Sunday, 22 November 2015

Book Review: Dawn of Rebellion by Michelle Lynn


Synopsis: Dawn of Rebellion is the first in a trilogy about two sisters, Dawn and Gabby, trying to find their way and their family in a desperate future. In this first book, they encounter the forces of British occupation and the seeds of a land formerly known as America.

With the final installment of a rather famous YA dystopian series about to hit our screens, you would forgive this reviewer for feeling a bit jaded with the genre. It's been about six months since I read one. I thought I could not take another. Then Dawn of Rebellion pops up and I try it. The cover looks intriguing - I'm British, and its a YA dystopian? Already, this story says 'hey, I'm different'.

And it certainly is. Sisters Gabby and Dawn are the focus of the book, and when one the siblings steals a bracelet as a super birthday present for her sister, she is promptly arrested and dispatched to an unknown location to face an uncertain fate. But it's going to be rough justice, whatever it is.

At this point in the story, I was thinking 'this is rather harsh, even by totalitarian government standards', but in the author's world, even the smallest infraction carries the heaviest price. Think about the simple themes of love in the greatest dystopian novel of them all, and yet Winston and Julia pay the ultimate price.

So whilst Dawn of Rebellion is not as dark as that particular tale, it is dark, brooding and yet at the same time, manages to work in an unforced love story between Dawn and the third biggest character in this story - Drew.

As Drew says, in one of my favourite lines from the story:-

"I have never met anyone like Dawn or Gabby. They are both strong, yet surprisingly vulnerable. Both of them will go to the ends of the earth for each other. I never knew bonds like that existed. They are the stuff of stories.In today's world, people don't just risk everything for each other."

Now here is another point of note - the POV changes per chapter. I know some readers dislike this, but I actually adore this writing style. Anyone who says 'I can't read a story shaped like this' will miss out. POV is important, but we shouldn't always expect a third person narrative. Let's change things up. And this book does.

The author gets many of the British slang right on the head of the nail,not an easy thing to achieve, so again, my respect for that.

The main thing that drove me to read this book in only three days, was the clear and strong bond between the sisters. Gabby is taken away, so Dawn hatches a plan for her rescue. Improbable chance of success? Yes. High chance of being killed? Tick. Hard to put this story down? Oh yes.

Let me just say that I loved THG - you know which series I am on about. After reading book one, I bought 2 and 3 straight away. I already purchased book two in this series. I simply have to know what happens. In my view, the story is stronger than many other YA / Dysts with its original setting, shifting POVs (that are per chapter, not per scene, so you won't get lost, I promise you) and thrilling story, and believable characters who make believable decisions, given the pressure they are under.

It's looking like a great series. Jump in.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Book Review: Secrets of an Accidental Duchess (Donovan Sisters, #2) by Jennifer Haymore

Synopsis: With her pale hair and slim figure, Olivia Donovan looks as fragile as fine china, and has been treated as such by her sisters ever since a childhood bout with malaria. But beneath her delicate facade, Olivia guards a bold, independent spirit and the kind of passionate desires proper young ladies must never confess... 

It was a reckless wager, and one Max couldn't resist: seduce the alluring Olivia or forfeit part of his fortune. Yet the wild, soon-to-be Duke never imagined he'd fall in love with this innocent beauty. Nor could he have guessed that a dangerously unpredictable rival would set out to destroy them both. Now, Max must beat a Madman at his own twisted game-or forever lose the only woman to have ever won his heart.

Review: The follow up to Confessions of an Improper Bride, Jennifer Haymore once again unites us with the Donovan sisters from book one. Olivia is unknowingly caught up in a vicious wager between the wild, young, and rather reckless soon-to-be duke, Max Wakefield.

It's a rather ungentlemanly wager that both he and the odious Lord Fenwicke become involved in. And this is only the start of the book! Fenwicke is a bad seed, that much is certain. It's not a spoiler to say just how bad he can get before the end of the story.

This is why the author creates such a good story. Her characters are fully realised, and we feel like we know each one as they take their part in the book.

What slightly stops this from being a five star read is the length of the story. It could have been trimmed by 50 pages or so and been utterly amazing. But as it stands, it is a worthy successor to the first (and arguably better book).

As with most HR's, there's love, there's confusion, there's debts to be paid and waived, and somewhere along the line, something more deeper, and more meaningful. This is why the author is one of the best HR writers out there, in my view. Both books in the series so far have been solid and entertaining, but also have the capacity to surprise - this book certainly does that.

As with the first book, the descriptive narrative is excellent. Main Bad Guy truly is a horrendous creation by Miss Haymore. Does it matter that he seems to have no redeeming qualities? No. We want him to be bad, because he brings colour to the story that would otherwise be a will they or won't they get together romance. He brings a dangerous angle to the story, and it is not for certain that Olivia will live to see her sister from book one again, or to survive this actual tale.

Thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, I will now be looking up the next in the series.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Book Review: Tabitha: Stone Magic Book Two by J New


Synopsis: When Tabitha Stone volunteers to teach music at a children’s summer camp, she has no idea that within days her life, as well as those of her friend Gil, and the children in their care, will be placed in mortal danger. 
Convinced a camp teacher is using questionable methods, they investigate only to discover he is not who he claims, and their snooping ends with Tabitha in the hospital. 
With the help of her sister and partner, Tabitha and Gil delve further into the investigation, only to have their plan derail, when the reliability of Tabitha’s magic is thrown into question, and they discover an old enemy is hot on their trail. 
With danger around every corner, and time running out, will they be captured by the witch hunters? Or against all the odds, will they win this battle, save the children and get out alive? 

Books in the series 
1 Sophia 
2 Tabitha 

Review: In Stone Magic Book One, we were introduced to the first of five sisters, namely Sophia. Now with the second book in the series, we get to know more about Tabitha.

And what a ride it is.

First off, I have to mention the beautiful cover, which is as appealing as Sophia: Stone Magic Book One.

It was always going to be an ambitious feat of storytelling to intricately weave the lives of five sibling witches, but Tabitha: Stone Magic Book Two is certainly a huge step in the right direction.

Despite its breeziness, Sophia tried to introduce too many characters at once. In Tabitha, I believe this has been resolved, there are fewer characters, and this makes the story all the more engaging.

The principal characters are Doctor Reed, Gil, and of course Tabitha. Doctor Reed has more than something of the night about him - could he be the sinister head of the La Divinitas, as mentioned in the first book?

What seems clear is that he is Bad Guy Number One, and he means our Tabitha (who possesses such terrific skills like time travel and dream walking) a lot of harm.

Gil, however, is a good guy who is looking out for her, though he has a questionable past of his own. This is what I mean - the characters are well drawn and clearly defined here. I am still having problems with the character of Fritz, who seems as blank to me as in book one. Perhaps that the author's intention, so that Fritz will play a larger, more significant role as the series powers up.

Another example of the author's clear defining of her main characters is the subtle inclusion of the other sisters, without taking the focus off Tabitha (who I have to say is much cooler than Sophia).

Elissa, for example, appears mainly in a phone conversation with Gil, who is at pains to explain exactly where Tabitha has gone to. It's a funny, clever, subtle scene that makes me want to know more about Elissa. It is really well done.

The key for the story appears to be Tabitha's yearning for growth as a witch whilst not being harmed. She's also feisty, but not in a whiny way - she gives her sisters as good as she gets. There appears to be some needle between Sophia and herself, but a middling respect for Elissa.

Then we will move onto book three - Ophelia. This was a name I used in a book of mine - I totally love this name, and well...we don't know too much about her at this juncture.

One thing is for sure, author J New improves with each book she pens.

I loved this book.

Book Review: Human (A Ghost Story) by Brian Rowe


Synopsis: Abigail has been stuck in the same room, in the same house, for twenty-two years, ever since the night her father drowned her in the tub. She wants nothing more than to escape the confines of her ghostly prison, but her dad, who committed suicide the same night, won't let her leave. Even though she's a ghost, she can't move past the upper staircase without choking, without feeling like she's going to die all over again.

But when a new family comes to stay at the house, and a troubled boy named Percy becomes her new best friend, Abigail finds the courage to finally face her hateful father, and discover a secret about her future that will change her life forever.

Review: Human: A Ghost Story is a very interesting story that has posed a great challenge for me - the whole review could end up being a spoiler, so what can I do? 

Here goes. Abby is a girl who, over the course of the pages, discovers things about herself that are rather shocking. When she befriend a boy who is being bullied at school, she feels protective over him and wants to help him.

The issue is, Abby is fighting her own demons and in one vivid and shocking scene, we learn that all is not well in the Abby household. 

The events that take place lead on to another big story reveal, and it is so good, I will just say 'please read the book', as it won't take you long, is FREE, for heaven's sake (!) and will have you thinking about it afterwards - now that is the sign of a great storyteller.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Book Review: Lost Girl (Book One of the Lost Trilogy) by Anne Francis Scott


Synopsis: Secrets can eat you up from the inside out, no matter what end of them you’re on . . .

Renowned sculptor Allison Weathers doesn’t believe in ghosts. But when a tragic twist of fate leads her to the small mountain town of Dawson Mills, Tennessee, she soon learns that the dead don't always stay silent. Shadows begin to shift in the rambling, old Victorian farmhouse she’s purchased. Voices come from nowhere. She can feel the eyes on her. Cold. Wicked.

Paul Bradford, a contractor who is bidding the renovation work on the house, believes it’s more than just Allison’s imagination conjuring up the paranormal activity. Toni Harper, a reporter for the local paper, concurs. She’s heard snippets of hand-over-the-mouth gossip from some of the town’s deputies who responded to calls in the middle of the night. Ghosts. Or so the former owner claimed in the few months before his death.

The secrets they unearth rock Allison right down to the core—a nightmare that’s just beginning. Thrust into a haunted world where the paranormal and evil collide, she has one hope of survival: unravel the sinister history buried for decades within the old farmhouse, and find the link to a muddled piece of her past.

Review: I absolutely adore horror stories with a creepy undertone. I also love well crafted horror stories that insert the shocks and gore cleverly. In many ways, Lost Girl elevates itself to something higher through its excellent telling of a paranormal mystery. The main character, Allison Weathers, is an artist practised in sculpture. The quiet town of Dawson Mills, wonderfully described amongst the real state of Tennessee, welcomes her, as does the house she moves into. But is there a reason why she ends up there?

Anne Francis Scott writes with a maturity that, amongst the deluge of YA/NA books out there, it would be easy to class this book along them. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but as I say, this is mature storytelling. 

It is just so obvious on every page, that the author has taken her time to really craft a creepy tale. You will feel sympathy with the other characters around Allison, who know of her history.

Yes, she hears voices. Yes, the pipes in the old house creak and rattle. It's played down by her acquaintances, because the author is letting our viewpoint play out in the statements of these characters. They like Allison, as do we. But they are just a bit concerned that she is reading more into things than see them for what they actually are.

Every time she tries to focus on her work, something happens to scare her. What is clever is that she is not always on her own when it happens, but many times, she is. Given the author's articulate writing style, we are still in the loop when the crazies turn up. The question is, are these ghosts in Allison's mind, remnants of her recent, psychotic past, or are the ghostly apparitions for real?

There's a ramp up in the creep factor when Allison finds an old book in the house. The character featured in this book is so good, I would rate her the best character in the book. It's hard to say more without giving the story away, but this find was a core piece of the story's first third.

The story loses pace, or maybe that is the intention of the author, about half way through. This in itself is not a bad thing, because we need to take a breath and understand the events of the first half of the book. By the story's end, it wraps up rather brilliantly with the terrific ending. It's wonderful to know that there will be another story in the series.

The dialogue between Allison and her tormentors (or her tormented mind) is really well done. It takes an author of great skill to do that.

Personally, I would have wanted more horror in the story. The eerie feel is great and kept up throughout - not an easy task for anyone, but the author managed this feat. But maybe I have read too many horror books so I am rather desensitised about it. There is a hint of romance in the story too, but it does't detract from the main story, otherwise it might have been an irritating side-show. Honestly? If I have ghosts in the house and / or demons in my head, the last thing I want is romance. I'd probably end up taking an axe to the head of she whoever would take a fancy to me.

I will certainly be reading book two, and of course I would like to read the final book in due course, so the rating of 4 is a strong one, but provisional.After the story has been read as a whole, I may come back and revise the rating upwards. 

Some great examples of the writing in this book:-

'Racked with shivers under her lightweight sleep-shirt, Allison wondered why her breath didn't frost in front of her.' 


'Going through the days, living life, because that's what time forced you to do. And somewhere in the middle of it, hanging onto a thin fragment of hope.'

I enjoyed this.

Well done, Anne Francis Scott.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Book Review: Das Vampir by Tom Reinhart


Synopsis: A short horror story from the author of Saint Monolith and Hegemonian, Das Vampir is an exciting tale with a different perspective on vampires. It's a dark and old school monster story; more akin to Bram Stoker or Nosferatu than the glitzy vampires so common today. It's told from two perspectives: The vampire's, with the loneliness of being undead, the fear of the sun, the hiding in nasty places, the uncontrollable need to feed on the living; and that of the victims, as they fall to a bloodthirsty predator. 
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For I have become evil, and I have become death, and I fear only the light of day." 

Review: Das Vampir is a welcome throwback to the true essence of the vampire. The author pays a generous homage to Bram Stoker, and you can see in his writing a real authority in understanding the vampire's true nature. 

The immortal existence is not played out for laughs, indeed Tom Reinhart makes us understand that it is not necessarily cool to be a vampire, and the story is all the better for it. The story is short but packs no less a punch of a full novel. I would have liked a little bit more character development of the non-vampire characters, but then again, the author makes no apology (nor should he) for the reason as to why they are there in the first place.

They merely serve the purpose of being fodder for this most evil creature. 

With this author's take on vampire lore, do not expect sparkles or seduction. It feeds, it kills, it yearns to, needs to do it all over again. In this respect, the character development is bang on. 

Mr Reinhart's vampire is a winner because it is a truly terrifying entity. And now onto the sequel!

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Book Review: The Luck of the Weissensteiners (Three Nations Trilogy, Book One) by Christoph Fischer


Synopsis: In the sleepy town of Bratislava in 1933 a romantic girl falls for a bookseller from Berlin. Greta Weissensteiner, daughter of a Jewish weaver, slowly settles in with the Winkelmeier clan just as the developments in Germany start to make waves in Europe. The political climate in the multifaceted cultural jigsaw puzzle of disintegrating Czechoslovakia becomes more complex and affects relations between the couple and the families.

The story follows their lot through the war with its predictable and also its unexpected turns and events and the equally hard times after.

Review: I like fiction books that can go outside of their basic remit to be a page turner, to excite and to thrill. In the case of Christoph Fischer's epic series, I can honestly say I was informed and educated also. The Luck of the Weissensteiners is a truly epic historical work of fiction. When you are going through the early pages, the author goes to great lengths to explain the historical accuracies, but also where it is based on pure storytelling.

Following the lives of the family, the stand-out characters for me are Greta and Wilma. As they make their journey from hell to safer parts of Europe, it is like we go on that journey with them. I was literally exhausted reading this book, but in a good way.

Not everything about the book is perfect, the pace is a little too slow at times, but when it picks up, boy does it. This is a tale that rewards the patient reader.

Having said that, the pace is fitting for the narrative. This is a long tale,indeed, a long journey. The group go through hell and I was stomach churned by some of the descriptions. If you are a little queasy about such things, get over it, because I think this marks out average story telling from great story telling.

I did not read this book quickly. Even with other demands on my time, it was quite something to finish this book. But the author has put his all into this, you can tell he is passionate about the story. I have tried in this review to talk about my feelings about the book, not so much the story itself, because this has been covered in the many good reviews already placed here.

I heartily recommend this book. Get a drink, a place by a warm fire, and get lost in this tale.