Book Review: ‘Sorceress of the Sapphire Part 1’ by S.E. Turner

This book tells two stories: the first, a quest to restore justice and balance,  and the second, a thread that draws together the strands of narrative from the first five books in the series. Together, these stories become a complete, complex high fantasy tale of the battle between good and evil for control of the Kingdom of Durundal.

It is not necessary to have read the previous books in the series in order to fully enjoy this one, although they are  all well worth reading.

While some of the characters  from the preceding books in the series continue in this one,  the central characters are of the next generation,  adding a sense of freshness at the same time as achieving very effective continuity in the series as a whole.

Reminiscences from some of the older characters provide part of the backstory, but they are not sufficient to deliver any major spoilers forecasters who might want to revisit previous instalments in the series.  This is evidence of how cleverly the author has crafted and woven an intricate story full of adventure, danger, and deep, powerful magic.

Book Review: ‘13 Ways to Midnight Book Three’ by Rue Volley

When I started book three of Rue Volley’s ‘13 Ways To Midnight’, I was in no way expecting the reality shift that this book delivered. 

While Echo struggles with her perceptions and choices, the reader shares her sense that something is not quite right. As the truth unfolds, the reader realises just how cleverly this story is designed and crafted. Even so, nothing prepares the reader for the body slam of the ending. 

Yet another great instalment in this spellbinding series. 

The Mansfield Trilogy

Lona Manning’s historical romance novel ‘A Contrary Wind’ is an excellent variation on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, and now stands as the first book in The Mansfield Trilogy. 

‘A Contrary Wind’ is not new to this blog: the book was awarded a Gold Acorn review in January 2019, and won a silver award in the annual Golden Squirrel Awards in the same year. 

That a second and third book have been written to follow and further develop Fanny’s story will delight all who have read the first instalment in the series.

This is a series that even devoted fans of Jane Austen will enjoy for its consistency with the language and style of Austen, even though the story does divert from that of Mansfield Park and follow its own original path. 

What other reviewers have said about ‘A Contrary Wind’:

“…Excellent.. it’s a novel which certainly deserves a place on the bookshelves of a Jane Austen fan.” — Jane Austen Centre, Bath

“Manning …. emulates Austen’s writing style so well that she often seamlessly incorporates exact passages from the original into her narrative…. Many try to emulate Austen; not all succeed. Here, Manning triumphs.” BlueInk Review Starred Review

“Highly recommend it. Extremely well written, extremely clever, the way she incorporated details from the original Mansfield Park.” — First Impressions podcast

“Brava to Lona Manning for her thoughtful twists and skillful execution in this variation. This story was in no way predictable and it kept me guessing almost until the end!….   – Meredith Esparza, Austenesque Reviews

“A Contrary Wind is well-written, keeping close to the style of Austen. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it. I never lost interest and enjoyed the occasional comic relief.”  — Historical Novel Society

Audiobook Review: The Gold Dragon Caper. A Damien Dickens Mystery by Phyllis Entis

‘The Gold Dragon Caper’ is a the fourth of the Damien Dickens mystery  novel/audiobook series. 

The story is complex and full of intriguing twists, and progresses at a pace that keeps the reader hooked without feeling rushed.  A number of the characters from previous books in the series return in this story, giving a pleasing sense of continuity and connection for those who have read or listened to them, but there are also enough new characters to keep things fresh and interesting. 

The book does stand alone for readers who have not read the previous installments, but will deliver spoilers for anyone who might want to read the earlier books. 

The narration by Tom Lennon is very easy to listen to, and very much suits the detective noir style and tone of the story.

Book Review: ’13 Ways to Midnight’ Book 2 by Rue Volley

In this sequel to ‘13Ways To Midnight’, Echo’s story continues as she tries to realign her priorities and build her life in Port Royal. 

Readers will find Echo to be realistically flawed and conflicted, but also admirable in the way she seeks to maintain her personal ethics and integrity. She is a character who challenges readers to consider right from wrong, and to understand that ones actions, even the ones considered to be minor, can have unexpected consequences that still need to be reconciled. 

The story is original and unpredictable, keeping the reader guessing and building a sense of anticipation. The story is very appealing for Young Adult readers, with sufficient complexity and interest to engage wider audiences, too.

’13 Ways to Midnight’ is proving to be an excellent series. 

Book Review: ‘Miss Mabel’s School For Girls’ by Katie Cross

It is a rare thing to find a series of books for Young Adult readers  that ticks all your favourite boxes: mystery and magic underscored with macabre and gothic elements, strong female characters, quirky twists, and themes and ideas that are universally compelling and interesting for teen and adult readers alike.

Just as it exists in the world-famous Harry Potter series, it exists in The Network Series by Katie Cross. This first book in The Network Series delivers a well-paced, expertly constructed story that ticks all of those boxes and more. 

Make no mistake, though: This is no mere imitation. ‘Miss Mabel’s School For Girls’ is original and unique, and the story is thoroughly engaging. The book ends with sufficient resolution to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion while dangling enough magical carrots to leave the reader wanting to just keep reading. 

The writing is excellent, creating an environment and atmosphere that is vivid and almost tangible, and propelling the reader into a story full of mystery, suspense and foreboding. 

Readers of all ages will find this book hard to put down, and should expect to be left wanting more. Thankfully, there is an entire nine book series, and another fantasy series featuring dragons by the same author, to look forward to. 

Author Spotlight: Ted Halstead

Ted Halstead is the author of The Russian Agents thriller series. His latest release is the third book in the series, titled The End of America’s War in Afghanistan.  

He served twenty-five years in the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer, most of it overseas, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service after his second tour at US Embassy Riyadh. His tours included four years at US Embassy Seoul, and two years at the East Asia Pacific Bureau in DC. He is a National War College graduate, and served for three years at a regional US military headquarters.

While there is continuity of some characters through the series, each of the books is a standalone novel. it is not necessary to read any one book before reading the others. The books are all set in different countries at different times, and each book’s story ends with a satisfying resolution.

What inspired you to write?  

Throughout my career in the US Foreign Service, I had experiences that I shared with my fellow officers. From my very first tour, I was told I should write a book about them.  Security classification and privacy concerns have made writing a nonfiction account impossible. However, I have worked many of those experiences into my novels.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?  

That’s a very hard question. I will always have a special place in my heart for my first book, which took me almost seven years to write. I poured a lot of myself into The Second Korean War, drawing on the four years I served at the US Embassy in Seoul. That was also true for my second book, The Saudi-Iranian War. I drew on two tours at US Embassy Riyadh for that book, spaced twenty years apart. My third book, The End of America’s War in Afghanistan, has some of my favorite supporting characters. Sadly, many don’t survive.  If I must choose one, I have to say The Second Korean War.

What’s your favourite thing that someone else has written?  

Wasp, by Eric Frank Russell. I read it when I was starting high school, and it made a great impression on me. Published in 1957, it was incredibly far ahead of its time. I genuinely envy anyone who hasn’t read it yet!What are you working on writing now?  The End of Russia’s War in Ukraine. Check out my blog, accessible through my Amazon Author Page, for the first couple of pages.

Do you have a favourite food or drink that helps you write?  

Coffee, of course!

Who designs your book covers?  

Ivan Zanchetta, for all three of my books. Just Google his name to find his site. Highly recommended!

What’s your favourite kind of music?  

At the moment, 1970s R&B. Check out the soundtrack for the movie Shaft and see if you agree with me that Isaac Hayes really did deserve his Grammy. Especially for the block of songs following Cafe Regio’s. Or try the song Natural Man by Lou Rawls, and see if you’re as amazed as I am that it came out in 1971.

What’s the best vacation you’ve had?  

Hawaii, during my tour in Seoul. After the pollution of early 1990s Seoul, it was such a pleasure to breathe clean air!

What is your pet hate? Have you ever built it into a character or used it in your writing?  

Bureaucracy. I hated it all 25 years I was part of one of the largest on Earth, and did my best to make it bearable for every member of the public we served. You will see this in all my books in many ways.

What movie can you watch over and over again?  

The Incredibles. First, it’s one of those rare movies I can safely enjoy watching with my granddaughter. Plus, there are so many sly references to old Bond and superhero movies it takes repeated viewings to find them all!

What would you like people to know about being an Indie author?  

I started self-publishing on many sites, including Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Google Books, Apple etc. But I ended up dropping the others because I decided to try making my first book available through Kindle Unlimited, which required me to do Amazon only. I was honestly shocked by how many people read both that book and the others since through KU – literally millions of pages! That actually means more to me than book sales. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s bought a book and either never read it, or just read a few pages before losing interest. As someone who puts a lot of himself into his books, it’s very gratifying to see that people are really reading them!

Thanks for being here and sharing with us today, Tom! 

Thanks for having me!

Ted’s books are all available in Kindle, paperback and audiobook formats.  They are also available through Kindle Unlimited.

Book Review: ‘Angels of Perdition’ Chaos of Souls Book 2′ by R. M. Garino

It is during times of significant trial that one experiences growth and development far beyond that achieved by luxury or effort. 

Themes of endurance and resilience and the survival of the fittest are  explored in depth in this sequel to ‘Gates of Golorath’. (link) ‘Angels of Perdition’ is a saga focused on Arielle and Angus, characters from the previous book who begin a new phase of their lives in this next instalment in the series. The cast of characters and the incredibly complex world established in the first book are continued in the second, but because they are already familiar to the reader, it feels as much like a reunion as it does a continuation. The banter and interactions between various characters are highly engaging and draws the reader deeper into the story as the action and drama build. 

The story is really well told and  expertly paced. The writing is infused with energy and rich imagery that really makes the scenes and characters come to life in the reader’s mind. The action scenes are well developed with excellent attention to detail. 

This is a captivating and quite inspiring read that holds definite appeal to readers of epic fantasy, particularly those who want to discover sophisticated worlds and complex societies with a rich history and a future to fight for.

Book of the Week: Source of Power: The Complete Trilogy by Tony Lindblom

The Source of Power trilogy is a fast-paced Space Opera with elements of Epic Fantasy, following both heroes and villains through a universe where the line between magic and technology is blurred.

The planet Entori

In the Free Kingdoms on the planet Entori, the royals are desperate to defend themselves and their kingdoms against the aggressive Taran Empire. The Free Kingdoms would not stand a chance if the Tarans would launch a full attack, unless they can find the legendary city of Anzoria, which is said to contain a weapon of immense power.

Milky Way galaxy

In the milky way galaxy, the ruthless corporation Aterion Industries and their plans for domination are only held back by the Intergalactic Trade Council. The council was formed as an alliance between multiple governments and authorities to keep companies like Aterion Industries from gaining too much power, and they have succeeded at keeping them in check for some time. But when a previously unknown alien race starts attacking the human worlds; Aterion might be the only ones with a military power strong enough to counter the alien threat.

The books in the trilogy are also available individually.

The trilogy’s homepage features some excellent concept art and additional background information to the series.

Note: Because the series does include some sensitive content, the Source of Power trilogy is intended for new adult and adult audiences.

Read a review on Amazon or Goodreads.

Book Review: ‘Cookies and Scream’ by CeeCee James

Find your copy here.

‘Cookies and Scream’ is the second book in the Baker Street Cozy Mysteries Series by  CeeCee James, which features amateur sleuth Georgie Tanner, her Aunt Cecelia and the fictional historical town of Gainesville, Virginia. 

A visit to a local historical re-enactment places Georgie at the heart of a murder mystery that has many roots in both local history and her own past. What ensues is an intriguing and often dangerous chain of events that nudge Georgie closer to the truth. 

The story is well-written and the mystery is challenging and interesting. This is shaping up to be a series I am keen to follow.