A Hodge-Podge of a Month

I have been reading a lot lately. Perhaps it’s a bit of escapism, perhaps it’s because I went on holiday, or perhaps it because I have a pile of unread books screaming at me.

I would love to review all of them, but I’m going to focus on the four that really caught my imagination. That makes it hard to theme this review because they really are a hodgepodge of tales.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Libba Bray’s The Diviners was one of those serendipitous purchases. You know the ones—you’re stuck somewhere and have to kill some time you you quickly pick a book from the nearest bookshop, and then—bam, you’re lost forever.

I have to admit the cover caught my eye, then the fact that it was set in 1920’s New York, and the lead character was a bad-girl flapper. Add in a dash of supernatural mystery, and I was sold.

But this book was so much more than that. Although Evie O’Neill, a young girl banished from her Ohio home to live with her bachelor uncle in New York, is a great main character, she is almost over-shadowed by the other cast members.

There’s Will, her uncle, who runs the the Museum of American Folklore , Superstition, and the Occult along with his assistant Jericho; Sam the pickpocket; Henry the pianist; Theta the Ziefield girl, Mary the unionist; and Memphis the poet. They all have their own backstories and reasons for being in New York. Together this strange group of people are drawn together aster adopted home faces a serial killer who appears to have supernatural powers.

Sometimes the plot seems convoluted, and it is difficult to keep up with all the players, but the mystery is engrossing and just when it starts getting a little slow, Evie jumps is with her sassy attitude and moves the story along.

The Diviners is a great read for people love who their supernatural mystery tied up with a little colourful history. I loved it so much I had to pull myself out of book two to write this review.

The Harp of Kings: A Warrior Bards Novel 1 By Juliet Marillier

I adore Juliet Marillier’s writing (big fan-girl here). Her Blackthorn and Grim Series was one of my favourites and so I was a bit nervous starting her new series. I was worried I would be disappointed because surely it could not be as great as Blackthorn and Grim, but I have to say The Warrior Bard Series might actually be better.

The story is told through the eyes of three trainee warriors: Loibhan the fiery redhead who also plays the flute and sings, her brother the harpist Brun and the surly son of nobility, Dau.

The three are sent on an undercover, secret mission to find the lost Harp of Kings which must be played at a coronation before a new King is accepted—and his coronation date is already set. As they search for the harp the three find themselves facing a cruel prince regent, horrific attacks from birdlike creatures known as the Crow Folk, druids who are hiding something, and otherworld influences that are clouding everything.

With its Celtic touches, strong characters, magic and intrigue, this book is difficult to put down for anyone who loves a great fantasy read. I finished book two in the series, Dance With Fate yesterday and cannot wait for book three to come out.

What Abigail Did That Summer By Ben Aronovich

I make no secret about the fact I love the Rivers of London Series. London is one of my favourite cites, and I enjoy the thought that there are magical powers simmering beneath the surface of the historic city.

I have listened to all the main books in the series on audible, and often embarrass myself by chuckling in public. The stories are essentially mysteries that have to be solved, usually by the lead character, PC Grant, who is a member of The Folly—the police division that deals with all things supernatural. Peter Grant is a likeable bloke, but has to deal with an array of human and magical characters that are so quirky and funny, yet so well imagined, they never cease to make me smile (or laugh out loud).

My husband also loves these books, and so I bought him the recently released novella to take away on holiday, and I’m so pleased I did. Having put up with Jim’s chuckles and comments of “this book is so great”, I was so grateful when he finished reading it and I could finally pick it up.

Abigail, Peter Grant’s sort of niece, is a character I am really down to, and I’m so happy she has been she had been given her own story. This intrepid, funny, bright, smart, sassy girl managed to stumble on her own mystery—one of disappearing and reappearing teenagers in her local area and she sets out to solve it, but not on her own. She is joined by a friend and a group of talking foxes.

This fast paced, fun tale is a great read for all fantasy lovers, and is definitely PG rated so can be shared by the whole family. And I dare you to read it without having at least one laugh out loud moment.

The History Keepers: The Storm Begins By Damian Dibbens

I picked up this book in an Audible 2 for 1 deal, and really only chose it as a best of the rest, and I had to make the most of that deal. This book actually turned out to be better than the book I originally wanted to buy.

Jake Djones finds himself kidnapped on the way home form school by people who tell him they will help him find his parents, who he hadn’t even realised were missing.

When he wakes up, Jake finds himself with people who call themselves The History Keepers. They are a special group who can travel through time and work to keep the world in balance. Jake is surprised to find his parents hadn’t gone to a sales conference as they told him, but had gone on a mission for the History Keepers to save the world and had disappeared.

What follows is a real adventure story in a modern day Famous Five / Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew style as Jake stows away and goes back in time to help find his parents, along with the beautiful of fearless and beautiful Topaz, Charlie the science nerd and Nathan the pompous and vain hero. While they are looking for his parents they stumble on a plot to derail history by the fearsome Prince Zeldt (who I could not help but picture as a Ming the Merciless character oops is that showing my age?) and put in place a plan to stop him.

I would be lying if I said this was one of the best books that I had listened to, but it really was a lot of fun. It is obviously aimed at younger-to-mid-teen readers, so the story was fast paced and there is a little bit of explaining some of the historical facts many adults might already know, but the characters were great and the story engaging.

If you or your children enjoy a goo mystery, then I say why not put this on in the car when you have a long journey and keep everyone entertained!

And that’s me for this month.

https://books.bookfunnel.com/edgefirepress2021003/wyzukrhw0q

Sleuthing and Mystery Month

I have spent a lot of my reading time this month improving my mystery writing skills. How do you do that? Well, you spend a lot of time reading mystery books. I started with going back to my earlier mystery experience and re-read a Nancy Drew mystery, then binge read a lot of Janet Ivanovich, and finished it off with a middle-grade mystery series. So I’ve lots to share with you in this month’s blog.

The Secret of The Old Clock (Nancy Drew Mystery 1) by Caoline Keene

I can’t remember how old I was when I first read a Nancy Drew book. I know I hadn’t started High School yet, and I thought Nancy Drew was the coolest because she was allowed to drive all over the countryside by herself, and she always wore such smart clothes. Now I realise that the book was set in the 1040’s when the world was slower paced and she dressed appropriately for a teenager in time.

I read the 80th anniversary addition of the first Nancy Drew book, and it’s still compelling reading. Is it dated? Yes and no. I mean there are things that now as an adult I can see date the book, but there are also many things that are timeless.

Nancy is a main character who always wants to do the right thing, and she has a nose for mystery. A smart, intelligent girl, she always uses her brain to get to the bottom of things. There is a little bit of drama along the way, and she does flirt with danger; but it’s not danger as we know today because the everything was just a little gentler back then.

The mysteries to be solved are things people would come across every day, in The Secret of the Old Clock it’s a missing will, which makes it easier to identify with Nancy as a sleuth. The story moves along quickly, and I actually found it hard to put down even though I remembered what happened part way through the book. If you or your children like a good old mystery, then you can’t go past a Nancy Drew book.

Buy The Secret of the Old Clock from Amazon

The Big Kahuna by Janet Ivanovich and Peter Ivanovich

Janet Ivanovich is the master of the comedic/mystery/romance genre. Her books are fast paced, laugh out loud hilarious and contain a number of outrageous caricatures and always a frisson of attraction between the main characters. Under all of that though, they are in essence great mystery stories. I read a number of her books this month, but have chosen The Big Kahuna because it ends up in Queenstown, New Zealand, a place where I spent many a summer holiday.

FBI Agent Kate O’Hare, and her partner con man Nicholas Fox, are tasked with finding a missing Tech Guru, which uncovers a much larger international plot that will risk world peace. Using a mixture of gold old leg work, undercover activities, and charm, Fox and O’Hare follow the mystery from the USA to Hawaii to New Zealand to Prague.

Along with an internet influencer, a surfing drop out, an ex-marine, and an FBI desk jockey, the couple risk their lives, blow things up, and basically cause mayhem round the globe while they try to prevent an international disaster. The characters in this book are big, the mystery many layered, and the laughs come from the belly.

I thoroughly enjoyed my Ivanovich binge session and no doubt will delve into another one soon, there are still some Stephanie Plumb novels I haven’t read yet.

Buy The Big Kahuna from Amazon

The Magic Sapphire (A Decoders Mystery) by Alba Arango

I wanted to read a modern middle grade mystery, and the cover of this book caught my eye. Not always the best way to chose a book, but in this instance it turned out to be a positive experience.

Steve, Matt and Jenny find a map to pirate treasure, but they have to solve some riddles to reach find the legendary sapphire. Set against them and aiming to beat them to the sapphire is an international jewel thief. 

The children are helped along the way by a friendly cafe owner, and a friend who acts as backup and is intent on writing up their escapades for the public. There is a good mix of danger, problem solving, and adversaries making this a promising first book in a mystery series.

In my mind as I read I was unintentionally comparing this to Nancy Drew, and I have to say it stacked up quite well. The characters were more diverse and modern, and I liked that the three children all had something to contribute to the solving of the case. It did lack some of the real characters we expect from the cosy mystery genre, but the story was fast paced and and kept me hooked all the way through, and had a little twist at the end I didn’t expect. This would be great reading for any middle-grade child.

Buy The Magic Sapphire from Amazon

Apart from having a month reading some really good books, I also learnt that a good mystery is solved by a mixture of brain power, luck and putting yourself on the line. It takes compelling, relatable main characters, a bad guy that is not too sinister and some side characters who are almost caricatures; leaving me to believe that while these books seem simple to the reader, they’re like a Beatles song—more than they seem on the surface.

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Awesome Aussies

I love holidays. It’s a chance to put put feet up and relax a bit and read. More so this Christmas break because my part of Sydney found itself in semi-lockdown. When faced with dodgy weather and nowhere to go, its a perfect opportunity to hit that pile of unread books that’s been growing beside my bed.

Just by chance, the three books on the top of to read list were all written by Australians, and they were awesome. If the rest of 2021’s offerings are like this I may never get any work done!

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

I am not sure I’ve ever reviewed any of Garth Nix’s books here, which is odd because he’s one of my favourite authors. One of his series I enjoyed the most was The Keys to the Kingdom, where he managed to twist life as we know it just slightly, pulling us into strange and unusual world lying just beneath the surface of our own.

When I read the blurb of The Left-Handed Booksellers of London I could not put the book down, literally, and I hadn’t even gone into the bookshop to get anything for me! Who can blame me though. A story with; booksellers and bookshops (tick), London(one of my favourite cities) and supernatural beings (tick again). Top that off with a writer who has already shown he can create amazing characters and worlds—well that was it.

I started the book, and that was that, pretty much for the rest of the day. To say I got lost in Garth Nix’s alternative eighties London wouldn’t be too far from the truth. I went on an amazing journey with my new wannabe best friends Susan, an art student looking for her father who gets caught up in something weird when Merlin (yes Merlin but not that one) appears in her life. Merlin is a suavely dressed left-handed bookseller, not to be confused with the right-handed ones, and he is chasing down leads to find out happened to his mother in his spare time. Susan is told she should forget she even knows about booksellers, only she can’t, because now she knows about them, some weird things are happening and she seems to be at the centre of it.

I would recommend this book for well everyone. It’s one you want to tell everyone about and you wish they’d all read it so you can all talk about it. In reality though, anyone who loves a bit of a supernatural read will love this book.

The Other Side of the Sky by Amie Kauffman and Meagan Spooner

When I saw The Other Side of the Sky on the shelf at the bookstore (yes, I was still Christmas shopping and shouldn’t even have been looking), I didn’t have to read the blurb, I just bought it. When I finished reading Amie Kaufaman and Megan Spooners Starbound Trilogy I felt like I lost really good friend. When I saw they had started a new one, I felt like I had found one.

The Other Side of the Sky is, in essence, a science fantasy love story about Nimh who is from the surface world, and North who is from the sky world. If it were that simple, it would still be a great love story.

Add into the mix the fact that Nimh is a living goddess who is supposed to be saving her people, but doesn’t know how, and North is a Prince who fell from the sky when trying to prove himself to his family, then it gets even better. Their complex relationship is at the centre of this story, and they are supported by a cast of characters who provide plenty of surprises and twists as North tries to find his way home and Nimh tries to save her people. Now it’s engrossing.

Set in a world of myth, mystery and magic, where Nimh and North become entwined in prophecy and plagued by the past, they don’t know who to trust, or whether they can even trust each other.

I admit, I started this in the morning and only broke for food and coffee. That evening I put it down and cursed. Now I have to wait for the next book to find out what happens. If you enjoy a science fantasy love story, you will love this. If you just enjoy a good love story, or you love a good mystery, you should give it a try.

Into the Mists by Serene Conneeley

My final holiday book was Into the Mists, and it was a complete change of pace. I loaded this onto my kindle because I loved Serene Conneeley’s Swan Maiden book, and I was intrigued because this story sounded so completely different. I was surprised to find it wasn’t.

Both books deal with girls grieving for lost parents, and who are coming to terms with having to carry on; albeit one is a child and one is a teenager who moves across the other side of the world to love with a grandmother she only just found out existed.

This is Serene Conneeley’s first book, and it doesn’t have the lightness of touch I had come to expect in her writing, but the storyline and the characters more than made up for it.

In small town England, far from home, Charlie is transported into a very different world from Sydney, one where people are more in tune with nature and the mystical elements of life, including her grandmother who runs a natural healing centre.

Learning to love herself and life again while dealing with; loosing her parents, moving country, getting to know her grandmother, and finding her future is not what she wants now, Charlie’s story is one of growth and resilience.

I found Into the Mists a gentle and inspiring read. After I finished it, I read some of the goodread reviews and appreciate this book is not for everyone. If you want a book with Harry Potter style magic, this isn’t for you. If you want a fast paced book full of twists and turns, this isn’t for you. If you want to read a coming of age story with main character connecting with her past, entwined with old style elemental magic, then you will enjoy this.

Not So Perfect Princesses

It seems as soon as I decided to name the character in my new book series Princess P I came across all these books about princesses, so my last post for the year reviews some books about not so perfect princesses.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

As I child I watched a BBC production of this story and enjoyed it so much I can still remember much of it today, but I never read the book (probably because the book is never as good after you have seen the movie). When this book came packed with a book I really wanted to read, The Princess and The Suffragette, I decided to give it a read first, and I’m so pleased I did. Much as I really enjoyed the television version of the book, Frances Hodgson Burnett has a way of writing characters that make them so much more vivid than television is able to.

This story about a rich girl who finds herself a servant in the boarding school she attends when orphaned is sure to capture the heart of young readers who have enjoyed the Our Australian Girl series. Sara is a kindhearted character who attempts to deal with the changes in her life with as much dignity as she can muster, and she is lucky enough to have her true friends stand by her.

Through the story we are given a glimpse of how the class system in Victorian England treated girls and women of different classes, as well as finding out a little of the history of the empire. All this happens while the reader is engaged in a “can’t put down” story that has you hoping for a happy ending for Sara.

Buy A Little Princess from Amazon

The Princess and The Suffragette by Holly Webb

I have to admit I didn’t pick up this book because I wanted to read Holly Webb’s sequel to A Little Princess, but rather because I wanted to see what a book about suffragette’s for Middle Grade Readers would be like. In my early teens right through to … well now … I have been fascinated by the women who agitated for votes for women.

Holly Webb’s sequel moves forward a few years and focuses on youngest character from A Little Princess. Lottie is lonely and feels alienated from her father, who has all but abandoned her in Miss Minchin’s School for Girls. She is seeing her friend Sara less, but finds a new friend in a young scullery maid and a sense of freedom and rebellion in supporting the suffragette movement.

True to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s ordinal story, this book also takes a long look at the roles women played in society in Victorian England, and how they fought to change it. I love that she uses real historical event as a backdrop, and that they are just that—the history is secondary to the story of a young girl growing up and learning of her past. I hope you enjoy the twist as much as I did!

I would certainly recommend reading this after A Little Princess, but I also works well as a stand alone for your tween readers.

Buy The Princess and The Suffragette from Amazon

Winter Flame by K.A. Last and The Snow Queen’s Daughter by Serene Conneeley

For the older readers who still enjoy a more traditional princess, I recommend curling up with the anthology of fairy tale retellings Fairytale Christmas. There are lots of great reimagining of old favourites here, but I think two of the strongest and most enjoyable come from a couple of my favourite Australian authors (although I may be a little biased).

Winter Flame by K.A.Last is a mash up of The Little Match Girl and The Princess and the Pea which is much more satisfying than either of the originals. Ember, the main character, is unsettled being placed in a strange environment, but proves stronger than everyone when she is true to her inner-self and allows compassion to guide her decision. I think you’ll be surprised by the twists in this fairytale, but also warmed by the ending.

Serene Conneeley has written the Snow Queen’s tale from her daughter’s point of view, and it is a real love / coming of age story, but with a twist I didn’t see coming. Even more surprising though was the portrait of the Snow Queen. Don’t get me wrong, she is still the villain of the piece, but I kept getting glimpses of why she was the way she was, and I started to warm to her.

There are other great stories in this book, and I can recommend it for a beach/fire side read this holiday break.

Buy Fairytale Christmas from Amazon

If princesses aren’t your teen’s thing, why not look here for some other fantasy reads

Listen … Do You Want to Hear a Secret

Like many people, recent events around the world have has changed the way I think about things, and in a lot of ways has changed the way I think full stop. In fact my mind has been whirring so much the activities I usually do to clam myself stopped being calming, until I found a solution—audio books!

Like many people, recent events around the world have has changed the way I think about things, and in a lot of ways has changed the way I think full stop. In fact my mind has been whirring so much the activities I usually do to calm myself stopped working, until I found a solution—audio books!

My intake of audio books has doubled over the last few months, and I thought I would share some of my favourites with you. I think I have said in the past that choosing the audio book option means you not only have to be captured by the story, but the narrater must also connect with you. I recommend always checking a sample before buying. If you don’t like my favourite reads in audiobook format I encourage you to buy the books instead.

Fall of the Gas-lit Empire by Rod Duncan

By now you will have realised I am a sucker for a kick-ass female heroine and an amazing new world, and in this series Rod Duncan has managed to capture both. In a victorian-style world that sees women as possessions, Elizabeth Barnabus lives a double life. She is herself, but also takes on the guise of her own brother to make a living as a detective and thus remain independent.

Everything is going well until she takes on the case of an aristocrat who has disappeared. In her attempts to resolve the mystery she must face her own past as well as the Patent Court, the most feared body in the land, placing herself in extreme danger.

Elizabeth is a strong, resourceful, well rounded character who you will find yourself willing to come out on top. The other characters you meet as this story unfolds are equally compelling and interesting. The England they live in is both recognisable, but completely different, not the least because the development of all machinery is strictly controlled by the Patent Court.

To top it off Gemma Whelan, the narrator does a great job in moving the story along and keeping the listener interested. If you enjoying losing yourself in another world, or simply like a good mystery, then I recommend this series to teens, young adults and adults.

Buy The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire: The Complete Series from Amazon

The Night Raven by Sarah Painter

My next two books are set in modern day London, but show a side of London you may never have encountered. When she was young Lydia’s father left the family business so he could raise his daughter in the suburbs. Not a bad choice given the family business did not always operate not he right side of the law, and were happy enough to use their unique powers to assist in their activities.

Without powers of her own, a grown up Lydia has escaped to Scotland, only to be forced home when her work as a private investigator placed her in a difficult situation. Her uncle offers her a flat free of rent, well not quite free because he wants her to help find a missing cousin. Trying to lay low, avoid the family business and deal with a rather interesting flat-mate, Lydia finds herself slowly drawn into the world her parents tried to keep her from.

I bought this audio book in one of audibles frequent 2 for 1 sales as the second option simply because I loved listening to the narrator Kate Rawson. I have now listened to all three books in the series and have the fourth on pre-order. The Night Raven is fast paced, the characters interesting and believable. In spite of the introduction of magic and powers to modern day London each book in the series presents a good old mystery story with all its wrong turns and dead ends.

Crow Investigations is a good mystery series, an a fun read/listen, but what makes it stand out for me is you are taken on Lydia’s journey. While investigating her mysteries she reconnects with members of her family, attempts to reconcile their business activity with her growing affection for a member of the police force, as well as dealing with some unsettlingly abilities that come come to light. This book is definitely for oder teens and young adults, and people who love Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series will enjoy these books.

Buy The Night Raven: Crow Investigations, Book 1 from Amazon

London Falling by Paul Cornell

I blame my enjoyment of the Ben Aaronvich’s River’s of London Series for choosing to start The Shadow Police series. Like those books we are introduced to a force of people dealing with the magical and mystical side of London’s inhabitants. It all starts with a suspect who mysteriously dies in custody having been brought in at the end of a long running undercover sting.

Two of the undercover agents, the analyst assigned to the operation, and a Detective Inspector are tasked with looking into the death. By applying traditional police methods they uncover supernatural forces at work that require more to bring them to justice than they have to offer. Facing what appear to be unsurmountable odds, they must stop this force before more deaths occur.

This is a gritty series, something of a cross between The Rivers of London and a Guy Ritchie movie. The team, Quill, Ross, Sefton and Costain are all flawed and searching for something missing in their lives, yet together they make the perfect unit for investigating surreal happenings. The London they find themselves working in is scary and at the same time fascinating, and it will test their resolve to bring their suspects to justice.

Damien Lynch narrates the whole series and really brings the characters to life. Each book in the series can be read on its own, but together they form an overarching story about policing the supernatural in London. they only down side to getting hooked on this series is only three of the five book series have been published, and there is not date for the last two books to be released. This series is definitely for Young Adults only, and is worth a read for those who enjoy the grittier side of supernatural crime solving.

Buy London Falling: The Shadow Police, Book One from Amazon
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Fantastic Fantasy

Want to escape from your everyday woes? Why not start a new fantasy series? I’ve a few fantastic reads for you.

A Fantastic Fantasy Way to Escape the World

I review a number of fantasy books, and many of you are probably bored by them now, but in the Covid-19 times we are living in escaping into a completely different world has been a life saver. This week I have a couple of fantastic series starters for you, and the return of a favourite to delve right into that will spirit you away from your everyday woes.

The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

It seems like I have been waiting for ever for Suzanne Collin to revisit the world of the Hunger Games. It was this series that got me hooked on my kindle. On a trip home I loaded Hunger Games as my first ever e-book. I spent a sleepless week week reading the whole series. When I finished on at night I simply downloaded the next.

That was such a long time ago, but I can tell you The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes was well worth the wait! I know a lot of reviewers think it was a snooze-fest, but I simply couldn’t put it down.

In her new book Suzanne Collins takes up back to meet an eighteen year old Corolanus Snow, already formed by his station in society and the deprivations of the uprising that resulted in the Hunger Games being established—only these Hunger Games are nothing like the one we are used to. They are raw and brutal and are purely a punishment for the districts.

Not as action packed as the original books, The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes takes us on Snow’s journey as he attempts to carve a place in a world that has already written him and his destitute family off, and we find that it is not only in the arena of the games that people are prepared to do anything to survive. For me President Snow was always one of the most interesting figures of the first three books. Although clearly the villain in the Hunger Games series, he was a complex one, and he is no less so as the hero.

One of the oddest things about this book is that I loved it, but I didn’t like any of the main characters, or many of the people in the book as a whole. I understood Snow, but never really liked him. His candidate in the Hunger Games, well, let’s just say they deserved each other. Tigris, Snow’s cousin, and Sejanus, his school mate, were the only people who any soul in the whole story, and they served as a great counterpoint to the other characters.

People appear to either love or hate this one. I am in the love camp. Where will you fall?

Buy The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes from Amazon.

Memory’s Wake by S.A. Fenech

Memories wake was a different kettle of fish all together. I was drawn to all four of the main characters, but Memory herself was my favourite. Waking up in a strange world, Memory, who took her name because she has no memory, finds herself embroiled in a plot to restore order in a world she isn’t even from.

Alone in a forest with no idea where she is, Memory is rescued by a girl on the run. She promises to take them to sanctuary, but they get a little waylaid. Falling in with a charming pickpocket, and helped occasionally by a strange wild boy, they dodge; men that hunt magic users, faeries who mean them harm and dragons, who seem intent on keeping them from getting to their destination.

S.A. Fenech has created a fantastical world of magic, fairies and magical beasts, and a plot twist that will have you spinning, but will seem so logical after you stumble across it.

Fantasy readers who love kick-ass girl heroes, magic and a touch of romance will enjoy getting lost Memory’s Wake. I enjoyed it so much, book two is already queued on my kindle.

Buy Memory’s Wake from Amazon

King of Ashes by Raymond E. Feist

If I had a fantasy super-hero it would be Raymond E. Feist. From Daughter of the Empire to Riftwar series, I have loved most of his work.

When the First Book in the Firemane Saga came out I bought it, but only recently got round to reading it. I was initially reluctant because the book didn’t get good reviews, and it was a new world and a new plot.

Silly me for listening to others. Even though this is not his best writing, Feist at mediocre (and this book is far from mediocre) is still streets ahead of we mere mortals. And I loved the new world of Garn and the new characters he introduced. And let’s face it, a missing heir, a master swords smith and world on the brink of a religious war—it’s a great idea.

I really enjoyed the way Feist wove religion and politics into the story while following our two hero’s Declan the Sword Master and Hatu the spy assassin until they finally met. Another plus for me was the strong cast of female in this book.

Ok, not Feist at his absolute best, but book two is already downloaded and ready to go. Anyone who loves traditional fantasy adventure will enjoy this read.

Buy King of Ashes from Amazon

Looking for some more great fantasy reads?

Your next favourite read might just be here

Love a Great Female Lead?

After my binge on Cosy Mysteries last month, this month I indulged myself by reading two books I brought some time ago, and in the middle I was sidetracked by a series I picked up from a newsletter promo.

After my binge on Cosy Mysteries last month, this month I indulged myself by reading two books I brought some time ago, and in the middle I was sidetracked by a series I picked up from a newsletter promo.

At first glance it looks as though it was all over the place with my reading, but there was a real theme running through my books – the leads were strong girls/women. That is not so say these books will only appeal to girls, because boys will enjoy them too, but I have to say it is refreshing to have females taking the lead for a change.

The Secret Runners of New York by Matthew Riley

Matthew Riley is known for his fast paced adventure novels, and The Secret Runners of New York is no exception. Although this book starts out as a typical teen novel about newbies fitting in, it quickly turns into something very different.

When Skye and her brother Red are sent to New York to live with their mother and her new, wealthy husband they are thrown into a world where Sky struggles to fit. Not only does she have to navigate her way through the social etiquette of a new school, but there is a doomsday prophecy saying the world will end, and her brother tells her of a secret tunnel he and his new friends have been visiting.

This book started slowly for me, but about a third of the way through I found it difficult to put down – I just had to know what happened. Although all the characters in this books are believable and compelling, it was Skye I was drawn to as she struggled between needing to be accepted and doing the right thing.

With dystopian fiction I normally recommend them only for people who enjoy that genre, but in this instance I think anyone that loves reading about teen relationships will also enjoy this novel. It goes straight onto my highly recommended list.

The Single Ladies of The Jacaranda Retirement Village by Joanna Nell

Many of you may be thinking this is an odd choice for a review dealing with books for children and young adults, but there is a method to my madness.

I think sometimes we pidgeon hole reading material, and leave things out people might really enjoy. The Single Ladies of the Jacaranda Retirement Village is one of those books, and I think there are many young adult readers that will love this book.

Joanna Nell’s heroine, Peggy is at the tail end of her life, but funnily enough she is facing some of the same issues teenagers face. After the death of her husband she is not sure how to go about gaining the attentions of the man who has caught her eye, nor is she quite sure where she fits in or how she fits in in her new home int he retirement village. Most of all though, she is not sure who Peggy Smart is without her role as wife and mother.

This funny, captivating story is full of brilliant characters, has some twists and turns in the plot that you just do not see, and reminds us that many of the problems we face as young adults stay with us throughout life. This is a book I am recommending to everyone I meet, no matter their age.

The Arc Series by Alexandra Moody

You will notice below I have a link to another promotion of Young Adult Books, and I have to admit I have been picking up a lot of my reading material from these of late. I guess it is a lazy way to find material I like reading because it is so convenient.

Once book I chose was Tainted by Alexandra Moody. Once again this book started slow for me, but half-way through I was completely hooked, and I then read the rest of the series one book after the other (gotta love e-readers).

Orphan Elle lives in the Arc, an underground facility where survivors of an asteroid hit live. While negotiating High School her biggest fear is she will loose her friends as a result of the annual tests. Fear of an infection running through the facility means anyone caught with the virus during their test is removed, never to be seen again. When one of her friends is taken, how far will she go to find out what is really going on?

The world Alexandra Moody has created is intricate, amazing and fresh. I loved her characters, and I loved Elle, who shows what and ordinary girl in an extreme situation is capable of. She is the hero inside of us all.

For dystopian readers, this series will be difficult to put down, I certainly think the story line and characters in Tainted make this book worth a read for those brave enough to try something new.

https://books.bookfunnel.com/kuscififantasypromo/1j6mgrlxaa

It’s A Mystery To Me

My favourite modern Cosy Mysteries take on some of the elements I love from Agatha Christie’s writing. Set in small towns, they have a main character using common sense and their relationships with others to overcome adversity.

The last couple of months have been busy. I released the first book in a new series – Swagman, and I am busy finishing the last book in my first series – Battle. I visited home in New Zealand and also took a trip to Brisbane to see friends. In between all of this I have been reading and researching a new idea for another book.

You see I love a good mystery, and I thought maybe I might be able to write one myself. Not a full blown Karen Slaughter or JD Robb, but more of a cosy mystery. So I have been using my down time to read a few books in this genre and flesh out my ideas.

While I read I thought to myself these are great books for older kids to read too. You may well ask why I would think that? These books tend to have great characters, a puzzle to be solved and are, for the most part, clean fiction. Which makes them a good read for children who think they are too old for children’s books.

I have picked a few of my recent reads for you to try.

Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie

To me, Agatha Christie is the master of the Cosy Mystery. Her characters are always well developed and her plots are a marvel. My favourite heroes have always been Tommy and Tuppence, but this time round I read the last of her Miss Marple books.

In Sleeping Murder, Miss Marple chances on a young woman who had fled to London because she has seen a murder in her house, in a dream. The shaken woman and her husband decide to investigate, and a worried Miss Marple decides to help, because she know just what trouble you can get into when you investigate mysteries.

I have just realised it is difficult to review a mystery because anything I write might give away a clue to how the plot unfolds. Perhaps I will just say this, as Gwenda and her husband delve into the history of their house, they find the mystery is very personal, and they place their lives in danger in their search for the truth.

For me this book loses a little because Miss Marple only plays a bit part, and the new characters are not as well formed as in other books. Even with this, Sleeping Murder is still a great read and keeps you guessing til the end.

Murder by the Book by Lauren Elliott

My favourite modern Cosy Mysteries take on some of the elements I love from Agatha Christie’s writing. Set in small towns, they have a main character using common sense and their relationships with others to overcome adversity.

In Murder by the Book, Addie has been plagued by bad luck but believes this is finally changing when she receives an inheritance and is able to leave her job as a librarian to open her own book store. This belief is short lives as strange things start happening and her life is placed in danger.

The strength of this book is the characters. Addie is strong and brave and has an interesting way of approaching things. The town she has moved to has an array of very strong “suspects”, and the plot has a number of twists and turns. I enjoyed this book so much I just had to buy and read the next in the series – Prologue to Murder and am eagerly awaiting the third book. Beside, let’s face it, a mystery and books – what’s not to love.

A Twist in the Tail by Leighann Dobbs

My third cosy mystery is one the jury is still out on. This book is well written, the mystery grabs the readers attention from the first chapter, and the lead character Josie is very likeable. I also loved the additional characters of her mother and her mother’s friend who show up to help Josie.

The mystery is also engaging. Josie has taken on running a guest house in a small town only to find one of her guests has been murdered. As she is the prime suspect, she decides she needs to prove her innocence.

What I am unsure about in this book is the cats. Don’t get me wrong, I love cats, but cats as detectives? Perhaps it is that part of the book is written from their point of view. This is well handled in that they are very cat-like personalities with their own unique characters, and they do play a part in the mystery. However, I think one of the main draws to Cosy Mysteries for me is the human characters and their interactions, I think perhaps I am not quite ready for life from a cat point of view (and, funnily enough, as I was typing this my own cat jumped on the desk for attention, almost as if she knew I was dissing some of her fellow felines).

I really enjoyed this book, once I started skipping over the cat bits. Leighann Dobbs is a good writer, and her plot is definitely intriguing. I also realise many people will be attracted to this book, especially younger readers with a love of animals, and what I found annoying they will find captivating.

Already Reviewed

If none of my recent mystery reads have grabbed you, then perhaps a browse through some old mystery reviews will help.

For Younger readers there are EJ12 and Max Remy Books, and the ever fantastic Nancy Drew. A more modern take is The, Girl, The Dog and The Writer in Rome.

For those readers who are a little older, perhaps the Viral series from Kathy and Brendon Reichs. I reviewed Exposure some time ago. Or maybe John Grisham’s move into young adult fiction, the Theodore Boone Series.

There is a great range of mystery adventure stories out thereto tempt your young and old readers, so why not have a browse. If you cannot decide where to start, may I suggest an Agatha Christie.

For a different range of books why not try some of the new ones available in this

For a different range of books why not try some of the new ones available in this promo

A Diverse Group of Books

Some Thoughts on Diversity in Literature

Over the last month I have been doing a lot of thinking and reading around the edges of diversity in fiction.

There have always been books that deal with the issues faced by minority groups and people. A recent popular example was the book Wonder by RJ Palacio, which looked at the issue of someone who did not look like everyone else from the point of view of both the boy in questions and his friends and family.

This month I have some books that look at diversity in a number of different ways, and are a great read. Most of these books are for the older teenage range, the content of most of them is at least 12+. If you are looking buy, most are available on amazon (please not I am not affiliated with Amazon).

What has stuck with me though from my month of contemplation on diversity was the comments of a gay man, and I am sorry but I cannot find it again to attribute it to him, but he said when minorities are included in fiction at the same level as they occur in everyday life then we can stop talking about diversity.

Minority Group Main Characters

My first two offerings deal with diversity simply because the main characters are from minority groups and, while they give the books an interesting twist, they are simply very good reads.

That Feeling When by S.M. James

That Feeling When is a teen romance pure and simple. Hollywood heartthrob, London Summers, meets misunderstood teen, Archie Corrigan at summer camp. They may fight it, but their mutual attraction is clear.

In this book S.M. James has developed two likeable characters who we watch slowly fall in love. The tension is provided by the fact their growing romance needs to remain a secret but someone is intent on breaking them up.

That Feeling When takes me back to my teen romance reading phase, and had me hooked right from the start. Readers of teen romances will enjoy this book.

Buy That Feeling When from Amazon

A Wish After Midnight by Zeta Elliot

Growing up in Brooklyn is not easy for teenager Gena Colon, but it is not as hard as the Pre-Civil war Brooklyn she finds herself thrown back into.

This book is a fast paced portal fantasy that allows the reader a glimpse of life in for a free black person before the American Civil war, while also looking at how life is different, but in some ways still the same for a black girl growing up in America today.

Zeta Elliot has created a likeable character in Gena, who is in many way a typical teenager wanting to break away from her mother, looking for love, but also trying to decide who she will be in the future.

Readers of historical fiction, fantasy books and coming of age books will love this story.

Buy A Wish After Midnight from Amazon

Diversity from a Different Angle

The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Melanie is a special girl, in a special school, and she may just me the saviour of the human race. However, when the school is raided she must journey with others to find the rest of humanity and save the future. In this post-apocalyptic novel, M.R. Carey questions what it means to be human.

I could not put this book down, even though the genre is zombie apocalypse, the characters were so human, and full of hope and the normal human failings. The world of the book was both frightening and intriguing, and I loved the way way the world ended very inventive. Although I do not want to spoil the ending, I have included The Girl With All the Gifts in today’s review simply because not only does the book question what it is to be human, it also forced us to look at individuals and not just types.

This is such a great book, but difficult to pick an audience. I am just going to say I think everyone should give it a go, you might just be surprised by how much you enjoy it. Word of warning though, your heart will not be the same when you have finished it.

Buy The Girl With All The Gifts from Amazon

Surprises in Diversity – The Dark Souls by Bryan Cohen and Casey Lane

In The Dark Souls, Bryan Cohen and Casey Lane have produced a great central character, nerdy Ted Finley. Going through school under the radar, Ted’s life changes when he finds he is being followed, then abducted because he has developed some strange new powers.

Locked away with others who have all developed powers, Ted not only has to come to terms with his new found abilities, but also the fact others are chasing him. It is difficult to know who to trust in this new, strange world, but in all the mayhem maybe it is possible to find love.

This book is a great read. Lovers of Percy Jackson style adventures will be drawn to this book, but it is also very much a teenage coming of age adventure story as well. And why was it included in today’s reviews. Well you will just have to read it and find out.

Buy The Dark Souls from Amazon

Newsletter Book Finds

Welcome back to my new and, hopefully, improved blog. Today I want to share two series of books with you – one about modern fairies and a gas lamp fantasy series.

A while ago I wrote a blog about ways to find books not available in most bookshops. One of those options was to sign up for newsletters from writers or writher’s groups to find out what they are releasing, and also for bargains. One of the newsletters I subscribe to is YA Fantasy Books – because I write in this area, but also because I read a lot of books in this genre and I am always looking out for a good read.

The Clockwork Alchemist by Sara C. Roethle

A while ago I found I found two gems I want to share with you today. The first is a completely new series: The Thief’s Apprentice by Sara C. Roethle.

One of the first things that captured my interest was this book’s genre – a Gaslamp fantasy. I have been reading boos for a long time and I had never heard of it. Turns out it is an historic fantasy set in a Victorian or Edwardian time that generally has a love story component.

The second thing that piqued my interest was this is a book about a clockwork girl and a thief; I mean a love story about an automaton and a bad boy, that has to be interesting – right? And it was

The story is fast paced. Ahern steals an alchemy book on contract from a dead man, but is caught by the owner’s clockwork daughter, Liliana. The book is in turn stolen from Ahren, and he and Liliana work together to get it back. Sounds simple, but what they find is everyone wants to know why Liliana is different from other clockwork automatons, and they are prepared to do almost anything to find out.

The core of this book is an action/adventure love story with a twist, but it is also much deeper because it gets you questioning what make a person who they are, and it manages to do this without detracting from the story line. I also love that the Liliana is a sassy, proactive character who is not merely a sidekick to the males. There are also some kick-ass girl baddies too.

This book was such a good read I immediately had to buy book two then three in the series, reading them over the course of a week. Obviously fantasy lovers from 12 upwards will enjoy these books, and the romance is is subtle enough that boys will still enjoy the read. I also think anyone who loves a good adventure might enjoy this series.

This book is available as a ebook on amazon and can also be purchased from Booktopia.

Purchase The Thief’s Apprentice Series from Booktopia

Enchanting the Fey by Rebecca Bosevski

A while ago I reviewed Enchanting the Fey, and I really enjoyed the book. I always meant to finish the series, but got a little sidetracked. Then a special deal came up in the YA Fantasy Books newsletter for the release of the the book package and I could not resist.

I spent a weekend lost with Desmoree, who has found she is a fairy even though she had no idea fairies existed. I journeyed with her to fantastical realms where she works with a series of other great characters to save her world, and ours.

Usually I am not a fairy type of girl, I lean to more historic fantasy, but I really enjoyed this series because of the great characters and the themes the books cover. Although we are dealing with magical realms, this is essentially a story about good versus evil, and embracing diversity. It also advocates the ideal if we stand together we can overcome anything.

There are a few clean sex scenes in this book, so I would recommend for 16+, although to be honest younger readers will probably skip over those bits because they will not be interested. Obviously those fantasy readers who enjoy getting lost in a fairy kingdom will love this, and I would also suggest it for girls who love strong female leads and are happy to try something new.

The series is available on amazon, so pop on and have a look. The books are available individually of you want to dip a toe in, but the four book series is great value.

YA Fantasy Books

If you like fantasy books then I recommend subscribing to the YA Fantasy Books newsletter. At the moment if you do you get the Memory’s Wake trilogy by S. A. Fenech for free. Plus go into the monthly draw to win a reader mystery box. YA Fantasy Books delivers eBook deals to your inbox every week. Subscribe today to discover your next great adventure. https://dl.bookfunnel.com/eiy8jvwm74