Book Review Alert: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Reviewed: November 3rd, 2022
Releases: September 15th, 2022
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has.

In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides that thunder up staircases, the clouds that move in slow procession through the upper halls. On Tuesdays and Fridays Piranesi sees his friend, the Other. At other times he brings tributes of food to the Dead. But mostly, he is alone.

Messages begin to appear, scratched out in chalk on the pavements. There is someone new in the House. But who are they and what do they want? Are they a friend or do they bring destruction and madness as the Other claims?

Lost texts must be found; secrets must be uncovered. The world that Piranesi thought he knew is becoming strange and dangerous.

The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite. Read my Thoughts…

Book Review Alert: When We Were Sea and Stars by Elen Chase

Reviewed: May 18th, 2022
Released: August 7th, 2020
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance

Under the summer sun, in a small seaside town in South Italy, nineteen-year-old James meets the man of his dreams. Roberto is gorgeous, fun, sweet… and very taken. James has no delusions about their friendship; he knows love couldn’t possibly happen to him.

Roberto is full of doubts about his relationship. He knows something is missing in his life and he’s not expecting to find that something in James, his new American neighbor.

But if something were to happen, only the sea, the sand and the stars can know. Read my thoughts …

Book Review Alert: Dark Empathy by Katy Morgan

Reviewed: April 3rd, 2022
Released: October 26th, 2018
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy

For an empath, “How do you feel?” is never just a question.
Not when it can kill you.

These are the rules:

1. Rare and powerful empaths never escape the compound.
(Bastian Lucas escaped a year ago, and just because he’s been dragged back doesn’t mean he won’t escape again.)

2. Compound officers don’t ask questions.
(Captain Henry Mortimer has always followed orders, but Bastian’s arrival—and the disappearance of one of Henry’s team—have him wondering things he probably shouldn’t be wondering.)

When Major Valentine orders Bastian and Henry to investigate a series of murders committed by an asset with powers similar to Bastian’s, it brings to light more than just a cover up. Things like why an empath who shouldn’t exist is killing senators, what’s really behind the compound’s sinister asset program, and whether Bastian and Henry will live to see the end of this case.

Because they’re in danger of breaking rule number three as well:

3. Don’t fall in love. Read My thoughts…

Book Review Alert: The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

Reviewed: March 28th, 2022
Released: March 17th, 2022
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

There are some maps you can lose yourself in…

Nell Young has lived her life in and around maps. Her father, Dr. David Young, was one of the most respected cartographers in the world. But this morning he was found dead – or murdered? – in his office at the New York Public Library.

Nell hadn’t spoken to her father in years, ever since he fired her after an argument over a seemingly worthless highway roadside map. A map which was mass-produced – and every copy of which is now being found and destroyed. But why?

To answer that question, Nell will embark on a dangerous journey into the heart of a conspiracy beyond belief, the secrets behind her family, and the true power that lies in maps . . . Read My thoughts…

Book Review Alert: Renegade Angel by KC Freeman

Reviewed: March 27th, 2022 (ARC)
Released: October 4th, 2022
Genre: Paranormal Fantsay

Exclusively available in the Realm of Darkness Anthology.

A warrior for good. A soldier for Heaven. A heart of gold. A body of sin.
Jasper Moreau has served as a guardian angel for centuries. He battles the demons and monsters in the dark so humanity can pretend they don’t exist. But being a guardian angel isn’t all divine love and light. Sometimes the human side of his nature needs to feed his own lustful appetites.

Savannah only wants to ride horses and be part of a family-her rodeo family. The rodeo was the one place she was finally able to escape her dark past and hide from supernatural abilities. She seems destined to remain the comical rodeo clown, but Fate has a mind of its own. And Fate means to stir up trouble. Read My thoughts…

Book Review Alert: The Wrong Apocalypse by Philip J. Dennis

Reviewed: March 23rd, 2022
Released: February 19th, 2021
Genre: Horror/Satire

One moment we are spending time with friends, family, lovers. Then, before we knew it, the whole world went to hell and we find ourselves hiding indoors, scared for our lives over what is happening outside. It’s the Apocalypse. Not the apocalypse you’d have expected, no.

We dare not go near the window for fear of being seen. We dare not go outside for fear of what will happen to us. Mindless, bumbling, soulless husks with vacant eyes wander the streets. No, not politicians. Zombies!As if that isn’t enough, we find ourselves hiding in the least likely place you’d expect to find yourself during a Zombie Apocalypse. Hush Now. A sex shop in the city centre. We have limited supplies. Instant noodles, tins of beans, packet of rice. But we have all the novelty candy underwear we can eat.

We are not alone. There are others out there. Survivors like us. We have a plan. We were to meet up with friends in their restaurant. And that plan still stands. Somehow we will get out of this place. We will survive this! Read My thoughts…

Book Review Alert: Raven Song by Jennifer Brasington-Crowley

Reviewed: March 13th, 2022
Released: October 12th, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Romance

This is the story of a harried zoologist, a haunted rock star and the belt that ties them together. “Take my belt.” Stanzie Butler could not miss her flight. The most important trip of her career was on the line, and this rude, loud, unkempt hooligan was not going to ruin it with his dress code violation.

Raven Xerces, the notorious rock star with a tortured past, troubled present and uncertain future, seemed to be doing all he could to sabotage Stanzie’s flight. And like a bad penny, he just kept turning up. When Stanzie’s layover leads her to Raven once again, he tries to make amends, and Stanzie discovers that this obnoxious tabloid star isn’t at all what she expected.

Raven Song is a story for dreamers, believers, rockers and lovers. A girl-next-door meets bad boy rock n roll romance that’s sexy, fun and full of memorable characters, dark family secrets, colorful sidekicks, layered song lyrics, a talking raven, a clowder of cats, an endangered addax, a nest of sea turtles, a trip to the zoo, fine vintage guitars, a bottle of hair dye, some new tattoos, and a whole lot of rock n roll. Read My thoughts…

Book Giveaways and Competitions

March is a busy month! Not only March hares bouncing around with endless energy, there are lots of book giveaways and bookswag competitions.

Bookmark my competitions page to keep up to date with the latest opportunity to win books and bookish swag. This month:

  • Win one of 100 eBook copies of Sentinals Awaken (US readers only)
  • Win a signed paperback copy of contemporary romance novel, Touch by Angela Cairns (UK readers only)
  • Win a $50 Amazon Giftcard (International)
Closes March 10th
Closes March 12th
Closes March 17th

Book Review Alert: Knight’s Rebirth by Sarah Ashwood

Reviewed: February 25th, 2022
Released: December 10th, 2018
Genre: Fantasy
Narrator: Marcus Rothenberg

“My name is Buckhunter Dornley, and I am dead.”

This isn’t your average fairy tale, and Sir Buckhunter Dornley isn’t your average knight. He’ll tell you that himself. Winning tournaments, fighting cyclopes, and slaying dragons? All in a day’s work for the mightiest knight in the empire, but that knight is about to meet his match in Mercy, the charming and outrageous princess of Merris. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, and Buck falls hard. What he doesn’t know is Mercy lives under an ancient, terrible curse. When he finds out, Buck swears he’ll do anything to break it.

There’s just one little problem. He’s dead. For there to be any chance of happily ever after, the knight determined to rescue the princess may need the princess to rescue him too.

A fairy tale fantasy perfect for those who love traditional fairy tales with a twist. Read my thoughts …

Author Interview – Angela Cairns

Author of Touch.

Today I am chatting with Women’s fiction author, Angela Cairns, about her latest novel Touch, which is an inspiring story of self-discovery, wounded heroes, and second-chance love

Helen: Welcome Angela! To start us off, tell us about your latest book.

Angela: My current book is titled Touch – it’s the first in the uplifting Ellie Rose women’s fiction series. If you like inspiring stories of self-discovery, wounded heroes, and second-chance love, you’ll adore this story, with romantic leanings and a hint of medical memoir.  Books two and three are queued up and ready to be released called Dilemma and Bloom, and there is a prequel novella already released, called Paradise, which charts Ellie’s early life and love for Brett in Australia.

Physiotherapist, Ellie Rose who is devastated by the tragic loss of her soulmate. Unable to endure the stifling sympathy of friends and family she leaves for the quiet countyside of Essex where she knows no one. After suffering too long in an awful job, she decides to establish her own holistic health clinic. She finds solace in healing others and in her wonderful dogs, but wonders if she’ll ever reclaim her own happiness.

 Ellie can’t release the pain lingering in her soul. Until a new neighbour with his own grief opens the door to loving again. Can she find the courage to let go of the past and live life with passion again?

Helen: This does sound like an amazing journey as well as a bit of a heart-wrencher. What was the inspiration behind the cover design?

Angela: The cover to Touch has been through several transformations and I love working with my American cover designer Shannon Kuzmich. We finally settled on a watercolour style of a reflective girl walking on a beach. It suits the mood of the book and is one of the scenes from the story. I love the colours and the mood. I’ve had some beautiful bookmarks made by artist Carolyn Carlin, who has used the floral design from the girl’s dress and picked out the main colours in the bookmark ribbons.

Helen: It’s a lovely cover and the idea behind the bookmarks sounds amazing! How did you come up with the title?

Angela: The back story to the title is linked to the main character’s profession as a physio and her beliefs that touch therapies are important in healing and well-being. As a physio myself, this reflects my own beliefs. But it also alludes to the loss of her soulmate and his touch and learning to trust again.

Helen: What a lovely story behind the title. It’s so nice when then is real meaning behind the title. Why did you write this book?

Angela: I’ve always written stories and done a lot of non-fiction professional writing. My first published stories were a series of audio relaxation visualisations called Play, Pause, Unwind with original soundtracks from composer Simon Ramet. Then came my anthology of short stories Seasonal Produce. I began writing Touch because the idea for the story had been nagging in my brain for a while and I also wanted to explore some of my beliefs about wellbeing and recovering from loss in a fiction form.  I also write hundred word stories as part of a writing team, for a local radio station, which are then produced and narrated by actors as part of a show.

I’d love to help people journey with hope through the ups and downs of life.

Helen: That must be amazing to have your work narrated on the radio. Do you typically write Women’s fiction? What are you currnetly working on?

Angela: I write Women’s fiction which is mostly set in a contemporary world. The Ellie Rose series will span through from 1986 to current times. Initially a three-part series, I’ve fallen in love with my characters and their world, so it is destined to become a saga. My latest project is my first historical novel set in 1910. It was inspired by my grandmother’s photo archives and in part her stories about growing up that I listened to as a child. It’s a fascinating time for women as the suffragist and suffragette movements are gaining strength and I wanted to link her experiences as a dressmaker’s apprentice and her love of music into the story. It’s set in Portsmouth UK where she lived for over a hundred years.

Helen: How wonderful that you have such a close connection and can use personal memories in your book. It sounds a really interesting premise. What inspired you to start writing?

Angela: I was inspired to write by my love of reading. As a child I inhabited amazing worlds and met wonderful people inside the covers of books. I had a head full of stories I wanted to write down and I think it is a wonderful privilege to be able to walk alongside readers and see your books take life in their enjoyment. As a child, The Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh and any horse book I could find, Black beauty, Flambards (the site of which, I coincidentally live near now and actually exists.) you name it I read it. As an adult, I love reading  Joanne Harris, Anita Shreve, Susan Howatch, Marion Keyes and indie author Julia Blake. I also love crime fiction and forensic crime, P.D James, Kathy Reichs, Ian Rankin and indie writers, Stella Oni and Caroline Noe.

My writer’s group with The Writers Company and their imaginative and creative courses continue to be my anchor and my compass.

Helen: Gosh, I can really relate, I used to love the Flambards! If your Main Character could speak, why would she tell us to read your book?

Angela: Why would my main character Ellie Rose say you should read my book? Well because life can be tough and sometimes you just need to put everything down at the door, get comfortable and let someone else soothe away the aches and pains.

Helen: Let’s chat a little about your writing process. Are you a pantser or a planner? Do you write free form, or do you have a framework you stick to?

Angela:  All my ideas are hand-written in notebooks, although the text itself is typed. I’ve tried all kinds of writing software but at the end of the day I fare best with word files for each chapter, a main text document and a gorgeous notebook and pen. All my friends buy me amazing notebooks which I open with reverence – there is nothing better than a virgin page and a fountain pen!

Helen: Do you listen to music when you write, if so, what do you listen to and why?

Angela: Sometimes I listen to music, but mainly I write in quiet in a spare bedroom that used to be my son’s room. It is light and airy, with a view of my neighbours gardens and the sky. If I need music, it’s when I take a break to have a wild dance around the kitchen. Dancing music of choice; Santana, Samba Pa Ti; Black Box Ride on Time; Chumbawumba, Tubthumpin’. I also love belly dancing, so anything by Shakira or some of the traditional Raq Sharqui music.

 I do a lot of my thinking out on walks with the dogs, I have Gordon Setters, or on long drives. A lot of my characters names are constructed from interesting place names I see when I’m driving.

Helen: I think every writer is a great reader! What is your favourite book and what do you love about it?

Angela: Virtually impossible to choose a favourite book, but if I was going to be marooned on an island with only two books I’d take Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. It’s an inspirational piece of spiritual poetry prose that looks at the very nub of life itself. I’ve bought it at least seven or eight times, because every time I lend it, it never comes back. Then it would have to be Joanne Harris’s Chocolat – I love the world, because it reminds me so vividly of when I lived in France, the characters are colourful and fascinating and there is just that hint of magical realism that she does so well. I could escape into that world and be endlessly happy.

Helen: Great choices! What books have you recently read that you would recommend?

Angela: Recent books I would recommend are from the indie publishing world, because I’ve been delving into that recently to support my colleagues. Ezekial Factor by Caroline Noe. Cracking dystopian crime novel with a snarky detective, a feisty terrier and an AI colleague who ends up teaching the main character a lot about being human. Anything by Julia Blake, but I love The Book of Eve that had a modern-day Great Gatsby vibe to it. I also loved the retro /paranormal/romance series by Mckenna Dean which starts with Bishop takes Knight and I’ve binge read all of Helen Starbucks mystery/crime novels- she writes the best male leads and feisty heroines.

Helen: Ooh nice, I’ll have to check them out! What is the most useful piece of writing advice you’ve received?

Angela: The most useful piece of writing advice I received came from DBC Pierre who wrote Vernon God Little  – “Write in a reckless fever, re-write in a cardigan.” And that’s me, I’m neither a plotter nor a fly by the seat of my pants writer (pantser). I start with a story arc and a basic idea of where I’m going. Then I research the time period, thoroughly, I try to find real characters/events to influence my fictitious ones and make them authentic and relatable.

I quite like the notion that I’m a gardener, i.e. I start with a seed, water and tend it, then see what grows!

Helen: A lovely idea! It’s been such fun getting to know you, Angela, as we reach the end of our time together could you tell us something anecdotal about yourself.

Angela: Something anecdotal – hmmm, just a saying that I’ve found helps to keep me sane … “Don’t push the river – it flows by itself.” A healthy amount of planning and goal setting is great, but so is a healthy amount of good humoured acceptance and flexibility. I’m an acupuncturist as well as a physio and I practice T’ai Chi and Yoga, so I’m all about striving for balance.

Helen: Thank you so much for chatting with me today. I wish you all the best with your next book. Just to close, what advice would you give new writers?

Angela: Every first draft needs rewriting to tighten up the pace of the story and deepen the character portraits. When I have done the best I can, I have a lovely team of beta readers who generously read the fledgling story and pick up any flaws they see. Then it’s off to a professional editor, for more tidying up and polishing. You must love the process, if you’re going to produce good work.

About the Author:

Angela Cairns

Still a working clinician – Physiotherapist/Acupuncturist I began writing with a collection of relaxation stories set to original sound-tracks called Play Pause Unwind I felt we were long overdue a physiotherapist heroine to join the ranks of fictional doctors, nurses and psychologists and so I wrote Ellie Rose – clever, compassionate and determined, a heroine to take to your heart…

I live in Essex, in the UK with my husband. I have two grown-up sons and a clan of Gordon Setter dogs.

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If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my books which are available in eBook, paperback or hardcover: Book One: Sentinals Awaken. Book Two: Sentinals Rising. Book Three: Sentinals Justice. Book 3.5: Sentinals Recovery. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next book releases.

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