Sunday, 31 May 2015

Book Review: Persona by Ceri Bladen

Persona (The Professional Series, #1)

Synopsis: (from the Author): Actor, Daniel Spittle is confident, arrogant and a womaniser… Well, that is what the public see. Only family and Eric, his friend, are allowed to see past this public persona. 

Journalist, Ella Hender is confident and slightly aloof… A professional mask that she uses to hide her feelings of inadequacy. With her personal life in a mess, she struggles with her growing feelings for Daniel. 

When they are forced together through work, the attraction is instant, but fraught with complications. But, there is someone else who is hiding their real personality behind a persona. And this person has the ability to destroy….

Review:  Persona could be viewed as a light read for a Sunday afternoon, and in many ways, it's easy to see why. The story centres around Daniel, who is a model, an actor, a celebrity - and the object of many a woman's affections. Not all of these affections are well meaning, and as the story develops, some of these ladies mean to hurt Daniel and the one he really cares for, namely Ella.

The story bounces around gently for the first few chapters. If you don't stick with it, you'll miss a surprising and very welcome change about a third into the book, where things take a rather sinister and nasty turn. You kind of expect one person to upset the nice future Daniel and Ella appear to have for themselves, only for something completely unexpected to happen.

From there until the end, the story turns from light romance to a rather taut and smart thriller. The kind of I would have seen Ashley Judd in one of the roles.

Persona is made great because of a key thing - the STORY. The characters in the early stages didn't add quite enough to it for me, but as the story grew, my interest in one character - Eric - grew too - for me, he was the best in the entire story.

The amount of newspaper column inches, magazines, not to mention the internet coverage of certain 'celebs' is a bore for me. Daniel is a 'celeb' of sorts and the rather slippery yet exotic Scarlett does add a lot of weight to this tale. In the end, Persona is worth reading because the author has once again shown her talent for holding the reader's attention. It's arguably better than her other notable work - Isca. But having read both, I suggest you do too.

Highly enjoyable, and definitely recommended.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Cover Reveal: The Ghost of Normandy Road (Haunted Minds Book One)


Three Legends. One True Horror.

An old house stands on Normandy Road, uncared for and uninhabited for years, until one day, believing an urban legend that no-one dares to live there, a young boy decides to cross its threshold.

Yet the house is far from empty - within its walls, a terrible evil has been disturbed. 

It will take one brave soul three of the longest nights of his life to unlock its secrets, but will he live to tell the tale?


Although told as a work of fiction, this tale really is based on a true story.

Wait. True story, you say?

Yes. Well. Sort of. You see, there really is a Normandy Road, and there is a red-brick house that stands on its own there too. When I was a kid, it was a bit run down, so I could go into the house, even though I wasn't supposed to. The house certainly had something eerie about it. I only wish I could have shown you what it looked like back then. It has since been done up. It looks like this now.

On the upstairs landing, there was a room and I dared to enter it. There was a wardrobe in one of the rooms, and one of the double doors was ajar. I didn't look into it, the first time I went inside, but I was braver the second time.

What was inside? A bloody corpse. A skeleton. The carcasses of a family piled on top of each other.

No. Nothing so dramatic as that. But there was something odd. The wardrobe had lots of clothes in them - and the'll have to forgive me, but it was a long time ago and I really have think hard to work out the details. The wardrobe had clothes in it. That's all - but they were maybe from the 1950s and 1960s, and when you think I first went into the place in the early to mid 1980s...that means the house was probably empty for all that time.

I never had the 'GET OUT' moment that happens in 'Amityville' but there definitely was a presence there. But there's no more to the story....except that I believe I saw the ghost of a girl in the window. My imagination has always been vivid...but not that good! 

So yes, I would say the place was definitely haunted. I wonder do the current inhabitants know?  

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Book Review: Oxford Marmalade by Lesley Hayes


Synopsis: From the author - Oxford: A place where liaisons are made and hearts are broken. There's Dinah and her second husband Piers, happily married for 15 years, or are they? Then there's Dinah's son Kit, involved with Poppy, whose husband only realizes he loves her when it's too late...

Review: After reading a number of longish stories, it was nice to get back to a short story style, and in the case of Oxford Marmalade, we have several short stories to sample on.

From the cover, it's virtually impossible to tell what is contained within its pages, but from page one, we can understand the author's extremely creative approach to writing. The beauty of this book is that it's possible to read one story, feel you have completed something and understood it, before going about your usual routine. 

However, in many cases the stories are linked through the characters and it is here that I think Oxford Marmalade elevates itself from a potential nice and okay set of stories, to something far greater.

There are eight tales in all, good value for a short collection of stories, and predictably opens up with the title story. Focussing on a rather strange marriage (not that there are many normal marriages!) where husband and wife have grown apart after fifteen years together, instead of strengthening the bond that living together, winning and losing battles together, looking out for each other, should duly involve.

Piers is a man with certain standards, likes things 'just so' and his wife Dinah needs to go along with it. Not that Piers is a control freak - he just appears like someone best not to mess with his order of the universe.

He seems the polar opposite of Dinah's first husband, an American she was with for seven glorious and wild years. Seven wild years that produced one son, called Kit.

The marriage with oh-so-British Piers seems to have become a bit too sedate for Dinah. He would begin by saying things like (paraphrased) 'pass the marmalade, old thing...'

Truly, I can see where Dinah's coming from. I may be older than some people, but certainly younger than others. Once Piers refers to his wife like this, he's saying 'Oh, you're comfortable for me...I can say things like this to you and they really are terms of endearment. You're not really an old thing. Now pass me my super special marmalade.'

How about drowning Saville Row suit-wearing Piers in the stuff?

His snobbish ways are the opposite of Kit's slow drawled father. Perhaps Dinah was missing him, and we are perhaps all guilty on occasion of thinking of our former loves, no matter how well our current relationship is going.

Dinah's problem with Piers, if it could be confined to just one, was that he was a throwback to another time, perhaps one that exists in his mind only.  He would be pleasant without being exciting, promoting a facade of decency rather than being true to himself.

That said, I could understand Piers' revulsion when Dinah would speak with ex-husband Hubbard. It seemed that time - or the predictable marriage in which she now found herself had tempered her feelings somewhat. During phone conversations, the Dinah that Piers expected her to be was rather different with her ex.

The battle that became a war of two losers, ultimately became resolved by time and other factors. Could I see Piers and Dinah - post THIS marriage, acting in this way? I'm not sure I could.

There's all sorts of fascinating angles at play here. Normally, marriage stories would be a no-no for me. Coronation Street, EastEnders and so on are a permanent non-fixture in my home, because there is only so many times you can recycle a story. You know where it's going before it has ended. There is no surprise, no wonder, one dimensional characters that you basically would not care to have living anywhere near you.

Kit is a reminder of what Dinah once had, and Piers naturally has a rocky relationship with him because of it. 

Through later stories, we understand Kit's seething hatred for Piers, but 'good old chap' Piers doesn't bite the bait, even in one of my favourite scenes in the entire book. 

So why should you read this book? Well, Oxford Marmalade is a collection of stories that are cleverly written, often with a prose that made me feel a lot more educated as a result. Sometimes I read books and feel like I have lost brain cells in the battle to care about the characters the author created to light up the page.

Oxford Marmalade has an impressive cast of characters that all have their own motivations. The reveals are something you will see coming, or you won't. That's the author's power - Miss Hayes gives you a set of believable circumstances  (especially in the collection's second tale, Under the Circumstances), that makes you believe everything is other words, just so.

It's hard for me to categorise this book. Suffice to say, this is a different, engaging, brilliantly written tale (or tales, but you will see the link between them all) of people at different stages of their lives. Different stages, wants, desires, ambitions, and needs.

Some of the lines, depending on where you are in your life, really do hit home with amazing clarity. It's so great when an author can do this, but as I said, her ability is obvious from page one.

"You don't like Americans on've never forgiven them because one got to screw my mother before you, and turned her into a package deal that included me."

"The beast with two backs." (I've kept that very short...if you know what it means, great...if not, you really do need to read this collection!).

"He turned from prince to frog and croaked his slimy way back through the forest into the bloodied heart of the dying sunset."

Poetic, written with authority, and always engaging, Oxford Marmalade should not just be on your to-read list, it should be on your to-read-TODAY- list.


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Book Review: Darkly Wood by Max Power

Darkly Wood
"The Wicked Witch of the West was the bad one." Heather Donahue

"Then we should go West." Michael Williams.

- The Blair Witch Project, 1999

Having been on my read list since February, through creating works of my own I have read a number of books in that time. Darkly Wood, by author Max Power, has affected me more than most, and even though I have finished it today, I think I will be thinking about this book for a long, long time.

Darkly Wood has a run time of almost 400 pages, and each page contains magic, mystery, and a dark compelling tale that, like the film I quoted at the top of this review, has no gratuitous scenes and just a few violent segments that are purely in context.

When I was a young kid, I read stories by Ruth Manning-Sanders. She collected many stories, often from the Baltic European states, placing them in book collections like Ghost and Goblins, Witches and Wizards, and so on. Each story was compelling, different, and utterly unforgettable. I still have those books, and many more by Ruth Manning-Sanders, more than 30 years on.

Having completed the book, I scanned through some of the other reviews, and mentions are made to Edgar Allan Poe, and I can understand the comparison.

When the heroine of the story, the plucky and able Daisy May first happens across a book by J S Toner, The Tales of Darkly Wood, and she begins to read the stories contained within, every segment focusses on a single character, and over the next few pages, we are introduced to the character's story, motivations, and back story. Then, as they typically do, their life literally unravels before our eyes. Then the chapter has ended, and we are back with Daisy, who, against her better judgement, seems unable to stay from visiting the Darkly Wood of the title.

I recently read 'Forsaken', a clever story within a story about a writer, and a witch that he would have appeared to have created, now inexplicably able to attack his family in the real world. I never thought, on reading Darkly Wood, that this clever story within a story ultimately brings us, along with Daisy May, to the awful terror that resides within Darkly Wood.

We've all heard those tales. And it was never so expertly summed up than by one uncredited man in The Blair Witch Project when he said "Damn fool kids'll never listen."

Only Daisy May doesn't seek confrontation with the beast. But in line with the boy she cares about, there seems to be only one way to unravel its dark secrets - and enter the cursed place.

The author is from Ireland and the Emerald Isle is famous for its scary places. Indeed, the best horror writers are from Ireland in my view - Bram Stoker, and Sheridan le Fanu to name but two.

In Darkly Wood, each chapter creates a dream like state that really makes you think. I really don't know how the author has created this work - it is a hugely ambitious tale that is woven absolutely superbly.

I was utterly engrossed in the tale, but had to leave it after a few chapters to try and absorb them. On their own, each could have been expanded into a story on their own.

The characters, once introduced, are not ones you will forget. The names are clever - unusual - but very clever, and I could not disagree more with one review that said this story used flowery language. I have read many books that were heading for a strong three or four star rating (or better) only to spoil it with pretentious fluffy words that just killed what could have been a great story.

This story has NONE of that. It's perhaps too clever for anyone who wants blood and guts, endless sex scenes, and a story without a soul. What a soul this book has!

This story is without peer for me. I loved it, absolutely loved it. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Author Q&A With Simon E Bond

Author Simon E. Bond has recently been added to my read list, having penned the excellent 5 Day Festival. He is in Indie Author, and like many out there, needs help from you - the readers, the bloggers and yes....other authors to get the word out there.

This is a brief insight into Simon. His contact links are below!

Thank you to Simon for taking time to answer the questions!

Tell us why did you start writing? 

I was made redundant last November from my old job i heard a lot about indie authors and decided to give it a go for myself, also writing helps me escape from the real world.

Where do you get your ideas from?

Any idea that happens to pop into my head, i quickly note them down so i don't forget them.

5 Day Festival

Your vampire book, 5 Day Festival pays homage to the likes of The Lost Boys, and perhaps 28 Days Later too. But where did the original concept for the story come from? 

I was sat watching Glastonbury on the TV one day and thought it would be a great idea to mix horror with a huge social gathering, and from that i just went with the idea deciding a short story would probably work best at the time. 

What was the first vampire / horror themed book that you read?

Hmmm, Bram stoker's Dracula i think.

What was the first vampire / horror themed film that you saw?

Lost Boys of course.

Best horror villain – and why!

Micheal Myers from Halloween, still freaks me out to this day, amazing what horrors are hidden behind a mask.

What is your all time favourite book, and why?

1984 George Orwell because of it's scary vision of society's future, i will stop there.
Have you read books where the plot was great but the character development was poor, and vice versa? Was it enough for you to finish the book (s)?

I have not arrived at such a scenario just yet, what i have read so far both elements seemed to work just right together.

What is the most disappointing book you have read?

I don't think i have read anything of disappointment, each book has felt like a good adventure in it's own way.


Tell us about the difficulties you had in order to get published.

None at the moment.

What is your favourite book of the ones you have written?

It has to be Credit Rush my first book in a science fiction space opera series, i plan to release 3 books in total followed by numerous back stories for each of the characters.

What was the first book you ever read?

Now that is a difficult one.

E-Readers are very popular now. What was the first book you read on your e-reader?

First book i read on my amazon fire was Dracula, and Phone Monkey "The Secret Diary of a frustrated Call Worker"

Which authors inspire you to read?

Stephen King, and all indie authors.
Which authors inspire you to write? 

All indie authors, but i am a fan of Micheal Robertson he pulls no punches with his books.

Have you read a book that really surprised you, in that it looked okay, but turned out to be much better?

Yes, Killing the dead by Richard Murray it tells the story of a serial killer who is surrounded by the undead.  I thought it would be your average zombie read i gave it a go and was very surprised.  The concept of a serial killer and the undead worked a treat and it felt refreshingly different.

What is your favourite book series and why?

The Crash Series, by Author Micheal Robinson.

Who is your favourite heroine?

Supergirl, she looks good in a cape.

Who is your favourite hero?

Han Solo.
Do you think there are many original stories out there, or is everyone re-hashing The Hunger Games and Twilight to death?

There are a lot of original stories out there, but i do find there is a lot of re-hashing of zombie stories fight for survival, huddled together, food is running low for survivors etc.

What keeps you motivated to keep writing?

My children, and my sanity.

What is the best debut novel you have read?

The best one, let me think well it has to be Crash by Micheal Robinson, although not a debut as such it was the first Indie book i really took a shine to. 
What kind of research do you do for your books?

Mainly on the internet, but i write fiction so not that much is needed.
How long does it take you to do a first draft?

If my mind is on the ball usually around 3 months or so, that is without any distractions.

What is the best thing about writing for you?

It gives me a great sense that i have achieved something, and always brings a smile on my face when the end product is all done and dusted.

And the worst thing?

Writers block grrrr

Do you have a minimum number of books to read each year? 

No number, just read as many as i can time permitted.

How do you find time to read?

It's hard with the children, mostly when i get a spare minute or when the children are in bed.

What's your favourite book cover?

I really like Ready player one by Ernest Cline, the most original cover i have seen so far.
Do you have any special editions of books, for example, a very old, one of a kind book that may be now out of print?

No, which is a shame.

E-Readers or Printed Books. What's your preference?

Both to be honest.

Now a difficult question! What is your favourite inspirational quote?

John Lennon  "Life is what happens when your busy making other plans."

Other things now. 
Favourite film? Star Wars
Favourite food? Indian
Favourite author? Indie wise, Micheal Robinson
The one book you would have on your own desert island? Treasure Island
Favourite location? Iceland (i have never been by the way, but it looks amazing there.)
Favourite actor? Christian Bale
Favourite actress? Kate Winslet
Favourite drink? Beer
What's the best thing about being you? Being a Father to 5 children
And the worst thing? 

Rubbish at DIY
Thank you Simon!

Twitter @writingstation7
Facebook (include separate author page if you have one)
Blog page -  Simon has no blog yet

Comprehensive list of books, including forthcoming ones
A Weekend At Stanley's
5 Day Festival
Credit Rush Outpost Krone

Upcoming books
Lorna (A Krone Series Short)

Monday, 18 May 2015

Three Tales of Vampires: Cover Reveal and Book News!


This is not a new book, but a collection of the first three books in my vampire series. It contains three stories:-

  • Murderous Little Darlings
  • The Blood and the Raven
  • Innocent While She Sleeps
I've created this version for some of you who like collection type stories and it works out cheaper to buy this collection than all three books separately. But sometimes I will do a deal on the books via Amazon KDP. This collection, however, is not part of that, because I would like to promote it on other platforms like iBooks and

This is the Amazon page for the book

You can add it on GoodReads here

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Book Review: Betrayal by Sharon Brownlie

Synopsis (from the author):-

Helen King’s childhood was marred by physical abuse and rejection. At the age of fourteen she finds herself in the clutches of a pimp in Gloucester. He lures her into a life of drugs and prostitution. She uses her drug addiction as a way to blank out the memories and it enables her to hide the psychological scarring caused by those that she felt had abandoned her. 

Her life was spiralling out of control. Helen’s decision to quit her addiction comes at a time when she has a chance encounter with an old school teacher. This opens up old wounds that had remained hidden and festering deep within her. It also leads to her decision that it is time for payback for all those that she felt had betrayed her. Helen, bitter and twisted, heads to Edinburgh to begin her killing spree. 
When the first body is found the police are mystified. When a second body turns up they quickly realise that it is the same killer. They face a race against time to find the connection and the killer. 

As the title suggests, there is going to be some events happening where eventually, payback has to happen, either through karma - if you believe in that sort of thing, or through the main characters actions.

Sometimes, I like to read books because at the most basic level, if well written, they can be enjoyable and entertaining. Stories with a dark theme are fine if they are in a fantasy setting.

Betrayal is a hard book to review because it's generally opposite to what I read - it is very hard hitting account of a woman who has been abused by all and everyone around her. Oh, I know the passer by wouldn't necessarily know of her problems, and Helen - our anti-heroine, of sorts, is not someone I immediately warmed to.

That's fine, because your main character should have flaws. If he or she is perfect, how can you root for them.

But Helen was largely unlikeable in the early chapters, and yet, underneath the story I could see that the premise would be amazing if executed correctly.

Here's where author Sharon Brownlie scores very high indeed, and perhaps it is typical of many books. Some start out like a rat out of a trap, and fizzle out after 30 or so pages. Others take there time to grab you. There's a general convention that if a book hasn't hooked you by 50 pages, it's probably not going to. I am fair to all books I read, so I extend this to a 100. 

With this book, I really wasn't sure. But it nagged at me for a few days, whilst I finished reviews on others. One afternoon, I read it again from the start, and did not stop until I had finished.

This book has stayed with me for several days after, and as I try to process this review, I'm still trying to make sense of what I've read!

The story is set in Gloucester which is not too far away from where I live, thirty miles or so. These days, the county of Gloucestershire boast beautiful scenery, a stunning cathedral, terrific centre with more shops and restaurants than you can shake a stick at.

However, this story is 1980s Gloucester, ravaged by a poor economic outlook, houses that were crumbling, and a people, like Helen in the story, who appeared to have just given up on life.

But you know what you're in for from the very first line:-

"The man slapped Helen hard across the face and grabbed her by the hair, and threw her onto the bed."

Over the next few paragraphs, we are exposed to such brutal scenes that if this were a film, one would have to look away from the screen, and cover their ears for good measure.

Trying to describe this as hard hitting doesn't really scratch the surface. 

Helen had run away from a care home in Gloucester, and her life unravels into prostitution and drugs, drugs and prostitution - a life she cannot seemingly escape.

When the loathsome Addie finds her and quickly indoctrinates her into 'the life', she is initially resistant. Yes, she is dependent on drugs, but does not want to be a prostitute.

Throughout different points in the book, Helen points the finger of blame at many people. It wasn't clear to me if she hated her father more for abusing her, or for those around him that did nothing.

Here's a disclosure of mine - I am a martial arts teacher and (and having gained their trust) for several years taught a group of women who were survivors of domestic abuse. I heard from them stories that I could not believe were real - in the sense that another human could do this to another human. Even now, when I think about it, I can't believe there were any circumstances that justified what happened to these girls.

Of course, this happens to males too. Abuse has no gender, does it?

So Betrayal is no Disney story, and is a very hard read.

Why then should you read Betrayal?

Well, once the story gets going - I mean, once the nasty acts pass and the character motivations become clearer, the story changed from a dark tale of abuse to a taut, gritty thriller that I could not put down.

This is a story you have to take a chance on. It's hard, brutal, unflinching in its descriptive detail. The dialogue changes from stilted in parts to fully understanding what is going on. I blamed part of how Helen talked, on the drugs themselves. But I think she was an extremely frightened young woman who basically life had trampled on from the start.

I rooted for her but not in the way I expected.

The ending is satisfying and yet, still has me thinking some days on!

I know 'must-read' is a well worn phrase, but do give this book a try. It is an examination of the human condition, and a damning report on what humans are actually capable of doing to each other.

A brilliant book that will make you think. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Book Review: 5 Day Festival by Simon E Bond

5 Day Festival
In summary: A thoroughly enjoyable vampire novel that doesn't trade shocks for length.

5 Day Festival, a vampire novella by Simon E Bond, is a story that centres around a group of youngsters at a rock festival. Now I've been to Glastonbury, Knebworth and other places. My concerns were things like 'What if the M5 is shut' or 'will we even be able to see anything from where we stand?' You know...things like that.

This horror story has made me rethink my next trip to Glastonbury! Vampires on the prowl and music do not make for a good mix, unless you are the vampires in question.

What makes 5 Day Festival work so well is its very strong narrative. Some of the dialogue has swearing in it - perhaps understandably given the context, but after a while I felt it took away from the undeniably strong storyline which I totally enjoyed.

The ending with Vernard is satisfyingly brutal, but in a good way.

As the patrons start to end up dead - or undead, our core group of characters have survival on their minds, but surviving the fanged ones won't be easy, and to be fair, I didn't know if they would. Novellas tend to spring surprises and 5 Day Festival was choc full of them.

I also enjoyed the fact that this is set in England and I would read more stories of this ilk from the author.

"Vampires - we have to get out of here," he replied

"How many drugs have you been taking today? Too many, by the sound of it," said Doug.

Oh Doug, you really do need to look up from your bowl of sushi sometimes! Vampires on stage...surveying how many people they could kill, is a scene that is terrifyingly executed.

Simon E Bond is an author to watch. His other work, Weekend At Stanley's looks suitably clever and smacks of Inside No9 / The League of Gentlemen for its wicked macabre yet comic delivery.


Friday, 8 May 2015

Book Cover Reveal: Reunion of the Blood - A Tale of Vampires Book Five

The Tale of Vampires series was always meant to be a seven-book chronicle of vampire lore. Over the course of the four books that have already been released, I have attempted to focus on different elements of what vampires really are. 

Of course, they are fictional, and I feel you do have to separate the books from the films. 1992's Bram Stoker's Dracula, by Francis Ford Coppola was subtitled Lover Never Dies. I thought it was an excellent film, and rather clever of the director to make the story more of a romance. The original book is far different, but this film version works well. At no point was I scared of the movie, but it has a majesty about it that has let it hold up its elegance as time has passed.

In 1995 we were treated to Neil Jordan's Interview With The Vampire. I was of Anne Rice's mind, that Tom Cruise -a good actor in his own right, could not have the menace and presence of Lestat.

How wrong I was, and happily so. Cruise was a fantastic Lestat who was never over the top, and it is a regret that he never reprised the role. He said 'I would not do sequels unless it would stretch the character' and yet he has made five films with his Ethan Hunt character.

I grew up watching many British Hammer Horror films, and from Dracula (1972) to other films like Twins of Evil, The Vampire Lovers and more, I have drawn much inspiration for my tales.

However, the modern day incarnation, though interesting, was not something I wanted to do with my series. Twilight - the story of a girl who falls for a vampire, and his battles to not make her like him, was interesting, but devoid of real horror for me.

I have enjoyed writing this series, and with three books to go, I hope to have brought vampires back to the way I believe they should be. But to quote one review from the second book, The Blood and the Raven:-

Quite right too - I don't intend for this to be a romance. I hope if you pick up the series, you will enjoy it.

Thank you to Merril for being the first to reveal this on her fantastic blog:- The Original Cover reveal on Read Watch and Think

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Book Review: The Institute (The Institute, 1) by Kayla Howarth

Synopisis: by the Author

Allira Daniels will do anything to keep her family safe from the Institute. They claim to protect the Defectives, but really the Defectives are trapped and segregated.

Allira's brother Shilah is not dangerous like everyone assumes all Defectives are. He just sees things before they happen, and Allira knows that if anyone finds out, they will turn on the entire Daniels family. So they live by one simple rule: be invisible. They try to blend in at school, try not to draw unnecessary attention to themselves. But when Allira witnesses a car accident that critically injures two of her classmates, her family’s rule and her dad’s warnings are tossed aside.

Allira is quick to discover that saving Drew’s life could just be the best and worst thing she’s ever done.

My Review:

"You always fear what you don't understand."

- Carmine Falcone, Batman Begins.

Any dystopian tale is immediately going to be compared the The Hunger Games and the Divergent series.

There are immediate and noticeable parallels with these two giants of YA fiction, but also new and interesting layers that the author has weaved into her story.

A new novelist can have a great idea in their head, but it needs fleshing out on paper and on screen, and for those of us who have written books, we can fully understand where she is coming from.

The book has a rather slow start but there are signs even in the early stages, that this was going to be a great book. And so it came to pass.

Our heroine, Allira invites us inside her head as The Institute is told from first person. That's never as easy as one would think, it relies upon the reader getting alongside the main character, and understanding her motivations.

Through a freakish accident Allira discovers she is Defective, which in her case means she will take part, unwilling, in a game of will she or won't she be killed.

The Defectives, for there are more than one appear at different points throughout the story. It's important to stick with the story, especially in the early chapters, to see where it's going to take you. Bear in mind the Council of Elrond scene in Lord of the Rings (the book) is far too long and over descriptive. The reader is all for vivid descriptions but it would be nice for the reader to work them out too.

Fortunately, when The Institute finds its feet, Allira is no longer focussed on some girlish trivia - she actually starts to learn what it is to be Defective. The story takes glee in kicking us in the gut several times, and at this point, we're hooked!

Kayla Howarth's description of the world in which this story takes place is the real star. It's not bleak by accident or design, it is a realistic, gritty story that soon becomes unputdownable, fully realising its early promise.

I didn't immediately warm to Allira, but as the story progresses and some real humdingers of a reveal happen in the story's closing stages, I began to cheer for her. Comparisons to Katniss or Tris are inevitable but I feel we would be doing the author's creation a disservice by saying 'take Allira out, put Katniss in, we've got the same story here.'

I would argue that Miss Howarth has created an even better story here - this is book one in the series so there is more to come. Whilst I loved The Hunger Games, it was clear book one was THE book in the series.

When The Institute ends, it's clear that there is more story to come that will tease, entice and enthrall. There is a peek into book two which I decided not to read, because I'm already invested in this series and want to read it in its entirety.

From my own personal perspective, I loved the training sequences where Allira is learning to fight:-

"I'm so distracted by Chad and Ebbodeine that I get hit in the face by my sparring partner numerous times.......I manage to get a few good jabs in when they tell us class is over. Damn it, I was just getting warmed up."

Loved that. In my own experience, the bell goes just when I'm getting warmed up for a fight! 

Another line I loved:-

"You don't know how far you've come until you're taken back, back to a time of complete innocence."

Gosh, doesn't something like that make you think? It's not some twee, pretentious line to throw away. I found myself breaking from reading the story just to take some of that in. That's the author's skill, and her power - she makes you think whilst you are reading!

The last third is a heady mix of thrills and revelations. As for the ending, I could not have wished for better. Once the story gets going, it sweeps you along with it.

I would be very surprised if this story didn't be the next dystopian tale to hit the big screen. Before you all feel washed out by Mockingjay Part 2 to come, along with the next Divergent film, give this story a chance. Those who do can say? "Oh, all this hullaboloo about The Institute series? We read it FIRST."

My thanks to the author for introducing me to this amazing book. There is a Kayla in one of my books too, and whilst I think it's one of the most awesome names in the world, this is my critique of the book, not the author.

This is a terrific tale that deserves to be on your read list. get it so you can read it now, and tell all your friends. They'll be glad you did.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Book Review: On the Run - The Moriya Chronicles Book One by I-Lanaa Twine

Synopis (from the author)

Isn’t it amazing how in a mere split second, the very essence of who you are can change forever? That in just an instant your entire life can be ripped to shreds? 

One night, three years ago, my mother was torn from us. Gone, without a trace. And just like that, nothing was ever the same.

Thrust into a world of darkness and danger, my father and I were forced to flee a past that haunted us and the beasts that hunted us.

As the black walls of despair closed all around me, I felt eternally lost... 

Until I found him. And he helped me find myself. 

Derrick Harris was a beacon of the purest light, guiding me straight into the warmth of his heart.

But sometimes the past has a way of finding you. Lies have a way of catching up to you. And secrets never seem to stay secret for very long.

Now all that I hold dear is at stake, and I must fight to survive, or my entire world will crumble before my eyes. 

I am on the run…

I love any book that starts with an extended prologue. It tells us, without showing us too much - where the story might go. On The Run completely changed my view of prologues - truly it revealed itself to be far deeper than I thought. I ended up re-reading the prologue several times!

When the story begins in earnest we are introduced to Delilah Simpson (super-cool name alert!) and she is being left to school by her father. Clearly there's a lot of growing pains to go through and the author expertly takes us through them from Delilah's point of view.

Even in these early stages, there are hints of the author's wonderful use of words:-

"And while most girls my age were discovering how to embrace who they truly were, I was learning how to mask it."

Each chapter could have been subtitled Secret 1....Secret 2 and so on, because each chapter almost runs like a story on its own reveal bits of the story majestically.

The father-daughter relationship is realistically portrayed and I liked the interplay between the two. The author doesn't shy away from hard hitting scenes between them, and this is to be welcomed. It gives the story extra spice, because if these two cannot work together, what hope for anyone else Delilah runs into?

The subplot of will they / won't they find her mother drives the story, whilst other riveting plot-lines develop.

On the Run is a tremendous achievement, because over its considerable length, I kept on reading. Our story centres around Jade, who is left uncertain of her future when her mother disappears from her life. Her father Keith is a great character. Through his wisecracks and hard father-daughter talk, it's clear he has a heart of gold and will stop at nothing to find Jade's mother.

As someone who knows what it is like to write a long, multi-layered story, and join all the dots together, I felt a special empathy for the author's work. The point-of-view changes are something that readers should enjoy experiencing. Why make it super easy as a read? Surely you want a book that challenges you so you, as the reader, will become actively involved in the story.

The story gets trickier in its complexity when Jade is introduced, so you really do need to pay attention to the plot as it develops. You cannot skip a single page for fear of losing teh thread of the narration, which, whilst easy to read, has a level of complexity all of its own. Readers should welcome this - there's nothing to fear about this style of storytelling, and actually, it is very refreshing to me! On the Run has a stylish swagger about it that I loved. As the story developed, it just got better and better, and during the second half in particular, I thought 'we have a winner here, ladies and gentlemen'.

Like any great fantasy, it has a bit of everything in it - mystery, paranormal, romance, action and much more.

The romantic angle is well done without being angsty. The Interplay between our heroine and Devon / Damion / Derrick...or as he is so called in one first and memorable exchange 'Whatever' I did chuckle.

However, I wanted to see where the story was ultimately going to take me and it is the second half of the book that is truly a treasure and a pleasure to read. By now we are introduced to vampires - which made my ears prick up and my fangs develop. I love vampires - stories well done that is and even when this is kicking off, Miss Twine drops in great lines, such as:-

"Desdemona....was also in a high position of power in the undead aristocracy. Kinda like vampire royalty. The Princess Diana of the underworld."

In summary, this is one of the best fantasies I have read in while, perhaps as good as Lisa Tawgren's Rivers of Time series.

But I think there's more to it. Connect all the dreamlike sequences together and you will enjoy the book just as much as I did.

Final note - look at the cover. The story backs it up too, so get this today.

Book Review: The League of Protectors - Fire and Ice by Christian Green


In a word (a hyphenated word, actually) - action-packed.

This is a fun, fast and packed to bursting with action novella that the punches, kicks and super hero type abilities burst from its pages. Christian Green, a talented author who gives us this novella, the first in what should be a fun and intriguing series, creates a fun tale, but look deeper and you'll see a more complex narrative.

The plot centres around Shayne Tucker and Jackson Prescott, one who has an ice ability - so he can freeze assailants, whilst the other can create a fireball from nothing in his hands, and use it to devastating effect.

In the story's rather blistering start, I found myself a little confused between the two main characters, save for a brief description of their differences rather than their similarities, but as it is a novella, it is a nitpick, nothing more.

As the story develops, the differences become more clearer and it's here where the author comes into his own.

The duo are Post-Humans, and whilst special on the Earth they are somewhat a target to other groups. So whilst they feature as part of G.U.A.R.D there is a rogue faction that probably wouldn't mind recruiting their services to help the rebel cause, but of course, Shayne and Jackson are good guys, so they want no part of it.

The final third of the story is super frenetic, and I was gulping down tea with almost every paragraph. 

I've read stories like this where there was so much going on, it was hard to keep track. Fortunately the author gets the balance just right, leaving much scope for the next in the series.

Lines I liked:

"But I am who I am, and I refuse to let society dictate my happiness."

"Hey, I like to keep it one hundred." 

And there are many more. It's a fun story that won't fail to hook you, reel you in, and excite you on every single page.

Highly recommended.