Book Review: Aura of Magic: Unexpected Magic Book Four by Patricia Rice

Brighid Darrow, Countess of Carstairs, has endured years of a loveless marriage in order to aid her friends and the people of Northridge. Yet once she is widowed, the village shuns her with accusations of witchcraft—vilifying her unique gift of reading auras. Released from past restraints, Bridey rebelliously embraces her dream of establishing a forbidden school for midwives.
Having spent his life being all that is proper in hopes of earning a title in return for services to the crown, Aaron Pascoe-Ives, illegitimate son of a marquess, is ordered to Northridge to save the royal mines from rioters. Any hope of aid from the beautiful but aloof countess is dashed when his incorrigible twins endanger their young lives by following him, mystifyingly insisting that the Countess of Carstairs is their new mother.
Bridey and Pascoe face ghosts, assassins, and riots—but nothing as perilous as the irresistible attraction between them. With hard-fought goals at risk, they must make the ultimate choice between achieving dreams—or losing each other. 

Received from Librarything, in one of their Early Reviewer Batches. I’ve dipped into this series before, and I think the last attempt was a Did Not Finish (Whisper of Magic). However, even though this is now book 4 in the series, this was easier to read, in part because I’m now getting comfortable with the Malcolms, and all their illegitimate cousins, uncles etc.

Before this book starts, Brighid Darrow has endured years of a loveless marriage in order to the older Carstairs in order to aid her friends and the people of Northridge. When she is widowed (again, before this book has started), the village shuns her with accusations of witchcraft – misunderstanding both her education provided by her Grandfather, as well as her gift of reading auras.  The new Carstairs, a weak and cowardly man that is manipulated by his brother Oliver, incites the hatred even more by claiming that all that has gone wrong on the estate is as a result to Bridey’s talents. With only her brother Fin still living in the area, Bridey looks to embrace her dream of establishing a forbidden school for midwives.

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Book Review: He Who Walks in Shadow by Brett J. Talley

he who walks in shadowThe Incendium Maleficarum has been lost and Carter Weston presumed dead, but the story of That Which Should Not Be is only just beginning. Now Carter’s only daughter, Rachel Jones, and his oldest friend, Henry Armitage, must embark on an epic journey that will take them from the hell-blasted Tunguska forest to the catacombs of Paris to the shores of the Scottish Isles.

They are in a race against time, for in France, strange murders and whispers of occult rituals herald the rise of an ancient evil bent on plunging the world into eternal darkness.

It is up to Rachel and Henry to learn Carter’s fate, recover the Incendium Maleficarum, and perhaps even save the world.

I have read works by Talley before (see my review of The Void here), so when this book came up as an offering as part of LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers, I leapt at the chance to read it. Oh Lordie! Bearing in mind the overall problems I’ve had with reading in general recently, and niche markets in particular, it is no surprise that I had issues with this book.

Little did I know when I put my name forward, that this is the sequel to Talley’s THAT WHICH SHOULD NOT BE. Dr. Carter Weston continues the fight to contain “The Old Ones” and act as a guard to the barrier keeping them from wiping out humanity. His daughter, Rachael Jones, joins him after working with Henry Armitage to rescue Carter from the Nazis.  There is plenty of change in terms of narration – the story is told from various standpoints, including individual journals and other documents, and several key scenes from Weston’s past adventures. In this novel, the focus is on Nyarlathoep –a guardian set upon awakening “The Old Ones” and freeing them from their slumber.

The blurb and the setup of the novel attracted me, and I should have enjoyed things. However, this became virtually impossible to finish – I really didn’t care for anyone well ahead of the ending, so I am ashamed to admit this was a DNF.




Book Review: The Rebel & The Ruler by Leilani Darling, Rich Linfield

rebelrulerIn war-torn Judea, merchant Samara has enriched her family, yet money can’t mend her broken heart. The Romans exiled her fiancé Caleb for defying their iron rule, so she’s been lashing out at Rome, supporting the underground rebels. Roman ruler Valerius hunts down the terrorists while struggling with bitter memories of a bad marriage and an unnerving conflict with his brother Marcus Aurelius, soon to be Emperor. Valerius meets Samara on a Jerusalem street as she tries to help an injured boy. His loyalty to Rome is overruled by his passion for her, while her love for this Roman oppressor fills her with shame. Her father is forcing her into a noxious marriage for business reasons, so she asks Valerius to flee with her to Alodia, an African land ruled by women. Can she escape the arranged marriage and wed the handsome, powerful Roman who has stolen her heart? Their flight is halted when he discovers a shocking truth about her, leaving him no choice but to lock her in a Jerusalem dungeon.

Received from the Jan 14 batch from Librarything

Sent as a paperbook, with glossy cover and large print. Nothing to indicate that it’s an uncorrected proof, but I hope it is….there’s a couple of things in the book that put me off a little: a there/their error, which is minor; a slightly bigger problem, unless I have completely missed something…… Samara saves a boy, is spotted by Valerius, then (I think) goes out into the desert to come to terms with what her father is proposing. Then through the rest of the book, there is reference to “the boy’s rescue yesterday”. That niggle stayed with me throughout the rest of the book.

The basic story is decent – a books set in occupied country, the possibility of Hebrew tribes in Africa and China (setting it for another 2 books), the restriction of being a woman in a male dominated society in a Occupied Country. There are some good set pieces – the orphan children for instance, the offspring of Hebrew woman needing protection and the Roman men who have since moved on. This is not a “classic” romance however, and there seems to be a lack of magnetism between the lead two characters (this may be because of the niggle with regards to the timeframe I mentioned above).

My interest in this book dribbled out if I’m honest. Whilst there are some good pieces, overall there was little to bring me to the end, which is disappointing

Book Review: The Aunt Paradox by Chris Dolley


HG Wells has a problem. His Aunt Charlotte has borrowed his time machine and won’t give it back. Now she’s rewriting history!

Reggie Worcester, gentleman’s consulting detective, and his automaton valet, Reeves, are hired to retrieve the time machine and put the timeline back together. But things get complicated. Dead bodies start piling up behind Reggie’s sofa, as he finds himself embroiled in an ever-changing murder mystery. A murder mystery where facts can be rewritten, and the dead don’t always stay dead.

This 100 page novella is the third instalment in the Reeves and Worcester Steampunk Mysteries.

Received as part of the Librarything May 2014 Early Reviewers batch. Published by BookViewCafe and can be brought from them here

Have never read these stories before, but it was soon evident that this is an homage to PG Wodehouse, with a little Sherlock Holmes, Steampunk (in the form of the mechanical Reeves) and Science Fiction (HG Wells as the requisite Bertie) thrown in.

It’s fast paced, silly, and you may be able to find some holes in the forever changing timestream if you wanted to try hard enough (but you dont really, because that would spoil all the fun). Discounting the multiple versions of Aunt Charlotte, there is a limited cast, most of whom in the second half are great-great-great relations of other people, most of whom have turned up dead in Worcester’s flat at some point – resulting in a rather unflattering book and new nickname. As a Wodehouse style novella, the story is short, and characterisation, especially of the secondary characters is not exactly in depth, but this is not a failing of the book by any means. Worcester’s character is easily evidenced by the need of the “emergency gin” bottles hiding around the place and Reeves’ continued attempts to recover the situation, much to Reggie’s dismay.

So if you are in the mood for a short story designed to give you amusement and even some laughs, this is the book for you!



Book Review: Downside Girls by Jaine Fenn

downsidegirlsThe floating city of Kesh rests above the uninhabitable planet of Vellern. For the Topsiders life is about luxury and opulence, while for those of the Undertow day to day survival takes precedence. Kesh City is a democracy by assassination, where the Angels – deadly state-sponsored killers – remove those unworthy to hold office.

When Vanna Agriet accidentally spills her drink over an Angel it could spell death, but instead it leads to a rather peculiar friendship. The downsider Geal hopes for a better life topside, only to find herself embroiled in a ‘removal’ by the Angel Thiera. Downside, Isha’s brother Rakul brings a little black box home with him, and sets Isha on a journey that takes her to a meeting with the most powerful man in Kesh City. Larnia Mier, a talented topside musician and instructor, is injured after witnessing a removal first-hand. As her abilities diminish, new possibilities open up. ‘Downside Girls’ is a standalone collection of interlinked stories by Jaine Fenn, that also shines new light on characters from ‘Principles of Angels’, Jaine’s first novel in the ‘Hidden Empire’ series. (‘Principles of Angels’, ‘Consorts of Heaven’, Guardians of Paradise’, ‘Bringer of Light’, and ‘Queen of Nowhere’)

Provided by the publishers as part of the LibraryThing‘s early reviewers.

The book is a set of 4 short stories, 3 of which have been published previously and which are linked with Angels – state sponsored assassins – as some of the primary characters.

The 4th story is set in the same world, touches briefly on Angels, but is about a musician and follower of one of the planet’s religions.

One of the questions I ask myself when reading short stories is: would this story have made it in a full novel length? Of the four stories, I think the last one was marginally weaker than the others, in that it was, perhaps a little too short (better at Novella length perhaps?).

The other stories however were much stronger at their presented length and I dont think they would have made it to novel length.

Whilst the stories here are perhaps at the right length as short stories, I think this is a very strong world to build upon, and I would be interested to see if Jaine can/will/has already built a set of stories set in this world.

Book Review: Raiding the Hoard of Enchantment by Dave Smeds


Raiding the Hoard of Enchantment by Dave Smeds

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A full-length collection of high fantasy short fiction by Dave Smeds.

A lover spun from moonlight. A wife banished for carrying the child of a demon. A queen, beheaded ten years ago, whose sage counsel may still save the realm. Here are tales of swords, of magic, of romance. And of the struggle to be splendid of heart whether the opponent be within or without.

Won in ebook format (from Book View Cafe) as part of the May 2012 batch from Librarything‘s Early Reviewers, it consists of a number of short stories, which (judging by the end notes) have been previously published elsewhere.

Occurring in every story, Smeds does seem to like using the word “hiccuped” which I suspect he nor his editor has noticed, probably because the stories have been written over a longer period that if written specifically for this publication. However, that’s just a minor sidetrack.

Each story has a female protagonist, finding themselves in unexpected situations, from the girl who (to get themselves being sold off to pay debts) becomes pregnant by her dream lover; to the girl who travels the world with her uncle who is in possession of a magical book that scribes their lives and thoughts, with always the temptation to find out how it ends.

Doubt that any of the stories would translate into a full length story – i think they are all pitched at the right length and end just at the right time. Not usually a short story fan but think these were most enjoyable

You can purchase the book here

Book Review: Lady John by Madeleine E Robins

ladyjohnThe last time Olivia Martingale saw Menwin it was in Brussels on the eve of Waterloo. She had loved him then, but her love was not returned. Instead she yielded to the insistent Lord John Temperer, married him, and was left a widow. Visiting John’s family seemed like a good idea–but John’s brother the Duke disliked her; John’s mother wanted to match-make for her… and into the middle of all this walked Menwin, filling the room with his presence. Olivia felt the old attraction rising again — until Menwin looked right through her as if she was not even worth noticing

Obtained free as part of the Feb 2012 LibraryThing Early Reviewers batch. Offered by Book View Cafe to mark the books’ publication as an ebook. (I took in epub format and read on my kobo). It can be purchased from them here

Only 20 and already widowed, Lady Jane is invited to spend the winter with her husband’s family. There she is reintroduced to Lord Menwin, a man she was in love with before her marriage. After a few embarrassing meetings, where he is decidedly off-hand and insulting to her, they realise it was all a misunderstanding, and decide that they are in love really. Unfortunately Menwin has not only inherited his father’s title, but also his debts, and the only way for his grandfather to agree to dig him out is for Menwin to marry and produce an heir. The rest of the book is an attempt to get Menwin out of the disastrous engagement he’s found himself in.

Not quite Jane Austen, this tries valiantly enough. The first pages try to overload you with too much information (a habit I hate, and I groaned when I read it), but it got better quickly. Lively, light, using some phrases I’m not entirely convinced were in use during the Regency period and some that were, overall an enjoyable book for a damp spring weekend

Book Review: The Jump Artist by Austin Ratner

jumpartistThe novel is based on the true story of Philippe Halsman, a man who Adolf Hitler knew by name, who Sigmund Freud wrote about in 1930, and who put Marilyn Monroe on the cover of Life magazine.

The story begins in September 1928, when Halsman and his father were hiking in the Tyrolean Alps. While Halsman went ahead on the trail, his father was attacked and murdered. The Jewish 22 year old would be falsely accused of killing his father. The Jump Artist follows his life story from the murder and trial in Austria, into the depths of Halsman’s despair in prison, to his rise in Paris and New York as one of the world’s most renowned photographers.

Received my copy from the Penguin Books UK Proof Readers circle.

This is a fictionalised account of a little-known event in history – Halsman is accused of patricide after the death of his father whilst the pair are walking in the Alps. He is found guilty, spends several years in jail, but is finally pardoned on condition that he leaves Austria, never to return.

He recovers from Tuberculosis whilst in France, trains as an engineer, but ends up taking photographs. His talent increases and he starts to become well known for portrait photographs (doing the covers of Vogue etc). Finally, WWII starts, and he and his family escape France for America, where he finally achieves fame as a photographer of the famous.

This is not a dry, non-fiction biography. Especially in the first section of the book, there are jumps in narrative time, sometimes in the same chapter, once in a while the same paragraph. Slightly disconcerting, it however makes the story telling quite fluid.

I didn’t feel emotionally connected to Halsman very much throughout the book. I don’t know whether that was on purpose or not by the author. Halsman did come across as rather emotionally restrained, feeling the need to punish himself if he felt his emotions were too out of control. There were times where he comes across as OCD and almost autistic in not being able to react the correct way towards others (and especially girls).

The title refers to a series of portraits (including Monroe) where he takes their photos whilst they are jumping.

Book Review: The Daffodil Library by Charles Mosley

daffodilThe Daffodil Library by Charles Mosley

Jeff  Calhoun is an American Journalist with Hence, a New York Magazine. He transfers to London to replace Tod, a newly dead colleague. He moves into Tod’s apartment and discovers that Tod did not die a natural death but was murdered by thugs in the employ of Victor Deller, a British media baron. Deller is at the height of his career and amongst his current schemes is one to provide a fitness centre for MPs in Westminster; a project ably supported by the PM herself. Tod has discovered that Deller and his sexually voracious wife had several very dubious financial interests including a prostitution ring. They plan to extend the latter clandestinely into the fitness centre, trapping unwary MPs into activities which would lay them open to blackmail. The struggle by mutually antagonistic groups – politicians, Deller, trafficked  women, thugs and journalists – ends with an explosive finale

Received in PDF format from the publishers Hopcyn Press, and read on an iPad using Kindle software

Jeff has been posted to England as the “foreign correspondent” for a New York Magazine and whilst trying to find his way through the maze of English Politics, upper echelon MPs and the landed gentry, also gets involved with escorts, prostitutes, assassins, suicides, spies and black market thugs.  Along the way there is sex of many types, peerages for money, blackmail, bribery, and deals being made under some very pricey tables. 

Also, this is England but not quite as we know it.  The PM is a woman, the monarch is a man, the US president is a black woman, the main political parties are called something different (e.g. CoLaborative party).  There is an implication that this story is set sometime in the near but unspecified future.

As you can see from above what is covered in the story, there are lots of subjects covered in what is – in ebook format – a sub 300 page book. The different strands are set up fairly gently in the beginning, however approximately half way through, these strands start getting mixed together. Events soon come at you in wave after wave and it doesn’t let you rest or skim – i had to pay attention all the way through and needed a lie down at the end!    

So: A tightly plotted, multi stranded story showing the darker side of English politics (there is no mention of Scotland/Wales or NI so is it English or British?) and the influence of big business and media. A tiring read (in a good way), this is not a book for a short weekend read. If however, you want a slightly more challenging read, to keep you on your toes through the book, this is the one for you

Book Review: Quantum Breach by Mark Powell

qbreachAs Mark McCabe observed the financial market meltdown in the Dealing Room, his nerves tight and on edge, he felt too old for the game. At 45, why the hell was he doing this, putting himself under such stress, and for what? It had been eight years since he left the regiment. Forex trading was a world in which he felt he did not belong. The adrenaline that fed his veins was risk of a different kind.

Then he receives a call from Brian Stowe, a former Special Forces buddy, now MI5 spook. A suspected money-laundering plot linked to a drug cartel was going on in the very bank that he works. Stowe enlists McCabe and his Singaporean assistant, the highly intelligent and very attractive Ying Lee, a 26-year-old trader, to uncover the money trails.

Sent to me by publishers  via giveaway

What to say? Topical story, using the backdrop of banking and international markets in meltdown during late 2008 used to hide massive terrorist laundering of drug money. Different edge on things by having a ex-secret service personnel on the inside to do investigations to prevent this happening.

That’s the good side. The bad side? It’s a first novel and you (ok, I) can tell. There’s nothing wrong per se about it – it has all the things that add up to make a good thriller (men with guns and dead ex girlfriends/difficulty making relationships; stunning civvies who get pulled in, get into trouble and have to be rescued; shady deals being made by faceless government mandarins; money; drugs; international travel; goodies; baddies etc etc), it’s just that something isn’t quite right. Some things that kept jumping out at me: Everything took an hour to explain to someone else; The insider dealer backed everything up to a CD, which I thought you couldn’t write too more than once (I would have believed it more if he’d written to an external hard drive or dongle); here is a cut of a paragraph that I think is a good example of what I’m on about:

Kari Mohammed el-Hajj was a hard man with very strong extremist beliefs. He hated the West and all it stood for. Worse, he had a pronounced taste for torture.

There is no reasoning as to why he hates the West (cos the Americans killed his family, cos he grew up in a deprived area and was taught the West was bad by his teachers…….). Also with the torture – how did this develop, why and what does he get from it? This part of the paragraph is practically redundant and could have been demonstrated more effectively by his actions (more detail being given about the torture, perhaps using Western items, such as flags, as part of any degradation), rather than the paragraph above.

On the whole a good first novel, hope Mr Powell gets to go again.