Indie Book Review: Tournament of Hearts

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Review:

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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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.

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Indie Book Review: Salted by Aaron Galvin

Salted (Salt series, #1)

Review:

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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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.

Indie Book Review: Press F5 To Load Game, by LeVar Ravel

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Review:

Straight up this book drew me in with the video-game style title and cover. It looks like a cover you’d find on nostalgic game pack from the nineties. But instead of being filled with floppy disks, it’s filled with video-game references and, bizarrely, politics.

This would be a good book for anyone who’s ever had politicians drive them to violent fantasy.

The story has a unique time-travel method behind it. Unfortunately, I found myself getting board more often than I liked, especially with the scene-setting sequences in offices or government. The main character Lars was nice and sarcastic. He’s not a main character that the reader should like, but it works because he’s so blatantly dislikeable the reader is laughing at him, not with him.

There’s a lot of strange things going on in this story. Frannie’s quirks are jarring at times, but the reader is rewarded when everything comes together in the end. A short read that could’ve been shorter in my opinion, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Recommended for those with the mixed interests of gaming and politics.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Press F5 To Load Game, by LeVar Ravel

Book Length: 188 pages

Time-travel Adventure (Adult Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

How to win an election:

  1. Shake hands.
  2. Kiss babies.
  3. Travel through time.

“Politics is more difficult than physics,” said Albert Einstein. Now that we can time travel, this is no longer true.

All the State House gossips go abuzz when an influential senator forms an alliance with Rep. Frannie Upwood, the capital’s most famous underachiever and favorite butt of jokes. Why his sudden interest in such a lightweight politician?

It’s up to Lars Uxbridge, the senator’s disloyal staffer, to find out, after he joins a network of political spies. What Lars discovers is a secret far beyond anything other state reps can muster.

Indie Book Review: South of Reality by A I Alexen

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Review:

I really like reading books and stories that have animals as the protagonists, and as Animal Farm showed us, ‘animals’ does not equal ‘for kids’. Having said that, South of Reality can easily be enjoyed by kids, but at the same time I found a lot of fun in it too.

The story is written at about upper middle/high-school level and up (enough to challenge the younger folk while ensuring the adults aren’t patronised). Set on a family farm, the animal dynamics are thrown when a charming tomcat arrives with nefarious purposes. The tale is woven in a pleasantly cosy fashion with a curious mystery to start and a heart-warming banding together of the animal kingdom to finish, and I love it when I realise the reference a book cover is making!

This is a great holiday read (and I conveniently read it over the Easter weekend!) that I can recommend to anyone wondering what our fuzzy friends get up to when we’re not looking…

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

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South of Reality, by A I Alexen

Book Length: 145 pages

Animal Adventure (Young and Young-at-heart Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

A cat burglar, two upstanding dogs, & a malicious rooster join forces on a mission of mercy!

When guard dogs Arky and Peyson investigate a mysterious and shady new feline arrival, they could never have foreseen what lay ahead – midnight chases in the forest, employment among humans, deals with a malicious rooster, and much more, bringing them closer and closer to breaking the all-important animal code!

#Indie #BookReview: The Wolf You Feed by Angela Stevens

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Review:

Epic family drama with werewolves. If that doesn’t grab your attention, I don’t know what will!

By epic, I’m referring to the great swathes of time the story covers: about sixteen years by my reckoning. During this time we see Tore defy his clan for the sake of love, rescue a friend and tries to build a new life, only to have tragedy dog his steps.  The family dynamics are compelling and play out like a classic drama: power struggles, heirs, pride, usurpers and revenge are the names of this game.

The title is a reference to a famous Native American proverb that is really the mantra of the story, which makes me think of it as like a fairy-tale retelling in a way.  You can read a condensed version of the proverb in the blurb below.

I enjoyed The Wolf You Feed a lot, more than I expected since it’s such a unique mix of genres. Because of the epic nature of the story there were moments where I tuned out a little (I’m sorry, I can’t help it! It just happens…) but I can definitely recommend this to other readers.

Recommended for lovers of family dramas, or those wanting to read a different kind of urban fantasy.

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The Wolf You Feed, by Angela Stevens

Book Length: 251 pages

Paranormal Family Drama (Adult Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

Tore Vargr finds his world turned upside down when he is forced to choose between the love of his life and the life he loves. He chooses Annike, disrespects his brother, Erik, and sets off a chain of events that shape his life in a way he could never have imagined.

Outlawed from his clan, Tore embraces his new responsibilities of father and protector as he carves out a new life in a human world. But a jealous brother has a long memory and Erik is nothing if not patient when it comes to exacting revenge. When Tore’s past catches up with his present, he has to learn to pull from an inner strength.

There is a battle of two wolves inside us all.
One is evil: it is anger, envy, greed, arrogance, jealousy, resentment, lies.
The other is good: it is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, truth.
The wolf that wins?
The one you feed.

– Cherokee proverb

Spanning two generations The Wolf You Feed is the first book in a heartbreaking trilogy set in the shape shifting worlds of werewolves and skin walkers.

#Indie #BookReview: Marinian Pearls by Laura Gilfillan

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Review:

I’ve never read a mermaid book, and after reading this book I realise that I need to read more. Marinian Pearls shows off the ocean and all its diversity, and I fell in love with it. The sequences where we explore under the sea were magical, from the bright, sunny surface down to the very depths of the ocean floor.

I don’t know if it was the intent of the author, but I could easily describe this book as a modern reimaging of “The Little Mermaid”. The specifics of the story are completely different (such as Haley’s motivations, the nature of mermaids, and, of course, the romance is turned on its head), but I couldn’t help but feel the story was inspired from the old fairy tale. Which is a good thing, of course – I love fairy tale retellings!

There were moments where some sections dragged a bit, but they weren’t enough to detract from the freedom that both the reader and the main character experienced as a mermaid.

Recommended for fans of fairy tale retellings, paranormal romance, and the sea.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Marinian Pearls, by Laura Gilfillan

Book Length: 310 pages

Mermaid Paranormal Romance / Fairy Tale Retelling (Young Adult Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

What would it really be like to live in the sea? Haley finds out when she discovers a magical string of pearls that transforms her into a mermaid. While she explores the sea, she forgets all about being human, until something happens one day to remind her. She finds her way back home, only to discover that she’s been gone for a whole year.

Her parents, shocked and upset, had concluded that she must have died, since she had been missing for so long. She is dismayed to find that she has become another year older without having even realized it. Plus she has a whole year of school that she will now have to make up. She knows she’s going to have to work hard to pick up the pieces of her life. But it’s difficult for her to return to normal, because again and again she is drawn by an overwhelming urge to return to the sea.

Indie Book Review: Shallow Waters by @RebeccaJBradley

Review:

Crime isn’t really my genre (I like cozy mysteries, not so much the gritty stuff), but since I follow Rebecca Bradley on wordpress, I was interested in reading what she’d written and decided to pick up her book. Shallow Waters sucked me right into the cold and gritty world of British police procedurals, and I was surprised at how quickly my reading experience turned from a ‘just out of curiosity’ to ‘I have to know what happens next!’ The atmosphere and the characters were done so well, and the crime was so compelling: there was so little information at the start, then it seemed to be an open-and-shut case before it spiralled into something much darker and sinister. I really enjoyed getting to know the Detective-Inspector and her world. There was just the right amount of personal drama and drive, and the ending was suitably tragic.

I’ve become attached to DI Hannah Robbins, so I’m looking forward to where this series goes. Even though crime isn’t really my thing, I found a lot to enjoy here. Has it changed my attitude to the whole genre? No, not really, but I ‘get’ it now, and I find police-procedurals more appealing than I did before.

Recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in crime.

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Shallow Waters, by Rebecca Bradley

Book Length: 370 pages

Police Procedural Crime (Adult Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

‘A gritty police procedural, with no-holds barred and a shocking insight to the reality of some. Dark and disturbing, yet exceptionally compelling.’ – Mel Sherratt, author of Taunting The Dead.

‘Tense, compelling and utterly absorbing. DI Hannah Robbins is a force to be reckoned with.’ – Jane Isaac, author of The Truth Will Out.

When the naked, battered body of an unidentified teenager is found dumped in an alleyway, post-mortem finds evidence of a harrowing series of events.

Another teenage death with the same MO pushes DI Hannah Robbins and her team on the Nottingham City division Major Crimes Unit, to their limits, and across county borders. In a race against the clock they attempt to unpick a thick web of lies and deceit to uncover the truth behind the deaths.

Indie Book Review: Rangers by Chloe Gardner

Review:

Being a long time Supernatural fan, as I read Rangers I immediately recognised the inspiration behind the story. This isn’t just a fanfic though – the lore and characters are their own, and I had a lot of fun reading the paranormal adventures the twins and their tag-along got up to.

I did find the writing a little clunky, but the imagination was there, and I’ll take imagination over fluid writing any day. Having said that, I felt I didn’t connect with the characters as much as I wanted to, but I was still able to enjoy the ride. So many monsters, so much magic, so much action! I am interested in seeing where the series goes…

Recommended for fans of Supernatural. I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Rangers, by Chloe Gardner

Sam and Sam #1

Book Length: 414 pages

Paranormal Adventure (Adult Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

Sam and Jason have been at this a long time, and they’re some of the best out there. Gremlins, goblins, ghosts of all kind, vampires, even the yeti that time in Cleveland, they go where they’re needed and they kill what needs killed. It’s that simple. And it’s a pretty good life, really.

Then there’s the girl. Samantha. She’s feisty and difficult and she knows next to nothing about what they do, but she’s pretty handy with a hatchet and seems to just keep tagging along with them, city after city, witch after ghost after spirit, despite Jason’s best efforts to ditch her along the way. If he’d had any idea just how complicated she was about to make their lives, he probably would have left her in Georgia.

It’s too bad, really. Sam appears to be in love with her.

Indie Book Review: Shattered, by Becky Durfee

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Review:

Yet again Becky Durfee has managed to create a fresh and compelling mystery. This time, the spirit that visits Jenny Watkins can talk, and talks quite a lot, but Jenny can’t understand Russian! Going by the few words she can pick up, she once again uses her amateur detective skills to pursue justice for the dead.

While I had a niggling issue with how the protagonist searched for clues in the last book, this time Jenny’s got her head on straight. We also get to see some finality to what Jenny wants out of her marriage (that’s to say, she wants it to end), and it’s great to see Jenny take another step towards becoming the person she wants to be.

We also finally get to meet Jenny’s family, and get some shocking revelations to boot!

Another exciting and enthralling mystery with the most relatable woman in the world. Have I mentioned I love this series?

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Shattered, by Becky Durfee

Jenny Watkins Mysteries #3

Book Length: 176 pages

Paranormal Cozy Mystery (Adult Fiction)

According to the Blurb:

Psychic Jenny Watkins’ world has been turned upside down. Everything she once knew to be fact has come into question, and she is faced with choices that could impact the rest of her life.

As she deals with the crisis in her personal life, she is contacted by a young murder victim who lived in America but spoke no English. Relying solely on timing and intuition, Jenny tries to interpret the clues and find justice for a woman stripped of life too soon.

Children’s Book Review: the Gift of the Quoxxel

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Review:

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> gmail.com

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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.”