Saturday, 31 March 2012

Book Review: The Riddler's Gift (Tales of the Lifesong 1) by Greg Hamerton

The Riddler's Gift (Lifesong, #1)"In a time when the world was ravaged by chaos, one kingdom remains; ordered, isolated, protected. Then Tabitha Serannon awakens an ancient power and the world begins to change.

She is hunted for her talent. The Shadowcasters whisper in her ears as their evil closes around her. Soon the Riddler walks beside her, but is he on her side? She has a moment to learn the magic before she loses her grasp of the Lifesong, but the path she must follow leads into Darkness; into terror, treachery and desire.

To survive she must give voice to a music that she hardly understands, an enchantment that will echo through all time." From

I get lots of requests to review fantasy books and I decline more than I accept, but this one piqued my interest. This is a long book, approximately 650 pages, and could fairly be described as a fantasy epic. The author has created a kingdom with it's own lore and history, and pits the Lightgifters against the Shadowcasters. With the dark on the verge of obtaining the upper hand Tabitha becomes crucial to the survival of Eyri. 

While the story is primarily one of good versus evil there is also romance as she finds herself drawn to the Swordmaster Garyll Glavenor. She's young, innocent and in need of protecting and he is the rugged law keeper, devoted to his role. I found things to like about both of them, but really enjoyed the character of the title, the Riddler. He offers Tabitha cryptic guidance but his allegiances are unclear. He is a quirky character with plenty of mystery and magic about him. There are a number of other characters of importance to the tale and the story unfolds from a number of perspectives.

I enjoyed the level of detail in the world the author has created, and read on to discover whether the dark forces would triumph. However I found this book almost disheartening long. When I felt like I was well into the story I realised I had hardly made a dent and at times, wondering how much more could possibly happen before a final encounter, found my attention drifting. However unlike other books I have read recently, where I felt like an editor and could easily have suggested cuts to improve it, I didn't feel like there was a lot of unnecessary description or redundant scenes. Possibly the fault is mine, with so much going on recently having an effect on my concentration. There were certainly plenty of switches from joy to danger and vice versa, with twists and turns and a gradual building of the information available to inform the reader which kept me going.

The author uses the English language to good effect, using some wonderful vocabulary without it feeling like he was trying use unusual words just to impress, which I always appreciate. I found it well written and if there were typos I didn't notice them. I would like to see where the series is going so would definitely like to read the second book.

Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Eternity Press
My Rating: 3*

I'm still here!

I have been unusually quiet lately, I hope no one has missed me too much ;) Unfortunately my grandad had been in hospital for some time and took a turn for the worst last weekend and passed away in the week. Needless to say everything other than being around to help out my nan and parents has taken a bit of a back seat, and prior to that my preoccupied mind didn't help me focus on completing books. I have two reviews to do which will be up soon, and normal service should be resumed properly in the near future.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend.
TC x

Friday, 16 March 2012

TGIF again

My favourite day of the week has come around again, which means it's time for a recap of what I've reviewed and for joining in the fun with Greads. Ginger's question this week is kind of a timely one as you'll see from my answer.

Do you use Twitter or Facebook to promote your blog?  How has it benefited your book blogging experience? If not, how do you promote your blog? Share your twitter handle and/or Facebook link! 

I've been using Facebook personally for years but I only started a page for the blog very recently. I'm finding it good for sharing things that I might not necessarily want to do a whole blog post for, but that could do with more than a 140 character tweet. My page is at and if anyone wants to Like it I'd feel a little less like I'm talking to myself. 

I had never used Twitter before starting an account for the blog, and I still don't have a personal one. I do find as I follow slightly more people than I have followers that finding time to read everything on my timeline is just not possible. I'm TCBookedUp on there if you want to hunt me down.

I really like using social media, I find it easier to keep track of conversations and build relationships with people than via Comments on the blog.For anyone who hasn't tried them yet, do it!

In the past week I have reviewed:

A Summer in the High Sierra by Laurence Brauer, and

Dawn's End Poisoned by Bonnie Ferrante

I also read Enza by Kristy K James; the review for that will be coming soon as part of a blog tour.

Before I wrap this post up I wanted to let you know about the St Patrick's Day Blowout that starts today. All the following are on offer at 99c/77p until Sunday night. I have reviewed some of these authors and books in the past so there are definitely some goodies in there. Full details and links are on David Gaughran's blog, and there is a competition running to win all 30 so drop by and take a look.

Have a great weekend, 
TC x 

Michael Wallace – Devil’s Deep – Thriller (reduced from $2.99) -
Melissa Furrer Miller – Irreparable Harm – Legal Thriller (from $3.99) -
Simon Royle – Bangkok Burn – Thriller (from $3.99) -
Shaun Jeffrey – The Kult – Psychological Thriller (from $1.99) -
Christine de Maio-Rice – Dead Is The New Black – Mystery (from $3.99) -
David Gaughran – A Storm Hits Valparaiso – Historical Fiction (from $4.95)
Sam Torode – The Dirty Parts of The Bible – Literary/Historical (from $2.99) -
Sarah Woodbury – The Last Pendragon – Historical Fantasy (from $3.99) -
Phoenix Sullivan – Spoil of War – Women’s Historical (from $1.99) -
Cheryl Shireman – Life Is But A Dream – Women’s Fiction (from $2.99) -
Jennifer Blake - The Rent-A-Groom - Contemporary Romance (from $2.99) -
Tamelia Tumlin - Catering to the Italian Playboy – Cont. Romance (from $1.99)
JJ Toner – St. Patrick’s Day Special – Crime (from $2.99) -
Vicki Tyley – Thin Blood – Suspense (from $3.99) -
Mike Cooley – Crystal Warrior – Fantasy (from $3.99) -
David H. Burton – The Second Coming – Fantasy (from $4.95) -
SM Reine – Death’s Hand – Urban Fantasy (from $2.99) -
Shea MacLeod – Dragon Warrior – Urban Fantasy (from $2.99) -
Simon Royle – Tag – Technothriller (from $4.99) -
Karin Cox – Cage Life – Short Stories (from $1.99) -
Tony James Slater – That Bear Ate My Pants – Travel/Humor (from $2.99) -
David Gaughran – Let’s Get Digital – Non-Fiction (from $3.99) -
Heather Marie Adkins – Abigail – Paranormal Romance (from $2.99) -
David H. Burton – Broken – Paranormal Romance (from $4.95) -
Danielle Blanchard - Death Lair (The Vamp Saga) - Vampires! (from $2.99) -
Ben White – The Undying Apathy Of Imogen Shroud – YA Zombies! (from $3.99) -
Stephanie Abbot – Past Lives #1: Rachel – YA Steampunk (from $2.99) -
Michelle Muto – Don’t Fear The Reaper – YA Fantasy (from $2.99) -
Ben White – Resonance Book One: Birds Of Passage – YA Fantasy (from $3.99) -
Sarah Billington - Life Was Cool Until You Got Popular – MG Novel (from $3.99) -
Ben Oliver– Kitt Pirate – MG Adventure (from $2.99) -

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Dawn's End Poisoned by Bonnie Ferrante

Dawn's End PoisonedAlthough I hadn't read the first book in this series (Dawn's End) it sounded like this YA fantasy novel would stand well on its own. After her mother's death Anastacia travels abroad for a family wedding but stumbles into another world where she finds that she has grown up believing lies. There is a good reason that she has no photos of her father or a birth certificate. Dawn's End was a place of idyll but has been corrupted by negative influences from our world. Anastacia is seen by a small band determined to fight the dark powers as a saviour but can she harness her natural powers?

YA fantasy is right on the edge of my comfort zone, but I enjoyed the read. Anastacia is a mix of kick-ass 16 year old and innocent, grieving young woman. In Dawn's End she teams up with an assortment of characters and encounters creatures she wouldn't have imagined could be real. Watching her find her feet was interesting, even if at times I found her a little bit irritating (maybe because I'm closer to her mum's age than hers) I quite liked the development of the history behind the peoples of Dawn's End and felt that enough was revealed for this book to work well without having read the other book first. 

As far as the writing goes I found it a well paced easy read but wasn't entirely sure what age range the books are targeted at. There is some content of a sexual nature and some violence but the way it is written made it feel more suited to a younger audience for whom the content might not be appropriate. There are some positive messages to take away from the story without it feeling preachy which is no bad thing.

The ending didn't work perfectly for me, just before the end it moved the focus away from Anastacia before moving back to her and ending a bit too abruptly, but it certainly sets up well for the next book in the series. 

Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Noble Young Adult
My Rating: 3*

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Book Review - A Summer in the High Sierra by Laurence Brauer

This book is the author's journal of a 38-day solo trip in the wilderness of the High Sierra. Brauer uses the time to contemplate man's link to nature and the errors of the assumptions mankind makes about his position in the world. 

A Summer in the High SierraThis sounded like an interesting travelogue with a twist. Indeed some of the descriptions of the landscapes revealed to the author sounded beautiful and made me want to get my tent out and head for the UK's countryside. There are a number of pictures some of which show up better than others on the kindle. The ones I was best able to see gave me a better idea of the views the author enjoyed. I would really like to be able to see the colour images. There are also quotes from the books of previous notable accounts of the area with footnotes. I would like to have seen those footnotes properly linked for ease of navigation, because I found myself ignoring them rather than going through the necessary manoeuvring via the menus. I would also have appreciated a couple of maps, one of the general area as my US geography is somewhat limited, and one of the route.

I started the book enjoying the read and paying close attention but as I got into the second half I found my attention starting to drift and I began skimming. There were two reasons for this; I found the author's meditations on religion and spirituality a bit too abstract for me, and I disagreed with his ideas on environmentalism, and his distaste for certain others hiking in the area wasn't palatable. I think to save something you have to get people engaged with it, and it sounds like he would rather most of the people he encounters were not allowed to hike the area.

As he ponders on mankind needing to undo the harm it has done to the planet I read on expecting and hoping for some ideas of what he was doing personally or what he felt others could do but that never came. He seems to espouse the idea that while we shouldn't start taking back developed land we should halt any further development. This is a book review, not a debate so I won't go into a long winded description of why I disagree. I also thought some of his actions were quite contradictory, unless he is only concerned with protecting the High Sierra rather than countryside and wilderness globally.

This was a good read in places and a lot of my negatives are down to personal opinions rather than it being a bad book but I still can't say more than it was okay.

Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Half Meadow Press
My Rating: 2*

Friday, 9 March 2012

Busy busy TGIF

Overall it's been a good week in my house, and now my sister has appeared on a surprise visit with my nieces it looks like a busy and fun weekend coming up. If anyone would like to improve my week just that little bit further my few Likers on Facebook could do with some company. Over the last week I have completed and reviewed three books,

All the Secret Things by Sheila Cragg, 
Illusion by Frank Peretti, and 
A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols, an absorbing read about an amazing story

Turning to the fun TGIF at Greads meme, we're being asked to promote an author. 
"Is there a particular author you wish got more recognition? Pick one author & tell us why we should read their work." 

I'm sorry but I'm going to sit on the fence on this one and not name anyone. It's not because I can't think of anyone, more that I can think of too many. Generally I would say that I think some people ought to be more open to the possibility that indie authors can write great books; the myth some people are trying to perpetuate that all indie work is vanity publishing is grossly unfair. Admittedly there is some work that probably shouldn't have made it to the public but equally I've read some mainstream books I've hated. Right, off my soapbox now.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a great weekend!

TC xx

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Book Review - A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols

 Recently, chatting to a friend in the pub, I heard the story of sailor Donald Crowhurst for the first time. Said friend loaned me the DVD Deep Water which tells his story using vintage footage and contemporary interviews. It a tragic but fascinating story. When I mentioned it to author Mark Chisnell, who  revealed another brilliant true story with its roots in sailing in The Fulcrum Files, he recommended this book to me.

A Voyage for MadmenThe 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe race was open to all-comers. Two titles were available, one for the first non-stop solo circumnavigation of the world and one for the sailor who completed it the fastest. In a country that had watched rapt as Sir Francis Chichester returned to the UK having completed the first solo circumnavigation (with a stop in Sydney) the previous year this competition generated massive interest. The prize money of £5000 was no small sum at that time. Nine men took up the challenge, most of them relative novices, but only one completed the race. 

This book is the story of that race. It details the men, their boats, previous experience, preparations and their progress in the race. At the start of the book I was slightly concerned that a) I was going to struggle to keep the names of the participants, the boats and their progress straight in my mind and b) that it might turn out to be a bit dry and overly technical for someone who has never been sailing (although I do know some of the basic terms thanks to time on dive boats) I was proved wrong on both counts. Once the story started to gather momentum, when the competitors were beginning to get underway, I found myself engrossed. As events reduced the field by the latter stages the author was able to focus on Donald Crowhurst and Robin Knox-Johnston; for one the race results in tragedy, for the other there is a place in history. 

The narrative is clear and concise, and largely avoids getting too technical which made it accessible. However there is some amazing description of the challenges facing these men and there are philosophical and touching moments as they, and their families, face the consequences of their voyage. I was so moved I was almost in tears a couple of times. The author employs quotes from other books on the subject to great effect and I appreciated the pictures of the boats and competitors.

This is a true story that would probably be deemed unbelievable if it was a work of fiction, but not wanting to throw in any major spoilers you'd have to read the book (or google the race) to find out more about all the twists and turns. I loved this book even though I came away feeling very saddened by the outcome. It is an amazing story and one I'm glad to have found out so much more about.

Format: Hardback, from the library
Publisher: Profile Books
My rating: 5*

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Book Review - Illusion by Frank Peretti

IllusionBook description (from "Dane and Mandy, a popular magic act for forty years, are tragically separated by a car wreck that claims Mandy's life-or so everyone thinks. Even as Dane mourns and tries to rebuild his life without her, Mandy, supposedly dead, awakes in the present as the nineteen-year-old she was in 1970. Distraught and disoriented in what to her is the future, she is confined to a mental ward until she discovers a magical ability to pass invisibly through time and space to escape. Alone in a strange world, she uses her mysterious powers to eke out a living, performing magic on the streets and in a quaint coffee shop.

Hoping to discover an exciting new talent, Dane ventures into the coffee shop and is transfixed by the magic he sees, illusions that even he, a seasoned professional, cannot explain. But more than anything, he is emotionally devastated by this teenager who has never met him, doesn't know him, is certainly not in love with him, but is in every respect identical to the young beauty he first met and married some forty years earlier.

They begin a furtive relationship as mentor and protégée, but even as Dane tries to sort out who she really is and she tries to understand why she is drawn to him, they are watched by secretive interests who not only possess the answers to Mandy's powers and misplacement in time but also the roguish ability to decide what will become of her."

The description above had me intrigued and not having read any of the author's other books I wasn't entirely sure what to expect of this novel. What I got was part romance and part time travel come alternative dimension sci-fi from a Christian fiction author. I was a bit concerned when I realised Frank Peretti is primarily known for Christian fiction but in fact religion merits little more than a passing mention in the book, with occasional reference to God and faith. The author note at the end was the only strong hint of the author's specialty.

I found Mandy endearing and felt for her, struggling to understand a very different world to the one she remembered. Dane, as the grieving widower who starts questioning his sanity as she reminds him so much of his late wife, is also highly likable, and I found their enduring love touching. The author manages to explain how the rift in time has happened and how Many makes her magic work relatively well, and I had more of a problem getting my head around the characters who only really came to prominence towards the end more of an issue than trying to figure out the physics. 

This was an enjoyable read, and the prose flows smoothly. The magic provided a fun, very visual element and the final scenes in particular held me glued to my kindle. 

Format: Kindle, review copy
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
My Rating: 4*

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Book Review - All the Secret Things by Sheila Cragg

All the Secret ThingsAll the Secret Things is a story of secrets and lies and how they impact on the life of one young girl in particular. The book starts during World War II with a scene that seems starts out depicting a happy family. However Emily's life is in a state of constant flux during her childhood, first living with parents Veronica and James then, when alcoholic wannabe Veronica leaves, with James and step-mother Rosellen, then moving to live with Veronica and her husband, then back to James and Rosellen and, finding life with step-brother Doug unbearable again, to the home of her best friend. As she gets older her life continues to hit highs and lows, with the greatest trough being the point at which she becomes ill and well-hidden family secrets start revealing themselves.

This book is largely told from Emily's viewpoint with parts narrated by James and her grandmother Naomi. The story is a troubling one and I couldn't imagine how Naomi in particular could let events unfold as they did. While her family repeatedly let her down she was able to find friends who gave her some happiness. At the start I was expecting the focus to be on revealing the truth behind Emily's family history, which did happen eventually, but instead it became a story of how she dealt with all that she had experienced as she became older and a mother herself.

As the viewpoint moved around I found that the narrative voice didn't feel like it had changed, there was no obvious difference between the three despite the range of ages and different sexes. My main criticism would be that other than in small parts (which were much better) it felt like a recital of events as they happened, the old telling rather than showing chestnut. While I would accept that from a young child it didn't fit well as Emily got older or with Naomi and James. As a result I didn't really connect with the characters and although I had a degree of concern for Emily it didn't move me in the way it might have.

Finally there were a few silly typos that jumped out and one particularly obvious plot inconsistency that pulled me out of the book and distracted me. This has the right ingredients for a tear-jerker but didn't quite hit the mark for me.

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 2*

Friday, 2 March 2012

Friday round-up

Friday is the start of my weekend and means a trip to the library for me and Monkey. Today I picked up a copy of A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols which I'm really looking forward to getting into tonight. This book ties in with the question over on TGIF at GReads in a roundabout kind of way. 

The question for this week is - 

What has been your favorite moment (scene) in a book that you've read so far in 2012?

I read The Fulcrum Files last month and it is one of those books that sends you off on a trail to other related books. In this case it was discovering the true story that is woven into the fiction that fired my imagination. Telling the story to a friend in the pub he returned with another true story, also related to sailing. When I mentioned this story to Mark Chisnell, who wrote The Fulcrum Files, he recommended the book I mentioned above in glowing terms. 

Now to actually answer the question, trying to avoid spoilers, my favourite scene in Mark's book is where the penny really drops for the main character about what is happening in Germany during the interwar period. It's a pivotal moment in the book,and the real events it is based on were potentially highly influential in the build up to World War II. 

Looking back over the last week Mark was good enough to do a Q&A for the blog, and I also reviewed...

Showstoppers by Helen Smith, a cozy mystery short story

Cedardale Court by Nathan Lee Christensen, a dark murder mystery and

Animal Kingdom by Iain Rob Wright, an apocalyptic horror novel

I should be posting a review for another book later too so my busiest week in a while! I also finally got round to getting myself a Facebook page, so if anyone would like to Like it that would make me very happy. You can find me here -

Thanks for visiting and have a great weekend, 
TC xx

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Book Review - Animal Kingdom: An Apocalyptic Horror Novel by Iain Rob Wright

Animal KingdomJoe is on a day out at the zoo with son Danny when they witness an awful snake attack. As they try to raise the alarm with zoo staff they realise the snake isn't the only animal behaving strangely. Not only have other animals including the lions escaped from their enclosures, rather than follow any instinct to escape they seem determined to kill humans. A small group of staff and visitors are able to hole up in a zoo building but it's clear they are under siege, with the animals acting in ways that are completely unnatural, and man has moved to the bottom of the food chain.

This is a book that grabbed me, shook me and wouldn't let me go! If it wasn't for work I would probably have devoured this in one sitting. The action started immediately and the pace didn't let up until the very end. There are some pretty gory scenes as the group hold back the advances of the animal ranks and the ideas stemming from the scenario had my mind working overtime. 

The book isn't dissimilar to the other book I have previously read by the same author, The Final Winter, which also featured a group of mismatched individuals trapped and facing mortal peril as a result of a freak occurrence. However in this book we are never really told what has caused the animals to suddenly act in the way they do. Again though it left my mind plenty of latitude to imagine more. 

The characters range from protective dad Joe to bible-bashing Sylvia via a psychopath and potential despot. Needless to say the mixture of characters is explosive. The less savoury characters were bordering on the absurd but within the context of the story that wasn't a distraction, and after all pressured situations bring out the worst in people. While there is plenty of conflict there are also some positive relationships that start to grow, which provides a glimmer of hope.

At the end of the book are seven short stories set in the Animal Kingdom, some of which connect back to the group trapped in the zoo. It was a novel way to provide more background on the characters and extend the scope of the story without breaking away from the action at the zoo.

I don't read a lot of horror but when I do this is how I like it. 

Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*