Monthly Archives: September 2013

Month of Reads – September

Ah, back to what I love to do most after writing! Reading of course! And this month isn’t so thin on the ground with my reviews, as the last couple of months were. I’ve read some cracking stories and here’s my view of those reads.

The Art of Forgetting - Rider (Book 1)

The Art of Forgetting – Rider, by Joanne Hall

Genre: Fantasy, Epic

Plot: Gifted and cursed with a unique memory, the foundling son of a notorious traitor, Rhodri joins an elite cavalry unit. There, struggling with his own memories of his father, he begins to discover a sense of belonging. Until a face from the past reveals a secret that will change not only Rhodri’s life, but the fate of a nation.

Review: Occasionally you read a story and you become immersed within the tale before you realise it. That’s what happened when I read, The Art of Forgetting. There is a lot of depth and thought put into this story and the main character, Rhodri. Although not unique to many stories, this coming of age tale explores some of the nitty-gritty of adolescence, not only about trying to find acceptance and discovering oneself, but also exploring themes involving sexuality and gender roles. These themes I found reminiscent of Lynn Flewelling’s books and writing, which is a pretty darn good thing, because I love her books!

However, these are not the only topics this book revolves around. Joanne Hall has created a richly developed world, where she has taken careful consideration of not only the majestic a fantasy world can offer, but also its flaws and political instabilities. This runs parallel to the struggles Rhodri faces even before he joins the King’s Riders, and follows him as he grows into a young man. The characters each bring their own strengths and flaws, and at times the story weaves its way heartbreakingly towards the truth: not only for Rhodri, but for his friends. I admit, I was a little teary in one scene, but I’ll say no more as I don’t want to spoil things! But it’s the little intricacies of the characters – none are perfect – and the plot, that show the author to be a master of observation.

It had a conclusion which has left me wanting more and now I can’t wait to read the next instalment.

Rating: 5 out of 5 for an honest, thought-provoking book!

Child of the Ghosts (Ghosts, #1)

Child of the Ghosts by Jonathan Moeller

Genre: Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery, Mystery

Plot: For fans of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Sword & Sorceress”, Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, and Jennifer Roberson, here is a new story of a woman’s fight against an ancient evil. When her life is torn apart by sorcery and murder, young Caina Amalas joins the Ghosts, the legendary spies and assassins of the Emperor of Nighmar. She learns the secrets of disguise and stealth, of assassination and infiltration. But even that might not be enough to save her. For the evil that destroyed her family seeks to devour the entire world…

Review: To be honest, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic coming to read this book. I have no idea why really. It had been sitting a long time in my Kindle Library, but I decided it was unfair to leave it unread. At first I was thinking my first impressions were correct, but I was utterly wrong. The more I delved into Caina’s story, the more immersed I became in it. In many ways, it is like a cleverly laid out mystery. Threads, plots and subplots are entwined into a fantasy world and poor Caina’s horrific childhood experiences mark her for something different.

After a necromancer and her mother nearly kill her, she escapes and is taken in by the Ghosts, and taught to be a nightfighter – an assassin/spy. Caina is a strong and clever character with an uncanny gift for observation. She is taught and trained in every aspect of being a nightfighter, a lot of her skills use her wiles along with her fighting prowess. I have to admit, she’s a pretty awesome character.

The story builds momentum as Caina attempts to destroy the necromancer who destroyed her life and her family, but not everything is as straightforward as it seems. There are some great adventurous moments, but occasionally I felt the world created lacked some detail. But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure and will definitely read the next in the series.

Rating: A slow smouldering 4 out of 5 stars

Awakening Foster Kelly

Awakening Foster Kelly, by Cara Rosalie Olsen

Genre: Fiction, YA

 If only a pile of wayward curls and the inability to stay on her feet were seventeen year-old Foster  Kelly’s most pressing concerns. Unfortunately, stubborn hair and clumsiness are just the tip of it. 

At the age of five when Foster is told, “You don’t belong here,” it was only a mistake, but the result is one broken heart. These four carelessly spoken words have shaped and shadowed Foster, and now—a senior at Shorecliffs High-school—she seeks the wallflower’s existence, denying herself the most casual of friendships, much too afraid that someone will see what she believes is certain: she does not belong anywhere—or with anyone. This reality would continue to suit her just fine; however . . . Love has a long-standing history of undoing broken hearts.

Like a comet, an unexpected arrival knocks Foster out of the crowded, starry sky, sending her directly into the limelight. Exposed and afraid, she will attempt to regain anonymity; but it isn’t so easy now that someone is watching. He pursues this shy enigma, confronting Foster’s deepest fears head-on, and in the process falls wholly and completely in love with her. But there is something he is not saying . . . a secret capable of certain ruin.

Either he will break her heart once and for all, or he will heal it. In the end, though, it is Foster who must decide if she is worth mending.

Review: Awakening Foster Kelly is almost like reading a dream. In many ways it feels as though its floats upon one and you wonder where the tale will take you next.

The story is centred on Foster Kelly, a seventeen-year-old shy, young woman, who has brains to burn and musical talent to boot. It is written in the first person, so the reader has a keen sense of the character, who she is and where she needs to go. It is a beautiful thing to see her character develop as the story progresses.

Now, it is a long book and I think one that takes time to read. Some might find the prose flowery and tangential at times, but I have to say, I am a fan of the poetic and I thought a lot of this was beautifully written. Only occasionally did I feel that it interrupted some of the scene flow, but overall, I loved the style and the story.

Some of the characters left me smiling, especially Emily and her twin Jake. The banter between the two and their strong personalities are at times very comical, in light of the seriousness of Foster’s character. At first I wondered where Dominic (the love interest) would fit in, especially in light of his rather horrid behaviour to start, but he begins to redeem himself as the story goes on.

There are lovely little points of interest, which keep you reading on. You want to find out the little mystery behind Dominic and it was a really pleasant surprise when I reached the end and discovered the twist. I won’t give anything away – it has to be read to be discovered!

A beautiful book.

Rating: 4 sparkling sapphire gems out of 5

Kiss of Fire (Imdalind #1)

Kiss of Fire by Rebecca Ethington

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance

Plot: Joclyn Despain has been marred by a brand on her skin. She doesn’t know why the mark appeared on her neck, but she doesn’t want anyone to see it, including her best friend Ryland, who knows everything else about her. The scar is the reason she hides herself behind baggy clothes, and won’t let the idea of kissing Ryland enter her mind, no matter how much she wants to.

The scar is the reason she is being hunted. If only she knew that she was.

If only she had known that the cursed stone her estranged father sent for her 16th birthday would trigger a change in her. Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man, and is miraculously throwing her high school bully ten feet in the air. Joclyn attempts to find some answers and the courage to follow her heart. When Ryland finds her scar; only he knows what it means, and who will kill her because of it.

Review: Oh, I hate it when I write a load of good reviews and then I just have to write this. Ugh!

Good Points: The writer definitely has some talent and can write.

Bad Points: I just felt I was reading another twilight or something similar. Nothing about this felt original or different and there were times when I just had to sigh. And I hate that, because I want to love everything I read. I’m not even going to go on, I know some people will love it, but honestly, it was not for me.

Rating: Very sad 2 out of 5 (and I’m being generous, because I feel guilty)

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Bandit Book Bloggers – SPACE GAMES by Dean Lombardo

Today’s special from those devilish Bandits, is Dean Lombardo’s brutal and entertaining sci-fi, Space Games!

Space Games

by 

Dean Lombardo

Synopsis

The cameras are on and the gloves are off in this battle of the sexes in space.

Say hello to Robin and Joe—contestants in 2034’s “Space Games,” a high-stakes reality TV show from Hollywood producer Sheldon J. Zimmer set aboard next-generation space station, ISS 2. The winner takes home a multimillion-dollar jackpot and a chance at stardom, while the loser faces the ultimate in public humiliation. Only former NASA astronaut Vince, acting as the station’s commander and the games’ sole referee, can separate sexy spitfire and martial artist, Robin Miller, from her brutal opponent, “Big Joe” O’Donnell, as the pair compete inside the cramped zero-g environs. Watched by millions of people back on Earth, the reality show rapidly degenerates into a deadly spectacle.

Space Games is a compelling story and a biting satire about reality television: those who make and participate in it – and those who watch it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dean Lombardo works as a writer in the information technology industry, turning what is often techno-babble into messaging that can be understood by a general business audience. At age 11, he was psychologically scarred by the movie “Alien” and has been watching, reading and writing frightening science fiction and horror ever since. “Space Games” will be Dean’s second published novel. Dean lives in northern Virginia with his family and the world’s most beautiful yellow Labrador Retriever, Trixie.

LINKS

http://www.deanlombardo.com/   

http://www.amazon.com/Dean-Lombardo/e/B00DLNBEZS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

AN EXCERPT FROM SPACE GAMES—

 In the video, a woman jogged down a palmetto-lined street. As she neared the camera’s lens, the recorder refocused, compensating for her approach, framing her from the waist up. She sprang past, moving off-camera from right to left.

A new perspective: The cameraman had caught up and he was in front of her now, backpedaling. The picture on the monitor shook and became unwatchable until the woman slowed and began to run in place.

“My name is Robin Miller. I’m twenty-six and I’m the softball coach for the University of Cal-Irvine.”

“I knew it,” said Sheldon Zimmer as he and his assistant watched the TV monitor inside Zimmer’s Los Angeles home. “California girl. History of softball. Gotta be one of those . . . you know.”

“Not exactly,” Morty answered. “Listen to what she says.”

The woman on the screen was undoubtedly attractive. Though her halter-top and hair were darkened with sweat, and the sheen of perspiration covered her face and limbs, she had a pureness about her. Maybe it was the way her ponytail bounced behind her as she ran, or the clusters of freckles on her nose and cheeks. Or maybe it was the slender physicality, her overheated panting as she continued to jog in place.

“I want to be on the TV show ‘Space Games’ because I’ve always been . . . I don’t know . . . daring . . . competitive. My girls at UC-Irvine won the College World Series last season and instead of going to Disneyworld, I’m going into space to kick some guy’s ass.”

“That seals it,” said Zimmer, the show’s director and executive producer. “She definitely is one. Hot, though.”

“Uh-huh.” Morty pointed toward the screen. “We’re almost to the part about her parents.”

In the next cut, the woman punched a sparring bag, her gloved fists denting the vinyl surface. She followed by snapping a series of violent roundhouse kicks.

“I like to stay active.” Kick, punch, punch, punch, backfist. “I do triathlon training in the offseason.”

Another roundhouse kick, just a blur.

“Shit,” Zimmer said, pinching his lip.

“I know,” Morty replied. “Very athletic, energetic. That’s one thing to her advantage, especially in space.”

“No—I mean angry. Reminds me of Kat Turner, remember her, Morty? With the right guy we could have a ‘War of the Roses’ in outer space.”

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about, Shel. It’s a reality show, not an old-style black comedy. Tragic endings aren’t what we want, and our two contestants are going to have their hands full already, dealing with all the physical, mental and emotional strains of—”

“I know,” the director said, cutting Morty off. “But without some conflict . . . ”

“Too much conflict isn’t good, either,” Morty said. “Shel, I vote against this candidate. I didn’t even want to show you her tape. She doesn’t fit the profile provided by the NASA consultants. For legal reasons, I’d—”

“Fuck the NASA consultants! What do they know about television?”

Now the young woman was relaxing on a couch. She stretched forward to paint a toenail.

Morty gestured toward the screen. “Here it is. Check out this part.”

“My parents trained together at NASA. My mom’s from California, Dad’s from Des Moines. They met during training, and then fell in love during their joint mission aboard the International Space Station.”

“Why is she telling us this?” Zimmer complained. “Why do I care about this shit?”

The woman flexed her toes, leaning forward to inspect the drying polish. Then she looked up into the camera and smiled. “My mom used to tell me I was conceived up there.” She pointed to the sky. “Aboard the space station . . . the first ISS.”

Zimmer blinked. Then he glanced at Morty. “What’s her name again?”

REVIEWS

REVIEW BY BRIAN BANDELL

New York Journal of Books

http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com

Like any good reality show, Space Games leaves us wondering what the contestants would do next and how they could possibly top the last bone-breaking outburst of brutality. The ending goes to a pretty dark place—the worst nightmare for any TV producer, except Zimmer. Reading Space Games is kind of like watching a cage fight. Yeah, it’s violent. Yeah, someone could wind up unconscious or in the hospital. But what a rush!

***

REVIEW BY CRASH FROELICH,

Author of “Never,” Artema Press

Pick up “Space Games” and you will become addicted. “Space Games” is the title of a one-on-one competition, a reality television program set within the confines of a space station in Earth orbit. In it, a man and woman battle for a multi-million dollar prize in a best-of-seven tournament. A series of no-holds-barred matches that not only test the limits of physical prowess, but also the sportsmanship, even the very humanity, of the contestants. An amoral sociopath, twisted by her violent past, versus a misogynist with nothing but contempt for her gender. The chemistry is potent and the bad blood of the combatants is exacerbated, encouraged by the greed of the show’s producer and the impotence of his staff. The effect on the viewing audience is only second to the horror that results from the collapse of civilized barriers in the minds and deeds of the players. You won’t be able to look away. You’ll never be able to think of reality television in the same way.

***

REVIEW BY MARY FAN,

Author of ‘Artificial Absolutes’, Red Adept Publishing.

http://www.maryfan.com

A sleekly modern rendition of pulp sci-fi, Space Games is fast-paced, straightforward read that leaves you wanting to know what happens next. This book is easy to fly through, full of excitement and action. The realistic dialogue, tight writing, and quick action all make for great entertainment. The characters and action in Space Games, which is written almost cinematically, pop from the page. It’s easy to “see” what’s going on and “hear” the characters’ distinctive voices. The pacing is spot-on, creating an exciting reading experience that snowballs into a tense pageturner as an ill-conceived reality show goes to hell. Space Games isn’t for the faint of heart, and Lombardo, who is also known as a horror writer, isn’t afraid to take risks. I think that’s one of the book’s strengths: it fiercely barrels through the events in a merciless, unapologetic fashion.

***

REVIEW BY JAMES LISTON, KANSAS

I’ve often wondered what reality TV would be like in the future. Will everyone eventually get bored of it and quit watching when they run out of ideas? According to this story, that won’t happen. Space Games is a reality show to beat all reality shows. Set in the year 2034 aboard a space station, two contestants choose from a list of events to compete in. It’s the battle-of-the-sexes with very few rules. Joe and Robin fight their way to a multimillion-dollar prize while being watched by millions of viewers on Earth.

I thought this was a great concept for a story and was pleased that it was entertaining, and well written. The characters are well developed and the author goes to great lengths to make it seem real, and allows your imagination to fill in the blanks. Like when Robin sneaks into Joe’s bathroom and closes the door so the cameras can’t see what she does. Great fun! I highly recommend it! View the trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiiTsk7mLrI

MY OWN REVIEW

Space Games lives up to the hype.  It is a brutal free for all, a fast paced, violent and yet a satirical look at human nature and the nature of reality television gone too far.  The two main protagonists, feisty Robin and tough Joe, go head to head in an ultimate battle of the sexes show, which quickly descends into chaos.  Morality blurs and hard hitting questions start being asked: how far should one go for television?  For fame/infamy? Money? To prove a point?

The funny thing is, Robin and Joe don’t really ask these questions.  They’re more interested is getting one up on each other.  But as a reader, you do.  The MC’s aren’t the most loveable characters, redeeming qualities are thin on the ground, but that, I think, might be part of the fun of Space Games.  It’s keeps you wondering what God-awful thing they are going to do to each other next…  And the ballsy ending – it is as brutal in its ending as it is in its beginning.  Very well written, entertaining, and asks a few uncomfortable questions about our sometimes voyeuristic natures.  Thoroughly enjoyed it!

 

 

Bandit Book Bloggers – Shadow of the Wraith

This week’s Bandit Book Blogger special is Ross Harrison’s Sci-fi novel, Shadow of the Wraith.

 

Shadow of the Wraith

By

Ross Harrison

 

Synopsis:

It sounds like a simple assignment: track down the mysterious Star Wraith and put an end to its rampage. But when Travis Archer and his team of inept soldiers find themselves the most wanted people in the galaxy – hounded by assassins, terrorists and their own military – they realise the Wraith is just a symptom of a much larger problem . . . Finding war raging between one army intent on destroying an entire species, and another that will destroy the galaxy, Travis must put aside his fears and his past to uncover the truth behind it all. To become the hero he’s always imagined. 

About the Author:

 Ross Harrison

Ross Harrison has been writing since childhood without thought of publication. When the idea was planted by his grandmother to do so, it grew rapidly, and after a bumpy ten years or so, here sits the fruit. Ross lives on the UK/Eire border in Ireland, hoping the rain will help his hair grow back.

 

Links:

http://www.ross-harrison.com

http://www.facebook.com/StarWraith

http://www.twitter.com/AuthoRoss

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ross-Harriso

Excerpt from Shadow of the Wraith:

Moving silently and keeping his eyes peeled, Travis took cover behind the nearest overturned table. With no apparent provocation, one of the pirates opened fire into the second-storey balcony, which ran all the way around the bar. Startled by the sudden shots, the others opened fire too.

Travis could pick out nothing up there in the shadows, and hadn’t even heard anything before the shooting started – had Draak forced too much herb into these men? Were they hallucinating? Perhaps they killed their fellow crewmembers themselves.

Eventually, they ceased firing and stood listening for some time, their eyes wide with fear. All Travis could hear was silence and a dull ringing after the gunfire.

After a while, they began to relax. They lowered their weapons, relieved smiles forming on their lips. Clearly, they thought they’d killed their attackers. Travis watched enough holofilms – in fact, possibly too many – to know this was inevitably the point at which their enemy would strike.

Sure enough, as they turned to their fallen leader, two long black knives flew out of the shadows and plunged into two necks. As the pirates slumped to the floor, Travis crept forward towards the next overturned table to get a better view of the balcony.

Thanks to his curiosity, he neglected to watch his footing, and before he’d gone more than a couple of steps, a shot glass burst under his boot.

Crap!

Synn spun round, roaring in terror and defiance, and opened fire on him. Travis made a dive for the cover of the thick metal bar. The pirate’s shots broke the mirror on the wall, and the bottles, showering him in alcohol and glass, both solid and molten.

To the relief of Travis’ eardrums, Synn had already depleted much of the three-hundred-shot power cell. As soon as he heard the click of the empty weapon, he raised himself just enough to put his arm across the bar top and fire a single bullet into Synn’s forehead. The Izarian fell limply to the ground as blood started to trickle down his face.

It would be unwise to assume the invisible assailants would be friendly towards Travis. ‘The enemy of my enemy’ was a phrase that got many killed.

Unwilling to give them any breathing space, Travis vaulted over the bar like a magnificent, tubby gazelle, reaching to his new utility belt. As his boots hit the floor again, he pulled out a small, jelly-coated sphere and threw it with all his might at the ceiling. The orb thumped against the plastic ceiling tiles, the shock activating the device. The jelly became adhesive, keeping it glued to the ceiling. At the same time, the centre of the sphere came alive, radiating bright light into every shadow in the bar.

Nothing.

In the brief ten seconds of light, Travis scrutinised every inch of the balcony, where a band usually played for patrons. There was no sign of any living creature in the bar. Perhaps the attackers really were invisible.

The device flickered and died, dropping to the floor. Darkness poured eagerly back into the corners and recesses.

The bar was silent, almost calm. Around the balcony, the remnants of the wooden banister smouldered.

What now?

Travis had put himself in the open, certain his clever trick would reveal his rival and give him the advantage. Now, he was simply in the open.

 

Purchase Links:

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007ZBK6QA

ePub: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/210824

Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0957592906

Also available from a variety of other retailers.

n/e/B007ZSUY06/

Reviews:

‘Travis Archer is a freelance bounty hunter who accepts an official assignment to hunt down and destroy the Star Wraith, a powerful but apparently unmanned ship with the nasty habit of appearing out of nowhere and destroying ships. Although Travis and his crew are the focus of the story, the narrative cuts to other scenes in a cinematic fashion. The more fascinating of these scenes reveal glimpses of a shadowy villain called Baorshraak, whose goals and motivations remain shrouded in mystery even as he appears to be the one pulling the strings. Harrison writes with a distinct attitude that is very aware of the genre his story takes place in. References are made to the clichés of space opera, which he acknowledges and makes fun of even as he unapologetically takes advantage of them. Many ideas in this book are decidedly familiar–starfleets, space cowboys, humanoid aliens–but they are used well. There is a dry sense of humor that radiates not only from the characters but the narrative itself, as though it isn’t taking itself too seriously. Although this attitude makes for entertaining commentary, there are a few moments where it seems somewhat intrusive–as though it’s the author speaking and not the character. Nevertheless, it’s what adds an extra bit of sparkle to the already dynamic plot, which carries the reader to unexpected corners of this galaxy. Overall, Shadow of the Wraith is a smartly plotted and entertaining space adventure that takes the reader on many twists and turns–the direction the story goes in is quite different from what is expected. But in the end, it’s really the characters’ voices–and Harrison’s–that make it memorable. I ended up enjoying it so much that I suffered from two nights in a row of Star Wraith Insomnia–the inability to sleep due to the fact that I had to keep reading.’ – 5 Stars

 

– Mary Fan, Author of Artificial Absolutes

 ~~~

 ‘I have been thinking about what I was going to write in this review for about a day now, and I am still having trouble. The trouble isn’t with the book; not not at all! The trouble is that everytime I sit down to write the review, it comes out all fangirly (if that’s a word). So, I have given in to this simple fact, and here is my review anyway (fangirl and all). So this is my first real venture into true science fiction/fantasy type books. I have ‘Across the Universe’ and ‘A Million Suns’, and they are set in space, but nothing like this. Which brings me to my first point. When I first got the email from the author asking me to review his book, I was like, ‘sure; as long as it’s not erotica/western, I’m in’. Then I got to thinking to myself, ‘Kari, you have never read a book like this…you are going to be so lost and confused.’ Guess what, I wasn’t! I was worried that with it set on different planets, and in space, and in the future, I was going to be lost and be left behind. This wasn’t the case in the least. In fact, I found myself actually remembering everything and able to keep everything straight in my head…hard to do on most days. I loved this book…from the first darn page, up until the last. I was constantly hooked, wanting to know what happened next, who did what, why, etc. Shadow of the Wraith is an exceptionally well written book, on top of the awesome plot. This has to be another reason I loved it so much. I constantly found myself in awe at how things were worded. Ross Harrison definitely has a very unique writing style. I loved the humor that was put in the book. I am usually a quiet reader, but I found myself laughing at a lot of parts. Characters. Ahhh, I was spoiled in this book. The characters were so…real. I felt like I knew each and every one of them, good or bad. Their personalities were awesome, and definitely well portrayed. I never once felt that a character fell flat…even the androids

jumped off the page! 🙂 My favorite character had to be Travis. He is now officially MY bad ass space cowboy (read the book!! You will understand!). I honestly fell in love with Travis from the very beginning of the book (and to the despair of everyone who had to listen to me go on and on..some people even thinking he was a real person…). I felt that he was well developed (as were all the characters). Who am I kidding, I loved him because he was a bad ass space cowboy!! I also loved Arkuun-Marl (look, I didn’t even have to look up how to spell that). The android was hilarious, and at times I forgot he wasn’t a real person. But don’t say that to his face! I felt like this book had constant action. Something was always going on, which was a very great surprise. Most books now have one climax, and nothing really going on until that one part of the book. I didn’t think that was the case with this book at all. Another thing…agh..I never knew what was going to happen. I was literally unable to predict a single darn thing (which is unusual with the amount of books I have read; even though none have been in this particular genre, still I’ve read a lot). So that was a breath of fresh air for me…truly. I was kept guessing the entire time. And the twists that were thrown my way, well, LOVED them. I feel like the last thing I should say is this….READ IT! This book is absolutly amazing. Okay enough of the fangirl. Just, please, do yourself a favor and pick up this book; you won’t regret it!’ – 5 Stars

– Kari, Bookishly Devoted Blog

 ~~~

 ‘To begin, I thoroughly enjoyed Shadow of the Wraith. It’s like the best elements of every science fiction story you’ve ever heard of, brought together into one epic adventure! The cover features a very classic science fiction shot of a ship with a planet in the background. Only this one features a more ominous tone as a ship ploughs its way through a mess of ships. The story is told from the alternating views of a mass of several different characters and situations. The story begins with the introduction of the very cocky “space cowboy” ex military man known as Travis Archer as he presents the readers to a future where humans have left a ruined Earth and have taken to living among the stars with other humanoid alien species in an uneasy truce, while he tries to carve out a living currently as a bounty hunter. Then we’re brought to the primary situation at hand as the reader is apprised to the new ruling power of humans – the Terran Alliance and the growing trouble that this mysterious ship the “Star Wraith” is posing to ships that have crossed its path, and never live to tell the story. In an attempt to stop the Star Wraith, the military hires on bounty hunters as a cheap means to deal with this ghost ship…and guess who takes the job? In the true fashion of space adventuring – Travis begins by going on a galaxy wide mission of assembling a rag tag crew each with a unique skill to contribute to the team. I have to admit, I love watching these crews come together – and the lengths that Travis goes to get the players he wants was incredible! In addition to Travis as the leader, some other crewmen we stumble upon is the reliable ex military best friend, the sexy but deadly love interest and even a comedic relief android. My only complaint really is that while Harrison tries to put unique features and voices to each character, the less prominent characters tend to blur together which was further exacerbated by switching between first and last names randomly when referring to these characters throughout the story. My favorite character by far was the android Arkuun-Marl, whose constant quest for

equality with humans combined with expert battle skills and the much needed one liners that broke the tension in overly serious moments. After finding the Star Wraith, they soon discover that the ship isn’t what it appears to be at which point they commandeer it in their quest to find the truth, which leads to political intrigue, a secret past and it all lands this misfit crew right in the middle of an age old war. The villains of the story were constantly shifting, and it was difficult to see who could be trusted and what their motives were. It made for a thrilling adventure as we navigated the minefield of assassins, military personnel and androids to get to the so called “leader”. While Harrison presented what seemed like a straight forward plot idea, it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t your usual story. Harrison expertly throws curve balls at the reader, and before you know it there’s secrets revealed that completely change the game. I eventually just stopped trying to predict what was going to happen because as soon as I thought I had it figured out, Harrison would drop another bomb that had me reeling. The characters go through some serious paces as they run across the galaxy hunting down the truth. The technology used in the ships, weapons, armour and bases had considerable thought placed into their design and purpose, which made for richly detailed and thrilling action sections. What completely threw me off was the introduction of some fantasy elements (think mythological creatures) that was a refreshing addition to the usual obstacle course of assassins and androids. Harrison even manages to weave a bit of romance into the story, and while a relationship does eventually form, I think his writing shone primarily in the flirting banter. All in all, Shadow of the Wraith was an amazing story with witty humour, action, mystery, crazy technology and galactic politics. However, I do feel that it’s more suited to fans who already have a solid science fiction background to thoroughly enjoy the references to Firefly, and Arkuun-Marl’s Star Trek Scotty references.’ – 4 Stars

– Ann, Tea & Text Blog

 

Other works:

 

Temple of the Sixth (Book 2 of NEXUS)

When omens of the End Times appear across the galaxy, it signals the start of a war between two immortal forces – the Celestians and the Hierarchy. The Hierarchy have learnt and adapted since they last waged war, forcing the Celestians to enlist the aid of mortals to free a kidnapped god.  Thardriik Jhunassi Kortlyn III – Theak – was a private detective. For a day. Then came the incident with the dead puppy and the inevitable end of his crime-fighting career. Despite his flaws, Theak is a clear choice for the Celestians, and he is drawn into the centre of a battle that will decide the fate of the galaxy.

Time is something the Celestians’ heroes do not have as the Hierarchy’s infection spreads across countless worlds, bending every living creature to their will. With the heroes’ every step bringing them closer towards one final battle, there is only one question: can they defeat an ancient and immortal enemy?

~~~

Kira

Kira’s town has so far survived the destruction wrought by the Government on so many others. But for how much longer? In the middle of a blistering desert, her people are out of fuel, out of clean water, and out of options. The Government will destroy them sooner or later, and they won’t survive relocation. Their only chance is to attack first. But Kira

 

Bandit Book Bloggers: Interview with Gillian O’Rourke, author of THE RELUCTANT PROPHET

The talented Deb E gives me the slow roast in this interview.

Deb E.

Cover - The Reluctant Prophet by Gillian O'RourkeHello, Gillian! Welcome to the home of Deb E., where I grill you slowly, basting regularly, until you’re nice and tender then I—uh, hey, where ya going? Come back, come back, I’ll be gentle. Promise. [See. I look totally innocent].

So, first up, can you tell me a little about you and your induction into writing?

Hi Deb, thanks for having me (but please not for dinner). And I promise to keep everything short and sweet! At the moment I’m working away full time as a Social Care Worker, helping adults with Intellectual Disabilities, but before that I was a nurse for several years in Melbourne, Australia, where I grew up. First thing people might notice about me is my odd accent, which has a mix of Scottish, Aussie and Irish now since I moved to Eire in 2007.

As for my writing, I’ve always been writing stories, especially since…

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Tale of the Mad Gorgon – Episode Five

Welcome to the fifth part of the Tale of the Mad Gorgon, a mystery in 9 episodes (with prizes to follow!)

Enjoy  solving puzzles, mysteries and treasure hunts ?

Want to win some classic reading material along the way?

Grey Cells Press has put together a light-hearted vintage murder mystery tour, featuring detective novelist Julia Warren, as she tries to track down some very elusive treasure, and to prevent any more murders being committed as well!

Follow the Tale of the Mad Gorgon, from the High Seas in the days of 18th century piracy to a not so innocent countryside manor house in the 1920s , in a mad hunt for buried treasure – but can Julia find the treasure before any more murders are committed? Can you ?

Can you guess whodunnit? (And who gets dun next?) And … where the treasure is?

To catch up on previous episodes, go here : Greenwood Tree Mystery Tour

Click here for rules and prizes.

Happy hunting!

Featured Image

THE TALE OF THE MAD GORGON

PART FIVE

Laetitia sat fanning herself by a half opened window in the drawing room. Things were becoming quite unbearable, the mess in the garden would take weeks of work, the library would need to be re-catalogued, the upholsterers would have to be called in … it was with a sigh of relief that she received the news of Julia’s arrival.

She fairly flung her arms around Julia in welcome and they went upstairs together; they passed through the portrait gallery on the way to Julia’s room and Julia remembered the evening they had spent there not three weeks previously. She looked again at the portrait of Captain Redheart as they passed and decided to examine it more closely later on. What was it Ezrard had said about the secret to the mystery ..? Something stimulating, something …colourful. It surely had to do with the painting.

She tried to remember the rest of the evening, the things people had said, how they had looked. That Mr Hubble had taken a great interest in various oriental statues; something of the fawning valuer about him; he had not quite left his professional manners at home, she felt, and wondered at Ezrard’s inviting him. Perhaps he was good at what he did and Ezrard had wanted something weighed up for auction. Eugene Orb wasn’t much better: hair slicked back (how she detested that in a man!),eyes roaming all over the place like an underfed frog, waiting for the next fly to come along so he could whip out his tongue and catch it. The image popped into her head and once there, stayed. She would find it hard to keep a straight face that evening when seated at table with him.

Roderick Upton now – wouldn’t he be too lazy to hunt for treasure? And if murder had been committed, surely he had not the character for it. Now, if someone else had done it for him… His cousin Abigail for instance ; but she was the typical flapper, similar in many ways to her cousin, constantly powdering her face or touching up her lipstick, when she wasn’t pouting at something someone had said.

James Derelict was perhaps the only one apart from Laetitia with an ounce of civility in him, and he kept very quiet and sober; hardly surprising, considering the circumstances.

All in all, it was a motley crowd at the Bagshotts and anyone of them might have killed to get at the secret of the treasure –each in their own way.

‘… and of course, coming so soon after that bout he had, convinced him somebody was attempting to kill him,’ finished Laetitia. She added another spoonful of sugar to the tea and stirred. (IS it possible to stir tea wistfully?) ‘And really, you couldn’t blame him for thinking that, but I do think he had been overdoing it with the food again…’

Still, the little wooden soldier was rather different. A question of bad indigestion could on its own suggest very little other than –  bad indigestion. Put together with a violent, mysterious toy sent anonymously… yet what did the doctor have to say about Ezrard’s death after all? Surely there would have been an inquest had there been something untoward.  The toy was certainly indicative of malice; but perhaps no more than a prank gone rather badly wrong.

Julia watched through the windows in the drawing room; occasionally a figure crossed the now bespeckled lawn that more resembled a battlefield for moles than a garden. Laetitia sniffed.

‘I wouldn’t mind, only they find nothing and besides, I am certain Ezrard said the treasure was not out there.’

‘Really? Is there anything else you can remember him saying ?’

Laetitia could not. But she did notice Ezrard had taken to wandering the upper floor considerably more than had ever been his habit previously.

‘That suggests the gallery then. He must have been studying something there. It is surely connected with the portrait of Redheart, don’t you think?’

They were interrupted by an almighty shriek issuing from above.

There is always a pause in this sort of situation; the human mind, particularly perhaps one conditioned to the sedate pace of rural life, pauses  to register that something untoward has actually happened (in this case, a full-throated bellow from the healthy vocal chords of Ethel the maid)before moving. It took nearly a full minute for people to gather en masse in the hall. The shriek came again.The men went up first, and James, on reaching the landing, collided with Ethel, who by now had managed to make her way there, convulsed and in a state.

‘What’s happened, girl?’ he demanded almost impatiently. Ethel pointed in the direction of the gallery.

They found Abigail lying on the floor, strangled, her pochette at her side, mirror characteristically in hand.

episode 5

Out of the Dark . . . A Journey into the Realm of Gothic Art

This week as part of the Bandit Book Bloggers’ tours, I am promoting the book, Out of the Dark, which includes beautiful contemporary gothic artworks by various and very talented artists.

Out of the Dark

Contemporary Gothic Art

Edited by Hazel Butler

Containing over two hundred images, and contributions from thirty-two artists from around the world, Out of the Dark is a veritable cornucopia of Gothic delight. Fifteen chapters, each packed with vibrant images, and pithy descriptions,  showcase some of Gothic Art’s favourite themes, from Death to Lovers, Hauntings to Winter, and Lolitas to Lost Boys.

Many images are accompanied by commentaries from the artists, detailing their inspirations and methods, and why certain pieces mean so much to them.

The central feature of the book is a sixteen page spread on favourite Alternative model, Maria Amanda Schaub, including a biography, a selection of her favourite art pieces, and why she loves them so much.

Here are a few samples from the book, with the biographies of the talented artists.

Ookami, by Tim Lord

Tim Lord is a traditional UK artist who tries to convey all aspects of life in his work:  beauty and pain, fear and joy, life and death.
www.tjl-art.wix.com

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Night Bloom, by Evelinn Enoksen

Evelinn Enoksen lives in Norway with her husband and children. She’s a Norwegian, but has roots in New Zealand. Coming from a long line of writers and artists she was encouraged from an early age to explore these talents. Her parents often criticised her work when she was young and dared her to do better. Because of that, she has always striven for perfection.
Evelinn has a great love of fantasy and science fiction and grew up watching Star Trek and reading Asimov, and sees now how much her past has influenced her present, and will continue to do so in the future. She finds inspiration in everything, and  has always been drawn to what is dark and mysterious, ominous and occult, although she’s not sure why; she considers herself to be a very happy person, and wonders if it is her darker side that influences her creativity, working as a kind of therapy. She says, ‘There are few things more fun in life than being able to create.’  Her debut novel, Guardians of Evion, was released in 2013.
www.evelinnenoksen.wordpress.com

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The Lady of the Crows, by Whendell de Souza Lira

Whendell de Souza Lira lives in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil. He has always been passionate about all forms of art. He loves to create different and impossible things; with Photoshop it is possible for anything to become a reality. He is inspired by music, films, people and especially the beauty of nature. He is currently at college studying graphic design,
facebook.com/whendellsouza

Other Links:

https://www.facebook.com/aadenianink

http://www.aadenianink.com/

Purchase Links – Email Hazel Butler here:

info@aadenianink.com

Journey to a Book Cover: Non-Compliance: The Transition

Paige Daniels’ Non-Compliance Series continues with the anticipated release of book two! Here she’s talks about how she made the cover art and shows the world the final product!

The Nerdy Paige

It’s almost here: the release date for Non-Compliance: The Transition. We’re working hard on editing and putting some finishing touches on the book. Worry not my little smurfs, it will be ready for your little paws soon. In the meantime I thought I’d give you an insider look at how we came up with the cover concept.

In this book Shea takes more of a leadership role. Things start to heat up between her and Quinn, maybe in a good way maybe in a bad way you’ll have to read the book to see, and you’ll learn more about each of the members of the crew. You’ll also learn more about the chip and the spooky vaccine. I’m really proud of this book, because the action and intrigue are definitely bumped up a notch and I really wanted a cover to convey that.

Since the first book was very Shea…

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