.


Review
Strong language: Some, mild
Drugs: None
Violence: some
Sexual content: None

I received a free copy of this book from the author in return for an unbiased review


Imagine you live in a world that was ravaged by a sickness that killed off most of the population. The military of your land isolated it from the rest of the world to protect your people. For a long time you lived feral, wandering the land, fighting and killing at will to survive.

Then the Polis come along and set up hubs, polis controlled communities, where you get food, shelter and medicine, as long as you put work in to bring in your share of food, clothes, medicine and other essentials. There are rules, many are required to spend time working as the Polis, and there are severe punishments for those who disobey rules. But if you toe the line, it's an easy life and safe from savages and disease.

That is unless you are one of the Unworthy…


The weak are heavily frowned upon in the country, and few that show symptoms of illness survive their first night. This is not due to poor care however, but a harsh and ritualistic checking of babies. After a vaccine is admitted, any that show illness are then left out in the cold in the wild for the night. Not only must the baby survive the weather, but also the wild animals. Even those few that do survive, assuming the continue to survive, are ostracised by society.

This is what happened to Arcadia as a baby, now she takes it upon herself to do what little she can for those like her. While she may not be able to wrap the babies up without leaving a trace she can at least ensure wild animals are kept at bay, all while risking her own hide if what she did was discovered. Her grandfather, her carer, has brought her up to believe there are no limits to what she can accomplish, and she sure lives up to this!

Yet catastrophe strikes and a Polis soldier turns up on her door in the same day demanding she go with him without explanation or goodbyes. Her world is shattered. How much of what she has been taught, of what has been drilled into her, is real? Can this soldier be trusted? And can she escape, because you sure don't get called to the City for a pat on the back!

Most of the book is about the journey to the Polis headquarters, one that has to be made in secret, without even the knowledge of their own troops, causing a round-about and difficult route. Meanwhile, Arcadia is constantly trying to find ways to get away from her guard dog, Captain Alex Hayes. To head for the mountains, across the plains, or just pick the route he'd find the hardest to track. Yet, despite the endless travel the story never gets boring, there is always danger, and the soldier, who Arcadia slowly becomes closer to, shatters everything she thought she knew of her world, piece by piece.

As much as she tries to ignore it, feelings for this dangerous man are brewing, and she has no idea what to do.

A climactic ending with a massive cliff hanger, I hope to see the sequel soon,

Danger, adventure and a complex world. This reminded me of the dystopian segregated set up of the world of the Hunger games, mixed with the complex world building and people control of Brave New World. While I've yet to read the Divergent series from the blurbs I can see where people who say there are similarities are coming from.


The 411
A well built and thought out dystopian world, while it clearly takes ideas from other books it add plenty of its own, making a unique scenario. The story is fast with adventure, danger, discovery of the world and emotions running rampant. At times I would have liked the story to slow down a bit to allow me to digest the latest revelation, but the pace kept up the element of danger.

While this novel is aimed at the Young Adult market, it manages to do so without talking down to the reader, and I think adults will find plenty of interest here.

Overall a good all rounder, with an ending that compels me to want to read the sequel.

I give this novel a 5

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Boy With the Hidden Name (Otherworld (Book 02)) by Skylar Dorset

Title: The Boy With the Hidden Name
Author: Skylar Dorset
Series: Otherworld (Book 02)
Read Type: eARC from SOURCEBOOKS fire
Stars: StarStarStarStarImage from the Silk icon theme by Mark James *'''Source:''' http://www.famfamfam.com/lab/icons/silk/ photo HalfStar_zps439ec261.png

You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon UK and Amazon US
You can find out more about the author on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Goodreads and her website

Book Blurb
"Benedict Le Fay will betray you. And then he will die."

Betrayal and death—not quite the prophecy Selkie wanted about her first love. A half-faerie princess with a price on her head, Selkie Stewart just wants a little normal in her life. Not another crazy prophecy. Besides, she and Ben are a team. They're the two most wanted individuals in the Otherworld, and fated to bring down the Seelie Fairie Court and put an end to their reign of terror. Nothing can come between them.

Until Ben leaves.
And the sun goes out.
And the chiming bells deafen all of Boston.

The Seelies are coming. And only Selkie can stop them from destroying the world.


Author Bio
Skylar’s first story was a tale of romantic intrigue involving two feuding factions of squirrels. Think “Romeo & Juliet” but with bushy tails and added espionage. She was seven.
Since that time, Skylar’s head has been filled with lots of characters and lots of drama. She is delighted to be able to share some of it with all of you now, because, honestly, it was getting pretty loud and crowded in there.


Skylar is a born-and-bred New Englander, which is why Boston was a natural setting for her debut novel, THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS. Skylar shares her home with a cardboard cutout of the Tenth Doctor, lots of Mardi Gras beads from the time she spent living in New Orleans, and a harp she’s supposed to be teaching herself to play. She’d like to get a dog.


Review
Strong language: Some, mild
Drugs: None
Violence: None
Sexual content: Yes

I was given a copy of this book, via NetGalley, in return for an unbiased review.

Note: I have read and reviewed this before the release of The Girl Who Read The Stars, so any contradictions are due to that

Selkie is a half-faerie, half-goblin who until recently lived under an enchantment believing herself to be a human living with two slightly kooky aunts and a grandfather clock that never told the right time. Since this life changing discovery she has collected, usually accidentally, a small posse of supernatural creatures, and a human best friend, who tend to take up crazy adventures with her. The biggie of these was going to the Seelie court, a type of evil, or possibly just misguided, faerie gathering to find her mother, with interesting consequences.

This is a fantastic series so I highly recommend you start at the beginning (there are links to all of the series above), but with this knowledge I feel you could jump straight into this story. Selkie has a whimsical voice when she tells these stories, even in the most stressed of times, which helps to keep up and get the snippets of information you need when you need them. A couple of parts in this book did deviate from that style, in that I felt a bit like I was on a run away horse, but this was soon back under control and having a discussion.

The story starts with strange events happening on Boston Common, opposite Selkie's home, bringing a prophesy to life. Danger, adventure and the odd discussion over a feast ensue, with both life and death, and light hearted normal teenaged-girl moments. Soon a small group, consisting of multiple species, are running around where they shouldn't be, trying to stop the collapse of the world as we know it.

The characters go both through the world that we know, and the Otherworld, a place where al kinds of faeries live. This expanded geography, as well as culture of the worlds, is deep, while being dealt out in small amounts. Amazing worlds are shown to us through the eyes of both the perpetually surprised Selkie and her human friend Kelsey. This did annoy me in places, given this was not their first trip, I think their resident wizard put it best with "Don't you think, by this point, that it's time for the two of you to stop being so surprised by everything that happens?". I had to agree with this, while we were seeing new things I got used to the basis of the events faster than the characters. Nevertheless this encouraged me to look deeper into the world and what was on the page than I may otherwise have done.

I think the real dynamic and strength of these books is the character's. charismatic, cruel, all real world emotions, if heightened, in a believable sense, even when I'm watching a goblin and a fairy have a chat! It was also nice to see that friends and family were still a key element in Selkie's life, even when the sky was falling down around her. She always have thought for them and her heart was with them.

The plot twisted back and forth, at times I was confused, but as the characters were too, and having to take things one step at a time I think this was the author's intention and helped to keep the reader in the story.

I liked the ending, I just hope that this is merely the start of an expanded set of adventures. I think there is a lot of gold to mine in these tales.


The 411
Overall this was another fun tale in the Otherworld series and I hope to see more to come. The plot dug deeper into morals and emotions that previous books, hooking the reader.

I did have some minor irritants such as characters repeated shock, but this did not deter from the book.

I give this a firm 4.5, rounded to a 4 for reviewing sites.


Monday, 1 December 2014

Beast Coast (A Carus Novel (Book 2)) by J.C. McKenzie

Title: Beast Coast
Author: J.C. McKenzie
Series: A Carus Novel (Book 2)
Read Type: eARC
Stars: StarStarStarStarImage from the Silk icon theme by Mark James *'''Source:''' http://www.famfamfam.com/lab/icons/silk/ photo HalfStar_zps439ec261.png


You can purchase a copy of this book from All Romance Ebooks | Amazon US | Amazon UK | BookStrand | Kobo | The Wild Rose Press
You can find out more about the author on J.C. McKenzie’s Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | The Wild Rose Press | Amazon
 

Series Blurb
As a supernatural who checks off the "other" category on the government tax forms, Andrea "Andy" McNeilly's sole mandate as an Agent is to fix the mayhem caused by the creatures that go bump in the night, but her own life could use some repairs. When she's not dodging the manipulations of a power-hungry Master Vampire, she's wrangling up naughty supernaturals, coming to terms with her brutal past, or being wooed by two wickedly handsome men.

With a mix of Vampires, Witches, Weres, Demons and All-Other-Things-Weird constantly mucking up her life, Andy just wants to embrace her true nature and live happily ever after with her true mate. Problem is, there's no BandAid solution for the wreckage of her life.



Book Blurb
Sometimes the greatest danger comes from within…

When Master Vampire Lucien Delgatto threatens her potential mate Wick’s life, Shape Shifter Andrea “Andy” McNeilly will employ a den of witches, a bedazzled thong, and her ability to shift into multiple animals to meet his demands. She plans to keep Wick safe—even if she’s not speaking to him. Lucien’s unwelcomed control over Wick's life has thrown Andy into a whirlwind of emotions.

Though Wick vows to do whatever it takes to earn Andy’s forgiveness and win back her trust, it may be too late. This recent conflict awakens something within Andy, an animal she’s never learned to control. For hidden beneath all her forms is a beast whose anger and brutality rivals none.

And she’s pissed.



Author Bio

Born and raised on the Haida Gwaii, off the West Coast of Canada, J.C. McKenzie grew up in a pristine wilderness that inspired her to dream. She writes Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.











Review
Strong language: Occasional
Drugs: No
Violence: Yes
Sexual content: PG13, no graphic nudity

I received  free copy of this novel from the author in return for an unbiased review


Beast Coast is the second novel in the Carus series, continuing from where the last book left off. A paranormal adventure, wrapped in slightly messed up romance and a big honking mystery, the novel is non stop action. It is a fairly light hearted read, but carries a slightly darker, deeper side of self discovery for the protagonist, which I think melded well.

Facing a vampire in his home territory, with his retinue nearby is never  an enviable situation, yet this is where  Andy chooses to be as we open the story, in hope of finally paying her debt off to Lucien, the Vampire Master of the British Columbia Lower Mainland so she can regain control of her life. Things take a turn for the worst however, as Wick, the werewolf, she believed could be her new mate, is forced to hold her down while Lucien feeds and  makes a blood bond, effectively giving him control over her body and thoughts if he wishes. Unsure who to trust she flees and avoids Wick at all costs. Soon she has a mission from the SRD, giving her a diversion for her frustrations, but also putting her in the path of sexy, enigmatic Tristan, a were-leopard, with eyes for her.

The rollercoaster of her new life begins!

Written in the first person voice of Andrea "Andy" McNeilly, a shifter with multiple forms, this novel tells the story of her latest adventure, along with a deeper look into her past. This time we met more species of supes  and deepened knowledge of others, particularly vampires. For the most part Andy's voice is humorous, in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound, but has a darker side of desperation and loss just under the surface.

I particularly enjoyed reading the mysteries, trying to solve them before Andy (yes, I know when supes are involved it's nearly impossible, but a girl can try!) and getting a deeper look into all the things that live in that universe, things that even if they didn’t pop up this time we may get a chance to see in future books.

The interludes with the potential men in her life broke this up nicely, they both got steamy at times, but also had fun and showed more of their inner natures. This left me thoroughly divided on who she should mate, a vast difference from the first book where I assumed Wick was the guy for her. I did however have one problem with the romance, when the boys got together, even if danger was afoot, they really did turn into boys – jealous, self-important boys who were too busy chest beating over Andy to see what was going on around them. At times it made me want to kick them both out and go see the witches across the hall from her apartment!

When it all gets too much, Andy takes a break up in the mountains, where her animals truly thrive. I enjoyed seeing these in their full glory, getting time to learn more about how she works, without doing it while she fought off half the town!

Soon the mystery becomes serious with attacks on people, with both supes and humans suffering the consequences. Andy is forced to go way beyond what she's comfortable with, both as Lucien pulls her strings with his newly acquired bond, and her sense of duty overcomes her reluctance to do many things. It's exiting and tense, drawing the reader along for the ride as the big bad is revealed and Andy discovers a new side to herself.

The ending was exciting, but left many open doors, I look forward to seeing how these are used in future books. In particular I want to see how Andy's new knowledge of herself affects the choices she makes when it comes to who to follow or believe in.


The 411
Overall. I found this to be a fun, sexy adventure with a wide variety of supernatural creatures. The mysteries were intriguing and gave me clues to mull over as I read. I particularly liked Andy's self discovery and the cryptic elders teaching her.

I found the constant chest beating matches between her love interests became a bit too much at times, and didn't serve to increase my interest in one relationship or the other.

Overall I give this a 4.5 adjusted to a 4 for reviewing sites

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Six Tolls of the Bell and Other Mystery Stories by Marco Barbaro

Title: Six Tolls of the Bell and Mystery Other Stories
Author: Marco Barbaro
Read Type: Author Request
Stars:StarStarStarImage from the Silk icon theme by Mark James *'''Source:''' http://www.famfamfam.com/lab/icons/silk/ photo HalfStar_zps439ec261.png

You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon UK and Amazon US
You can find the original Italian versions in the following:
The Chosen one in "7 Storie all'imbrunire" (Amazon Italian)
The ring and the swamp" in "Storie all'imbrunire Vol. II" (Amazon Italian)

You can find out more about the author on his Twitter, Facebook and Amazon Profile Page
The Italian Publishing house TRAGOPANO Edizioni has also written about Marco here
Book Blurb
This book contains three stories:
The Chosen One
The ring and the swamp
Six tolls of the bell


The plots

Slowly regaining consciousness in a gloomy, damp room hidden in an old and mysterious mansion, the chosen one awakens as his nightmares are just beginning. Why did this macabre cult choose him? And what terrible fate awaits him?

Morass and swamps. A terrible secret lurks in the depths of the murky water. What mysterious creature roams the rural woods and mangroves?

An old ritual is performed at the top of a campanile, the highest observation point of a little village. Father Cornelius has hidden the story for years, but now the time has come for him to reveal the terrible secret that, every night of the full moon, threatens to eradicate all who innocently live in the small town below.



Author Bio
Marco Barbaro (1976) was born in Mirano, Italy, and dedicated his spare time during the first thirty-three years of his life to work, family, music, sports and computer programming.

In 2010, he discovered the power and beauty of writing.

Between singing lullabies to his son and changing diapers, he's written nearly seventy short (and long) stories, two of which were honored in the "La Biblioteca d'oro" and "La Bussola Letteraria" 2011 literary contests. His collection of eight short and long stories was chosen as a finalist entry in the "Jacques Prevert 2012" contest.

In 2013, he wrote a short comic tale which was published in the anthology "77 Fiabe Buffe". He continues writing new stories today, several of which are being translated into English.

Feel free to share your ideas, reviews or ask questions by sending an email to Marco at marco.barbaro (at) gmail.com



Review
Strong language: once
Drugs: no
Violence: mild
Sexual content: no

I received a free copy of this anthology from the author in return for an unbiased review

Six Tolls of the Bell and Other Mystery Stories is an anthology written from Italian by Marco Barbaro and translated into English by Andrea Pakieser


The Chosen One
4 stars
A good start to the collection, the character's point of view displays his confusion and potentially drugged state well. There is tension throughout the story. It ended well, slightly uncertain of what the future held for the character.

I particularly liked the word choice in some situations, for example "making his muscles fibrillate"


The Ring and the Swamp
3.5 stars
We meet Jack, a man clearly slightly unhinged, with a penchant for dumping women's bodies in the swamp! As if he wasn't wacky enough there is a supernatural undertone to the entire story, fascinating to read. The descriptions were well placed and kept the pace of the story, while the flashes of something other than Jack out in the swamp were brief and believable as just a crocodile… or were they?

This slightly longer story snagged my attention and kept me reading, but I did feel the last section where everything was revealed weakened the story a little, I'd like to have seen it left in uncertain territory, I think.


Six Tolls of the Bell
3.5 stars
This story is told mainly to a sceptical priest, in a small group of selected men, many of whom would rather be in bed at this late hour than in a hushed up meeting to hear what is surely the ramblings of an old man who's lost his sense of reality a bit.

I felt that the characters not listening simultaneously made the story being told feel less important, but also gave a sense of foreboding. Would they realise in time the truth of the matter or would lives be lose because of them?




The 411
I felt overall this was a good first effort in English by Marco, sometimes phrases were awkwardly put, I'm not sure how much of this was in the original Italian copy and how much was through the translation. At times I came across a word I would never have thought of using for a situation, yet if I'd consulted a thesaurus this would have been near the top of the list. Most of the time I felt these added a unique take that perfectly captured the moment, but a couple left me bewildered for a moment.

I look forward to seeing his future efforts.

Rating a translated book is always difficult as it is hard to tell how much of those little things that bother you are the story itself and how much are the translation. When doing the individual ratings I kept them as one, but as an American translator translated this, not the author, I'll judge what I think the Italian version would read like (if only I could read the language).

For the original stories I give a 4
For the translation I give a 3
Overall I give this anthology a 3.5 and adjust it to a 4 for reviewing sites.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Girl Who Read the Stars Otherworld (Book 01.5) by Skylar Dorset

Title: The Girl Who Read the Stars
Author: Skylar Dorset
Series: Otherworld (Book 01.5)
Read Type: eARC from SOURCEBOOKS fire
Stars: StarStarStarStar

You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon UK and Amazon US
You can find out more about the author on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Goodreads and her website

Book Blurb
Set after Skylar Dorset’s debut The Girl Who Never Was and before the thrilling conclusion to her Otherworld duology, The Boy With the Hidden Name, this novella is told from the perspective of Merrow, the Fay of the Summer Equinox.

Merrow could tell is was going to be a good school year because Jupiter was moving into her constellation. Merrow read the stars...well, sometimes she got a feeling anyway. The stars were always dancing — they were difficult to understand. And then there was Trow. He was a new boy at school and Merrow got a feeling... Which is weird because she’s never minded being on her own before. (She wasn’t exactly popular.) But there was something about Trow. And a prophecy and fate and danger and love — if only the stars would hold still.


Author Bio
Skylar’s first story was a tale of romantic intrigue involving two feuding factions of squirrels. Think “Romeo & Juliet” but with bushy tails and added espionage. She was seven.
Since that time, Skylar’s head has been filled with lots of characters and lots of drama. She is delighted to be able to share some of it with all of you now, because, honestly, it was getting pretty loud and crowded in there.


Skylar is a born-and-bred New Englander, which is why Boston was a natural setting for her debut novel, THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS. Skylar shares her home with a cardboard cutout of the Tenth Doctor, lots of Mardi Gras beads from the time she spent living in New Orleans, and a harp she’s supposed to be teaching herself to play. She’d like to get a dog.



Review
Strong language: Some, mild
Drugs: None
Violence: None
Sexual content: No

Please note: I have read an advanced reader copy of the sequel, The Boy With the Hidden Name before this novella so I had some insight into what was happening. Any inconsistencies in my review can be put down to that.


Merrow is a high school girl and a bit of a loner, but she doesn't mind about that part. After all she has the yoga classes she teaches, reading tarot cards, the stars, the way salt and pepper fall as well as dust motes to tell her it will be a good year. She doesn't know why, but it just will be. After all, we all know the stars can be a bit fickle like that!

She also has two Moms, one a hippie yoga teacher (she owns the studio Merrow gets to teach some classes at, and a lawyer Mom who keeps them both tied to the ground so they don't float away in their stars!

The book is written in first person, a very chatty voice used, the kind you'd be happy to sit and listen to as she tells you crazy stories of her life she feels are completely normal. She still has many of the complaints of a normal youth, but gets along with both her moms smashingly and finds her solace around them. I loved that that was just a fact, not a big thing made of it, just a fleeting line in the story before we move on.

So Merrow knows she will be having a good year – until she sits down in homeroom and finds a new boy in front of her, the first boy she's ever really paid attention to. Then the stars and tarot and salt and pepper and dust motes and everything else start to tell her things that make no sense. There's a boy. And she's far too attracted. She never gets attracted. Can this be a good thing?

I found said boy, Trow, (yes there is a slight penchant for unusual names, which I found charming) seems nice, if a bit dry and with secrets. Well, he's her first boy-interest, this could never go smoothly, now could it?

I thought at times the plot was a bit hectic, to use an example Merrow might think of, it was a bit like a long string of wiggly spaghetti that had wrapped around itself and gotten confused in places as to which way you went at the crossing. Having read the sequel I knew things about certain characters, so I found it easier to follow, but I do worry some readers may be confused.

The supernatural element, excluding the fortune and future reading in its various forms, was introduced suddenly into our laps, however, like that piece of tangled spaghetti above it was slowly and carefully unravelled into a roughly straight line so everybody understood what was happening. Much like young love, the parties this most involved were the last to understand!


The 411
This was a sweet novella with a thoroughly charming voice that made me want to be friends with Merrow, the point of view character, from the very first chapter. At times it was confusing, but there were also fascinating conversations about life, and takes on aspects that only a hippie teen could have.

If you are not used to fantasy I would recommend you consider reading The Boy With The Hidden Name first, however, I think you should definitely return to this. Readers of fantasy should get along fine with the novel

For voice I give it a 5
For casual use of a lesbian adoption in YA fiction I give it a 5
For comprehension of foreign concepts I give it a 3.5

Overall I give this novel a 4

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Doctor Who: Silhouette (12th Doctor novel) by Justin Richards

Title: Doctor Who: Silhouette (12th Doctor novel)
Author: Justin Richards
Series: Dr Who: New Series Adventures
Read Type: eARC
Stars: StarStarStarStar

You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon UK and Amazon US
You can find out more about the author on Goodreads and his Amazon Author Page
Book Blurb
"Vastra and Strax and Jenny? Oh no, we don't need to bother them. Trust me."

Marlowe Hapworth is found dead in his locked study, killed by an unknown assailant. This is a case for the Great Detective, Madame Vastra.

Rick Bellamy, bare-knuckle boxer, has the life drawn out of him by a figure dressed as an undertaker. This angers Strax the Sontaran.

The Carnival of Curiosities, a collection of bizarre and fascinating sideshows and performers. This is where Jenny Flint looks for answers.

How are these things connected? And what does Orestes Milton, rich industrialist, have to do with it all? This is where the Doctor and Clara come in. The Doctor and his friends find themselves thrust into a world where nothing and no one are what they seem. Can they unravel the truth before the most dangerous weapon ever developed is unleashed on London?


Review
Strong language: None
Drugs: None
Violence: some, non-graphic
Sexual content: None

I received a copy of this novel in return for an unbiased review from Random House via NetGalley

For those not familiar with the Dr Who franchise (it covers TV, audio books, novels a few films, plus other mediums, and has been an UK staple for over 50 years) it is based on a humanoid alien who travels time and space in the TARDIS, a ship resembling a 1960s UK police phone box that's bigger on the inside. He usually travels with one or more humans, either tracking down or stumbling into mysteries and alien crimes which he rights using mainly his wits and a lot of luck.


A creepy opening, a locked door murder, sets the scene for a complex mystery. It was well orchestrated, now let the story commence!

The Doctor and Clara follow an energy spike into Victorian London, not far from the base of Madam Vastra, Jenny and Strax. Feeling it is nothing, the Doctor declines to contact them, yet they are already investigating a mystery of their own.

Having to wait for another spike to be able to track it, the Doctor is soon sight seeing. The Frost Fair, a winter carnival, is in town, and draws the eager Clara and Doctor for a visit. The Carnival of Curiosities, a traditional magic and freak show, was also present within the fair, and soon they were exploring tents with strong men, shadow puppets and preserved creatures amongst other things.

During this time they bump into Jenny, also exploring, and get filled in on another local mystery. Soon the team is expanding, their goals are being set and they have a list of suspects… but who are the puppets and who is the puppet master?

I found the writing of this to be beautifully done, dropping little snippets of Victorian London into the scenes without stopping the story to fill pages with descriptions. These were well placed to progress the story, such as the use of the smog of the time to make the characters lose people they are following. The longer descriptions were stunning in their imagery. "As it drew nearer, she held out her arm, the scarlet material hanging down from it like a shimmering waterfall of blood. […] Dark ink smudged and smeared, and dripped into the white snow. Like blood from a wound."

At the quarter mark of the novel, two mysteries were being investigated by teams, for many scenes Jenny and Clara were working together while the Doctor was off doing some jiggery pokery or digging around where he shouldn't be. It was nice to get to know Jenny better as her own person, not as a side to Madam Vastra. I did feel this left Clara uncharacteristically decisive and trusting of others however, without the Doctor to keep her in check with the time period. For the most part Madam Vastra struck out on her own, only connecting for short intelligence sharing sessions. I would have liked to see her more. Strax was his typical self, if it wasn't of use dispose of it! Seeing the team try to convince him why they should use techniques other than 'slaughter everything in sight' was amusing to say the least.

The mystery clipped along at a good pace, helped by short chapters, many split into scenes within, making it feel reminiscent of an episode. I enjoyed the speed and constant twists and turns, never knowing who the bad guy was or who to trust. I did feel however it would have benefitted from some group discussion scenes, probably with tea and maybe snacks, much like the episodes. Those breaks and seeing everyone together I'd expected after watching these people in action together, and was left slightly disappointed. Nevertheless Clara and Jenny's breaks in the refreshments tent did give some sense of a break to give the reader a breather.

The finale was exciting and unexpected, up until the last page I was unsure what to expect. I felt for some of the characters left behind and would like to see them pop up in the future to see how the abnormalitiesthe story left them with are affecting them.

I haven't decided if this Doctor has a catchphrase yet so let's just say "alons-y and geronimo" into the next hair-brained adventure!



As for the likeness to the characters on TV:
Strax: just perfect
Jenny: while I love madam Vastra it was nice to get a sense of Jenny when she didn't feel on duty, both alone and talking with Clara who she seems to consider more of a social equal
Vastra: interested to see her reactions but felt she was a little soft

Clara: much closer to her previous series personality than the current one. I preferred this portrayal
The Doctor: close, but I felt a bit snippier than in the series. However, given this was released around the same time as the early episodes I felt a very nice job from the author given the limited material they'd have had


The 411
This was a good early outing for the twelfth Doctor and crew. It was good to have the Paternoster Row gang present to act as a buffer, and add more variety. The mystery was deeply interwoven, complex and offered many opportunities to see a different side to the characters. The ending was unexpected.

I would have liked to have seen everybody together discussing, but I felt the breaks offered while walking and talking offered an acceptable alternative.

For the story I give a 4
For the character likeness I give a 4
For the writing I give a 5

Overall I give this novel a 4,5 and round to a 4 for reviewing sites. I look forward to many more novels to come