Audio Book Review: The Last Kingdom

The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Stories, #1)The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Stories #1)
by Bernard Cornwell

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Blurb: This is the exciting – yet little known – story of the making of England in the ninth and 10th centuries, the years in which King Alfred, his son and grandson defeated the Danish Vikings who had invaded and occupied three of England’s four kingdoms.

The story is seen through the eyes of Uhtred, a dispossessed nobleman, who is captured as a child by the Danes and then raised by them so that, by the time the Northmen begin their assault on Wessex, Alfred’s kingdom and the last territory in English hands, Uhtred almost thinks of himself as a Dane. He certainly has no love for Alfred, whom he considers a pious weakling and no match for Viking savagery, yet when Alfred unexpectedly defeats the Danes and the Danes themselves turn on Uhtred, he has to decide which side he is on. By now he is a young man, in love, trained to fight and ready to take his place in the dreaded shield wall. Above all, though, he wishes to recover his father’s land, the magical fort of Bebbanburg by the wild northern sea.

This thrilling adventure – based on existing records of Bernard Cornwell’s ancestors, depicts a time when law and order were ripped violently apart by a pagan assault on Christian England, an assault that came very close to destroying England altogether. This is the exciting – yet little known – story of the making of England in the ninth and 10th centuries, the years in which King Alfred, his son and grandson defeated the Danish Vikings who had invaded and occupied three of England’s four kingdoms.

My Review: This is the first book I’ve read/listened to by Bernard Cornwell. The reason? I’m not a great lover of “the great battle scene” and I’ve always felt the author would go there. Now I know for certain that he does. But…listening to battle scenes is much different to reading them. And listening to battle scenes in this story was a new experience for me. A good experience.

I enjoyed the story and the characters. I know it was based on history, how much so I don’t know, but it was well written. I must admit that I found it difficult to keep track of the characters because of their strange (similar sounding) names. However, I worked out the ones that matter and became totally engrossed in the plot.

The other thing that surprised me was the realisation that I don’t read many books written by men. It has never been intentional, but during this book I discovered I liked the different style of writing I found here. It’s hard to explain, but for me, it was a nice change of pace. It was gritty, no holding back, masculine. Don’t mess with me. Simply gripping. I will be listening too the next two books for sure.

Audio Book Review: 13 Treasures

13 Treasures13 Treasures (Thirteen Treasures #1)
by Michelle Harrison
Narrator: Nicola Barber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blurb: While visiting her grandmother’s house, an old photograph leads Tanya to an unsolved mystery. Fifty years ago a girl vanished in the woods nearby – a girl Tanya’s grandmother will not speak of. Fabian, the caretaker’s son, is tormented by the girl’s disappearance. His grandfather was the last person to see her alive, and has lived under suspicion ever since. Together, Tanya and Fabian decide to find the truth. But Tanya has her own secret: the ability to see fairies. Can it help them to unravel the mystery? Soon they are facing terrible danger. Could the manor’s sinister history be about to repeat itself?

My Review: Again, I only picked this up from the library because I liked the cover. So, yes, covers are important and will get authors new readers; or in this case, listeners.

Firstly, I want to comment on the narrator. She was excellent. Her voice suited the story and the main character. Her narration held me to the story, just as much as the author’s writing. And I think it’s important to mention that.

The main character in this book is 13, which suggests the book is written for younger readers. However, it felt to me that she was more mature and sophisticated. Half the time, I forgot Tanya was only thirteen. That doesn’t mean that I think young people are not or cannot be mature and sophisticated, it means that the story (I feel) will appeal to young adult, and even adults too.

The supporting characters are placed well and compliment the main character. The plot was well thought out and kept me guessing. The mystery was realistic and believable. In fact, I enjoyed this story a lot more than I thought I would. I will definitely be looking for the next book in the series. And I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading books filled with mystery, adventure, and fantastical elements.

Highly recommended.

Audio Book Review: I’ll Walk Alone

I'll Walk AloneI’ll Walk Alone (Alvirah and Willy #8)
by Mary Higgins Clark
Narrator: Jan Maxwell

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

It’s strange, but the books I would not read, I enjoy listening to. I don’t get why that is the case, but I’m discovering new authors and books as a result, so it’s a win-win situation as far as I’m concerned.

Blurb: Thirty-year-old Alexandra Moreland, a prominent interior designer, already heartbroken at the disappearance of her toddler, Matthew, in Central Park two years earlier, now is facing a different tragedy. She is about to be indicted for identity theft and is considered a “person of interest” in the murder of a woman she barely knew. What she cannot surmise is that she has become the target of a vicious plot to destroy both her sanity and her life.

My Review: I didn’t realise this was book eight until this very moment, as I was about to write the review. With that in mind, I have to admit that I had no idea there have been seven previous books. And to me, that is a good thing because it makes this book a stand alone story.

I listened to the audio version of the book. The narrator was excellent; easy to listen to and very clear.

This story itself was good to listen too. Predictable. Pleasant. Comfortable. Easy listening while driving to and from work. Even though I knew where it was going, I was keen to keep listening. I did feel that in all honesty, the plot was too convenient in places, but I let that go and just tried to enjoy the moment. I certainly didn’t regret picking this audio book up from the library and I would listen to more from the author.

eBook Review: The Mystery of Hollow Inn

The Mystery Of Hollow Inn (Samantha Wolf Mysteries #1)The Mystery of Hollow Inn (Samantha Wolf Mysteries #1)
by Tara Ellis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb: Twelve-year-old Samantha Wolf, and her best friend Ally, are excited to spend part of their summer break in the mountains of Montana. But unknown to them, Hollow Inn is bathed in mystery and legend. After arriving, they soon discover that things are not going well for Sam’s Aunt and Uncle, who own the Inn. There’s vandalism, ghostly sightings, and rumors of lost treasures. Determined to help, Sam and Ally embark on a challenging journey to discover the truth.

My Review: Being the first book in a mystery series, it’s important to set up the characters so that the reader wants to return to the series. Naturally, this is for younger readers, but as I enjoy books for all ages, I thought I’d give it a go and see what I thought.

Sam and her best friend visit Sam’s aunt and uncle for the summer break. They find themselves stepping in to a mystery and, of course, the two girls have to find out what’s going on. The two main characters worked well together, although they were a bit two dimensional at times. But nothing that took away from the story line. The mystery itself was put together well and kept me interested. I liked the way the author spun the modern world of technology into a setting that I believe most parents would not mind their children/preteens reading.

I believe young girls especially will enjoy these books. I will certainly read the next book in the series. In fact, I’ve already got in on my device ready to read.

Free Review Copies of The Land of Miu Ebooks

The Land of Miu series is complete. All three ebooks have been published, the characters have completed their adventures (for now). And to celebrate this I am giving away FREE REVIEW COPIES of the entire set in the series.

The titles of the three books are:

1. The Land of Miu
2. The King’s Riddle
3. The Lion Gods

If you would like to take advantage of this offer, please use the contact page on my other website to email me your details. Don’t forget to tell me which format suits you best — ePub, Mobi or PDF. All I ask in return is that you read the three ebooks and write a short, honest review on Amazon, Goodreads and or your own website, if you have one.

Your interest in the series and your opinion are important to me. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

eBook Review: The Cat, the Mill and the Murder

The Cat, the Mill and the Murder (A Cats in Trouble Mystery, #5)The Cat, the Mill and the Murder by Leann Sweeney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As is my way, I spotted this book in the local Salvo’s store. I don’t usually read cozy mysteries, but I liked the sound of this book so bought it. Besides, tastes change over the years and I recently find myself reading a number of books I never used to look at twice. Thing is, surprise, surprise, I’m enjoying them!

Blurb: When cat lover and quilter Jillian Hart volunteers to help a local animal shelter relocate a colony of feral cats living in an abandoned textile mill, she never expects to find a woman living there, too. Jeannie went missing from Mercy, South Carolina, a decade ago, after her own daughter’s disappearance.

Jeannie refuses to leave the mill or abandon Boots, her cat who died years ago. After all, she and Boots feel the need to protect the premises from “creepers” who come in the night. After Jeannie is hurt in an accident and is taken away, those who’ve come to town to help repurpose the mill uncover a terrible discovery… As the wheels start turning in Jillian’s mind, a mysterious new feline friend aids in her quest to unearth a long-kept and dark secret.

My Review: The Cat, The Mill and The Murder is a cosy mystery — a subgenre of crime fiction where sex and violence is downplayed and the crime is usually solved by a member of the public instead of police officers, detectives and the like.

What attracted me to this story is the ghost cat. I liked the sound of that and felt it would make for a different read (for me, at least). I enjoyed the interaction of the main character and the ghost cat. In fact, I enjoyed the main character’s interaction with all the other characters too. She seemed like a real, decent person; even with her quirks. Her obsession with her own cats was nice, they were her babies and I get the attachment there. I have a dog that I feel the same way about.

The plot was well crafted, in my opinion. I liked the way it came together in a natural way. All the players had good reasons for what they felt and what they did. The mystery was believable and the clues given out at just the right moments to keep the reader interested.

This is the first book I’ve read in the series, and the first book I’ve read by this author. I’d definitely read others.

Recommended.

The Sydney Writers Festival – Live and Local

I work in Wollongong and walk passed Wollongong Town Hall every day. They have some great events advertised and sometimes I feel like going along to a classical music afternoon, or a nostalgic step down memory lane, but I usually can’t because these events take place while I’m at work.

However, yesterday I noticed a different type of poster — Writer’s Festival. Yes, that got my attention, but I was in a hurry so kept walking. Today, I paused and read the poster properly and decided to look it up on the internet when I got home. Which I’ve now done.

On 5 May, a Saturday, there will be a writer’s festival. It’s an all day event with multiple sessions writers (or non-writers who are just interested in words) can attend. Whilst it is streamed live from the Sydney Festival, there will be talks and a workshop by local writers. If you’re an aspiring writer, and you’re based on the South Coast of NSW, then you might be interested in this event.

Go to The Sydney Writers Festival – Live and Local for session details and times.

eBook Review: The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the WindowThe Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My son and his fiance gave me an iTunes gift card for Christmas. They know I love reading and thought I’d be able to purchase books for myself, rather than try to decide what I might want to read. So far I’ve purchased two ebooks. The first one was The Last Hours by Minette Walters and the second was this one. Both have been five star reads, so I’m doing well (so far) with my selections.

Blurb: What did she see?

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

My Review: The Woman in the Window was purchased on a whim. Something about the blurb intrigued me. I’d also read some reviews that made it look promising.

In all honesty, this book didn’t grab me from the first page. In fact, it felt difficult to read at first. First person. Fragmented sentences. I was confused about what was happening and put it aside before the end of the first chapter. A few days later I picked it up and tried again and this time, the storyline grabbed me. By the end of the second chapter I was hooked.

The writing style needs to be gotten used to, in my opinion. But once accepted, the flow becomes easy and the characters draw you in. It felt a little like I was reading someone else’s diary, when I knew I shouldn’t be. And the reading gave me an insight into things I shouldn’t know.

There were two sections of this book that affected me immensely. Without giving anything away, one made me want to know more, made me want to keep reading, devouring every word. I couldn’t get enough of the book. I thought about it when I put it down. I couldn’t wait to get back to it.

The other section stopped me in my tracks. It was like I’d been punched in the face. I had no choice but to put the book down at that moment and let the words swim around in my mind and settle down. I was so affected that I found myself looking for some one to tell the story to, just so I could talk about it. Then, after that, I raced back to the book to discover what the outcome would be.

I haven’t read a book that affected me like this for a very, very long time. I was sad when it finished. I actually put the book down twenty pages from the end, just so I could return to it the next day — simply because I didn’t want to reach the end that day. It sounds stupid when I type that, but it’s the truth.

The Woman in the Window is excellent. It teaches you things you didn’t know, it warns you of other things you should know and remember, and it feeds the curiosity (very slowly) which keeps you coming back for more.

I really enjoyed the storyline. I believed in the characters. And I would whole heartedly recommend this book to anyone. Highly recommended.

First Draft: The Lion Gods is Finished

Over recent weeks I’ve been doing some tweaks to the website and I saw a notification saying that The Lion Gods was due for release in 2014. Here we are in 2018 and that still hasn’t happened.

In my own defense, a lot has happened since I wrote that notification — my father passed away, my mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I took on the primary carer role for my mum and moved house and job location, my own house flooded leaving damage that made the house uninhabitable (it had to be sold), G’s dad passed away, his mum was diagnosed with dementia, he moved in with her and became her primary carer, G had a burst aneurysm and a stroke and lost his memory for three months, mum went into permanent care, I moved and relocated my job again, and I took on the primary role of carer for G. During that time I moved house three times and I had to clear out my mother’s home of 40 years and G’s mum’s home as well. As you can see the list is all major, stressful stuff, not little things. I’m glad to report now that G is doing well and is improving each month, mum is extremely happy in residential care and wishes she went there earlier and G’s mum is now living with his sister and also doing well. G and I have our own place at last, and we are now married. All good.

Over the last few months, since everything has settled down to a more normal way of living, I have been writing again. And I am so happy right now, because I can finally say that The Lions Gods has been completed. It might only be the first draft, but that is beside the point. I rediscovered the urge to write and the story has been written. I’m ecstatic.

I would dance on my desk if it wasn’t totally covered with my writing stuff (and if I were 100% sure it wouldn’t collapse). 😀

I intend to put the manuscript aside for a few days and then start the editing stage. I’ve decided that for the first round, I am going to use a generated voice read it to me as I take notes and make minor corrections. I’ve never done this before but feel it might be useful. I’ll let you know what I get from it after that phase is done.

Right now it’s time to party…or at least go make myself a cuppa!

eBook Review: Summer of the Woods

Summer of the Woods (The Virginia Mysteries #1)Summer of the Woods by Steven K. Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I saw this on Bookbub for free. The cover grabbed my attention, the blurb sealed the deal. This is the first book in a series called The Virginia Mysteries.

The blurb: When ten-year-old Derek and eight-year-old Sam move with their family to Virginia, they have no idea what adventures the summer will bring. As the brothers explore their creaky old house and the deep surrounding woods, they uncover a sixty-year-old mystery of a valuable coin collection stolen from the local museum. Join the boys as they spend their summer running from danger and searching the woods, secret caves, rushing waters, and hidden passageways for treasure and the rare 1877 Indian Head cent coin!

My review: As you can tell by the blurb, this is a story about children, written for children. I’m not a child but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Derek and Sam are likeable kids who have moved to a new area and go exploring and find themselves having an adventure. It’s a light, quick read. I felt the circumstances around the mystery came across as valid and the boys acted as most boys would.

I liked that they knew when they had done the wrong thing, and why. And the consequences of their actions were acknowledged by all and suitably dealt with. Young boys (and girls) will enjoy the adventure, will learn a bit about Virginian history and learn some lessons in life too (without even knowing they have been taught these lessons).

Recommended for young readers, or parents of young readers. Or, if you’re like me, older readers who just want a change of pace and a reminder of our younger days.