Indie Book Review: Tournament of Hearts



This book is so much fun! A medieval village, isolated by forests, mountains, and myth, terrorised by flying gargoyle-like monsters. A plot that deals with vengeful gods with a prophecy and a freakin’ Hunger Games-style tournament thrown into the mix. Characters that are funny, unique, and enthralling.  I. Was. In. Heaven.

There was never a boring moment in this book. From when Neven was thrown from one weird situation to the next and he gathered the strength to grapple for control of his density, I was hooked all the way through. Neven was a protagonist I could believe in, and I can’t wait to see what he does in the next books.

If you like anything to do with light medieval-fantasy, you’ll enjoy this book. This is one of those cases where, superficially, it seems like you’ve seen it before. But this story is so well done, it’s taking the things I already love and making me love them all over again.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Amazon buy link.

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Author goodreads page.

Tournament of Hearts, by Dustin Bilyk (The Librarian Gladiator #1)

Book Length: 472 pages

Medieval Fantasy (Young Adult Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

Hamelin, a town separated from the rest of the world, has a deadly problem. Fierce, flying beasts ravage the countryside and cull the sparse human population, forcing the majority of Hamelin’s citizens to live within the safety of her boundaries for fear of being snatched away and torn into pieces. With no help in sight, the Town Council look to their gods for salvation and unearth a chilling answer to their problems.

The Tournament of Hearts – a much-celebrated, barbaric event that pits four gladiators against each other in deadly combat. Winning The Tournament brings rich rewards, fame and glory for one’s bloodline. Losing, however, results in a deadly trip to the Sacrificial Altar for you and all of those who share your blood: man, woman and child. The sacrifice is said to be a blood offering to the gods in payment for reprieve – a necessary evil for the greater good of all.

Neven Fairchild, adolescent town historian and librarian, is chosen by random draw to fight for the survival of his bloodline. Utterly inept at doing much other than reading and writing his histories, Neven must find the courage deep within himself to defeat his stronger opponents, for he discovers that much more than the lives of those he loves hangs in the balance. An evil lurks, waiting for its moment to deliver the death blow, and Neven is all that stands in its way, whether he likes it or not.


Indie Book Review: Salted by Aaron Galvin

Salted (Salt series, #1)


This book had a really interesting idea to it: selkie urban fantasy! The ‘salted’ humans could be traditional leopard seal-selkies, massive elephant seals, dolphins, and even sharks! Each animal determined the person’s social status in the ‘salt’ (ocean). Honestly, the whole concept had me intrigued right from the start, throw in a coming-of-age/self-discovery subplot about a teenager who discovers his own heritage, and I should have been sorted.

Despite the novel concept, the execution didn’t hold my interest all the way through. It’s hard for me to pin it down to something specific – I think the main plot of tracking down runaway slaves was dragged out too much. I did get a little lost with the large number of characters, and for some reason I just couldn’t care for any of the characters apart from Garret. Lenny was a strangely dislikeable character, and I couldn’t sympathise with Chidi’s story. It sounds cold, but my feelings did not change throughout the book, and it’s hard to get invested in a story when you don’t care what happens to the characters.

Still, I am curious as to how the series plays out. This was the first book so maybe if I read the second the characters might be fleshed out in a way and I could connect to them.

Recommended for those wanting a twist on the selkies legend in a modern setting.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Amazon buy link.

Author goodreads page.

Salted, by Aaron Galvin (Salt #1)

Book Length: 358 pages

Urban Fantasy (Young Adult Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

Life isn’t better under the sea. Lenny Dolan is all too familiar with this reality. A Selkie slave in the realm beneath the waves, he has no choice when charged with leading a crew ashore to capture an elusive runaway. If unsuccessful, the loved ones kept behind will pay for his failure with their lives. But when their target leads Lenny and his crew to deeper, darker secrets, the Selkies are faced with a moral dilemma. Secure their own freedom at the expense of others, or return empty-handed to face the grisly consequences? How Lenny and his crew answer the question will teach them the harshest truth of all. Only through the loss of innocence does one become Salted.


Flash Fiction: Second Time’s the Charm

In response to Susan Lattwein’s Flash Fiction Prompt

No matter how much I kicked, no matter how much I screamed, no noise was loud enough to attract any attention. He must have parked in the middle of nowhere, or else the enclosed boot of the car was muffling everything I did. No one was coming for me.

The minutes ticked by, my ears settling to catch even the faintest noises, but there was nothing to hear. The inside of the boot stank like old meat. I wondered if I should try kicking again, maybe trying to focus my attack on the lock? I rolled over and tried to finger my bound hands across the lid, trying to locate something I could target. The crunch of footsteps on loose gravel froze me. I managed to take a deep shuddering breath before the boot popped open and harsh yellow light blinded me from above.

I snapped my eyes shut as he grabbed my elbow and wrenched me out of the car. Somehow, I managed to stay on my feet as I was half-dragged away from the solitary light. The fresh air brought the smell of salt and humus. I opened my eyes.

A road overgrown with weeds led to a little pier jutting out over the mud bank. It reminded me of the boardwalks I used to take when I was a kid, looking for guppies, frogs, and toadfish. This was a proper lake though, not just a little billabong. The water had to be deep.

There was no doubt in my mind why I was here. My whole life had been innocent, inconsequential. I’d made sure to anger nobody, learning from mistakes long past. The man didn’t speak, but I knew what he wanted.

“You want revenge.”

He took no notice of me, his gait unchanging. My shoes hit the wood and he pushed me in front of him, holding me at arm’s length.

“Look, you’re either just a psycho-killer, or you remember as much as I do. Which is it?”

Ever forwards, unrelenting.

“Okay, let’s say you do remember. That was the past – I can’t do anything about it now!”

We got to the end of the pier. I turned to him and opened my mouth to speak, but he just dived in, dragging me along with him.

Salty water rushed into my mouth, eyes, and ears. My hands still tied behind me, I was helpless to fight against him. This was exactly how it had gone. He was weaker than me back then, our roles reversed, and I had held him under until he stopped moving. It hadn’t even been anything personal – he was an old man who was taking too long to die, and he was making the country sick because of it. Everyone had turned a blind eye.

Before I lost consciousness, I wondered vaguely if he’d kill the others too, for what we did in our past lives.


Children’s Book Review: the Gift of the Quoxxel



This was a delightful read, the kind where the reading experience is just as fun as the plot. As you can probably tell by the book cover, this story screams ‘quirky’, and I don’t think I could adequately describe the book any more than the blurb (see below). It reminded me a little of Terry Pratchett’s tongue-in-cheek style (which I love) so I was so glad I decided to read this (after receiving a request from the author).

The ending was a little disappointing, but I suspect it’s being set up for a sequel, or at least another book set in the same universe. Although kids of 10-12yrs will love this book, it’s my kind of read too J

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

If you are interested in reading this book, the author is accepting requests for those interested in posting a review. You can contact him at richard.p.titus <at>

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Author Goodreads Page.

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The Gift of the Quoxxel, by Richard Titus (author and illustrator)

Book Length: 121 pages

Humorous Fantasy (Children’s Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

King Norr of Nibb was not content. He longed to know of the world beyond his tiny, island kingdom. Why travel elsewhere, said his people. What place could possibly be more perfect than Nibb?

What frustrated Norr even more, outsiders never came to Nibb. Foreign ships approached, hesitated, then sailed away. Why was that?

And that wasn’t the only mystery.

Who was the little girl who sang, but would not speak?

What kind of monster lurked in waters along the shore?

Had Dr Hinkus been devoured by woolly drumbkins?

And most importantly, what’s for lunch?

Drearily perfect Nibb was about to turn upside down. As King Norr often said, it’s enough to give one “haddocks.”

Book Review: Libriomancer by Jim C Hines



This is a book for bibliophiles. I highly recommend everyone have at least a look at this book and the idea it presents simply because it’s so excellent. Unless someone has thought of this idea before: using books as ways to bring objects and other things from the stories into reality. So you can get that light saber! Or Excalibur! Jim C Hines uses this idea in some pretty funny ways, especially the idea that you can accidentally get bitten by a vampire when you stick your hand in the book. That means every different version of vampire ever written is real, and running about in mishmashed nests. This book has Charlaine Harris’s ‘southerners’ and Stephanie Myer’s ‘sparklers’.

I picked up Libriomancy because I really liked Jim C Hines’ other books, especially his Fairy Tale reimaginings “Princess” series (I will always love the interpretation of Red Riding Hood as a violent vengeful nutter CLICK HERE and you will know what I mean).

Okay, for now I’ll get past the idea behind this urban fantasy and analyse the tale presented. See, the actual story is… it’s only ‘okay’. Compared to the wonderfully original idea behind the world, the story is glaringly unoriginal.  Not that there’s nothing wrong with an okay/seen-it-before story playing with a new idea. I’m a big believer in “same-same but different” books that gradually try new things. Having said that, with such a cool idea as Libriomancy, when compared to the actual plot there’s just no comparison: the idea is better than the story. It’s a shame, really. Makes me feel like I’m retreading old territory with a new toy.

The characters were, hm, relatively interesting, I guess. Isaac Vainio is a geeky screw-up that basically screams ‘IDENTIFY WITH ME’. The second protagonist (called the deuteragonist, but I don’t think many people know that. I didn’t – I had to google it) is more interesting, but at the same time very isolating. It was difficult for me to like her, I’m sorry to say. I appreciate the direction the author went with tying her to the rules of the world, and it was actually a pretty brave thing introducing a character that has such a weird nature, but in doing so it makes her, literally, a blank slate. How her character arc ended did give me hope that she will grow as the series progress, but so far it is severely limiting growth, and that’s just disappointing. Understandable, but still very disappointing.

In conclusion, I still recommend anyone who likes any sort of speculative fiction, check the story out and decide for yourself. Read the blurb, down the free sample from Amazon, at least to appreciate the idea.

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Libriomancy, by Jim C. Hines

Magic Ex Libris #1

Book Length: 308 pages

Urban Fantasy (Adult Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of the secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg. Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic-users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.
With the help of a motorcycle-riding dryad who packs a pair of oak cudgels, Isaac finds himself hunting the unknown dark power that has been manipulating humans and vampires alike. And his search will uncover dangerous secrets about Libriomancy, Gutenberg, and the history of magic. . . .

Indie Book Review: Rise of the Prince by Nicholas C. Rossis (Pearseus #2)



This was my bedside table book: a slow burn with diverse, multi-faceted characters which, for me, was best consumed in small but regular servings. I reviewed the first book here and this sequel blows it out of the water in scope and scale. I could never be sure where this book was heading, save for the nods to the Greco-Persian Wars, but since this was a science-fiction tale I knew I couldn’t rely on that ;). Truthfully, I had trouble deciding who was meant to be the ‘good guys’ or even who the ‘real’ main character was, and I mean this as a compliment. After all, real life is not so clear cut, is it? The story is told through so many characters’ eyes over their evolving and challenging lives, a true epic.

While the culture and warfare was more ancient world, the touches of scifi and relict energy weapons (seen through the eyes of characters whose limited understanding of the technologies often interpreted it as magic) reminded me of where these people came from, and the book even comments on where we could be going. The concept of ‘the eternal games’ sticks in my mind.

I think this will definitely appeal to lovers of epic stories and historic retellings (is that a genre? It should be). A unique mix of space-age science fiction, fantastical spirits, and epic history.

Nicholas C. Rossis’ Blog.

Rise of the Prince, by Nicholas C. Rossis

Pearseus #2

Book Length: 372 pages

Scifi Epic/Historic retelling (Adult Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

This is the best-selling book 2 of the Pearseus series. Game of Thrones meets Dune in this rich and thought-provoking story of humanity starting afresh on the remote planet of Pearseus. Three hundred years have passed since the first humans crash-landed on Pearseus. Following the disastrous schism of year 18, their descendants have split into three competing factions. In the process, the electronic books containing humanity’s vast knowledge are lost, forcing humanity to rebuild its civilization from scratch. Peace of the Eclipse, an uneasy truce between the Capital, the Loyalists and the Democracies, still holds – barely. While man turns against man, the First, Pearseus’ indigenous people, wage their own ancient war against a shadowy enemy; an unceasing struggle that threatens to destroy all of humanity. Egged on by unseen forces, the increasingly paranoid ruler of the Capital terrorizes her subjects. As war looms ever closer, the protagonists find their lives in danger at every turn. Pearseus is a page-turning Science Fiction adventure, which tries to answer the question: “What good is justice without compassion?” Following Pearseus: Year 18, Rise of the Prince is the first book in the Pearseus trilogy. Mixing blood-curling drama with psychology, religion, history and philosophy, it offers a rich tale with surprising twists.

Book Review: Giant Thief by David Tallerman



Giant Thief started out well. The beginning was fast-paced, set up an interesting fantasy world and protagonist, and running off with a giant seemed interesting enough… until it wasn’t.

It just didn’t do it for me, and I think it’s because the book ended up being one big long chase sequence. There was not enough room for the characters to breath or for the major plot to even be exposed properly (a power-hungry warlord who was conquering cities and towns that refused to unite properly against him due to stupid politics).

I liked how the story started. I liked the giant. I sort of liked the thief. I found the world-building and the descriptions of the landscapes to be well done, if overdone for me. But then, I know people who really enjoy poetic descriptions of the countryside and I have no doubt that David Tallerman can write – he definitely proves that. I just think plot and character development should have a higher priority over ‘storytelling’, you know? The ability to spin a yarn is great, and the author’s grasp of the English language is far better than mine. It’s just that to me, storytelling is a podium to put a STORY on, and Giant Thief was less of a story and more of a keeping-the-protagonist-and-the-reader-in-the-dark-for-too-long. There was a bigger story there, and we get a summary of it by the end, but honestly I found the main character the least interesting character to follow around in this particular tale. Estrada would have been far, far more interesting. Hell, the giant would’ve been a more interesting protagonist, as we find out later in the book he’s much more than he seems.

So even though I didn’t particularly like it, I expect others might and I didn’t find it a chore to finish. Can’t recommend it, but I don’t feel like it was a waste of my time since I like trying different things.

Giant Thief

By David Tallerman

Tales of Easie Damasco #1

Book Length: 364 pages

Medieval Fantasy.

According to the Blurb:

Meet Easie Damasco, rogue, thieving swine and total charmer.

Even the wicked can’t rest when a vicious warlord and the force of enslaved giants he commands invade their homeland. Damasco might get away in one piece, but he’s going to need help.

Big time.

Book Review: Murder in the Boughs by Jamie Sedgwick



I loved this book. It started out with a bang and I worried it was going to peter out, but it never did (that’s not to say it made me dizzy – I should point out that the pacing was excellent). I was wrapped the whole time through this book. Now, it hasn’t gotten perfect reviews on Goodreads, but this book was honestly perfect for me. A wonderful blend of urban fantasy, humour, action, mystery, and heart. The characters were well fleshed out and the setting was real and, at times, really surprising. The giant snake that controls the elevator was a favourite of mine 🙂

The two mysteries were interesting and multi-layered, and although I felt the murder wasn’t resolved as well as I would have liked, I can appreciate the unique direction the ending took, which leads Hank Mossberg into a precarious future where he can longer rely on certainties. The book did justice to the fairy-tale inspired setting, and I just loved the lore, I really did.

I shall definitely be reading the sequel. Recommended to anyone looking to be swept up into mystery, murder and mayhem.

Murder in the Boughs

By Jamie Sedgwick

Hank Mossberg, Private Ogre #1

Book Length: 264 pages

Crime Urban Fantasy.

According to the Blurb:

Detective noir fiction and Grimm’s Fairy Tales collide in the “Hank Mossberg, Private Ogre” detective series. The series takes place in the gritty streets of San Francisco and in the undercity, the massive underground cavern where thousands of fae creatures secretly make their homes. Here, nymphs walk darkened streets, imps are slave traders, and gnomes are elite hackers.

In “Murder in the Boughs,” Hank Mossberg is a hard-boiled San Francisco detective who must race against time to rescue a kidnapped girl, expose a ring of “pixie dust” dealers, and find the killer of a high-elven San Francisco kingpin. Hank is also the last living ogre in the world.

Hank’s troubles begin when he stumbles onto a briefcase full of the illicit drug known as pixie dust. He finally has the evidence he needs to bring down the notorious Kaisers, an elven crime family, but then the gang’s leader is murdered and the pixie dust disappears. Hank is hot on the trail of the killer when he gets an urgent call from a desperate woman whose daughter has been abducted… only the kidnapper is no ordinary criminal, and even Hank’s unique skills might not be enough to bring the girl home. Hank juggles both cases while navigating the complexities of fae-world politics and real life relationships, none of which ever seem to come easy.

Nerves & Necromancy

I have now created a page for my upcoming book, The Black Swan Inheritance and with it, a snippet of a scene from the book! Figured I’d post it as well, so please, read on:

I found the body where the werewolf had left it. Black blood stained the ground, as well as my clothes. I worried if I had stopped to shower and change I would lose my nerve. Nerves were about all I had now. Nerves and necromancy.

Kneeling down next to the dead creature, my bare legs soaked up the heat of the day from the bitumen. I swallowed audibly and picked up the head to reposition it. That done, I took the small pocketknife I had been given when I joined scouts (I left after about a month) and opened the blade.

“Blood of the Black S-swan.” I was trying to command the dead to rise, and I couldn’t manage that through chattering teeth. I cleared my throat and started again. “Blood of the Black Swan binds you to me. I call you from the grave and into the night. If you shall accept, rise.”

I sliced the inside of my left palm and blood pooled. I coated my red blood against his black, running my hand around his severed neck. Then, finally, I placed my wounded palm over his mouth.

I looked away when I heard movement of flesh against stone, but forced my eyes back upon the scene. I watched as his blood coagulated with mine and brought the head back to the body. I watched as the fatal wound healed itself. I watched as the skin and muscle knitted before my eyes. I watched as the vampire’s eyes snapped open, and he grabbed my hand with both of his and pressed it hard against his mouth.

The feeding was disgusting. The vampire rose a little but only to force more of my blood into his mouth. It reminded me of a man bucking during sex. He drank with greedy desperation, as if frightened the blood be taken from him at any moment. I let him feed, but when I felt my strength wane, I had to put a stop to it.


The vampire stilled with the command.

“Release me.”

He relinquished my wrist, and I checked my palm. The clean cut was marred with hickeys – bruising from the vampire sucking so desperately he brought the blood up through the skin. My vision became spotty, so I let my hand drop to my side, hoping that if I hid the sight of it I could manage to remain conscious.

“I have claimed you, do you understand?”

He nodded, but his eyes were glassy.

“Are you still hungry?”

“Yes,” he whispered in a weak voice.

“You can no longer feed on me. Is there anything else that can be done to heal you?”

“No blood?”

“No blood.”

He didn’t answer for a moment. Then he said, “Bury me. I need rest.”

I blinked. “Bury you? Bury you where?”

“Somewhere safe.”

I didn’t even own a shovel. I lived in an apartment, after all. Where would be safe?

There was a park right next to where we were, but that could hardly be safe. There was sort of a common, a grassy back garden at the apartment block where the clothesline was. How was I to dig up the ground?

Wait, the management hired a gardener. He came every week and kept his tools in a little shed, next to the hot water systems. There should be a shovel in there.

I just hoped I wasn’t caught.

“C’mon.” I helped the vampire to his feet. “You’re coming home with me.”

The Black Swan Inheritance will be out 1st December 2014!

Copyright © 2014 Sarah Thomas writing as Marigold Deidre Dicer

Also, I am pretty bloody sure I’ll be using this cover. I definitely liked the other ones but I had to choose, and I personally prefer the Black Swan to be in all her glory.

Black Swan GOODfirst

Original cover photographed reproduced here by permission of photographer Nicholas Raymond of

I Got My First Autographed Book!

Nicholas Rossis has very kindly sent me an autographed copy of his latest book, The Power of Six. All the way from Greece! Look at those stamps!

It’s a collection of sci-fi stories (which it says on the cover, but I sympathise with those who have dodgy internet that struggles with images). I was lucky enough to read a great story of his about a time-traveler who tries to kill Hitler (NOT River Song), which I really enjoyed, so I’m looking forward to this!


I am only halfway through his first book of the Pearseus trilogy (my holidays didn’t give me nearly as much time to read as I anticipated) so I have lots of catching up to do. I’ll be posting reviews of all these once I’ve finished them. READING! GO!

Of course, I still have plenty to post about my holiday (which I will, definitely), but next week will be back to the regular schedule of:

Tuesday – Book Review

Thursday – Mini Story

Friday – Haiku

All other days – Random Nonsense that Comes to Mind

And then I’ll be returning to work… which I chose to divert my attention from by reading and blogging!