Thursday, 2 July 2015

Bob's Blog Blew Me Away!

This post originally appeared on Bob's Book Blog, 3.7.15

Unworthy by Joanne Armstrong. Self published, 2014.

This is one of the best dystopian fiction novels by a New Zealand author that I have read. It demands a sequel and I expect one is already underway.
Arcadia is 17 years old and deemed “unworthy” by the ruthless and controlling Polis who rule the island population that is remarkably like the South island of New Zealand.
On Arcadia’s arm is a cross that signifies her unworthiness. At birth she was weak and sickly and like all similar babies is left outside at night in a ritualistic circle and is expected to die. She doesn’t and is brought up by a man she knows as grandfather, in a hub where she has no rights and is treated as a pariah. Her life is about to change big time.
The Polis who are strictly regimented took control of the island after an illness swept the World and anarchy reigned over their island reducing the population  from 4 million to just over 1 million. Now the Polis rule from a big City and the population live in small hubs that are strictly controlled. The Polis say they want to strengthen the human species by looking after the strong and whittling out the weak. Every child is subjected to the same test.
Captain Alexander Hayes is a young soldier who is summoned by the General to locate and escort Arcadia from her hub of Greytown  to the Polis City.  This undercover, action packed and tense journey is stunning but you will have to read the novel to find out all about it.
In line with the subject matter this novel is clinically written with not a word out of place. The novel is narrated by Arcadia and her shifting relationship with Captain Hayes is a highlight, as is the landscape through which they travel.
The journey and the city will provide the stunning answers to Arcadia’s identity, past, survival and family and of the true nature of the Polis.
If you miss this one you will kick yourself. For high school students and Young adults.

This novel can be purchased in digital format at  or in print and kindle format at

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

A modern teen discovers Austen for the first time...

I have a fellow bibliophile for a neighbour and we regularly have a girls' "Date Night", when we watch the kind of movies the husbands roll their eyes at. Last night it was Mansfield Park, the 1999 version with Frances O'Connor (we don't think we can face Billie Piper just yet).

The current teenager-in-residence (let's call her Hepzibah) was about ready to go to bed, but watched the first five minutes. Then ten, then thirty... she kept saying she had to go to bed, but we knew she was hooked.
Hepzibah has never read any Jane Austen, and till last night hadn't seen any of the adaptations either. In fact, I don't think she'd ever heard of her. (A travesty! What are schools teaching these days??! - I'm a teacher...) It was hugely entertaining hearing how she responded to the story and the language, and showed me that even though Austen was writing at a time very different from our own, it's clearly not as different as we might think.
At first the language was a bit strange for Hepzibah, but she soon got over that, and by the end didn't need any interpreting.
Here are a few of my favourite of Hepzibah's responses:
"Sister, you've been friend-zoned!" Then, a little more sadly, "I so know how that feels..."
"Is she really called Fanny?!"
"Are they... COUSINS?"
"Oh, he did NOT just say that!"
This last one was to Edmund's statement in a letter when he broke Fanny's heart to tell her Miss Crawford seemed to be coming round to his charms.
Ah, young love. It looks the same in any era. And whether you use the words, "Oh that that sigh were for me" or "Dude, I wish you'd look at me like that" it's pretty much a timeless story. Girl; boy; misunderstanding; a tempting bad boy; love triangle; happy ending. Boom!

Next we're going to try her on Pride and Prejudice.
Elizabeth Bennett with the face of Keira Knightley. That should be fun.
Watch this space!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Labyrinth by Dorian Zari
This was a pretty absorbing read. The pacing was slow to begin with, but after I’d read about a half of the book, things started happening very quickly and I felt it was harder to put down.
Download from Smashwords here.

For a little about Dorian Zari, here’s an excerpt from his website:

And you still want to know where I'm from? Fine. I come from the land of Vlad the Impaler (which by the way was his stripper name - trust me, we learned about him in history class), and hop between Romania and the UK - another country which has a seemingly immortal monarch.

As for my past. Each person is the willing or unwilling, knowing or unknowing, author of their own works of art.

They write, paint and sing it with every breath, call it their life. Even though the chapters in mine are full of exclamation and question marks, stained pages and worn covers, I never believed in releasing a work of art before it’s finished.

What I didn’t like so much: the pacing wasn’t perfect. I felt the first quarter drag terribly. It took a long while of determined reading to feel like I was getting anywhere, and when I did realise a little bit about what was going on, I felt it was time to move on. “All right I get it, what next?”

It was very wordy. That wasn’t always a bad thing, because most of it was thoroughly entertaining, but at times I just wanted it to get to the point. The Awakener for example. Honestly, woman, just skip every second word, pleeease. Some dialogue felt very forced – for example Dan’s conversation with his psychologist. I think I’d have beaten her over the head with my cane before answering her terribly obvious and condescending questions.

What I did like: lots! Almost everything else. Zari has a beautiful and engrossing writing style. His characters are solid and likeable. My pick is that Zach is Zari’s personal favourite – he has all the best lines, and clearly he had a lot of fun creating him and getting to know him. I found myself guiltily enjoying his character from the very start, and after that he just got better and better.

The creepy paranormal aspect is really quite fascinating. Zari presents his readers with the story of soul mates from a completely new perspective. And although this is a story about superhuman powers and about “chosen ones”, that aspect is new too. There were very few times during the book when I felt I knew where it was headed, and I really enjoyed the surprises.

I am happy to recommend this book to thriller or paranormal fans. Don’t read it if you’re a bit squeamish… there’s a bit of blood and gore, which is fairly central to the whole plot.

Here's a link to buy the book on Smashwords, in whichever format you prefer. $2 - that's a great price! It's well worth it - a fraction of the cost of a book from the big publishers!

Friday, 6 February 2015

And a Child Will Lead Them

Also available as the title "Idolism"

A little about Marcus Herzig:

Marcus Herzig was born in 1970 and studied Law, English, Educational Science, and Physics, albeit none of them with any tenacity or ambition. After dropping out of university he worked for bank, a utility company, and for Big Oil. He prefers sunsets over sunrises, white wine over red, beer over white wine, and pizza over pasta. His reaction to airplanes passing overhead resembles that of a seven-year-old seeing an ice cream van. Which, he insists, is a good thing.

Burb from Goodreads:

A new Pope, a world in social and political chaos, and a young singer and songwriter who has his unbelief tested as his big mouth accidentally propels him towards global superstardom. These are the ingredients of this thought provoking, tongue-in-cheek debut novel.

Seventeen-year-old Julian Monk never expected to be a famous singer, but when opportunity strikes, he strikes back and throws himself headfirst into that new, exciting world of record deals, TV interviews and screaming fan girls.

His band mates are rather less enthusiastic about that new life they never really asked for. Dealing with their newly acquired fame and fortune is one thing; dealing with Julian is quite another. His sudden and unexpected metamorphosis from the shy and timid creature they have known all their lives into a surprisingly charismatic public speaker and global superstar takes everyone aback, and when Julian sets off on a very public crusade to replace faith and bigotry with reason and compassion, he raises more than just a few eyebrows. He raises hell, and his friends are no longer having any of it.

Meanwhile at the Vatican, a former televangelist is elected Pope. Hell-bent on transforming the Church into a modern, ‘hip’ institution, Pius XIII is giving his PR advisor a headache or two. Intrigued by Julian’s radical way of inspiring some people while antagonizing others – including his own friends – simply by preaching love and understanding, the new pope can’t help but wonder where he heard that storyline before. They say God has a plan for every man, but this man has a plan of his own - and it involves a teenage atheist pop star.

My take on the book:

I hardly know where to start on this story. At first I thought it was a teen coming of age story. The flow and pace of the story worked really well with this assumption: four 17 year olds who are vaguely misfits, playing in a band in their spare time. I thought the story would follow a few small real-life teen adventures, or misadventures, and they’d get into a bit of trouble, then get out of it, learning something along the way. Yadda yadda.

The first sign I had of this book not following my expected path was when the band, through a mis-timed (well-timed?) media revelation, actually became famous. Then rich beyond their wildest dreams. Then had a bigger message to spread.

That’s the general movement of the story, but doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. The book is way, way more than just a story about a band that finds fame and how the four members, plucked from obscurity, cope with their stellar rise.

The four teens each present their very different points of view. Tummy comes from a deeply religious Catholic family, and has not yet analysed the reason why he calls himself a Catholic. He’s also been bullied all his life for being overweight and a bit of an idiot. Michael is a computer geek, brain the size of a planet, who spends more time with an artificially intelligent programme he created than eating or sleeping. Ginger is the only female in the group, comes from a loving and supportive home, and doesn’t feel she fits in with other kids her age since they are all immature yobs. Julian, the only group member not to have a voice in the book, has the most to say. He writes the lyrics and is the group’s mouthpiece. He creates for himself a worldwide stage on which he can stand and educate the masses.

Mr Herzig is a philosopher, there is no doubt about it. There were passages that I simply didn’t want to end; I became so engrossed in seeing how far the author would follow through with his ideas. I feared that he’d reach a question he couldn’t answer and just leave me hanging, but he never did. He’d considered everything.

I was tricked into reading philosophy, and I loved it. Early on in the book Julian spent a few pages comparing humanity’s evolutionary development with that of a single person, and I was so fascinated by it that I had to go back and read it twice. It had me cocking my head to the side and thinking, “huh – fancy that…” So maybe this theory isn’t new, and maybe I’m late to the party, but I’d certainly never considered it in this way before and it had me enraptured.

Julian is a really interesting character. At 17, he’s much more intelligent than anyone else in the room, of which he is fully aware, making him also insufferably superior. As charismatic as a cult leader, as well-read as a university professor, his thoughts as deeply considered as Descartes', he’s also Don Tillman… which makes him a little bit of a jumble, but he really works. I was over three-quarters of the way through the book before it occurred to me that Julian had been peddling his wares, preaching from his own personal pulpit, as far back as the others had ever known him, but since they hadn’t noticed, the reader hadn’t been allowed to either. This is so clever. All the band’s songs contain religious significance. Who wrote the lyrics? Julian. The other members all mention the reasons they are in the band at one time or another, and all downplay its importance – someplace to hang out, something to do, “I’m just the bass player”, all they’re doing is playing covers of old tunes - and yet I suddenly realised that Julian didn’t see the band in the same way, and that he never had.

And the moment when Michael denied who he was… let’s just say that’s when the scales fell away.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Heads You Lose by Rob Johnson

Heads You Lose by Rob Johnson

A little about Rob Johnson:

Rob Johnson sounds like a really interesting bloke. As a Brit living in Greece, I had wondered whether he would begin to draw on his own experiences abroad to begin informing Trevor’s trials and tribulations, and now in Heads You Lose, Trevor has travelled to Greece in order to care for an elderly (but not so disabled) patient. I have no doubt that there is a taverna close to where he lives where smoking is just about a condition of entry, and that there is a local officer Pericles whose gusto for seafood is only rivalled by his passion for his job.

In Johnson’s own words:

Having worked for several years as an administrator and publicist for touring theatre companies, I decided to try my hand at writing plays myself. Four of these were professionally produced and toured throughout the UK, but when public funding for non-commercial theatre virtually dried up overnight I was forced into the world of ‘proper jobs’ as my father liked to call them.

During this period, I also made use of my Equity card and appeared in numerous TV shows as a ‘supporting artiste’, otherwise and somewhat less attractively known as an ‘extra’. (Ricky Gervaise was spot on by the way. Just wish I’d written ‘Extras’ myself.)

I now live on a 5-acre smallholding in Greece with my partner Penny, six rescue dogs and three cats and divide my time between writing and growing olives organically for oil. I have several writing projects on the go, and my comedy thriller Lifting the Lid is now available from an online bookseller near you

About Heads You Lose:

I have to admit that I approached this book with a touch of reluctance. I really enjoyed Johnson’s first, Lifting the Lid; what if this one wasn’t as good? It’s hard to write a follow-up which contains the same characters with all their flaws and fascinations without being repetitive. To find new situations for them which contain the same combination of ridiculousness and Irish fate without being out and out dumb.

I should not have worried. Johnson has delivered another masterfully planned and executed novel, holding two intricate storylines and a large number of fascinating characters in his fingers. The story is so enjoyable that it’s easy to get lost in it and not appreciate the magic that he weaves so skilfully.

Firstly, his favourite characters – Trevor, Sandra and let’s not forget Milly – appear again, solidly consistent with their previous selves but in no way dull. They are joined by an enormous host of new characters, all fully rounded and wholly convincing. As with book 1, they are exaggerated versions of real life tweaked in order to be humorous, but never slip into caricatures, and I never felt the author was ridiculing them. One of my favourite new characters is Marcus Ingleby, the grouchy old man who Trevor and Sandra go to look after. Of course he has a dark past of his own, which manages to catch up with him at exactly the same time that Trevor (or let’s be honest, Sandra) is in charge, also the moment when Ingleby’s neighbour begins carrying out her careful plan of revenge.

Then there is Johnson’s timing. Although the beginning of the book is slow, his scene setting is impeccable and necessary. Around page 70 the strands begin to interweave, and the pace picks up. From then on the pacing is perfect, taking the characters from one ridiculous situation to the next and culminating with all of them getting an approximation of what they deserve. Johnson ties up all loose ends beautifully, even giving Trevor an opportunity to show that some of Sandra’s gumption has rubbed off.

The writing is professionally edited, making reading the story a highly enjoyable experience. It is a romp through expatriate Greece seen through the eyes of an observant and light hearted writer who is gentle on his characters and undoubtedly has a very quirky sense of humour.

It tickled my funny bone in all the right places.


Thursday, 29 January 2015

Summer Reading...

Here in the southern hemisphere it's SUMMER, and New Zealand is enjoying the most glorious long, dry, HOT days.
I love this photo, taken soon after Christmas in the Marlborough Sounds, NZ. Two teenagers relaxing in the sun with a good book... sounds like paradise to me.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

H'mmm, where to fall on this one? It's a book that follows the usual teen dystopia rhythm well. Female protagonist, trained to be tough, can change the world. She's beautiful and desirable (we know this because there's the usual love triangle). She's an alpha female, perfect in every way, for the first chapter of the book, then after her fall, has to cope with the knowledge that she carries the gene which makes her a killer, and from that point on her life changes drastically.

I feel the main character was sadly too annoying to like, which made the book hard to like. Davy before her fall is insufferable, and her boyfriend simply unbearable. Davy after her fall is more interesting, but certainly not likeable. I do realise that this is intentional though - we're not meant to like this character, but maybe we are meant to relate to her. Perhaps the author is drawing parallels between her readers' cossetted worlds and Davy's before her fall. I'm not sure.
Teen readers looking for a tried and true formula are sure to enjoy the story. There is comfort in knowing exactly what you are in for when you pick up a teen dystopia, and if this is what a reader is looking for s/he will not be disappointed.

The most interesting thing about this book was the background; the message. If we as a society could define the part of a person's character that makes them a murderer I have no doubt that we would. Where would that lead us? To predicting crimes of course, a la Minority Report. What would we do next? Fear would tell us to stop the identifiable risk before the crime is committed, and what you get is the world created by Sophie Jordan in Uninvited.
Tell someone they are predisposed to violence, force them onto the fringes of society, put them together with other identified risks, and you will create the person you are most afraid of. Davy, the main character in this book, would have undoubtedly had a very different life if she had not been identified and whisked away, and I think that's why she has to be so excruciating annoyingly perfect at the start. It had to be clear that she was destined for quite different things, of which she was painfully - on our part - very aware. So annoying as Davy admittedly is, there is purpose to this.

I think this book has much to say about our prison systems, our juvenile programmes, and even the way we teach students at school.
Link to Goodreads.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Blink of Her Eye by Angelica Thaddeus

The Blink of Her Eye combines a few different genres in one novel. It is mainly a mystery, with some erotica as well. Anika is investigating the deaths of six patients at hospitals under her care. Whilst she is visiting the first, she runs into Gabriel, who then becomes the hero of the novel and the object of her fantasies. It doesn’t take long before this quiet homey looking girl has attracted his attention and he tells her, “I want in”.

The two begin to investigate the deaths together, along the way getting to know each other better. There were many things that I liked about this part of the book. Gabriel was typical of many heroes of this genre in many ways, but Ms Thaddeus also managed to provide many surprises and keep her readers guessing about his background and his intentions. For all his apparent keenness to get Anika between the sheets, which kicked off in chapter one, there is an unexpectedly long journey to their happy coupling.

There are many other characters who Ms Thaddeus introduces along the way. They are varied and interesting. I really thought I’d had them all pegged from the start, but she kept me guessing right to the very end. There is another character, Carlton, who features in the story romantically, and appears to grow genuinely fond of Anika.

The main character is someone who most readers will be able to relate to and aspire to. Anika is a business woman who is looking for Mr Right. She is rather socially shy, but finds herself very confident in the bedroom when Gabriel encourages her. At times however I also wanted to shake her for her naivety. Anika is let down by both Gabriel and Carlton during intimacy early on in the book, and yet she continues to trust them both and allow their relationships to move well past professional ones. I found this excruciatingly frustrating. When she allowed them to continue treating her cheaply like a doormat I found it harder to relate to her as a character and respect any of them as people. I also found it difficult to accept Anika’s need for Gabriel’s help every step of the way. Whenever he was not assisting her, the case appeared to stall.

The book is well-written and edited. It’s easy to read and the characters are well woven. It’s a solid summer holiday story if you’re looking for a bit of fun and a light read.
Link to Goodreads.

Monday, 26 January 2015

The Blemished by Sarah Dalton

First up... LOVE that cover. However, the story... not so much.
I struggled with the writing style in this book, and found it very hard to overlook. I felt my reins tugged this way and that way, my eyes and ears pointed directly at events, and this got very tiring. I'm a reader who likes to make up my own mind; I like to pick up clues like breadcrumbs, and it doesn't matter to me that the author is dropping them quite consciously. I just like to feel as though I'm doing some of it on my own.
The Blemished didn't allow me any of this independence, hence why I struggled.
The dystopian setting which Dalton has created is novel and interesting. The premise here is that our society's obsession with beauty and physical perfection has led to test tube babies, all others being classed as "lesser" and therefore not allowed to breed; only allowed to live in order to serve the GEMs.
I like the premise. The rest of the story sticks to tried and true teen dystopia lines, which is not to say it's bad, just to say it's predictable. Readers who enjoy this genre will not be disappointed; we all love books that turn out to be just as we expect them to be.
I think that maybe without Mina's supernatural power I might have enjoyed the book more. I think that the obsession with beauty, perfection and pageants was enough; there was no need to have another level within the story. Without the powers it makes the world scarily close and frighteningly possible on some level, but then when you throw in her abilities, we are swept into the realm of fantasy and I am left saying "Wait, what?" I'm no longer afraid for our future, exploring the ways in which society will implode on itself, which I believe is the strength and morbid fascination of reading dystopian fiction.

I realise that in not loving this book I am going against much popular opinion. For many of its intended audience I'm sure this book is a must-read. To see what others have said about The Blemished, click here.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Avenged by Charles Prandy

An entertaining read from start to finish.

A little about Charles Prandy:
Charles was born on November 14, 1973 and grew up in Derwood, Maryland, a small city about twenty-five minutes outside of Washington, D.C. His neighborhood was typical of small town suburbia; he had great friends, played sports and got into mischief. He graduated from the University of Maryland University College with a degree in Legal Studies. He attended Wesley Theological Seminary for two years, and it was there that he got the idea to write his first novel, The Last of the Descendants, which was published in May of 2008. Shortly after the release of The Last of the Descendants, Charles began working on his next novel, The Avenged, the first in the Detective Jacob Hayden series.
He’s currently working on the next novels in the series and will continue to write until his brain goes numb.

About The Avenged:
The Avenged is Prandy’s first novel in the Jacob Hayden series, and was published in 2012. It follows a homicide detective (Hayden) as he works a case that begins with the murder of a young man. The case spirals out of control as he uncovers corruption that reaches from the top of the high court right down into Hayden’s own precinct. It becomes very clear that the bad guys are bad enough and desperate enough to do anything in order to maintain a low profile, but how desperate is Hayden to catch them? Will he risk everything?

I felt that Prandy’s novel was well written. Fast paced, with just the right amount of description to keep the stakes high and the pages turning. There are some issues with tense, but I’m finding this more and more common recently, so maybe it’s simply seen as colloquialism to mix them around; I’m not sure.
At first I could hear a 1950s Bogart telling the story; all except for the blonde dame walking into his office and begging for his help. I wasn’t sure what to make of this; the detective seemed to be scene-setting in present tense but then switching to past for the action. I don’t think it mattered overmuch. I may well have been overthinking the whole thing when I was trying to work out whether the author was laying hints with tense. (eg “Theresa’s parents have the kind of love that my parents had.” Does this mean that statement is still current at the end of the book… that they are still alive and love each other? “Theresa was their only child.” Does this mean she is no longer?)
I think it worked though. The main character is likeable and observant – everything you’d want in a good detective. He tends to voice every small musing, which gets a little tiring, but I can understand that Prandy wants to make sure he is being understood very clearly by his reader. He’s also very careful, almost tending towards the cautious, “by-the-book” type of cop, and I have to admit that I felt the best parts of the novel where when he threw the rulebook away. Hayden’s descent into his personal hell is well-planned and well-timed, and the avenging angel who emerges is a lot of fun to follow.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Revived by Jodie Kobe

Vivian lives in the future, when being brought back from the dead is a fact of life.

However, we’re not talking zombies here, or sparkly vampires or unemotional robots, which actually is a relief. These revived humans are simply that - humans, but with no memories of their lives before their deaths. Since only younger bodies can be revived (anyone under 35), death by murder or suicide appears to be a common cause.

When Vivian is revived, she adapts to her new life underground rather well. The air on the surface is dangerous, so the only life remaining is in a secure facility under the ground.

Vivian meets others who have been revived, and slowly comes to learn about the nature and purpose of the facility, as well as the reasons why she was killed the first time round.

I liked the book. I liked the author’s ideas and vision, and I fully expect that her target audience will enjoy exploring the possibilities in this new world in sync with Vivian.

I struggled with some of the tenses, and wonder if an editor could help Ms Kobe with the lack of consistency. I also struggled with the pacing of the novel, feeling sometimes that it dragged through too much dialogue. The characters need a little more fleshing out. Vivian herself is 21 years old but she accepts her new situation like a docile child, then at times whines about unimportant details like a petulant teenager. I have to admit that she was difficult to like.

I think that Jodie Kobe has her hands on a really interesting idea here. I’d love for her to talk to some professional writers / editors before she writes the next volume - or even consider a redraft of Revived. It could be tightened up to give it a much more gripping edge.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Reboot by Amy Tintera

It’s difficult to exactly pinpoint why I liked this book so much. I think it was partly because it took me by surprise - I don’t often read the blurb for a book before I start it; I like to have little other than the cover art and title to go on. (Sometimes I haven’t even got that). I think also it’s partly because I’ve read too many teen novels in a row, mainly science fiction, and I may have been ready to throw the next at the wall. Right now they all seem to be lessons in what not to do.

But this one took me entirely by surprise. The kickass beginning, for example. It’s brilliant. The author plonked her reader right in the middle of Wren 178’s daily grind, which is hunting humans. Immediately the questions begin. If she’s not human, what is she? If she’s so powerful, why does she submit so quietly to the guards? Is she a prisoner? If she’s a prisoner, why does she willingly hunt other prisoners? The questions were relentless for the first couple of chapters, and Tintera’s pacing of the answers was excellent. Never too much at once, and never forced. I heard an author once say that if you had to give too much back story, you’re starting in the wrong place. The author started in just the right place.

I was drawn to the whole idea of Wren’s world. It was simple but at the same time had depth. It was interesting. But most of all, it was different. The usual teen storyline is here - girl meets boy, they overcome their differences and develop feelings for each other, there is a risk of separation, there is a conclusion. The usual dystopian storyline is here - groups with control, groups without control, brain washing and propaganda, and something to scare the living heck out of us because it’s frighteningly possible (in this case it was disease and containment). But I really felt that all these issues were hung on brand new shoulders, and I loved the freshness. The world which Tintera has given us is one I’ve never encountered before, giving her the chance to really mix things up a bit. However, at the same time she provides all the elements which teenagers have come to know, love and expect. I didn’t like the romance, but I appreciate its role in the story and I appreciate the reason why it’s there. I understand that it’s for a particular audience.

I loved the gender switching which Tintera played with. The girl is small, slight, and a cold blooded killer. She’s the trainer. The boy is big, friendly and a vegetarian pacifist. I love how they come together and how it actually “works”. Not always believable and sometimes a little cring-y, but definitely entertaining. He basically has to teach her how to care. I wondered at one stage how far the author would go in their journey towards each other - she definitely had to become more like him, more human, but how far would Tintera go in making him more like her - the cold blooded killer? In the end I think she erred on the side of caution. I wonder if she will play with this further in the second book.

The romance elements, although clichéd, had an importance within this story which was refreshing. Usually I get the feeling that an author has added a romantic component simply because they feel they need to keep their readers happy. In Reboot, the romance is absolutely fundamental. Wren ruminates over whether she can love at all; whether through her conditioning or the amount of time she spent dead (178 minutes) she is incapable of feeling at all. So the journey to her openness is fascinating.

Towards the last third of the book I began to flag, mainly because the rest of the book I felt was not written for me. I didn’t need (or want) the physical closeness which Wren and Callum begin to explore, but as I mentioned before, I understand its place within the story.

When you use an emotionless killer as one of your main characters and work out a way to make your readers sympathize with her, it’s interesting. When you explore a way for her to fall in love it becomes fascinating. And what about making her the narrator, whose point of view your readers come to trust? Tintera does all of this is a way that seems effortless. Her readers will not be able to stop themselves connecting with Wren 178, because essentially she is still just a normal teenager coming to terms with a whole load of emotions she has not experienced before. Team that with her enjoyment of killing and the fascinating dystopia which Tintera has created, and you get a rollicking good read which has something new to say in a very popular genre.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys science fiction with a little romance, ultimate kickass female heroines, and anyone who glazes over at the thought of yet another dystopia. It’s a bit different.

Oh any anyone who likes zombies - or vampires! The z and v-words are never mentioned in this book… Ms Tintera you are very very clever.
Goodreads Link.
Amy Tintera's Website (including her blog)

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Once Upon a Nightmare by McKelle George / Mickey John

Mickey John is the pen name of McKelle George, and she has written novels under both names. “Once Upon a Nightmare” is available to read for free through the link on Goodreads.

A little about McKelle George:
McKelle George is a senior editor at Jolly Fish Press, author of A MERRY WAR, a historical YA novel, repped by Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates, and member of SCWBI. She has a B.S. in English/Creative Writing from Brigham Young University and an A.A. in Art from Snow College. She is a traveler and nomad, an exclusively self-pleasing artist, lover of quiet adventures, and banned book and library advocate.

A little about Once Upon a Nightmare (2012):
I really enjoyed this book. Now I am going to wax lyrical for the next page on why and how I really enjoyed this book.

It’s a young adult novel which fits into the paranormal genre, but it’s like nothing I’ve read before. It clicks all the young adult markers successfully, but in a way that doesn’t feel at all familiar or staid.

Young teen (American) heroine. Check. Who’s a little bit different from her peers and doesn’t really “fit in”. Check. Her first romance. Check. A love triangle. Check. A forbidden love. Check.

But that’s as far as it goes. The “boy” she falls in love with definitely lands in the category of bad boy – but only in the same way that a meringue could be called a little bit sweet. He’s so far gone into the category of bad boy that he would smirk at the title. What did he call himself? Oh yes, “I’m the fear of hell.”

The paranormal being who Violet meets isn’t a sparkly vampire, a semi naked werewolf or even an angel with a tortured soul. He doesn’t just think he’s bad; he doesn’t pretend to be bad… he actually is bad. In the world which George has created, nightmares and dreams are very real. In fact, in their own realm they even have body – they have families and friends, and they can even die. Nightmares insert themselves into the subconscious of humans when they are sleeping and feed off their fear.

George sets up a meeting between Violet and Alexander which is neither clichéd nor overplayed. Alexander is one of the scariest and most powerful nightmares from Chimera. He’s terrifying. Strangely though Violet isn’t afraid enough of him (perhaps she’s not afraid of hell), and after something goes wrong, they are stuck together in her dream state.

I haven’t given anything away: that’s just the first few pages of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed the way this story unfolded. From page one I was absolutely hooked on finding out the details of Alexander’s world and how the unlikely pair would deal with the terrible curse that they’d brought on themselves. I also wanted to find out whether Violet’s reading of Alexander’s motivations were correct, or misinterpreted.

Have I said why I love this book yet? It was absolutely a diamond in the rough. I have been reading solidly all summer – some great, some good, some not bad, but most just entertaining. This one was different. Unexpectedly interesting. Different. Quirky. At times funny. The writing style is easy to read, and it flows. The character of Violet is stamped all over the first person narrative, and she’s quirky, so it fits perfectly. I love her responses to the nightmares she meets, who are so sure they will elicit the usual frightened response from them. Instead she usually makes them laugh. She’s a hugely likeable main character. As a contrast to her quirky, impulsive, foot-in-mouth character, Alexander is reserved, standoffish and the reader rarely knows what he’s thinking or feeling.

I was only a third of the way through the book before I realised that it was highly likely George could end the whole story like Alice in Wonderland. “And then I woke up”. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this possible ending. I was partly hoping she wouldn’t since it’s such a classic no-no, and also strangely partly hoping she would. Because the fact is, the story is such a perfect one to exist wholly in the mind of the protagonist. And to comfortably join it to the accepted “real” world would be quite a feat. I won’t tell you whether she did or not; you’ll have to read it yourself to find out.

I only have the smallest, tiniest, teensiest piece of criticism to give here – there are some typos and formatting errors in my copy, but I am aware that I have an early version of the novel.

Five stars and a big thumbs up for an interesting and unexpected gem. A popular story hung on brand new shoulders. Get to Goodreads and click the link to read this for free… if you like paranormal, it’s right up your alley. If you like YA it’s right up your alley. If you like a surprise it’s right up your alley. If you like free books it’s right up your alley. Just do it. You’ve got nothing to lose! Click here.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Blackout by Joey Paul

About Joey Paul:

Joey Paul is a writer, exploring the young adult crime genre. She has released seven books in total so far, but plans to write more. She is currently working on her thirteenth and fourteenth books. Her current works include the series "Dying Thoughts" and she plans to continue that for at least seven books, maybe more. Her other works are usually books about the many trials and tribulations of being a teenager, sometimes with a crime twist.
Joey is disabled and a recent graduate from The Open University with a BA (Hons) in Health & Social Care. When not reading medical textbooks, she enjoys reading crime novels, medical dramas and chick-lit. When not reading, she relaxes by playing the ukulele. When she's out and about, she likes looking for Tupperware in the woods with GPS satellites, otherwise known as geocaching! And when she's not doing THAT, she's sleeping! She's 33 and has been writing since she was retired from her job on medical grounds at the age of 19. She plans to write for as long as she has ideas or until someone tells her to stop!

About Blackout:

Blackout was written in 2005, chronologically the first of seven books listed for Joey Paul on Goodreads. I haven’t read any of her later works yet, but I can see that there is room for improvement in her writing from a decade ago. With another six novels behind her, it will be really interesting to see how her writing has developed.

The first thing I noticed about Paul’s writing is that she really gets into the head of her teen character. Her protagonist, Tally, sounds just like the fifteen year old she is meant to be. All the usual teen fixations are here - clothes, boys, school, who is “in” and who is “out”. Tally as a narrator is hugely gullible, distractible and dramatic. Hugely annoying - and so true to life. Paul did a great job of really telling it how it is.

The story unfolds slowly, and it was beginning to really drag for me. Nothing appeared to be happening - I was simply reading the teenage diary of a blissfully ignorant, self-absorbed rich girl. There was nothing remarkable about her, unless you count the fact that, unlike all teens I ever knew, she seemed happy with her life. Or maybe the way she couldn’t see how hypocritical her judgment of her so-called friends was. The only thing that was a stand-out about her was how annoying she was. Her indulgent life was dangerously close to perfection. Dangerous because I couldn’t see many readers, nomatter what age, who would be willing to read a book like this.

Anyway, something does happen. (Hurrah!) This was quite a relief. When you pick up this book, be prepared to wade through the first third - but be reassured that there is a reason for it, and persevere.

The story itself is a bit of a mystery. Tally finds that there is something going on at school - in fact, within her circle of friends - and she sets out to get to the bottom of it. Along the way she has to put together clues, and untangle the web of lies which her friends and enemies have woven for her. She has to work out who is real and who is fake, and Paul sets up a few nice twists to keep her reader guessing.

All in all, I think that she has a lot to say here about friendships, the desperation that girls feel about fitting in, and the obsession with being popular. It’s about not making snap judgments, not just taking people at face value, and about finding the worth in everyone, whether they are classed as popular or not.

In some ways these issues are oversimplified. There is an awful lot of telling here rather than showing. However, for her target audience, this may ring truer than it did for me, or in fact may be necessary.

There are some difficulties with tense and flow. At times the story reads as a diary and at others a retelling, and I found the switching tenses jarring. It is also full of certain types of colloquialisms which possibly are fine for the genre but which didn’t sit easy with me. “He was stood waiting”… “she was sat…”

If you want to get in touch with Joey Paul online, her website is

Her books are available in a variety of formats. You can find her on Smashwords here

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

ApartFrom by Constance A Dunn

This short novella is a reflection of life, relationships, guilt and repercussions. I’m sure that it is far more too, and I can guarantee that I was missing most of it.

The general premise is a simple one. Three people, seemingly unconnected, go about their daily lives in three different cities. The reader visits only one protagonist at a time, their stories never intertwining and always coming to a close before the next character is seen. Do they have anything in common? They are all loners, chewing on their past and on relationships which didn’t end well. They’re all living away from their homelands - out of place and running away from overbearing guilt and regret. Each comes across an enigmatic stranger who appears out of place and harbouring some hefty secrets.

The stories themselves are relatively uneventful. Their beauty lies rather in the author’s poetic turn of phrase and the many layers of meaning which the reader is able to decipher from it. I really felt that it was over to me how much I chose to read into it, so it’s possible that different readers will gain quite different messages from the same book, which is an interesting idea in itself. The version which I read still has the odd typo, but these were few and far between.

A little about Constance A Dunn:

Born on the US west coast, writing from Belgrade Serbia. Constance's non-fiction is all over the web where she writes for magazines, sites, and think tanks about travel, being foreign, and the soul of cities.
Her literary fiction dives deep into these same themes: the other, the stranger, and the foreigner.

Her debut novel ApartFrom was published in October 2013 with KUBOA press.

Where to find her on the web: