Sunday, 20 July 2014

Book Review: Rouge (Rouge #1) by Isabella Modra

Rouge (Rouge, #1)

FIRST THINGS FIRST - Look at that stunning cover!!!!

Okay, so this is absolutely true - I knew Hunter Harrison.

Confession - not the Hunter in this story, but someone from a very distant job I had in the past. 

Review: This is the last 'full' novel I read and it goes all the way back to June. It was a compelling read that I completed in one go, I'm delighted to say.

It's a delight to see a young author with such a command of her writing universe and a wonderful grip of her characters and their motivations. There is a generous homage to X-Men in this story although it manages to distinguish itself from that series by having a wonderful heroine in Hunter.

There's wonderful humour laced throughout the book, and there's a particular scene which reminded me of Kick-Ass a bit when Hunter is choosing her super-name and looking at outfits to wear.

I haven't read urban fantasy in a while and this book jumped out at me because of a giveaway for the sequel - Embers and Ice. I entered the giveaway but didn't win. However I ordered the paperback version of Embers and Ice - this review is for the Kindle version of Rouge (#1).

It's clear that Isabella Modra, the author, grows with authority as the book progresses. I understand and accept the pace of the book, everything is well described and builds beautifully towards the final act.

Put simply, there's a lot of fantasy out there that could be considered a little samey. Rouge - and it's sequel, stand out because the author knows the story she wants to tell, and tells it wonderfully. Both books (I hasten to add I have only started book two and am resting my eyes at the moment from heavy computer use!) could sit well on the big screen and you'll be rooting for Hunter, Joshua and the others.

Where the writing is most clever is the focus on a select band of characters, rather than introducing too many. In a book just shy of 300 pages, perhaps it was important to do that.

Are there any faults? Not for me and I'll admit I don't look for them when reading books, I just enjoy the ride. Life's too short to nit-pick! 

The books moves well, great characters, and everything is brilliantly described. This is a wonderful standard for a debut novel, and I'm seriously impressed. I don't believe I could have written something as well as this when I was 19.

Anyway, I rate this book very highly - a wonderful, inventive fantasy that takes the super-hero theme and ups it a notch. Christopher Nolan needs to pay attention to this author if he is looking for a follow-up to the Dark Knight Trilogy!

On GoodReads I gave this wonderful book five stars out of five.

Rouge #2 : Embers and Ice Embers & Iceis out now. I have the paperback and let's just say it is shaping up to be even better than Book One!

Get the book - Amazon

Author Page: Isabella Modra

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Book Review: Saint Monolith by Tom Reinhart


Hello friends and sorry I have been away for what seems like an age. I've been editing a book (so what's new) but nursing a bad eye infection. With an eye patch and a funny walk, I'm all ready to take over from Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow.

I hope you accept my apology in advance - this review is about Tom Reinhart's novel Saint Monolith but it will include things about my three books to date. You'll see the relevance when you read it, I hope.

I was very fortunate and utterly delighted to win a giveaway of this and another Tom Reinhart novel, Hegemonian,  which I reviewed here and I really like that Tom personally signed both copies. Cheers Tom!

To the story then.

Mason Stone is our hero - I think! He's a NYPD officer as part of the SWAT Team, and he takes down criminals with brutal efficiency. He has the usual 'man' thoughts.....always looking at bits of skirt, likes to pump iron at the gym (making him even more fearsome than he seems already) and seems to take an almost perverse pleasure in dealing out justice.

If you read it like that, you'd be forgiven for thinking Mason to be rather one-dimensional. Not a bit of it. He is a multi-layered character who you root for when he is dealing out his very personal killing statements, because those at the end of his gun generally are unpleasant characters. In another way, you think 'okay Mason, that's enough now pal!' 

Herein lies the very interesting angle for me. Mason generally feels no remorse for the men he deals with, and perhaps we'd be the same, as they are the very gutter of society. However, it seems that no matter how many get 'Mason'ed', he never feels at peace. He is fighting his own inner demons and it is this regard I felt I could relate to the character.

In his psychiatric sessions he reveals being bullied at school....something I wrestled with mentioning in my own non-fiction book 'The Essence of Martial Arts'...however some students said the personal stories
were some of the best sections of the book.

I was a quiet, gentle, reflective soul at school, and other kids picked up on this, and would attack me for it. Sure, I could take a hit, but couldn't bear to dish it out. I soon learned, however, that this was the only way to deal with it...return fire with fire.

Mason's issue, if it can be kept to just one, is that he lacks any control. In an enjoyable exchange between two cops, one where Mason is hoping the female will be the 'good' part of the good cop / bad cop routine, she ends up annoying him as much as the male cop, who clearly is not happy that Mason 'offed' a guy without giving him a chance to recover. As Mason retorts:-

'I couldn't really ask him if one shot was enough, Steve. It was him or me.'

Turns out that tough cop, body building Mason was a bit bullied at school too, and perhaps despatching these criminals is the way to his redemption. I think 'time' gave me mine, because as I grew as a martial artist, so did my rather brutal despatch of fellow competitors. They would turn up for a trophy. I would be there for  a fight. If I got a trophy at the end of it, so be it. 

That said, I can't see anyone taking Mason on. It would seem a fatal mistake. And anyone dealing personal demons on the level of Mr Stone would do well to not just cross the road when they see him, but make for the nearest state line.

I still can't make up my mind if I like Mason or not. But maybe that's okay - he certainly is an interesting character and that is something that hold the interest for the reader.

As for the other characters, whilst Jenna and Sue are cool, it's the cat - Tyson, who I wanted to be in the story more! I would have liked to have known how Mason would have acted around him. I mean, I'm a cat fan and have four of my own (hello Angel, Gui-Gui, Java and Kato) but then, how would it have advanced the story.

Shy of 300 pages, this is a tight read and an engaging script. It's the sort of two-part episode that Steve Bochco would have scripted when Hill Street Blues was at its imperious best. 

I believe Tom Reinhart released Saint Monolith after Hegemonian, and whilst that is a great story - this is better, and it shows in the maturity of the writer.

I lived in New York myself for the best part of a year back in the late 1990s, and I felt I was right back there - such was the great narrative and descriptions that Tom uses. It's got that clammy feeling that the opening credits of Taxi Driver show, along with Robert de Niro's captivating narrative.

It's the whole 'demon within' angle that I loved in this book, and I've explored it in my paranormal horror Dark Winter and this is expanded on in the follow up. 

There's a section about religion that some readers may view as being a bit preachy, but this is the author's book and he must write it the way that he does. I myself am not the most devout Catholic - I go to mass infrequently, but I feel it's not so much about a belief in God, but in something greater, and it's that I allude to in my fantasy book Stormling.

Simply put, as I mentioned on my review for Hegemonian, Tom Reinhart is an author to watch out for, and check out his YouTube channel - there's even a tv show host that talks about his books! Awesome!

Fave bits:

"Willie was about a hundred pounds less and made of heroin and soup kitchen handouts.'

"The only thing better would be if the next question was 'have you slaughtered anyone today?'.

The reference to Detroit. 

The last point is a personal one for me, I had a girlfriend one time in Santa Monica and later, I knew a girl in Dearborn Heights, MI. I loved how you couldn't go far in Michigan before seeing a sign pointing to Detroit. 

On GoodReads I rated this book five stars out of five. Well done Tom and thank you once again for sending me the autographed books! 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Book Review: TRUST Betrayed (Trust Trilogy, Book Two) by Cristiane Serruya


TRUST: A New Beginning was a revelation to me in the sense that I didn't usually read these kind of stories. However, Cristiane Serruya is an excellent author, and you could tell that A New Beginning was something special.It starts with quite a bang and amazingly, keeps it up through out. That's not easy for a long book like TRUST.

As with any 'middle story' the trick is, could it be better than the first and yet end in a way that would set things up for a tantalising finale (I have bought TRUST: Pandora's Box but am yet to review it) and I need to explain why I haven't gotten around to reading the final book yet.

TRUST Betrayed is a complex, luxuriously layered woven tale that is brilliantly written, but for me, I needed to re-read certain scenes just to make sure I had absorbed what had happened and take it all in. In that sense, it is the harder read than A New Beginning but is totally worth investing your time on this story.

It's a lovely way Cristiane has with words - the date and time stamps add increased authenticity to the tale and whilst the main characters Sophia and Alistair remain as compelling as ever, it's the truly 'unique' heather who stuck in my mind long after I had finished the story. I won't say whether Heather is good, bad or indifferent, but she adds her unique spin to the story.

The story probably works best with all three read together, and so I'm looking forward to Pandora's Box. To date, there's only one trilogy of books that received five stars from me - Lord of the Rings. Now I know that's not an official trilogy, but the idea of rating them is the same...I rated Lotr 5 stars as a whole. Let's just say that Cristiane Serruya is a modern, intelligent writer who deserves the plaudits for her stories. Both TRUST books are excellent and I can heartily recommend them.

In the sense of balance, is there any thing to fault? Perhaps yes, perhaps no, depending on your view. For me, Betrayed had so much going on, it deserved more than one read to really absorb it, but it is, as I say, worth your time. A light read this is not...prepare to give it the time and space it deserves, and I am sure that you too will enjoy this utterly thrilling story.

As for book three, Pandora's Box is an awesome, intriguing title. Some books are worth waiting for, an just like Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, I waited some months before finally reading it..even for the master of horror, following up The Shining would be impossible, surely?

Trust Betrayed is a lot like that....give some space between Book One and Book Three and I am sure you will love the ride!
                                        Buy on Amazon                   

Thursday, 29 May 2014

My 100th Post! 'Stormling' Excerpt: The Fate of Karina

Hello all, and hope you are well :)

Who would have thought I would have reached a hundred posts on my blog? Certainly not me. Well, this milestone deserves something a bit special.

So, I just thought I would give you a taster from the forthcoming release of 'Stormling' Stormling on June 1st.....There's really too much to draw from with this book, and it's much more involved that my previous work (Dark Winter), but my hope is that my writing has improved and I'm developing the craft in the right direction.

If you get hold of a copy, it would be awesome to know what you think!

There will be a few more teasers to come!


Corianna Ismay was just eight years old when her mother Karina died. Corianna had just one more conversation with her mother before running hard in the direction of Rowse Briar, far from her home of Sirennestria.

“Don’t you cry now, Corianna,” she said sternly, but softened her tone in a way that only a mother could. “Do not let them see you cry. The great powers we possess contain a flaw; our tears let the enemy know where we are. I’m going to be brave, so you have to be too. Just promise me that you will hide your skills, lest the fate that has befallen me befalls you too.”

The young sorceress nodded that she understood completely. “You look beautiful, Mother,” asserted Corianna with a confidence beyond someone of her years.

A simple white tunic hung over Karina’s shoulders, but her hands shook uncontrollably. Her young daughter grabbed her mother’s hands, and steadied them from shaking. “So don’t you be afraid, Mother, then I won’t be, when my time comes.”

Karina picked a maroon coloured cardigan from her dresser, and wrapped herself up in it.

“Your lucky colour, Mother,” beamed Corianna. “I shall not ever wear it, in respect of your memory.”

“That is the very reason you should wear it, my child.”

Bringing her thoughts back to the present moment, there was no presence of a loving daughter, just the cold, uncompromising walls of a prison. Karina pressed her cheeks against the bars of her cell.

“Guard! Let’s not delay this charade any longer. I am ready. Take me to Firetop.”

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Book Review: Hegemonian by Tom Reinhart


Yarrh! If it isn't another of them sword and slash and cut and run epic fantasies.....

Now this really is up my street. I love epically laden stories....Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, The Iron Fey series.....too many to mention really.

Hegemonian, by Tom Reinhart, was one of two books I won in a giveaway. Now, in approaching my own take on the genre with Stormling, I had the same fears as Tom, and still do, in that 'would I do the genre justice'.

It's a big worry. If you are writing a book that could be shelved alongside JRR Tolkien's works, better be good.

So where does Tom's book stack up?

I'll admit that the last fantasy I read of this kind was Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind and....I couldn't finish it, friends. I really tried to like it, but it fell on its face, I am sorry to say.

From the off, Tom gets us into the action straight away. There's a view that maybe you have to world build from the off, and of course, you can. But our hero, Lucan, is a fighter, a warrior, a savage, a nobleman. And does he know how to use a sword.

The initial chapters feature bloody encounters which were a little strong for me (given I wrote a horror...hello pot, hello kettle!!) but it is in the context of the story. We cannot expect Lucan to wander the lands without anything happening. It's clear that this book is not the total story, and that there is more to come. Good...because this story uses the fantasy genre to its full strength, mixing in the kind of creatures I would struggle to minotaurs, for instance!

Tom's writing is easy to follow but I don't mean that in a demeaning way. This is an author who has a handle on his subject, and I commend him for writing different book genres in this, also Das Vampyr (go team fang!) and Saint Monolith (which I am currently reading).

Naturally, we can't cheer for Lucan unless he has a total nutjob to face off against, and in Vargas, we have our man.

What happens in the end? Does Lucan win, and what does he do then? Sit on the spoils of his victory? Or seek more adventures. Yaarrrh...I'm your huckleberry....let's go on another adventure then.

This is a great tale, and I think I'd give it the full five stars if not for the bloody detail in the book. I get's in context, but I think younger readers might balk at reading this because of the gore, which would be a shame, as it is a rip roaring fantasy adventure.

Great stuff from Tom Reinhart!

Buy the book on Amazon here: here
Tom's website:- here

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Book Review: Claiming the Duchess by Sherry Thomas


I know I haven't reviewed it yet, but Sherry Thomas' book The Luckiest Lady in London was the first of hers that I read. Now we received news of her new novella...and it is for free on Amazon!

In 'The Dark Knight', the Joker says "if you're good at something, never do it for free." Clearly, what the author wants us to do is to understand who she is as a storyteller, and Claiming the Duchess is a brilliant book to read, even if you are familiar with her other novels.

Given I have been in a heavy book edit / re-draft of my own, I'm slowly coming out of the haze and I am reading again. This was a quick read for me, one night and one morning...and it centres around our recently widowed duchess, Clarissa, who keeps sane with the correspondence of her long term friend Julia Kirkland, and hopeful of maybe finding a soul mate (are there ever more than one in your lifetime?) through Mr James Kingston.

The reveal is built up, slowly, carefully, steadily. When it came, I wasn't overly surprised, but that doesn't matter. The point is, Sherry Thomas is a joy to read. Sometimes, I read these kind of stories to fall in love again. Whilst that might sound soft, when you have been with the same person for a long time (over a decade in our case) sometimes you need that reminder that it is possible to keep the romance alive, and the magic of just being together a welcome release from the stresses of life (yeah, I'm talking about writing!).

I think Sherry Thomas is an utterly brilliant storyteller. Predictably, her tales are set in London, but read the richness of her stories....enjoy her witty style and elegant prose....even if this isn't your kind of book, she is an excellent writer.

I liken her quality of writing to that of Anne Rice, who many of you will know is a horror writer. So it is not about genre, it is about enjoying an author at the height of their powers.

Claiming the Duchess is the (0.5) first story in the Fitzhugh series....I am seriously tempted to just blow the book budget and buy them all!

Happy reading!


Monday, 28 April 2014

Book Review: Ice Angel by Elizabeth Hanbury


Ice Angel by Elizabeth Hanbury is the first of the Cavanagh Family series, but it was A Bright Particular Star that re-introduced me to regency romances, and this is as strong as Miss Hanbury's other works.

I found myself falling heavily for Isabella, the so-named Ice Angel of the story, but it's the other characters, especially Hal, which make the story what it is - a thoroughly enjoyable tale.

I'll admit that I'm new to Georgette Heyer's books, but this stands up with one of my first fave authors - Jane Austen, and one might just think that a tea party with Jane, Georgette and Elizabeth...well - no-one should feel out of place!

Sometimes these tales are considered a light read - not a bit of it - the layers are well done and the character interaction - primary and secondary leads, are brilliant done.

That just leaves The Paradise Will of the books I need to read of Miss Hanbury's. Suffice to say, she is a wonderful writer, really makes you feel the London style and Regency feel of the well as creating a deftly told tale. I kind of wish I had read the before A Bright Particular Star...and if you haven''t read that one, I suggest you do. Now!

Elizabeth's website is here:-