Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Review: Contrition by Haven Cage

In the end, everyone must pay for their sins.

Trial after trial, Nevaeh's loved-ones have struggled to save her from a dark destiny. The time has finally come for her to return home and join the Earth-bound angels in a war threatening to destroy the Human race. 

Is it really Nev who's walking the Earthly plane, though? 

True, being surrounded by evil for weeks on end would change anyone, but Nev's friends suspect something is wrong with the Nevaeh they've extracted from Hell's grip.

Archard, Arkin, Maggie, and Malach prepare to fight the impending apocalypse brought on by the rebellious Dominions, while trying to accept the new Nevaeh and help her gain control over her powers. 

Will Nevaeh be able to save the world, or will she make everyone pay with their lives?

Contrition is the third and final install in Haven Cage's Faltering Souls Series. You can read my review of the previous books here. Contrition (with its gorgeous cover) picks up where Severance left off and though it remains true in so many ways to the first two books, it shines with a depth of spirit and empowerment in strong contrast to the darkness and depravity of Severance.

For starters, I don't read many alternating first-person POV books. What doesn't always come through is distinction from one character's inner voice to the next. In Cage's books, we get to know her characters from the inside out. They let us know who they are and also give us their own unique perspectives of each other.

I love how Cage ties everything together from the first two books. Characters wrenched from us earlier in the series are taken from us again, for good or not, and others make devastating choices. Again, Cage lets her darlings tell their stories and I found their twists, turns, and heartbreak all the more real because of it.

Finally, Cage brings us home to the places and settings we've come to know. Her reminders and backstory  don't leave me feeling like I'm skimming through an overdone rehash or having my face shoved in to a big, self-serving block of text. Ties to the past are light, complete, and extremely balanced with and complementary of the current part of her storyline.

If you like your dark paranormal to quicken your breath, your villains unforgivably rotten and your heroes (and heroines) to wrap your heartstrings around their fist a good half-dozen times before they pull them then I recommend Falter, Severance and Contrition. I'm sad this series is over and I've become a fan of the author.

I received a review copy of Contrition in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Review: Reading 5x5

What if you had different authors each write the same story? What would each of them bring to the piece in terms of style, tone, and resolution? That’s the question this anthology sets out to answer.

Reading 5X5 asked twenty-five authors to tell five stories in five different ways. We started with story briefs in five different genres – each brief with just the basic information required to tell a story. Then we asked five authors to write that story, each in their own way. The result is twenty-five great, fascinatingly different stories.


To put a fine point on it, I requested Reading 5x5 purely out of curiosity as a writer. As a reader, my initial thought was "who on earth would want to read the same story five times? Then do it four times more?" I was interested in looking at the mechanics of how such a collaboration might come together. What would a brief look like?

Part way through the first story, I zipped to the end to skim the first brief. By the end of the second story, I found myself enjoying the stories and had mostly forgotten about the briefs! Eventually I found each group of five sufficiently varied that I had little send of reading the same story several times. All in all, a nicely rounded collection of short stories. The similarities are there for one who might want to dissect the briefs and analyze the writing.

Other than one story which felt forced, the rest were four and five stars shorts, rich in description and world and satisfying in spite of limits of their length. Recommended for anyone who enjoys SF and Fantasy short stories.

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Review: Inspired Shawls: 15 Creative Patterns for Year-Round Knitting by Laura Zukaite

My review of Inspired Shawls: 15 Creative Patterns for Year-Round Knitting by Laura Zukaite (also known as Liz's four rules for a knock-out knitting book.)

1. Don't skimp on the pictures! Take them outside, for starters, and do it somewhere gorgeous and simple.

2. Feel with your eyes. Make sure the textures come to life. I want to feel gossamer laces between my fingers, caress the delightfully full and smooth touch of silk and the sturdy crunch of wool simply by looking.

3. Balance the pictures with a well composed layout. Keep it simple (my eyes aren't as young as they used to be.) Guide me with a grand font, keep me turning the pages, and reassure me nothing has been left out.

4. Make sure it's something I'd trash that wooden bowl thing on the coffee table for. If I'd leave it in the centre of the table for everyone who came through my door to see because I want them all to know about it, you've put together something special.

5. (I know, right!) Make me want to put confidence in my craft and pick up "real yarn" to realize everything the book has inspired in me.

I have to say, Inspired Shawls hits all the marks for me. The beach looks so much like the coast of Vancouver Island just north of my home! I've had as much fun browsing the pages as I have poking around the various yarn-makers websites (so I know where to by skeins from Art Yarns here in town.)

I'm very please with this book! Thank you to the publisher. I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Review: The Time of the Stripes by Amanda Bridgeman

They survived the alien visitation. But can they survive each other?

No-one had heard of Victoryville before. But when an alien spaceship appears, hovering over the town, the whole world suddenly knows its name.

After twenty-four hours and a failed military assault, the ship disappears without a trace. When the outside world restores communication to the town, thousands are reported missing.

Those who remain in Victoryville are irreparably changed. However, only some have been left with strange red marks upon their skin.

Quarantined from the outside world and segregated within, alliances are made and relationships are shattered, as everyone fights for the truth - and for their own survival.

From the best-selling author of the Aurora series, The Time of the Stripes is a sci-fi thriller where The Leftovers meets The Lord of The Flies.


The Time of the Stripes is the new alien invasion novel from Aurora Series author Amanda Bridgeman. I know Bridgeman for intense character and action driven science fiction set locally and by locally I mean on earth and other locations within our solar system.

The Aurora Series is grand in scope of setting and character through a long plot arc targeted to reach nine novels and The Time of the Stripes takes the same high level of action and depth of the human spirit and jams them into nine days in a single small town.

The setup is what I’ve come to expect from any tale in which a cross-section of society is presented as a familiar yet potentially explosive mix of people forced together in terrifying conditions. We all know them. They're our friends, family and neighbours. My bar for a well put together cast in the face of disaster sits high and Bridgeman nails it. I loved that each of the main characters remained true to who they were throughout the story. Also, Bridgeman has no qualms about displaying the dark and the cold complexities of her villains and I wasn’t disappointed with the mix of queasiness and apprehension with which she rewards her readers when her antagonists are about.

While The Time of the Stripes is set in a fictitious community and documents events we haven’t seen the likes of in real life, Bridgeman takes the intimacy of a small town invasion and uses it to highlight many of the social issues for which we feel very strongly. In spite of being able to know what is right and good, it’s all too easy to see how a small town physically cut off from the outside world and facing the extreme unknown can descend in to discrimination and violence. This microcosm of the bigger world in general is all the more scary when put in terms of regular people we can all relate to.

As I’ve come to love from her books, Bridgeman builds tension through the action of her characters and points all the pieces of her plot toward a finely explosive finish. I also love that each scene is the next piece of the story and we don’t find ourselves bogged down in retelling of parts of the story from different points of view. Every piece has a purpose in driving the story as a whole.

This is the kind of smart scary story that gives me a book hangover. I recommend you pick up a copy and get ready for the ride.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Review: Bloodstorm by Donna Maree Hanson

The planet of Margra is drawing closer to the brink as Shatterwing's debris field grows increasingly unstable.

Salinda and Garan fight Gercomo in dragon form, with unexpected consequences and end up making matters worse. Laidan’s life is saved but at great cost.

Sartell has become dangerous with conspiracies and betrayal everywhere. Brill and Danton gamble with their lives to find the location of the stolen dragon wine while Mandin gambles with her life to save her daughter.

Nils searches for the writings of his grandsire, Trell of Barr, which may contain the much needed information on how to avert moonfall.

Gercomo’s influence and power within the dragon herd peaks just as he is able to reach out to old human allies and the battle begins…


If you want to know what it feels like when a story is poised on the edge of something dark, dangerous and brilliant then take this series on. And by poised I in no way mean paused. The middle two books in this series have had me on my tip-toes teetering toward the edge and leaning into a delicious slow-burn build-up.

My journey from Deathwings to Bloodstorm has also seen me do a complete flip-flop on a character. (This is the brilliance I mentioned.) When Hanson can introduce a character as the epitome of mistrust, mistress of debauchery and in all honesty a shameless representation of someone owning the gates to the darkest hole of humanity and then turn that character sufficiently to become someone whose hand I want to hold as I tell her how I believe in her and that she can make everything right... yep, brilliant. Henceforth, consider me at the head of #TeamToola. Until the next instalment, perhaps.

With the fourth volume of Dragonwine, Donna Maree Hanson, successfully continues her build to the finish while masterfully keeping her grip on all the character and plot lines, relaxing and pulling as needed without losing a single one. Moonfall remains present though solely in the urgency emphasized by Hanson's characters and continued focus on the final outcome of the story.

Bloodstorm also makes me want to do something I haven't before wanted or needed to do midway through a series. While there has been enough back story to help me remember important points from the previous books without flooding me in detail, I want to go back to book one and start over to experience those bits and pieces again.

If you haven't taken a swing at this amazing dark fantasy series yet, you can download yourself a copy of book one Shatterwing complete with the gorgeous new cover here from Instafreebie.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Review: Of Angel's Blood by Martyn Currill

Sharriana Grey lies dead, and The Order is now prospering under the rule of Deimos Black. But even as he struggles to rebuild in the wake of his insurrection, a dark, malevolent power begins to rise against him, a being so powerful even he may not be able to match it...

Read, in his own words, of the threat to all he held dear - and the lengths he must go to defend it.


This July brings all the things you might expect to follow the longest (or shortest) day of the year, including swords, blood and vampires.

Deimos Black takes the time to share another chapter in his life with us. This one even darker than the last. Personally, I'm always a little let down when a book two comes off as a rehash of its predecessor, rebounding from the same adversaries with the same tricks as before. (This book doesn't, making that clear right now.)

Of Angel's Blood doesn't try to make Deimos "human" again and pit him against the same struggles. The changes he experienced in A Life in Blood become his new normal and the darkness he faces becomes subsequently tougher. Currill dares to do the right thing and explore what happens when Deimos must face the absolute evil of his new vampire family. When it counts, he doesn't shy away. Instead, he includes us and draws us down with him in the open, blunt and sometimes shamefully painful way he does in book 1. He brings us along in a desperate and consuming challenge to who he is and I could not look away.

Deimos remains an articulate and consistent narrator who continues to bring his observations and feelings to life.

I also loved his dialogue and the way he brings his friendships to life. Second only to Deimos himself, the real people he surrounds himself with give this story heart and make all the action meaningful.

And speaking of action, while there is less than in A Life in Blood, there is plenty where it's most important and where I found myself hanging on most tightly to my plot-feels. (It's a thing.)

Of Angel's Blood has the courage to ask what happens when we step completely away from who we are and what happens to our very selves when we get to the other side. When the path is dark and desperate, will the soul remain intact? 

Turn on some lights and get yourself a copy. Deimos Black continues to mark all the X's in blood.

Oh, and here's my blurb =)

Deimos Black, former vampire hunter and human, has already shared both the best and worst days of his "life" with us. Through his insurrection and assassination of Sharriana Grey, former leader of the Order, he's brought a tentative peace to the world's vampires.

With this peace, however, comes what may be his undoing. A dark, malevolent power rises against him. Vampires killed or driven mad by indescribable means pile up and Deimos himself becomes the focus of the being who seeks to consume all he holds dear.

Read, in his own words, the lengths he must go to defend everything and most importantly, himself.

Review: Deathwings by Donna Maree Hanson

Life on the ravaged world of Margra is more difficult than ever… Salinda and Garan blasted the evil Gercomo into the sky. Except … he didn’t die, he transformed into a dragon. Final moonfall looms ever closer and the world is on the brink of destruction. 
Gercomo’s vile influence spreads among his dragon herd and he is reaching for power in both the human and dragon worlds. 

Salinda has the means to stop him and save the world. 

And Gercomo wants her dead. 


It's hard to believe it's been more than two and a half years since I first reviewed Shatterwing and Skywatcher, the first two novels in the Dragon Wine series by Donna Maree Hanson. The pair of dark and fantastic tales drove the plot of the first right into the second and have been dressed up into a single volume (in addition to stand alone titles) with gorgeous new covers that brilliantly reflect their grim and gritty nature. While the ending contained a satisfying amount of flame and fighting, enough remained to leave me wondering where the tale might go so I was excited when I heard she had four more novels planned.

I recently read Deathwings, book three, and am very pleased it holds up well both in its continuity of the plot of the first two and in the way in which it remains true to the original world building and treasures the nature of the characters we continue to follow.

Deathwings picks up in the rubble and carnage following the ending of Skywatcher. Hanson winds the characters up with a heavy mix of personal failures and desperate goals then sends them off on their interconnected trials. Even though it has been so long since I read Shatterwing and Skywatcher, I reconnected quickly with the characters and fell into the story and setting.

My favourite character thus far is Nils, a time-traveller of sorts who woke after a thousand year sleep to find himself the only living person in his vast underground city. He is always portrayed as isolated and alone, pale, invisible and even hiding in the shadows. Even his name, Nils, (I associate it with nil, or nothing) enhances the idea of him being on the outside. Ironically and in spite of Nils and his lost society existing on the outskirts of the surface dwelling Margran society, he may be keeper of the only clues that may save the surface dwellers from their falling moon.

It's also hard to describe these books without using words like grim and dark over and over. Deathwings is written with an incredible economy of words in that people, places and even thoughts have been described in a way that maximizes the impact of Hanson's words. She shares the ugly and the beautiful with a deft hand for quickly creating memorable imagery.

Having read much of Hanson's work, Deathwings is the most powerfully written tale I've experienced from her yet. Her words build tension and power the action. Not once did I find a distracting choice of word or 'dropped in' patch of back story to bump me from my engagement.

As a middle book in a series of six, Deathwings secures its place as the plot anchor both wrapping up the first half and setting up the volumes yet to come. It's such a great feeling to be in the middle of a series you love and know you still have three full stories to read for the first time. I look forward to more adventure and recommend you fill out your fantasy collection with this quintet.