Echoes of a Song – Best #Fantasy 2019

Yay! Echoes of a Song came top in the NN Light Fantasy category for best book reviewed in 2019!

https://www.nnlightsbookheaven.com/post/announcement-2019-n-n-light-book-award-winners

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The other nominations are here 

Check out some of these awesome reads.

Echoes of a Song

A dozen tumultuous years after the dramatic events at the Paris Opera House Raoul, Comte de Chagny is still haunted by the mysterious Opera Ghost – the creature of legend who held staff at the Opera House under his thrall, kidnapped Raoul’s lover and murdered his brother. In Raoul’s troubled imagination the ghosts of the past are everywhere, and strange and powerful music still calls in his dreams.

Madness, obsession and the legacy of the past weave their spell in this short, tragic tale based on the Phantom of the Opera.

Available on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and many other stores on the link below.

Universal Link https://books2read.com/Echoesofasong

Amazon .com http://amzn.to/2E7Cdu0

Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/2BJwAgk

Print

https://amzn.to/2N0JIbI

https://amzn.to/2Nxki4I

Amazon Audio https://www.amazon.com/Echoes-Song-Legacy-Mask-Book/dp/B07HCKG3WK/

Amazon UK audio https://www.amazon.co.uk/Echoes-Song-Legacy-Mask-Book/dp/B07HCM1624/

Audible UK https://adbl.co/2xlH8Tz

Audible.com https://adbl.co/2MRTQP7

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Review – City of Sin: London and its Vices

Review – City of Sin: London and its Vices

https://www.amazon.co.uk/City-Sin-London-its-Vices-ebook/dp/B003M69WY4/

 

From the first unfortunate shivering Roman slaves on the banks of the Thames two thousand years ago to modern vice this book covers the history of vice and the sex industry. Discussing the rise and fall of bawdy houses, the city’s attempts to regulate brothels and prostitution, the differing classes of sex workers throughout the time period, and how they were seen. There are comparisons of royal mistresses such as Nell Gwyn and the Countess of Castlemaine, to the sad, short and dangerous lives of street whores. And to cover the more modern cases – the Profumo affair and the repercussions thereof. When men (mostly) of power get their friskies beyond the marriage bed the women concerned can have influence, blackmail the men, and bring government and even monarchy into disrepute. But prostitution and adultery are hardly new.

Not all the accounts are tales of woe – some tell of successful women (mostly women), who left ‘the oldest profession in the world’ rich, and lived to old age; there are some accounts of women who voluntarily became courtesans – having more freedom than their married sisters (although less security). Of course, there were many (and some were young) forced into ‘the trade’ and who died in poverty, shame, riddled with disease and often took their own lives. Male brothels or ‘molly houses’ and homosexual encounters are discussed, with an interesting account of the Cleveland Street scandal and the trial of Oscar Wilder.

Overall the book is interesting and contains a varied set of accounts – but is a little flippant in places.

A useful summary of the times and lives of women (and men) of the street and houses of ‘ill-fame’ from the tragic to the darkly amusing. Not for the prudish!

 

Review – I, Claudia – A Novel of the Ancient World – Lin Wilder

This #HistoricalFiction, it might be argued, could be controversial. It’s the story of the wife of Pontius Pilate – the man religious history has damned with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  This is Claudia’s story – starting with the person barely out of girlhood with big and dangerous ideas, and a terrible foresight.

The author crafts this well enough, with sympathy, despair at what will come, but from an intriguing perspective. What did Pilate think? Did he have a choice? Of course, we don’t know that – but that’s what historical fiction is about – it’s the might have been.

The chapters jump between Claudia, setting out to marry a man she has never met, and Pilate’s promotion to Governor of Judea – and the inherent troubles therein.

Although the jumping between points of view is a little confusing at times the story is very engaging.

4 stars.

 

Review – Green Men and White Swans – The Folklore of British Pub Names

3.5 Stars.

This book is a potted history and folklore of some of the names of British Pubs, past and present. Not every pub name is included – it depends on the origin of the name (and the ability to find out what it means).

Some of the names are odd, not obvious and many are reminiscent of attitudes long gone (Such as Quiet Woman – depicting a woman with no head, or wearing a scold’s bridle; or Nags Head – could also be sexist; Saracen’s Head or Black Boy – now viewed as racist.) In many cases the signs or names have been altered in our more enlightened times. Some of the pubs are old – they show which side a local landholder was on in the English Civil War, or whether they supported the Catholics or Protestants during the Reformation.

There are many mythical references – Unicorn, Green Man, Dragon, George and Dragon, Phoenix, etc. Not all in a locale directly related to that creature or hero – and some are named after ships, for example.

The snippets of local history and pride in that history are the most interesting aspect – and some of the references would be largely unknown outside a particular area.

A lot of research has been done for this book, and that shows.

The cons – there were a lot of formatting/typo errors, including a duplicate paragraph and the way certain aspects were laid out with specific topics interspersed did not work well as an ebook, as the formatting was all over the place.

Subject – 4 stars

Technical side – 3 stars.

 

Adventures in Self-Publishing – Reviews – Part 1

Reviews…writers crave them and fear them. Readers utilise them, write them, ignore them. So what is the point?

A good deal of advice for writers states solicit reviews at all costs, but it this good advice? Yes and No. Let me get this clear – a review is one person’s opinion of a product, be it socks, a movie, or a book. And this is where the issue lies. Every individual who reads a book views it differently. Each person has expectations of a book (possibly based on having read previous reviews), prejudices – and we all have an unconscious bias – experiences/education, and mood.

For example – I like world-building; descriptive prose; great, and believable characters; emotive and lyrical writing. I read: Fantasy, gothic horror, science fiction, historical fiction, classics, mythic, erotica, true crime, historical mystery, science and medicine books. The expectations I have for a particular genre vary – I want my science, history and crime to be well-researched and not dry, but not overly complicated as I am reading for interest not a profession. I want my science fiction believable, or at least consistent, but with an element of the fantastic. I want my fantasy to be rich, amazing and well-developed. I want my gothic horror to be creepy, dark and deadly but not terrifying. And so on. So if I review a book I have read I need to apply this – my expectations for say, Les Miserables or Tess of the D’Urbevilles are not the same as for Cadfael or Sacred Band.

And so you have an opinion by an individual with a mix of views, expectations etc. No review is right. And no review is wrong. They are all subjective. And that’s the point and the difficulty.

As a reader, I seldom read reviews for books – basically because they don’t influence my choice much.  However, I do read reviews for electronics, clothes, movies and pretty much everything else. Yes, I’m weird. Many readers aren’t like me, they put great store by reviews – looking for merits and flaws from like-minded people.

There are readers who have certain criteria:

Engaging characters, well written, free from errors, believable.

But then there’s too much description/not enough? Too much sex/romance/violence/swearing or not enough. How much IS enough? Not a clue. It’s subjective.

I posted on a facebook group – name a couple of books you thought you should like and didn’t. As expected the results were varied. Books I love were thought utter drivel, and books I hate were thought wonderful. This was the picture across the board.

There are a minority of readers who look for the errors in a book or take great delight in bitching about the book/author. It is a small, vocal minority.  But they are there. This is particularly the case for indie-authored books. I’ll discuss how to handle reviews like this in a later post.

I review books for many reasons: I have a bad memory and it’s a form of note-taking; I want to share what I think of a book, although given the fact I rarely read book reviews this is rather hypocritical on my part; I want to support an author.  But people review for many reasons, and in many ways.

Reviews are opinion, nothing more and nothing less.

I’d be interested in what criteria my readers use to review, and if they read reviews.

 

 

 

 

 

Lord of the Flies – audio edition – review

Lord of the Flies by William Golding was written in the 1950s – but this haunting coming-of-age story is dark, thought-provoking and unnervingly timeless.

I first read this as a child at school, I think it was on the English syllabus but it is not just a story for kids – in fact I probably got even more from it, as the cynical adult I have become, than I did all those years ago.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story – here’s a brief synospis.

After a plane crash a group of British schoolboys are left castaway on an island – the boys range from ‘littleuns’ to ‘biguns’ – approximately 4 or 5 to young teen. There are no adults let alive. At first, it’s an adventure – and the older more sensible kids begin to make plans to await rescue. Power struggles soon emerge – from the sensible Ralph, the bullied, overweight and myopic but intelligent Piggy, to the nasty Jack.

The kids are innocent, for the most part, but it doesn’t take long for this innocence to be lost, and the kids begin to reflect the darkness within humanity, within power and petty politics.

Part of the synopsis reads; ‘The boys’ struggle to find a way of existing in a community with no fixed boundaries invites readers to evaluate the concepts involved in social and political constructs and moral frameworks. Symbolism is strong throughout, revealing both the boys’ capacity for empathy and hope, as well as illuminating the darkest corners of the human spirit. Ideas of community, leadership, and the rule of law are called into question as the reader has to consider who has a right to power, why, and what the consequences of the acquisition of power may be.’

The audio edition is especially powerful, and the narrator builds the suspense, and the brewing tragedy excellently. It’s a tale which the reader (or listener) at once wants to end, and not to end – because one must find out what happens, but at the same time one fears one knows.

Awesome, awesome story, expertly written and expertly told. Highly recommended.

 

 

Review – Healing Springs – Audio – #Fantasy #Lesbianfiction #Spiritual

Healing Springs by KL Rhavensfyre is a tale of homecoming, revelation, loss, love and determination.

When writer Selene is forced to return to her childhood town of Healing Springs, after an accident which robbed her of health, a career she is reluctant, plagued with pain and self-pity and a shell of who she was. Yet the mysterious healing springs cared for by her family for generations hold secrets and power.

The book begins with Selene being forced to sell her house and return to her Bohemian hippy mother’s inn – and the bitterness that brings. Selene finds it hard to see past her pain and loss, particularly the loss of her ability to write. We meet Amy – successful businesswoman, but an outsider in the small American backwoods town. Amy is black, gay and feisty and runs a metaphysical store and coffee shop. So where is the fantasy in this tale?  We learn of the town’s history and the strange old witch woman whose house Amy buys. The old woman’s ghost still lingers and as the story progresses we learn the secrets of the town, it’s springs and the curses and blessings they bring. Amok, a strange and possibly supernatural dog appears and plays a crucial and slightly comical role. And then we have Minerva…

The fantasy aspect is subtle, slow to build but integral to the tale. It burns like the romance between the two women. Selene cannot remember the love affair between herself and Amy and believes no woman would want her battered and scared body. Love will find a way, even if it has to call in supernatural forces.

This is a slow burn story, which builds and builds until the exciting conclusion. I have to say I shed a tear.

Well-written, packed with emotion, and full of surprises – this is a great tale. The narrator is easy to hear, and well-chosen.

Recommended – 5 stars.

 

 

 

Review – Spawn of Dyscrasia – audio – fantasy/dystopian/specfic

Spawn of Dyscrasia is the second book in the Dyscrasia world fiction – a reader doesn’t have to have read the previous book, but I think it helps. I shall be reading the others soon.

This world is dark, corrupted and filled with monsters – giant insectoids, twisted humans, bird-creatures and hybrids. Sickness has left its mark on the world, and most of the humans live in fear, ignorance or semi-enslavement to magic, monsters and dark forces.  There are, of course, good people – Helen is a curer – an artist who uses her craft to heal the strange lords, who protect the lands from the disease and dark forces. That, I think was the most fascinating aspect of this unique world. Art is power and magic. It heals and gives strength to Lysis – the skeletal necromancer lord who rules. I loved this idea – Helen’s art is her power, her salvation and, in many ways, her curse.  Helen is young, naive, afraid, confused but brave, loyal and the hero of the piece.  She has her burgeoning magic and strength of will which keeps her alive.  Helen is awesome!

The narrator for the audio is well chosen, her voice is powerful, yet easy to listen to. I was captivated.

5 stars.

I am definitely going to read the other books – I want to know more of this world, and it’s history – and listen to other audiobooks by this narrator.

Sinners of Magic – Lynette Creswell Reviews 2019 #Fantasy

Sinners of Magic by Lynette Creswell is a fantasy tale following the adventures of young adults Crystal and Matt. Crystal is a strange girl, haunted by visions, and odd occurrences and has no answers for her skills. After she saves her friend from drowning a strange bird arrives on her windowsill. Then answers start coming and a splendid adventure really starts. The world is interesting – with elves, sorcerers, monsters and orc-like beings. The rules of the world are strict, and inevitably get broken and this leads to more problems. There is death, there is wicked magic, there is love, courage and intrigue.

It took me a while to get into the book and to connect with the characters (it may be an age thing as they are young adults – and I haven’t been that for 25 years…). That said once the adventure gets going the story is exciting, well-written and the world well crafted. The two protagonists are out of their depth, taken to a strange realm they never believed existed, and faced with life-threatening revelations and situations but the bond of friendship doesn’t wane. I found myself really wanting Crystal to find the answers, the evil lord to be defeated and the good guys to win out. Did they? Read and find out.

I shall definitely pick up the other two books in this trilogy.

4 stars.

 

Reviews 2019 – Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in Bath – Kirsten Elliott

Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in Bath

This is one of the better ‘Foul Deeds’ series, and all the more interesting as I live reasonably close to Bath. Bath is an ancient city, which has seen its share of blood and wickedness – these cases were, mostly the lesser known from 19 century onwards, there was a chapter outlining older crimes. The research was well done, and the author didn’t sensationalise the accounts (which tends to happen in many true crime books).

I’d recommend this for local historians, true crime buffs and people with an interest in the area.

Nicely done.

First review of 2019! Yay!