Thursday 31 December 2015

Book Review: Mysterious Templar by Adriana Girolami


Synopsis: Dark forces and violence enters the European court of the Duke of Nemours in the year of our Lord 1480. The only hope remains in the hands of the Duke's daughter Polyxena—a stunning beauty, coveted by many men. 
As the princess bride, she arrives at the castle of the Duke of Lorengard-Lorraine only to find her arranged marriage has been foiled. Duke Arsinio has been murdered 
in a coup d'état and she is a virtual prisoner of an evil tyrant. A mysterious knight appears to challenge the power of the tyrant and bring hope to the people. The face of this enigmatic warrior is covered by a red mask and the cross on his chest defines him as a Knight Templar. 
Will Polyxena achieve freedom and find the love of her life? Is the identity of the Mysterious Templar discovered? 
Find out only in the first novel of the Templar Trilogy…MYSTERIOUS TEMPLAR

Review: Think back to the golden age of cinema. Rip-roaring historical blockbusters that combined action with a heart. Were Adriana Girolami's epic Mysterious Templar to make it to the big screen, I would expect some director and screen writer of weight and talent to bring this rich novel to a mass audience.

That said, the author's descriptive narrative and wonderful characters set this story above many 'adventure / quest' stories that go nowhere. In full disclosure, I must state that I read the original Revenge of the Knights Templar and approached this, wondering would it be more of the same.

If anything, this is the better, far more polished work (not that the other edition wasn't, it is just that time has passed) and the inclusion of the second story - a generous chapter to give you insight into where the tale is going, means that this edition is well worth your time and effort.

Never once dry, laced with humour, and always readable, one can only wait impatiently for the soon to be released sequel.

Wonderful story, perfect medieval romance. Loved it. 

Below is my review of the original story, Revenge of the Knights Templar

A tale of swords and superstitions, of passion and deception, of political machinations and posturing, Revenge of the Knights Templar is an exceptional debut novel by talented author Adriana Girolami.

This story has been on my to read list for most of 2014. Now, that I have finally completed reading it, I can say that the wait was worth it.

The ability of an author to transport the reader to a different time and place, and do it convincingly, is a task that perhaps only the most seasoned of authors would attempt. So it makes this story all the more remarkable that it sets itself up brilliantly, with the kind of prose I wish I could use in my writing.

After the initial few chapters, where most if not all of the main characters are introduced, the pace picks up and doesn't let go. In fact, I had to stop myself from finishing the novel too quickly.

It is a thoroughly entertaining and thrilling read, set in the 1480s where, as always, who ever wields power can do so with a silken rose or an iron fist.

Our heroine, Polyxena, is destined to become a duchess, but not in the way she envisaged. Her love, the Duke Arsenio is brutally cast aside in a battle of wills and swords, seeing the repugnant Duke of Saxe-Hanover seizing power, with Polyxena, seemingly hapless to play anything but the dutiful wife.

Things can't go on like this forever, and with the tyrant becoming ever more tyrannical (as they do!) the evil Duke begins to make mistakes...the biggest of which seem his superstitions. The fate of one cat in the story was a pivotal moment for me.

Polyxena, as befits a great heroine, is anything but a housemaid and often voices her displeasure at the Duke's actions - especially with his joy at the arrangement of so many executions of his enemies. Polyxena, understandably, is horrified. One of the condemned is her new love, Duccio.

The story has a great premise, but actually backs this up with superb execution. The characters are believeable, you feel hatred for the evil Duke, love and hope for the beautiful and intelligent Polyxena. I even found my distaste of Flavia coming around to better thoughts later on. Such is this beautifully woven tale.

The cover, though stunning, should not hide the fact that the sword fights are realistic in their description, and Miss Girolami places you as if you wielded the sword yourself! I was truly swept into the action of this story, which I will say is as well written as any part of the Lord of the Rings.

The story has a great premise, but actually backs this up with superb execution.

The author's wordcraft is exciting and perfectly describes each scene. The characters are superbly drawn, and the detail of her vision leaves nothing to chance. You, dear reader, are transported to 1480s Europe, and can do nothing about it!

This story is a historical epic, a romance, a thriller, a mystery and is full of great lines, written beautifully and without any hint of pretence.

It's not without humour, with great lines such as:

"The erotic spectacle stimulated the drunken crowd, who quickly joined the royal pair in a sexually driven bacchanal. An orgiastic took over the room while everybody rubbed and caressed anything that wasn't theirs."

And stark, great authoritarian lines such as:-

"A river of blood will cleanse you of audacity!"


"It's easy to learn cruelty when you live with evil."

Truly, I can't wait to read this book again. It's been by far one of my favourite reads of 2014, and one can only wait for Miss Girolami's next book. As for Revenge of the Knights Templar, I thoroughly recommend you read it. Now.

Wednesday 30 December 2015

Book Review: Eve of Tomorrow (Dawn of Rebellion, #3) by Michelle Lynn


Synopsis: The British are coming.

Eve of Tomorrow brings to a conclusion the story of Gabby and Dawn, two English sisters thrust into the forefront of rebellion in the new world. Set in a distant future laid waste by change and conflict, Gabby and Dawn discover their parents among the Americans and pledge to fight alongside their countrymen seeking safety and freedom.

The Republic of Texas has been defeated, but its doomsday weaponhas fallen into the wrong hands. At first, warriors by circumstance, but now warriors by choice, Gabby and Dawn have a new mission: to destroy the weapon before it can destroy their future.

Review: Now let's get something out there. For me, dystopian novels meant George Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four. There probably won't be a better novel released in that genre in my lifetime (or ever), and I was as surprised as anyone when I picked up a YA dystopian novel a few years ago, starring someone from District 12....

So with Michelle Lynn's series, it would be easy to be dismissive, to say 'this is a fluffy YA dystopian, no-one will care what happens.' Not true. And with each book, the story has evolved into something else entirely. Each book has had its own distinct theme, cleverly intertwining the key characters into those events.

The chapter focus where each character 'talks' is interesting and I never once felt lost, even with so much happening.

However, as it is the third and final book in the series, things need to be wrapped up. I wasn't expecting half the things that happened, to happen. The cover gives you the feeling this is for YA - but there is some truly jarring stuff in here, quite violent in parts that churned my stomach (and I write horror!)

Put simply, this is the best YA dystopian series I have started and finished since THG (you know what I am on about). It's not fair to compare it to that behemoth, merely saying that the Dawn of Rebellion series is truly remarkable storytelling and stands on its own.

As mentioned in my earlier reviews, Dawn and Gabby, the sisters, are not exactly two sides of the same coin. They have their own ideas and ways about things. Each character is well drawn, secondary characters like Lee, Drew and Shay play magnificent supporting roles.

I haven't read three books by a new author this quickly in years.

I just like the author's writing style, coupled with her engaging, thrilling storytelling. Give this a try, maybe you will too.

Monday 28 December 2015

Book Review: Beyond the Law by Tom Benson


Synopsis: In January 1996, Phil McKenzie leads his Special Air Service team on a secret mission into Kentobi, Africa. An assassin codenamed ‘Chameleon’ kills the Kentobi president, but it is Phil who is framed for murder. 

To appease the authorities he agrees to a brief secondment with the Metropolitan Police and then discharge from the Army. During his attachment to the 'Met', he sees how the hands of the authorities are tied. It reminds him that the teenager who murdered his parents in 1977 was never caught to face justice. 

Phil returns to his hometown in July 1996 as Hawk, a vigilante. The term ‘deniable ops’, finds new meaning as Phil tackles Glasgow’s underworld with his small and unique team. 

Review: Crime thrillers are ten a penny these days so finding a good one may take a while. With Beyond the Law, author Tom Benson has created quite the crime caper, and with the sequel recently released, it's likely to win the author a new generation of fans.

The story is slickly presented, stylish to a fault, and places you side by side with our 'hero' Phil McKenzie, also known as Hawk, as the former Special Ops soldier (who doesn't seem to have left the life behind) takes on the vicious underworld of Glasgow.

Now this city is a tough place to be, I know it quite well, and it was a joy to read some of the real places that are mentioned in the story. Realism is the order of the day here, and yet some readers may be surprised how this gritty thriller, a kind of Taggart on acid (1980s children will know what I mean) has a heart at its core, meaning that it is not just a thriller for the boys, as I believe women will enjoy it too.

There is a myriad of characters in the story, with Kirsten and Rachel amongst my favourites. All are fleshed out, detailed, and you care about them. This elegant writing style is evident in the author's other short stories, and it was a pleasure to delve into a much longer tale. Beyond the Law is a long book but never feels like that. 

It's an enjoyable, pulsating ride that is simply one of the best thrillers I have read in years.

Sunday 27 December 2015

Book Review: Hidden Truths by J Kahele (Violet Chain, #2)


Synopsis: Violet and Chain are trying to build a loving and trusting relationship, but life has a few more obstacles to throw at them. 
Violet wants to know more about Chain's rocky past with his father, whilst Chain is more interested in getting Violet to commit to their relationship in a more permanent way: marriage.
To complicate matters, Chain's past holds a secret that could tear them apart forever, and he will do whatever it takes to keep the secret hidden.

Review: "I don't care what it costs." - Chain Alexander, Hidden Truths

In the context of his statement, and the scene in which it takes place, our MC Chain Alexander is a man that I believe many men would like to be like. Powerful, rich, good looking, great taste in women...he would appear to have it all.

He is a confident man who knows what he wants. In book one he comes across a little bullish and possesses the kind of self belief that would make people shrink in his presence. 

What was clear that this high flyer has fallen completely for our other MC, Violet, and it's a roller coaster ride as the book reaches its close. 

I think the series has to been viewed in the context that book one is really part one, so I was more excited at the prospect of a second book in the series rather than think the ending of #1 left me hanging. It did - but in a good way. There is nothing wrong with that.

The revelations about Chain unravel in a paced and measured way, ensuring we are gripped until the very end of the tale. 

I would suggest that author Miss Kahele knows what her fans want, and she delivers here in spades.

I still find Violet a likeable, enjoyable character. She doesn't play hapless waif to Chain - she is a strong character, a woman that also knows what she wants.

The mature scenes are exactly that - from the opening pages Hidden Truths is brutal but utterly realistic.

Let's see where book three takes us!

Sunday 6 December 2015

Book Review: Day of Reckoning by Michelle Lynn (Dawn of Rebellion, #2)

Synopsis: Nothing is as it seems in the colonies. 
Sisters Gabby and Dawn have escaped British Floridaland and now find themselves under the "protection" of the Republic of Texas. 

But their supposed freedom and safety is a sham- trading one prison for another as they discover the secrets of those who supposedly rescued them. 

Sam is dead. But the fates of Drew, Jeremy, and Lee are unknown. 

Together, the sisters uncover the many truths and lies of this new world around them. 

Sides must be chosen. Bonds must be broken. Alliances forged... And the war begins.

Review: In Michelle Lynn's Dawn of Rebellion, we are introduced to a world where the rules, were we subject to them, would horrify us. Seemingly innocent actions take on a whole new meaning in this dystopian series and as I've now completed book two, I understand book one even more.

Day of Reckoning is far better than the original story. Everyone is in their own groove and the story moves along at a hell of a pace.

Before I knew it I was reaching the story's close, and yet again, what a cliffhanger.

Some readers won't like that. But the truth is, there is a full detailed story in each volume. The ending demands that you read the sequel. There are no filler chapters.

I'm a 'Brit' but I don't tend to use the specific profanity that is in this book, but it's a small gripe as the dialogue on the whole is gripping and engaging. 

Dawn and Gabby are sisters, but they have their own view about things. I root for one, only to be disappointed if she does something I didn't want her to do, or I am not feeling empathetic to the other sister, and then she does something that surprises me.

This is simply a must read dystopian series. I say that having been awash with a lot of YA dystopians that just did not cut it for me.

The ending links up extremely well with the opening pages of book one, so it is clear the author has a handle on her characters. She does not introduce anyone only to have them killed off for shock value. Everyone has their place and it is a more enjoyable read as a result.

There are different covers for these books. Don't dismiss them as part of just another YA story. The series has some really dark elements which are portrayed to a high and believable standard.

This is simply a must read dystopian series.

The real proof was how much I thought about this book even after I read it. Scenes kept coming back to me, even when I was reading something else! That's powerful writing that resonates.

I'm going to enjoy the final story now. I would bet you'll see it through to the end too.

Book Review: Danger at Thatcham Hall by Frances Evesham


Synopsis: Ambitious lawyer Nelson Roberts, embittered by war, jilted by his fiancée, and trusting no one, aims to make his name solving the mysterious thefts and violence at Thatcham Hall, a country house in Victorian England. 

Olivia Martin, headstrong and talented, will stop at nothing to overcome the conventions of the day, avoid a miserable fate as a governess and fulfill dreams of a musical future. 

The pair stumble on a body. Is the farmhand’s death a simple accident, or something more sinister? Who attacked the livestock at the Hall and why are the villagers so reluctant to talk? Can Nelson and Olivia overcome their differences and join forces to unravel the web of evil that imperils the Hall? 

Review: If An Independent Woman was an enjoyable debut, Danger at Thatcham Hall is the former's much improved sibling, with great character development and real sense of mystery and danger that elevated the book into something that Agatha Christie might have been proud of.

High praise, perhaps. But the setting of Victorian England can be mismanaged in some tales I have read. The author clearly knows the setting well and every little detail has been poured over, thought about, and included in the story for us to enjoy.

As a mystery (and I have a few of these coming up to read now), it works exceedingly well. The drama and suspense holds up throughout. It's the slow build up that I liked, and was the hallmark of An Independent Woman.

 "a real sense of mystery and danger that elevated the book into something that Agatha Christie might have been proud of."

Readers should probably read both in order, but if you catch this one first, it is well worth your time in reading.

If only we could go back to Victorian England. In this book, we can almost sense what that place and time was really like.


Friday 4 December 2015

Book Review: Twe12ve by Ceri Bladen


Twelve keys, one secret. 
Synopsis: Odin and his twelve sons guard the secret to prolonging human life. The secret, kept deep in a vault in Ragnorok, can only be revealed when humans stop intentionally killing one another. 
Twelve humans hold the keys to open the vault, but during centuries of complacency, Odin has lost track of the keyholders. Two keyholders now remain, and Odin awakens to their existence. 
Can Odin and his sons protect the last two keyholders, or will Floki, Odin's greatest rival, destroy everything Odin holds dear and seize control of Ragnorok?

Review: In short: Ceri Bladen hits the bullseye again.

Whilst the cover and blurb are intriguing, the fact is that the author is one who grows in stature with each book she pens. I have not read all of hers (but most of them) and each has brought something new that I enjoyed. Twe12ve is no exception, but it may be Miss Bladen's best work to date.

I try to pin down what it is I love about her writing. I suppose it is the fact that one never really knows what will jump out on the pages. This story, though complex as an idea, actually reads extremely well as a story. I am not sure how many writers could have accomplished this as well as the author has, and for that, I give her much credit.

Sci-fi isn't a must read genre for me. I much prefer to see it on the big screen, but the sci-fi elements of this story were some of the best parts of the whole book. 

The thriller featuring many detectives (and yes, admittedly a lot of characters are thrown at you for a relatively short book) have witty banter that made the dialogue and the switch to narrative an easy to read story. I'm a huge fan of coffee too, so if you want to know the in-jokes in this story, you will simply have to read it.

As a tale, it is rather exceptional.

Having read the story, it is extremely packed for its length. I just wonder what a special edition volume would look like. I felt it could have been longer. But in essence, the 'keeper' of the keys to a long term existence, master Odin, and his bid to reunite with some of the other keyholders faces a seemingly simple task, until it is complicated by uber-baddie Floki, and it's here where most of the fun and action in the book takes place.

In some ways, two stories run parallel here...the detectives who are keeping busy but largely ignorant of the bigger picture, and the drama elements with Odin and Floki. Usually novels pick up a pace towards the end, and Twe12ve is no exception.

As a tale, it is rather exceptional. Maybe I am just a fan of this author's works. I believe anyone who can work so many elements into one story and have it come out as well as it does here, can only go from strength to strength.

A special mention must be given to this Kindle version as viewed on my iPad. It looks terrific, is well presented and easy to navigate.

For fans of sci-fi, fantasy, criminal investigation

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Book Review: Beneath the Rainbow by Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Rainbow

Review: "It's those silly dreams that keep us alive." 

Dreams define us, shape us and realise our potential...they make us who we are. 

Freya won't let death stand in her way. When she dies Freya knows she needs to move on, but is caught within her mother's grief and the discovery of terminally ill Old Thomas. Finding she can affect the lives of those beyond her heaven she fights to reach her mother and wants to help Thomas realise his final dream. Meanwhile, her family finds her own list of goals and soon discovers that Thomas has a burning desire to ride a motorbike.

Freya intends to create a rainbow, the last item on her list, to reach her mother, but her pale arcs won't achieve closure. She needs scarlet like remembrance poppies then sunset orange and sunflower yellow. She makes green like her willow and blue like daddy's t-shirt. Finally conjuring indigo, the shade of deepening night and violet to match Purple Ted... 

Beneath these colours will Freya reach her mother, wait for Old Thomas and be ready to move on? 

Discover the importance of dreams and fulfilment in Freya's heart-breaking and uplifting tale of grief, hope, triumph and joy.

Review: The first thing to say about a book review is that I believe the review is more important than the rating. However, I have given Beneath the Rainbow a strong four stars because I believe this book would reward us with repeat readings, so this four could easily become a five in due course.

As for the review of this dreamlike, spellbinding book that opens with a hell of a sequence, which I won't mention here (just read it and you will be hooked), the book moves onto a possible version of the afterlife, and I have to say that in order to remain connected to the story, it is best to read it in one go.

 The author has taken time to make it a stunning experience for the reader.

The book is not that long, so you should be able to do it. What author Lisa Shambrook has done so well is give us a convincing, well detailed version of an alternate reality; a state of being that we don't understand because our days are filled with finding the pounds to pay for stuff that society says we needs.

To hell with all that!

Sometimes, an author comes along with a rare and special talent. The author has also penned further books and it will be a treat to get around to them one day.

Another thing to mention is how beautifully the whole book is presented. The author has taken time to make it a stunning experience for the reader.

Bring Beneath the Rainbow to the top of your reading list.

Book Review: Eternal Infinite by Pam Kesterson

Synopsis: Eternal Infinīte is a heroic fantasy that combines romance and adventure in a supernatural setting. This is the first book in the Infinite Series.

The secret is not living forever. It's knowing you do. Changed from better to best.

Shenser brings Saidi back from another realm while she lies in a coma. He escorts her in to a new reality after her identity is taken away and she is left for dead.

While in a coma the Infinites are gathered up from around the world and thrown into prison camps. This group of people never die because they have accessed the secret of eternal life. 

Later Saidi becomes horrified to find the Infinītes enslaved in brutality. She unleashes their exposure and the motivation of their hostile and cruel captivity. 

Vampires move over. Finally there's a book that you don't have to suck blood to live forever.

Find out more in this gripping beginning of the Infinīte Series.

Review: Eternal Infinite may well go down in history as one of the most unique books ever written. It is a story that demands time, concentration and patience, but if you stick with it, just like panning for gold, the good stuff will come through. Whilst the story is lengthy, the thing I had to contend with was exactly where I was in the story. The first third seemed to be like a dream sequence, the middle part was where the story really kicked off, before the close of the final third.

This in itself is a good thing. The author has given readers a challenging tale whose protagonist, Saidi, is by far the stand out character. I felt less connected to the others.

 I could not deny the author's unique style of story telling, and I would go as far to say that Eternal Infinite follows a similar vein.

In terms of genre, Eternal Infinite defies straight forward classification in my view. It's a fantasy, a thriller, a horror, an epic and much more. And none of you will be able to say 'there's not enough story here' because the author created quite an epic with her debut novel.

I read a book earlier in the year that won major literary prizes. The establishment loved it, but normal readers like myself, not so much. That said, I could not deny the author's unique style of story telling, and I would go as far to say that Eternal Infinite follows a similar vein.

Some books are an easy throwaway read. Others need you to pay attention. If you give this book a try, you'll find your attention rewarded.

Book Review: A Dream Come True by Rishiraj Sen

Notes: This is a debut novel by a teenage author! So many established authors and publishing house can make an obscure book a great hit through clever marketing. This book gets 4 stars from me and deserves to do well.

Review: As a work of fiction this romance is readable and well written. The style is obviously more suited to an Asian audience - my wife is Asian and so I have been used to reading many Asian scripts. I just wonder if the planned for a wider audience to read it, as in my view it is very Indian - there's nothing wrong with that as they are many great Indian authors out there and a wider readership who will appreciate this novel.

"The story has a poetic quality to it"

Anyway, the story is well told. It has a real dreamlike quality to it which I really enjoyed. The characters are well drawn too (is Arjun a popular Indian name? Seems like every Indian book I read has an Arjun in it!). The story has a poetic quality to it - if the author wrote poetry, I think he would be especially good at it.