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Deborah Jay (UK)

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A Witch's Journey
A Witch's Journey
by Tena Stetler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A sweet read but without conflict, 20 Jun. 2016
This review is from: A Witch's Journey (Paperback)
I find myself really conflicted writing this review – on one level I enjoyed the story as a hugely pleasant read about subjects close to my heart, along with great characters and lovely settings. On the other, I found it hugely frustrating. Let me explain...
The story opens with Pepper, a witch, in a dire situation. She’s used magic openly (in Salem, of all places) to protect her place of work, an animal rehab shelter, from a storm, and now she’s out of a job and being thrown out of her apartment. She has no place to go, and no plans. So far, so good.
Then she receives a summons to a family solicitor, to be told she’s inherited an estate and a large amount of money – good timing or what?
Upon arriving at said property, she meets hot handyman, Lathan, former Navy Seal who just happens to be a wolf shifter. Okay, right now he can’t shift due to injuries sustained, but who cares? He’s gorgeous, amenable and available.
So begins the delightful tale of Pepper setting up her own animal rescue and rehab centre with a lot of physical help from the delectable Lathan. They are engaging characters, beautifully depicted and easy to root for.
But therein also lies the problem at the root of this novel (for me) – it has no real plot. Yes, there is a story. Yes, things happen. But conflict? No.
Pepper and Lathan get along just fine, moving steadily from interested to attached to committed with nary a ripple of a problem along the way. Yes, they both have personal issues to come to terms with, and they talk and think about how things could go wrong, but they never do!
There are vague threats to the rehab centre, and a slightly crazy guy who makes a couple of half-hearted physical assaults, but turns out he’s being controlled by the real ‘bad guy’, who is so ineffectual he makes so little impact on the story I can’t even remember his name. I did feel the poor patsy was rather badly dealt with – it wasn’t his fault he was acting out of character, and yet no one seemed at all concerned about the consequences to his life.
There are a couple of recurring points that impart unease – a window that seems to open itself, and a door that creaks ominously – both of which I was truly expecting to play critical roles in the final scenes, but no, they never led anywhere.
In fact, Pepper sums up the ending extremely well herself, when she says: “Well, that was an anticlimactic ending to the evening.”
Basically in this book, nothing goes wrong. No conflict, no danger – lots of talking about it, but it never comes to anything.
So if you are looking for a sweet, easy read, with lovely characters, decent writing, a few sex scenes, some jaunts around beautiful places, and lots of descriptions of yummy food, then this is a book for you.
If, on the other hand, you want action, things going awry, characters thrown into impossible situations, and above all, conflict, then I suggest you leave this one off your reading list.
I received a free copy of this book for a blog tour – all thoughts are my own.


Hidden Trump: An Amber Farrell Novel (Bite Back Book 2)
Hidden Trump: An Amber Farrell Novel (Bite Back Book 2)
Price: £2.65

5.0 out of 5 stars Urban fantasy with real bite!, 2 May 2016
As usual, nothing in Amber Farrell’s life is straightforward. The sheer number of complications that wrap her life are mind-boggling: family, relationships, athenate, werewolves, adepts, crime lords, the FBI... The list keeps multiplying as each problem impinges on other aspects of Amber’s life, twisting already difficult situations into crises.
I love it! The way these problems develop are all so logical - no artifice or plot devices here, they unfold in realistic fashion, producing a highly complex, multi-stranded plot that to me, makes the ideal novel.
Henwick’s writing is a joy – his descriptions posses a wonderful organic flow that leaves me, as a writer, seething with envy; his over-arching thread for the series is skilfully woven into the events of the individual story, and his heroine is both super strong and yet by no means invincible. She’s working things out as she goes alone, with all the attendant confusion and doubt that brings. The action and pace is blistering even with the many long conversations, probably down to the fact that the dialogue is so utterly realistic, and the many characters all have their individual manner of speaking.
I listened to the audio book and at this point I would also praise the narrator, who has a fantastic range that makes each and every character’s speech instantly recognisable – I was never in any doubt as to who was speaking. This is a long book, and you need to enjoy a voice if you are going to listen for that many hours. I’d highly recommend this audio version if you don’t want to sit and read the book.


Hidden Trump: Bite Back, Book 2
Hidden Trump: Bite Back, Book 2
Offered by Audible Ltd

5.0 out of 5 stars Urban Fantasy with real bite!, 2 May 2016
As usual, nothing in Amber Farrell’s life is straightforward. The sheer number of complications that wrap her life are mind-boggling: family, relationships, athenate, werewolves, adepts, crime lords, the FBI... The list keeps multiplying as each problem impinges on other aspects of Amber’s life, twisting already difficult situations into crises.
I love it! The way these problems develop are all so logical - no artifice or plot devices here, they unfold in realistic fashion, producing a highly complex, multi-stranded plot that to me, makes the ideal novel.
Henwick’s writing is a joy – his descriptions posses a wonderful organic flow that leaves me, as a writer, seething with envy; his over-arching thread for the series is skilfully woven into the events of the individual story, and his heroine is both super strong and yet by no means invincible. She’s working things out as she goes alone, with all the attendant confusion and doubt that brings. The action and pace is blistering even with the many long conversations, probably down to the fact that the dialogue is so utterly realistic, and the many characters all have their individual manner of speaking.
I listened to the audio book and at this point I would also praise the narrator, who has a fantastic range that makes each and every character’s speech instantly recognisable – I was never in any doubt as to who was speaking. This is a long book, and you need to enjoy a voice if you are going to listen for that many hours. I’d highly recommend this audio version if you don’t want to sit and read the book.


Dragon Scale Lute (Legends of Tivara, Daughter of the Dragon Throne Book 1)
Dragon Scale Lute (Legends of Tivara, Daughter of the Dragon Throne Book 1)
Price: £2.06

4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful oriental set fantasy, 16 April 2016
The wonderfully opulent oriental setting of this fresh fantasy novel is brought vividly to life with lush detail and imagery, and magic that is exquisitely subtle and intricately woven into the fabric of the world. Great job for a debut work.
Kaiya is an awkward adolescent princess, on the verge of womanhood. The only girl child in the Royal Family, she is much loved by her father, the Emperor, who wishes to find her a suitable husband to make her happy. Unfortunately events increasingly dictate that she may have to be married off for political gains rather than pleasure.
Music is Kaiya’s passion, and in years gone by she might have been feted for her talent, as it once imparted the awesome ability to sing dragons out of the sky, and vanquish enemies. Sadly, that magical gift has (apparently) been lost, and though Kaiya longs to revive it, time is running short before she may be forced to give up music altogether if her new husband so decrees.
And then comes Prince Hardeep, prince of a beleaguered land, lover of music, and martial art adept. His mission is to seek aid from the Emperor for his people, but the political situation is complex, and although his plight gains Kaiya’s support, his requests will go unattended.
Kaiya is an exquisitely drawn character – naive yet morally strong and tenacious. The other view point characters, Kaiya’s childhood friend Tian, who was banished years ago and is now a spy, and his half elf comrade, Jie, who wishes Tian would notice that she is female, are equally well presented. The story rattles along at a nicely balanced pace, with twists and turns, battles and consequences, betrayals and lighter moments for relief. The ending is exciting and satisfying, and yet open at the same time, leading skilfully on to the rest of the series.
I did find Kaiya’s incredibly frequent changes of mind a touch over the top, and if they were supposed to be down to magical influence, it didn’t quite come over clearly enough. There were also some proof reading errors – largely missing words – not enough to be a huge problem, but just sufficient to be notable. And if it had been me, I would have used a different title, probably something like ‘The Magic of Music’, or ‘Musical Magic’, as I wouldn’t find the current title enough of a hook if I were browsing.
Definitely recommended for all lovers of fantasy, particularly those who like a setting other than the standard medieval Europe, and although the characters are young, there is plenty, but plenty, of intrigue and action for adults, and a shocking twist at the end to throw new light on where the next book will take us. I look forward to finding out.


Veiled Magic
Veiled Magic
Price: £3.30

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun read, 15 April 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Veiled Magic (Kindle Edition)
In a world where witches have ‘come out’, the supernaturals are tolerated but not really trusted. Donata Santori is a witch cop, a ‘Witness Retrieval Specialist’, which means she gets the ‘fun’ job of interviewing victims. Dead victims.
To her not-so-trusting colleagues, she’s known as a ‘Ghost Yanker’ – incredibly useful because the fact that a victim is dead no longer gets in the way of a damning witness statement – but that doesn’t make the other cops any more comfortable about being around her. Her office is a windowless basement and she doesn’t get out much, so when she’s asked to attend a murder scene in person, Donata thinks things are looking up. Unfortunately the whole case goes sideways, developing the potential to ignite a second Inquisition.
Donata is a great fun character, and the two hot men in her life spice things up a treat. All three of them have major issues twisting their private lives, mostly family relationship problems, just like regular people only skewed by their paranormal natures. The supporting cast of Ricky the Kobold, Grimalkin the feline familiar, and Elmyr the French bulldog, are all great additions to the mix, as are the odd family members that turn up from time to time. Blake’s writing, as always, gives a smooth and flowing read with some delightful descriptions and dialogue, plus some interesting imprecations: ‘Crap on toast,’ springs to mind.
This book sets up what is clearly going to be an ongoing mystery about a ‘lost’ paranormal race. I really enjoyed it right up until the end, where I was a touch disappointed in the climax. Don’t get me wrong, there is a climactic fight, a sacrifice, and a resolution (of sorts) to the current problem, but it left me with rather a ‘was that it?’ feel, a bit like a balloon deflating.
There are certainly plenty of juicy threads to take forward, and I will be reading the next book to find out where they are taking us, I could just a wished for a more fulfilling ending to this individual novel.


The Siren (The Soul Summoner Series Book 2)
The Siren (The Soul Summoner Series Book 2)
Price: £3.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entrancing read, 13 Mar. 2016
I posted 5 stars for the first in this series, and I'm here to do the same for the second - a great achievement for a sequel.
There are no serial killers this time around, although the story starts out with the discovery that one of the supposed victims from the first book is alive and well, and living in Texas. She also appears to be akin to Sloane and Warren, in supernatural terms, which means they just have to go find her, in hopes that she knows more about what they are than they do.
Although the plot initially seems a bit secondary to the development of the characters and their relationships, the writing is so good it just drags you in without letting you notice the passage of time: excellent dialogue, great visual imagery, wonderfully complex (and realistic) characterisation – my perfect read. Mix in a little paranormal mystery, and I’m already anticipating the next one not so patiently.
I’m not going to go into the plot, as that’s tricky to do without spoilers, so suffice it to say there is more of the supernatural this time around, plus a rollercoaster of emotional events, and the ending, while wrapping this story line up satisfactorily, opens up a whole new vista for future books. I’ll just say angels and demons, so you get a little of the flavour of which type of supernatural this series involves, so if you like your novels with huge depth of character, sexy but sensitive men, lighter on the fantasy side, and in a contemporary setting, then this series is most definitely for you.


Oak And Mist (The Ambeth Chronicles Book 1)
Oak And Mist (The Ambeth Chronicles Book 1)
Price: £1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Charming YA fantasy, 29 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As a 10 year-old, Alma had an unsettling experience, with a nasty scream, a silver flash of light in the mists, and a valley that shouldn’t have been there. However, by the age of 15 she’s buried the memory, and is, like so many teenagers, only interested in her friends and what the school bully have in store for her next.
So when she gets pushed (by said bully) through a magical gate into a fragrant and beautiful land, where people seem to be expecting her and treat her as somebody special, naturally, she wants to discover more. ‘More’ rapidly becomes a bit much, when she’s told that she is the foretold saviour of the Balance between Light and Dark, affecting both the world of Ambeth, and our own.
Jones has developed a charming world, with just enough magic, and describes it beautifully. I had no problem at all visualising the places, people and events that fill the world of Ambeth, and the whole book is very readable. The plot is quite simple, as befits a YA novel, but with enough intrigue and the necessary love triangle for the naive Alma, to keep the pages turning. Characters are all clearly depicted, with depth to the major players and not too many to keep track of. The dialogue flows smoothly, as does the narrative.
It did feel to me, despite the love aspect, to be aimed at the younger end of the YA range, with a tendency that every time there is something for Alma to mentally digest, she pops home for a little break of shopping or cooking (or eating!). There are some pretty heavy hints as to the parentage of both Alma and Caleb, and some of the important information withholding was, to me, a bit contrived, especially Alma’s mother not talking about her father and the mystery of the bracelet that allows her to manipulate her comings and goings between the two worlds.
I would have liked also, to see real evidence of the threat from the Dark Lords, as opposed to simply being told that they are not to be trusted. The tension that Alma feels over their possible threat felt a touch unrealistic, considering all that ever happened (before the climax) was a few suspicious looks and veiled verbal threats. She also decided that she can trust the Lords of Light for no compelling reason. Of course, she is an impressionable teen, but I needed more substance to the threat for ME to believe it.
On the same note, I did question why no one had researched the missing items in the library before Alma turned up, if it was the obvious place to look for information. Just because these people have a prophesy, doesn’t seem good enough reason not to make the effort.
On a personal level, I would have preferred more clarity to the viewpoint, rather than mixing viewpoints within the same segment, but that probably won’t bother the target audience. It did end on a cliff hanger of sorts, with a climax at about 85%, and the rest of the book devoted to deepening the problems for the next book, and although I’m not fond of cliff hangers, this one was, for me, acceptable, because there was a resolution first.
Overall, an enchanting and delightfully told tale, recommended for a younger YA audience.


Stinger and Bow: Volume 4 (The Sedumen Chronicles)
Stinger and Bow: Volume 4 (The Sedumen Chronicles)
by Orren Merton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.18

3.0 out of 5 stars A well imagined fantasy world, 24 Feb. 2016
Three and a half stars.
In our world, Rachel is a thirteen year old girl with a complicated history, having lost her mother to illness and her foster father to murder. The book begins with her losing her temper with a fellow student, and inflicting an acid burn to the girl’s face.
We quickly discover that Rachel is also known to the world as Stinger, a human/spirit hybrid, who is the sidekick to the famous superhero, Lady Firebird. Rachel’s remorse when she realises the damage she can do by simply losing her cool, is a good starting point to engage our sympathy for her tricky situation.
This is the 4th volume of the Sedumen Chronicles, but is designed to stand alone for those who haven’t read the earlier books, and I found that to be one of the best facets of this novel. It’s extremely hard to bring a reader into a complicated fantasy world with already fully developed world building, and Merton did an excellent job of accomplishing that; I never felt out of my depth with the characters or the awesomely imagined spirit world, and how they all interacted with the ‘real’ world.
The writing is smooth, easy to read, and engaging, (although I did come across a small number of issues, mostly missing words, with the odd incorrectly used word and a few tiny viewpoint glitches – not too many, just enough to notice). The dialogue is great – always a big plus – and although I’m not a fan of present tense, it was well done in this case.
My main problem was the plot. Or rather, the lack of it.
The blurb does a good job of describing the plot. Unfortunately, none of it happens until so far into the novel, I was starting to wonder why I was reading it. First mention of the crossbow is at 25% of the way in, and the first threat (which actually turns out to be a dangling thread for the next book) turns up at around 50%. There are whole chapters that, while very pleasant, don’t advance the plot. The actual villains don’t appear until the climax, with only the tiniest hint that anything might be amiss just a few chapters earlier.
I realised near the end, that the main thrust of the story is about Rachel coping with things no child her age should have to confront, but that wasn’t made clear by either the blurb or the narrative focussing strongly on that issue.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this enough to want to go back and read the earlier books and become acquainted with Alex’s story and learn more of the spirit world, which sounds like a wonderfully imagined place. I just feel that this book might have had more impact if it had been even shorter than it is, and tighter in construction.
The ending is the best bit, so it was worth getting there. I just found my attention wandering too often to find a higher rating.
I received a copy of this book as part of a blog tour - all thoughts are my own.


One Way Fare (Null City Book 1)
One Way Fare (Null City Book 1)
Price: £0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Fast and fun, but a few too many hiccups for more stars, 11 Feb. 2016
There was so much to like about this book I really, really wanted to be wowed by it as much as all the other reviewers, but there were just too many blips for me. Let me explain.
This book has a cracking good start – as a character, Gaby bounces off the page. Her Gift, or harmonia, is that of order – absolutely perfect for an accountant. Her boundless enthusiasm for her profession defies all that we – normal people, that is – assume about accountants. And she gets to work for a wickedly handsome rock star, although his figures (and I do mean numbers) are more fascinating to her than he is. If that sounds plain weird, well, it isn’t. There’s humour, great mystery, awesomely brilliant dialogue, terrific momentum, and I was totally hooked.
Then we are introduced to Leila. She’s one fun character, with her own clear personality and dialogue - to re-iterate, the dialogue in this whole book just superb - BUT I was totally bounced out of the narrative at the point where Thomas announces that his grandfather is several hundred years old, and then starts warning Leila about pitchfork-wielding peasants just before he grabs her and takes her on the run – AND SHE JUST ACCEPTS IT. No effort to rationalise, nor does she think Thomas might be insane (and probably dangerous), she just accepts it hook, line and sinker and off they go. Nor does she question the assertion that the Metro will take them to 1890 (the year, not the time).
Now, the Metro is a brilliant invention – it carries people between not only places, but also time. And ‘Mind the Gap’ is hilarious. I did, however, find it difficult to visualise this specific passage: ‘she fell asleep bolt upright on the floor, wedged into the corner’. Hmmm – let’s try that one, shall we?
Sticking for a while with the (for me) negatives:
• Point of view is variable – most of the time with a single character, but then randomly head hopping, and sometimes authorial.
• The characters are fabulously well drawn, but I didn’t notice much growth through the course of the book. Yes, they endured a lot, but it didn’t seem to change them all that much.
• At one point Gaby and Luic die. Then they are on the Metro station. The fact they are dead doesn’t actually seem to make much difference to them, or anyone around them. Yes, there is a bit of explanation later, but too late for my suspension of disbelief.
• At around the 50% mark, we get a fair sized info dump on the various factions, which only served to confuse me even more. We have Heaven, Hell, Haven, Gifts, Watcher Court, Fallen Court, Raquia, Nephilim, and Angels, plus a book that appears to be made out of jewellery, not to mention Null City (or several Null Cities). Too much to get my head around, sorry.
• The story jumps around in time quite a lot. Aside from the 1890s, where there is an obvious difference in the way women are treated, I could really have done with more time-specific details to ‘place’ the different eras. The characters continue with what they are doing pretty much regardless of when they are, which is no help in anchoring the reader in the various time zones.
• At around 75%, I began to struggle. Having lost Luic, Gaby falls for Thomas’s hundreds-of-years-old grandfather, Sebastian, who she insists of calling Max. As far as I could tell, she fell for him simply because there were no other candidates available. I didn’t find him at all engaging, and wondered what the hell she saw in him.
I apologise again for sounding so negative, because there was an awful lot to like as well: I absolutely loved the interlude in Fallen Court, where Gaby brings order to chaos with clever incentives for imps, who are totally self-motivated, and Leila starts an infernal coffee shop chain.
And the ending is excellent. I’m so glad I stuck it out – all the pieces slotted into place, and everything became clear, leaving just the right amount of threads dangling for the next book.
I suspect other readers may not be as bothered by the stumbling points I encountered, but this was my honest experience, hence the 3 stars.


Swamp Ghosts: Riverbend Book 1
Swamp Ghosts: Riverbend Book 1
Price: £3.22

5.0 out of 5 stars Where can I find a man like Gunn?, 28 Jan. 2016
There’s nothing quite like reading a book that successfully blends genres, and this one does it extremely well. I’m not sure if you’d class it as a ‘romantic murder mystery’, or a ‘murder mystery with romance’, but hey, you get the picture.
Maggie Devlin is a strong woman, running her own river boat tour business with confidence and a genuine desire to give her clients the best possible eco experience on the St Johns River in Central Florida. When the over-large and impossibly good-looking man with more than a passing resemblance to the Viking god Thor makes his uneasy way down the pier to her boat, she takes immediate affront at his opening words, and has to clamp a firm control on her desire to tell him to get lost when he outlines his lucrative business proposition. Unfortunately, Maggie needs the money.
Swamp Ghosts was a real treat to read; characters with depth and convincing backgrounds, relationships that unfurled in a beautiful and believable manner, fabulous setting, delightful dialogue, humour, animals, and great writing throughout. The serial killer thread develops naturally out of the romantic story, and the author skilfully weaves in more than one plausible red herring to keep you guessing.
Like Maggie, I don’t always have great trust in men, and like her, I was shocked as hell when I discovered the identity of the killer – very well done, Mrs Meara!
The other aspect of this book that added enjoyment for me, was learning more about the wildlife of the area, and in particular the reptiles. In my youth, I used to keep a variety of snakes, and once in a while I might just forget to warn a visitor that if they used the bathroom, they would be sharing it with a 6 foot python having her weekly swim in the bath. Go read the book, then you’ll understand why that resonated with me...
I have only one reservation about this story – I find it hard to believe that men like Gunn really exist. I am, however, willing to be proven wrong...


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