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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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

Red Sun Over Mexico by H. Paul Doucette

Red Sun Over Mexico by H. Paul Doucette

Spring 1942 Washington, DC. The country is recovering from the shock of Pearl Harbour. Everywhere, everyone is ramping up for the coming conflict. Sergeant Paul Jarvis, newly married and returned from his last assignment in Panama, has been informed that he and the rest of CIC has been assigned to California where they will be working with the Office of Naval Intelligence. Intelligence has reported that the Japanese are settings up radio posts and possibly submarine bases in the Gulf of California. They have also indicated that they are doing this with support from a splinter faction opposed to the government and with strong anti-American leanings. It is rumoured that these operations are being run by a Tokeitei agent. Jarvis believes this might be Haito Toshi who led the attacks in Panama. Jarvis and a young ONI agent are ordered to Mexico with orders to capture Toshi…if possible. Problem is, Jarvis still remembers the dead naked body of a young American woman on a bed.

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

As a fan of history, both ancient and modern, H. Paul Doucette’s Red Sun Over Mexico spoke to me. I have ready plenty of fiction based in and around the Second World War. Most of this has been centred around Europe and the UK, and on occasion the United States. I was interested to read something from the American side of the war, more so with it being set in Central America, rather than the Pacific theatre or Europe.
redsunI will confess to entering into this book with slight trepidation. Too often fiction lives up to a bit of a stereotype when written from the perspective – the idea that the war only began with Pearl Harbour and was almost singlehandedly won by American support and intervention. Would this follow that trope? In a word, no. This story begins in the time following Pearl Harbour about the race for dominance between the American and Japanese in Mexico.

With crucial supply lines, shipping routes and Pacific footholds to be gained in Mexico, the Japanese are seeking to set up shop on the Pacific Coast where they can monitor and attack American shipping and disrupt their operations. Meanwhile, an American intelligence agent is dispatched to help units on the ground to disrupt their plans. Agent Paul Jarvis is also out to catch to catch Japanese agent Haito Toshi, a dangerous man that he has tangled with in a previous encounter out in Panama.

Red Sun Over Mexico offers an enjoyable mix of historic events, action, and investigative frustration. The story moves at a good enough pace to keep the book going, without feeling overburdened with unnecessary action or violence. Overall, this was a fun, wartime tale showing a different side of the action.

My rating:
goodread

Dying to Live by Michael Stanley

Dying to Live by Michael Stanley

A Bushman is discovered dead near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Although the man looks old enough to have died of natural causes, the police suspect foul play, and the body is sent to Gaborone for an autopsy. Pathologist Ian MacGregor confirms the cause of death as a broken neck, but is greatly puzzled by the man’s physiology. Although he’s obviously very old, his internal organs look remarkably young. He calls in Assistant Superintendent David “Kubu” Bengu. When the Bushman’s corpse is stolen from the morgue, suddenly the case takes on a new dimension.

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

Today I have the pleasure of hosting a stop on the blog tour for Dying to Live. This is the sixth book in a series featuring leading man Assistant Superintendent David Bengu in the Botswana police force. I’ll confess I was a little mixed going into this book for a couple of reasons: first, with the entire book being set in such a different country, I was worried it may be heavy on references that might be missed or difficult to follow if you aren’t aware of the cultures. Secondly, the book is part of a series, and I was worried I would miss things with this being the first book in the series that I have read.
35098371I needn’t have worried thought. The cultural references were used sparingly, and to good effect, but not so much so that the book was difficult to follow. And equally, it didn’t matter that it is part of a series – Dying to Live worked perfectly well as a stand alone read. I felt the lead characters were introduced in such a way that the reader gets to know them even though the series is established by this point.

This is a well-crafted mystery novel, with a number of threads to the the story. This sometimes can be a negative, when a book has too many mysteries to be unravelled – that can lead to a contrived story. Dying to Live, however, ties all the threads together as the book develops leading to the finale, which is not obvious.
A number of possible protagonists are put forward for a range of crimes – the murder of a famous witch doctor, the murder of a bushman and subsequent theft of his corpse and the mystery of the Chinese girl whose body was transported from Botswana, who didn’t exist. But any and all could very easily be the guilty party. This is something I love in a mystery book – the ability to read the book without entirely being certain as to “whodunit” until towards the end.

Dying to Live is a brilliantly written mystery, with an exotic location that I felt I got to know things to the descriptive writing. The characters are colourful and described well enough that the book works as a stand alone even though it is part way into the series. The mystery is well-assembled with just enough twists and turns to keep the story entertaining, all adding together to make an enjoyable read.

My rating:
goodread