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Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Secret of the Sword - By Sean R. Bell


The Secret of the Sword, by Sean R. Bell

Friesen Press - 2021
Illustrations by Nastassia Mkrtychan
188 pages

* I received this digital ARC courtesy of the author in exchange of an honest review. This does not influence the following opinions which are my own.

This book brings Arthurian legend into the modern day. 

As a child, Ian had a special bond with his grandfather Reg and often visited him in Montreal for extended periods of time. Many of Ian's fondest childhood memories were of time spent with Reg. Thirteen years after his grandfather's passing, Ian is still pained by the loss, and he has not returned to Montreal since his grandfather's passing. 

Now a grown man at the start of a film-making career, memories are brought to the surface in the form of a letter received on his birthday from a Montreal law firm, asking him to return to to the city by request of his late grandfather. While Ian doesn't really know what to expect, it is safe to say the what he learns was more than he could have ever imagined. He learns that his family line traces back to King Arthur - Pendragon blood runs in his veins! Not only was his grandfather a descendent of the great King, he was a key member of an ultra secret society of Merlinians whose purpose is to ensure that Morgana cannot escape her magical prison and return to the land of mortals. Of course, to keep the society secret, Ian is left not with a clear road-map, but with a series of clues which he must discern in order to find the real Excalibur and keep Morgana from victory. The result is a fantasy-adventure that bridges historical legend with today's world.

This book's strength lies in the story itself.  It is original, imaginative, and well thought out, setting this book on a good foundation. I do love a good Arthurian tale. I found the character dialogue didn't work quite as well for me.  It seemed slightly too formal for the modern day characters, and the historical characters' language did not quite suit them either. The story narration was good, but lacked a certain polish that might have elevated the story. 

This book has several illustrations that definitely deserve mention.  Nastassia Mkrtychan did a beautiful job of portraying several of the characters and scenes, and bringing life to them. 

Overall, a good author debut, and good story for fans of Arthurian fantasy.

Happy Reading,

Note: Links to this book on booksellers sites normally provided as convenience and courtesy (I am not currently using affiliate programs) are unavailable as of this writing. This is not an indication of the quality of the book, only of its status as either pending sale or unavailable by those outlets.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Backstories, by Simon Van der Velde


Backstories, by Simon Van der Velde

Smoke and Mirrors Press - 2021
General Fiction (for lack of a better category)
90 Pages

* I received this digital ARC courtesy of the author in exchange of an honest review. This does not influence the following opinions which are my own.

When I was approached by this author, and he was telling me a little about his book, he said "There’s a little bit of music, a touch of crime, plenty of mystery and bucket-loads of nostalgia…".

When an author or their rep tell me about their book, I know that they are trying to "sell" it - that is part of their job.  But when I can tell you that this is exactly what this book is like. 

Backstories is a collection of short stories. What makes this book so unique, is that the stories are the partially imagined past or "Backstories" of real world people who are either famous or infamous. Think history with a good dose of artistic license. Van der Velde has imagined the characters at a pivotal point in their lives or careers, and told that part of their stories - BUT, he never tells you outright who it is you are reading about. You take the clues, fill in the blanks and come up with the answer! This little book was so much fun to read. 

For most of these stories, I felt confident by their end, that I knew exactly who the story was about. (Don't worry, if you are unable to sleep at night wondering, the answers are available on his website, carefully tucked away and marked "spoilers"), The collection of characters is fairly eclectic, so there was one or two that I felt slightly less confident about, but there is pretty much something for everyone here. Some of the stories featured contemporary figures, while some were more historic. I could honestly see reading this book out loud with another person and making a game of each story to see who comes up with the right answer first! It would be a fun diversion on a road trip too. 

This little book was so fun to read, I hope to read other Backstories in the future!

Happy Reading,

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Master Artificer, by Justin T. Call


Master Artificer, by Justin T. Call

Silent Gods - book #2
Blackstone Publishing - May 18, 2021 
817 Pages

* I received this digital ARC courtesy of Blackstone Publishing, via NetGalley, in exchange of an honest review. This does not influence the following opinions which are my own.

In Master Artificer we continue with the exciting and epic story that began with Master of Sorrows, the first book in the Silent Gods series. If you haven't read that book yet, what are you waiting for? You can learn more about that first book by reading my review HERE 

This second installment is a beast of a book - and I mean that in the very best way. It rings in at well over 800 pages, and each of those pages has something to offer the story. 

We pick up where we left off at the end of Master of Sorrows. Chaenbalu lies in ruins, as does much of the beliefs Annev held prior to those events. Annev, and his friends forge ahead, to the city of Luqura. Annev is seeking to learn more about his magic, how to control it, and a way to remove the prosthetic that has melded itself to his body. This story is anything but the classical clear-cut good versus evil. Annev discovers that choices are not always so black and white, and once one's options offer nothing but choices in the grey, it is easy to stumble onto a darker path before you know it. 

Call is a master in his own rights. The world building is on point, but the character building in this book is extraordinary.  Although Annev is considered the "main character" and it is his story that brings us to this book, from here we now see separate storylines emerge for several other characters whose rolls are not just "supporting actors", but are integral to the story. The result is a book that is rich, epic, and multi-faceted, as well as thoroughly captivating. 

If you are looking for a fantasy series that is light and bright and feel-good, this may not be the one for you; but if you are looking for an epic fantasy you can sink your teeth into, with dark threads and morally ambiguous characters, this series is sure to fit the bill. 

Happy Reading,

Monday, March 8, 2021

Honey Talk, by Declan Davey


Honey Talk, by Declan Davey

Indie/Small Press - 2019
Thriller - Psychological
289 Pages

* I received this digital review copy courtesy of the author's rep in exchange of an honest review. This does not influence the following opinions which are my own.

Lily knows she needs therapy, but therapy isn't cheap, and paying to tell her deepest darkest secrets to a complete stranger isn't too appealing to her either.  When Lily's friend Zayan is nearing the completion of his training to be a psychologist, Lily manipulates the situation by offering to "act" as a patient for him to practice on.  Lily is pleased with her resourcefulness - what could go wrong?  Lily creates a persona named Madison for their therapy sessions.  But while Madison isn't real, her problems are.  Stemming from childhood trauma, they are firmly rooted. Can Lily handle the therapy sessions?  Can Zayan?

This story was engaging and had a good plot.  The story is told in alternating timelines between Lily's struggles in the present and flashbacks to her traumatic past.  Her deterioration though subtle at first, gains momentum and carries the plot to the final exciting pages of the book. 

Honey Talk is a refreshing take on the the popular Thriller genre. A short, quick-paced book well worth the read.  

Note: Honey Talk is described as book one of  the Talk Series. As of this writing, the second book has not been released for sale. 

Happy Reading,

Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Last Straw, by Ed Duncan


The Last Straw, by Ed Duncan

Pigeon-Blood Red Series
Creativia (indi/small press) 2017
229 pages

* I received this digital copy courtesy of the author in exchange of an honest review. This does not influence the following opinions which are my own.

This is one of the more interesting plot lines I have read for a thriller. 

When a young teen aged girl named Sandy witnesses a carjacking gone bad she has no idea what turn her life is about to take. After barely escaping an attempt on her life she finds herself under the protection of a lawyer and a hit-man with a streak of decency. As the story unfolds, we find out that she has been marked for death by the father of the would-be carjacker.  This results in a hit-man vs. hit-man theme that becomes the exciting backbone of this book. 

I had not read the first book in this series - Pigeon-Blood Red as I was of the understanding that this book works as a stand alone as well.  In theory this is correct - you can read just The Last Straw by itself and it has a satisfying story arc. However, I suspect that I might have enjoyed this book even more if I had read Pigeon-Blood Red first. So if you are thinking of reading it, do yourself the favor and consider reading the first book as well (it is eligible for Kindle unlimited for those who subscribe to it, or it is a great deal for those who don't). That being said, Duncan's story was fast paced, a little gritty, and had just enough going on to make it entertaining without being "overdone". 

The Last Straw is a worthy read for fans of mystery/thrillers. It works well enough as a stand-alone novel, but it is worth considering the first and of the series as well.  Either way, this book was an easy, entertaining read, and Duncan is a name to watch for in the future. 

Note: Book 3 in the series - Rico Stays, is now available on Amazon as well

Happy Reading,

Friday, January 1, 2021

20 for 2020 Wrap up

The 20 for 2020 Wrap-Up

So another year, come and gone. 

Looking back, there is no doubt that 2020 was a challenging year for everyone. Some of us found more that we had much more free time, and some found we had much less. Without getting into all the different challenges we all faced this past year, it is suffice to say - we all suffered somewhat.  I can not think of anyone I know that came out of 2020 unscathed on some level or another.  I am thankful for the health of the people closest to me, and hope for continued luck in that.  Everything else will improve in time. 

I found myself struggling a little with reading, and a lot with finding time to review early in the year. I stopped requesting and accepting advance copies as I could not say with any degree of certainty that I would be able to offer any kind of meaningful review in a timely matter.  At the time of this writing, I have finished most of my advance copy books, but I'm so far behind on reviews, that writing them is even more time consuming because I have to constantly stop and refresh my memory. Because of this I am not even attempting to review books that were not provided in exchange of a review. Not that I don't think they deserve it - I just needed to prioritize my time more carefully for the time being. Add to that changes made to the blogging platform (not a fan) and some of the time saving tools I used to use (like hootsuite) that made them less functional to my needs, and everything just seems to take more time and effort.  I am starting to consider dropping some of my platforms and accounts to make things a little more manageable. Every time I start to think of this though, I have to wonder where to make "the cuts"?  Twitter is more time consuming than Instagram, but when I am active on both, Twitter seems to be a little more engaging.  Goodreads is all books all the time, and My Book Pledge is lots of fun, but doesn't offer a lot of interaction.  Facebook is where I am most comfortable, but to be honest, that is where I have made the least progress with building a following. Sigh....I know I want to make changes to make thinks more manageable and fun again - I just haven't figured out exactly what. I just know that I am happier when I can talk about books with other book lovers.  So I hope wherever this year takes me, I will see some familiar friends and make some new ones. 

One year ago, I posted my 20 for 2020 Reading Challenge, not realizing that it might be more challenging than I thought. Thankfully, I am a huge audiobook fan, so even when my print and e-book reading slowed down, and my reviews slowed to a mere trickle, I was able to enjoy a lot of really great books.  I didn't end up reviewing many, but I did have entries on my challenge.  I would love to hear from others who took on the challenge for 2020.  How did you do?  Have you read any of these books? what did you think?

Here is my Challenge results. 

1.      The Backlist - Read a book that is at least 2 years old.- Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

2.      The Frontlist - Read a book that is a new release (less than 6 months old) Dear Edward, by Ann Napolitano

3.      The Truth - Read a Non-Fiction title that is not a biography/memoir (True Crime, Documentary, etc.)  Blood in the Water, by Silver Donald Cameron

4.      People Person Books - Read a Biography or memoir From the Ashes, by Jesse thistle.

5.      The Quick and Easy - Read a novella or short book - 250 pages or less (or the audiobook equivalent) OR read a collection of short stories. – Smile, by Roddy Doyle   

6.      The Long Haul - Read a long book - 450 pages or more (or the audiobook equivalent) Pretty Things, by Janelle Brown

7.      Indie Inclined - Read an Indie or small press published title – West Of Sin, by Wesley S. Lewis

8.      Listen Up! - Listen to an audiobook – The Other Wes Moore, by Wes Moore

9.      Long Ago - Read a book that takes place more than 25 years ago – A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles

10.   Different Worlds – Read a Science Fiction or Fantasy Book – Magic Lessons, by Alice Hoffman

11.   Reading on the Edge of Your Seat - Read a Thriller/Suspense/Mystery book – Turn of the Key, by Ruth Ware

12.   Traveler Through Books - Read a book that has been translated from another language – The Warning, by Paul Pen and translated by Simon Bruni

13.   Young at Heart - Read a YA novel Children of Virtue and Vengeance, by Tomi Adeyemi

14.   Books That Go Bump In The Night - Read a Horror or Ghost story The Invited, by Jennifer McMahon

15.   New Beginnings - Start a new (to you) series or trilogy  Master of Sorrows, book 1 of The Silent Gods, by Justin Call

16.   Meet a New Author - Read a debut novel – Sharks In The Time of Saviors, by Kawai Strong Washburn

17.   Relationship Goals ...Or Not - Read a book that centers around the beginning or the end of a relationship/marriage. (Romance, Domestic Noir, etc) - My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell

18.   Read a Movie - Read a book that is also a movie – Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (re-reading as I read the series to my son at bedtime. (starting before her now infamous comments – Please don’t @ me)

19.   The Winner is... - Read a book Short-listed for a major literary award – To The River: Losing My Brother, by Don Gillmor – Winner of the Governor General’s award for non-fiction in 2019.

20.   One World - Read a book written by, and that has a main character that is someone of a different color, culture, sexual orientation, or religion than you. The Henna Artist, by Alka Joshi

So, once posted, I will be un-pinning the 20 for 2020 posts on the blog and on twitter.  I really do want to take the time to wish everyone a happy, healthy, prosperous, and bookish New Year.  May this year be kinder to us all than the last.  

Wishing you all the best for 2021.

Happy Reading, 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

His & Hers, by Alice Feeney


His and Hers, by Alice Feeney

MacMillan Audio - 2020
Narrated by Richard Armitage and Stephanie Racine 
10 Hours, 39 Minutes

* I received this digital ARC courtesy of MacMillan Audio, via NetGalley, in exchange of an honest review. This does not influence the following opinions which are my own.

Alice Feeney returns with a vengeance with another well thought out and twisty thriller to keep readers eagerly listening to "just one more chapter" - talk about lying to yourself!

Anna was returning to work as a television reporter and news presenter after her maternity leave, only to find that the woman who was supposed to be her temporary replacement has made herself quite comfortable and is not going anywhere - in fact she not only took over the job Anna took leave from, she took over the job Anna was working towards. Now struggling to balance the needs of her family with the demands of her cut-throat work environment, Anna is trying to have it all, and is determined to do whatever it takes to reclaim her rightful position at the news desk.

When Anna is dispatched to cover a recently discovered murder, she sees it as an opportunity to try and reclaim her position behind the anchor desk and to get back on track for her planned career path, but instead she finds herself in the middle of the murder investigation when the victim turns out to be an old childhood friend. But she is not the only one, Detective Jack Harper soon becomes a suspect as well. What is true, what is just perception, and what are lies? The truth is elusive, hiding in the shadows of this story. impossible to see in its entirety until the very end. Just the way it should be in a good twisty thriller!

This audiobook was narrated by Richard Armitage and Stephanie Racine and I could not imagine better casting.  Both performed extremely well, but I cannot say enough about the creep factor in Richard Armitage's performance as an anonymous male narrator. So deep and dark...a perfect addition to Feeney's already engaging, dark tale!

Feeney's writing is enthralling and edgy in its own right, but this book, I suspect, is even better as an audiobook.  

Happy Reading,