A Year of Paying It Forward

Pay it forward

A year ago almost to the day I had an epiphany. At the time I was spending an awful lot of effort encouraging people to buy my recently published book, Second Chance, but realised every book I’d bought myself up until that point was published by one of the major publishers. I’d not bought, or read, an indie book, yet here I was trying to persuade others to buy mine.

The reason for not buying indie wasn’t snobbery but laziness. I bought books from authors I knew. I rarely tried anything new, and it was even rarer for me to read outside of my favourite genre comfort zone. Yet I’d received lots of support from the indie writing community, both how to write and publish a book, as well as lifting me up when my spirits were down. I knew I wanted to do something to pay the community back and support my fellow writers. This was when Pay It Forward was born.

The concept was, and is, simple. I buy books from my fellow indie authors. I started with those that supported the writing community (although not necessarily me specifically), giving them a much needed sale and chart position boost. As a bonus, I would promote those books I really enjoyed on this blog as well as leaving reviews on Amazon (.com & .co.uk) and Goodreads.

In the year since I’ve bought sixty-one indie books and been given another three for free. Of those I’ve read all but seven. They have varied in genre and style from thrillers to chick-lit, cosy mysteries to literary fiction, along with a number of books from my beloved fantasy and science fiction. Most have been novels but I’ve also discovered a love for the short story form I never knew I had.

There isn’t a single book I’ve regretted purchasing.

That doesn’t mean I’ve enjoyed them all, but I know each purchase has given a boost, if just a small one, to writers who deserve it. Pay It Forward has been a wonderful experience and one I recommend for any indie author. I’ve not only enjoyed some wonderful books and broadened my reading palette, I’ve also got to know some of a number of those writers along the way and consider some of them as friends.

Out of the 54 books read, I’ve loved 32 of them enough to recommend them on this blog, which in my eyes puts paid to the nonsense that all self-published books are rubbish. In fact, as time’s gone on my criteria for recommending a book has tightened, and while I stand by every recommendation I’ve made, there are books I’ve recently read and haven’t recommended that may have made the cut when I first started this process, which shows just how good many of these books are.

The other thing that’s changed is that I now also Pay It Forward to books by supportive authors that are published via a small press as I’ve learnt in the past year that it’s just as difficult for these authors to get noticed as it is for us indies.

So if you’re an author who’s benefitted from the wonderfully supportive indie community and would like to give something back, I cannot recommend Paying It Forward enough. All you need to do to get going is purchase one book. Start with a book an author who’s supported you in some way, either directly or indirectly, and then broaden from there. Don’t be afraid to try genres you wouldn’t normally read, you might be surprised. I’m not guaranteeing you’ll enjoy every book you buy, but I’m sure there’ll be many you will, and if you do, don’t forget to let the world know.

My favourite Recommended Reads from the past year

Below are my favourite indie books from the past year. This doesn’t mean I enjoyed them more than any of the others that I’ve read but they are the ones that have somehow stuck with me and that I’ve thought of most often. I heartily recommend you give them a try.

The cover of the book Duck, showing a picture of a bomb on an orange backgroundDuck by Stephen Parolini

“Duck is a short story about Thomas Lingonberry, a young boy growing up in 1950’s USA who’s life changes when a bomb lands on his desk. We follow Thomas on his journey of love and discovery, as the fallout from that day resonates through. It is a wonderful and warmly written coming-of-age tale. Stephen Parolini draws you into a world which while alien to someone of my age and nationality was also strangely familiar. He brings to life beautifully the memory of young love and my only complaint was that it ended.”

You can buy Duck from Amazon.co.uk here and from Amazon.com here.

othellasmallerOthella by Therin Knite

“This book works on two levels. On the one hand it is a fast-paced, science-fiction thriller, on the other a treatise on the moral grey area of the good of the whole over the good of the individual. Knite’s writing style is tight, hard-edged and uncompromising; as if Raymond Chandler decided to have a go at re-imagining Hunger Games. I was hooked from first page to the brutal finale.”

“I’ve read and enjoyed many self-published novels but this is the first one I wish I’d written. I cannot wait for its sequel.”

Othella by Therin Knite is available from all major ebook retailers. To buy click here

yesterday road small-coverYesterday Road by Kevin Brennan

“This is a beautiful book. In Yesterday Road, Brennan has created a unique tale that is warm-hearted and generous in spirit. As the story progressed it became very easy to form a bond with each of the main characters: Joe Easterhouse conveys the warmth and love like so many people with Downs Syndrome have, and Ida Peevey is the person we all hope we would be in a similar situation. But the true strength of Brennan’s writing comes is shown when we travel with Jack and see the world through his eyes. This combination of childlike wonder and regret at what he has forgotten, gives the story it’s warmth, humour and poignancy.”

To buy Yesterday Road from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Yesterday Road from Amazon.com click here

The Me You See largeThe Me You See by Shay Ray Stevens

“Stevens has successfully pieced together a compelling narrative based around the memories of Stefia’s friends and family. The timeline jumps back and forth, covering important events from Stefia’s life, each a step along the path to the opening shooting. What would be confusing in the hands of another author flows effortlessly due to Stevens’ skilful handling of both plot and characterisation. Each new character’s perspective feels real and unique, not an easy thing to do. It was very easy to become engrossed in the mystery of what happened. As new aspects of Stefia’s personality and life were revealed, I found myself racing through the pages to find out more.”

To buy The Me You See from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy The Me You See from Amazon.com click here

gzcoverfinal-smallerGreen Zulu 51 by Scott Whitmore

“Green Zulu 51 (and other stories from the Vyptellian War) is listed as a set of short stories set in a future world where one of old Earth’s colonies finds itself embroiled in a war with a relentless alien aggressor.”

“Whitmore has a wonderfully natural style, clearly bringing in a lot of his own military experience to the fore in painting the very ancient experience of life on the front line in a futuristic war. Each character has their own perspectives, are well rounded and immediately draw you into their world. While the battles (whether in space or on the ground) are well written and compelling, it is the human stories that make this book a stand out.”

To buy Green Zulu 51 from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Green Zulu 51 from Amazon.com click here

The Whisper of StarsThe Whisper of Stars by Nick Jones

“With The Whisper of Stars, Nick Jones has combined detective, espionage and near-future dystopian thriller genres to produce a cracking story that is both compelling and makes you think about the challenges we face in the future. Each chapter draws you into the world Jones has created, one that is both futuristic and very, very real, with neural implants rubbing shoulders with a night down the pub with friends. As the story progresses Jones gradually reveals a dark vision of the future, where those in power are forced to make difficult decisions which in turn become further corrupted by the desire to manipulate and control.”

To buy The Whisper of Stars from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy The Whisper of Stars from Amazon.com click here

On hearing of my mother's death six years after it happenedOn Hearing Of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened by Lori Schafer

“A heart-wrenching look into life of the author, as a teenaged girl, being raised by a mother with mental illness, written plainly but beautifully, with no embellishment or self-justification. By the end you feel in awe of the author for having survived the ordeal, although as is made clear, it’s not clear if the effects of the experience have ever actually ended.”

To buy On Hearing Of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy On Hearing Of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened from Amazon.com click here

 

Recommended Reads: Solace by Therin Knite

Solace

I had the pleasure of reading and recommending Othella by Therin Knite last year and enjoyed it so much I joined the author’s mailing list. Earlier this year, Knite offered her mailing list a free copy of her latest book, Solace, in return for an honest review. It’s taken me a little while to get to it, but here are my thoughts. I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed.

The Blurb

Corina Marion has a father problem—namely that her Red Cross doctor of a dad has finally returned home from sixteen years of war…

…as a body in a box to be buried.

Her mother is devastated, her friends shocked and saddened, her hometown in mourning at the loss of its local hero. And Corina, indifferent to the man she never met, is trapped in the middle of an emotional onslaught she isn’t prepared to handle.

But when a strange old man confronts Corina at her father’s funeral, he offers her an impossible opportunity: the chance to know the late Luther Marion. And in a moment of uncertainty, Corina makes a choice with consequences she can barely fathom.

A choice that sends her twenty-five years into the past.

Right on the cusp of the harrowing events that will shape Luther Marion’s life…and death.

And in order to return to her damaged home, supportive friends, and uncertain future, Corina will have to fight tooth and nail alongside the man she’s resented her entire life. Because if she doesn’t help fix the past she’s inadvertently changed with her presence, Luther Marion may not live long enough to become a hero at all.

The Review

Corina is a tough, independent teenager. She’s had to be. Her doctor father left before she was born to save lives in a never-ending war on the other side of the world, leaving just her and her mother waiting for him to return. But when he does, it’s in a box. Angry at what’s happened, and the reverence in which her father she’s never known is held, she tries to escape the cloying atmosphere at her father’s funeral, only to meet a mysterious man who offers her the chance to know what her father was really like. Corina agrees, and before she know’s it she’s being rescued from a canal 25 years in the past – by the man who became her father.

Solace is a well-written, hard hitting YA coming of age story set in an alternate version of our future. It’s a modern take on the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, but instead of our protagonist following her own life, she gets to follow the life of her absent father.

Therin Knite has a great writing style, and it didn’t take me long to be sucked into the story. The opening scenes are about as tough as I’ve read in my (admittedly sparse) experience of YA novels and set the tone for the rest of the book, introducing us to the harsh world in which the tough, loyal and driven Corina lives. It’s a dark but well realised vision of our future, with America almost on its knees due to the effects of an ongoing war against China. Yet almost as soon as we’re introduced to this world we’re taken out of it as Corina is sent back in time on a journey to discover the real person behind her father’s heroic image. The only rule, is she’s not allowed to turn him away from the life he is going to lead.

At the heart of the story is the relationship between the abandoned daughter and the absent father. As they journey together through some of the defining moments of her father’s life, the two of them form a bond which never existed in real life as they each learn about the other. But throughout the book the joy of a daughter learning about her father is tempered by the knowledge of where that journey’s heading.

I really enjoyed both the concept behind this story and found Knite’s stripped-down writing sharp and very engaging. The characters were well-rounded and believable, the settings realistic, and I devoured it in just a few days. The only issue I had with the book was that there were a few occasions where the dialogue appeared forced, with some conversations used as a means to explain or advance the plot (in the hospital, for example), but they probably stood out because of the high quality work in what is yet another strong novel by Therin Knite. If you like gripping, near-future thrillers with strong female protagonists, this is the book for you. Highly recommended.

To buy Solace from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Solace from Amazon.com click here

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

Recommended Reads: Claudia Must Die by T B Markinson

claudia_front

The Blurb

Claudia doesn’t feel like herself anymore–she feels like prey. Her husband’s hired goons have stalked her all the way to Boston and will only stop their pursuit once she is dead.

Divorce is not an option. Instead, she has stolen a bunch of her man’s money to disappear into another life.

In order for Claudia to live, someone else must die. A lookalike college student becomes the target capable of freeing her from an awful marriage.

The plan goes horribly awry. Instead of murdering Claudia’s double, the assassins shoot the woman’s lover who is the cousin of a powerful Irish mobster. Claudia becomes hunted by all involved. Can she survive. Should she?

The Review

You’re married to the mob and you want out. What do you do? Run away, find a double and arrange for them to be killed instead of you, of course! But when the wrong person is killed in error, the actions of the mob wife, and her ex-husband, will come back to haunt them.

Claudia Must Die is a fun read with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. While the title focusses on Claudia, the wife, the true protagonists are Parker, the student and double of Claudia, and Francis, the ex-military cousin of Parker’s lover Ida. When Ida is killed, the two look to gain revenge on those responsible, but that’s just the start of their journey.

The book is well-written and mostly believable, although Francis’s mysterious contacts manage to get them out of one or two scrapes a little too conveniently for my liking, but the real strength of this story is the change in dynamics between the victims, the middle men and the perpetrators as the story unfolds. How the relationships ebb and flow is at the heart of what makes this book an engrossing read.

The only part where I felt let down was the ending. It was all a little too safe for my liking, I prefer my stories a little darker. However, overall this is an enjoyable read that I would recommend to any thriller fan.

To buy Claudia Must Die from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Claudia Must Die from Amazon.com click here

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

Recommended Reads: Rogue Genesis by Ceri London

Rogue Genesis

The Blurb

 

Major Niall Kearey is split between two worlds.

He lives on Earth, but his mind can visit Astereal, an alien world across the universe.

He’s just discovered his fantasy planet is real. To the telepathic race on Astereal, Niall is a legend and military leader. Now the dueling forces of the dark stars are tearing Astereal apart and prophecy says he can save them from an apocalypse. On Earth, Niall’s growing psychic abilities attract unwanted attention putting his family in danger, but his attempt to rescue them has horrific consequences. With alien invasion a real threat, the US government designates him a security risk while a secret political conspiracy seeks to control him and this first contact with extra-terrestrials. Now Niall is torn between protecting his loved ones, saving an alien race, and his duty to Earth. As history opens his eyes to the full potential of his psychic powers, he finally confronts the disturbing scale of his dilemma. Will his attempts to save one world end up destroying two?

One man. Two worlds. Psychic powers and an alternate world view that rewrites history.

The Review

Major Niall Kearey is an all action hero with an edge, he can sense danger before it happens. By allowing his subconscious to escape into an imaginary world he’s known since he was a child, Kearey is able to identify a way out of danger and then act. But then he discovers a shocking truth. The world he’s known for so long isn’t imaginary but real, and they need his help to save their population before the planet’s consumed by a black hole.

If you like your science fiction big, full of action and ideas, then this is the book for you. In Rogue Genesis, Ceri London successfully combines the raw excitement of a military conspiracy thriller with the ideas and scope of a space opera, taking the two separate storylines, one on earth, the other on Astereal, and intelligently drawing them together to a satisfying conclusion.

The two worlds, the dystopian conspiracy on Earth and the collapsing civilisation on Asetreal are very well put together. You cannot help but be pulled along by Kearey as he tries to do what’s best for his family, his country, and his friends on another planet. The action scenes are tough and visceral, and there are enough twists and turns to keep

This is a big book and it’s unsurprising there are the occasional missteps. At points the action slows as each of the elements are brought into alignment. Sometimes there is too much reliance on the science behind what’s happening, making the story more, rather than less confusing. There is also an issue that Major Kearey reaches the peaks of desperation quite early in the story, meaning emotionally he has nowhere else to go, which can be a little draining. However, for the quality of the writing, the scale and ambition of the story, and the sheer breadth of ideas make this a book worth reading. I can’t wait to read the next. Recommended.

To buy Rogue Genesis from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Rogue Genesis from Amazon.com click here

 

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

Recommended Reads: On Hearing Of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened by Lori Schafer

On hearing of my mother's death six years after it happened

At the beginning of the year I took on a reading challenge, and I asked people for their suggestions on indie books they’ve enjoyed reading. The only rules were that you couldn’t suggest more than one (like that stopped you) and you couldn’t promote your own book. The post had a great response (and I’m still looking for more, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know). One of the books suggested was today’s recommended read, the memoir On Hearing Of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened by Lori Schafer.

The Blurb

It was the spring of 1989. I was sixteen years old, a junior in high school and an honors student. I had what every teenager wants: a stable family, a nice home in the suburbs, a great group of friends, big plans for my future, and no reason to believe that any of that would ever change.

Then came my mother’s psychosis.

I experienced first-hand the terror of watching someone I loved transform into a monster, the terror of discovering that I was to be her primary victim. For years I’ve lived with the sadness of knowing that she, too, was a helpless victim – a victim of a terrible disease that consumed and destroyed the strong and caring woman I had once called Mom.

My mother’s illness took everything. My family, my home, my friends, my future. A year and a half later I would be living alone on the street on the other side of the country, wondering whether I could even survive on my own.

But I did. That was how my mother – my real mother – raised me. To survive.

She, too, was a survivor. It wasn’t until last year that I learned that she had died – in 2007. No one will ever know her side of the story now. But perhaps, at last, it’s time for me to tell mine.

The Review

I don’t usually read memoirs. The ones I have, usually celebrity memoirs, come across as self-indulgent, glossing over darker aspects of their personalities (except the ones they are happy to promote) and promoting their virtues. You certainly couldn’t say that for On Hearing Of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened. This is a heart-wrenching look into life of the author, as a teenaged girl, being raised by a mother with mental illness, written plainly but beautifully, with no embellishment or self-justification. By the end you feel in awe of the author for having survived the ordeal, although as is made clear, it’s not clear if the effects of the experience have ever actually ended.

The book isn’t written chronologically because the author struggles to remember what happened in what order. There are some passages that have been written as fiction because after all these years it’s the only way she convey the feeling of what happened effectively. While some may find this off-putting, to me these stylistic tics only gave added weight to what I was reading.

The memoir itself is short, I read it in a day, but that breath gives it added punch. I can only applaud Lori Schafer for having the courage to write something so personal, so honestly. It’s a book that will stay with me a long time. Highly Recommended.

To buy On Hearing Of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy On Hearing Of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened from Amazon.com click here

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

Recommended Reads: The Embers of Hope by Nick Jones

Embers of Hope

The Embers of Hope is the second book in the Hibernation series. You can read my review of the first, The Whisper of Stars, here. Warning: this review contains spoilers for the Whisper of Stars, so if you don’t wish to know how that ends, stop reading now.

The Blurb

After narrowly escaping the Shiryaevo Vault, Nathan O’Brien is on the run, adapting to life without Jennifer Logan. In his possession: a powerful mind control device known as the Histeridae and evidence of the Hibernation Program’s true agenda.

Beginning with George Mohanty and his words ‘Death is a relative term’, he must unravel the mystery of the Histeridae. But Nathan is on borrowed time, trapped inside a body that was never supposed to last. Can he bring back the woman he loves and expose the truth before it’s too late, or will the past finally catch up with him?

From the mountains of India to the futuristic streets of London and Dubai, The Embers of Hope is the thrilling second instalment in the Hibernation saga.

It features conspiracy theories, romance and intrigue and is set in a dystopian world, making it an ideal read for any fans of the sci-fi genre and also suitable for a young adult audience.

The Review

In The Embers of Hope we follow Nathan O’Brien, paranoid, alone and grieving following the death of Jennifer Logan. He is still living with George Mohanty, the only person he knows who has any knowledge of the Histeridae. Haunted by the phrase “death is relative” he finally gets George to talk, revealing that it wasn’t him who said the words, but somebody called Victor Reyland. But Reyland is a dangerous man, the man behind the Histeridae programme, a man happy to sacrifice others to meet his goals. Can this man help O’Brien bring back Jennifer?

While The Embers of Hope carries on directly from the excellent, The Whisper of Stars, it is a slightly different book. The pace is a little slower, a little more introspective, matching the more considered approach of Nathan O’Brien as he undertakes his task. Where action was high on the agenda of its precursor, in The Embers of Hope, intrigue takes centre stage. We get to learn more about the history behind the Histeridae, and how Jennifer Logan became caught up in the conspiracy. At the same time we learn more about the reason the Histeridae is so important, and a secret that affects the future of humanity.

I really enjoyed this book. While the action levels were reduced, I still found myself racing through the book as Jones expertly revealed the truth behind everything with a steady drip of information. At the start I worried that O’Brien on his own wouldn’t be a strong enough character to carry the novel, but Jones manages this cleverly through the introduction of new characters as well as fleshing out those familiar from The Whisper of Stars. This was especially well done with Zido Zitagi, whose world becomes ever less certain the more she learns about her organisation’s purpose. And while the ending is naturally open ended, there was enough closure to keep me satisfied. I just can’t wait to find out what happens next.

If you enjoy near-future, dystopian thrillers, you should definitely read this excellent series. Highly Recommended.

To buy The Embers of Hope from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy The Embers of Hope from Amazon.com click here

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

Recommended Reads: Beyond the Realm of Night by Jane Dougherty

btronkindlecover1

Beyond the Realm of Night is the third and final part of the Green Woman trilogy. You can read my views on The Dark Citadel (Book 1) here and the Subtle Fiend (Book 2) here. Needless to say, I enjoyed all three.

The Blurb

At the end was darkness. Now it is time to go back to the beginning and rekindle the light.

Deborah, the daughter of the Green Woman, reaches her journey’s end only to find it has barely started. Escaping Providence was the easy part. Now, as her mother’s strength fails, the burden of the Memory passes to Deborah. The Garden is waking, the Iron Horde is massing, the Queen’s host is gathering. The Fianna have sailed the western ocean and Providence is alight. But evil has put down strong roots in the hearts of the citizens of Providence and Deborah fears she has not the power to tear it out.

If she cannot summon up the green earth magic of the tree, Abaddon and his Iron Horde will trample the new shoots of the Garden. For Abaddon has the power of death with him. The weapons to defeat him are life and love, but Deborah longs to join the shadowlands, and her love is dead.

This is the final volume of The Green Woman series, in which the broken pattern will be mended and the balance of good and evil restored. Or not.

The Review

With Beyond the Realm of Night, Jane Dougherty has created a fitting end to an epic trilogy. Picking up directly from where The Subtle Fiend left off, we follow Deborah as she comes to terms with her role to confront Abaddon and his evil forces and protect the garden, the tree of life, and the future of their world.

But as the two great forces get set for their final confrontation, it is the human stories that take centre stage. Over the course of the previous two books we have been introduced to a host of characters: citizens of providence, members of the Danann, the Fianna; along with Abaddon’s evil minions; and it’s now that all their interactions, their hopes and dreams, get played out.

This breadth of scope and complexity is the book’s, and the trilogy’s, great strength, but it’s also a weakness. With so many plot strands being pulled together, as often happens in these situations I found myself caring less as to what was happening in some of the sub-plots, especially involving the Fianna, which while interesting I felt they didn’t necessarily move the story forward.

That said, this is a minor quibble on what is an otherwise enthralling trilogy. As the book heads towards its denouement, Dougherty expertly draws all these threads together into a satisfying conclusion, without giving in to the temptation of they all live happily ever after. This is especially true for Deborah’s story. While it would have been easy to have transformed Deborah into a one-dimensional beacon of good, Dougherty kept her characterisation as a complex, feisty and sometimes difficult person all the way to the end, and for that she should be applauded. While during the final stages of the book, heroes and villains emerge, the majority of players are neither or both, which is how it should be.

Overall, I would recommend this trilogy to anybody with a love of epic fantasy with substance.

To buy Beyond the Realm of Night from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Beyond the Realm of Nigh from Amazon.com click here

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

Recommended Reads: The Subtle Fiend by Jane Dougherty

The Subtle Fiend

The Subtle Fiend is the second book in Jane Dougherty’s impressive Green Woman trilogy. You can read my review of The first book, The Dark Citadel, here. For full disclosure, since writing that first review Jane has reviewed my book Second Chance, which she really enjoyed. This hasn’t affected my views of her writing in any way but I like to be open about these things.

The Blurb

When reality becomes a nightmare, only dreams can save the world.
Deborah, daughter of the fabled Green Woman, has disappeared, and Hera, another grey-robed schoolgirl, has become the hostage in her place. Hera fears she will be left to languish, unnoticed and forgotten, in her prison cell. But the honesty in her eyes touches a young Black Boy, her prison guard—Amon.
Amon is destined for a military career, but convinced of the innocence of his prisoner, he begins to question the laws and values of his city. In befriending Hera, he risks his life by standing between her and the most powerful man in Providence—the Protector.
The Protector’s new hostage will serve her purpose. After all, one veiled girl looks much like another. But if Deborah has joined her mother and her host of myths and stories, the sham will be revealed. To hang onto power the Protector determines to destroy the Green Woman’s allies within Providence by lighting the sacrificial fires of Moloch. When the flames have burned out none will be left, not even the child at its mother’s breast.
As the flames of evil leap and dance in Providence, Hera and Amon resolve to defy the Protector, with courage as their only weapon.  

The Review

The Subtle Fiend is the second book in Jane Dougherty’s impressive Green Woman trilogy, concentrating predominantly on the politics of Providence, and what a nest of snakes that city is. With the forces of Abaddon and the Green Woman building outside their protective dome, prominent members of society manoeuvre themselves into position to take advantage of whoever, or whatever, wins out. Sides are chosen in the ensuing power play but it is the normal people, and the Dananns in particular, who bear the brunt of the consequences.

I really enjoyed this book, probably more than the first, because it concentrated predominantly on Providence. The city-state is a fantastic creation, described by Dougherty so well that I feel I know the streets intimately. As the book progresses Dougherty introduces us to a large cast of characters until halfway through the book I started to worry I’d lose track of exactly who was doing what, where, but while the novel isn’t for a person who likes a simple narrative, Dougherty manages to bring all the threads together nicely for the denouement.

Well, when I say nicely, I mean ruthlessly. This is a dark book and Dougherty doesn’t flinch at showing humanity at its worst. Given the timing of reading this book during the 70th anniversary commemorations of the liberation of Auschwitz, it wasn’t difficult to see parallels in what was happening in Providence. Some may feel the subject matter a little dark for what is essentially a YA fantasy, but I applaud Dougherty for not only confronting the issue, but handling it in a sensitive way without losing any of the horror.

The only criticism I have is that the Deborah’s story, which is integral to book 1, while not being ignored, had lost some of the tension from earlier. This is just a minor point however, and I look forward to seeing how Dougherty takes that storyline, along with what happened here, through to conclusion. Highly recommended.

To buy The Subtle Fiend from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy The Subtle Fiend from Amazon.com click here

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

Recommended Reads: Family Tree by Vaughan Stanger

Family Tree

Earlier this year, Moondust Memories by Vaughan Stanger became one of my first Recommended Reads. I found it a great collection of short stories that kept me thinking long after I finished reading them. When I found out that Vaughan had published a new short story, I couldn’t wait to have a look.

The Blurb

Family Tree is an intriguing and moving science fiction story, set in an alternate timeline in which the Apollo moon-landing programme continued beyond 1972, leading to the establishment of a small lunar colony. The story focuses on one of oft-forgotten necessities of any future colonisation programme: the need for excellent teachers.

Family Tree was originally published in Helix (2008). This is its first appearance in ebook form.

Family Tree is dedicated to teachers everywhere.

The Review

We all remember our favourite teachers, the ones that took an interest over and above what was required professionally. Many of us took out first steps towards an enduring love of a subject because of these wonderful people. And what of teachers themselves? Do they have the same affection for some of their pupils, the ones who responded and grew over the course of being taught?

In Family Tree we meet Sarah Henderson, a teacher just retired and content to spend her time tending her memory garden, looking to capture recollections of her recently dead husband. But when a mysterious message arrives from a group of former pupils, it appears her she may not be as forgotten as she thinks.

Family Tree is a paean to teachers and the positive effect they can have on their pupil’s lives. It’s made clear in the book’s introduction the admiration Vaughan Stanger has for his former teachers, but even without this you can feel the love emanating from every page. If you like your short stories warm and life affirming, you really should give this one a try. Recommended.

To buy Family Tree from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Family Tree from Amazon.com click here

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

Recommended Reads: The Whisper of Stars by Nick Jones

The Whisper of Stars

A few months ago somebody recommended I should read The Whisper of Stars, saying it trod similar ground to my books. I put off reading it for a while as I was worried about being influenced by another writer’s ideas, but over the Christmas break I decided it was time to have a look. I’m glad I did. If you have read and enjoyed either of my books, I highly recommend you read The Whisper of Stars. It covers similar ideas to those in Second Chance and Absent Souls but in a very different way, and it’s a cracking read to boot.

The Blurb

The year is 2091. With accelerated warming and global population out of control, the survival of humanity hangs in the balance. On the brink of extinction, science delivers one last hope. Human hibernation.
Jennifer Logan is a tough cop in the newly formed Duality Division, tasked with enforcing hibernation. When she uncovers a memory, hidden deep within her mind, her belief in the system she protects is shattered. Together with an unlikely partner, and convinced that her past holds the secret to mankind’s future, she embarks on a dangerous search for the truth, one that rapidly turns into a struggle for her life. Pursued by the very people she once trusted, Logan must risk everything for answers to the mystery that unfolds. As her world unravels and the layers of deceit are revealed, she is forced to question everything and use all of her skills to survive. In The Whisper of Stars, author Nick Jones delivers a breathtaking, sinister vision of the future, where nothing is what it seems. He shows us that some secrets cannot stay buried, no matter how deep.

The Whisper of Stars is the first book in the Hibernation Saga. A fast-paced, futuristic thriller starring a tough, female protagonist. It features conspiracy theories, romance and intrigue and is set in a dystopian world, making it an ideal read for any fans of the sci-fi genre and also suitable for a young adult audience.

The Review

With The Whisper of Stars, Nick Jones has combined detective, espionage and near-future dystopian thriller genres to produce a cracking story that is both compelling and makes you think about the challenges we face in the future.

With Earth’s resources dwindling, the UN has taken control, forcing large parts of the world’s population to go into hibernation – sleeping one year on, one year off. Jennifer Logan is part of the Duality Division, ensuring people go into hibernation at their allotted time, but after a failed mission, old memories are awakened leading her to embark on a quest for the truth about what happened to her father many years before, a quest that has her questioning everything she knows about her life and the world she lives in.

This really is a great read. Each chapter draws you into the world Jones has created, one that is both futuristic and very, very real, with neural implants rubbing shoulders with a night down the pub with friends. As the story progresses Jones gradually reveals a dark vision of the future, where those in power are forced to make difficult decisions which in turn become further corrupted by the desire to manipulate and control.

All this on its own would make an interesting read but it’s with the character of Jennifer Logan that this book stands out. This is a strong, non-nonsense female lead who just doesn’t give up, using her own skills and ingenuity to overcome anything in her path. Once the search for the truth starts, Jones successfully ratchets up the tension chapter after chapter and I found myself staying up late just to reach the satisfying climax that sets up book 2 very nicely. If you like near-future thrillers, then you should read this book. Highly recommended.

To buy The Whisper of Stars from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy The Whisper of Stars from Amazon.com click here

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.