Hamelin Stoop: The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna by Robert B. Sloan

Hamelin Stoop: The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna by Robert B. Sloan

This is the second book in the new Hamelin Stoop series, a young adult fantasy. Hamelin’s story began when he was found as a newborn in a tomato crate on the stoop of an orphanage in west Texas. Hamelin’s first adventures with the Great Eagle led him through the mysterious cave and finally, across the footbridge. He has learned that his quest to find his parents and learn his true identity will not be quickly done or easy to fulfill. The Great Eagle leads him through the dangerous Waters of Death and Life and into the Land of Gloaming, where Hamelin is thrown into the midst of a war already being waged between the evil Chimera and the mysterious Ancient One. He must help two new friends find a kidnapped princess and recover a stolen jewel, tasks for which they have special gifts that must not be misused; a scarf of sight, shoes of speed, and a sword of death. But these quests are only part of the larger story, a story including Chimera’s plan to use Hamelin — a child of two realms — to seize the kingdoms on both sides of the Atrium of the Worlds.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna is the second installment in the Hamelin stoop series. It picks up where the first book left off, following the adventures of orphan boy Hamelin Stoop. Knowing he failed in the mission ahead of him in book one, Hamelin feels he needs to make amends and embarks on a personal mission to try and find his way back to the land beyond the cave.
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I was really excited to get stuck into this second book in the series. In book one, the character of Hamelin was crafted really well, as were the supplementary characters including the Great Eagle and Bryan and Layla. My only gripe was that the real adventure that I was so looking forward to never truly materialised. That made far more sense in this book, as it allowed for character development and scene setting. This allowed the second book to really delve into the wider adventure ahead of Hamelin.

I felt myself becoming absorbed by the story as Hamelin continued his journey into the lands beyond the Atrium of Worlds. It felt like a classic fantasy adventure story with an overarching battle between good and evil. Sloan has crafted the locations well, with a sense of realism which adds to the adventure.

A new cast of supporting characters join Hamelin in this second book, all on their own separate missions. The story brings these very different people together, ensuring the success of each individual’s’ mission is linked to helping the others in their own. The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna is a fantastically well-written story with a sense of adventurous fun throughout. The element of fantasy and adventure that I felt was missing previously is present in abundance in the second book, which only serves to improve on its predecessor.

My rating:
goodread

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We Have Lost the Chihuahuas by Paul Mathews

We Have Lost the Chihuahuas by Paul Mathews

London, 2046. The British Republic has a new First Lady. She’s Californian, ‘in-your-face, for sure’ and she’s got big plans for a Buckingham Palace refurb. When her three Chihuahuas go missing, one man is determined to avoid getting dragged into it all. His name is Pond. Howie Pond – presidential spokesperson, retired secret agent and cat lover.

Meanwhile, Howie’s wife Britt is handed her first assignment as a National Security and Intelligence Service rookie – to solve the mystery of the missing canine trio.

Will Howie manage to slope off to the pub before he can be roped into help? Will Britt unmask the dog-napper and grab the glory? Find out, in the latest, crazy comedy-thriller from dog-loving British author Paul Mathews.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Paul Mathews returns with the fourth book in his We Have Lost series, We’ve already been taken on the search for a missing President, missing pelicans and most worrying of all – missing coffee. Now our hapless hero and presidential media guru Howie Pond finds himself once again sucked into the hunt, this time for a trio of missing chihuahuas. But these aren’t just any dogs, these dogs belong to the First Lady herself.
WHLTChihuahuas_cover_small (2)Howie Pond returns in another comedy mystery, no longer working on his secondment for the National Security and Intelligence Service, hoping his days will now be somewhat less intense and perhaps featuring a few more donuts to boot. Sadly, things don’t go to plan. With a battle for government budget between the police force headed by his best friend Freddie English and the NSIS who his wife Britt works for, Howie cannot avoid this mystery.

Lured by the promise of a top-notch five-course dinner by Freddie, Howie simply cannot refuse his best friend. Once again Howie Pond finds himself having to flex his investigative muscles to hunt down the missing dogs and claim his delicious dinner in a race against time, and his secret agent wife.

Once again, Mathews has created a wonderfully funny mystery novel bringing back characters we have grown to love throughout this series including Howie, Freddie and Britt, along with head of the NSIS Martha. A supporting cast of possible suspects and villainous characters help bring the story to life. A series of recurring gags and references help tie the book back to the rest of the series, while new characters in minor roles add new entertainment to the story. We Have Lost the Chihuahuas brings all of the mystery and laughs of the first three books while managing to remain fresh, new and entertaining.

My rating:
goodread

Hamelin Stoop: The Eagle, the Cave and the Footbridge by Robert B. Sloan

Hamelin Stoop: The Eagle, the Cave and the Footbridge by Robert B. Sloan

Afraid of being caught by trackers from another world, a young mother abandons her baby boy in a tomato box inside the screened porch of a children’s home. The staff at the orphanage name him Hamelin Stoop, but he grows up longing to learn his real name, find his parents, and thus discover his true identity.

Life is not easy for Hamelin. He belongs to everyone, though in some ways to no one fully. And the people he is closest to leave him one by one. A letter from an older friend advises Hamelin to “keep waiting and keep hoping.” Bitter experiences force Hamelin to wait, but he has to learn how to hope.

When the children’s home forgets his eighth birthday, he sneaks away at night. He soon discovers that he isn’t just running away — he is being summoned by the Ancient One. Guided by the Great Eagle through a mysterious cave, Hamelin must pass a dangerous test of courage before he can find his parents.

Hamelin’s failures, fears, and hopes become part of a larger story, a story of a great struggle between worlds and kingdoms where the old myths of magic, evil contracts, and enslaved children turn out to be real.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book one in the Hamelin Stoop series from Robert B. Sloan is a fantasy novel for a young adult audience. In the last year or so I have tried my hand at reading YA books, and to my surprise, they have been enjoyable while not being too childish. I am also a huge fan of fantasy, more specifically the works of Sir Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series. The books that make up the Discworld series are filled with subtle innuendo and adult humour that, while not overt, adds a really entertaining and enjoyable element.
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With these two factors in mind, I wondered how I was going to get along with this book. The last young adult book I read was Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold. It was filled with adventure and thrills, without being overly taxing but equally not treating the reader as a child. Very quickly though, I found the first Hamelin Stoop to be something different.

The book builds towards a main event, a trial if you will, for the lead character. Along the way the lead, Hamelin, has to face a series of events that build his character. Growing up in a children’s home since before he was one, he already had to grow up without parents. Throughout his development, Hamelin encounters loneliness, family, loss, fear and bullying along the way, along with a difficult test that he ultimately fails.

All of these are dealt with in a mature manner, not condescending or trivialised. The emotions he goes through when dealing with his defeat are well developed. You feel his disappointment, his anger and his determination to better himself should he get a chance to make up for his perceived failure. The book culminates in Hamelin looking to redress the balance and conquer the trial. Slightly infuriatingly, the book ends here, luring the reader on to book two in the hopes of finding out how successful he is. Hamelin Stoop is slightly darker than I had anticipated for a YA book, though not dark in the usual sense. It is very grown up while easily accessible and an all-round enjoyable read.

My rating:
goodread

Gravity’s Truth by A.K. Alliss

Gravity’s Truth by A.K. Alliss

A perfect world, at any price.

Miller Frank’s Utopian ideal is not such a good thing for Jimmy Renfro. Charged with fraud, he now works the tube, an atmosphere breaking conduit for the wealthy to travel to the Ouroboros space station, Imago. Within the mysterious station, their personalities are uploaded to robotic shells known as Zeroes.

When Jimmy comes into possession of a briefcase full of data tabs containing the profiles of several influential personalities, it begins a deadly game that may result in his end. Pursued by government and corporate assassins, with not just his own life at stake, but that of humanity, can Jimmy discover the truth about the tabs before he is caught?

Gravity’s Truth is a fast-paced Cyberpunk thriller by the author of Frame and Future’s Orphans.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

I have been lucky enough to read through the first draft for the third books set in A.K. Alliss’ Ouroboros world hot off of the press. It follows along from the world created in Frame and Future’s Orphans, following the collapse of social structure around the world. The book starts with Miller Frank, a man with an ideal. That ideal is to create a Utopia from Dystopia.
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Unfortunately for some, Jimmy Renfro included, Utopia doesn’t look all too different to the hard slog the world is trying to break free of. A chance encounter gives Jimmy an opportunity to turn his fortunes around, returning himself to a position in life that he once held. Things never are quite so easy though, as apparently unknown forces seem to stop at nothing to regain possession of the briefcase Jimmy finds himself carrying. The case that could be a return to fortunes, could also see the end of his life.

Once again, Alliss has cleverly and expertly crafted a vivid world. The characters are also well defined so the reader feels a connection to them. As I read through the book, I found myself flip-flopping the way I felt about characters with each new revelation as to their back stories and future intentions. The story is well paced and at no point feels laboured or dull.

When thinking back about the preceding pair of books, Gravity’s Truth is a very different vibe to it. Firstly, this time around Alliss really goes to town playing with the science-fiction elements. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. Frame and Future’s Orphans always flirted with science-fiction but it definitely plays a much bigger role this time out. This time around, the book feels different as well. The predecessors had a big feeling of loss. There was nothing to fight for, to strive for and aim at. The world was irrevocably changed for the worse, and there is nothing that can be done. But with Gravity’s Truth there is a sense of hope. Frank has hope to make a better world. Renfro also felt hopeful of turning his fortunes around, and building a better life for himself.

Once again, it is clear A.K. Alliss has pushed his writing on another step. He has taken what he has learned from the first two books and used these as his foundation for Gravity’s Truth. It is a fantastic way to expand on the world created, bringing about a new feel to the series. You can find Gravity’s Truth in paperback on Amazon now, and on Kindle from 6th December 2017.

My rating:
goodread

Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan

Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan

For underworld enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss’s priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime.

As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?

 

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Pigeon-Blood Red held my attention from the very beginning. The blurb caught my eye, so I had a hunch the tangled mess described would make for entertaining reading. The way it is written added a nice twist for me as well. Too often, we see things from the view of the innocent that are caught up in the mess, or the hunted party. What Ed Duncan has created here is a tense, fast-paced thriller of sorts and told it from the view of the hunter.
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More than that, through the progression of the story, we come to learn a little of the background of the hunter, Richard “Rico” Sanders and how it informs his character. It gave reason to why Rico is such a closed off, independant character that seems to exhibit little or no emotion. Yet Ed Duncan has also developed his characters well. The way he has created relationships between his characters and added back stories adds to the emotional investment I felt I had with the main players throughout the book.

Although it became fairly clear how the deceitful ways of one of our victims was going to impact on the innocent parties in the story. Some level of empathy is felt towards Rico, while a sense of karma settles around the victims. The characters are written in such a way that Ed Duncan has lured the reader into feeling specific emotions towards them. The book is fast paced, and flows well thanks to their only being a handful of key characters, keeping things slick and well driven.

Decisions play an important role in Pigeon-Blood Red. Greed afflicts one victim, along with lustful choices. His choices drag his long-suffering wife into his ever-growing problems. An encounter between Rico and his marks’ wife leads to an important decision, with potentially life changing consequences.

In Pigeon-Blood Red, Ed Duncan has crafted a fantastic story with depth and brilliantly developed characters. The story is well paced, never feeling laboured or unnecessary, and the each individual character feels just that – individual. I look forward to seeing how this book ties in with its sequels, and how the main characters interact as they cross paths again.

My rating:
goodread

Screams in the Woods by Michael R. Martin

Screams in the Woods by Michael R. Martin

One rainy Monday morning, private detective Christine Lynch is presented with an untitled lever arch file to review. It contains the detailed research of a 19th century local mining accident. The authors have been missing for over a year. Two unrelated facts, surely? Then she reads the file…

 

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

Screams in the Woods on the face of things seems to be a good old fashioned mystery novel. A 19th century mining accident that appears to have more to it than a simple mineshaft collapse. The sudden and mysterious disappearance of two men researching the incident. Two relatively average incidents, albeit linked through somewhat mysterious secrets. Michael R. Martin has crafted a nice mystery here, uncovering pieces of evidence that help guide the reader down the path to the final answer.
Screams_KDP_Front_CoverAs the story unfolds, it becomes clear the two mysteries are intertwined at their core. As detective Christine Lynch delves deeper into the disappearance of the two amateur investigators, she cannot help but find more and more inconsistencies in the mining accident answer as to the deaths of so many miners.

Towards the latter half or so of the book, as Christine’s investigation deepens, and her belief that both mysteries solidifies itself, she finds herself drawn into events first hand. Torn between two warring sides trying to gain the answers to the mystery that stretches back centuries leads to a dangerous, bloody race for life, knowledge and answers.

By the time the conclusion of this mysterious tale rolls around, nothing is obvious or clear cut about the two core cases. While they are intertwined there is something dark and macabre underlying both, and tying them together. A sci-fi meets paranormal ending ties up the story nicely, making for a mystery that isn’t cast in the same mould that most tend to follow.

My rating:
goodread

Future’s Orphans by A.K. Alliss

Future’s Orphans by A.K. Alliss

Cassidy Nolan is a drug addicted journalist responsible for one of the most iconic photographs of the new millennium. Fourteen years on from capturing the image, it has become a significant part of the documented experiences of an event that has tipped the world towards the precipice of an uncertain future.

A chance encounter with Paco, a street kid who deals only in absolutes, will see both of their paths converge on the discovery of a sinister truth about the world in which they inhabit. Even if they survive long enough to reveal what they have uncovered,there are no certainties that it will change anything in an uncaring world that is long past its expiry date.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

Following on from Alliss’ high octane and action-packed sci-fi thriller Frame, he told me about book two in this series, Future’s Orphans. He also told me that Future’s Orphans was written before Frame even though the story follows on from it. Colour me intrigued, I was looking forward to finding out if this second book in the series still worked well with Frame knowing it was written first. I won’t deny I was also interested to see if there was any significant disconnect as a result.
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I will save you the waiting; I was immensely and happily surprised. The story feels like it flows nicely, following some 14 years after the events of Frame. I found the 14-year gap was well thought out, rather than a device to make the writing of Frame easier. Given the catastrophic climax to Frame the decade and a half that pass between that and Future’s Orphans allow the reader to imagine the steady decline of society and humanity as order begins to fail.

The story picks up with a journalist, Cass Nolan, who captured an image of the events seen 14 years prior – probably the most iconic photograph of the new millennium. The was just the beginning of humanity moving towards a precipice, where everything would be changed. Two less-than-clean organisations, the ONI and Ouroboros have control as the ruling power, bringing a vague semblance of order and law to the a world staring at disaster.

They rule by fear and intimidation within their small “city” where a threat of being cast out into the wastelands beyond the city walls is thought to be enough to keep the dwindling masses in check. Alliss has crafted a dark, sorry world for his characters to make sense of and find their place in. He doesn’t try to soften the blow with a sense of hope like a light at the end of the tunnel, but rather maintains a sense of hopelessness.

People survive, modulating their emotions with chemical-infused patches, and the ONI stamp out any sniff of rebellion, casting out anyone who dares to go against their carefully-crafted societal order. Cass and a young street urchin named Paco among those cast out. The world beyond is an unforgiving place, and Alliss has painted a stark, bleak image of a cruel world so well, and only enhances this with his characters. There are a number of twists in the story, and brilliant character development lead the reader to constantly change their opinion of the leading players in this story.

So well written is Future’s Orphans, that if I wasn’t already told that it was created before Frame, I think I would struggle to tell. The only give away perhaps, aided by my prior knowledge, is that you can see Alliss’ writing style and storytelling improving, something I can only imagine will continue when he releases the third book in this series, Gravity’s Truth, in 2018.

My rating:
goodread