Thursday 19 February 2015

Book Review: Karnage (The Phoenix Ashes, Book One) by AJ Leigh


4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 

Karnage is the second fantasy book I have read this month, and I have to say that from page one, I could hear voices (not a good sign!) saying 'You don't know what you're getting into.'

That's the beauty of great fantasy writing. I want to get lost in a new, different and thrilling.

Book One of the Phoenix Ashes Trilogy, Karnage, is a beautifully detailed world with a myriad of characters that at times, threaten to overwhelm the reader.

However, this being a trilogy, it would not work with a handful of characters.

What the author has done - brilliantly in my opinion, is give her characters tremendous abilities that within the confines of her world, are believable and well constructed.

The author has gone to great lengths to make us understand what the different characters charms and abilities are. Her way of describing things is way above many fantasy writers, and I can only see this growing in the next two books.

There's lot's of fun and thrills along the way, but there is one absolutely gobsmacking moment, about five or so chapters before the end, that makes this tale so captivating.

Lucas, who is main character no2, is one of those Marmite type characters - you'll either cheer for him, or want him to fall down a very long flight of stairs.

The drama is balanced well with the humour. Lines such as the ones below made me smile:-

The next day, Professor Lyle worked us hard to build our stamina. I would make sure to thank him when I was being chased by a stampede of animals, but right now it was not what I needed.

The ending is pretty much perfect. I know there is to be a second book, but you'll close the page and think 'hmm, I feel good about this.'

AJ Leigh - very talented author. I look forward to the next in the series!

Sunday 15 February 2015

Book Review: Venus Lionheart - The Witch and the God

With every adventure, comes a great risk, otherwise it wouldn't be an adventure. Let's find someone who knows a little about that:-  

 For 12 year old Venus Lionheart, things are pretty normal at first. She's at school, has geeky friends like Sebastian and Eric, and's fine, until she finds herself in Freaksville, Shropshire (well no, it's

 Helmsmere, Shropshire)  

 Fortunately, our Vee is not without help, and she soon finds herself on a mission (yep - a mission, not a quest, I think that implies she might just fail!) and has friends like Galahad (I kid you not) and a really special guy whose name begins with M (but I can't tell you who it is because it will give all the choc-covered treats away in one go but I can say it is not M from the 007 movies).

With this band crew of hardened warriors (and not so hardened, in some cases) Ophelia traverses time, visits stones before they became a tourist attraction (yeah, Wiltshire Council, all your bus tours and spoken guides are way less interesting than the Stones themselves, okay?) But let's not forget that Venus has some powers of her own. And they don't go down too well with a man who may or may not be a man of the cloth...

Overall, Venus Lionheart's first adventure won't be her last. This is a fun and thrill packed debut novel, which will have you chuckling at one moment and cheering at others. In the best tradition of my all-time favourite children's novel, Rebecca's World, this book can hold it's head high. The reason why debut novels are enjoyable is because the author can write not knowing what the world will think of their book. Write fearlessly, and you never know what you'll be capable of. I think you'll be hearing a LOT more about Dino Costi in the not so distant future.

Friday 13 February 2015

Cover Front and Back Reveal: Innocent While She Sleeps (A Tale of Vampires, #3)

For those of you who read Murderous Little Darlings, or The Blood and the Raven (hopefully both) here is the cover for the paperback version of Innocent While She Sleeps.

Let me know what you think - the book is officially out on March 1st 2015. You can pre-order on Amazon here and add to your GoodReads to-read-list here

Thursday 12 February 2015

Book Review: Crazy on You by James Duncan, J Kahele


If you hear a book described as a taut, tough sexy thriller, you could maybe think of a million books and films that have been described this way, but rarely - if ever - deliver.

Crazy on You is a co-authored work by J Kahele of the stupendous Mine series, as well as the superb Facade. James Duncan is a UK based author.

Both styles come together to work in devastating fashion. James writes from the London base, making his character Archie Pope real, cocky, and likeable. Isabella is created from the Italian-American side, and it would be easy to say that Miss Kahele wrote all her lines.

The thing is, this co-authored book is so masterfully put together, the two writers may have well have been sitting side by side as they wrote.

I really wasn't sure if I would like Archie, he of The Pope Crew, a rather unsavoury set of London gangsters, who made me think of Dexter Fletcher in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. That film absolutely rocked, but things in this story pick up when the Crew jet off to New York to negotiate a deal with the brutal head of the Commatra family.

Sounds like Goodfellas and Casino rolled into one, right? I love both of those films, and this story put me back amongst those wiseguys. What perhaps is not so wise is Archie falling - big time - for Isabella - our New York crime bosses daughter.

It's clear these two have a link, and it sets in motion a chain of events that could destroy both crews, and tangle their lives into a loop that cannot be unravelled. 

I'm not from Lahn-donn, but from Birmingham. We speak a bit differently here, although I don't really have a Brummie accent. Imagine if Toril from my Dark Winter series is told 'Toril bab, mind where yams putting that wand, yamorite love?'

That said, I was totally at home with the Cockney slang, and it's a fun part of the book to read. Perhaps where the book is at its strongest is in the writing of the Pope crew, who constantly 'take the mick' out of one another, whilst respecting each other (to a certain degree).

They arrive in the US, absolutely cock-sure of themselves. In US gangster films like GF and Casino, there is always that worry about upsetting another crew. 

Not the Popes. They are nasty, brutal, and cool with it.

The 'hot' scenes, as ever from the author of Mine and Facade, are tastefully done and you get the real love Archie and Isabella have for one another. 

Some may view the fact that Archie pretty much falls for Isabella the first moment he sees her as not for real - I can honestly say that some women can have that affect on men, and it's often more than just a lustful feeling.

From the start, Crazy on You has a different feel. Just how can one categorise this story? It's a gangster tale, a sexy romance, a suspenseful thriller (literally each page could have had someone blown away) and a comedy.

Some of the lines were truly laugh out loud:-

"He's got more front than Brighton."

"If Al Pacino and Joe Pesci had taken a leak or two, hundreds of lives would have been saved."

You should read the book for more!

So take a bow, Mr Duncan and Miss Kahele. I'm Crazy on this book!

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Book Review: The Accidental Duchess by Madeline Hunter


It's been a while since I read a historical romance. Some may even wonder why I do read this genre, given I tend to write horror. Well, dear friends, sometimes we need  a break from what we write, and read something that is relaxing, fun and whimsical.

Now that may sound boring and trite, but the figures don't lie - sales of romance books are through the roof!

Madeline Hunter is a best selling author and this was my first read of hers. I have to say I started it in 2014, so actually this has been a slow read for me. I cannot blame the book entirely, as I have been writing and editing works of my own, as well as reading other books from other genres.

So where does The Accidental Duchess stack up?

First thing to know is that is it NOT first in its series, and maybe that's where I encountered a problem. It does seem like there were things going on that, had I read the first three books in the Fairbourne Quartet, I would know more what is going on here.

The basic story is that our heroine, the Lady Lydia Alfreton is blackmailed by a rather odious man. It's over the contents of a story she wrote when she was a young girl, and the rather horrid Duke of Penthurst is going to make her worry to the end of her days - unless of course, she agrees to his terms of a wager. Naturally, they are weighted in his favour, and Lydia, though a confident young woman who believes she will beat him, has her arm twisted several times during the story.

You can't help but feel for her.

Having said that, I found the terms of the wager ridiculous. It seems far too high a price for Lydia to pay. Even the threat of it coming to pass was rather scary for me. If I were in her position, I would run, and keep running.

However, inkeeping with the genre, there has to be some resolution with the heroine and hero. I use the term 'hero' loosely, as the men in these stories are sometimes super alpha males, or just arrogant so-and-so's that I seriously want to punch.

Fortunately, Lydia is feisty, brave, and daring. She also does some things that make me think I am glad not to be pursuing her. I think the story suffers in the middle, but picks up brilliantly before the end.

This won't be my last MH book. I already have another I am over due to read. But I'll be switching genres again for my next read. 

Overall, I think this would get a higher rating from me if I read the other books in the series. But Madeline Hunter structures her story well, draws her characters and makes them breathe for the reader. She seems to create engaging plots, and it is not hard to see why she is the successful writer she is.


Tuesday 3 February 2015

Book Review: Predator or Prey by J New


Have you ever listened to those late night radio serials? You know the ones...they last for an hour, half an hour, or sometimes, just fifteen minutes.

Often it is the shortest serials that have the biggest shocks. InPredator or Prey (a brilliant title, I have to say), author J. New introduces us to a dark and macabre world.

What is so remarkable is that I believe the author must be aStephen King fan - as are many of us - but she has that rare thing, as he does - the art of turning something normal, into something abnormal, unsettling, and very very disturbing.

Predator or Prey is a collection of wicked and purposely short tales that literally will have you scared to read the last few sentences. It is as if the author enjoys spinning us a story, only to bludgeon us to bits (in a good way!) at each stories conclusion.

There are ten tales in all, and for me, the stand out ones wereApp For Life, (Wo) Man's Best Friend, and A Blessing in Disguise?

I admit to have felt rather disturbed and unclean after reading some of these tales - that is the power of a truly great author.

Keep an eye or two on this talented author. J New is going to be around for a long while, scaring the hell out of us!

If you want a collection of spine-chilling tales, look no further. Predator or Prey is IT.

Monday 2 February 2015

Book Review: The Recession Groom by Vani


The Recession Groom by Vani is the first book I have ever read that focussed exclusively on a prominent male Indian character. I felt I learned a lot about Indian culture and also about the arranged weddings that take place.

As a teenager, I had many Indian friends at school. After we left school, some of us stayed in touch, and one friend told me he was getting married soon.

When I asked him where he and his wife-to-be would be living, he said simply 'Oh, the same house.'

In English culture, we want to move out as soon as we can, often with devastating consequences! I managed to stay out and remained independent once I had left home. My siblings had to return.

But having read this book, I love the culture it introduced me to.

I have to admit approaching this book wondering if I would really like it. I can happily say it is a truly great book and wonderful debut novel.

It mirrored some of the aspects of my own experiences in the IT world.
Parshuraman Joshi is 27 when we first meet him. He is an IT Professional, lives in Canada, and earns good money doing what he does. For my part, I was 26 when I started working for an IT company, and 35 when 'let go' due to the recession.

It still affects me to this day, to the point that I never wanted to return to work in IT again. So even reading a work of fiction I felt might be quite traumatising for me!

Fortunately, the writing is far from dry, unlike many IT and marketing projects (though the mention of the words 'Project Infinite' had me running for cover!) that some consider sexy - (ugh!'ll never convince me of that!)

I really thought it would be about Parshuraman and his wife-to-be, but within a few pages we are introduced to Jennifer, who is a fun character but not really wife material.

Even funnier are the calls Parshuraman receives in the middle of the night from potential father in laws. I can imagine my reaction would be the same as his if I was pushed in this manner.

Things get very interesting when Parshuraman ends up in India to head up the IT project, and has Jennifer along for the ride.

By far the best character is Nani, Parshuraman's grandmother - who has a wit and tenacity with the best of these older generation characters. It makes me want to cherish those around me all the more before we leave this world. 

There was nothing pretentious about the writing. The story flows effortlessly and characters are well drawn. It's easy to say some characters are predictable, like the rather bossy sister - but we've all had one of those in our lives!

Overall this is a must read for anyone interested in Indian culture, marriage, Canada, or IT! 

It was much better than I thought it was going to be, so I applaud this author for drawing us so easily into her world.

Bravo to Vani!