Posts By: PaulineMRoss

One to watch for: ‘Where The Waters Turn Black’ by Benedict Patrick

November 11, 2016 Books that caught my eye 0

Occasionally, I like to tell you about a book that’s caught my eye, one that I haven’t yet read myself, but one I feel deserves a bit of a spotlight shining on it. Benedict Patrick is an author who’s already attracted a lot of attention. His debut novel, They Mostly Come Out At Night, has been highly praised and was a round-winner in Mark Lawrence’s competition for indie fantasy, the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2016 (or #SPFBO2), although sadly it missed out on making the final group of ten.

Now his second book, Where The Waters Turn Black, is about to be released, and it sounds just as original and fascinating as the first. You can pre-order now, or buy on the 16th, at just 99c (or equivalent) until 22nd. If you have a subscription to Kindle Unlimited or Prime, you can borrow for free. It’s a stand-alone, so no worries if you haven’t read the first book. Here’s the link to Amazon.com.

When gods and monsters battle, her music will not protect her…

The Crescent Atoll is a remote string of tropical islands, connected by long canoe journeys and a love of stories.

When Kaimana, a young ocarina player, discovers the lair of a taniwha – a legendary monster – she finds herself inspired. The song she is composing about their encounter will be her masterpiece, but her disturbance of the beast attracts the ruining gaze of the god of war. She must convince the taniwha to trust her if they are both to survive.

Where the Waters Turn Black is a standalone novel from Benedict Patrick’s Yarnsworld series. Inspired by the myths and legends of South Pacific island cultures, this book is perfect for those seeking fantasy stories with a hint of the unfamiliar.


And this is as good an excuse as any to show the awesome cover from the first book. And waddayaknow, this one’s 99c for a while, too. You can buy or borrow it at Amazon.com.

The villagers of the forest seal themselves in their cellars at night, whispering folktales to each other about the monsters that prey on them in the dark. Only the Magpie King, their shadowy, unseen protector, can keep them safe.

However, when an outcast called Lonan begins to dream of the Magpie King’s defeat at the hands of inhuman invaders, this young man must do what he can to protect his village. He is the only person who can keep his loved ones from being stolen away after dark, and to do so he will have to convince them to trust him again.

They Mostly Come Out At Night is the first novel from Benedict Patrick’s Yarnsworld series. Straddling the line between fantasy and folklore, this book is perfect for fans of the darker Brothers Grimm stories.

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Urban fantasy review: ‘Speak’ by R M Webb

November 11, 2016 Review 0

I don’t read much urban fantasy, but this one grabbed me from the opening pages. There’s an intensity to it that I don’t often find in any kind of fantasy, which tends to concern itself much more with actions, events, reactions, battles and magicky stuff. This one is all about Zoe, and is so well embedded in her head that I felt everything that she felt, heard everything she heard, responded exactly as she did. That’s a rare talent, for an author to get under a character’s skin so strongly.

Here’s the premise: Zoe seems like just another girl — quieter than most, a bit subdued, a bit odd, perhaps. She has trouble talking to people, and sometimes she just goes into sensory overload, and can hear everything, every last detail. She has a best friend, Becca, who looks out for her, understands her and protects her from the world. And then, one evening at the bar, she meets Noah, who has a weird effect on her…

Since this is urban fantasy, it’s obvious that Zoe is ‘special’ but it takes a long time to get to the discovery point. By then, the action begins to get fast and furious, much is revealed and much, naturally, remains to be discovered about Zoe and the world she belongs to, because this is, after all, the first part of a series.

For regular fans of this type of story, there perhaps won’t be much that’s new, but the depth of reader investment in Zoe makes this a special read. I loved it. Five stars.

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Sci-fi review: ‘The Trouble With Time’ by Lexi Revellian

November 6, 2016 Review 0

The author is one of very few whose work I will buy without hesitation, because I’ve never read a bad one yet. This one didn’t break the pattern, but for me it wasn’t quite the unalloyed pleasure of her previous books. This is mostly because of the time travel theme, one that I find tricky at the best of times. I like a nice, linear plot that proceeds at a steady pace from A to Z without too many meandering deviations. Time travel stories start at A, but after that all bets are off. They may proceed to Z, then jump back and forth, or they may abandon all decorum and simply loop the loop and twizzle about like a demented fly. This one felt quite comfortable and I was keeping up nicely until the midpoint when it suddenly went into a Primer-like tailspin and I got hopelessly confused. I felt I should have been taking notes!

The other unsettling issue with this book was the characters. None of them quite grabbed me, and at times I wasn’t quite sure who I was supposed to be rooting for. Jace? But he was off the scene for long spells and isn’t terribly likable. Floss? She doesn’t show up until late in the day, and doesn’t seem particularly interesting at first. Quinn? He’s a charmer, but hardly a hero. Kayla? No, not really. The ending felt like a neat way to set things up for the rest of the series, so maybe the problem is just the weight of setup detail.

All that aside, the book was still an enjoyable read, and I was never tempted to abandon it. I enjoyed the portrayal of London at different times, and the various futures were very well done. Sometimes people made the transition to a different era too easily, particularly Floss in the future, but this is far better than filling the books with endless descriptions of characters being astonished by changes in technology. I liked the idea that a lot of current technology will survive more or less unchanged over the next thirty years (there’s still email and phones, for instance), whereas other aspects (like human-driven cars) have virtually disappeared.

So plenty to like about the book, even if the whole time-travel business made my head hurt. Recommended for anyone whose brain is more capable than mine. Three stars.

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Review: ‘The Singing Sands’ by Josephine Tey’

November 2, 2016 Review 0

This is an odd sort of book. Part murder mystery, part poetic eulogy to the scenic Highlands of Scotland, part description of a recovering claustrophobic and part despairing (and very funny) description of the post-war way of life in the Highlands.

Here’s the plot: Scotland Yard detective Alan Grant is given some time off to recover from what we might nowadays call a nervous breakdown. He goes to his native Scotland to spend a month of restful fishing and striding about the heather with old friends. But on the sleeper travelling north, another passenger arrives dead in his cabin, and initiates the murder mystery part of the story. The various flimsy clues about the dead man lead Grant to the Outer Hebrides and eventually back to London. Along the way, he encounters an unlikely revolutionary, an aristocratic almost-love-interest and any number of caricature locals, who may or may not be accurately drawn portraits of the era, it’s hard to tell.

Of the various disparate parts, the murder mystery is the least convincing. Abandoned for more interesting trains of thought for much of the book, it only truly comes to life late in the day, with a highly implausible explanation of events, and a finish that had me rolling my eyes in disbelief. Overall, however, the humour (especially the visit to the outer isles, which Highlanders assure me is a totally accurate picture) and the delightful descriptions of the Highlands won me over. Four stars.

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Urban fantasy review: ‘Stolen Magic’ by Marina Finlayson

October 23, 2016 Review 0

The first of a new series, and once again Finlayson offers a book that’s everything I don’t normally read (urban fantasy? Me? Um…), and has me utterly absorbed, hanging on every word. Right from the start, as heroine Lexi breaks into a house with the aid of nine cats, I loved everything about it.

The world Finlayson lays out is (to me) a little different. There are shifters – were-wolves and a whole array of other were-species. There are vampires. There are shapers — people with a power over one or more elements. And the result is a very different-looking political spectrum. There’s no pretence here that the ‘other’ species are somehow hidden from the human population, nor that they peacefully coexist. No, the shapers are immensely powerful, and as a result, they call all the shots. There are shaper-controlled areas, where shifters and other non-humans live in cautious subjection. There are separate human-controlled areas. The differences are underscored by place-names — Britain is Britannia here, and Australia assumes its 17th century name of New Holland.

So where does our heroine, Lexi, fit in? She’s neither shifter nor shaper — her peculiar talent is to connect to the minds of animals. I’ve used this ability to a limited extent in my own books, but Finlayson uses animals in some wonderfully creative ways — even cockroaches! I’d never thought of the little blighters as anything but an irritating nuisance, but here Lexi manages to make them delightfully useful.

Plot: OK, there’s a plot. Lexi is hiding out in the small seaside town of Berkley’s Bay after a powerful shaper asked her to use her unusual talents to steal a ring from an even more powerful shaper. Not a game she can win, whatever she does, so she’s lying low, running a second-hand bookstore for the vampire who runs the pub, living above the shop with her cat. But then another shaper turns up, and life starts getting difficult…

The author’s always brilliant at drawing her characters, so it goes without saying that Lexi and all the other shifters and shapers in her world feel beautifully real. However, I have to make special mention of Lexi’s cat, Syl, who is quite awesome from start to finish, and utterly catlike in every way. I adored her. There’s also a blossoming romance for Lexi, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out in the rest of the series.

Another terrific book from the author. Great world-building, loads of action that kept me turning the pages when I really should have been doing other things, a wonderful main character, a hot but difficult-to-trust love interest, an awesome cat and a mysterious ring. What’s not to like? Five stars.

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Mystery review: ‘Aunt Bessie Assumes’ by Diana Xarissa

October 18, 2016 Review 0

As cozy mysteries go, this is about as cozy as it gets. Aunt Bessie is a lady of bus pass age living beside the beach in Laxey on the Isle of Man. One morning she (literally) stumbles over a body on the beach, and, since she knows everyone on the island, she’s roped in by the police and her own curiosity to help solve the crime. As always, there are plenty of suspects, and all sorts of skeletons in closets to be revealed before the murderer is brought to justice.

There’s nothing fundamentally amiss with this book, and I was never tempted to abandon it. However, the pace is glacially slow, with inordinate amounts of unnecessary dialogue and repetition, and a great deal of page time is devoted to drinking vast amounts of tea and loving descriptions of every single food item passing Aunt Bessie’s lips. When she cooks, we’re treated to a blow-by-blow account of every ingredient and cooking utensil and process involved. It’s easy to read, however, and the odd Americanism felt reasonable to me given that Aunt Bessie grew up in the States.

As a mystery, let’s just say that my first guess was the correct one, and there were no challenging puzzles to unravel. For anyone who enjoys this kind of lightweight and undemanding story, there are plenty more books in the series, and the Manx setting is charmingly different. For me, it only rates three stars.

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Fantasy review: ‘The Healers’ Home’ by S E Robertson

October 2, 2016 Review 1

Another awesome story from the author. A world you can immerse yourself in. Characters who are so real, you’re sure you must have met them some time. A story that weaves itself around you like a silk cocoon, soft and gentle and totally mesmerising. If you’re looking for action, this really isn’t the book for you, but if you want literary fantasy, where the characters matter more than anything else, this is the book for you.

The premise: in the first book of the series, The Healers’ Road, Agna the healer and Keifon the Medic, with their very different backgrounds and approaches to healing, were thrown together and had to reach a working accommodation. Two years on the road and a lot of adjustments saw them become strong enough friends to consider settling in the same northern town, Wildern. Agna hopes to open an art gallery. Keifon wants to become qualified to practice medicine in his new home, and also hopes to make an arranged marriage and have a family. This second book in the series opens with Agna buying a former dry goods store to convert to an art gallery, where the two of them will also live until Keifon gets settled.

The early part of the book is rather slow. There’s a great deal of ambling around the streets and into furniture shops, with much discussion of the necessary purchases for their new home. Then the details of food items have to be gone into, and there are shifts at the hospital to be itemised and so on and so forth. As a way of introducing the world, it’s quite effective, but I did get rather impatient to get to the meat of the story. Even when things do start to get moving, everything seems to go very smoothly. Agna’s approaches to patrons for the gallery are successful. Their work at the hospital goes well. Keifon finds a new project to absorb him. Nothing terribly bad happens, even though Keifon agonises endlessly about being ‘nameless’ and about taking advantage of Agna’s hospitality.

Things do get more tense eventually, as the past comes back to bite both our main characters, and they have to make difficult decisions in situations where there are no right answers. Or perhaps I should say, no perfect answers. The conclusion leaves the pair in happier circumstances, but with a very interesting situation for Agna to deal with. I look forward to seeing how that works out, and there’s a character from her past that I’m rather hoping will turn up in the future.

Any quibbles? Well, Wildern seemed almost too pleasant place, all told, (at least until events close to the end) and a little more overt drama early on would have added some spice. There was some terminology used that struck me as being quite modern in feel: rest room, pen pal and municipal trash can, for instance. Not a big deal, however.

The second book in a series always loses a little of the bloom of freshness, but the pleasure of rejoining familiar characters more than compensates. A slow-moving, gentle and wonderful story. Five stars.

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Fantasy review: ‘For The Wildings’ by Kyra Halland

September 29, 2016 Review 0

This is the sixth and final part of the Daughter of the Wildings series. I’ve been trying to think how many series I’ve managed to keep up with for six books, and it’s not many. A couple of murder mystery series, perhaps. But in fantasy? Nope. I rarely even get beyond the first book, and only a few stand-out series keep me hooked for a trilogy. So it’s a testament to the strength of the author’s writing that I’ve read and enjoyed every word of all six books.

It was the premise that first caught my eye. Wizards and magic combined with old west cattle ranching and guns? Count me in! And the stories were just as good as I’d hoped. Leading man Silas is a true western hero, tough and determined, but a real gentleman too. His lady, Lainie, is his equal in every respect, and maybe, just maybe, has a little bit more magical power, even. There are villains and good guys and others who veer about from one side to the other. And there are horses and saloons and dried up creeks and flash floods and all the other good stuff that goes with westerns. And wizard battles! What could possibly be better?

At the end of City of Mages, Silas was ill and without his magical power, but Lainie had managed to get him back to home territory. Now she has to find a safe place for them both to hide while she tries to heal him, and help him recover his power. And wouldn’t you just know it, but the dastardly villains are still on their tail, and this time if things go wrong, the whole Wildings will be lost and its people will be slaves. So the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Once again it falls to Lainie to be resourceful and create new ways of combining her magical abilities to defeat the bad guys, but this time she’s not on her own. I love the way Lainie and Silas work together with magic and plain common sense — they make a great team! It’s probably not much of a spoiler to say that things work out pretty well in the end — I was very, very happy with the outcome.

I’ve enjoyed all the books in the series, but if I had to choose a favourite, it would be Book 5, City of Mages. Partly it was because it took us to a different part of the world quite unlike the cattle-ranching Wildings, which was an exciting change. Partly also because Silas was out of commission for most of the book, so Lainie had to step up and show just what she could do single-handed, which was pretty spectacular. And partly, of course, because of that awesome wizard battle — Lainie against nine powered-up mages. Brilliant stuff.

But, as with all the best series, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Like all the author’s books, the world-building is exceptional, and each book reveals a little more of the complexities of the various cultures, and the several different forms of magic, which all make perfect sense. The characters change and grow, book by book, as Lainie learns to use her abilities and gains confidence, and Silas learns to trust her and not over-protect her. Their romance is gentle and rather sweet. It’s a terrific read — highly recommended. Five stars for this book and the series.

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Now out! ‘The Second God’

September 24, 2016 Publishing/marketing, The Fire Mages, The Fire Mages' Daughter, The Second God 0

Yes, folks, the story that started in The Fire Mages and continued a generation later in The Fire Mages’ Daughter now reaches its dramatic conclusion, as Drina and the two men in her life, Ly-haam and Arran, are forced to make difficult and dangerous choices to defend their country from new threats.

The Second God is currently just $2.99 for a short time, and The Fire Mages’ Daughter is just $0.99. If you’d like to pick up a copy of The Fire Mages too, hold off until 3rd October, when it will be FREE. All these discounts are available worldwide for the Kindle. If you have a subscription to Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime, you can borrow all three books free. You can also buy the books in paperback, and download the ebook free of charge. Click the cover image to be taken to your local Amazon.

Here’s the blurb for The Second God:

Rival gods at war. Mind-bonded giant beasts. A fanatical golden army. Dangerous blood magic.

secondgodcover2500After The Fire Mages and The Fire Mages’ Daughter, the dramatic conclusion to the story…

It’s been five years since the war with the fearsome Blood Clans, whose giant bonded beasts almost destroyed Bennamore. Now the tenuous peace is being put to the test.

Drina’s prisoner-husband and Blood Clan god, Ly-haam, is challenged by the emergence of a second living god.

Drina’s lover, Arran, is vulnerable to flattery from the ambitious fringes of the ruler’s court, but his weakness could endanger many lives.

Meanwhile, on the southern Plains of Kallanash, a new force is arising from the chaos of the Karningplain — a vast golden army, raised in ferocious discipline, and fanatical followers of another kind of god, who is determined to spread his power into an empire, and will let nothing stand in his way.

To combat the threat to Bennamore and its allies, Drina, Arran and Ly-haam must set aside their personal differences and combine their talents in a uniquely dangerous way which will test their heroism to its limits. How much will they have to sacrifice to save their country?

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Mystery review: ‘A Case of Blackmail in Belgravia’ by Clara Benson

September 11, 2016 Review 0

For anyone who read all ten of the Angela Marchmont series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s, this spin-off series is an absolute must. Featuring the gloriously insouciant Freddy Pilkington-Soames, this first book in the new series has all the author’s trademark elegant phrasing and delightful humour, combined with twenties glamour and a gentle murder mystery to be solved. I was a little concerned that Freddy, a comedic bit part in the Angela series, might be too lightweight to carry an entire series on his own, but I needn’t have worried. Freddy turns out to have a very deft hand in managing affairs so that the murderer is brought to justice without his society cronies missing the cocktail hour.

Here’s the plot: the magnificently named Ticky Maltravers is the toast of London high society, adored by everyone—or so it seems, until somebody poisons him over dinner. Now it turns out that numerous people with secrets to hide had every reason to wish him dead. But which of them murdered him? It’s not a spoiler (because it’s in the title) that a number of society figures are being blackmailed by Ticky, so the trick becomes one of keeping all those secrets out of the hands of the police and the newspapers, while also ensuring that the killer doesn’t get away with murder.

In a book like this, the plot isn’t really the point. I guessed the murderer’s identity very early on, so I was able to feel pleasantly smug when I was proved right, but that just means the author dropped enough clues and didn’t cheat by pulling out a long-lost identical twin at the end. The real joy in these books is the authentic writing style, which cleverly evokes the era. The slightly Bertie-Wooster-esque humour had me laughing out loud on almost every page. The danger with this style is that it can veer perilously close to slapstick at times, but for me it never went over the top and worked perfectly to leaven the sometimes lengthy sentence structure.

This book was a joy to read from the very first word, and I loved seeing Freddy taking charge and behaving responsibly, yet without losing his ineffable Freddiness. There was a mild romantic interest, too, which was a nice touch, and I applaud the author for not making the police into idiots or buffoons. Highly recommended. Five stars.

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