Book Review: ‘Sweet William’ by Sherrie Hansen

They say that the course of true love never runs smoothly, and that is certainly true in Lyndsie Morris’ life. 

The fourth book in Hansen’s ‘Wildflowers of Scotland’ series, ‘Sweet William’ is an excellent read in which romance is balanced by sass and snark, and happy coincidence is tempered by tragedy. That balance continues in the characters, some of whom are delightful while others are just plain nasty. 

It’s fair to say, then, that this story is quite realistic and believable in the way it reflects the best and worst of life and of human nature and challenges the reader to consider how to beat respond to challenges and trials,  and how one might seek happiness with a clear conscience at the same time. 

The story is well paced and the writing is very good indeed. 

This book, like the series to which it belongs, is highly recommended.

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. 

Book Review: ‘Ronaldo: The Flying Reindeer Academy’ by Maxine Sylvester

Ronaldo is no ordinary reindeer, as this wonderful children’s book reveals.

Ronaldo attends the Flying Reindeer Academy alongside his best friend Rudi, enjoys The Weekly Flyer comics every Saturday morning, and dreams of becoming one of Santa’s elite reindeer like his hero, Vixen Pedersen. 

This is a really fun story about friendship, encouragement and celebrating one another’s achievements. The story is infused with humour and warmth that is sure to engage and entertain young readers. The characters and events of the story are relatable, delivering positive lessons and modeling appropriate responses to typical.childhood challenges along the way. 

Delightful reading for families and for independent young readers, this book would make an excellent addition to family, school.and community libraries.

Book Review: ‘Mya’ by Missy Sheldrake

A prequel to the Keepers of the Wellsprings series, this is a story that easily stands alone as a most excellent work of fantasy fiction.  Sheldrake’s storytelling is as mesmerising as the songs of her minstrels, making this magical sword and sorcery fantasy for Young Adult and older readers a spellbinding tale that, once started, is hard to put down.

Magically and mystically gifted, Mya is a young woman like no other, Her story is one of adventure and friendship, of seeking and fulfilling her destiny, and one in which danger is always conspiring or lurking around one corner or another. She is a wonderful heroine – she is engaging and loveable, straightforward yet complex, and humble despite her abilities. Through the adventure and the challenges she faces, Mya does not only become more resilient and self-reliant, she learns to trust both her own instincts and the destiny to which she is called.  

The cast of characters surrounding Mya is varied and interesting, each one portrayed in full colour and lively detail. The story is told with rich imagery and well-paced action that moves along at a very good pace. 

Sheldrake is an author who should be much more widely read, as her books are highly original and hold enormous appeal for lovers of fantasy, adventure and coming of age stories alike. 

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: ’90 Days To Your Tribe’ by Slaven Vujic

A new companion volume to ‘Build Your Tribe on Facebook’, this is a straightforward, no-nonsense guide to developing engagement and brand loyalty on social media using principles developed by Vujic in his experience as both a marketer and  an author. 

This book develops and expands on guidelines for consistency in presentation, content creation and meaningful interactions that turn followers into fans. Once again, the author  maintains a very positive and confident focus on content and engagement as the keys to success. It highlights the need for deliberate planning and organisation of posts rather than dropping them on the fly, and for analysing an audience so that their interests and requirements are being met. 

The book is easy to read and, at about 10 000 words, easily digested and understood.  Each chapter addresses one element of strategy or development, so that a clear progression of thought and action is developed. 

’90 Days To Your Tribe’ is a valuable read for anyone in small business looking to use social media to engage with followers and customers, and is equally relevant for authors, artisans,  independent consultants, and network sellers. 

Book Review: ‘Dragon’s Rock’ Lucy Evans Instaexplorer Book 2 by Millie Slavidou

‘Dragon’s Rock is an excellent kids’ mystery novel in which Lucy visits family in Wales and stumbles upon a series of clues relating to a local mystery. 

Lucy and her cousin Bethan are delightful characters who demonstrate intelligence and integrity, and who are both creative and imaginative in their own ways. Both are engaging and positive role models for young readers. 

The story is well written, structured so that the action progresses at a good pace, keeping the reader interested as the intrigue heightens. The inclusion of attractive images of Lucy’s fictional Instagram posts gives the book a very contemporary feel that readers will find relatable and appealing.

It is an ideal book for independent middle grade readers or for family reading, ‘Dragon’s Rock’ would make an excellent addition to family, school, and local library collections. 

Book Review: ‘The Grimoire Prophecies’ by K.A. Denver

‘The Grimoire Prophecies’ is a YA paranormal romance story featuring Sophie Seymour, a high school senior who makes a likeable and engaging main character. 

While some of Sophie’s challenges are specific to her own situation, others are highly relatable for most teens. As Sophie begins to discover that there is a lot more to the world around her than meets the eye, she is confronted by choices and decisions that she must make, regardless of how ill-equipped she feels to do so.

In the midst of her trying to reconcile the past and the present, Sophie’s senior school year is made far more interesting than anticipated by the arrival of a mysterious pair of twins. Readers with siblings will easily relate to the tension between Joshua and Ethan, which adds another layer of intrigue and complexity to the story.  

As the story develops, the author infuses the narrative with a tantalising blend of anticipation and curiosity that draws the reader in and hooks them in the story, causing them to invest in Sophie’s dilemmas and develop hopes for her future and wellbeing.

The writing is good and the story is well paced. The end of the book leaves the reader keen for the next instalment in the series, and for answers to the questions that remain unresolved thus far. 

This is a book with lots of appeal for readers of YA paranormal romance. 

Book Review: ‘Shy Violet’ by Sherrie Hansen

The third instalment in Hansen’s ‘Wildflowers of Scotland’ series, this book is a wonderful light romance read.

Infused with good humour and populated by diverse and interesting characters, it is a tale full of twists and turns and surprises that keep the reader engaged and guessing.

The narrative moves at a good pace, sweeping the reader along with Violet as she faces her challenges and her fears, albeit not always as wisely as one might hope. 

Not only is ‘Shy Violet’ enormously entertaining, it also reminds the reader of the importance of honesty, the value of friendship, and the life-changing power of forgiveness.

This book, like the series to which it belongs, is highly recommended.

Audiobook Review: ‘The Bone Witch’ by Rin Chupeco

In ‘The Bone Witch’, there are two narratives which seem at first to be separate, but eventually reveal themselves to be interwoven to create a vast, rich tapestry of storytelling that binds the listener in its magic. 

This magical dark fantasy is a spellbinding story in which fate and magic balance one another as Tea discovers her destiny and learns to use her powers and make important choices wisely. 

The narrators tell the story fluently and engagingly, with clear diction and good expression. Both are pleasant to listen to, and the two complement each other as effectively as their stories do. 

’The Bone Witch’ is a brilliant fantasy coming of age story, whether enjoyed as a novel or an audiobook.