Saturday 31 May 2014

The Girl Who Never Was by Skylar Dorset

Title: The Girl Who Never Was
Author: Skylar Dorset
Series: Otherworld (Book 1)
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
 photo girlwhoneverwas_zps22212eb9.jpg
In Selkie's family, you don't celebrate birthdays. You don't talk about birthdays. And you never, ever reveal your birth date.

On her seventeenth birthday, Selkie finally understands why. All she wanted was a simple "Happy Birthday" from her secret crush, Ben. But the instant she blurts out the truth to him in the middle of Boston Common, her whole world shatters. Because the Boston that Selkie knows is only an elaborate enchantment constructed to conceal the truth: Selkie is a half-faerie princess. And her mother wants her dead. The faerie court believes Selkie is a child of prophecy-fated to destroy the court's powerful grip on the supernatural world. And the only way for Selkie to to prove them right. 

 A link for my review of the prequel, along with links for purchasing can be found here.

Strong language: None
Drugs: None
Violence: None
Sexual content: None

I received a copy of this via NetGalley and SOURCEBOOKS fire for free in return for an unbiased review

With a note. A note etched into a snowflake, sighed into a gust of wind, rustled through the trees of autumn, rippled over a summer pond

This is the first novel in the Otherworld series, although there is also a prologue available. Having already read the prologue, as well as the blurb for this novel, I felt this one started very slowly, with nothing much changing from the prologue's status. It left me feeling on the wrong foot plot-wise, until I started to see clues coming in. once the plot got going, in a museum slash library, I felt it hit a nice clip, not too slow, but easy enough that aspects, such as that lovely fairytale language from the prologue carried over.

The destiny, as most destiny's in fantasy books are wont to do, was complex, ut I was impressed with how it was handed out, a piece at a time so we didn't have to sit through long discussions, but instead went running off to adventure and get in trouble most likely!

In several situations I felt the secondary characters were actually superior and bigger players than Selkie, the main character. Some of this was due to her being essentially under a spell, but I feel she often relied on others and almost faded into the background. Her two friends Kelsey and Ben were particularly strong characters. I really liked them both and the essence they added to the story, I hope to see them in future instalments.

Ben sighs and says, “I hate England.”

Why, Ben, why? I'm sure England will love you if you just give it a chance!

I felt the middle of the novel was left to languish and not keep up the pace a little. This was particularly apparent where Selkie was alone, following along in the sae vein as my previous statement of her being a slightly weaker character. However, I felt the ending was emotional, dramatic, and a nice cliff hanger as to what happens next.

A lovely thread of will-they, won't-they romance threaded through the book, sealing the deal for me. Fantastic.

Saturday 24 May 2014

Novum Trilogy Book 1: Crucible by Moira Katson

Title: Novum Trilogy Book 1: Crucible
Author: Moira Katson
Series: Novum Trilogy: Book 1
Read Type: Indie published
Stars: StarStarStar

You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon UK and Amazon US

You can find out more about the author on  Facebook and her Website

 photo Fullcover_for_internet_Crucible_zpsf8819dc2.jpg
"We have come to a moment when what we know as goodness and mercy will not be enough to guide us any longer..."

If you had seen a hundred races fall into a darkness beyond death, if you had seen your family slaughtered and you had fled beyond known space, if you had found the perfect weapon there to stop your enemy…what would you do?

And what would you do if that weapon was a living being?

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

Strong language: None
Drugs: None
Violence: War/battle
Sexual content: None

This was a difficult novel for me to get into. In every chapter the point of view, and often the entire location and cast of characters present, would shift. Just as I would start to feel for a character they were gone from my spectrum. Looking at the table of contents it appeared as if many never reappeared, making the first half of the book hard to care about a character because I would soon lose them.

A large part of the problem I think was that while there were only three groups of characters (two sets of refugees and a spaceship's crew) according to my kindle each chapter took between 40 and 60 minutes to read, so it could be 2 hours of solid reading before I got back to the cliff hanger I left a particular group on. By that point I had lost some of the details of what was going on, and as they weren't repeated, we were just thrown straight back into the action, I felt lost.

But it wasn't all bad. The writing was good, it lacked emotion in places, but I blame most of this on the Royals being trained to have no emotion. Although it was already a fairly long book I would have liked more from the writing, showing me emotions, rather than telling, and more about the amazing scenery as most of these character had never left a castle before the story began, and now they were trekking through fields, beaches, mountains and more.

But it's not all bad…
Towards the end, especially the last chapter, I found myself smiling for no apparent reason. The plot finally felt like it pulled together. At the same time it felt like this was just a prologue for the other two books in the series.

Despite my overall reservations I would be interested in reading the next book in the series at some point. I hope, given that the writing fixed itself near the end that that trend would stay throughout the second book.

This book had a lot of highs, and a few too many lows. In spite of the warm fuzzies at the end I have to take the book as a whole and give it 3 stars

Thursday 22 May 2014

Twisted Endings by Timothy McLendon

Title: Twisted Endings
Author: Timothy McLendon
Read Type: Indie published

 photo 91IypHUGhnL_SL1500__zpsa5c0c3df.jpg
Five mystery and suspense short stories with unexpected endings. One man’s patience will be tested at an amusement park. One man will be the judge of life and death. One group will determine the best way to fight crime. One boy will decide how to beat the school bullies. One man will attempt to reunite with the family that betrayed him. One woman will find a way to deal with the desecration of her body

You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon UK and Amazon US

You can find out more about the author on Facebook

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

Strong language: None
Drugs: None
Violence: Some, Semi-graphic
Sexual content: None

The teacup lady 4/5
This story started with an interesting and sweet point of view of a dad trying to make his daughter happy, while simultaneously suffering from the heat. I found it a bit heavy in metaphors in places, but something I felt was balanced by the latter part. It had a good, and I felt unpredictable, ending.

Bitter Water 3/5
A man gets an offer to move to a new town with a job, home etc included. After a gift basket arrives he goes to the shop it came from, meeting a creepy old man who owns it. This man tells a story, believability of the telling aside, I felt it meandered and was predictable.

Neighbourhood Watch 4/5
Fast paced pithy dialogue, but in the opening scene I felt there weren't enough tags to say who was saying what, meaning I got confused about one character's opinion. A good story, I particularly liked the twist.

The Amazing Flea Circus 3.5/5
This was fairly mundane and predictable for the large part. A family go to a flea circus and the least willing participant in the room is picked as an assistant. There were a few small surprises, but overall you could see where it was coming from quite early.

I did particularly like the writing style of this story though, particularly the line:
The thing looked like it was from the 1800s and still had the original dust.

The Rock Toss 5/5
First page: a lovely refreshing family scene – this will never end well!
And I was right. It ended so very very bad, for the characters anyway. For little old me, the reader it was a smooth treat.

Overall this was a great little anthology. Some of the twists were obvious from the start, but in most cases this didn't reduce the enjoyment. The writing was crisp, if occasionally sacrificing emotion or depth to keep the stories short.

I look forward to reading the sequel.

Monday 19 May 2014

The Four Kings by Scott Spotson

Title: The Four Kings
Author: Scott Spotson
Read Type: Indie Published

You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon UK and Amazon US

You can find out more about the author on his Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and his website

 photo t4k-1542x2500_zps709f4e04.jpeg
Today's world - skyscrapers, Internet cafes, and all - is in great turmoil. Economic doldrums have seized the entire world in the last several years, and powerful nations such as Pakistan and India are just about to unleash nuclear might upon each other.  These troubled times have been labeled The Great Blight.

In response to the perceived failure of humanity to get its act together, powerful wizards have taken over the planet. In North America, four arrogant young wizards have set up a zone of governance for that continent. They unleash a harsh regime of "bread and circuses," vowing to drag Earth forward "kicking and screaming" in order to advance progress by "a hundred years," while at the same time thrilling the populace with their wizard games - the ultimate reality TV. Their appointed liaison to the humans, Amanda Fullerton, must soon decide which side of history she must support - or suffer the consequences.  In addition, her predicament is compounded when she falls in love with one of the governing wizards. 

Strong language: Some, mild
Drugs: None
Violence: Some, mainly comical
Sexual content: Some, mild

Please note the use of the term Bitcoins is in relations to a fictitious monetary source, and not affiliated or endorsing

I was gifted a free copy of this novel in return for an unbiased review.

Sunday progress
Monday debate day
Tuesday game
Wednesday progress
Thursday game
Friday petition
Saturday progress

Sunday—a Progress Day
Above I have listed the days of the week with what kind of day they were next to them. I liked this idea used in the story and wanted to incorporate it into my review. Each "day" will cover an aspect of the story.

This novel starts out slowly in the first few pages, just a normal presidential conference for a country obviously not doing so hot, then BANG, we have wizards! From there it swings into a faster-paced couple of chapters as they take over the government and all money production with the army trying to fight back.

At first the wizards came across brash and uncompromising, seeming to be the out and out bad guys of the novel—“Greetings, Mortals of North America. We are proud to be your Liberators. We are all now entering a new world order.”

Monday—a Debate Day
The theory of this novel, splitting the world into five segments to be ruled, removing government, and implementing their own currency (they used Bitcoins) was an interesting one. This was completely 180 degrees off of how most countries are currently run. As well as enjoying the story I was also curious as to how feasible it would be in real life.

One critical thing I think was missing was the response of the public. You have a "supreme liaison," a.k.a. Amanda, who is human, but otherwise you don't get to really see how the average Joe is coping. I'd particularly have like to see less tech savvy people trying to work out the Bitcoins for themselves as opposed to over-long explanations of the system.

Tuesday—a Game Day
The game days were more important to the wizards than some of the policies they had to deal with. It seemed games were a critical part of their lifestyle, but, rather than computer or board games, these were real life adventures where they couldn’t get killed. They were fun and interesting to read, generally a good light-hearted break from the realities or walking into the Oval Office and saying "We'll take over from here, thanks!"

Wednesday—a Progress Day
I think one of the biggest disconnects I had with this book, one that would come on strong in times of trouble, but then be forgotten for a while as things went smoothly, was the lack of insight into the average citizen. On Friday, a Petition Day, people had a chance to speak to the wizards directly, watched by the rest of the country on large screens that broadcast all of this. Yet most of these were people willing to take on supreme beings and confident, or desperate, enough in their cause to do this in front of the millions in the nation. Therefore these were not John and Jill Doe with 3 kid speaking out.

This meant that you thought in some places things were going differently than how they actually were. All you had to go on was the wizards, one human who had hundreds of employees to help her organise data and forms that had been filled in, truthfully or not, by the general public. In the first half of the book, only the occasional meetings with her family enlightened you to how things really were on the ground.

Thursday—a Game Day
I don't think there's really anything to say about game days except I wish school Physical Education was more like that!

Instead I want to talk about the two male wizards, Regi and Demus, who both formed attachments to Amanda, who became an increasingly important role as the story went on. They were a fun break, and often took her on days out, such as swimming with dolphins, then relaxing on a desert island…or if you prefer, the moon! These scenes were written really well, I wanted to be out there.

Friday—a Petition Day
As I already mentioned, petition days are days where the public got a chance to speak up for themselves. I liked these days, it showed many sides to the upper classes, although the general population had far less to add. I particularly liked the debates with Professors, something I thought would be tedious filler. They covered many aspects of government, but in a way the standard reader would follow, and using many quotes. I spoke to the author, as I am English so not ingrained with American politics, and was impressed to find that all the quotes, up to the take over anyway, were real. That's a lot of research!

Saturday—a Progress Day
I felt overall the plot of this novel moved at a good clip with plenty of twists, turns, double agents, and red herrings to keep me guessing. The writing itself got bogged down occasionally in history or debates, but overall was an easy read, with the first few chapters being the hardest to acclimatise to—but well worth it.

The ending was left fairly open, and I think the author should progress to a sequel!

Tuesday 13 May 2014

The Girl Who Kissed a Lie by Skylar Dorset

Title: The Girl Who Kissed a Lie
Author: Skylar Dorset
Series: Otherworld
Read Type: Indie Published

This charming little prequel to the novel The Girl Who Never Was, available later this year, is currently free
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
 photo PrequelCover_zps4c011bd6.jpg
Don't miss this enchanting prequel to the exciting summer debut of The Girl Who Never Was. Before the enchantment breaks, Selkie thinks she's just an average teenage girl...

It's the beginning of summer vacation, and everyone at Selkie Stewart's Boston high school is excited. Except for Selkie, who sees herself standing at the edge of an abyss of Nothing To Do. Selkie doesn't want to spend her summer scouring the kitchen for gnomes with her crazy aunts or mooning over the enigmatic boy on Boston Common. So instead Selkie goes in search of a job. What she finds is a new best friend, a cute boy who might be more than he seems, and even more question about her mother and her past — and a sense that Selkie's adventures are just beginning.

Strong language: None
Drugs: None
Violence: Vague / negligible
Sexual content: Negligible

This novella has a conversational style to the first person narrative, instantly making you like the girl and feel a part of her rather bizarre world. Generally I liked how this felt, it read very naturally, but at times it made the protagonist sound considerably younger than she was supposed to be, almost as if she was talking down to you. This is something I can overlook though, in light of the positives.

The characters are slightly offbeat, almost making the "normal" characters, if you can consider them that, feel out of place! All the characters are colourful, filling their roles as awkward youths or crazy old ladies with few words but good coverage.

The plot follows a girl, Selkie, as she gets her first real summer break, due to having been previously home-schooled by her aunts and all the trouble she can get herself in in a quiet town.

I read this is one sitting, it's an easy read with short chapters, ideal for commuting. Take a few minutes out of your day to enjoy the simple pleasures of a fairy tale for children and adults alike.

Sunday 11 May 2014

Children of na by andy Burgess

Title: Children of Na
Author: Andy Burgess
Read Type: Indie Published
Stars: StarStarStar

You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon UK, Amazon US, B&N and Smashwords

You can find out more about the author on his website and facebook
 photo ChildrenofNav5KindleRGBCoverOnlyv2_zps1bc1634d.jpg
Existing within dimensional space for a chance to live again, an alien consciousness is reborn into the body of a plantation slave. While trying to escape his Earthly prison, Silas finds himself teleported through time and captured by the Nazis. Only Yakob Alexandrov, a fugitive Russian scientist, stands
between the slave and a maniacal SS General bent on using the alien technology to dominate the world.

Strong Some
Drugs: None
Violence: Graphic
Sexual content: Negligible

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

The novel begins with a description of a horrible looking creature, giving the impression it is evil. The it smoothly switches tracks and spends the next few pages explaining how it was genetically engineered by the people of the planet for particular labour, making you feel affection for it as it tries to escape the dying planet and slavery.

The next few chapters confused me a bit as to why they were there. They alternated between World War II Russia and an early 19th century slave plantation in America with nothing seeming amiss in either location, or in any way connected. The locations and characters were superb, it was almost like reading two good historical novels at the same time. The reason for this though didn't begin to materialise until around 20% for me, and not become clear until around 40% which I felt was too slow and partly down to the writing.

On the "artefact" found: one thing I will say is this is what confused me and threw me off the plot I think. It seemed to be very different sizes in the two time zones. I thought it was about man-height, a bit like your local baker who lives off the leftover pastries! It is however, considerably bigger, I would estimate the size of 4 or 5 people stood back to back in a circle.

Later on the story moves into one time zone, but this is where I felt it fell apart a bit. There was far too much focus of battles, especially on the mechanics, leaving emotions to the side (This had been an issue to a certain extent in the early chapters, but was far less noticeable, and therefore stood out less). It became hectic and, instead of being led by the wonderfully filled out characters, it felt more like superficial adventure with some characters seeming to have a personality transplant.

I was disappointed in the author's choice of direction after having had such a unique beginning. It felt like your regular lads action book by the end with disappointing  finishes for many of the characters, including a lack of explanation of one main cast member.

There were so many other directions the story could have gone in. Usually I loathe the info-dumps found in novels where the history of a planet, or some other complex system is explained, but the ones in here, despite being several pages each really kept my attention and left me wanting more, wanting to see it. These showed the diamonds the author could produce when they wanted.

Throughout the first part of the novel I was sure I would be giving a 4 at the very least, but having to include all of the novel I can only give a 3

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Skive by Paul Adam Levy

Title: Skive
Author: Paul Adam Levy
Read Type: Indie published
Stars: StarStarStarStarStar

 You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon UK and Amazon US

You can find out more about the author on his blog
 photo skive-cover-kate-broadhurst-final-version-small_zps991edb58.jpg

Skive is a black comedy that follows a man's downward spiral into insanity as he runs away from his problems by living rough on the streets of London. 

A story of depression, hopelessness and masculinity told via the perspective of our hero with a self loathing wit. Will he find peace in London's alleyways? Or are the streets filled with the same problems he was looking to escape from?
Strong language: Throughout
Drugs: Few vague references
Violence: Negligible
Sexual content: Some, mainly fade to black type

I was gifted a free copy of this novel by the author.

This wasn’t my usual type of book, but the excerpt sent to me had me instantly hooked. It felt fresh and imaginative on the subject of a hum-drum life.
I’d often imagine, maybe even hope, that I was the last man on earth walking the streets of an abandoned city. I’d live in that big furniture store just off the North Circular and prepare tinned rations in make believe kitchens and sleep in bedrooms without walls. I’d wander around the lonely towns in a thousand pound suit and try on equally expensive lingerie just for kicks. I’d be ruler of this wasteland. A king with a subject of one. And I’d be happy.
The book is in first person, seen through the eyes of the protagonist. He is an unusual character, that even at the end of the book I couldn't be certain as to who he was or where he fit in society.
A man run into the ruts of life?
A schizophrenic?
A wanderer?
A man hiding from himself?
A little boy in a man's body?
A Buddha in the wrong country?
Just a man, living his own variation of the world-wide problems.
This soda task was far too epic for 6.30am. I’d only been awake for two hours. I still had hopes, dreams and self-respect swimming around my head. I needed to knock myself down to a self-hating drone with all the fight chiselled away.
This man begins the novel in a shop warehouse job an living in a poor flat. Soon, through decisions largely his own, possibly exaggerations, possibly self preservation, he's out on the street with no idea how to survive. He meets various homeless, helpless, clueless and helpers who walk in and out of his life as he wanders. He floats from place to place, seemingly given up on increasing his status, on having to return to 9 to 5 life.
I savoured every moment of the nature around me: the wind through the bare trees, the damp cool air, ducks quacking and birds cooing. I couldn’t imagine growing tired of it. Maybe I would stay here forever, living off crumbs the elderly threw
Despite the almost jovial outtakes, the novel shows a gritty side to real life on the streets, the cold, the hunger, the bin searching, "Is 1 year out of date long life milk still ok to drink?". It shows the depression, most evident in the night, but also the freedom, in this particular case, the man felt, having not to worry about taxes and bills, those were for the houses whose bins he searched.
I would construct a shack out of wood and cover it with leaves and mud for shelter. I’d carve a seat out of a log and sit beside my humble abode in front of a raging fire and survey the scenery. I’d become legend and people from miles around would seek my advice on how to be free.
All through the book was a recurring theme of references to "eels" in his gut, signifying emotions in what I felt was a new and thought-provoking way. They covered anxiety, guilt, fear, emotional stresses of all kinds.
Stress pumped through his veins like lava and they throbbed to the rhythm of his erratic heartbeat in a way that only a lifetime of early starts and a severe coffee addiction could do to a mere mortal.
These references got darker and darker until eventually it seemed they may kill him.
The black cloud punched me in the heart, pumped my lungs full of smog and suffocated my soul with ash.
To end on a lighter note because, despite how this review may read in places it is not all doom and gloom, there is a lovely song woven throughout the novel.
Don't forget to smile today, show the world you're not scared
There's no need to be so sad,
You’re a woman now my dear
A woman can flirt with being bad
This book was a fantastic metaphor for something I have yet to figue out, but also peeling away the layers we use to cover out lives, to give little things grace and meaning. It really captivated me.

There are bouts of copious swearing, and sections of sexual references throughout, so this book is not for your niece, but I feel a real eye opener for the rest of the population

And easy 5 stars